IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) – A former manager at one of the nation’s largest grain cooperatives has reached a plea agreement on charges that he accepted $480,000 in bribes from an Iowa farmer in exchange for deep discounts on crop seed. Chad Hartzler, former sales manager at West Central Co-Op in Ralston, is scheduled to appear in federal court in Sioux City for a plea hearing Thursday.
He was charged last week with wire fraud. His attorney, Chris Cooklin, said Wednesday that his client has reached a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the detail of which have been filed under seal. A charging document says Hartzler accepted $480,000 in bribes from 2005 to 2011 from Lake View farmer Bill Wollesen.
Wollesen hasn’t been charged and denies any wrongdoing, saying the payments weren’t bribes.
The President of the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association is calling on members to share their opinions on a host of issues prior to the ICA’s policy meeting in December. Ed Greiman (GRY-man) of Garner says one of the hot topics up for debate among cattlemen involves ethanol and the Renewable Fuels Standard. The ICA has historically supported the ethanol industry, but with talk of increasing the percentage of ethanol in gasoline, Greiman wants to know if that support is still there.
“The real question I have of our members is…do we support the mandate maybe going to 15-percent? We hear a lot of rumblings about that and I do believe that debate is going to happen sometime in the next year,” Greiman says. Ethanol is made from corn and some livestock producers are concerned that a move to E-15 will raise the cost of feed. “I would like more direction from our members,” Greiman says. “How do they feel about increasing the mandate?”
Another issue is Country of Origin Labeling on meat. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Department is pushing for labeling to be mandatory, while many in the cattle industry want labeling to be voluntary. Greiman wants to hear from Iowans on that issue as well. “I just want to make sure that we have policy in place at the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association that represents what Iowa cattlemen, across the state, really are thinking,” Greiman says.
Association members are encouraged to call the ICA state office in Ames, and share their opinions, at (515) 296-2266. The ICA’s annual policy meeting is scheduled for December 9th through the 11th in Altoona.
On the web at www.iacattlemen.org
The Atlantic Board of Education heard a presentation Monday night from High School Ag Instructor and Atlantic FFA Advisor, Eric Miller. Miller spoke with regard to the district’s proposed CASE curriculum. CASE stands for Curriculum for Agriculture, Science and Education.Miller says the concept is for science- or inquiry-based learning. More specifically, it focuses on math and science, and how those areas relate to agriculture.
He says the curriculum allows a student to see the benefits of math and how it pertains to their agricultural experience. Miller says students sometimes don’t realize how important math is for their careers, whether it’s in agriculture, other industries and trades. He says the program involves student-led agriculture, also. Miller says students have to learn how a process works and find the answer to a question that they develop on their own, through the scientific process.
The program is offered in a year-long course, which Atlantic has not had in quite a while. Miller said it’s a nod back to “The old style of teaching agriculture.” One of the topics is AFNR (Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources), an entry level course. Later offerings may include animal and plant sciences. Miller says the curriculum goes along with the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) courses many schools are teaching, and is aligned with national Ag standards as well as the Iowa Core curriculum.
The big issue he says is the cost. In order for Miller to attend the 10-day certification course, 8-hours per day, is $2,500 plus $10,000 for books and materials. He says some of the equipment can be borrowed from the Science Department at the high school, to save cost, but some will need to be purchased throughout the year. Miller says he has also applied for a $5,000 grant from Pioneer. The CASE curriculum is currently being offered in the Audubon and Griswold School Districts, but is not yet offered in Atlantic.
The Shelby County Emergency Management Agency has updated the fire danger warning signs in the county. Emergency Coordinator Bob Seivert says the signs will stay in the moderate category to start the week. He says showers forecasted this morning did not materialize and the winds are once again strong out of the southeast.
The winds will elevate the danger of a wild fire spreading quickly while also gaining fuel by creating drying conditions. The Shelby County EMA will update the situation again on Thursday.
The State of Iowa will use a 250-thousand dollar federal grant to bolster a program that pays gas stations to install “blender” pumps that incorporate a higher percentage of corn-based ethanol in motor fuels. Most Iowa stations offer a 10 percent ethanol blend. Governor Terry Branstad says the goal is to boost usage of a 30 percent blend. “It’s my understanding that 30 percent is kind of the ‘sweet spot’ in terms of the best fuel efficiency with an ethanol blend,” Branstad says.
Iowa Ag Secretary Bill Northey says the expanded sale of E-30 will help Iowa maintain its leadership position in the ethanol industry. “Not only on the production side, but on the consumption side,” Northey says. E-30 is not approved for use in all vehicles, just the 10 percent of U.S. vehicles that are “flexible fuel” models. Some of the federal grant money will be used for blender pumps the dispense “bio-diesel” which features a soybean-based fuel additive.
Gas station operators and farm co-ops that sell fuel will be able to apply for the grants for blender pumps this spring. Representatives of Iowa’s petroleum and renewable fuels industries attended Governor Branstad’s news conference this morning (Monday) for the “fueling our future” program announcement. “Unlike Washington, D.C. where they’re always fighting and you have this big clash going on between ‘Big Oil’ and renewable energy, we actually have petroleum marketers and the renewable energy association cooperating here in Iowa, working together,” Branstad says. “And obviously that’s very beneficial to our economy, to our farmers and also to our environment.”
There are 41 ethanol plants in Iowa and 25 percent of the ethanol produced in the U.S. comes from Iowa. About 17 percent of the country’s biodiesel comes from the dozen biodiesel plants here.
Congressman Steve King says procedural steps taken in the U.S. House Friday afternoon are a hopeful sign for the Farm Bill. King expects the house speaker soon will appoint a handful of members of the House to a conference committee that will work with a small group of senators to hammer out a final version of the legislation. “I think the momentum of this thing is moving in the direction of getting closer to get a Farm Bill done,” King says. “Each step along the way we get closer, but it’s been a long and frustrating process.” Congress began soliciting input for a new Farm Bill over two years ago.
“It has been the longest process of any bill that I can think of,” King says. A temporary extension of the current Farm Bill expired September 30th and American agriculture has been operating without any Farm Bill provisions in place since October 1st. King believes a new Farm Bill can be passed in congress yet this year.
The City of Avoca has been awarded an Iowa Dept. of Natural Resources REAP (Resource Enhancement and Protection) grant amounting to $75,000 . City Manager Clint Fichter says the grant money will be used for the construction of a 1 mile segment of the Nishnabotna Trail, which will connect the community to the new pedestrian bridge to Edgington Memorial Park. The $243,850 bridge will soon be constructed with the assistance of an additional $171,392 grant from the Iowa Department of Transportation.
REAP invests in projects that enhance and protect the Iowa’s natural and cultural resources. 15% of REAP is set aside for grants to cities for projects that help establish natural areas, encourage outdoor recreation, and resource management.
This fall, REAP is hosting local meetings across the state. These meetings places for public and private organizations, as well as individuals, to plan REAP projects. The full schedule and more information REAP can be found at: