HPPR Economy and Enterprise

crop production
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Economic indicators & conditions:
workforce demographics
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small business development
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Sarah McCammon/Harvest Public Media

Cargill, one of the country’s largest pork producers, announced Monday that it will stop using gestation crates, the controversial narrow cages meant to house and separate sows. Cargill is joining other major meatpackers, like competitors Tyson and Smithfield Foods, in planning to move away from hog crates.

Drought hammers winter wheat across the Plains

Jun 9, 2014
Ariana Brocious/Harvest Public Media

Much of the Midwest and the Plains have been battling drought for years. And the current winter wheat crop looks like it will be one of the worst in recent memory, stressing farmers in the heart of the Wheat Belt – from Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and Nebraska.


In Western Kansas, it’s not jobs that are in short order, it’s housing.  An investor is taking measures to remedy the housing shortage in Liberal without any form of government subsidies according to a recent article from the High Plains Daily Leader.


Oil production is up in Kansas, while natural gas continues on the way down says The Kansas Geological Survey. 


As our present multi-year drought grinds on and on, I’m beginning to wonder if we missed the point—by a country mile—in our current farm policy.


Hamilton County Hospital is a small, rural hospital in southwestern Kansas.  A little over a year ago, it was on the brink of closing because of financial and staffing problems says chief executive Bryan Coffey. 


Palace Coffee Co. won the regional competition of America’s Best Coffeehouse in St. Louis recently according to a recent article from the Amarillo Globe-News


Clean Line Energy Partners recently received approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to go ahead with one of the Great Plains transmission projects according to the Center for Rural Affairs.

Wikimedia Commons

Federal regulators Tuesday gave the final go-ahead for two of the country’s largest flour milling companies to merge.

Food giants ConAgra and Cargill said last year they wanted to put their flour mills under one roof in a new company called Ardent Mills. But a chorus of antitrust watchdogs said the deal would further consolidate an already concentrated industry.

Miscanthus: A growing energy crop

May 24, 2014
Rick Fredericksen/Harvest Public Media

Miscanthus, a relative of sugar cane that looks like bamboo, could be the Midwest’s next energy crop. But in a region dominated by corn and soybeans, it has yet to fully catch on, even as advocates tout its advantages.

Drought still taking toll on ranchers, beef prices

May 22, 2014
Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

California ranchers, despite near-record beef prices, are shrinking their cattle herds in response to one of the most severe droughts the state has ever faced, and many Western ranchers are taking advantage.


New roads and the increased activities of the Texas oil boom are also helping another lucrative market- drug smuggling according to a recent story from KUT.

Kansas Department of Labor

The numbers are out, and once again Western Kansas has the lowest April unemployment rates in the state.   Logan and Ness counties tied for the best rate at 2.2-percent according to the Hays Daily News.


Rocky Mountain Hemp has entered into a commercial agreement with Cannabis Therapy Corp. to provide an exclusive land lease and crop services according to a recent press release in the Wall Street Journal.


On the high plains, there aren’t any commercially navigable rivers, and the U.S. rail system has been the main way for farmers to move grain to ports to sell around the world said a recent article in Reuters.

Quentin Hope / HPPR

The U.S. market for foods and beauty products that contain hemp is growing, but American manufacturers that use hemp have their hands tied. The crop is still illegal to cultivate, according to federal laws, which means the current American hemp industry, estimated at $500 million per year, runs on foreign hemp.

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

A handful of farmers are set to plant the country’s first hemp crop in decades, despite federal regulations that tightly restrict the plant’s cultivation.


A report recently released by the AFL-CIO says Kansas is the tenth most dangerous state to work in.  Kansas has one of the worst workplace safety records in the nation based on 2012 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  The report revealed 88 Kansas workers died because of on-the-job injuries according to The Hays Daily News.


The farm bill passed earlier this year is big news for advocates of hemp. New rules differentiate industrial hemp from its cousin, marijuana, and pave the way for research on the plant.  Hemp is still considered a controlled substance by federal regulators. But some states are giving farmers the chance to experiment.


The Regional Resiliency Assessment Program (RRAP) was recently completed in the Texas Panhandle – a major region for cattle feedlots, hog production and the dairy industry.  The 18-month training helps prepare the cattle feeding and livestock industry against natural and manmade threats according to a recent article in PR Web.


Corn plants in the United States have become more drought sensitive, not less.  Yields have continued to increase because seed companies have developed genetic improvements allowing higher planting density.  Drought sensitivity could drive yields down in the years to come unless companies like Monsanto, Syngenta, and DuPont successfully develop varieties that thrive in drought reported the National Geographic.

Wheat futures are up on the Chicago Board of Trade, but this year's wheat crop is getting battered by the drought.

When you think about carbon footprint, does feeding the world cross your mind? It does for John Foley. He wrote about it recently in an article published by National Geographic. “When we think about threats to the environment, we tend to picture cars and smokestacks, not dinner,” Foley wrote. “But the truth is, our need for food poses one of the biggest dangers to the planet.” Foley outlined five steps to feed the world.


The United States Department of Agriculture recently released 2012 Ag Census data.  The report reveals record sales, rising expenses, increasing agricultural diversity, and changing farming and marketing practices according to the Prowers Journal.


Trade Secrets are a place where oil and gas companies are allowed to keep secret the ingredients used in fracking.  Baker Hughes has decided to publically list all the chemicals used in the process, while Halliburton, a major competitor is considering it reported The Associated Press and StateImpact Oklahoma.


A report filed by Hastings Entertainment to the Securities and Exchange Commission reveals the company predicted a dire future.  In 2012, the report states the company considered selling itself when reorganization and eliminating executives didn’t stem the retailer’s downward spiral.  The filing went on to say the steps didn’t have “sufficient impact” to predict the company would “return to profitability in the near future,” reported the Amarillo Globe-News.


Sharon Harvat drives a blue pick-up truck through a field of several hundred pregnant heifers on her property outside Scottsbluff in western Nebraska and notes, “On a warm day they’ll lay out flat like that...”.

Harvat and her husband John run their cattle here in the Nebraska panhandle during the winter and take them back to the mountains in northern Colorado when the calves are born. Harvat says, when she heard about a proposal to open up beef trade with Brazil, she felt a pit in her stomach.  “On an operation like ours, where we travel a lot with our cattle, that would probably come to an abrupt halt if there was an outbreak.”


As experts continue to point to injection wells as the reason for increased earthquake activity, regulators in Oklahoma have changed the way permits for these wells are approved according to StateImpact Oklahoma.

Vertical farming growing up

Apr 20, 2014
Peter Gray/Harvest Public Media

Farmers are making inroads supplying local food to hungry city foodies, but many producers are trying to grow more food in urban centers. City real estate is at a premium, so some producers are finding more space by using what’s called “vertical farming,” and going up rather than spreading out.

Growers across the country are heading indoors, using greenhouses and hydroponics – growing plants in a water and nutrient solution instead of soil and using lamps to replace sunlight. Vertical farming takes that to a new level.

Flickr Commons / Niels Linneberg

Few people connect craft breweries with cattle feed. But passing along the spent grains from the brewing process, like barley and wheat, to livestock ranchers is a common practice. Although now, that relationship could be in jeopardy.