The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on April 14, 2001 · Page 4
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 4

Salina, Kansas
Issue Date:
Saturday, April 14, 2001
Page 4
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A4 SATURDAY, APRIL 14, 2001 THE SAUNA JOURNAL Farming / Fewer, larger farms FROM PAGE A1 That is reflected in the government statistics showing the same total amount of land in farms in Kansas — about 47.5 million acres. But the average farm size increased to 752 acres in Kansas last year, up from 731 acres average of the previous four yearis, KASS reported. Bittel is among the luckier ones. He'll probably be able to hang on to the homestead: 1,000 acres of mostly wheat he still works on weekends and ,vacations just to pay off the bank loan. And he keeps 20 head of cattle to eat the grass and keep weeds down. Bigger times At one time, Bittel Farms — a partnership of Bittel, his brother and his father — farmed as many as 7,500 acres. They grew feed crops, wheat and cattle. They fed 1,500 cattle until state environmental regulators demanded they put in '$100,000 of pollution controls during the last downturn in :the cattle market. Heavily in debt, and with the cattle market in the doldrums at the time, Bittel sold off the cattle instead. In the past two years, the family has liquidated most of its equipment and let go of all the farmland they were leasing. . His father has retired. His ;brother works as a paramedic ; in Ellis. 1 Bittel has since divorced, 1 something he blames in part Ion farming's financial stress. I As farmers, Bittel, his ex- jwife and their two children •lived on $1,500 a month. That was the amount of borrowed money the bank allotted them for living expenses. The family lived on their equity As a pharmaceutical salesman for Roche Laboratories, Bittel now makes $50,000 annually. He recently bought the first new vehicle he has ever owned: a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. And he is no longer tied down on the farm, feeding cattle sieven days a week and The Associated Press Gene Bittel, farmer turned phdrmaceutical salesman, answers questions at a women's fair booth in Salina April 4. planting crops he can't sell for enough money to meet his costs. "A tough day is when your bank calls your note ... and working your way out of it. It is a tough day to watch this ruin my father's health. So I don't miss that now," he said. "I have a Harley and go to the lake now. Why not enjoy life like other people do?" More to come While the government fig­ ures reflect only those farmers who quit between 1999 and 2000, indications are the state will lose many more farmers this spring as high fertilizer prices and poor wheat crops push more farm families over the edge. Among those on the front lines of the troubled agricultural economy is Duane Hund, a farm analyst from Kansas State University who works with struggling farm families. "It is simply slowing down the transition of farmers exiting the business, but it is not stopping it," Hund said of the government farm bailout. "The largest reason for that is that the price of wheat today ... has to be as bad, if not worse, as it was in the depression if you use a comparative analysis," he said. The rate of farmers quitting the land is expected to accelerate this year because many are now financially feeling the aftereffects of last season's dry weather and the continuation of low commodity prices, Hund said. "Northwest and north-central Kansas have a pretty tough time right now — but not a whole lot worse off than the rest of the state," he said. "We don't have what I consider a huge problem out there, but the problem is significant." Delinquent loans About 18 percent of Farm Service Agency borrowers were deljnquent as of Feb. 10 this year, compared to 16 percent for the same time a year ago, said Forrest Buhler, staff attorney at Kansas Ag Mediation Service. A loan is counted as delinquent if the Dec. 30 payment has not been made. FSA deals primarily with family farmers who are unable to get credit elsewhere. It had 645 delinquent borrowers as of Feb. 10, compared to 578 at the same time last year Buhler said that increase came primarily from grain farmers in northwest and north-central Kansas, the areas hardest hit by the drought in Kansas. The weather, coupled with low grain prices, drove the increase, he said. Bittel likes to tell others about the 1918 photograph that his father has showing a horse-drawn wagon on the scale at the Claflin elevator The price of wheat shown in the photograph was $2.65 a bushel — about the same as farmers get today with the added government payments. "Why cry in your beer?" Bittel said. "It was my choice to do it, and it was my choice to get out." Fuel / Several factors cause hikes FROM PAGE A1 Summer increase typical Mike Mason, media relations at the National Association of Convenience Stores, based in Alexandria, Va., said a rise in the price of gasoline is typical every summer, and the low gasoline supply hasn't affected gas prices too much at this point. "It is more of a question of what is being supplied," Mason said. This past week, the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimated the national summer fuel price average as being four cents lower than this past summer at $1.49. Beyond gasoline stocks, Stephens and Mason said, there are several factors that go into increasing summer gas prices. Stephens said several oil refineries are shut down for maintenance. Another contributing factor, Stephens said, is the switch from winter gasoline to summer gasoline. Every summer, some gasoline markets are required by the federal Environmental Protection Agency to switch to a cleaner-burning reformulated gasoline. The convenience store association also blames the higher cost on EPA fuel programs that make gasoline "less uniform" and "more difficult to transport and store." Add to that the decision by 10 Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to cut their oil production by 1 million barrels. But Jeff Mercer, director of travel and tourism at the Department of Tourism in Topeka, isn't wringing his hands. He said the higher gas prices actually work to the state's advantage. "This is going to play into our hands," Mercer said. "The number of trips doesn't go down but the travel does." Mercer said Midwesterners are going to find the "hidden treasures in their own back yards" rather than leave their home state. "People still need a break," he said. "They are still going to take a trip; they just want it to stop before money runs out." When might we see gas price relief? That's hard to tell, Stephens said, but it doesn't look like it will be soon because refineries are "running at full capacity." • Reporter Tana Thomson can be reached at 823-6464, Ext. 173, or by e-mail at sjtthomson@sal T EDUCATION Utah governor wants fourth V Leavitt wants all students to take responsibility class By HEATHER MAY Salt Lake Tribune SALT LAKE CITY — High school students can read, write and solve basic math problems by the time they graduate. But do they know what to look for in a potential marriage partner? How to create a family budget together? Raise a child? Gov. Mike Leavitt and his wife, Jacalyn, think more students should learn such skills. The first couple sent a letter last month to all the state's high schools encouraging educators to get more students to take the Adult Roles and Responsibilities class. They also urged the 10 high schools in the state that don't offer the elective class to join the 63 others that do. •The Leavitts said their letter was prompted by concern about the breakdown of families. Up to half of marriages in the state end in divorce. The Leavitts cited research showing that marital education may turn that tide. For the unit on marriage, teachers of Adult Roles focus on a union between a man and a woman, while also discussing second marriages, blended families and single parents. Students learn what qualities to look for in a partner "So many of them look at it like, 'Everything is just a bed of roses. When we get married, if we love each other everything will be wonderful,' " said Beth Bogedahl, a teacher at Wayne High in Bicknell, the only Utah school where the class is required for graduation. Teachers are quick to dispel that notion. Renee Hyer, state specialist for family and consumer sciences education, says students learn that the best marriage partners are "best friends" who share common values and goals. The class also focuses on resolving conflicts, communicating needs and handling finances. Such a class seems vital in Utah, where 20 percent of the state's brides are teen-agers, usually marrying right out of high school. Nationally, just 11 percent of marriages involve young brides. Teen marriages are more prone to end in divorce. Twenty-five percent of the divorces in Utah are to women younger than 20. Brent Barlow, chairman of the Governor's Commission on Marriage and a professor of marriage and family at Brigham Young University, hopes the class persuades high school students to delay matrimony "We emphasize marriage a lot (in Utah). That's why girls get married out of high school," he said. Maturity makes for stronger marriages, he notes. Still, Utah's divorce rate is the lowest of nine Intermountain states. Barlow said, which could be due to the state's predominant Mormon faith. Spouses who are highly religious in any faith have a greater chance of staying together, he said. Adult Roles is meant to help those who take the class navigate aU of their relationships, not just one with a marriage partner. Bridal Registry Steinhauser's 109 NW 3rd. St., Abilene 785-263-1401 /1-800-321-7668 Personal ^ - Service Cil inMankato National Bank MEMBER FDIC 201 N. Commercial, Mankato 785-378-3162 T WIRELESS Industry under order to locate 911 calls H] King of Clubs *' Comer of Pacific & Ohio « Salina • 820-2869 By The Associated Press WASHINGTON - People who keep cellular phones handy in case of an emergency might be in for a surprise: The person on the other end of that 911 call can't locate you by homing in on the signal. Wireless carriers face a fast- approaching government deadline to add this capability to their systems, but some companies are pressing regulators for more time to complete the costly overhaul. Federal officials warn they will have to present a strong case. ALLSEAT Public safety officials say they can't wait any longer "There is a public expectation that people can be found if they malce a 911 call from their cell phones," said William Hinkle, director of the Hamilton County communications department in Ohio. About 45 million Americans made 911 calls from their wireless phones last year, according to Hinkle, who works on the issue for the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials. In some areas, cellular 911 calls make up 50 percent to 70 percent of the call volume com­ ing into safety centers. Without location information, public safety officials say they are leaving those in emergencies at greater risk. In an oft-cited case, a Florida woman died after her car sank in a canal off the Florida Turnpike in February She dialed 911 but couldn't teU the operator where she was. In another case, a man driving in Greensboro, N.C., suffered an allergic reaction to a bee sting. He dialed 911 from his cell phone but passed out before he could give an exact location. Public safety officials figured out where he was because they heard the sound of a siren in the background. When a person pimches 911 from a traditional wireline phone, personnel at the answering center see a screen that displays the number of the caller, what street that person is on. Pool & Spa SERVICE 823-7512 SUNFLOWER Sat., April 14 Rock & Roll with SHAGNASTY Friday, April 13 TITEGRIP High Energy Rock & Roll [ $4.00 at the door. No cover before 9 p .m. 12 /\/ \ l.8di/PliMt *rB. M \M \ iiriLCnwfort f W 1 liatlniQBUl fMcDonaidSHHl • * I* SAUNA, Ks The G Spot presents MAXFIELD PARISH High Energy Rock N Roll April 13 & 14 Doors open at 7 p.m. Show starts at 9 p.m. No cover charge 7-9 p.m. $5 cover charge after 9 p .m. (No dancers on these nights) Live At 1334 W. North Salina, KS 67401 785493-8252 Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, Buick, Pontiac & Cadillac /jf/\Holm Automotive ^^^N Center, Inc. •^m^^ Abilene, Kansas mww .haMmamlm .mm • Grid Shadow • Mens • Ladies Wldtiis • Narrows • iVIedlums DOWNTOWN SALINA ] COMPUTER ARMOIRE Kay Tittel Caring... Respect... Trust. 401 West Iron, SaUna / (785) 823-3456 A practical solution to your computer storage needs! IN STOCK NOW! ENTERTAINMENT CENTERS Many styles to | choose from. No Partical Board. Affbrdably Priced! FOREVER OAK p ' Hanicn^ud Oak furniture & Accents" I-800-86i-Vl29 823-9729 619 E. Crawford • Elmore Center Monday-FrOdy 10-6 Sat. |

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