Ben Kuebrich

Reporter, Kansas News Service

Ben grew up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., and moved to Garden City to work for HPPR.

Fascinated by the brain, he spent 10 years studying neuroscience and working in laboratories at institutions like Emory University, MIT, and the University of Tokyo. During that time, Ben also fell in love with listening to radio and podcasts, and started his career in audio doing research and fact-checking for the podcast Science Vs. He hopes to bring the objectivity and rigour that he honed as scientist and fact-checker to his reporting at HPPR.

Ben enjoys TV, rock-climbing, and noodling around on the bass guitar, but he’s never done all three at the same time. He does, however, always enjoy learning something new and is always looking for stories, so feel free to send him an email.

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Ben Kuebrich

Amtrak may end passenger rail service through Dodge City, Garden City and destinations to the west.

The agency told a congressional delegation last week that it might shut down parts of the Southwest Chief route that runs across Kansas on its way between Chicago and Los Angeles. That news followed ongoing disputes about track maintenance and upgrades.

Amtrak told Congress that ridership on the line has been falling in recent years and that the service loses about $50 million a year. But U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran said that’s not the point.

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.

Kansas Highway Patrol

After receiving nearly 10 inches of rainfall Monday evening, parts of northwest Kansas experienced heavy flooding that damaged roads and caused a highway closure.

Flooding occurred along the Saline river, which rose four-and-a-half feet above its previous record height. The floods washed out smaller roads and temporarily closed Highway 283 north of Wakeeney.

marshall.house.gov

Kansas Republican Rep. Roger Marshall says that despite the Farm Bill failing to pass in the House last week, he still expects it to pass.

No Democrats voted for the bill, and the Freedom Caucus, a small group of conservative Republicans, also withdrew their support until after immigration is discussed.

Marshall is on the House Agriculture committee. He says there are no plans to win over Democrats by backtracking on stricter work requirements for federal food aid.

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.”

Ashley Leal parks in front of the Plains, Kansas, Community Library. It’s about to close, but she doesn’t care. She pulls out her blue laptop.

“I’m ... using the Wi-Fi,” Leal says with a laugh.

Her home internet was so slow, she came to the library parking lot. Cars often idle there in the evening while their drivers tap into a plodding, but treasured, link to the internet.

“I’m just thankful that we have somewhere to go,” Leal says.

It’s the only free internet in this small western Kansas town. For many people, it’s the only internet, period. Surprisingly, part of the problem and the solution, for rural areas may lie in Netflix traffic.

Youtube

Derek Klingenberg is kind of a farmer celebrity.

His YouTube channel draws more than 70,000 subscribers for ag-themed pop-music parodies, trombone covers and, more recently, cow art made with satellites.

This week, the Peabody, Kansas, farmer took his cow art to the next level, or altitude. He posted a video showing his cows to form a giant “Hi” as seen from the heavens.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service/File Photo

Sen. Pat Roberts says the level of federal subsidies for crop insurance will dominate this years farm bill discussion. Roberts, who chairs the Senate agriculture committee, talked about the issue on Friday.

At a farm convention in Kansas City, Roberts said a federal budget deal that included protections for dairy and cotton farmers against catastrophic losses could make passing a farm bill simpler.

Ben Kuebrich / Kansas News Service

A humanitarian group that helps refugees settle in western Kansas is shutting down its office in the region amid changing rules that welcome fewer newcomers to the country and the state.

Plymouth District Library / flickr Creative Commons

The Federal Communication Commission on Thursday overturned its 2015 decision to prevent internet service providers from slowing speeds or charging more for certain content. The vote on net neutrality could affect rural communities.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai — who grew up in Parsons, Kansas — says undoing the regulation may help people in rural areas get better internet access.