KJAN Ag/Outdoor

Iowa farmland values inched upward, survey shows

Ag/Outdoor, News

March 28th, 2017 by Ric Hanson

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – A new survey suggests that farmland values in Iowa have inched upward in the past six months. A report from the Iowa Realtors Land Institute Chapter No. 2 says the farmland values climbed nearly 1 percent from September to March, hitting $6,545 an acre. The Des Moines Register reports that the increase was the first since September 2013.

The report says, however, that farmland values are still 2.8 percent lower for the past 12 months. The institute’s surveys suggest that the average value of Iowa’s farmland has dropped about 25 percent since March 2013. Iowa farmland values peaked in 2013 but have since fallen along with commodity prices.

The institute surveys about 135 agricultural real estate brokers, appraisers and other professionals.

Financing plan for water quality seems positioned for passage

Ag/Outdoor, News

March 27th, 2017 by Ric Hanson

Key legislators say there is NOT consensus on a bill that would reorganize the drinking water system in metro Des Moines, but it appears a statewide water quality initiative may get bipartisan support. Representative Chip Baltimore, a Republican Boone, has been working on that second bill, to set up a financing structure for water improvement projects.  “I think that one’s got more momentum behind it at this point in time and is a much more positive for the overall state of Iowa,” Baltimore says.

Representative Chris Hall, a Democrat from Sioux City, says Baltimore’s bill is “very creative,” but Hall would like to see the state dedicate more dollars to water quality — by raising the state sales tax by three-eighths of a percent. “Water quality is something that you see legislators on both sides of the aisle agreement: we need to discuss this,” Hall says. “It’s a serious issue for the state.”

Hall and Baltimore made their comments during a weekend appearance on Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” program. House Republican Leader Chris Hagenow is from Windsor Heights, one of the suburbs that gets its drinking water from the Des Moines Water Works. Hagenow says a “regionalization” plan for drinking water systems in the Des Moines metro has run into problems. “Obviously you get something like that, there’s a lot different ideas and people want to go different directions and we’ve been trying to reach consensus on that and haven’t gotten there yet,” Hagenow says.

On March 17th, a federal judge tossed out the Des Moines Waterworks lawsuit that had challenged three northwest Iowa counties. The bill to dismantle the independent utility and turn over management to city councils in the Des Moines metro has cleared committees in both the House and Senate, but must pass either the full House or 50-member Senate by this Friday to remain eligible for consideration this year.

(Radio Iowa)

IPP report critical of agriculture nuisance bill headed to governor

Ag/Outdoor, News

March 27th, 2017 by Ric Hanson

An Iowa City based research organization has released a report that’s critical of a bill approved at the statehouse dealing with nuisance claims against large livestock operations. David Osterberg is co-author of the report, titled “CAFO’s” and the diminished defense of public health,” released by the Iowa Policy Project. At issue is a bill that’s cleared both the Iowa House and Senate and awaits the governor’s signature. “It is going to be harder for you to win a lawsuit against a large confinement that you believe is affecting your health, affecting the property value of your residence, and just making your life generally unpleasant,” Osterberg says.

The legislation would limit damages that a neighbor may recover if harmed by a nearby operation. In addition to health consequences, Osterberg says the report focuses on how large animal feeding operations impact property values. “There is more to say about things like water pollution that comes out of these confined animal feeding operations, but we pretty much limited ourselves to health effects from air emissions and property loss,” Osterberg said.

Supporters of the legislation claim it’s designed to protect both large and SMALL farmers from nuisance lawsuits.

(Radio Iowa)

Conservation Report 03/25/2017

Ag/Outdoor, Podcasts

March 25th, 2017 by Chris Parks

Bob Beebensee speaks with DNR Conservation Officer for Cass and Adair Counties Grant Gelle and DNR Conservation Officer for East Pottawattamie County Adam Gaecke about all things outdoors.


Iowa’s Unemployment Rate Drops to 3.2 Percent in February

Ag/Outdoor, News

March 24th, 2017 by Ric Hanson

DES MOINES, IOWA – Iowa’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 3.2 percent in February. The state’s jobless rate was 3.8 percent one year ago. The U.S. unemployment rate decreased to 4.7 percent in February. “Iowa took another step towards full employment with the unemployment rate dropping to its lowest level since 2001,” said Beth Townsend, Director of Iowa Workforce Development. “A large number of Iowans found work in February. This was evident in the establishment survey which showed Iowa businesses added 3,000 jobs this past month.”

The number of unemployed Iowans decreased to 53,600 in February from 56,900 in January. The current estimate is 10,600 lower than the year ago level of 64,200. The total number of working Iowans increased to 1,639,700 in February. This figure was 2,700 higher than January and 1,900 higher than one year ago.

Seasonally Adjusted Nonfarm Employment
Iowa businesses again expanded in February, adding 3,000 jobs and lifting total nonfarm employment to 1,580,400 jobs. Last month’s employment experienced a moderate revision downward and this month’s gain helps recover much of the drop. Private sectors were responsible for all of the growth this month as government shed jobs (-500) primarily at the local level. Despite this loss, government remains up 800 jobs annually and the state combined is up 10,900 jobs.

Among private sectors, education and health services added 1,800 jobs in February to lead all sectors. Education added the majority of the jobs (+1,300), although healthcare also expanded their payrolls (+500). Construction added jobs this month (+1,600) and this month’s gain could signify an earlier than usual start to the building season. Other gains this month included professional and business services which added jobs for the fourth-consecutive month, and finance which has steadily trended up since August. Losses this month were limited to just three sectors and led by leisure and hospitality (-900). This sector pared jobs evenly in both recreational activities and hospitality and eating and drinking places. Despite the monthly loss, this sector has fared well and added jobs annually (+2,000). Alternatively, information services again trended down this month (-400), as did manufacturing (-200) due to cutbacks in durable goods.

Annually, total nonfarm employment continues to slowly add employment and has been fueled by hiring in professional and business services (+4,200). This sector alone has been responsible for 39 percent of all annual job gains in the state. Finance continues to grow its footprint in Iowa and is up 3,000 jobs versus last year. Other sectors experiencing growth annually include trade and transportation (+2,400), education and health services (+2,000), and leisure and hospitality (+2,000). Annual losses have been largest in manufacturing (-4,000) and wholly limited to durable goods factories. Information is the only other sector to pare jobs versus last year (-1,400).

Visit www.iowalmi.gov for more information about current and historical data, labor force data, nonfarm employment, hours and earnings, and jobless benefits by county.

USDA remains vigilant after bird flu strain kills 140 people in China

Ag/Outdoor, News

March 24th, 2017 by Ric Hanson

There have been -no- cases reported in Iowa, but a strain of bird flu that’s deadly to humans has already killed 140 people in China. The U-S-D-A’s head veterinarian, Dr. Jack Shere, says the agency is preparing to fight the strain should it be found here. Shere says it’s possible migrating wild birds could bring the killer strain over from China which is why vigilance is so important.

“We look at the 21 biggest poultry states and we test wild birds throughout the year in those states to make sure that we have an early warning notice if this virus is changed, if we got a new virus,” Shere says, “that we have we have an awareness and we can pick it up.”

An outbreak of a different strain of bird flu in 2015 resulted in the destruction of more than 31-million chickens and turkeys in Iowa and an economic loss to the state of $1.2 billion dollars. The disease was confirmed at 77 Iowa poultry operations in 18 counties. Shere says producers need to button up their flocks.

“Basically it’s a hurdle concept,” Shere says. “What can I put in place that will prevent the virus or eliminate the virus so I don’t bring it into my facility? We have to consider the environment often as contaminated and anything we’re bringing into the house has a potential to bring the disease.”

There were bird flu outbreaks this year in Tennessee and Wisconsin, but federal health officials say the risk to people from those strains is low.

(Radio Iowa, w/Thanks to Sarah Boden, Iowa Public Radio)

Ernst has questions for US Ag Sec nominee

Ag/Outdoor, News

March 23rd, 2017 by Ric Hanson

The U.S. Senate Ag Committee will begin a confirmation hearing for President Trump’s nominee to be U-S Ag Secretary today (Thursday).  Iowa Senator Joni Ernst is a member of the committee. “This is a very important confirmation for all of us across the Midwest because this confirmation will impact us greatly,” Ernst says.

President Trump announced in January that he wanted former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue to lead the U.S.D.A. Perdue was the final member of Trump’s cabinet to be revealed. Midwestern supporters of Trump raised some concerns at the time. No member of Trump’s cabinet comes from the Midwest despite Trump’s election wins in Midwestern states like Iowa.

Ernst says there are “big topics” Perdue will be asked to address during his confirmation hearing. “Where is his support for renewable energy such as our biodiesel and corn ethanol?” Ernst asks. “Because that is really big for Iowans.”

Ernst also wants to ask Perdue how he may restructure the Conservation Reserve Program. “We have a lot of farms out there that are being put the CRP, subsidized by the government. It’s productive land that should be out there. The CRP was originally supposed to protect vulnerable lands,” Ernst says. “…We also want to know that crop insurance is going to be available in the future for our farmers as well.”

Perdue’s confirmation hearing was delayed, in part, because it’s taken Perdue a while to unravel from his sizable business interests. Perdue, who served two terms as Georgia’s governor, has placed his assets in a blind trust to avoid conflicts of interest. The 70-year-old Perdue briefly worked as a veterinarian before serving in the U.S. Air Force. After the military, he started four farm-related companies but is NOT related or affiliated with Perdue Farms, the country’s fourth-largest chicken producer.

(Radio Iowa)

Bird expert unlocks mysteries of huge migrating flocks in Iowa skies

Ag/Outdoor, News

March 22nd, 2017 by Ric Hanson

Look! Up in the sky! It’s a super-sized flock of birds! Iowans are seeing huge congregations of feathered creatures filling the morning and evening skies, giant clouds of birds that often take several minutes to pass. Steve Dinsmore, a central Iowa ornithologist and bird watcher, says it’s typical during the spring and fall to see the birds migrating in tremendously large numbers over Iowa.

“Those could represent a number of different species of birds,” Dinsmore says. “One of them is European starlings, so we call those a murmuration of starlings. We also, right now, have very, very large numbers of blackbirds, primarily redwing blackbirds and common grackles, and also other species that are also migrating. Those birds, just like starlings, form these large, wavy, meandering flocks.”

Dinsmore is a professor of Natural Resource Ecology and Management at Iowa State University. He says birds of a feather do flock together for several reasons. “One of them certainly deals with predator avoidance, a sort of safety-in-numbers component,” Dinsmore says. “These birds also feed en mass so one of the other advantages of them associating in flocks is the transfer of information about foraging sites or feeding sites. They do that through these large flocks as they’ve moving to and from roosting and feeding areas.”

The miles-long undulating flocks are fascinating to watch and may contain tens of thousands of birds, perhaps more. “One of the real fun questions to try and answer is, ‘How many are there?’ and certainly, those flocks are very, very large, to the point where you can’t count individuals,” Dinsmore says. “Sometimes, we use estimation techniques or approximation techniques. Pushing 100,000 is pretty unusual but there are records in the hundreds of thousands and some estimates even up to a million individuals.”

Robins are out in plentiful numbers this spring, and some Iowans who live in larger cities are being surprised to spot wild turkeys in their back yards, though they’re typically thought of as county birds. “Those birds, in some cases, do pretty well in urban environments,” Dinsmore says. “It also turns out, because we just came off of a really mild winter, many species of birds, turkeys included and other game birds and other song birds, probably are going to do really well this year because they were able to survive what turned out to be a relatively mild winter.”

The waterfowl migration is also at its peak now in Iowa and in some areas, “spectacular numbers” of geese and ducks have arrived early and are staying later.

(Radio Iowa)

14th Annual Prairie Chicken Festival April 8th in Ringgold County

Ag/Outdoor, News

March 21st, 2017 by Ric Hanson

Officials with the Iowa DNR say the Grand River Grasslands Bird Conservation Area will be at center stage on April 8th for the 14th Annual Prairie Chicken Festival, originating from the viewing platform on 300th Avenue, southwest of Kellerton.

Viewers should plan to arrive early as the best viewing occurs at dawn. The event will proceed until the birds diminish their courtship dancing and booming, which is around 9:30 a.m. Prairie chickens were reintroduced to the area and each spring their courtship dances occur where their booming calls resonate across southern Iowa hills and valleys.

Spotting scopes, binoculars, cameras and phones will be trained on capturing the images and sounds of the unique mating ritual that is part dance, part combat, and part haunting symphony. Iowa’s prairie chickens are only found in Ringgold County.

4th of July weekend campsite reservations open soon

Ag/Outdoor, News

March 21st, 2017 by Ric Hanson

Campers anxious to reserve spots for the Fourth of July weekend should mark March 31 on their calendars, when reservations for a Friday arrival open. Campers can make reservations for sites three months ahead of their first night’s stay. Todd Coffelt, chief of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources State Parks Bureau, says “Electric sites go quickly. And some sites will already be reserved by campers arriving prior to the holiday weekend.”

Not every campsite is available on the reservation system. Parks maintain between 25 and 50 percent of the electric and nonelectric sites as non-reservation sites, available for walk-up camping.

Information on Iowa’s state parks is available online at www.iowadnr.gov/stateparks including the link to reservations. Campers can also log on directly to http://iowastateparks.reserveamerica.com; enter their preferred dates and/or parks to see what sites are available and make a reservation.