DROUGHT AND FLOODS IN IOWA
Iowa’s soil moisture is ranging anywhere from very wet in the east to very dry in the west. Recently, Area Agronomist Leah Ten Napel pulled moisture samples in her 9 county region, and found all were below typical subsoil moisture levels. The dry conditions were most extreme in Plymouth and Sioux Counties, where moisture levels were 2 to 3 and a quarter inches below average. This was before a two inch rainfall hit Plymouth County two weeks ago. The latest Drought Monitor report, for April 25, showed all of northwest Iowa short of moisture, with most counties in a range of moderate to severe drought. Parts of Woodbury and Monona Counties were in extreme to exceptional drought. The Missouri River is also running quite low right now. Meanwhile, flooding has hit the ten counties along the Mississippi River, due to heavy snow melt from Minnesota and Wisconsin.
SWINE DISEASE BILL
The Iowa legislature is planning to spend an extra 750-thousand dollars to prepare for a possible outbreak of African Swine Fever. Representative Norlin Mommsen of DeWitt says the virus, which causes severe bleeding and death, has killed pigs in the Caribbean Islands.
The Senate has already approved a budget for the Iowa Department of Agriculture that includes 250-thousand dollars toward development of a vaccine and 250-thousand dollars to buy equipment to euthanize pigs. Mommsen says it ensures state officials could quickly respond at the first report of an Iowa herd getting African Swine Fever.
The House is expected to approve the budget bill this week. It includes another 250-thousand dollar boost to the state’s program for responding to an outbreak of a foreign animal disease.
According to the Iowa Pork Producers Association, on a typical day there are about 24 million hogs in Iowa. African Swine Fever is not a threat to humans, but once a pig is infected it is highly contagious to other pigs — and the mortality rate is 95 percent.
Republicans in the legislature have settled on a more than two BILLION dollar Health and Human Services budget that boosts state funding for nursing homes, mental health care and treatment for substance abuse. Senate Republicans have approved the bill and Senator Mark Costello, a Republican from Imogene, says the plan has the backing of the agency and House Republicans. Democrats in the Senate voted against it, arguing the state should provide a pay boost to those who provide in-home care for disabled Iowans AND spend more on the state’s child care assistance program. Senator Pam Jochum (YOH-kum), a Democrat from Dubuque, says the budget fails the working poor. Other Democrats called for extending post-pregnancy care for women enrolled in Medicaid, to try to reduce the state’s high maternal death rate.
A pilot program that will study the effect of providing a monthly basic income on reducing poverty will make its first payments next month to a group of central Iowa residents. The project called UpLift will give 110 people in Polk, Dallas and Warren counties 500 dollars each month for the next two years. There are no restrictions on how the money can be used. Des Moines University is leading the study, and their public health chair, Rachelle Reimer says they will be conducting surveys every six months with participants and will also follow a control group of residents who don’t receive the money to try and determine the impact of this unrestricted basic income . The UpLift participants were randomly selected from six-thousand applicants for the program. Payments begin going out on May 15th.
OVERTIME AT THE LEGISLATURE
The Iowa Legislature is in overtime. Last Friday was the final day that law markers’ expenses are paid. State Representative Tom Jeneary says in his weekly newsletter that there was no floor action on the House floor as budget negotiations dominated activity at the state house. Last week, agreement was reached on four of the thirteen department budgets which make up the total spending plan for the next fiscal year.
State Senator Jeff Taylor of Sioux Center says the House and Senate have come to agreement on the overall budget for the next fiscal year of 8.516 billion dollars. This represents 88.25% of total revenues, and continues to allow lawmakers to provide income tax relief fir Iowans every year. This includes spending an additional 107 million dollars on public k-12 education and additional spending for health care and public safety.
Taylor floor-managed a bill last week which allows Waldorf University students to be eligible for the Iowa Tuition Grant program. Walforf is transitioning from a for-profit institution.
Arraignment is scheduled today in Plymouth County District Court for a Sioux City man charged in a fatal motor vehicle crash last June. 31 year old David Jack Diaz is charged with Homicide by Vehicle and operation a vehicle while intoxicated. Diaz was driving south at a high rate of speed on US 75, when he rear-ended a car that had slowed to turn at county road C70. A passenger in the back seat of the car suffered fatal injuries. 45 year old Ermiohne Hoswa of Sioux City died in the accident. The driver, 22 year old Uzael Abraham of Sioux City was injured. Diaz’s blood alcohol content was .159 percent.
FEENSTRA E15 WAIVER
The Environmental Protection Agency announced it is exercising emergency powers to grant a volatility waiver for E-15 blends of gasoline and 15 percent ethanol. That means consumers will continue to have access to the fuel option that is usually not sold in the summertime.
Iowa Congressman Randy Feenstra has been pushing for year round sales of E-15 for some time
Without the waiver, fuel suppliers would have restricted distribution on May the 1st – today – and retailers would have been forced to stop selling E-15 during the summer beginning on June 1st.
Feenstra says ethanol drives both vehicles and the U.S. economy.
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig released a statement saying at a time when fuel prices are still too high and the4 fantasy of foreign-sourced EV’s continues to attract far too much focus, E-15 remains the lowest-cost and lowest carbon fuel option for over 96% of the vehicles on the road today. Naig says while he’s pleased the Biden Administration is moving forward with this long overdue waiver, he says we need permanent year-round access to E-15 that removes the year to year uncertainty.
IDA COUNTY FATAL
A Denison man died in a two vehicle accident in Ida County Friday morning. The Iowa State Patrol says 59 year old Russell Mefferd of Denison died when an oncoming vehicle driven by 33 year old Colton Claussen of Schleswig crossed the center line of a county road near the Crawford Creek Recreation area., and collided with Mefferd’s vehicle. Mefferd was pronounced dead at the scene. Claussen was injured and was taken to Horn Memorial Hospital in Ida Grove for treatment of injury. It is not clear why Classen’s vehicle crossed the center line. An investigation continues.
WATER QUALITY DEBATE
Republicans in the Iowa Senate have approved a budget plan for the Departments of Natural Resources and Agriculture that includes more money to prepare for a potential outbreak of a foreign animal disease, like African Swine Fever. Senator Eric Giddens, a Democrat from Cedar Falls, says the bill falls short in other areas.
Senator Dan Zumbach (ZUM-bah), a Republican from Ryan, says he met with the D-N-R’s director to shift money within the agency’s budget, to focus on priorities.
The 16 Democrats in the Senate voted against the budget plan. Senator Janice Weiner (WY-ner), a Democrat from Iowa City, says the bill cuts funding for the Iowa Nutrient Research Center at Iowa State University and likely ends its collaboration with the Iowa Flood Center at the University of Iowa. Weiner says it’s University of Iowa staff who’ve been measuring whether water quality projects are working.