HPPR Economy and Enterprise

Agriculture:
crop production
crop irrigation
livestock production
dairy production
research & development

Energy
oil & gas production
wind energy
biofuels production
food processing
manufacturing

Transportation & telecommunications
rail service
air service
highways
internet service

Economic indicators & conditions:
workforce demographics
employment rates
land values
tax collections

Entrepreneurship:
small business development
technology application
innovation

The farm economy is showing some stability, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says, but the upswing doesn’t extend to all agricultural sectors.

Over the last three years, farm earnings have plummeted, eliciting concerns that the farm economy could tumble toward another farm crisis like the 1980s. For 2017, the USDA expects net farm income to rebound by a modest 3 percent nationwide, to $63 billion.

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Texas farmers are concerned that if plans for two of the world’s largest agricultural firms to merge go through, it will diminish competition and cause prices for seeds and other essential products to increase.

As The Texas Tribune reports, German conglomerate Bayer, a global distributor of seeds best known for its pharmaceuticals like aspirin, hopes to buy Missouri-based agricultural firm Monsanto, which sells agricultural chemicals.

Colorado One Of The Nation's Top Hemp Producers

Nov 27, 2017
U.S. Department of Agriculture

As U.S. hemp production doubled in 2017, Colorado became one of the country’s top hemp producers.

As The Cannabist reports, Colorado now grows almost 40 percent of all the hemp in the U.S. – more than twice what any other state grows.

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The Texas Department of Public Transportation is once again considering whether to extend Interstate 27 northward from Amarillo and southward from Lubbock down to the Mexican border.

I-27 currently stretches 117 miles from Amarillo to Lubbock.

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Roger Sewell slowed his pickup down on a rural section of Pratt County, next to a field gleaming white.

“How’s it look?” he said with a grin, then added this good field of cotton, to be stripped in coming weeks and eventually turned into denim, was his.

Just a few years ago, it was tougher to find a cotton field in these parts. The fledgling industry had been struggling to regain its footing after peaking in acres more than a decade ago. High corn prices and 2,4-D drift were among the culprits causing farmers to shy away from cotton.

There’ve been five rounds of negotiations over the decades-old North American Free Trade Agreement in recent months, but little movement toward a re-imagining of the treaty with Canada and Mexico from which U.S. agriculture benefits greatly.

With President Donald Trump still threatening to pull the country out of NAFTA if his preferred updates aren’t made, senators in farm-intensive states increasingly are speaking out.

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West Texas oil producers are running out of places to send the growing glut of natural gas that is a byproduct of the recent oil boom in the region.

As Fox Business reports, all of the natural gas pipelines that stretch from West Texas to the gulf are basically full. And the gas can’t be sent north, because northern natural gas markets are already supplied by producers in Canada and the Rockies.

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As the fifth round of NAFTA talks came to a close Tuesday in Mexico, the agriculture industry tried to convey the damage that would be done to the industry if a trade deal that is helping struggling sectors survive is terminated.

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In an opinion piece in The Guardian, truck driver Finn Murphy warns drivers will soon be replaced by automation and that the rest of us are next.

Murphy argues that with tech giants investing billions into driverless vehicles, truck drivers will use their jobs, once the technology is perfected. Drivers are the last part of the supply chain that hasn’t been automated forklifts and robots already load and unload cargo at warehouses.

Tyson Foods announced Monday it will build a chicken processing plant in Tennessee similar to one that had been planned for northeast Kansas. State officials say Kansas is still in the running for another facility.

The chicken plant in Humboldt, Tennessee, will be similar in size and cost to one previously planned for Tonganoxie. Plans to build that plant were put on hold in September after an outpouring of local opposition.  

Kansas Unemployment Rate Lowest Since 2000

Nov 20, 2017
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As Colorado’s unemployment rate inched up slightly in October, Kansas’s unemployment rate dropped slightly.

As Colorado Public Radio reports, Colorado’s unemployment rate remained one of the lowest in the country at 2.7 percent last month, up just two tenths of a percent.

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The unemployment rate in Texas reached a record low last month, while the Lone Star State’s neighbor to the north is also approaching a record rate of employment.

Demonstrators held a protest in Wichita on Saturday against a proposal to bring a Tyson poultry complex to Sedgwick County.

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A large solar project in Texas has been put on hold and will likely be canceled if the Trump administration goes ahead with imposing tariffs on cheaper panels made in China.

As KUT reports, a 100-megawatt solar farm was being planned outside of Fort Stockton, Texas that would have brought 300 to 400 people at its peak but a threat of tariffs on Chinese solar panel imports would likely make the project too costly to pursue because solar panels account for about 40 percent of the cost of a solar plant.

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The recent resurgence of Texas oil markets is causing some Texas prison guards to leave their jobs for the more lucrative work in the oilfields.

As The Houston Chronicle reports, in the last year alone, the state prison system has seen a remarkable 28 percent turnover rate.

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In recent months, the rent-to-own furniture industry has gained attention in Texas. State officials have accused the industry, and especially the rent-to-own behemoth Rent-A-Center, of using deceptive and abusive practices against customers.

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A group of small oil and gas producers in Oklahoma has grown frustrated with the lack of progress in the Sooner State. In their view, the state Legislature has been negligent by failing to raise taxes for necessary state business like teacher pay raises. In response the group, known as Restore Oklahoma Now Inc., has announced its plan to try to bring the matter to voters.

Fall Harvest Wrapping Up In Kansas

Nov 7, 2017
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As of the end of October, autumn’s harvest in Kansas began winding down.

As Kansas Agland reports, farmers reported a mixture of yields, depending on the location and the amount of moisture.

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November marks the beginning of trophy blue catfish season on many lakes. Guide David Hanson says about the time the whitetail deer begin their annual rut, the big blue catfish turn on at Lake Tawakoni, where he has been fishing and guiding for most of his life.

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INMAN - It was over a bowl of popcorn on a winter evening last year that McPherson County farmer Dwight Baldwin began thinking of an alternative.

He had recently sifted through one of his latest farm publications, which touted alternative crops. However, like most of his neighbors, he and his son, Adam, have grown wheat, milo, soybeans and corn on their ground near Inman. Yet the farm economy centered around those traditional crops was struggling.

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Farmers, lured by the promise of an easy, steady paycheck by raising chickens are told if they just keep the birds healthy, industrial poultry processors will take care of the rest.

As The Texas Observer reports, however, after growers sign an exclusive contract to build several 24,000-square-foot chicken houses, the companies that process the poultry sometimes require expensive improvements be made to the chicken houses that many growers can’t afford.

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Several small towns in the Texas Panhandle may soon be losing a storied part of West Texas culture.

As KAMR reports, approximately 70 Dairy Queens across Texas and New Mexico may soon close due to bankruptcy.

The parent company of the DQs, Vasari LLC, has indicated that it is scrambling to find a way to keep the fast food restaurants in business. While some locations will be closed, others have a chance of being sold and staying in business.

Immigration And Trade Essential To Kansas Economy

Oct 30, 2017
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Immigration and trade are essential aspects of the Kansas economy.

That was the consensus at the Kansas Economic Policy Conference held last week at the University of Kansas.

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The Lone Star State has been attracting droves of new Texans each year, newcomers who are attracted to the state’s low tax rates and plentiful sunshine. Meanwhile, Texas has a lower percentage of residents moving away than any other state.

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Three more coal-powered plants in Texas will be shutting down soon.

As The Dallas Morning News reports, this development means that Texas will likely be getting more of its power from wind than from traditional coal plants. The Trump administration has rallied to try and save coal operations, standing by its stance that coal is the victim of efforts by environmental activists to close the plants. In fact, the closures of coal facilities began a decade ago, after the price of natural gas plummeted.

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Bernie Thiel, like many agricultural producers across the High Plains, has had to lower the acreage he plants to squash because of a lack of labor.

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New job numbers were released this week for Oklahoma and Texas, and things appear to be moving along in both states at a steady clip.

As The Oklahoman reports, Oklahoma's unemployment rate in September remained unchanged at 4.5 percent. State employment officials say Oklahoma is showing especially strong movement in the private sector. One year ago, the jobless rate in the Sooner State was half a point higher, at five percent.

New Ag Guestworker Program Legislation Headed To US House

Oct 25, 2017

A bill to overhaul the federal agricultural guestworker program cleared its first hurdle Wednesday and is headed to the full U.S. House.

The Republican-majority House Judiciary Committee passed the bill 17-16 after two days of debate and over the objections of many Democrats. It’s likely to clear the House, though its future in the Senate is unclear.

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Colby Kansas Farmer Lon Frahm is featured in a video from the Wall Street Journal about the future of farming in the U.S.

Frahm says technology has allowed him to do more farming with the same amount of people – nine to be exact, who help him farm 30,000 acres of corn and wheat. Thirty years ago, Frahm had 6,000 acres and four employees.

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In September, Kansas’s unemployment dropped slightly and Colorado’s inched up slightly.

As The Topeka Capital-Journal reports, the jobless rate in Kansas dropped to 3.8 percent in September.

According to the Kansas Department of Labor and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was about a tenth higher in August.

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