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USDA announces initiative to help smaller farm operations

Ag/Outdoor, News

March 11th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is launching what it calls “a concerted effort” to help small and mid-sized farms. The announcement from Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack comes after a recent census pointed to a reduction in the number of smaller farming operations. Speaking on Monday with reporters from the National Farmers Union Convention in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Vilsack said his department is working to assist these farmers in finding markets for their products.

“We’re going to broaden the national farmers’ market directory to include community-supported agriculture activities, on-farm stores and food hubs,” Vilsack said. “This will provide an opportunity for you, as a producer, to know precisely what opportunities exist within your region.” In addition, the USDA plans to expand the popular Farm-to-School Program.

“We know there’s a tremendous demand in schools for locally produced product, we had more than 355-million dollars in sales last year…we anticipate and expect that this is only going to grow,” Vilsack said. An additional seven Farm-to-School coordinators will be placed across the country to help forge relationships between farmers and school districts, according to Vilsack. The former Iowa governor said the USDA will also work to make it easier for small and mid-sized farmers to gain access to capital by expanding loan programs and increasing funding for such things as hoop houses, which enable longer growing seasons.

(Radio Iowa)

Iowa early News Headlines: Tue., March 11th 2014


March 11th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

Here is the latest Iowa news from The Associated Press…

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa City man has been sentenced to 17 years in prison in connection to crashing an SUV through a store at Coral Ridge Mall in Coralville. A judge sentenced 24-year-old Joseph Moreno on Monday to 10 years for first-degree criminal mischief. He was given five years for intimidation with a dangerous weapon and two years for reckless use of a firearm.

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) — A man charged with killing his parents on the Meskwaki Settlement in central Iowa has made a court appearance. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the northern district of Iowa says 25-year-old Gordon Lasley Jr. appeared Monday in federal court in Cedar Rapids. A criminal complaint filed Friday says Lasley killed Gordon Lasley Sr. and Kim Lasley at their home in early February on the Meskwaki Nation Settlement near Tama.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A bill that that would have required employers in Iowa to tell workers at hiring what they’ll earn and outline any deductions in writing will not survive this year. Committee Chairman Greg Forristall, a Macedonia Republican, says he doesn’t expect the subcommittee to meet again this session, which effectively kills the bill. Forristall says the bill won’t solve the problem and will only drive up costs for honest businesses.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A bill giving victims more power to report sexual abuse and other crimes involving state military personnel has received the approval of the Iowa Senate. Under the bill, state military forces would have to file an annual report with the governor and the Legislature detailing sexual abuse allegations within the forces.

Audubon City Councilman acknowledges the City faces “Serious financial problems”


March 10th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

A public hearing was held in Audubon Monday night with regard to the proposed Fiscal Year 2015 City Budget, which was eventually approved, but not without some reservations. During the hearing, Barb Jacobs asked several questions. She pointed out, and City Clerk Lora Hansen confirmed, that in the worst case scenario, the City would be operating at a nearly $500-thousand dollar loss. The re-estimated FY 2014 budget shows an estimated loss of revenue amounting to approximately $388,517.

The budget summary provided by Hansen, and read by Jacobs, also says the City will be operating in the red for FY 2016, if it stays on its current course. Those figures also raised the eyebrows of  Councilman Tom Nielsen. The beginning balance at the start of the new fiscal year on July 1st will be $976,704. The City will have an operating loss of $497, 400, which leaves a beginning the following year of $479,400. Nielsen said if they “Don’t do some radical changes,” the City “Probably cannot get through Fiscal Year 2016.”

Nielsen said the City has some “Serious financial problems.” He said the only reason he voted for it was so that it could be submitted to the State by the March 17th deadline. After that, the budget can be amended downward, but in the mean while, he suggested the City seek help in getting it’s financial house in order. Nielsen said he doesn’t know how the City could possibly find the half-million dollars it needs before the budget deadline. He suggested the City meet its auditing firm in a work session and get the “Very scary” situation corrected. Nielsen said “It sucks” to be $500-thousand dollars in the hole.

He said he’s also bothered by the fact the City’s obligation bonds are 5-percent of taxable assessed valuations, and they’re current outstanding to the tune of 3.434-percent, so they’ve used up most of the available funds from the bonds. To top it off, he says the town needs to get serious about fixing its crumbling infrastructure in terms of streets, sewer lines and water lines.

Cass Co. Democrats to host candidate event March 27th


March 10th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

Cass County Democratic Party Chair Sherry Toelle says a “Spring Fling” event will be held in Atlantic on March 27th, sponsored by the local Democratic party. The event will feature eleven candidates who will be appearing on the June primary ballot, and includes games, a silent auction, and a pie/cake auction in addition to a “picnic” dinner.

The candidates who will be attending the event include Congressional candidates Staci Appel and Gabriel De La Cerda and gubernatorial candidates Jack Hatch, Paul Dahl and Jonathan Narcisse. Other candidates who plan to attend are Brad Anderson (Secretary of State), Jon Neiderbach (State Auditor), Sherrie Taha (Secretary of Agriculture), and Tim Ennis (Iowa House District #21). Attorney General Tom Miller and State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald, both incumbents, will also speak.

The event will held at the Saints Peter and Paul Parish Center, beginning at 6-p.m. March 27th. The cost per adult is $20 if paid before March 26th. Tickets are available at the door for $25, with children under 14 admitted for $10 each. RSVP’s are requested by March 21st. Tickets can be purchased from Dale Whittaker, 1409 E. 17th St., Atlantic, IA 50022.

For more information about the evening’s activities, contact Sherry Toelle at 712-243-4861.

Audubon City Council tables action on City Clerk applications


March 10th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

The Audubon City Council Monday evening tabled action on the discussion and consideration of applications for their City Clerk or Interim City Clerk’s position, because they weren’t ready to do so, according to Mayor Sam Kauffman. In addition, the Council directed the Mayor to correct an error on the published notice calling for applications and resubmit the ad, because it left out important legal terminology, according to former city councilperson Linda Weston, who researched the process through the Iowa League of Cities.IMG_20140310_185834_075

Weston said the advertisement left out a statement with regard to EEO – Equal Employment Opportunity – which is required by law. The EEO statement typically says that a company or governmental body “Provides equal employment opportunities to all employees and applicants for employment without regard to race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, age, disability, genetic information, marital status, amnesty, or status as a covered veteran in accordance with applicable federal, state and local laws.”

Mayor Kauffman admitted he made an error when drafting the advertisement for publication, and made then a comment that drew laughs of disbelief from the audience and caused numerous eyes to roll.  He suggested City Clerk Lora Hansen – who he admitted is much more knowledgeable about such things – be the person to write the ad. The comment was ironic, because it would have meant Hansen would have been writing an ad seeking her own replacement for a position she did not wish to leave.

She currently serves as the “Hold over” clerk after a series of mis-steps taken by the Council that drew the threat of legal action and several requests for e-mails under the Open Records and Open Meetings law. Hansen has served as City Clerk in Audubon for more than 30-years.

Iowa lawmakers OK anti-bullying plan for schools


March 10th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Iowa lawmakers are continuing their efforts to fund an anti-bullying measure that would create an office to coordinate efforts and establish a grant program for schools across the state.  A three-member Senate appropriations subcommittee voted 2-1 on Monday in favor of the legislation, which goes to the full Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday.

The bill calls for a $1 million appropriation to establish an office within the Department of Education, charged with coordinating and implementing bullying prevention and response efforts. The bill also would develop a grant program to help schools carry out new anti-bullying policies.

Adam Gregg, legislative liaison for Gov. Terry Branstad, says such a large appropriation is unnecessary. Sen. Robert Hogg, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, says he’s sure an agreement on funding can be reached.

Chase suspect faces 3 charges; Sheriff thanks Audubon residents


March 10th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

The man who led authorities on a nearly 30-minute, high-speed chase Sunday night from Atlantic to Audubon faces a trio of charges. Cass County Sheriff Darby McLaren told KJAN News 39-year old Richard Randall Eatwell was being held on one felony and two serious misdemeanor charges. They include OWI/Narcotics-related and Reckless Driving…both serious misdemeanors, and Eluding, a Class-D felony. While he was released on his own recognizance on those charges, Eatwell was being held without bond in the Cass County Jail on the Department of Corrections warrant for a parole violation.

This latest incident is part of a recent string of chases that have occurred around southwest and western Iowa, and which have involved multiple law enforcement agencies. Sheriff McLaren expressed his frustration with the way such cases are handled. He said “Were fed up with it. I don’t want to wait for something bad to happen for somebody to really get educated by the court system. The sooner we can show that ‘if you’re in a chase of this magnitude, you’re going to do significant jail time’ is the only thing that I know that we can protect the public.”

On the bright side, McLaren had nothing but good words to say about the citizens of Audubon who helped authorities capture the suspect. He said the 9-1-1 calls they received from residents in Audubon led authorities to find and arrest Eatwell, and McLaren put out a special “Thanks” to them for their help.

A video posted on FaceBook of the last few minutes of the chase, showed the suspect’s vehicle zoom past and turn into a commercial area before he abandoned the car and took off on foot. Moments later, numerous law enforcement vehicles came rushing by. The person who shot the video flagged down a Sheriff’s SUV and pointed out where the car was…others called 9-1-1 and information about the suspect’s location was broadcast over the law enforcement frequencies.

New interns at the Museum of Danish America


March 10th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

The Museum of Danish America in Elk Horn has welcomed two new interns. Officials say Sofie Krøgh Nielsen and Helle Skovsgaard Christensen have joined the Museum’s team for the spring/summer. Both women say they are looking forward to learning about Danish immigration and experiencing Danish American culture.

Sofie Nielsen & Helle Christensen (photo provided)

Sofie Nielsen & Helle Christensen (photo provided)

Nielsen is from Strandby, Denmark and is studying at Aarhus University working toward her Masters in Experience Economy. She will be working on developing new school resources, installing the exhibition, Nude Vases, Cubist Faces: Modernism at Rookwood Pottery and doing research for future exhibitions. In addition, she will be presenting the April Brown Bag Lunch Program on Daily Life in Denmark in 1864, based on her experiences working in the open-air museum “Den Gamle By” (The Old Town) in Aarhus, Denmark.

Christensen is originally from Silkeborg, Denmark and is studying at the University of Copenhagen and working toward attaining her Masters in Information Science and Cultural Dissemination. Her bachelor’s degree is from Aarhus University in English and Visual Culture. She will be working at the Genealogy Center, processing incoming and Special Collections materials.

School bus & car fender bender in Clarinda – no serious injuries


March 10th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

(Updated 12:50-p.m.)

Authorities in Clarinda says no serious  injuries were reported following a minor accident involving a school bus and a car Monday morning. According to the Clarinda Police Department, a Clarinda Community School District bus was leaving a child pick-up site at 1040 West State Street and beginning to travel east,  when the 2001 Bluebird bus was hit from behind by a 2012 Ford Fusion. The accident happened at around 7:50-a.m.

The driver of the car, 28-year old Ashley Michelle Cabbage, of Stanton, told investigators she was distracted by her phone, and took her eyes off the road. When she looked up, she hit the brakes but her vehicle slammed into the rear of the bus. After the impact, the Ford veered left, off the road and crossed the westbound lane before coming to rest on the westbound shoulder.  The bus, driven by 60-year old Connie Ruth Miller, of Clarinda, came to a stop on the eastbound shoulder of the road.

Both drivers and five students on the bus, all of whom were from Clarinda and ranged in age from 9-to 13, were transported by Clarinda EMS to the Clarinda Regional Health Center to be checked for possible injuries. Cabbage was determined to have suffered non-incapacitating injuries during the collision.

A check of the bus’ flashing lights was made by the investigating officer, and all were determined to have been fully functional. Cabbage was subsequently cited for Following too close.  Damage from the accident amounted to $14,000.

Pacific Junction woman injured during an accident Thursday morning


March 10th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

The Mills County Sheriff’s Office reported a Pacific Junction woman was injured during a single-vehicle accident Thursday morning on Eastman Road. Officials say Cassandra Wendt was traveling northbound when she failed to negotiate a curve in the road. Her 1990 Chevy went off the road to the right and hit a tree before coming to rest in a ditch. Wendt was transported by Pacific Junction Rescue to Jennie Edmundson Hospital in Council Bluffs.