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DODGE CITY, KS

Wind farm to power Microsoft data center

Electricity from a wind farm under construction in western Kansas will help supply the power for a Microsoft data center in Wyoming.

The Hutchinson News reports (http://j.mp/2fG6Hq5) that Microsoft signed a 10-year-contract to buy all 178 megawatts of power from the Bloom Wind Project, which is under construction on 15,000 acres in Ford and Clark counties, about 20 miles south of Dodge City.

Alberta, Canada-based Capital Power owns the project, and expects to go online late in 2017.

Microsoft will couple the Kansas-generated power with the 59-megawatt Happy Jack and Silver Sage wind farms in Wyoming.

Brian Janous, director of energy strategy at Microsoft, says the combined output of the three projects will produce enough annual energy to cover the energy used at the company's Cheyenne, Wyoming, data center.

SIOUX FALLS, SD

Fall fieldwork not impacted by first storm 

South Dakota farmers had completed most of their fall fieldwork before the state saw its first winter storm of the season, but some corn and sunflowers remain unharvested.

The Agriculture Department in its latest weekly crop report says 3 percent of both the corn and sunflower crops remain in the field.

The report says about half of the state's winter wheat crop is in good to excellent condition. Only 9 percent is rated poor or very poor.

Pasture and range conditions statewide are rated 35 percent good to excellent. Stock water supplies are 68 percent adequate to surplus.

WASHINGTON DC

Vilsack: Dems need better message for rural America

The U.S. agriculture secretary has for years been telling anyone who will pay attention that Democrats needed a better message for rural America. But no one listened to Tom Vilsack, who's held his post since President Barack Obama took office in 2009.

He's also spent most of his tenure as agriculture secretary trying to revitalize areas that ultimately voted for Republican Donald Trump in this year's presidential election.

In an interview, Vilsack says Democrats didn't make enough of an effort to talk to rural voters and failed to counter powerful Republican themes of less regulation and lower taxes. Exit polls showed that about 17 percent of voters in this year's election hailed from small cities or rural areas. Sixty-two percent of them said they voted for Trump.

MANKATO, MN

Farmers put forth efforts to reduce farmland property taxes

The amount of farmland property taxes that go toward paying new schools has become a topic of discussion in light of the tight farm economy.

Property taxes are more noticeable with two years of low crop prices and tough-to-balance budgets, the Mankato Free Press reported.

``We're looking for a way it's more equitable to fund education, whether it's more people in the district or the state taking a bigger share of it,'' said Minnesota Farm Bureau president Kevin Paap, who farms in the Garden City area. ``Especially with school bond referendums - rural property owners are paying significantly more, 10 times more, than people living in the city.''

Farmland owners pay taxes on their entire property toward bond referendums that have been passed to build new schools, while city residents' property tax bill is based on the value of their home and lot.

A provision for a tax bill passed in the last legislative session would have reduced the levy tax bill for farmers by giving them a tax credit from the state. The tax credit, which would have been paid for by the state's general fund, was vetoed by Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton because of a language error in the bill.

HASTINGS, NE

Tornado damages farm in rural Nebraska

A tornado damaged some farm buildings in southeast Nebraska Sunday as it moved across a mostly rural area of the state.

The National Weather Service says the tornado was reported around 4:30 p.m. Sunday near Red Cloud and Lawrence, which are south of Hastings near the Kansas border.

The storm knocked over a farm outbuilding and several center-pivot irrigation systems, but didn't damage the home. The storm caused minor damage in the area and knocked down some power lines.

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