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Amy Mayer

The Iowa Department of Agriculture is canceling all live bird exhibitions at the Iowa State Fair, county fairs and other gatherings of birds in an effort to contain the spread of H5N2, a deadly bird flu that's led to the euthanization of more than 25 million poultry in the state. 

Scientists are still unsure exactly how the disease is spreading. The department’s order begins immediately and is effective through the end of 2015. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

Parents of grown children who died from drug overdose were at the capitol today lobbying for legislation they say might have saved lives.

Activists wore shirts bearing the name of Andy Lamp, a Davenport man who died of an overdose of heroin at the age of 33.    

His mother Kim Brown says a friend who was with him at the time was unable to help.

“He died May 25, 2011 of an accidental overdose,” Brown says.  “He wasn’t alone and I’m here in support of our overdose prevention bill.”

Peggy Lowe/Harvest Public Media

 

An avian flu outbreak is sweeping across the Midwest at a frightening pace, ravaging chicken and turkey farms and leaving officials stumped on the virus’s seemingly unstoppable spread.

Photo by John Pemble

A tentative deal to keep Iowa’s mental health institutes in Mount Pleasant and Clarinda open longer is meeting with stiff opposition from Democrats in the Iowa Senate. 

As part of the deal, there would no longer be any reference in Iowa law to the two institutes, nor to the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo. 

Negotiators say the governor agreed to keep the institutes open through December 15, instead of closing them next month, but only if all references to the three facilities are stricken from Iowa law books. 

Takin' Care Of "Business"

May 19, 2015
IPR's Pat Blank

  Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton held a roundtable with small business owners in a bike shop in Cedar Falls. She says her focus on small business is a crucial component of her fight to help families get ahead and stay ahead. She also says she’s in favor of trade deals like the Trans Pacific Partnership, but it’s a work in progress.

Once Again, WTO Rejects Country of Origin Meat Labels

May 19, 2015
Photo by Grant Gerlock/Harveset Public Media file

Meat sold in the U.S. has to have a label telling in which country the animal was born, raised, and slaughtered. But the World Trade Organization confirmed Monday that those country of origin labels (COOL) on meat sold in the U.S. violate international law.

Children and Young People's Research Network/flickr

A $3 million state program to support treatment of autism in children will continue under a social services bill making its way through the legislature. But one backer wants a change in how the money is spent.   

Mount Pleasant Republican David Heaton says the program has faltered, not through lack of interest, but through lack of expertise in treating autism.       

Photo by John Pemble

State lawmakers return to the capitol today for their third week of overtime, while the two parties remain divided over the state budget for the fiscal year that starts in July. 

Most of the work this week will be behind closed doors as the House, the Senate, and the Governor’s office strive toward a budget agreement. House Speaker Kraig Paulsen (R- Hiawatha) says House Republicans have not signed on to a tentative agreement on funding for K-12 schools.

Photo by Amy Mayer/IPR file

Composting millions of euthanized birds affected by avian flu is arduous and some poultry producers say the process takes too long. The corn stover usually used for cellulosic ethanol may help the process.

Stover is comprised of stalks, cobs and other waste left after harvest. A combination of heat and carbon-rich corn waste accelerates decomposition and kills the virus. The leftover material provides farmers with a compost to spread on fields. 

Amy Mayer/IPR

A southeast Iowa lawmaker whose district includes a turkey processing business is warning that avian flu could result in layoffs, and a decline in state tax receipts.   

Republican Representative David Heaton of Mount Pleasant says that uncertainty is one reason why Republicans are holding the line on state spending.   

Heaton is concerned about the 500 employees at West Liberty Foods.

“Those jobs are now under threat by this outbreak,” Heaton says.  “My people are scared of what is going to happen to their jobs and their families.”

John Pemble/IPR

A state program that was formed after the abuse of mentally disabled men housed in a bunkhouse in Atalissa would be eliminated under a Republican social services budget bill making its way through the legislature.  

 In 2009, the federal government sued a Texas company for paying the men as little as 65 dollars a month for working in a West Liberty processing plant, and lodging them in substandard conditions.      

Riverside Democrat Sally Stutsman says the state took steps to prevent similar abuse in the future.

Photo by Jacob Grace for Harvest Public Media

Wearing latex gloves and digging through a sloppy patch of cow poop on his farm in central Missouri, farmer Ralph Voss spotted his target.

“Okay, here we go!” he said excitedly, plucking out a shiny insect the size of a sunflower seed – a dung beetle.

John Pemble/IPR

A Republican lawmaker who negotiated an agreement with the Governor to delay the closings of the mental health institutes in Mount Pleasant and Clarinda is defending the plan against Democratic critics.

Representative David Heaton of Mount Pleasant says without the compromise, the Governor would have used his veto power to force the closings on June 30th

Under the compromise, the facilities will stay open through December 15th, and then later reopen as private facilities.   

Photo by Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Once a regular dining option, a mix of cultural and economic factors pushed lamb off the American dinner table. To put the meat back on the menu, ranchers and retailers are being encouraged to reach out to a more diverse set of consumers, specifically American Muslims and Latinos.

USDA/Flickr

Susanne Byerly can laugh now, four years later, talking about how she and her husband were trying to eat healthy food when they bought ground turkey for their spaghetti dinner.

Byerly, along with her husband, Jerry, and their two-year-old, Jack, were on vacation with extended family in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. While buying supplies at a local grocery store, they decided to swap ground beef for poultry because they were watching their weight.

John Pemble / IPR

Week after week it’s looked like no compromise was in sight between the state’s Democratic-controlled Senate and Republican majority House over K-12 funding, but a tentative agreement looks promising that lawmakers have figured out how much to fund schools for the coming year. IPR's Clay Masters checks in with Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell to preview the week ahead at the Iowa capitol. 

Food Companies Face Water Risk

May 9, 2015
Photo by Amy Mayer/IPR file

America’s biggest food production companies face a growing threat of water scarcity, according to a new report from Ceres, an environmental sustainability group.

The report cites pollution as one of the primary culprits.

Farming can be a major contributor to water pollution through runoff from chemicals and manure. Because food companies depend on clean water, they have an incentive to help farmers keep water in mind.

John Pemble / IPR

Republican presidential candidate, Carly Fiorina, spent an hour-and-a-half speaking to about 75 people in a downtown Cedar Rapids coffee house Thursday morning.  She promises to restore what she calls "possibilities," in Americans' lives.

“And we knew, we knew that our lives were defined by possibilities, and our children and our grandchildren’s lives would be filled with even greater possibilities. And yet, people don’t know that anymore. And when we lose the sense of limitless possibilities that has always defined this nation, we are losing the core of who we are.”

Flickr / Joshua Smith

Just because an infant is extremely premature, it doesn't mean he or she can't survive. That's according to new New England Journal of Medicine study from University of Iowa researchers, which suggests some babies as young as 22 weeks premature are viable.

Researchers complied data from thousands premature births at 24 academic hospitals nationwide. The mortality rate for babies under 1000 grams birth weight, bit over 2 lbs, was as high as 50 percent in hospitals, and as low as 10 percent in others.

Rick Fredericksen / Iowa Public Radio

Five years after it was initially confirmed in Iowa, the Emerald Ash Borer is on the door step of Des Moines, the state's largest city. The pest has finally entered Polk County and Rick Fredericksen has the story.

Infested ash trees have been discovered in West Des Moines and Urbandale. For Des Moines property owners, now is time for treatment. But Iowa State University entomologist Mark Shour urges caution to avoid high pressure tactics.  

Rick Fredericksen / Iowa Public Radio

Tears were shed for Vietnam Veterans Recognition Day in Des Moines yesterday, as the 867th name was unveiled on the monument honoring Iowa’s war dead. Rick Fredericksen reports. 

It took six years before Douglas Peterson died of his combat injuries. His mother wept, his father sat peacefully; the family had driven in from Fairfield for the emotional ceremony. Sister Karen said Doug’s name is where it belongs, with his brothers.

“It’s been a long time. It's closure. It's done. We're proud of him.” 

Rick Fredericksen / Iowa Public Radio

Forty years after his death, the name of an Iowa soldier was unveiled today on the state’s Vietnam War Monument. Iowa Public Radio’s Rick Fredericksen reports.

Fairfield native Douglas Peterson was severely wounded in 1969, but held on for six years of medical care and surgeries before those injuries took his life. His name was on "The Wall" in Washington, but the long paper trail complicated his inclusion here, until now. Peterson’s sister Karen spoke for the family.

Joyce Russell/IPR

The chairman of the Iowa Republican party today announced changes to the GOP’s straw poll held each presidential election cycle.  

It has gotten increasingly more expensive for candidates to compete in the Iowa Straw Poll, and some have dropped out after poor results.   

Jeff Kaufmann says he has answered objections from current and former candidates.   

Kaufmann says for this year’s event on August 8 in Boone, they’re eliminating bidding for space at the event which has cost campaigns as much as 35,000 dollars.

John Pemble/IPR

A tentative agreement on basic state aid for K-12 schools has been reached at the statehouse.

 A disagreement between the House and Senate has stood in the way of adjournment of the 2015 session. 

An aide says Republican House Speaker Kraig Paulsen and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal have reached a tentative deal, which will now be presented to rank and file legislators.     

Clay Masters / IPR

Recently announced Republican presidential candidate and former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina is campaigning in Iowa Thursday. She’s one of a number of GOP candidates who have officially announced they’re running for president this week to swing through the first-in-the-nation caucus state. 

Former Arkansas Governor and winner of the 2008 Iowa Republican caucuses Mike Huckabee wrapped up an early swing through the state on Wednesday night in a barn at Living History Farms in Urbandale.

Seth J/flickr

A bill to make it easier for cellphone companies to put up new towers passed the Iowa House today on a largely party-line vote.  

The bill would create uniform statewide standards cities and counties would have to follow, including limiting the time they could take to approve a new tower.  

Boone Republican Chip Baltimore says dealing with different local rules slows things down for cellphone companies.

“It’s an attempt to expedite the application process,” Baltimore says, “and then also make sure that cities and counties are not second-guessing business decisions.”

Photo by Amy Mayer

The local food scene has exploded in recent years, which means there’s a lot more local produce on dinner tables. It also means that during the spring season as small farms start ramping back up, they have to work a bit harder to attract new customers.

Community Supported Agriculture, or CSAs, allow subscribers to connect directly with a farm, and remain a mainstay for local farmers looking to latch on to consistent revenue.

Clay Masters / IPR

Recently declared GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson spoke Tuesday at a lunch gathering of Iowa Republicans at the Embassy Club in downtown Des Moines.  This is the retired pediatric neurosurgeon's first visit to Iowa since announcing Monday he plans to seek the Republican nomination for president.

Carson is the only GOP African American presidential candidate. He grew up in poverty and was raised by a single mother in Detroit.

Photo by Joyce Russell/IPR

The head of Iowa’s top job creation agency was in the hot seat at the capitol Monday. Lawmakers and union representatives grilled Iowa Economic Development Authority Director Debi Durham about mass layoffs at the Iowa Fertilizer Company plant in Lee County.  But Durham says the  record-breaking incentives that attracted an Egyptian company to Iowa will not be scaled back.  

The pink slips last month took union workers and state lawmakers by surprise.  

Durham says she found out about them from Burlington Democrat and labor supporter Senator Tom Courtney.

Photo by John Pemble

Governor Branstad is asking the legislature for money to market Iowa’s Home Base Iowa program that provides incentives to attract retired military personnel to the state.      But budget-writers at the statehouse say in a tight budget year the new appropriation will be a heavy lift.   

At a statehouse news conference, Branstad announced that six more Iowa communities and schools have joined the program.

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