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US Ag Secretary discusses challenges, accomplishments for farmers in 2014

Ag/Outdoor, News

January 2nd, 2015 by Ric Hanson

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is describing 2014 as a year of big challenges, big issues and big accomplishments for farming. The former Iowa governor says one of the biggest challenges for farmers and ranchers was the effect of supply and demand on markets and prices. A smaller supply of pork and beef led to higher prices and some consumers turning to other food choices.  “And a bumper crop of other commodities brought the prices from fairly high levels down to levels that could potentially trigger some of the safety net programs at USDA in terms of the Farm Bill,” Vilsack said.

Those other commodities that dropped in price included two of the biggest crops in Iowa — corn and soybeans. One of the bigger accomplishments and challenges of 2014 was implementing the new Farm Bill. Vilsack believes the USDA did a remarkable job of instituting so many of the complex provisions of the new law.  “Starting with the Disaster Assistance Program….now 465,000 producers receiving over 4.2 billion dollars of assistance. The development of the dairy margin protection program. The new safety net programs. The agricultural risk coverage program. New crop insurance opportunities for specialty crops,” Vilsack said.

One of the good things about the Farm Bill, according to Vilsack, was the way it got passed. “It underscores what can happen when people are willing to compromise, when people are willing to find middle ground as we were able to work with Republicans and Democrats on both sides in the House and in the Senate to try to ultimately get this bill done and the President signed the bill in February of 2014,” Vilsack said.

The Ag Secretary believes President Obama’s executive action on immigration this past November could help farmers keep the workers they need. Vilsack estimates it will impact up to 400 thousand individuals who are working in agriculture. As for 2015, Vilsack says trade will be critically important for creating new and expanded opportunities for U.S. agriculture and rural America. Those opportunities include, Vilsack says, gaining access to huge, growing and lucrative Asian markets that represent one third of all world trade.

(Radio Iowa)

Thieves yank ATM out of bar in Van Meter


January 2nd, 2015 by Ric Hanson

VAN METER, Iowa (AP) – Thieves have emptied an ATM they yanked out of a bar in Van Meter. Des Moines television station KCCI reports that the owner of Legends Field House discovered the crime on Wednesday morning when he found a broken window, glass on the floor and an empty space where the ATM had stood.

Police say an item had been thrown through the window so two men could get inside. A security recording showed them hooking a tow strap to the ATM before it was pulled off its mounts and out a door.
The empty ATM was found Wednesday afternoon near the spillway at Saylorville Lake.

Mediator to handle Nishnabotna School District disagreement


January 2nd, 2015 by Ric Hanson

Disagreements between the residents of the Hamburg and Farragut school districts will require intervention from the Green Hills Area Education Agency. The Omaha World-Herald reports a mediator will help the districts reach an agreement on whole-grade sharing, which is linked to their facility plans. The districts have indicated that buildings will need to be closed next year.

About 40 parents, students and residents attended an emotional joint school board meeting last week. Hamburg Superintendent Terry Kenealy told the paper several speakers supported the current grade-sharing deal, while several wanted to change the configuration. But school board members were unable to arrive at a resolution for both boards to consider, so the issue will be referred to the Green Hills agency for mediation.

The two districts tried to reorganize in December, but the effort failed by seven votes in Hamburg despite passing in Farragut. Both districts also face accreditation and financial concerns, leaving further uncertainty about the future. They must go before the School Budget Review Committee this month and the Iowa Department of Education in February.

The outcome of those meetings will decide whether the Farragut and Hamburg districts will continue or be dissolved. If they continue to operate, the districts have suggested that Marnie Simons Elementary School in Hamburg and the shared Nishnabotna High School in Farragut will be their remaining open buildings.

Burglary & theft reported in Red Oak


January 2nd, 2015 by Ric Hanson

A Red Oak resident reported to police Thursday, that someone had kicked-in the front door of her residence on East Market Street, and stole items valued at $50. The incident happened sometime over the course of the two previous day. The victim reported the loss of a Harley Davidson collectible sign and cell phone, in addition to damage to the door, which was estimated at $100.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact Red Oak Police at 712-623-6500, or Crimestoppers at 1-800-432-1001.

Adair County BOS to meet Friday morning


January 2nd, 2015 by Ric Hanson

Members of the Adair County Board of Supervisors will hold their first regular meeting of the year today (Friday), in Greenfield. Their meeting begins at 9-a.m. The Board will take care of several administrative matters, including: Electing a Board Chair and Vice-Chair; Approve Deputy/Assistant/Clerk appointments by County Recorder, Treasurer and Attorney. They’ll also act on: a travel policy resolution; Master Matrix resolution and the appointment of Supervisors to area board and commissions.

The Adair County Supervisors will hold a Public Hearing at 9:30-a.m. with regard to a FY 2015 Budget Amendment, along with resolutions approving the amendment and appropriations. At 10-a.m, they’re expected to receive a Compensation Board FY 2016 recommendation for Elected Officials, which they will take under consideration, along with the FY 2016 hourly wage increases for full- and part-time County employees.

And then at 10:15, County Engineer Nick Kauffman will address the Board with regard to various administrative and other departmental matters.

Iowa’s “special schools” for blind & deaf serving over 1000 children & adults


January 2nd, 2015 by Ric Hanson

Officials at the state’s so-called “special schools” are aiming to improve their students’ math and reading proficiency by 15 percent. Steven Gettel, the superintendent of the Iowa School for the Deaf and Iowa Educational Services for the Blind, says the goal is within reach.

“In the first four years with the Iowa Educational Services for the Blind students’ proficiencies increased by 13.3 percent in reading and 13.6 percent in math and at the Iowa School for the Deaf the achievements were 12.3 percent in reading and 13.3 percent in math, so we’ve nearly achieved our goals there,” Gettel says. “It shows what you can do when you consolidate your efforts and your resources around improving instruction and understanding the needs and the that our kids have.”

There are 109 students enrolled at the Iowa School for the Deaf in Council Bluffs this year. Students no longer attend the Iowa School for the Blind in Vinton. Instead, teachers are sent around to Iowa school districts to teach 562 students who are blind or visually impaired. “And we’re providing sign language instruction across the state to between 400-500 adults and children,” Gettel says. Those sign language classes are conducted online. About a dozen students who graduated from the Iowa School for the Deaf are also enrolled in what Gettel calls the “Four-Plus” program.

“Brings students back who finished their high school credit requirements, but they still need additional training and education around the areas of literacy, math skills, pre-vocational skills and independent living skills,” Gettel says. In total, the state’s “special schools” for deaf and blind Iowans are providing services to more than a thousand children and adults in the state.

(Radio Iowa)

Iowa early News Headlines: Fri., Jan. 2nd 2015


January 2nd, 2015 by Ric Hanson

Here is the latest Iowa news from The Associated Press

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (AP) — The University of Northern Iowa has been scrambling to pay about 2,400 employees after a computer problem caused a delay in direct deposits to their bank accounts. A university vice president, Michael Hager, wrote in an email to the employees on New Year’s Eve that paper checks would be delivered to “as many of our employees’ financial institutions as possible” before the end of business on Wednesday.

DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) — A Dubuque nurse has fulfilled her dream, spending more than 60 years caring for ailing babies and their families. The Telegraph Herald Weber reports Betty Weber retired Wednesday from her work at Mercy Birth Center in Dubuque.

FARLEY, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa couple has been credited with helping a man get out of his wrecked vehicle before it caught fire. Peosta Police Department Sergeant Nicole Minnihan says the couple was traveling westbound Tuesday on U.S. 20 in northeast Iowa when another vehicle driven by 65-year-old Mark Schuster went off the roadway. The Telegraph Herald reports Sandy Gassman, along with her husband, Tom, pulled over to help. Sandy Gassman put Schuster’s arm over her shoulder and they walked away from the wreck. Tom Gassman called 911.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Authorities say a Des Moines man who fatally stabbed an intruder in self-defense likely won’t be prosecuted. Police Sergeant Jason Halifax says 35-year-old Christopher Bear killed 34-year-old Jahron Parker after Parker attacked Bear at a house on Amos Avenue early Wednesday morning.

(Podcast) 8-a.m. KJAN News, 1/1/2015

News, Podcasts

January 1st, 2015 by Ric Hanson

With Ric Hanson.


2014: coolest year in Iowa since 1917

News, Weather

January 1st, 2015 by Ric Hanson

Several locations in Iowa recorded low temperatures in the double-digits below-zero over the final two days of 2014 — which will enter the record books as one of the coldest years in the state’s history. State Climatologist Harry Hillaker says only three of the 12 months posted an above normal average temperature (May, June, and December). “And we had three top 10 months as far as low temperatures — the 7th coldest February on record, 5th coolest July and 4th coolest November,” Hillaker said. “Those are all based on 142 years of records, so rather unusual in all those cases.”

The statewide average temperature for the entire year was 45.4 degrees. “The year as a whole…almost the coolest in nearly 100 years. You have to back to 1917 to find a cooler calendar year than 2014,” Hillaker said. The coldest official temperature recorded in Iowa this year was 29-below zero in Elkader — both on January 28 and February 11. “On the other extreme, the warmest reading we had was only 97 degrees on May 7, very early in the season,” Hillaker said. “Clarinda, Shenandoah and Sidney all hit 97 on May 7.”

Not a single Iowa city recorded a temperature in the triple digits through all of 2014.  “Statewide, I think we’ve had about a dozen years when no place in the state reached 100 degrees during the course of the year. So, that’s somewhat unusual, but not unheard of by any means,” Hillaker said.

Two-thousand-fourteen will go down as the 15th wettest year in Iowa history. The month of June was especially wet — with record flooding across northwest Iowa. “Some part of the state had a lot of rain during the late summer, especially west-central and southwest Iowa,” Hillaker said. “We had a very wet August. Greenfield has almost a foot-and-a-half of rain just during the month of August.”

Although the year was a wet one, there weren’t many large snow events.  “I think the largest snow storm total was 9 inches, which is kind of small for a statewide extreme,” Hillaker said. According to the National Weather Service, there were 55 tornadoes in Iowa in 2014 — slightly more than the 46 twisters that Iowa sees in a typical tornado season (averaged over the years 1980-2013).

For the month of December (2014), the Average High in Atlantic was 36. The Average Low was 22. The normal average High is 33. The normal average Low is 14.We had just 1.06 inches of precipitation last month, with some of that coming from the four-tenths of an inch of snow and/or mixed precip. Normal precipitation for the month is 1.11 inches.

Southwest Iowan faces federal firearms charge


January 1st, 2015 by Ric Hanson

RED OAK, Iowa (AP) – A southwest Iowa man accused of planting audio recording devices in a woman’s home now faces a federal charge of being a felon in possession of firearms. As we reported earlier this week on KJAN, 38-year-old Aaron Johnson was arrested Monday at his Red Oak home on a federal warrant. He’d been freed on bond. He’s pleaded not guilty to state charges of eavesdropping and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Johnson originally was arrested Nov. 3 on the state charges. The woman reported finding one of the audio bugs, and then authorities found another in her bedroom. She says the only person granted access to her residence was a pest control technician, Johnson.

Police say a search of Johnson’s home turned up similar devices and guns and ammunition.