DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — While Iowa environmental regulators hold public hearings on a new proposed rule designed to improve water quality through better enforcement of livestock farms, significant manure spills are occurring and highlighting problems the state faces managing a growing livestock industry.
It’s a difficult balance Iowa must find between encouraging livestock production that generates billions of dollars a year in sales and handling the waste generating by 60 million chickens, 20 million pigs, and 4 million cows.
The DNR is holding six hearings around the state over the next week on its proposed rule environmental groups and others say is too weak.
The group Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement says the rule should require livestock farms to obtain clean water permits to provide regulators leverage to halt frequent manure spills.
611 AM CDT WED MAY 7 2014
ELEVATED FIRE DANGER EXPECTED THIS AFTERNOON IN PORTIONS OF WEST CENTRAL AND SOUTHWEST IOWA.
WINDS ARE FORECAST TO INCREASE TODAY FROM THE SOUTH AND SHOULD BE SUSTAINED AT 15 TO 20 MPH BY THIS AFTERNOON WITH GUSTS UP TO 30 MPH. AS THE WINDS INCREASE…DRIER AIR IS EXPECTED TO EDGE INTO WESTERN PORTIONS OF THE STATE WITH RELATIVE HUMIDITY VALUES DROPPING BELOW 30 PERCENT DURING THE AFTERNOON.
THE COMBINATION OF THE WINDS AND LOW HUMIDITIES WILL LEAD TO AN ELEVATED FIRE
POTENTIAL THIS AFTERNOON UNTIL THE WINDS RELAX AND HUMIDITY VALUES CLIMB THIS EVENING. ANY OUTDOOR FIRES ACROSS THIS AREA WILL HAVE THE POTENTIAL TO SPREAD RAPIDLY THIS AFTERNOON AND BURNING IS DISCOURAGED.
The State Fire Marshal Division and University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics’ Burn Treatment Center are warning Iowans of the alarming number of brush fire-related deaths and injuries. Officials say between February and April this year, the U-I Burn Treatment Center reports three people have died and three others have been injured as a result of brush fires. During that same time period last year, 2013, the Burn Treatment Center reported one death and one injury from burns sustained in brush fires. All four deaths were of people ages 75 years and older. Not all of these victims were Iowans; some were flown in from surrounding states.
As more Iowans begin burning brush, officials warn people to keep a close eye on the dry and windy conditions. Brush fires can pose a serious threat to lives and property when out of control. The recent spike in senior adult deaths related to brush fires has officials warning that the risk of injury increases as one’s agility, vision and hearing diminish.
To prevent the spread of brush fires and other debris, keep in mind the following:
Cool, wet weather has kept the planting season from getting into full swing, but that could change this week. Iowa Ag Secretary, Bill Northey, says farmers are anxious to get things moving. “Last week we really didn’t get much planting done, there may’ve bee a few spots that did, but most of the state was wet,” Northey says. “I’ve seen a little bit of corn emerge as I was around in southwest Iowa last week. I think there is a lot of hope for this week to get quite a bit of corn in the ground. We’ve got some sunny weather with a little bit of breeze to dry it out.”
He says farmers will be watching the fields to be ready to go as soon as they are dry enough.”My guess is that farmers have the planters on the edge of the fields ready to go,” Northey says. The new U-S-D-A crop report released Monday showed 23-percent of the expected corn acreage in the state was planted. That nine days ahead of last year but 10 days behind normal. Northey says farmers generally like to get planting by the end of March or the first week of May, but there is still time.
“We don’t want to get more than a week out from now to get most of the corn in — so there is plenty of time,” according to Northey. He says the rain really helped in areas that were very dry. The extreme cold pushed the frost deeper into the ground than normal, and Northey says that was another factor in keeping farmers out of the fields. “I think especially across northern Iowa that frost came out really slow. I heard of some frost still in the ground a week or two ago, but I think the moisture helped dry some of that frost out,” Northey says.
He says most areas have probably warmed up enough now to allow planting. The crop report shows scattered bean planting so far, and Northey expects that to pick up as farmers get into the fields. “I certainly think some beans will start in the ground here not too long after the corn is in,” Northey says. Northey farms near Spirit Lake and says he hopes to start and finish his planting this week.
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa and Nebraska farmers say they’re still on track to get their corn planted despite cold, wet weather that slowed their start to the planting season. Numbers released Monday from the U.S. Department of Agriculture show 23 percent of Iowa’s corn crop has been planted. That’s up significantly from last week’s 15 percent planted.
The percentage likely will rise quickly this week, as farmers have several warm, dry days before rain returns to the forecast. Chad Hart, an Iowa State University agriculture economist, says it’s crucial for farmers to get their crop planted in the coming weeks. He says corn should be in the ground by late April to early May.
Nebraska is closer to completion, with 44 percent of its corn crop planted.
The Shelby County Emergency Management Agency has increased the County-wide Fire Danger category to “Moderate” this week, due to decreased humidity and strengthening winds. The current Fire Danger rating will be in effective through Thursday morning, at which time the situation will be assessed and the county fire danger status updated.
When the fire danger is “moderate” it means that fires can start from most accidental causes, but the number of fire starts is usually pretty low. If a fire does start in an open, dry grassland, it will burn and spread quickly on windy days. Most wood fires will spread slowly to moderately. Average fire intensity will be moderate except in heavy concentrations of fuel, which may burn hot. Fires are still not likely to become serious and are often easy to control.
The leader of a large Iowa farm group says the 2014 state legislative session, which wrapped up last Friday, was a successful one for agriculture and funded several much-needed programs. Brian Kemp of Sibley, president of the Iowa Soybean Association, says major victories included passage of energy legislation to boost biodiesel production as well as support for agricultural research. “We had an extension of the biodiesel producer tax credit and E-15 credit, that’s a 2% credit that’s extended for three years,” Kemp says. “They’re certainly showing their support with an increase of almost $1M in ag research to the ag experiment station.”
Legislators also funded the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at Iowa State University. He says an important ag program that received significant funding helps producers with technology. “The Iowa Soybean Association On Farm Network was also supported with $400,000 that will help producers do their own research with GPS technology on their own farms,” he says.
Kemp says he’s disappointed lawmakers failed to pass an increase in the state’s gasoline tax, which would have pumped new funding into the state’s fund for repairs to roads and bridges. “This is a very difficult year to get an increase in the fuel tax through, it’s an election year,” he says. “We’re very likely going to bring that back next year and spend some time promoting that through the legislature.” Kemp says House Ag Committee Chairman Josh Byrnes of Osage made great last gasp effort to get transportation needs funded but fell just a bit short as time ran out.
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Rain and wind is washing away enough of Iowa’s fertile topsoil to potentially reduce crop yields by $1 billion, so researchers are working to develop a better way to measure erosion. The Des Moines Register reports researchers think parts of Iowa could be losing up to 12 times more soil that government reports suggest.
Iowa State University professor Rick Cruse is leading a team developing a new method to measure erosion’s impact that could paint a grim picture. Some of the most severe erosion happens in western and southeastern parts of Iowa.
State Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey says erosion may be getting worse because conservation programs have been scaled back.