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A new partnership between Iowa State University and the National Resources Conservation Service will create a soil health workbook for farmers and educators to use in the field. The partnership is part of the NRCS' Soil Health Division, which is new in 2016 and is making it a goal to expand educational resources and training opportunities regarding soil health across the Midwest and across the country. 

Doug Peterson, who is the new regional soil specialist for Iowa and Missouri, says this signals a shift in thinking that the soil is more of a living organism than just dirt. 

iprimages

The director of an embattled state agency took questions this week from statehouse Democrats over nearly one million dollars in improper payments of unemployment benefits.     

State Auditor Mary Mosiman reports that Iowa Workforce Development sent benefits to applicants who claimed to work for companies that didn’t exist.

In addition, legitimate recipients received 700,000 dollars in overpayments.  

Waterloo Democrat Bill Dotzler says some workers came forward and reported that there had been a mistake.

The Iowa Utilities Board has not yet decided whether to grant a permit for a pipeline that would carry North Dakota crude oil across the state. IUB permission is necessary for pipeline company Dakota Access to use eminent domain, so that it can construct the pipeline through private land.

Iowa Public Radio / Joyce Russell

Three State Senate Republicans crossed party lines in voting to pass a bill that would stop the privatization of Iowa's Medicaid system. 

State Sen. David Johnson of Osceola County is the ranking Republican on the Human Services Committee. He says Iowa is trying to do too much too fast and, as a result, healthcare providers and vulnerable people are getting dumped on.

“We need to put a dagger in this,” says Johnson. “It’s moving too fast, and we can come up with a better plan. I’m absolutely convinced of that."

Joyce Russell/IPR

The presidents of Iowa’s three regents universities today made their annual trip to the state capitol, imploring lawmakers to increase funding for the universities by over $20 million. 

That far exceeds the governor’s recommendation.     

Governor Branstad’s budget includes $8 million to be shared among the three universities.  

President Steven Leath seeks more than $8 million for ISU alone.

He says state funding has fallen, while enrollment has soared.

Joyce Russell/IPR

The president of the Iowa Board of Regents says he’s disappointed that his choice among the field of Republican candidates for president has pulled out of the race.   

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie suspended his campaign after a poor showing in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary.  

President Bruce Rastetter says Christie was drowned out by the anti-Washington message of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

“Obviously I was disappointed,” Rastetter says.  “He's a terrific guy, would have made a great president.”

Courtesy Oxfam America

In the first nine months of 2015, workers in meat-packing plants owned by Tyson Foods averaged at least one amputation a month. 

That report was gleaned from a Freedom of Information Act request by Celeste Monforton, a George Washington University occupational health professor.

Dennis van Zuijlekom / Flickr

When Sarah Gustason had her children, she knew she had to use her children’s naptime effectively.

“If I cleaned the living room while they napped, in thirty seconds they would have it destroyed. But if I sewed two pieces of fabric together while they were napping, they were going to stay together for a very long time. So it was good mental health for me.”

And so her love of sewing and handicraft, instilled in her at a young age by her grandmother, reignited. Gustason now sews and crafts as her career, but that hasn’t stopped her from doing it in her free time.

Nicu Buculei / Flickr

Every four years, the post-caucuses sigh of relief comes with a pessimistic prognostication: the caucuses are done for. Much like pre-caucus think pieces on why Iowa doesn't deserve its first-in-the nation status, the proclamation comes from political pundits, deflated candidate volunteers, and strung-out news junkies.

Distant Hill Gardens / Flickr

While the cold is still here, last weekend’s reprieve from freezing temperatures reminds us that winter won’t last forever and preparation for spring gardens begins now. That means starting seeds. On this Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Richard Jauron, horticulture specialist with the Iowa State University Extension, and Aaron Steil, assistant director of Reiman Gardens, about seed choice, temperature regulation, and timing.

C. J. Sorg/flickr

A Senate panel today approved legislation they say is needed to minimize injury for high school athletes who suffer concussions at school-sponsored events.      

The bill would require a professional trainer to evaluate injured players at all varsity competitions in so-called collision sports, including football, soccer, and wrestling.

Backers say the bill would make it harder for coaches to put an injured player back in the game without proper rest or evaluation

WIKICOMMONS / Klaus with K

Iowa’s NAACP chapter is asking state lawmakers to pass a number of significant criminal justice reforms this year. The organization says these reforms will improve the lives of African-Americans in Iowa who are arrested and incarcerated at disproportionately high rates.

Kentucky Country Day

A national survey from 2011 shows that 60 percent of teachers avoid the topic of evolution in their classrooms.

Smart Sign/flickr

A Norwalk man who lost a family friend from carbon monoxide poisoning was at the capitol today, lobbying for legislation to mandate carbon monoxide alarms in Iowa dwellings. 

A bipartisan panel agreed to require residential buildings to install the alarms if they are already required to have smoke detectors.   

Dwayne Sand of Norwalk says other states are responding to the death of a 22-year-old woman who was killed by the colorless, odorless gas in Colorado six years ago.

Don Graham/Flickr

Cuts to the crop insurance program will again be a talking point on Capitol Hill.

The budget drafted by President Obama and released Tuesday would make cuts to the crop insurance system, allocate more funds for agricultural research and fund the summer program that provides free meals to children.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Activists on both sides of the abortion debate crowded a committee room at the capitol Tuesday, weighing in on a bill critics call extreme and unprecedented.  

Backers of the bill say it’s needed to prevent the sale or donation of fetal tissue.

An anti-abortion group last year released videos it said depicted Planned Parenthood of trying to sell fetal body parts.    Federal law bans the sale of fetal remains, but the abortion provider was cleared of wrongdoing. 

But Representative Sandy Salmon (Rep. Janesville) says under Iowa law fetal tissue could still be sold.  

Russell/IPR

A Republican lawmaker will sponsor legislation to legalize the production and distribution of medical marijuana in the state.   At a statehouse news conference, a group known as Iowans for Medical Cannabis released a survey showing wide support for the bill.    

After a long political struggle in 2014, the Iowa legislature approved a bill allowing families to possess cannabis to treat epileptic children.  

William Patrick Butler/Flickr

Former Democratic Gov. Chet Culver is now in the struggle surrounding the current Governor, Republican Terry Branstad’s plan for converting Iowa’s Medicaid program to private management. Culver is conducting several public forums this month.  In Coralville Tuesday, he listened for two hours to the fears of parents and others receiving Medicaid services about the move away from state management of the program.  He told the roughly 30 people attending the forum that privatizing Medicaid isn’t a partisan political issue.

Flickr / Pat Hawks

If you are one of many who dislike driving on Interstate-80, the Iowa Department of Transportation wants to know what you’d do to make it better through an online survey. The department is gearing up for some major updates to I-80 and is collecting opinion data on the interstate's traffic volume, safety, convenience, and quality.

One of the main options being considered is additional lanes.

IPR/Phil Maass

Katie Dahl’s music combines a love for her rural midwestern roots, a droll wit, and a clear-eyed appraisal of modern life, all served up in a voice as rich as cream. On Superbowl Sunday, she and her bass-playing partner Rich Higdon joined Karen Impola in our Cedar Falls studios for a live performance during Karen’s show, The Folk Tree. More information about Katie can be found here: www.katiedahlmusic.com.

Courtesy Adam Dolezal

The persistent decline of honeybees has scientists scrambling to understand what's causing the problem and how to correct it. Humans may be part of the problem.

 

U.S. beekeepers report losing about a third of their colonies each year and the figure increased from 2014 to 2015.

 

FLICKR / GEOF WILSON

The Iowa Utilities Board is holding afternoon meetings this week on whether to grant a permit that allows the construction of a crude oil pipeline through Iowa. The proposed 1,134-mile Dakota Access pipeline would begin in North Dakota, travel through South Dakota and Iowa, and terminate in south-central Illinois.

Dakota Access’s parent company, Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, needs permission from the Iowa Utilities Board so it can use eminent domain to gain access to land along the pipeline’s proposed route.

IDOT

Whiteout conditions caused by today’s snowfall and high winds has closed Interstate 35 in both directions between Ames and Clear Lake. 

The Iowa Department of Transportation says the gate system at the U.S. 30/I-35N and I-35S/U.S. 18 interchanges have been activated and the gate arms are down. Northbound I-35 travelers must exit at U.S. 30. Traveler services are available at the nearby U.S. 30 exits into Ames.  Southbound I-35 travelers must exit at U.S. 18. Traveler services are available at the nearby U.S. 18 exits into Clear Lake and Mason City.

Jamelah E. / Flickr

The Iowa legislature has considered legalizing commercial fireworks for years, though the proposal has never made it to the governor’s desk. This year, the debate is revived. 

On this legislative day edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer hosts a discussion on Iowa's fireworks laws, along with Iowa Public Radio correspondent Joyce Russell. They also discuss a new proposal to allow teenagers to vote in a primary if they will be 18-years-old by Election Day. University of Northern Iowa political analyst Chris Larimer says this bill could increase the youth vote in Iowa.

Daniel Orth/Flickr

A Cedar Rapids church is stockpiling bottled water to help Flint, Michigan families deal with that city’s lead-contaminated municipal water supply.  Bottled water cases are being stacked at Mt Zion Baptist Church where Damian Epps is the Senior Pastor.

“My plan is to leave next Monday, on the 15th, and hopefully we can have more than 100,000 bottles of water,” he says. “Take a team of people there and at least spend a day-and-a-half or so passing out water, but also assessing their plight.”

TravelIowa.com

While ice fishing has been in full swing for several months, anglers heading out are encouraged to bring a friend and check the ice often as they make their way to their favorite fishing spot.

Marcinson Press

Tom LaMarr became a dad when he was 48 years old.  Parenting an infant at that age brings with it a host of challenges.  This hour, Charity Nebbe speaks with LaMarr, author of the new book, "Geezer Dad: How I Survived Infertility Clinics, Fatherhood Jitters, Adoption Wait Lingo and Things That Go 'Waaa' in the Night."  LaMarr, a Dubuque native, is a graduate of the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop and now lives in Colorado.

Alessandra Tinozzi

This week’s Symphonies of Iowa broadcast features the Des Moines Symphony’s “Capriccio Espagnol & Beethoven’s Pastoral” concert. The program includes Elena Urioste’s Des Moines Symphony debut with Glazunov’s Violin Concerto, as well as Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 “Pastoral” and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio Espagnol.

John Pemble / IPR

With the Iowa caucuses over and the general election months away, political watchers in Iowa turn their gaze to the capitol. The legislature is taking on many of the same characteristics of previous sessions. IPR’s Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell laid out the following observations:

1. The Governor’s Agenda is modest and defining issues this session are hard to identify.

Amy Mayer / IPR

    

  After Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s victory in the Iowa Caucuses many are questioning the political importance of ethanol, an industry that has long held sway in the political scene of Iowa and much of the Midwest.

Iowa is the top-producer of ethanol, the corn-based fuel, in the country. With its status as the first state that gets a crack at the presidential contest, Iowa often brings renewable fuels into the political limelight.

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