Tag Archives: Iowa

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A federal judge has awarded more than $181,000 in legal fees to seven lawyers who successfully fought a 2012 Iowa law that made it illegal to get a job at a livestock farm to conduct an animal cruelty undercover investigation.

Animal rights and civil rights organizations, including the Animal Legal Defense Fund and Iowa Citizens For Community Improvement, sued Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and others over the so-called ag gag law.

In January, U.S. District Court Judge James Gritzner concluded the law violated the constitutional right to free speech. The state has appealed to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Last week, Gritzner approved animal rights groups’ attorney fees, which the state must pay. Additional costs are mounting for the appeal.

Following the defeat of two bills to address 2018 and 2019 disasters on the Senate floor Monday evening, Democrats offered a new plan to address Puerto Rico while Republicans criticized their colleagues for blocking urgently needed aid to other parts of the country.

Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on Tuesday introduced a substitute to the emergency disaster supplemental while the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee addressed the issue at a hearing on the rural economy.

Democrats want more aid for Puerto Rico than the Republicans have proposed. On Monday evening, neither a Republican proposal that contained $600 million in additional food stamp benefits for Puerto nor the House-passed bill that is more generous to Puerto Rico got the 60 votes needed to proceed.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans blamed Democrats for stopping both the aid to Puerto Rico that was in the Republican bill and aid to farmers.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said, “Senate Democrats yesterday blocked a bill that provides much-needed funds for Puerto Rico’s nutrition program, also aid for the 2018 hurricane and wildfires, and thirdly assistance to Midwest states in the midst of a flood crisis.”

“That includes at least Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, maybe other states,” Grassley said.

“Now, the people that voted against it say it was because they care about Puerto Rico. But the bill they blocked takes care of the urgent funding shortfalls there in that commonwealth,” he said.

“Playing politics with disaster aid does a disservice to the people of Puerto Rico and the people of states like Iowa that are suffering right now from these floods,” Grassley said. “Why would these senators want to come to campaign in Iowa when they don’t show sympathy for Iowans suffering from the floods with the vote that they cast last night?”

At a House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the rural economy Tuesday, Paxton Poitevint, the president and CEO of Southwest Georgia Farm Credit in Bainbridge, Georgia, said that while crop insurance, commodity programs and trade agreements are helping, the cotton and nut farmers whose crops were devastated by Hurricane Michael and timber growers in his area “need federal disaster assistance now.”

House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., said at the hearing, “To be honest, I did not think we’d still be sitting here in April without a disaster aid package signed into law.”

Bishop added that he is “extremely frustrated” and “hopeful it will happen soon.”

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., whose district has been devastated by floods, said that as bad as the agricultural losses are now, they “are going to mount.”

Iowa officials estimate about $214 million in agricultural losses and more than $1.6 billion in total disaster losses. Nebraska officials estimate agricultural losses could top $1 billion because of as much as $500 million in livestock losses and $400 million in crop losses, as well as prevented planting challenges this spring. Nebraska officials estimate another $450 million just in road damages. Missouri officials have not released any estimates, but parts of northwest Missouri and southwest Iowa remain underwater.

The Leahy/Schumer amendment totals $16.7 billion and includes $2.5 billion in new funding for disaster-stricken communities in the Southeast and Midwest and restores certain funding for Puerto Rico and other territories.

Leahy and Schumer said, “We cannot pick and choose which American citizens to help in times of crisis. Democrats are ready to stand with all American communities affected by recent natural disasters. We hope Republican leadership will stand with us in this effort.”

The amendment includes increased funding for Community Development Block Grants and grants to help rebuild damaged water systems in Puerto Rico. It also provides Medicaid funding for other territories and mandates that the Department of Housing and Urban Development speed up the release of billions in Community Development Block Grant funding the Trump administration has been withholding from disaster stricken communities.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., whose constituents suffered from wildfires and forest fires in 2018, voted against the Republican bill and said, “In California, the scale of last year’s destruction was unprecedented. Wildfires killed 85 people, destroyed nearly 14,000 homes and burned more than 150,000 acres, including the entire town of Paradise. Recovery efforts are already underway and additional funding is needed to prevent any delay.”

“Tragically, Californians aren’t the only Americans still trying to recover,” Feinstein said. “Victims of recent typhoons, volcanoes, earthquakes, floods, tornadoes and hurricanes, including those that struck Puerto Rico two years ago, are also counting on Congress to approve this funding.

“Congress used to set politics aside after major disasters and help victims in their time of need. Partisan infighting won’t rebuild a single home or school. It’s time we pass an emergency supplemental bill that includes funding for all disaster victims.”

President Donald Trump has said he does not want to provide any aid to Puerto Rico beyond the money for food stamps. Trump called the leaders of Puerto “incompetent and corrupt” and made statements that are factually incorrect, The New York Times reported.

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — In the wake of disastrous flooding in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa earlier this month, officials have created an on-demand webinar to help people deal with the serious health dangers that remain after major flooding.

The Central States Center of Agricultural Safety and Health at the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Public Health collaborated with the AgriSafe Network to create the webinar.

Major safety concerns include chemicals released from barns, homes and other on-farm sources and businesses; contaminated well water; human and animal communicable diseases; and mold.

More farm and ranch flood-related resources are available on the Central States Center website.

https://www.unmc.edu/publichealth/cscash/

As some communities along the Missouri River start to shift their focus to flood recovery after a late-winter storm, residents in two Iowa cities are stuck in crisis mode after their treatment plants shut down and left them in need of fresh water.

Tanker trucks from the Iowa National Guard and a private company are hauling water into Hamburg and Glenwood, said Lucinda Parker, a spokeswoman with Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management. Many evacuated from flooded areas in the southwestern part of the state are staying in shelters or with family and friends in the wake of the flooding and water struggles it has caused.

“The water is starting to go down in communities and they’re looking at how they’re going to start their recovery,” Parker said Wednesday.

Trucks are hauling about 300,000 gallons (1.1 million liters) per day to Glenwood’s water treatment plant from the neighboring cities of Red Oak and Shenandoah, according to the state Department of Natural Resources. Grocery store chains Hy-Vee and Fareway also have provided truckloads of bottled water.

Mike Wells, superintendent of the Hamburg Community School District, said one of the biggest concerns about having no fresh water is staying clean. The school district has coordinated providing buses for residents to ride 25 miles (40 kilometers) to Shenandoah or 10 miles (16 kilometers) to Sidney to shower. A local ministerial society has been picking up residents’ laundry at the school district, taking it to Shenandoah to wash it, and returning it.

“These are the best people. There’s no despair. There’s no giving up,” Wells said.

He said school would resume Thursday because it’s important for children to get back into their routine. He said the first half of the school day will be regular classes, but in the afternoon students will help collect laundry, deliver water, check on older residents and help provide food to those who need meals.

“This is a great opportunity to learn real life,” Wells said.

The surging waters have damaged hundreds of homes in the Midwest and been blamed for at least three deaths — two in Nebraska and one in Iowa. The flooding led to trains being halted in Missouri, creating transportation problems for both people and products. It also has taken a heavy toll on agriculture, inundating tens of thousands of acres, threatening stockpiled grain and killing livestock.

Scientists say climate change is responsible for more intense and more frequent extreme weather such as storms, floods, droughts and fires, but without extensive study they cannot directly link a single weather event to the changing climate.

Flooding hit Hamburg and Glenwood, which combined have about 6,000 residents, after the storm. Hamburg evacuated over the weekend. So did a portion of Mills County near Glenwood. Officials said the communities’ water supplies became compromised.

Water quality suffers during flooding even for areas not directly affected by floodwater. In Des Moines — which gets its water from two rivers that are flooding, though not as much as the Missouri River — levels of ammonia and other contaminants rise during floods. That may require increased use of chlorine to disinfect the water “and a careful balancing act not to overtreat,” said Water Works CEO Bill Stowe.

The water utility that serves about 500,000 central Iowa customers also at times deals with high levels of nitrate from farm fertilizer runoff, but the volume of water has diluted that impact and isn’t currently a concern, Stowe said.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said she would be asking President Donald Trump for an expedited disaster declaration. She said officials in her state were gathering damage estimates first.

National Weather Service hydrologist Kevin Low said during a telephone briefing Wednesday that “major and perhaps historic” flooding is possible later this month at some spots on the Big Sioux and James rivers in South Dakota and northwestern Iowa.

Parker, the state Homeland Security and Emergency Management spokeswoman, said even though southwestern Iowa was hit hardest in the state during this round of flooding, there are concerns of more widespread flooding ahead.

“We’re definitely not out of the woods,” she said, before later adding, “So take this opportunity to get prepared.”

Last week’s bomb cyclone continues to inundate parts of the Midwest with flood waters this week. Following the storm that hit Nebraska the hardest, the flood waters made their way downstream over the weekend to include, Iowa Kansas and Missouri. Multiple levees have been topped or breached, which has swamped farmland and small towns along the Missouri River.

Some areas broke record levels, including those set in the historic floods of 2011 and 1993. The Army Corps of Engineers has reduced water releases from the Gavins Point dam over the weekend, but much of the current problem stems from the saturated Platte River in Nebraska. Still, releases from Gavins Point have been above average since last June, stemming from a wet spring and fall last year. Nearly the entire lower Missouri River, along with the Mississippi River, are included in flood warnings.

Producers are urged to contact their local Farm Service Agency to find information on assistance programs. In addition, the Nebraska Farm Bureau has set up a relief fund and exchange. Details of the fund can be found at www.nefb.org.

Iowa State University researchers concluded from a long-term field study that poultry manure, when applied at a rate to meet crop nitrogen (N) requirements, can reduce nitrate loss and achieve equal or better yields in corn-soybean production systems. This research effort, Long-term Effects of Poultry Manure Application on Nitrate Leaching in Tile Drain Waters, evaluated tile drained field plots over 12 cropping seasons. While this research focused on nitrate (NO­3-N) loss by field-tile drains (typically placed 3 to 6 feet deep), similar trends would be anticipated in Nebraska for nitrate leaching below the crop root zone and the eventual impacts on ground and, possibly, surface water quality.

The research team evaluated four N treatments, including poultry manure application rates of 150 lbs N/acre (PM150) and 300 lbs N/acre (PM300), urea ammonium nitrate (UAN) at 150 lbs N/acre (UAN150), and a control at 0 lbs N/acre (Control) on a tile-drained field near Ames, Iowa from 1998 to 2009. Manure and UAN were typically applied on the same day, typically between mid-April and mid-May. The research was conducted in loam soils with organic matter averaging 3.4% in the top 12 inches. Nitrate-N loss was measured from mid-March to October.

Animal Manures Reduce Nitrogen Transport

Graph of the average (1998-2009) cumulative NO<sub>3</sub>-N loss in response to interaction effects of N treatments
Figure 1. Average (1998-2009) cumulative NO3-N loss in response to interaction effects of N treatments

Take Home Message:  Poultry manure applied at agronomic rates reduces loss of nitrate from the crop root zone as compared to commercial fertilizer and over application of manure.

Average cumulative nitrate-N loss for the UAN150 treatment was significantly greater than nitrate-N experienced by the PM150 treatment (Figure 1). In addition, over application of animal manure (PM300) increased nitrate-N movement to tile drains more than an agronomic rate of commercial fertilizer (UAN150) or manure (PM150). Nitrate losses were highest from March through June (periods of low evapotranspiration rates and high precipitation) and lowest from July through September (low precipitation, higher evapotranspiration, and deeper root zone).

Why? Several factors contribute to the reduced nitrate losses from manure substituted for commercial fertilizer. A review of 141 studies by Xia (et al., 2017) where manure was substituted for fertilizer identified three likely explanations:

  • Slow release of N stored in manure’s organic matter results in N release later in the growing season.
  • Rapid soil microbial growth resulting from manure’s carbon (energy for microbes) immobilizes nitrate-N early in the growing season. This microbial N is released later in the crop growing season.
  • Improvements in soil properties including water stable soil aggregates and cation exchange capacity hold soil mineral N in place.

Similar results for reduced leaching of N from manured fields were observed by Xia (et al., 2017) in a review of 141 manure versus commercial fertilizer comparisons. (See Does Manure Benefit Crop Productivity? Environment?)

Yield and Nitrogen Source

Take Home Message:  Poultry manure demonstrates equal or greater yields than commercial fertilizer when applied at similar N rates.

Manure and fertilizer treatments were applied prior to corn planting in plots maintained in a corn-soybean rotation. On average, corn yield responded to N as follows:

PM300 > PM150 = UAN150 > Control

Soybean yield responded to N as follows:

PM300 > PM150 > UAN150 > Control

Actual yields are summarized in Table 1. The authors state that “The findings from this long-term study show promising results for the use of poultry manure to reduce NO3-N leaching to tile waters and improve yields when compared to traditional UAN application.”

Table 1. Average crop yields1 as a function of N treatment, based on 12 crop-years for corn and soybeans.
Crop PM300 PM150 UAN150 Control
Corn2 177a 161b 155b 92
Soybeans2 52a 49b 42c 36
1Corn and soybean yields corrected to 15.5% and 13% moisture, respectively.
2Values followed by the same letter are not significantly different.

When Does Nitrate-N Leach?

The 12-year evaluation period produced results commonly expected for movement of water to tile drains. Distribution of rainfall during the growing season impacted both water flow and nitrate concentrations. For example, higher than normal precipitation during April and May resulted in higher than normal tile flow volumes, nitrate concentrations in tile flow, and nitrate losses. Wet and dry cycles of weather conditions also influenced annual tile drain water volume and nitrate losses. Limiting the nitrate-N pool in the soil during the spring (when water movement beyond the root zone is common) is important to protecting water quality. Animal manure can achieve this outcome.

The authors also noted that land application of poultry manure according to recommended N rates is an environmentally preferable source of N compared to UAN (and likely other common commercial fertilizers). However, the author’s noted that at the currently accepted N application rate for both UAN and PM, “NO3-N concentrations measured in tile drainage outflow exceeded the EPA requirements for safe drinking water.”

Does This Apply to Nebraska?

Take Home Message:  Poultry manure applied at agronomic rates reduces loss of nitrate from the crop root zone as compared to commercial fertilizer and over application of manure.

The general trends observed by this Iowa study would be expected for leaching losses of nitrate-N from Nebraska corn and soybean fields. Risk of nitrate-N losses is highest prior to planting and during the early growing season. Low evapotranspiration rates, higher precipitation, and the presence of nitrate-N is a recipe for N loss in drain tiles in Iowa and leaching to groundwater in Nebraska.

Similar results are also anticipated for most animal manures. Most slurry and solid manures store much of their N in a slow release organic form and supply sufficient carbon for rapid soil microbial growth following manure application. These properties are important to a fertility product with less risk of N leaching.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Just two months after a federal court judge struck down an Iowa law meant to discourage investigations of animal abuse on farms, lawmakers are pushing another so-called ag-gag measure that opponents say would likely land the state in court again.

Civil rights and animal welfare groups expressed surprise that Iowa Republican lawmakers would try to pass another law and potentially invite more lawsuits even as the state appeals a ruling regarding the current law. Legal bills for that case have likely already cost taxpayers more than $200,000 and continue to mount as the state appeals the case to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The new bill would create a trespass charge for those who use deception to gain access to a farm to cause physical or economic harm, with a penalty of up to a year in jail. It also allows for a conspiracy charge that carries a similar penalty.

The bill has the support of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry, Iowa Corn Growers Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association.

Sen. Ken Rozenboom, the Republican who will manage the bill on the Senate floor, said this measure is more narrowly focused than the 2012 law struck down by the court. That law was approved following high-profile undercover investigations by animal welfare groups who videotaped practices they claimed were abusive toward animals and then publicized the images.

Rozenboom, a hog producer from Oskaloosa, said the new bill more clearly states the intention of perpetrators is to use deception to harm the farming operation.

Lawmakers said they studied Judge James Gritzner’s Jan. 9 ruling and drafted this legislation to make it similar to laws in other states that have been upheld by courts.

“They worked very hard to make sure they crafted a bill that at least in some other states have passed muster in their courts,” said House Speaker Linda Upmeyer. “We tried to stay very focused on biosecurity and keep it very tightly reined in so that it would withstand a court inspection.”

Rozenboom said producers are concerned about animal diseases being introduced to farms by an undercover investigator, and Iowa needs to have a way to discourage them.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, which helped represent animal welfare groups in the lawsuit, is lobbying against the new bill, arguing it also violates constitutional free speech protections.

“It has not passed the House or the Senate and we will continue to lobby the Legislature hard to make them understand these concerns. If it were to pass, the governor were to sign it, we’ll figure out next steps,” said Daniel Zeno, the group’s policy director and lobbyist.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund, one of the groups that sued the state over the 2012 law and has fought similar laws in several farm states, criticized Iowa lawmakers for pushing forward with another bill.

“This statute is unconstitutional and we’ve done five of these suits and we’re prepared to do a sixth,” said Matthew Liebman, the group’s director of litigation. “We’d much rather this doesn’t pass and we could save our resources for other cases that protect animals but these things are a true threat to public information and animal welfare.”

The group points out state taxpayers have had to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars defending the laws. Utah was ordered to pay $349,000 in plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees and costs in addition to the state’s own lawyer fees, and the case in Idaho cost $260,000 in plaintiff fees.

Documents in the Iowa lawsuit show attorneys for the animal rights groups are seeking just over $200,000 for their fees, which don’t include the state’s own litigation costs and the cost of future appeals. The judge hasn’t yet ruled on whether to approve the amount sought.