KJAN Ag/Outdoor

Sunnyside Ice Skating Rink Grand Opening set for January 2017

Ag/Outdoor, News, Sports

December 19th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

The ice skating rink being prepared at Sunnyside Park will have its Grand Opening sometime during the first week in January. The exact date will be announced later. Parks and Rec Director Seth Staashelm told the Atlantic Parks and Rec Board during their meeting Monday evening, that the heavy duty liner covering the basketball court was installed Friday thanks to volunteer help, and fits like a glove.

They’ve put in two-inches of water and will need to make sure the ice is at least four-inches thick before it can be used. That’s also the reason he hasn’t set a specific grand opening date. Staashelm said they want to make sure the ice is smooth and ready for use. The 90-by-120 foot rink will likely be open he said, before the Grand Opening event.

Staashelm said there is a lot of excitement about the skating rink. He said ice skates are not being made available to users, so you’ll have to bring your own. Staashelm said also, he has e-mailed the Aksarben Curling Club (www.curlaksarben.com) to see if they have any interest in using the facility once its open. He hopes to eventually have a night designated specifically for curling.

LED rope lights are installed on three of the four sides. Additional electrical and illumination issues are currently being addressed. A snow fence will enclose the area, with one designated entrance. Patio heaters are also planned for the area so people can warm up once they’ve been on the ice for a while.

In other business, Staashelm confirmed the streets in Sunnyside Park are closed for the season for safety reasons (they don’t want to have vehicles sliding off the roads and hitting buildings, property or pedestrians). The park itself is still open for foot traffic and events.

Seth said also, reservations for the shelter houses at Sunnyside Park will not be accepted until January 1st. He says he will be updating the Parks and Rec website to reflect reservation dates for 2017.

Study finds wind turbines have impact on farm fields

Ag/Outdoor, News

December 19th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

The impact of wind turbines on the state’s energy production is well documented, and now an Iowa State University study is trying to determine the impact they may have on  Iowa’s crops.  I-S-U Distinguished Professor of agronomy, Gene Takle set out to find out if the relatively new giant rotating blades made an impact on a variety of conditions in nearby farm fields.

“Differences in micrometeorlogical conditions, differences in temperature, wind speed, wind direction humidity,  carbon dioxide levels — these are some of the things that we measure up wind and down wind of turbines,” Takle explains. ” And the simple answer is yes, we can measure some differences.”

While the early research shows some changes, Takle says it’s only a small part of the research right now. “The more complicated question as to whether these have an impact on biomass production, plant size, plant yield, those are more difficult and we haven’t found anything out about those yet,” Takle says.

He says they set up a tower to measure the changes in the air over the fields “We found that in general the landscape downwind of the turbines is slightly warmer at night and slightly cooler during the day. The amount of that is maybe a one-degree warming at night, and maybe a  half-degree celsius cooling during the day — so it isn’t a large effect,” according to Takle.

One result of the changes could be less dew forming on the plants. “Which would be generally a good thing because dew promotes growth of fungus and mold and some pathogens that crops are generally affected by,” Takle says. He says they found the turbines slowed the wind over the fields. “And this in meteorological terms that leads to a surface convergence. And that means that by laws of physics that there must be an upward motion over the windfarm,” Takle says.   “..and it could have significance in that it could affect fog and cloudiness or rainfall if it is on a large enough scale.”

The research was done behind a couple of rows of turbines. “We have not gone to look at the regional scale say of 150 or 200 turbines, the impact that might have,” Takle says. “But that is an very interesting question and one that we are pursuing, because it could have some significance.”

He says it’s going to  be much harder to find those answers because of all the other factors at play in a field — such as variations in soil quality or precipitation. It was announced earlier this year that from July of 2015 to July of 2016 35-point-eight percent of Iowa’s electricity was generated by wind.

(Radio Iowa)

Atlantic Parks & Rec Board to meet Monday

Ag/Outdoor, News

December 18th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

Members of the City of Atlantic’s Parks and Recreation Board of Directors will hold their regular monthly meeting Monday evening, at City Hall, beginning at 5:15. During their session, the Board will receive updates from Parks and Rec Director Seth Staashelm, with regard to: The Sunnyside Pool Steering Committee; An Enhance Iowa grant application; the Schildberg Rec Area Campground, and Sunnyside Park Ice Rink.

Staashelm is also expected to report Sunnyside Park streets are closed for the season, and that Shelter House reservations for 2017 will be accepted beginning Jan. 1st, 2017.

Farmers Business Network continues to grow


December 18th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

A relatively new organization is bringing farmers together to share data and lower input costs. In less than two years, the Farmers Business Network (FBN) has grown from a concept developed by some farmers in Illinois to a network of thousands of farmers across the U.S. Analyzing and sharing crop data is the major focus, but F-B-N also allows farmers to share pricing data on agricultural inputs. F-B-N’s Sarah Mock says they want farmers to be treated fairly in a marketplace where there’s growing consolidation.

“Farmers don’t always get a fair deal and we don’t believe in that,” Mock says. “So we’re using our data to help farmers make decisions. We’re using the collective power of the network to help farmers stay independent financially.” Mock is a researcher with FBN. “A lot of what I do is with the data science team. We look at the enormous data set that we’ve built at FBN with our farmers and look for the most interesting thing things to share to help them find ways to be more profitable on their farm everyday. I also spend a fair bit of time out in the field talking to farmers,” Mock says.

FBN is also launching a new crop marketing program, which Mock says will give farmers marketing information and opportunities to market their crops. Mock spoke with Brownfield Ag News this week at FBN’s Farmer2Farmer conference in Omaha.

(Reporting by Ken Anderson, Brownfield Ag News)

Conservation Report 12/17/2016

Ag/Outdoor, Podcasts

December 17th, 2016 by Chris Parks

Bob Bebeensee and DNR Conservation officer Grant Gelle talk about all things outdoors including the final run of Shotgun Deer Season.


ISU economist: better days ahead for livestock producers


December 16th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

There is a wide range of opinions on which way cattle and hog prices will go in 2017. One of the more optimistic outlooks comes from Iowa State University Extension farm management specialist and livestock economist Shane Ellis. “I’m not saying it’s going to be an easy-go year or we’re going to make lots of money, but I do see some improvement and possibly we could get back into the positive for the year in 2017,” Ellis says. “Two-thousand-eighteen should be even better. I see this being kind of a slow recovery, but I do see a recovery coming.”

One of the reasons for his optimism, Ellis says, is the strengthening U.S. economy. “As folks are more secure in their employment and wages are going up, incomes are going up, we’ll tend to spend more money on the higher-end protein sources, such as American-grown beef and pork,” Ellis says.

Continued strong exports of beef and pork should also contribute to the price recovery, according to Ellis.

(Reporting by Ken Anderson, Brownfield Ag News)

Coalition ramps up effort to increase Iowa sales tax for natural resource & outdoor rec improvements

Ag/Outdoor, News

December 15th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

Representatives of Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy coalition are traveling around the state this week, making their case for a three-eighths cent increase in Iowa’s sales tax to fund natural resources initiatives. Randy Munson of Ankeny is State Council Chairman for Ducks Unlimited.”We could generate anywhere from $150 million to $180 million that would be constitutionally protected,” Munson says. “That money, once it’s in the (trust fund), cannot go into the state’s general fund.”

In 2010, 63-percent of Iowa voters backed the creation of the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund. Six years later, the fund remains empty because it requires the three-eighths of a cent sales tax increase. A large chunk of the fund would support clean water initiatives, something Munson says farmers would welcome as they apply pieces of the state’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy. “Farmers want to participate in that program, but there is an added cost to that. Forty-percent of the funds allocated (to the trust fund) would go into cover crops and bumper strips to work on nutrient reduction,” Munson says.

On Wednesday, the coalition released a study that identifies over $673 million worth of “fully planned projects” that could be completed with money from a three-eighths penny sales tax increase. Munson says many of those projects would improve parks, hiking and biking trails, and other outdoor recreation areas statewide — and provide a boost to rural communities. “You look at the money being spent in restaurants, gas stations, and local stores…it’s an opportunity for small town Iowa to recapture tourism and strengthen economic development within their communities,” Munson said.

The Iowa Land and Water Legacy coalition held meetings on Wednesday in Mondamin and Cherokee. Meetings are scheduled for today (Thursday) in Le Mars (8am), Sioux City (9:30am), and Mason City (3pm) — and tomorrow (Friday) in Cedar Rapids (9:30am) and Davenport (3:30pm).

(Radio Iowa)

USDA Report 12-15-2016

Ag/Outdoor, Podcasts

December 15th, 2016 by Chris Parks

w/Max Dirks.


Interest rate hike not expected to have major impact on land prices

Ag/Outdoor, News

December 15th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

The latest farmland survey by the Iowa State University Extension department showed a third straight year where land values dropped. Some people are worried the quarter-point increase in the interest rate announced Wednesday by the Federal Reserve could hurt land values even more. Economist Wendong Zhang conducts the I-S-U survey and says interest rates are an important part of land values. “Land value can be thought of simply as net income divided by interest rates. So when interest rates rise, land values tend to fall down,” Zhang says.

But Zhang says this increase shouldn’t have much impact. “What we are talking about will be a shift from an historically low environment to a low interest rate environment. So, it will have some impact, but probably not as much as some people are worried about,” He says.

The use of ethanol and its impact on corn prices led to an increase in farm land prices that saw them peak in 2013. But Zhang says the impact of ethanol on land prices is not as strong as it once was. “Comparing the current and future growth to what we experienced in the late 2000’s, the growth is much slower,” Zhang says. “Back in the 2000’s ethanol had been one of the primary factors in driving up the corn prices. I don’t think the factor is that strong (now) — at least compared to a few years ago.”

Zhang expects the drop in land prices to slow and eventually turn around, but he says it could take a few years.

(Radio Iowa)

Cass County still negotiating with Ethanol plant officials

Ag/Outdoor, News

December 14th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

(Update 12:10-p.m.: Resolution of Intent approved)

The Cass County Board of Supervisors today approved a Resolution of Intent to enter into an agreement with Elite Octane, LLC, with regard to the proposed ethanol plant for the northern side of Atlantic. The action follows a public hearing held in the courtroom at the Cass County Courthouse, during which mostly favorable support was heard.

During the hearing Board Chair Gaylord Schelling said from the County’s perspective the process of working with lawyers and ethanol plant officials, was a “Learning curve.”

(He said both sides had to come to terms on an agreement they could live with. Initially, Elite Octane wanted money up front, but the Board couldn’t agree with that. A TIF District was set up, with the tax amounting to about $900,000, depending on the levy. The agreement would mean Elite with rebate 50% back to the County to pay off the TIF.)

The TIF (Tax Increment Financing) is there to help the County pay off the infrastructure the plant needs (Gray water supply, a paved road from Echo to Olive Street. The funds are also to be used for Attorney’s fees to set up the agreement. Other facets of the agreement would include a guarantee to the County of payment in the event of a catastrophe.

Cass County Auditor Dale Sunderman explained the TIF will only work if there is a minimum assessment, which the Development Agreement would stipulate is $32-million dollars.

The property is currently assessed at approximately $1.5-million, which means a guaranteed assessment of $33.5-million. The agreement is 50-50, which means it would guarantee $900,000 per year in taxes would be paid by the company to the County for the infrastructure improvements and debt service, regardless of whether the plant fails or succeeds. The investors would be on the hook to pay those funds.

Developer Don Sonntag said in addition to the promised jobs and tax benefit to the County, Atlantic Community Development, LLC has purchased 14 acres of land from CADCO on the south side of the highway near the plant, for manufacturing space and valuable added-commodities. An announcement on more specifics will come in the next week or so. Cass County Supervisor Mark Wedemeyer said they have spoken with other counties with an ethanol plant, and the deal Cass County was working out with Elite Octane, was incomparable, because of the scope of the agreement.

The County can also hope to recoup some of the infrastructure costs at the onset, through a RISE (Revitalize Iowa’s Sound Economy) grant.

Here is the Resolution of Intent:

RESOLUTION NO. 2016-040  Resolution expressing intent to provide economic development support to the Elite Octane, LLC ethanol plant development project

WHEREAS, Elite Octane, LLC (the “Company”) has undertaken the development of  an ethanol plant (the “Project”) on certain real property (the “Property”) described on Exhibit A hereto and proposed to be situated in the Amaizing Energy Urban Renewal Area (the “Urban Renewal Area”) in Cass County, Iowa (the “County”); and

WHEREAS, the Company has requested that the County provide financial support to help to defray the costs of the Project, through a series of incremental property tax payments (the “Payments”) to be derived from the Property for a period of fifteen (15) years; and

WHEREAS, the Company has requested that the County undertake the planning, design and construction of certain road and grey water sewer system improvements (the “Public Improvements Project”) necessary for the development of the Project; and

WHEREAS, the County intends to support the Company in the undertaking of the Project by entering into a development agreement (the “Development Agreement”) and making provision for the funding of the Payments; and

WHEREAS, the Board of Supervisors will need to undertake the statutory processes for (1) approving the support to the Company and including the entirety of the Property under the plan for the Urban Renewal Area, (2) authorizing the Development Agreement and the Payments; (3) undertaking the contract bid letting process set forth in Chapter 26 of the Code of Iowa for the award of construction contracts for the Public Improvements Project; and (4) authorizing the issuance of General Obligation Bonds (the “Bonds”) in order to pay the costs of constructing the Public Improvements Project; and

WHEREAS, the County now desires to convey its intent to pursue these actions to the Company in order to facilitate progress on the development of the Property through the adoption of this Resolution;

NOW, THEREFORE, Be It Resolved by the Board of Supervisors of Cass County, Iowa, as follows:

Section 1. The County hereby expresses its intent to support the Project in the future.  The County will in good faith negotiate the Development Agreement with respect to the development of the Property and the undertaking of the Project, such proposed agreement to minimally include the following terms:

  1. A) The Company will commit to constructing the Project on the Property; and
  2. B) The Company will agree to maintain ownership of the Property and operate the ethanol plant thereon during the term of the Development Agreement; and
  3. C) The Company will commit to timely payment of all property taxes as they come due with respect to the Property; and
  4. D) The Company will enter into a minimum assessment agreement pursuant to Section 403.6 of the Code of Iowa establishing a minimum increased assessed valuation for the Property of $32,000,000 resulting from the Property; and
  5. E) The Development Agreement will establish a minimum amount of annual incremental property tax revenues to be received by the County for the payment of debt service on the Bonds.  To the extent that the incremental property tax revenues derived from the Property are not sufficient for the County to pay the debt service requirements on the Bonds, the Company will agree to make payments in lieu of property taxes (the “PILOTS”) to the County to make up for any shortfalls in this annual minimum.  The Developer will provide a subordinate mortgage in the Property and/or such other reasonable assets as security on the PILOTS; and
  6. F) The County will agree to fund the Payments over a period of fifteen (15) years of incremental property tax collections.  The Payments will be funded with incremental property tax revenues to be derived from the Property, and each payment will be in an amount which represents 50% of the incremental property tax revenues available to the County on the first $32,000,000 of incremental value with respect to the Property during the six months immediately preceding each Payment date.  In addition, in the event that the assessed valuation of the Project exceeds $32,000,000, the County will agree to fund Payments to the Company in an amount which represents 100% of the incremental property tax revenues available to the County with respect the portion of taxable incremental value in excess of $32,000,000; and
  7. G) The County will cause the planning, design and construction of the Public Improvements Project, and the County will undertake the contract bid letting process set forth in Chapter 26 of the Code of Iowa for the award of construction contracts for the Public Improvements Project.  Further the County will issue the Bonds in order to pay the costs of the Public Improvements Project.

Section 2. The County hereby agrees to use its best efforts to complete the statutory requirements of Chapter 403 of the Code of Iowa in order to amend its urban renewal plan and to authorize the Development Agreement.  Both the County and the Company acknowledge that the County’s commitment in this Section is merely a present statement of intent and that the Board of Supervisors must exercise their ordinary political discretion in the completion of the statutory processes referenced herein.  The County will not be held liable in the event that the Board of Supervisors, through the exercise of their ordinary political discretion, determines to not approve any of the actions outlined herein.

Section 3. Nothing in this Resolution shall prevent the parties from negotiating additional terms, not set forth herein, for inclusion in the Development Agreement.

Section 4. All resolutions and orders or parts thereof in conflict with the provisions of this resolution, to the extent of such conflict, are hereby repealed.