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Kansas Wheat's blog, The Wheat Beat

An odd thing has happened in wheat country — a lot of farmers aren't planting wheat.

Thanks to a global grain glut that has caused prices and profits to plunge, this year farmers planted the fewest acres of wheat since the U.S. Department of Agriculture began keeping records nearly a century ago.

Instead of planting the crop that gave the wheat belt its identity, many farmers are opting this year for crops that might be less iconic but are suddenly in demand, such as chickpeas and lentils, used in hummus and healthy snacks.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio/File photo

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A conservative firebrand promoting President Donald Trump's unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud oversees a Kansas election system that threw out at least three times as many ballots as any similarly sized state did, fueling concerns about massive voter suppression should its practices become the national standard.

Joseph Novak / Flickr / Creative Commons

A company that manufactures a part of wind turbines is laying off employees at its Hutchinson plant.

Officials with Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy on Friday announced 140 employees would lose their jobs at its Hutchinson plant in late September.

The Spain-based company says the layoffs were prompted by a reduction in orders.

The Hutchinson News reports the company will employ 190 people after the layoffs.

The company says it is committed to the wind power market and will pursue a capital investment to retool an existing production line in Hutchinson.

Kansas News Service/File photo

Kansas Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer's voting record as a legislator gives insight into the course of policy action he is certain to sustain if he wins the governor's race.

The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Colyer generally has avoided hefty policy pronouncements in recent weeks to focus on explaining what type of person he would be as governor.

Colyer launched a career in the state Legislature by sponsoring a bill equating the legal status of a fetus at all stages of gestation to that of a living human being.

Gage Skidmore, flickr Creative Commons

Gov. Sam Brownback is making an announcement about the Department of Corrections at a prison that has seen at least three significant disturbances in recent months.

Lawmakers and the state employees' union have urged the administration to address chronic staffing shortages and low pay among Kansas corrections workers. The governor's office has not disclosed what Brownback will say Thursday afternoon at the El Dorado Correctional Facility.

kslegislature.org

Another Kansas state lawmaker has become the third Republican to enter the race to succeed retiring GOP U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins.

The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Rep. Kevin Jones of Wellsville in east-central Kansas' Franklin County announced his candidacy Wednesday for the 2nd Congressional District seat held by Lynn Jenkins.

Forty-two-year-old Jones has served in the legislature since 2013.

Jenkins has represented the 2nd District since 2009. After being re-elected in 2016, the GOP congresswoman revealed her intention not to seek another term in 2018.

Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office

A federal judge has thrown out one of the charges against a Kansas man accused of plotting to attack Somali immigrants in the meatpacking town of Garden City.

U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren granted a defense motion to dismiss a firearms charge against Curtis Allen. The decision comes in the wake of a 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal panel's ruling in May in an unrelated case that found that a person convicted of misdemeanor domestic battery under a city ordinance can legally carry a gun.

Twitter

Gov. Sam Brownback's spokeswoman is stepping down within days, ahead of his anticipated departure.

The governor announced Melika Willoughby's resignation today as communications director, effective Friday. She'll become vice president of communications and strategic development for Forge Leadership Network, which identifies and mentors young conservatives.

Willoughby joined Brownback's office in 2014 as deputy communications chief. She's been part of his senior staff since November.

Neil Conway, flickr Creative Commons

Kansas corrections officials expect the next prison built by the state to be fully air-conditioned, including the cells for inmates.

They view climate control as a way to lessen problems with inmates and to help combat high employee turnover.

Some lawmakers who don't want to coddle criminals also see a need to make corrections officers less miserable in the summer heat.

Plans to air-condition the new prison in Lansing in the Kansas City area also come as a federal judge is forcing Texas to move hundreds of inmates sensitive to the heat to cooler areas.

www.westarenergyblog.com

The CEO of Westar says the utility and Great Plains Energy will file their new merger plan with Kansas regulators later this month.

CEO Mark Ruelle says meetings will be scheduled later this year for a shareholder vote on the proposal.

Ruelle updated investors yesterday [Wednesday] on the second plan to combine the utilities. The Kansas Corporation Commission rejected a proposal in April for the $12.2 billion sale of Westar to Great Plains.

Ruelle says paperwork will be filed with state and federal entities by the end of August.

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