KJAN Ag/Outdoor

Fired Tyson boss says COVID office pool was a ‘morale boost’

Ag/Outdoor, News

December 28th, 2020 by Ric Hanson

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — One of the Tyson Foods managers fired for betting on how many workers would contract COVID-19 at their Iowa pork plant says the office pool was spontaneous and intended to boost morale. Don Merschbrock, former night manager at the plant in Waterloo, Iowa, said he was speaking out in an attempt to show that the seven fired supervisors are “not the evil people” that Tyson has portrayed.

Tyson announced the terminations of the Waterloo managers on Dec. 16, weeks after the betting allegation surfaced in wrongful death lawsuits filed by the families of four workers who died of COVID-19.


Crawford County authorities seek stolen tractor

Ag/Outdoor, News

December 28th, 2020 by Ric Hanson

The Crawford County Sheriff’s Department is asking for your help in locating a stolen, 4030 John Deere open station (no cab) tractor. The diesel machine was taken sometime between 2-and 3-a.m. Sunday. It has a red fuel cap, a loader and an old heat-houser unit. Authorities and the family tracked the tractor to an area just southeast of Schleswig.

A similar 4030 tractor with loader (NOT the actual one stolen)

The family says the loss is not only monetary, but it was their father’s first tractor. Any help/tips would be greatly appreciated. Please contact the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office if you seen or know the location of this tractor. Call 712-263-2146.

Researchers work to save farm-friendly bats from deadly disease


December 28th, 2020 by Ric Hanson

(Radio Iowa) – Researchers are making progress in trying to combat what’s known as white-nose syndrome, which has killed many thousands of bats in Iowa and millions across the continent. Jeremy Coleman, the national white-nose syndrome coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, says scientists are working to create an aerosol spray to genetically silence the fungus that causes the disease without hurting the bats. “We would use what’s called RNA interference to silence genes within the fungal pathogen and reduce the severity of the disease on bats,” Coleman says. “Any tool that would come from that is pretty far off, at this point. This is just the initial stab at getting a look at that technology.”

Some native bat species are being pushed the brink of extinction by the disease and Coleman says bats are very important to agriculture, as they eat tons of insects that harm crops. He says researchers are also working on a vaccine that would put a halt to white-nose syndrome in bats. “They wouldn’t have to be injected. What we’re looking at is an oral vaccine,” Coleman says. “They could consume the vaccine and share it within a site. The benefit of that is, we don’t have to treat them while they’re in hibernation. We would treat them when they’re still in the maternity colonies and then they would take the vaccine, ingest it and take the benefits of that back into hibernation with them.”

White-nose syndrome, which was first discovered in the U-S in 2007, is killing up to 90-percent of the bats in some colonies. Bats are critical pest controllers and in the U-S alone, Coleman says bats save farmers at least $3.7 billion per year in pest control services, a figure he says is conservative. “They are the primary consumer of night-flying insects and there are a number of crop pests and human pests that bats consume nightly,” Coleman says. “With the disease spreading, that’s resulting in tons of insects that are now not being consumed and that have to be addressed with pesticide.”

Due to the drastic reduction in native bat populations, he says millions of insects are feeding on trees and crops, which can impact forestry, agriculture and human health. White-nose syndrome is caused by a fungus which can look like white fuzz on bats’ muzzles and wings. The fungus thrives in cold, damp places and infects bats during hibernation. It’s confirmed in Iowa and 34 other states as well as seven Canadian provinces.

ISU’s Insect Zoo still reaches hundreds of Iowa kids — virtually

Ag/Outdoor, News

December 25th, 2020 by Ric Hanson

(Radio Iowa) – Even though the pandemic has forced the cancellation of in-person visits, the Insect Zoo at Iowa State University is still hosting hundreds of curious kids — and adults — through the wonders of the internet. Ginny Mitchell, the zoo’s education program coordinator, says they’re offering virtual “Live with Bugs” programs via Zoom, Google Classroom and other online platforms.

“We started it by doing it for Girl Scout troops and we have reached people in New York, California, Texas, all over the country,” Mitchell says. “It’s really been an opportunity for the Insect Zoo to expand outside of our Iowa borders.” The hour-long programs are entertaining and educational, she says, and they include very close-up views of all kinds of creepy-crawling critters, including scorpions, tarantulas and even hissing cockroaches.

Dynastes hercules beetle (ISU photo)

“We talk about millipedes, which are important decomposers, and of course, have hundreds of legs,” Mitchell says. “We watch them walk and we talk about their defense mechanisms — they secrete a liquid that makes them smell and taste bad — and then we talk about the difference between a millipede and a centipede.” The zoo’s long list of residents even includes seven species of walking sticks, along with a host of other insects, spiders and arthropods. Mitchell says the virtual classes are versatile, allowing students in a classroom or those on laptops or tablets at home to enjoy the tour.

“We encourage the kids to get outside. That is one of the main points of the Insect Zoo, to get outside and to look for bugs yourself,” she says. “I always issue a challenge to the kids to go outside and find some bugs that are like the ones that we looked at — and to send me a picture of it.” With advance planning, the ISU Insect Zoo can even send a selection of live bugs to the classroom to provide actual hands-on learning.

New northwest Iowa congressman urges federal action against meatpackers

Ag/Outdoor, News

December 25th, 2020 by Ric Hanson

(Radio Iowa) – Congressman-elect Randy Feenstra says it’s time for the U.S. Department of Justice to address allegations of price fixing in the livestock industry. “The packers, they’re making all kinds of profits, so we’ve got change it,” Feenstra says. “We’ve got to break up the monopoly.” Four companies — J-B-S, Smithfield, Cargill, and Tyson — control more than 80 percent of the beef packing industry. And while beef consumption and consumer prices soared during the early months of the pandemic, profits did not trickle down to producers. The prices for cattle sold at market fell.

Feenstra, a Republican from Hull, says his in-laws raise livestock, so the financial reality hits close to home. “It’s just painful to see, especially when live cattle is at $1.50, if you can get that now,” Feenstra says, “and then you have boxed beef at a high of $227 or somewhere thereabouts.” Boxed beef is the wholesale price of cuts of meat. Feenstra, who hopes to become a member of the U.S. House Ag Committee when he’s sworn into office on January 3rd, says it’s time for congress to examine the Packers and Stockyards Act. The law was drafted to assure fair competition and fair trade practices in the livestock industry.

“That act has been on the books for decades and we don’t use it and there is a problem,” Feenstra says. “There is a massive concern.” The law was originally passed in 1921. A major update in 1976 gave the U-S-D-A authority to issue fines for anti-competitive practices in the meat packing industry.

Feenstra made his comments during a recent appearance on the Iowa Press program on Iowa P-B-S.

Paddlefish licenses now on sale

Ag/Outdoor, News

December 25th, 2020 by Ric Hanson

(Radio Iowa) Licenses are now on sale for one of the more unique fish you can catch in Iowa. You can buy a license for paddlefish on the Missouri and Big Sioux River for the season that opens in February. Regional Fisheries Supervisor, Chris Larson, says interest in the paddlefish season has been up and down since the first year. “Nine-hundred-and-50 licenses are available to residents and 50 to nonresidents. We sold around 740 resident and 50 non-resident licenses in 2015. And then it dropped to about 400 per year…and then in 2020 it really kind of fell off so only 215 licenses were sold,” Larson says.

He says the high water on the river could be the reason for the drop off last year. He hopes the increase in the sale of other D-N-R licenses during the pandemic will carry over to paddlefish. “I hope so, you know water levels are down with the drought we’ve been in for about a half a year now. So, river levels are down and that’ll concentrate those paddlefish behind those wing dikes where they like to hang out in the wintertime even more,” Larson says. “Barring any big snowstorms and a lot of winter runoff — we should have a pretty good year.”

While the number of licenses purchased last year were down — he says those who did get a license had success. Larson says they send out a survey and more than 50 percent of those who responded said they got a fish. He says there are a lot of reasons to try catching a paddlefish.

“Paddlefish meat is very, very good, people consider it a delicacy, so they are very tasty,” according to Larson. “It is also an opportunity to harvest a very large fish. The state record paddlefish is over 100 pounds. We do see quite a few fish that come in over the slot length limit that you can’t keep kind of to protect that breeding population. So if it is less than 35 inches you can keep it and if it is over 45 inches you can keep it — so anything from 35 to 45 to have to release.”

The paddlefishing method is also something different as it involves snagging the fish. “It’s an active type of fishing — you are not just sitting there waiting for something to bite — you are actually physically pulling up on a pretty large pole with some pretty good weight on it,” Larson says. The licenses are sold through January 7th. A resident license sells for 25-50 and you must also have a valid Iowa fishing license. For more information, go to the DNR website.

New task force in Des Moines to promote urban farming

Ag/Outdoor, News

December 23rd, 2020 by Ric Hanson

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A new task force in Des Moines will promote urban agriculture and other measures in hopes of bolstering resources for residents with limited access to healthy diets. The Des Moines Register reports that City Council members unanimously approved the food security task force Monday. The seven-member group will work on a volunteer basis with city officials to promote urban farming, research and recommend potential policies and create an online resource guide.

The guide will offer information about where to find tools, compost, seeds, laying hens, honey bees and other supplies.


Cass County Extension Report 12-23-2020

Ag/Outdoor, Podcasts

December 23rd, 2020 by Jim Field

w/Kate Olson.


Sunnyside Park roads will be closed for the season, beginning Dec. 23rd

Ag/Outdoor, News, Sports

December 22nd, 2020 by Ric Hanson

Atlantic Parks and Recreation Department Director Bryant Rasmussen reports, beginning Wednesday (12/23) at 10:00 am, the Sunnyside Park Roads will be closed for the winter. The main road to the Park House will remain open as well as the rest of the park. The Parks Dept. thanks you for your cooperation, and hope you get out and enjoy the parks over the winter months.

No ice skating this year in Atlantic; Kayaks & canoes may be available in the near future

Ag/Outdoor, News

December 21st, 2020 by Ric Hanson

The Coronavirus pandemic has pulled the plug on ice-skating for this Winter, in Atlantic. Parks and Rec Director Bryant Rasmussen told the Parks Board Monday evening, that the tarp for the basketball court is ready to go, but the Board voted to cancel unrolling the tarp and filling it up with water, waiting for Mother Nature to freeze it.

They cited the unknowns with the COVID-19 proclamation and lack of use in past Winters as reasons why there will be no ice skating this year. Rasmussen said if there was no pandemic, they would have had the tarp rolled out already. But with the threat of another proclamation extending the current public health emergency, they would have had to spend time draining the tarp and putting it back into storage.

On bright note, Rasmussen said he checked with a major sporting goods store and looked into purchasing four kayaks and three or four canoes, as well as life jackets, which could be rented out to persons wanting to use them at the Schildberg Quarry lakes for fishing, or other such activities. The equipment would cost roughly $5,000, and hopefully be offset through the use of grants and donations. Rasmussen is in the process of researching grants, and will come back to board when he has more solid backing through those types of funds.

Also, and update to the Atlantic Parks and Rec website is slowly making progress. The good news, is that shelter reservations are being incorporated into the website, and well as ways for people to donate funds for future parks department endeavors, should they want to do so. Reservations for one of the five City Park shelters (Camblin, Kiddie Korral, East and Cedar Park shelters and the downtown City Park Shelter), will available online, soon.

Rasmussen said Parks and Rec brochures will be available when they are finished, at the Atlantic Area Chamber of Commerce, City Hall, and the Parks and Rec Office at Sunnyside Park. Bryant said they’ve been working on the layout and design for the brochures for the past several months.  The goal is try and promote the department, its recreational programs and more detailed information.  Local volunteer organizations who made the park amenities visibly appealing and maintained will be highlighted in the brochures, as well as various programs that may be sponsored by organizations.

The City’s Trail Network brochures are already available. They, along with Walkability information will be featured in the new brochures, also. Rasmussen said the first run printing of the brochures would probably be around 100 to 500, with the higher amount costing just a few dollars more than a lower printing run.