Northwest Iowa — A lot of farmland in Iowa is leased, so a good farm lease is important — that from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

Gary Wright, extension farm management specialist says the annual Farmland Leasing and Value Meetings are coming up. He says the meetings are intended for current and prospective tenants and landlords and will cover fair cash rents and much more.

He says they schedule it that way so that those involved can make decisions after the meetings, but before the September first deadline.

He says the meetings are about two and a half hours long, and participants also get a 100-page book associated with it.

Wright says this year, especially because of COVID-19, they would like you to please call and preregister instead of just showing up.

In our area, the meetings will be on August 5 in the Sheldon City Office Basement Room at 9 a.m. Call O’Brien County Extension to register at 712-957-5045; at the Forster Community Center in Rock Rapids later that same day — August 5th at 2 p.m. — call the Lyon County or Osceola County Extension Offices to register at 712-472-2576 or 712-754-3648; and they’ll be in Orange City on August 18th at 9 a.m., at the ISU Extension and Outreach Sioux County office in the former hospital building downtown. Call that office to register at 712-737-4230.

If you can’t make those meetings, or if another meeting is closer to you, you can register for any session. There will also be sessions in Pocahontas, Cherokee, Emmetsburg, Spirit Lake, Le Mars, Storm Lake, Sioux City, and Spencer. Just call your local extension office for more information or go to and click on the county where you’d like to attend for their contact information.

July 31, 2020 - 4:03 pm - Posted in News

Sioux Center, Iowa — Dr. Manuela A.A. Ayee, assistant professor of engineering at Dordt University, has been awarded a $249,254 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for “Acquisition of a High-Performance Computing Cluster for Interdisciplinary Research and Teaching.” Ayee will serve as the principal investigator for the project, which begins on August 1.

Ayee says this NSF Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) grant will significantly impact research and teaching at Dordt University by funding the acquisition of a new High-Performance Computing (HPC) cluster. The cutting-edge resources offered by this computing cluster will benefit a diverse group of users, including Dordt faculty and students in both STEM and non-STEM disciplines. She anticipates that exposure to the intensive research training opportunities afforded by the new HPC cluster will inspire faculty and students to further pursue interdisciplinary research projects that harness the unique power of high-performing computing.

During the three-year award period of this grant, approximately 50 undergraduate students will receive intensive research training experiences on the new HPC cluster in partnership with faculty mentors, who will engage in research ranging from medicinal chemistry to structural integrity of bridges. In addition, at least 1,500 undergraduate, local middle and high school, and faculty will work with the cluster as part of STEM courses and outreach activities.

Dr. Kristin Van De Griend, assistant director of research and scholarship at Dordt states that often, computing clusters of this caliber are only available at large, research-intensive universities. One of many goals of the STEM departments at Dordt is to attract students from diverse backgrounds into STEM careers, including women and underrepresented minorities. This grant will allow Dordt to have a powerful computing cluster that is accessible to a diverse group of faculty, Dordt students, as well as middle and high school teachers and students in the region.

Co-principal investigators include Dr. Nathan Tintle, professor of mathematics and statistics; Dr. Joshua Zhu, assistant professor of chemistry; Dr. Channon Visscher, professor of chemistry and planetary science; and Dr. Nick Breems, professor of computer science. These and other faculty members will utilize the cluster to facilitate projects and research training opportunities. For example, Ayee, who specializes in elucidating the mechanistic basis of cellular membrane perturbations by bioactive molecules that lead to pathophysiological outcomes, will collaborate with Zhu to employ molecular level simulation techniques applied to computational medicinal chemical analyses of issues related to atherosclerosis genesis and cancer treatment.

Ayee continues to say that the cluster will provide sufficient capacity to meet the growing demands of the interdisciplinary research projects proposed by allowing, for example, calculations that used to run for several days to be completed within a matter of hours.

Northwest Iowa — In the four northwestern-most Iowa counties, ten more COVID-19 cases were reported on Friday, according to the latest statistics from the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Sioux County was up eight at 583 cases. Lyon County was up one at 98. O’Brien County was unchanged at 115 cases and Osceola County was up one at 77.

Less than one percent of residents of Lyon and O’Brien counties have had COVID-19 — both counties at a little more than eight-tenths of a percent. Stats tell us that 1.28 percent of Osceola County residents have had it, and 1.67 percent of Sioux County residents have had COVID-19. The highest density in our region is in Buena Vista County, where very close to nine percent of the population has had it.

As far as active cases, Lyon County has 21, Sioux County has 110, O’Brien County has 25, and Osceola has 15.

Recovery rate:

Lyon — out of 98 cases, 77 have recovered, for a rate of about 79%
Sioux — out of 583 cases, 471 have recovered, for a rate of about 81%
O’Brien — out of 115 cases, 89 have recovered, for a rate of about 77%
Osceola — out of 77 cases, 62 have recovered, for a rate of about 81%

Three deaths have been confirmed in these four counties: One in O’Brien County on June 9th, and two in Sioux County — one reported this Wednesday and one reported last Friday (July 24th).

Total numbers of cases from other counties around the area and their change from the previous report:

Iowa counties:
Plymouth 434, up 7
Cherokee 97, unchanged
Buena Vista 1782, up 1
Clay 168, unchanged
Dickinson 369, up 3

These numbers reflect the 24-hour period of noon Thursday until noon Friday.

July 31, 2020 - 3:21 pm - Posted in News

Lincoln, Nebraska — The new report from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows more Iowa counties now showing dry conditions.

The Iowa DNR’s Tim Hall says the negative outweighs the positive in the report.

He says the state had a little bit of improvement in one area — but mostly the state had degradation or increasing drought in other areas. He says the driest area continues to be in western Iowa, around Carroll, Greene, Guthrie, and Audubon counties and in the partial counties around there. He says there’s a little bit of D-2 drought in Plymouth County up here in northwest Iowa, which just spills into southern Sioux County. He says those two areas are the driest at this time.

Hall says the dry conditions have started to spread to the east, with exceptional dryness as far east as Linn County, and then also along the river. He says about half the state or maybe a little more is shown in some form of dryness and drought.

Hall says the impact of the dry areas can also be seen in satellite images of the crops. He says, “There’s a tool out there called VegDRI — which also comes from the drought monitor folks — and they’re actually looking at visual indications of stress in vegetation. And that VegDRI map lines up pretty closely with where we’ve seen the precipitation deficits.”

He says the good news for the western areas that are dry is the impact right now isn’t hitting water supplies. He says he thinks because of the exceptionally wet couple of years we had coming into this year, that we’re still doing okay on the groundwater side. According to Hall, right now it’s primarily an agricultural surface water phenomenon.

Hall says the precipitation deficit is a concern because we are soon going to be heading out of the wettest months of the year, and could be behind in groundwater going into the winter.

Statewide Iowa —  Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds says Iowa school districts given permission to conduct ALL classes online due to high COVID case counts may only do so for 14 days. Districts will have to AGAIN get state officials’ permission for subsequent weeks.

(As above) “We need to keep our next generation learning, growing and preparing for a bright future and online learning is an essential component of that, but it can’t make up for the critical role our schools play in the development of social and emotional skills,” Reynolds says. 

The governor says online learning also may exacerbate the achievement gap for underprivileged students who don’t have access to high speed internet or the devices necessary to do their schoolwork.

(As above) “After six months of pandemic, there’s also mounting research that shows children are less likely to transmit and contract Covid-19,” Reynolds said. 

School districts may request a temporary waiver to send students home for 14 days and move all instruction online if 10 percent of students are absent AND at least 15 percent of county residents screened for COVID test positive. State Epidemiologist Caitlyn Pedati says districts must notify the state if a child, teacher or school staff member tests positive – and public health officials will notify those who were in close contact to quarantine for 14 days. Pedati defines close contact as being within six feet of the infected person for at least 15 minutes.

(As above) “Was it in a classroom? Was in it transportation — on a bus? Was it during the lunch period or another setting?”she says, reviewing the potential check-list.

Pedati says since the older you are, the more the risk of illness, teachers interacting with other teachers and school staff must be on guard.

(As above) “A safe return to school is going to depend on our communities’ and families’ readiness and this is going to include a commitment to the protective measures that we know can help slow the spread of this virus,” she says, “so that means the consistent use of cloth face coverings when in public, it means socially distancing by six feet whenever possible.”

The governor is not mandating face coverings in schools, but she says the state will help schools acquire masks, if necessary.

(As above) “The Department of Education will be sending out a survey to school districts across the state to find out what their need for PPE is and the state will supply an initial 30-day supply of PPE,” Reynolds says, “and then we’ll continue to work with our AEAs, our school districts and whoever that may be on procurement moving forward.”

Reynolds says she’s fully aware people, especially teachers, are unsettled by the uncertainty of restarting school in the midst of the pandemic.

(As above) “Our teachers are essential to ensuring that our schoolkids return to learn rather than mark time and lose ground,” Reynolds said. “And I know that together we can do this safely and responsibly.” 

The president of the Iowa State Education Association says the governor’s back-to-school guidelines show she has “an outlandish notion” of when it’s safe to reopen schools. State education officials say the forms for districts seeking permission to shift to 14-days of online-only classes will be available online next week. A spokeswoman for the agency says schools will be notified as quickly as possible if their waiver is granted. Iowa’s mandatory school start date law has been suspended and schools may begin the fall semester earlier in August.



July 31, 2020 - 10:13 am - Posted in News

Statewide Iowa — (RI) — The popularity of fishing has surged during the pandemic — and state records show one out of every 10 Iowans now has a fishing license.

Jeff Kopaska works in the Fisheries Bureau at the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

(as said) “We have really good daily sales data back to 2003 and 2020 has had the highest number of license sales through the end of June for any year of our record keeping.”

The state’s fiscal years run from July 1st through June 30th. More than 312-thousand Iowans bought a fishing license during state fiscal year 2020.

(as said) “Last year, in 2019, we only had 230,000 people buy a fishing license,” Kopaska says, “so we’re dramatically up from last year.”

Kopaska says weather and the economy seem to have an effect on fishing license sales. There was a surge in fishing license purchases in 2012, when Kopaska says there was really nice spring weather. There was also a spike in fishing license sales back 2008 and 2009, during the last recession, but not as much as this year.

(as said) “With the coronavirus effect, people have had more free time available to them,” Kopaska says.

Kopaska says it’s hard to convince people who’ve never gone fishing to start, so the Department of Natural Resources has been waiting for this surge in fishing license sales — and is planning a marketing push in hopes of keeping people engaged in the sport.

(as said) “Just getting in touch with people next spring that bought this year and reminding them how much fun they had going fishing and what a great activity it is,” Kopaska says, “and just plant that seed so that hopefully we can get them to continue.”

Louisiana State University is conducting an email survey in Iowa and several other states, asking people to share their experiences about fishing during the pandemic.

(as said) “We’re hoping to learn a little bit more about the demographics and the reasons for why people are going fishing,” Kopaska says. “Are they feeling some economic hardship? Were they going fishing to provide food and sustenance to their families? Were they or are they was it recreational, just a way to escape from the trials and tribulations of life these days?”

The survey wraps up in August and Kopaska expects his agency to get the Iowa results later this fall.

Spencer, Iowa — A Spencer-based organization that helps people with mental issues across northwest Iowa has received a grant to help prevent suicides.

Kim Scorza is the CEO of Seasons Center for Behavioral Health. She tells us about the grant.

(as said:) “We were presented an opportunity to apply for a federal grant back… I believe in March…March or April…and maybe even May. I think was May actually… It was a short turnaround time and one of the things that we’ve been noticing across the country and the feds have been noticing is that there’s an increase in suicide and that was even prior to COVID but COVID kind of exacerbated things. And so we looked at the different types of populations that we’ve seen…individuals being more at risk for the potential for death by suicide and we wrote a federal grant and we were just awarded that grant and it’s $800,000 for 16 months. And we have three subpopulations of the general population that we’re really going to be focusing in on which is domestic violence victims, farmers, and ag-related workers and then also our immigrants and refugees.”

Scorza tells us how the grant will be implemented.

(As said:) “Basically, there’s a couple different components of the grant. One of it is actually to provide direct services to those populations and the general population as well. But then we’re also really going to be focusing on training and educating our mental health providers within our service area and then also being able to really promote prevention. It is trying to reach out to people through media campaigns and things like that to really focus in on — that there is help available and there’s treatment available, and that people can access services and letting people know that there are resources that can help them because one of the things that oftentimes happens is people just don’t know where to go to get help and that they feel really hopeless and so being able to get a broad amount of exposure to people to say there is help available and here’s how to go about doing that as well as training people…more people to have an understanding — what to really look for to help those who are really struggling with thoughts of suicide or who even have acted to attempt suicide.”

According to Scorza, the nine-county area served under this grant includes Buena Vista, Clay, Dickinson, Emmet, Lyon, O’Brien, Osceola, Palo Alto, and Sioux counties. For more information on Seasons’ services, you can visit or call 1-800-242-5101.

Northwest Iowa — In the four northwestern-most Iowa counties, twelve more COVID-19 cases were reported on Thursday, according to the latest statistics from the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Sioux County was up six at 575 cases. Lyon County was up three at 97. O’Brien County was up two at 115 cases and Osceola County was up one at 76.

Less than one percent of residents of Lyon and O’Brien counties have had COVID-19 — both counties at a little more than eight-tenths of a percent. Stats tell us that 1.26 percent of Osceola County residents have had it, and 1.65 percent of Sioux County residents have had COVID-19. The highest density in our region is in Buena Vista County, where almost nine percent of the population has had it.

As far as active cases, Lyon County has 22, Sioux County has 105, O’Brien County has 27, and Osceola has 17.

Recovery rate:

Lyon — out of 97 cases, 75 have recovered, for a rate of about 77%
Sioux — out of 575 cases, 468 have recovered, for a rate of about 81%
O’Brien — out of 115 cases, 87 have recovered, for a rate of about 76%
Osceola — out of 76 cases, 59 have recovered, for a rate of about 78%

Three deaths have been confirmed in these four counties: One in O’Brien County on June 9th, and two in Sioux County — one reported this Wednesday and one reported last Friday (July 24th).

Total numbers of cases from other counties around the area and their change from the previous report:

Iowa counties:
Plymouth 427,up 7
Cherokee 97,up 1
Buena Vista 1781,up 2
Clay 168,unchanged
Dickinson 366,up 2

These numbers reflect the 24-hour period of noon Wednesday until noon Thursday.

July 30, 2020 - 3:30 pm - Posted in News

Orange City, Iowa — The Iowa Department of Public Health and Sioux County Public Health (Community Health Partners) have identified four positive resident cases of COVID-19 at Prairie Ridge Care Center, a long-term care facility in Orange City.

According to the state health department, an outbreak occurs when three or more cases of COVID-19 are identified among residents of a facility. Prairie Ridge is a facility of Orange City Area Health System. Health System CEO Marty Guthmiller tells us the situation is a little complicated.

(as said:) “The IDPH defines an outbreak in a nursing home as three or more positive residents within a 14-day window. The IDPH website, as of today, lists five for Prairie Ridge. What we have figured out is that the five represents one staff member and four residents within that window. And so that’s where we get five. Today we also learned that of the three residents we reported yesterday as testing positive from the rapid test… two of those residents were confirmed positive by the PCR test which is historically, and as of late been the most reliable test. Two of those three rapid tests were confirmed. One of them was not. The PCR came back negative and because PCRs are more reliable, we’re inclined to think that perhaps that resident was not positive. It was a false positive.

So, he says they did another pair of tests on that individual.

(as said:) “That rapid test was negative and the swab for PCR is pending. Right now we’ve had two of three tests for one resident being negative and one positive. If we get the third test back and that’s a negative, we’re going to deem that resonant negative.”

Guthmiller says those residents who are believed to have COVID have been moved to a negative pressure wing, where all air from those rooms comes in, but is only ventilated to the outside of the facility for situations such as this.

Prairie Ridge has notified residents and their families, and consistent with IDPH guidelines, the affected residents are in isolation. Prairie Ridge staff say they are working closely with IDPH and Community Health Partners to protect the health of all residents and staff, with additional testing of residents and staff as directed by IDPH.

Statewide Iowa — A state agency will take “additional steps” to enforce social distancing in Iowa bars and restaurants — and that includes shutting a business down for violations.

The announcement from the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division includes a warning from its director that businesses need to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 — and bars and restaurants that choose not to will face consequences. Businesses are to provide six-feet of social distancing between customers and patrons cannot roam, but must be seated to be served. A bar or restaurant that serves liquor faces a thousand dollar fine on a first offense — a business that just serves food will first get a warning. On a third offense, the state will revoke the operating license for the bar or restaurant.