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John Pemble/IPR

The Iowa Supreme Court has dismissed a lawsuit that challenged Governor Branstad’s decision to close the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo last year.  

Democratic lawmakers and a public employee union leader sued, claiming the governor exceeded his authority by closing the home after the legislature appropriated money to run it.    

The court ruled the case is moot since no money was appropriated to reopen the home.  

Jim Wall/flickr

It would be easier for farmers to receive a sales tax exemption on off-road vehicles under a bill still eligible for passage by the 2015 legislature. 

Farmers get a sales tax exemption for machinery and equipment used for farming, including ATV’s.    But the law says the vehicle must be used directly for production agriculture.  

Victoria Daniels at the Department of Revenue says by law you can’t use the vehicle  “in preparation for or subsequent to” agricultural production.   She says that’s hard to enforce.

Photo by Grant Gerlock/Harveset Public Media

California grows almost half the fruits and vegetables in the U.S. It’s also deep in drought and some farms are short on water. That may sound like a chance for Midwestern farmers to churn out more peppers and broccoli, but it’s not that simple.

The California drought is not the golden opportunity that it may seem. Not yet. Even in a drought California still has big advantages over the Midwest.

FREEFOODPHOTOS.COM

The price of eggs used by food manufacturers has more than tripled in recent months. That’s largely thanks to the outbreak of bird flu spreading throughout Iowa, the nation’s number one egg production state.

Today, a dozen processing eggs costs roughly $2.26. In mid-April that same dozen cost 64 cents.

So far, Avian flu has affected more than 21 million egg-laying hens in Iowa alone. USDA poultry economist Alex Melton says this has food companies worried about supply.

Photo by Amy Mayer

Walk down a grocery store aisle today and you’re likely to find lots of food…and lots of marketing claims. Whether a product’s label says it’s low in fat, produced without hormones, or a good source of protein is largely governed by consumer demand and corporate profit.

Photo by Amy Mayer

The packaged foods found in supermarkets, convenience stores and vending machines are full of ingredients you often can’t pronounce.

They’ve been carefully developed and tested in a lab and likely have been shipped long distances. They can hold up to weeks or even months on the shelf. But most of them began with fresh food you might cook with at home.

Ted Murphy/flickr

A new tax break for Iowa’s casino industry has so far not made it through the Iowa legislature. 

But backers say if it doesn’t pass this year, they will bring the issue back in 2016.  

Wes Ehrecke with the Iowa Gaming Association says casinos shouldn’t have to pay state sales tax on the full amount if a gambler is paying part of his bill with a coupon.

“You have a tax on unreal money, it’s fake money, it’s a coupon,” Ehrecke says. “And  when you go to Kohl’s or Hy-Vee or somewhere and you get a $20, coupon the business doesn’t pay tax on that.” 

IPR's Pat Blank

A French military honor has been presented to 94 year-old Cleon Wood of Cedar Falls. Wood was a gunner on B-17 bombers that flew more than 30 missions over Europe in World War II.   Wood received the French Legion of Honor for his participation in the June 1944 D-Day invasion and other American air missions in France.  Counsel General of France for the Midwest, Vincent Floreani presented the medal to Wood in a weekend ceremony. Floreani says, "these people are so humble, they don't think they did anything special, they say they were just doing their job, but they are heroes." 

Wikipedia / Ser Amantio di Nicolao

The Iowa Supreme Court says it can’t grant post-conviction relief to an immigrant trying to avoid deportation.

In 2011, Victor Hernandez-Galarza pleaded guilty to using a false social security number to title vehicles. Because of his "willingness to surrender" Hernandez-Galarza was offered a deferred judgment for lesser charges.

Hernandez-Galarza successfully completed probation and his record was expunged. 

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.” 

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