IPR News Stories

Amy Mayer/IPR

Galen Fick milks 50 Brown Swiss cows every day on his farm in Boyden, Iowa, where his family has been in the dairy business for generations. Life as a dairy farmer has gotten harder and harder, he says, especially in the past two years.

“Our inputs have gone up so much, not the feed part of it but everything else,” he says, pointing to veterinary care and, especially, labor. “For us to make that profit, [it] makes it very tough.”

refugees
Steve Evans/Wikimedia Commons

The Trump administration is planning to admit 45,000 refugees this fiscal year—the lowest cap in the history of the nation's refugee program that started in 1980. Iowa’s refugee resettlement agencies are expecting fewer arrivals and facing more uncertainty than in past years. 

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Iowa’s secretary of agriculture is one step closer to a new post at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Bill Northey appeared before the senate agriculture committee Thursday. He answered questions about a variety of farm-support and conservation programs he would oversee as undersecretary for farm and foreign agricultural services. One of those is the conservation reserve program, which pays farmers to take certain lands out of production and maintain them for environmental goals. Northey hedged on whether he would support expanding the amount of acres allowed in the program.

WIKICOMMONS / Nevit Dilmen

Iowa has enough money through March to continue providing health care to children from moderate and low income families, while Congress figures out how to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

The program provides healthcare to nearly 9 million children nationwide, including 60,000 in Iowa. States structure CHIP programs differently, which means funding will run out in different places at different intervals.

Iowa DOT

Transgender Iowans who want their sex designation changed on their driver’s licenses will now have clearer guidelines, under proposed rules at the Iowa Department of Transportation.    

Currently, a person born in Iowa who undergoes a sex change can present medical records to the Department of Public Health, get their birth certificate updated, and then present that to the DOT.      

But some states don’t update birth certificates for transgender people.          

naloxone
Tom Wolf / flickr

Iowa’s attorney general has struck a new deal with a drugmaker to make an opioid overdose reversal drug more affordable.

Public agencies in Iowa, including law enforcement and public hospitals, will pay less for naloxone through a rebate agreement with Amphastar.

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller says first responders in the state have been using naloxone to save lives.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Roughly 2800 immigrants living in Iowa who were brought to the U.S. as children are now participating in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA program.  

Under the program, they are freed from the threat of deportation, and granted work permits and other privileges.     

Now DACA is threatened by an order from President Trump. 

Two Iowa sisters wonder how their lives might be changed.

Five years ago, Monica Reyes, 22, and her sister Nilvea, 21,  were living with their mother in New Hampton.

IPR/Pat Blank

A collaboration of food producers in North Iowa has resulted in the opening of one of the area’s first farm to table restaurants. That means as much of the menu as possible is locally grown.  

Joshua Frederick is so passionate about his new venture that his steel blue eyes fill with tears as he talks about it.

A suburban Des Moines school district says it will resume tomorrow after it canceled classes today due to threatening text messages that were anonymously sent to a number of students and parents.

The texts were received last night from a number with a 818 area code, which is used in Los Angeles County, CA.

Des Moines Area Community College

Des Moines Area Community College and the University of Iowa are entering into an agreement to help nurses earn bachelor’s degrees. It’s another joint effort to attract more nurses to the field.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Gov. Kim Reynolds today lamented the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history that occurred in Las Vegas on Sunday, leaving at least 59 people dead and more than 500 injured.   

“Nobody wants to wake up at five in the morning and read the news we all got up to this morning,”  Reynolds said, beginning her weekly news conference.  “I was sickened by the horrific act.”

Reynolds was asked if she would be proposing new gun control initiatives in light of the shooting.

pills in a bottle
nosheep / Pixabay

A new report from the University of Iowa makes policy recommendations for reducing prescription opioid abuse and overdose deaths.

Carri Casteel, UI associate professor and lead author of the report, says Iowa's prescription opioid overdose death rate is lower than in many other states, but it has quadrupled in the past 20 years. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

A controversial settlement in a sexual harassment complaint against Republicans in the Iowa Senate was officially approved today, putting an end to a lawsuit alleging a sexually-charged atmosphere in the GOP caucus.   

The State Appeals Board agreed that Iowa taxpayers will cover the $1.75 million settlement, with the money going to former GOP staffer Kirsten Anderson and her attorneys. 

A district court had awarded Anderson $2.2 million.   

Solicitor General Jeff Thompson said continuing to fight that verdict could be costly.

COURTESY OF CHRISTOPHER GANNON/IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY

A new study says small patches of native prairie plants provide a range of conservation benefits to Iowa’s landscape and could reduce water pollution from farm fields.

So-called “prairie strips” are patches of land strategically planted to native, perennial mixes of grasses and flowers on the edges of crop fields.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Over the weekend, three Democratic U.S. representatives were in Iowa at a party fundraiser talking about how to appeal to the middle class again. Recently, Democrats have been losing elections in this state, known for its first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses. The event was meant to breathe life back into an old annual event and introduce some new faces in the party.

For years, the Harkin Steak Fry, a fundraiser for former Iowa Democratic U-S Senator Tom Harkin, was an annual staple for politicians in his party across the country.

Creighton University

The Mid-America Business Conditions Index is pointing to solid economic gains ahead. Inflation is also soaring.

The monthly report from Creighton University is at a healthy 58.2, above the growth neutral mark of 50 for the tenth straight month. The man who compiles the survey of supply managers in nine states, economist Ernie Goss, says he’s keeping an eye on job numbers released later this week to see what they say about wage increases.

Sarah Boden/IPR File

The deadline to submit renewal applications for the program known as DACA is Thursday, but some people may be struggling to find enough money for the application fee.

Last month President Trump decided to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, though he’s allowing one final renewal for people whose waivers are set to expire by next March. This Obama-era policy allows people who were brought to the country illegally as children to live and work in the U.S. for a two-year renewable period.

Greater Dubuque Development Corp.

Work begins today on construction of a large manufacturing plant in Dubuque. The project will keep one of the city’s top employers in town.

Ground is being broken this morning on Flexsteel Industries’ $25 million facility that the manufacturer announced it would build earlier this year. The new plant will sit on 22 acres in the Dubuque Industrial Center South.

In the summer of 2002, water pumps in Colorado’s San Luis Valley stopped working.

The center pivot sprinklers that coax shoots from the dry soil and turn the valley into one of the state’s most productive agricultural regions strained so hard to pull water from an underground aquifer that they created sunken pits around them.

“This one right over here,” says potato farmer Doug Messick as he walks toward a sprinkler, near the town of Center. He's the farm manager for the valley's Spud Grower Farms. “I came up to it one day and I could’ve driven my pickup in that hole.”

Flickr / Jim Forest

Some of the brightest stars from Iowa City’s literary community will give readings at the Englert Theatre on Sunday afternoon to raise money for hurricane relief in Puerto Rico, Florida, Texas and the Virgin Islands.

All money raised will go directly to the American Red Cross. Tickets are by donation, with the suggested level of $10. Readings will be given by more than a dozen writers, including Pulitzer Prize winner Marilynne Robinson, Iowa’s first poet laureate Marvin Bell and Lan Samantha Chang, who is the director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

A settlement has been reached in a sexual harassment lawsuit against Republicans in the Iowa Senate.  

In graphic testimony before a Polk County jury earlier this year, former Senate GOP Communications Director Kirsten Anderson described what she called a “toxic” work environment, and claimed she was fired for complaining about explicit sexual comments.

The jury sided with the plaintiff, awarding Anderson $2.2 million.    

Defendants sought a new trial. 

Now the litigation will end. 

Grinnell College

The annual Grinnell Innovator in Social Justice Prize is going to a woman who advocates for other women who have loved ones in prison. 

Harvard-educated attorney and activist Gina Clayton is the founder of the Essie Justice Group. Named for Clayton’s great grandmother, the organization supports women with incarcerated loved ones and helps them push for criminal justice reform.

She will receive the $100,000 Grinnell Prize during on-campus ceremonies Tuesday. Two women who are graduates of the program will join her.

U.S. Court for the Southern District of Iowa

The federal government is starting over in its search for a site to build a federal courthouse in Des Moines. 

The U.S. General Services Administration had selected a vacant lot on the west bank of the Des Moines River downtown for the $137 million project. It’s where the old YMCA once sat.

City leaders opposed the decision, saying they preferred a commercial development for the spot, one that would generate tax revenue.

Dean Borg/IPR

Casino operators and supporters from Eastern Iowa communities where the casinos are located don’t want Iowa’s Racing and Gaming Commission to license new competition in Cedar Rapids.

During a Tuesday public hearing on three requests to establish gambling in downtown Cedar Rapids, casino representatives from Waterloo, Bettendorf, Dubuque, Riverside, and Tama all said another casino would cannibalize business from their operations. They contend Iowa’s gaming market is saturated.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Lawsuits brought by farmers against one of the world’s leading seed companies will end in settlements.

 

stevepb/CC0CreativeCommons

The first test of Iowa’s new collective bargaining law concluded yesterday, with recertification votes ending for 13 Iowa schools and community colleges.   

When ballots were all counted, bargaining units in all 13 schools were recertified with nearly 1300 teachers and faculty overwhelmingly endorsing their union representation.

The new law set a high bar for teachers to continue to be represented by unions.   In the end more than 1100 yes votes were cast, with only 27 teachers voting no.  

doctors office
Jennifer Morrow / flickr

Iowa's Planned Parenthood affiliate is ending its Affordable Care Act navigator program that helps Iowans sign up for health insurance after federal officials cut the organization’s navigator grant by 84 percent.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland was the biggest of Iowa’s three ACA navigator programs. At least 50 counties in Iowa will lose federally-funded assistance with health insurance sign-up as a result of the cut.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection / WIKICOMMONS

Along with overwhelming destruction, Hurricane Maria has brought renewed attention to the US government's role in Puerto Rico’s debt crisis.

For years the US territory had been prohibited from restricting its debt through bankruptcy proceedings, which made the island’s economic woes worse. Last year's passage of the Promesa Act gave Puerto Rico protections from debtors and an avenue towards debt restructuring. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

A state official  overseeing the massive rewrite of Iowa’s collective bargaining statute for public workers  says he expects the courts may have to weigh in if employees lose their  union representation in first-ever recertification voting.   

The new law requires all public employee bargaining units to periodically vote to continue to be represented by unions.    

The Public Employment Relations Board is advising workers that if the vote fails, the contract with their employer goes away.   

But board chair Mike Cormack says not everyone agrees.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Kim Reynolds today reacted with emotion to the ongoing controversy involving NFL players kneeling rather than standing during the playing of the national anthem.  

The protest has grown as more players express opposition to racial injustice and police brutality across the country. 

The Associated Press reported that on Sunday, over 200 athletes declined to stand, while others locked arms with them in solidarity.  Others declined to come out on the field for pre-game ceremonies.

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