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 retail economy in rural America has been rough for decades. But where thousands of stores have closed in recent years, Dollar General is thriving, sometimes at the expense of local shops. Dollar Generals are discount stores that sell goods from hand tools to hot dogs. They're reshaping the retail landscape in small towns. And making lots of friends — and enemies — in the process.

Puerto Rico’s hot winter days and warm nights have played a key role in the global seed business for more than 30 years. So, the devastation wrought on the U.S. territory by Hurricane Maria in September stretches to the croplands of the Midwest and Great Plains.

Fields in Puerto Rico are used for research, development and/or testing of up to 85 percent of the commercial corn, soybean and other hybrid seeds grown in the U.S., according to the Puerto Rico Agricultural Biotechnology Industry Association.

Harry Wood / Flickr Creative Commons

Texas politicians are leaning on the Trump administration to ease up on a Federal mandate encouraging ethanol use in American automobiles, reports The Houston Chronicle.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was among a group of GOP lawmakers who met with Trump this week to ask the President to change the mandate.

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Lawmakers in Washington may end net neutrality next week, and that could be bad for small businesses on the High Plains.

As The Texas Tribune reports, net neutrality is an Obama-era regulation that requires internet companies to treat all customers the same. If the rule is repealed, internet service providers like AT&T and Suddenlink could prioritize access to some websites over others.

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Solar power continues to expand across the Sooner State.

As The Tulsa World reports, in this state that has long been a bastion for proponents of fossil fuel, photovoltaic panels can be seen glittering beneath the Oklahoma sky more and more frequently these days.

Colorado Ill-Prepared For Economic Downturn

Dec 4, 2017
50states.com

Colorado is among the least prepared states in the country for the next recession.

As The Denver Post reports, a new analysis from Moody’s Analytics found that the state’s rainy day fund of $613 million is less than half the money needed for even a moderate economic downturn.

Ron Reiring / Wikimedia Commons

The executive chairman of BNSF railroad recently penned an editorial in the San Antonio Express-News pleading with lawmakers, including Texas Sen. John Cornyn, not to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Leaving NAFTA, wrote Matt Rose, would end the one million jobs in Texas that rely on the trade deal. Rose noted that, in 2015, the Lone Star State exported over $125 million worth of goods to Mexico and Canada.

Updated Nov. 30 with EPA decision — Midwestern U.S. senators’ lobbying campaign paid off Thursday for farmers who supply the renewable fuel industry.

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 2018, 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.

Public Domain

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.

AlexCovarrubias / Wikimedia Commons

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
CC0 CREATIVE COMMONS

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.

Mitch Ames / Wikimedia Commons

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.

BLM/Public Domain

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
CCO Public Domain

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.

Luke Clayton

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.

WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

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.

I Love Dairy Queen! / Wikimedia Commons

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.

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