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

Kansas Health Institute

The Kansas Health Institute reported  federal officials will run the new health exchange for the state of Kansas, but Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger said she has been in discussions to have complex calls roll over to her department.  Her goal is to connect Kansas consumers with local experts who are familiar with insurance plans and regulations specific to the state. 

The Ambassador Hotel in Amarillo, Texas, is now part of the world's largest independent hotel group.  Karen Smith Welch recently reported in the Amarillo Globe that the Ambassador will, "fly the flag of Magnuson Hotels as the Magnuson Grand Hotel Amarillo."  

Dinesh Patel has owned the Ambassador since 2004.  He said he is negotiating to retain the Ambassador name, and he hopes the change will increase the hotel's internet presence.

Redefining the co-op in ways big and small

Jun 23, 2013
Hilary Stohs-Krause/NET News

  The cooperative business model, long a staple of Midwestern agricultural communities, is being adapted to serve a broader range of rural needs.

For example, in the south-central Nebraska town of Elwood — population 700 — there’s a new grocery store.

“I get very emotional almost every time I’m in here, because I’m just so happy to have this store,” said Sharlette Schwenninger, who helped found the cooperative store.  The town had been without a grocery store for more than a year.

Matthew Staver for The New York Times

Prescott Frost, the great grandson of poet Robert Frost, is a maverick who sees the Sandhills of Nebraska as the Napa Valley of ranchland.  On his 7,000 acre ranch there he’s dedicated himself to raising and marketing his own brand of artisanal beef, as detailed in a New York Times profile by Kathryn Shattuck.

Food safety programs will have to be completed, but now the gate swings a little wider, allowing Texans to sell more homemade foods in more locations.

Now that the Senate has a farm bill (technically the Agriculture, Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013)ready and waiting for reconciliation with a House version, it’s a good time to look at how some of what the Senate passed may play out in the House—and what it all means for the general public as well as for farmers.

Nationally, the United States is aging, but recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau revealed five states bucked the trend.  They are: Kansas, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Hawaii, and Alaska.  The report also noted half of children under the age of five are minorities, Asians are the fastest growing minority or ethnic group, and four states, including Texas, are, "majority-minority."  You can read the recent article from the Kansas Institute of Health here.

How are decisions made about projects that benefit rural America?

Jun 16, 2013

The U.S. Department of Agriculture first began designating funds for rural development in 1933 as part of the New Deal. More federal funds were allocated in the Agricultural Act of 1970. During this fiscal year, the rural development program is administering approximately $38 billion in loans, loan guarantees and grants. It’s being used to construct or improve 48 rural libraries, assist 243 projects in the delivery of healthcare and help more than 270,000 low income families get affordable housing, according to the USDA.

A rural physician was the first to be federally certified to use electronic medical records in the state of Kansas, and continues the trend by being chosen as one of the first Health IT Fellows.

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

    As lawmakers debate the Farm Bill in Washington, millions of dollars are at stake for small businesses across the country. Rural development grants go out to everything from home loans to water projects to small co-ops.

With budget cuts likely, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is adjusting how these funds are used, and proposing changes to the word “rural.” But there’s concern that a tighter belt at the federal level means farmers and ranchers in small towns will be left behind.

Within the local food movement, the community supported agriculture, or CSA, model is praised. It’s considered one of the best ways to restore a connection to the foods we eat. Consumers buy a share of a farmer’s produce up front as a shareholder and then reap the rewards at harvest time. But as Harvest Public Media’s Luke Runyon reports running a CSA can bring some tricky business decisions.

Lifeblood for rural communities: federal funds

Jun 12, 2013
Bill Wheelhouse/Harvest Public Media.

As Congress fiddles with major farm legislation, there’s a portion of it that gets very little attention. Some say it is a difference-maker for job creation in small rural communities and provides a boost those towns need. Harvest Public Media’s Bill Wheelhouse reports.

In the small town of Staunton, Ill., the new $9 million water plant is a welcome addition. After all, when the 80-year-old facility it replaces seized up last year, the community’s 5,000 residents were without water for five days. 

Advances in technology, along with an unusual alliance of green and red politics, have spurred the growth of wind energy across the plains states. Yet the uncertainty of short-term tax credits has also created cycles of boom and bust that may harm the industry in the long run. The Economist magazine provides a good overview of the current state of play.

Texas A&M AgriLife Research photo by Kay Ledbetter

The U.S. Senate approved a new comprehensive farm bill Monday, its plan for everything from food and nutrition assistance to disaster aid for livestock producers to crop insurance for farmers. But before you go popping champagne corks and celebrating the creation of five-years of agricultural policy, know this: The U.S. House has yet to weigh in.

Your Infrastructure Grade is...

Jun 10, 2013

The American Society of Civil Engineers recently posted the infrastructure report card for each state.  Scores were given in 12 categories: aviation, bridges, dams, drinking water, education, energy, flood control, inland waterways, roads, solid waste, transit, and wastewater.

The 1996 farm bill authorized an incentive program to help farmers buy more efficient irrigation equipment to save water. An estimated $4.2 billion in conservation subsidy payments have been made since 1997 and the program is under scrutiny in the current debate over a new five-year farm bill. And questions are being raised over whether the water conservation promoted by the program has actually led to more overall water use.

US 83 is one of the longest north south routes in the United States, and it cuts through the heart of the high plains. When you’re on that long stretch, there are times you would swear you’re the only car in a sea of giant 18 wheelers. The Texas Department of Public Safety is working to ensure your safety by participating in National Roadcheck week.

Some farmers are feeling a bit defensive – or put-upon -- these days. Take the recent experiences of Bob Young, for instance.  The 69 year old raises 36-hundred hogs on the land where he grew up near Rochester in central Illinois.  When he was getting ready to build a hog confinement facility seven years ago some area residents, concerned about the potential smell of the place, filed suit.  A court order stopped construction for 18 months.

Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

April Segura is a regular at the Old Cheney Road Farmers Market in Lincoln, Neb. On a warm, May afternoon, the single, stay-at-home mother of three greeted friends and acquaintances while strolling past tables of lettuce and herbs. She hoped to find more asparagus for sale.

“I love asparagus season and it’s probably about to be over,” said Segura, holding two grocery bags with one arm and her one-year-old son, Jeriel, with the other.

usnews.com

Playa Lakes Joint Venture's Policy Director Barth Crouch updates status of the 2013 Farm Bill. He says most ections of the legislation pertaining to conservation were funded through fiscal year 2013 in the so-called "fiscal cliff" negotiations at the end of 2012.

Kevin Wells has been genetically engineering animals for 24 years.

“It’s sort of like a jigsaw puzzle,” said Wells recently as he walked through his lab at the University of Missouri - Columbia. “You take DNA apart and put it back together in different orders, different orientations.”

This tax season is an unusual one for farmers.

“Farmers didn’t necessarily have a great crop to harvest, but they harvested a huge amount of income last year. It was one of the biggest years, inflation-adjusted, since going back to the 1970s,” said Roger McEowen, who runs the Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation at Iowa State University.

Generic seeds could have a short lifespan

Mar 6, 2013
Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

The patent rights on the first genetically modified seeds expire next year, but it’s not clear how the introduction of “generic” seeds fits into the science and business of GM crops.

The vast majority of the corn and soybeans in United States grow from seeds that have been genetically modified. The technology is barely 30 years old and the controversy surrounding it somewhat younger. But how did it even become possible?

 At the crossroads of industry, railroads and farm country Kansas City has long been a capital of the plains. In recent years, though, Kansas City and other agriculture hubs have seen technology chip away at their importance.

Since 1856, for instance, wheat has been traded on the floor of the Kansas City Board of Trade. In the old days, there would be a swarm of traders around the pits, shouting orders, making those crazy hand signals you've seen in the movies, but that will end later this summer.

Limited progress on animal lab site at KSU

Jan 3, 2013
Laura Ziegler for Harvest Public Media

  

In Manhattan, Kan., the site of National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility is still just a huge hole in the ground nearly a year after the initial ground-breaking.

But there has been some progress. In December, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which will operate the huge animal disease lab if it is ever completed, got title to the land when the city of Manhattan officially deeded over the 47-acre site. It’s a move that supporters hope will breathe new life into the beleaguered lab.

Growing urban areas adjoining the High Plains are becoming major customers for the region's water. What was once considered a production input is now the final harvest in southeast Colorado.

Markets woo wary farmers

Aug 30, 2012
Jeremy Bernfeld/Harvest Public Media

Farmers are the bedrock of the agricultural commodities markets – after all, they make the products that are traded there.

But after the October bankruptcy of commodity trading firm MF Global and more recent allegations of shady dealings at Iowa futures firm Peregrine Financial, the bedrock is shaking.

That’s why CME Group, which owns the Chicago Board of Trade and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, is working hard to regain farmers’ trust.

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