August 15, 2018 - 12:40 pm - Posted in News

Northwest Iowa — (RI) — Three northwest Iowa counties are exploring new ways to coordinate mental health services after a series of disagreements.

Sioux, Plymouth and Woodbury counties have shared a state-mandated community mental health system called Sioux Rivers since 2014. Woodbury County officials decided last year to leave Sioux Rivers. Board of Supervisors Chair Rocky De Witt says the county didn’t always agree with the votes taken by the regional board.

Woodbury County is on track to join a region with Sac and Ida counties next July. Sioux and Plymouth counties would need to bring one county in to replace Woodbury County and keep Sioux Rivers running, but at a meeting last week, Plymouth County officials drafted a letter asking to join a nearby region that includes Dickinson and Lyon counties. Plymouth County Board of Supervisors Chair Don Kass says he feels confident in the change after the falling out in Sioux Rivers.

Under the current model, Woodbury County pays about 63-percent of the cost services, but uses about 73-percent. If Sioux Rivers is dissolved, the counties would have to sell the center and distribute the proceeds.

Northwest Iowa — According to a new study, income growth in northwest Iowa is among the fastest in the state.

According to SmartAsset, median base pay for workers in the United States climbed by 1.6 percent in June, which was the strongest growth in the wage statistic so far in 2018. SmartAsset analyzed Census data over a five-year period to determine where incomes were growing the fastest, and three of the four northwest Iowa counties that make up our main coverage area ranked among the top places in Iowa. This metric is part of SmartAsset’s overarching study on the most “Paycheck Friendly” places.

The study shows that the top county in Iowa for income growth is Delaware County (between Waterloo and Dubuque on Highway 20), where it says income growth was 3.8 percent. The next two counties were here in northwest Iowa, where the study says Lyon County income growth was at 3.7 percent, with Sioux County next at 3.3 percent. Down the list just a little bit is O’Brien County at number 8. Income growth in O’Brien County was at 2.7 percent, according to the survey.

SmartAsset says they assumed a $50,000 annual income in every county, then indexed the paycheck amount for each county to reflect the counties with the lowest withholding burden. Next, they created a purchasing power index for each county. Finally, they calculated the weighted average of the indices to yield an overall paycheck friendliness score.

Both Lyon and Sioux counties also rated high in this index with Sioux County having the second-most paycheck-friendly score, behind only Dallas County. Lyon County was third.

August 14, 2018 - 3:26 pm - Posted in News

Statewide Iowa — (RI) — Farmers in Iowa and across the region want quick resolution to the looming trade war due to the negative impact it’s starting to have on their bottom lines.

Speaking in Des Moines, the U-S Ambassador to China, Terry Branstad, says he isn’t sure how long the impasse with China will last.

Branstad, a former Iowa governor, says President Trump is justified in putting tariffs on imports of Chinese goods into the US. He says China is in worse financial condition than the US due to the drop in that nation’s stock market and currency value.

Speaking at the Iowa State Fair, Branstad says it’s unfortunate American farmers have been collateral damage in the trade war and he’s unsure what it will take for China to finally cut a deal with the US.

Branstad says US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has been in talks with Chinese officials over the past two weeks, so the countries are trying to negotiate.

August 14, 2018 - 12:00 pm - Posted in News

Washington, DC — The first part of a three-part farm aid package is scheduled to be rolled out by the USDA in about three weeks.

Spirit Lake farmer, and former Iowa Ag Secretary Bill Northey, the USDA Undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Ag Services, says more details will be out soon on what’s being called a market facilitation program.

Northey says the delay on the program’s details is because they’re still working on the rule-making part of the process.

Northey says they’re trying to make it so producers can certify their production numbers as simply as possible.

Northey also encourages farmers and ranchers to visit that site for more details on the tariff aid package.

That website again is

Northwest Iowa — With the start of school in just a few days, some changes are in store regarding school lunches.

The Iowa Legislature passed, and Governor Reynolds signed — a new law to end the “food shaming” some say is happening in a few Iowa schools.

Many lawmakers said it’s not the fault of the children if their parents failed to pay for lunch at school.

The law says that the school can’t publicly identify students with lunch debt. In bigger cities, this has taken the form of making students with lunch debt sit at different tables, stamping hands or requiring students to wear wristbands, putting students’ names on a poster, requiring them to do chores to get a lunch, and not allowing students with lunch debt to participate in extracurricular or after-school activities. The law bans all of these practices in Iowa.

When the bill was being discussed earlier this year, legislators said that they have found that if a child is hungry, it affects their ability to learn. Some have said that there are children who, just by standing in a lunch line — not knowing if they’ll be embarrassed — causes them so much anxiety that they avoid lunch altogether.

Many legislators said one key provision may help parents who’ve fallen behind on the school lunch tab for their children. Under the old state law, Iowa school officials could only notify parents once a year about enrolling their child in the free or reduced lunch program. Now the law requires them to provide information twice a year and if the student owes for five or more meals.

The law still allows schools to provide an “alternative” lunch to students who are in debt, but that same type of lunch has to be made available to anyone who asks — to avoid identifying a student as having accrued meal debt.

The law focuses only on students. School districts are still able to collect meal debt by any legal means.

The law also allows school districts to set up a special account to which people or community organizations can donate to pay down the meal debt of students in the district.

Also, in an effort to prevent food waste, school districts are encouraged by the law to place the pay station before the area where the meal is received to prevent dumping of food that can’t be paid for.

School districts are making their policies public. For instance, we received a document outlining the details of the hot lunch program at Sibley-Ocheyedan.

Among the highlights there:

All meal purchases are to be prepaid before meal service begins. When their balance reaches $0.00 a student may charge no more than $15.00 to this account. When an account reaches this limit, an alternative meal will be offered to the student. They tell us that their student information system automatically notifies parents of low or negative nutrition account balances.

They also say that the policy and supporting information regarding meal charges shall be provided in writing to all households at or before the start of each school year; students and families who transfer into the district, at time of transfer; and all staff responsible for enforcing any aspect of the policy.

As is the case in the majority of the school districts in northwest Iowa, Free and Reduced Lunch Applications are available in each of Sibley-Ocheyedan’s offices, the central office, and the district’s website. This form may be completed at any time during the school year. Sibley-Ocheyedan officials tell us that means a patron may complete the application whenever there is a change of circumstances.

Maurice, Iowa — If all goes well, a new airport will begin serving the area this fall or winter.

Harold Schiebout, Sioux County Regional Airport board chair says that the airport property continues to be abuzz with activity. He gives us an update.

He says they had hoped to have more of the airport project finished by now, but things are still going well.

He says the fairly decent weather of the last month or so has helped a lot. He tells us what’s been happening lately.

He says they plan to do a grand opening and ribbon cutting at some point, but if the date has to get pushed back very much, they might do that in the spring rather than have people come out in the winter for it.

Schiebout tells us they’ve hired a manager.

He says the old airports will be sold by the cities that own them. He says they’re just getting started with that process now.

The new airport will be almost equidistant between Sioux Center and Orange City, at about four and a half miles from each community. It’s in the section to the southeast of the “Million Dollar Corner” at the intersection of Highways 10 and 75, or a little more than a mile northeast of Maurice.

August 13, 2018 - 2:46 pm - Posted in News

Statewide Iowa — The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is still looking for volunteers to help with its annual wild turkey survey this summer.

The work is pretty simple: while outdoors in Iowa this August, keep an eye out for wild turkeys. If you see one, determine if it is an adult female or adult male (males have beards on their breast), and whether there are young poults (baby turkeys).

Count the number of young, make a note of the date and the county in which you saw the turkey, or turkeys, and then report your sighting online to the Iowa DNR’s Wildlife Bureau at

August 13, 2018 - 11:44 am - Posted in News

Hull, Iowa — Sioux County authorities are seeking information on a hit and run collision in Hull.

According to the Sioux County Sheriff’s Office, sometime overnight Saturday night or early morning hours Sunday, a vehicle struck a 2009 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck, and left the area without reporting the crash.

Authorities say the suspect’s vehicle is likely a 2014 Chevrolet Silverado pickup with damage to its passenger side mirror area.

Deputies estimate the damage to the parked 2009 Silverado at about $8-hundred.

If you have any information about this hit and run crash, you’re asked to contact the Sioux County Sheriff’s Office at 712-737-2280.

San Francisco, California (ABC) — The verdict has been delivered in a landmark case that could have effects that would change the entire agriculture industry.

A California jury has decided that Monsanto knew about the health hazards of its Roundup weed killer when it was used by 37-year-old Dewayne Johnson. Johnson was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma after spraying Roundup weed killer for two and a half years and sued the company, saying Roundup caused his cancer. The jury recommended Monsanto pay Johnson over 289 million dollars in total.

Johnson wept as the jury sided with him.

The lawsuit was the first to go to trial among hundreds filed in California and in federal courts claiming Roundup causes cancer — a claim that the maker, Monsanto, denies. Jurors say the company should have provided a warning label of the health hazards.

The specific products named were “Round Up Pro” and “Ranger Pro.”

Johnson is reported to have hugged his attorneys after hearing each of the verdicts read aloud by Judge Suzanne Ramos Bolanos in a San Francisco Courtroom.

Judge Ramos Bolanos announced the award given by the jury.

She then thanked the jury:

Johnson expressed his gratitude at the over a quarter-of-a-billion dollar outcome.

Johnson’s attorney Mark Burton commented on the decision.

Meanwhile, Monsanto attorney George Lombardi says the chemical has been proven safe.

Farmers around the world are concerned about the outcome of this case and others like it, wondering if it could spell the beginning of the end for Roundup. Most farmers in our area use “Roundup Ready” corn and soybeans — seeds that grow crops that have been engineered to be resistant to Roundup — so that the weed killer can be sprayed on the field to kill weeds but not the crops.

August 10, 2018 - 11:57 am - Posted in News

Des Moines, Iowa — (RI) — The Iowa Supreme Court heard oral arguments Thursday on the Secretary of State’s request to remove a temporary injunction that has blocked parts of Iowa’s new voting law.

The League of United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC, challenged the constitutionality of three provisions of the law. One of the provisions is the requirement that a ballot can be rejected if signatures are checked and don’t match. The attorney for the state, Thomas Ogden, says there have always been safeguards in place like this.

Ogden says it only becomes a concern when someone waits until the last minute to vote.

LULAC also challenged the move to cut the early voting period from 40 to 30 days, saying it suppressed voter numbers. Ogden says the shorter period did not have any impact on the number of recent primary voters.

Ogden says even after dropping to 30 days, Iowa’s voting period is still one of the longest.

LULAC attorney Bruce Spiva says the changes hurt the organization as they had to spend more money to get people out to vote.

Justice Thomas Waterman asked Spiva why the group why the group didn’t file a lawsuit as soon as the law changed in January, and says it has caused issues for auditors.

He says having the funds to file the lawsuit was one of the reasons they didn’t act sooner. Spiva was asked if the group would have sued in the early voting period had been 50 days and cut back to 40. He says he wouldn’t expect the concern to extend in that case, and says it is more of what voters have been used to for the early voting period.

Spiva was asked there was any evidence that the change suppressed the vote in the June primary election.

He says they are arguing that 88-thousand people voted in the 11-day period relied on the time and the state pulled it away from them. Chief Justice Mark Cady says they understand this is an important case that needs a quick answer and they will try to do deliver one.