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

Thirty-eight calves, between two and four months old, moo and kick at the dirt floor in a steel barn in Brush, Colorado. One by one, a handler leads them from the pen to a narrow chute, where their legs are restrained and they’re lifted onto a hydraulic table.  

A deal, hatched in secret, to build a massive chicken processing plant on the outskirts of Tonganoxie, Kansas, caused a huge uproar last September. The Tyson project was promptly canceled. Despite that, all the incumbent city council members on the ballot were voted out of office in November.

The political consequences could continue with upcoming elections for the Kansas House.

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Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states can now collect sales tax from online retailers. New estimates show that the move could be a major boon to the economies of the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles.

Robert Dauffenbach, director of the Center for Economic and Management Research at the University of Oklahoma, told The Oklahoman that he believes the additional sales tax income could amount to over a quarter of a billion dollars a year for the Sooner State.

Tod Baker / Flickr Creative Commons

Oil drillers in West Texas continue to face a quandary: How much of the natural gas they produce should be burned off?

As The Los Angeles Times noted this month, the problem has pitted producers against each other and set environmentalists and capitalists on a collision course. During the fracking process, extra natural gas is produced along with the oil.

The U.S. House voted down an immigration bill Thursday that would have addressed one of the biggest concerns of American farmers: updating the agriculture guestworker visa program known as H-2A.

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The Trump Administration is threatening a trade war with its closest allies, and the move could hurt Texas Panhandle businesses.

As The Dallas Morning News reports, the White House has pledged to slap tariffs on imports from the Canada, Mexico, and the European Union, with those entities warning that they plan to respond in kind.

skyscrapercity.com / Wikimedia Commons

The former Chase Tower in downtown Amarillo has a new resident bank and namesake. Going forward, the tallest building between Fort Worth and Denver will now be known as the FirstBank Southwest Tower.

As The Amarillo Globe-News reports, the institution that began as First National Bank of Ochiltree in 1907 will now, 111 years later, have its name stamped on the most prominent structure in the skyline of the largest city on the High Plains.

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The State of Texas has revealed a program that offers incentives to residents who purchase or lease cars that use alternative fuels. This state is offering a $2,500 cash back deal two Texans who decide to buy green automobiles.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry said this week that the Department of Energy is working on a plan to subsidize coal and nuclear power in the name of national security. While the details are scarce, the idea’s been the subject of speculation and criticism from energy experts, environmentalists and grid operators.

Courtesy
Spaceport Colorado spaceportcolorado.com/update.html

License to launch a Colorado space travel initiative is quickly approaching, but the news has some Eastern Plains residents concerned.

As The Denver Post reports, if approved by the FAA in August, Spaceport Colorado, located at the Front Range Airport, would be a launch and landing site for space planes, still under development, that would engage rockets at 45,000 feet to take passengers or researchers into suborbital space.

Editors note, June 28, 2018: The CDC says the data referenced in this story about farmer suicides is incorrect, due to "coding issues" and that the agency will work to correct the data, according to media outlet The New Food Economy. Updated suicide numbers for farmers have not yet been released.

Farming involves a degree of inherent risk, such as environmental and biological factors like drought and disease, which can come and go practically without warning. Depressed commodity and dairy prices and a burgeoning trade war are adding to that usual stress and taking a toll on farmers.

From Texas Standard:

We’ve been hearing the word tariffs an awful lot recently, But the conversation about whether and how much started back in March when President Donald Trump announced new duties on steel and aluminum imports – at that time he granted exemptions to some major trading partners, including Canada, Mexico and the European Union, or EU. But late this week, the Trump administration said those countries will face steel and aluminum tariffs of up to 25 percent, in order to protect American national security interests.

SCOTUS Case Impacts Ag Workers

May 24, 2018
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This week’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court says employers can avoid settling disputes with workers in court.

But that could harm people who work on farms or in meatpacking plants … people who often rely on class-action lawsuits to collect unfairly withheld wages.

University of Denver law professor Nantiya Ruan says litigation is expensive and the damages in those types of cases are small, so ag workers usually can’t afford an individual case.

Flying east to west over Kansas, the land transforms from lush green to desert brown. Rectangular farm plots fill in with emerald circles, the work of center-pivot irrigation.

Outside Garden City, in the middle of one of those circles, Dwane Roth scoops up soil to reveal an inconspicuous PVC pipe. It’s a soil moisture probe that tells Roth exactly how much water his crops need. The device is one of many new technologies designed to help farmers make the most of every drop.

“All that you have to do is open up your app,” said Roth. “It’s going to tell you, you don’t need to irrigate or you’re going to need to apply an inch within  six days.”

Kansas saw a bump in job growth last month.

The Kansas Department of Labor says the state gained 2,000 private sector jobs from March to April. Compared to April of last year, Kansas had nearly 18,000 more jobs in the private sector.

Emilie Doerksen, with the Department of Labor, says there have been jumps in job categories such as business services, transportation and warehousing.

“This is actually the first month that we’ve had significant over-the-year gains in the private sector in over a year,” Doerksen says.

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Businesses in the Lone Star State are growing increasingly worried that President Trump's “America first” economic policies might do harm to trade between Texas and Mexico.

As the BBC reports, Texas industry leaders are worried that Trump’s hostility toward the North American Free Trade Agreement could cut into profits and lead to job losses.

From Texas Standard.

President Donald Trump has brought or threatened tariffs against many U.S. trading partners in an effort to bring them to the negotiating table. China threatened back, promising to bring tariffs against many U.S. imports. That trade battle may seem far away, but it is making a lot of farmers in Texas nervous.

Dairy farmer Gary Rock sits in his milking parlor, overlooking what is left of his 95-cow operation in LaRue County, Kentucky.

“Three hundred years of history is something that a lot of people in our country cannot even talk about,” Rock said. That’s how long the farm has been in his family.

From Texas Standard.

Ford announced recently that it will stop making most of its sedans, because the money is in trucks and SUVs. But now, gas prices are climbing, after four or five years without a significant increase. Like everyone who drives, and even those who travel by other means, Texans feel the impact of higher gas prices right in the wallet. But here, there’s a bit of a silver lining, because so much of the economy, and even the government’s coffers, rely on oil revenue. But with the Texas economy more diverse than ever, what does $3-a-gallon gas mean, on balance?

Beef cattle ranchers have always known that making the best steak starts long before consumers pick out the right cut, or where an animal grazes or what it eats.

The key is in the genetic makeup — or DNA — of the herd. And over the last year, those genetics have taken a historic leap thanks to new, predictive DNA technology.

The first version of the 2018 farm bill has only minor changes to one of the programs most farmers hold dear and what’s widely seen as their primary safety net: crop insurance.

The program covers all sorts of crops, “from corn to clams,” Iowa State University agriculture economist Chad Hart said. But it’s not like the types of insurance most people are familiar with.

From Texas Standard:

Sunday, the third and fourth largest mobile carriers in the U.S. announced a $26.5 billion plan to merge. A marriage of Sprint and T-Mobile, if approved, would yield a company with more than 90 million customers. But the merger isn’t a done deal yet, and another pending communications merger could shape the outcome – the proposed acquisition of Time-Warner by AT&T. That merger is in court, facing opposition from the U.S. Justice Department.

Amazon celebrated the grand opening of its third "fulfillment center" in Kansas on Tuesday.

The new 850,000 square-foot Kansas City, Kansas, began operations on August 6, 2017; other facilities were already operating in Lenexa and Edgerton. The centers serve as the conduit between an online order on Amazon to the shipment to the customer. 

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Drivers of electric cars in Oklahoma will soon be able to charge their vehicles much more easily.

As The Oklahoman reports, vehicle charging stations will soon be set up at Walmart stores in the Sooner State. The charging stations are being installed by Electrify America, a unit of Volkswagen Group of America. As of now, only four or five Walmarts in Oklahoma will receive the charging stations, with the possibility of more to come in the future.

Texas has long been known as an economic powerhouse among states, but High Plains residents may not be aware of just how powerful the Lone Star State is on the world stage.

According to a new editorial in Forbes, the economy of Texas dwarfs that of Russia, which is by far the largest country in the world by area.

For about 10 years Laura Krier has lived in Concordia, Kansas, a small town that she’s seen get only smaller.

Without some kind of economic development, she fears things it will only get worse.

Held up over disagreements over federal food stamps, the first draft of the 2018 farm bill arrived Thursday, bearing 35 changes to that program, including starting a national database of participants.

The current farm bill expires Sept. 30; in the past, Congress has had to extend their work beyond deadlines. The bill — released on Thursday — came from the House Agriculture Committee, which is headed by Texas Republican Rep. Mike Conaway.

Kansas oil production continued its decline in 2017 even as prices began to tick up.

Kay Ledbetter

A brewing trade war between the United States and China is making Texas cattle ranchers nervous about potential tariffs on their beef exports.

From The Texas Tribune:

Longtime cattle rancher Jason Peeler gets uneasy when he hears about a looming trade war between the United States and China, and he says he's not the only one. 

“We are nervous — we’re really nervous,” Peeler said.

Meant to fund the federal government through early September, the $1.3 trillion bill signed by President Donald Trump last week also includes money and changes for ag-related programs beyond the “grain-glitch” fix.

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