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The Great Plains, Economy
Powder River Basin, central Wyoming, important economic activity, cantaloupes, sugar beets
Vast wheat farms, using large-scale machinery, dominate the northern plains landscape. The winter wheat belt centers on Kansas, while spring wheat dominates in the Dakotas. Other important grain crops include sorghum, barley, and rye. In the south, irrigated acreage and mild climate conditions allow for the cultivation of cotton, onions, spinach, and peanuts. Further north, irrigation favors cantaloupes and sugar beets in the area around Greeley, Colorado. Cattle ranching is another important economic activity.
Mineral production in the Great Plains is substantial. Oil and natural gas are produced in Texas and parts of Oklahoma and Kansas. Coal has become important in Wyoming, Montana, and the Dakotas. In these states, vast open-pit mines produce coal with low sulfur content, a cleaner-burning variety much preferred for generating electricity. In the Powder River Basin in north central Wyoming and southern Montana, mining operations have grown rapidly and been accompanied by the growth of related settlements. Each day, dozens of long, coal-laden trains pull out of the area, headed to electricity-generating plants throughout the United States.
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