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Photo by Amy Mayer

Technology has transformed farming, one of the Midwest’s biggest industries, and while fewer people are now needed to actually work the farm field, new types of jobs keep many office workers tied to agriculture.

Beyond operating a tractor and a combine, today’s farmers need to manage all kinds of information. From information technology to web development, the skills that have changed our economy have transformed the agriculture industry as well.

Sarah Boden / Iowa Public Radio

Iowa ranks first in the U.S. for having the highest percentage of wind energy used on its electrical grid, but a new industry report by the American Wind Energy Association and the Wind Energy Foundation says there is room to grow. Based on data from the U.S. Department of Energy, the report finds that 28 percent of Iowa electricity in 2014 was generated by wind, and that number could grow to 40 percent by 2020. 

Nice Ice

Jul 16, 2015
IPR's Pat Blank

Cedar Rapids is in the national spotlight for the next four days as the city hosts the USA Curling Arena National Championships.  Curling is a game played on ice in which large, round, colored stones are slid across the surface toward a mark known as a button.  Think shuffle board, but with a lot more action as team members sweep the path of the stone to control its speed and direction.   The surface is always an important factor, but this level of competition demands an ice expert.  Enter Kevin Madsen of New London, Minnesota who’s part of an elite crew.

Consider the history of the washing machine, in which Iowa played an integral part.  You may think that the Maytag, developed in Newton, was a product of the work of company founder F.L. Maytag.  But retired educator and amateur historian Tom Hoover says Mr. Maytag was really more of a shrewd businessman who could spot genius engineers and innovators when he saw them.

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center / Flickr

After nine years of travel, the space probe New Horizons finally flew by its target this Tuesday. Jasper Halekas, associate professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Iowa, worked on a similar project, MAVEN, that focused on Mars. He says the New Horizons mission is historic.

US Embassy Kabul Afghanistan / Flickr

For nearly four decades, Ryan Crocker served as ambassador in nearly all the Middle East countries where conflict was present, including Iraq and Afghanistan.

On this edition of River to River, Ambassador Crocker shares his perspective on the Iranian nuclear deal with host Ben Kieffer.

“It could reshape the nuclear scene globally for some time to come,” Crocker says. “That said, no one should think we are moving on to a sun dappled upland in the Middle East.”

Howard Jefferson / Flickr

At an evening camp event in 2010, two teenage boys drowned at the Pella Aquatics Center. Their families filed a claim for negligence against the City of Pella, arguing that the deaths could have been prevented by adequate underwater lighting.

"The lights in the swimming pool apparently were not on that night," says Todd Pettys, of the University of Iowa College of Law. "You couldn't see down to the bottom of the pool."

Nearly five years after the incident, the Iowa Supreme Court considered the question: Are cities liable when employees of city-inspected pools are careless?

Iowa Department of Transportation

Every year across the country children die of heatstroke after being left in locked vehicles. The Iowa Department of Transportation wants to make sure that doesn’t happen here.  

This week, the electronic billboard on Iowa interstates includes the slogan, “Where’s Baby?  Look Before you Lock.”      

The campaign comes from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Martin Lewison / Wikimedia Commons

Adventureland hasn’t put in a new roller coaster since the Outlaw in 1993, but that’s changing next summer when the park will debut their newest coaster, “The Monster.”

After more than 20 years since they put in their newest roller coaster in the park, Spokeswoman Molly Vincent says it was time. “The Monster” will replace the beloved log ride.

Flickr / Christopher Paquette

The founder and former owner of a Cedar Rapids-based meat supplier has been found guilty of 15 counts of fraud in federal district court on Monday. Midamar founder Bill Aossey faces more than a century in prison for fraudulently labeling beef so it appeared to meet certain Islamic standards when it did not. He also was convicted of conspiracy and wire fraud.

Phil Roeder / Flickr

Education and landing a job are inextricably linked in the minds of most Americans, but after the Great Recession it wasn't as clear whether getting a college diploma meant getting, and keeping, a job.

Saba Ali, associate professor in the College of Education at the University of Iowa, says that while statistics bear out the correlation between college degrees and higher paying employment, the question of whether college prepares students to do their jobs well is more nuanced.

Kamyar Adl / Flickr

The age of 65 was a milestone that many workers used to look forward to—the promise of retirement, leisure time, and a guaranteed pension.   But the last couple of decades have brought change: most companies don’t provide pensions, employees must make their own investment choices concerning their 401K (if they are lucky enough to even have one), and simply dropping out of the work force at 65 isn’t an option.

Flickr / Ben Freeman

Many veterans have a hard time finding employment when they return to civilian life, though some have landed jobs in the wake of bird flu. 

Veteran Enterprises is a veteran-owned business that does government contracting. Owner-operator Garth Carlson says he’s currently involved with the cleaning and disinfecting of six bird flu affected facilities in Iowa and Minnesota.

Carlson served two tours in Kosovo and two tours in Iraq with the army, but today he disinfects livestock facilities. 

Courtesy photo

When you think about packing for summer camp some obvious items come to mind; sleeping bags, maybe a flashlight, or swimsuits. But a nature center in Northwest Iowa  is looking to add another item to the list, your grandparents.

It’s often difficult for kids and grandparents to coordinate their schedules to allow quality time together, but The Dickinson County Conservation Board in Okoboji is looking to make it easier and more fun than ever. Grandpa, Grandma & Me! is a new kind of day camp focused on bringing kids and their grandparents together for a unique camp experience.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

  The future of Iowa’s economy is front-and-center this summer during a series of week-long camps for young entrepreneurs. Middle school students polish their elevator pitches and sell their newly designed products at the weekly Farmers Market in the Valley Junction shopping area of West Des Moines. Twelve-year-old Logan Kempf shows her handmade jewelry to a potential customer.

“Those will then be put into a bracelet or a necklace with the wire and the clippers and it will be customized just for you,” she explains.

National Institutes of Health

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the 21st Century Cures Act Friday morning, which increases funding to the National Institutes of Health by $8.75 billion over the course of five years.

This announcement is particularly exciting for biomedical researchers in Iowa and across the country. When taking inflation into account, NIH funding has dropped by more than 22 percent since 2003.

West Midlands Police / Flickr

The Burlington Community School district is among the first in the nation to outfit administrators at each of the district's eight school buildings with body cameras. The district is already outfitted with fixed cameras, which Superintendent Pat Coen says have proven useful.

Wikimedia Commons

It's mid-summer in Iowa which means it's two things: hot and muggy. This hour on Talk of Iowa host Charity Nebbe talks with horticulture expert Richard Jauron and Denny Schrock, coordinator for the Iowa Master Gardener's Program.

Schrock says there are some plants that thrive in the heat and humidity.

All Iowa Lawn Tennis Club

Wimbledon is known for its iconic bentgrass courts, but London isn’t the only place where you can play on that type of lawn. Mark Kuhn lives on a farm near Charles City and converted a cattle feed lot into a replica of the famous center court at Wimbledon in 2002, 50 years after he first heard of the court on a BBC radio broadcast.

He spoke with Charity Nebbe Friday on the Iowa Public Radio’s Talk of Iowa. He says converting the cattle feed lot to a tennis green was quite the task.

Clay Masters/IPR

Iowa Fourth District Republican Rep. Steve King today showed up on the Washington Post’s list of questionable tweets by members of Congress. But the project that made his activity public was shut down after Twitter withdrew its permission.  

Twitter gave the Sunlight Foundation access to deleted tweets by members of Congress and King’s activity caught some attention. The congressman retweeted a message from someone getting on the subway.

Flickr / ceiling

The benefits of exercise are well documented, but it can difficult to make time to hit the gym. But when developing a good workout schedule, is it more important to focus on forming habits on how you exercise, or habits that make you decide to exercise?

According to ISU health psychologist L. Alison Phillips, it's the latter. She says strong patterns that prompt you to initiate exercise are key to frequent workouts. 

Michael Perry is well-known for his humorous memoirs about rural living in Wisconsin. He's turned towards fiction with his first novel, The Jesus Cow, which was inspired by his rural upbringing.

"As a farm kid, I grew up raising cows. We even named one of our cows trigger because she had a mark that looked like a gun. And I just thought, what if someone goes out on Christmas Eve and has a cow who births a calf that has a mark that could be the face of Christ."

Orchestra Iowa has a new concert master, Dawn Gingrich. She says she fell in love with the violin when she was three.

“I was constantly exposed to lots of great concerts,” she says. “When I was three years old, there was a women playing the violin at a concert I attended with my parents, and she had a terrific dress on. That’s really what stuck with me. I was reportedly insistent about violin lessons after that.”

Amanda Tipton / Flickr

The opportunity for prosperity and success in America is in crisis, according to public policy expert Robert Putnam.

"Less able kids from rich backgrounds are more likely to graduate from college than the most able poor kids, and that directly violates the idea of meritocracy." says Putnam.

Liz West / Flickr

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Patricia O'Conner, word maven and founder of “Grammarphobia.” They discuss the word itself, its interesting etymology, what it means in the US and the UK, and the origin of the phrase “knee high by the fourth of July.”

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Vermont State Senator Bernie Sanders is quickly gaining popularity in the polls in his race for the democratic nomination for President, and his rise is definitely unexpected. That's according to Drake University Professor and Harkin Institute Flansburg Fellow Dennis Goldford. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

Florida senator and Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio drew an early-morning crowd at the Westside Conservative Club in Urbandale, a popular stop for candidates.    

More than 200 turned out for breakfast at the Machine Shed Restaurant to hear the 44-year-old son of Cuban immigrants who’s on a three-day tour of the state.

Rubio’s stump speech included strengthening the economy, reforming higher education, and asserting American leadership abroad. Rubio promised to reform entitlement programs and confront aggression abroad in Russia, China and the Middle East.

USDA/Bob Nichols

The U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee held a hearing Tuesday on avian influenza’s impact on the U.S. poultry industry. The USDA has come under scrutiny for its handling of the outbreak. 

One topic of discussion are the indemnities provided to affected producers who must euthanize their entire flock when the virus is detected. The USDA is considering a new indemnity formula in light of criticism that the current calculation short changes producers. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

Representative of Iowa industries which emit more than 100 tons of material into the atmosphere each year were at the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Air Quality Bureau today.

They’re weighing in on plans to raise their fees to better enforce the Federal  Clean Air Act. 

The DNR proposes a new $24,000 application fee for operating permits.   Also companies would pay more each year per ton of emissions.   

Bureau  Chief Catherine Fitzsimmons says with the new money, the DNR can hire more staff.  

No Pain Propane

Jul 7, 2015
Courtesy photo

  ***  Please note the original  post had two thousand homes, the number is roughly 15  percent of Iowa homes or just over 183 thousand**

Good news for those who use liquid propane; from backyard grillers to farmers and to homeowners. Prices are at an all-time low.

Iowa Agriculture Department Energy Analyst Harold Hommes says those who grill will probably not notice, “when we get into those small cylinders at retail generally with the price of the exchange and that process we don’t see that fluctuate too much.”

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