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25 Additional Deaths, 648 New Cases Of COVID-19 Reported Friday

Daily Digest

Friday, February 26

2:37 p.m. – Miller-Meeks meets with coalition of immigrants and immigration advocates

U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks met virtually with undocumented immigrants and advocates Friday and listened to their accounts of family separation and economic struggle.

The coalition, which included Bishop Thomas Zinkula of Davenport, urged Miller-Meeks to support comprehensive immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented.

“We would like to…for this to stop,” says Modesta Mateo Pedro, whose husband was deported. Mateo Pedro spoke through an interpreter. “We don’t want this to happen to other families where they’re separated. That day in the office when they took my husband, I was left alone. I felt like it was a joke on me. I didn’t know what to do.”

Opposition to legal and illegal immigration has been an animating issue in the GOP under the leadership of former President Donald Trump. But Miller-Meeks told the advocates she does want to see bipartisan action on immigration reform.

12:15 p.m. - Rep. Hinson says she will vote against U.S. coronavirus aid package

A ruling that the $15 minimum wage provision cannot be included in the U.S. Senate’s coronavirus aid bill will not change 1st District Rep. Ashley Hinson’s opposition to it.

The way forward for the wage increase in the Senate is unclear, but it is still part of the House version of the bill. Hinson says she plans to vote against the stimulus package on the floor Friday, despite significant public support for the aid.

“For me, again, I’ve been hearing from Iowans on the road,” Hinson says. “This would be an opportunity and job killing provision, and I just can’t support that.”

The package would further extend unemployment benefits and send another round of direct payments to Americans.

While the state has seen signs of economic recovery, scores of Iowans struggle to pay bills and thousands have left the workforce during the pandemic.

10:45 a.m. - Changes to Paycheck Protection Program has made it easier for Iowa’s minority-owned businesses to secure funds

The Biden administration changed some rules for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which has made attaining funds easier for some minority-owned businesses in the region.

The Greater Quad Cities Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has already seen how the changes have affected small, minority-owned businesses. The Biden administration started a 14 day period specifically for PPP applications from businesses with fewer than 20 employees.

“What's going to happen is it's going to allow these small businesses, nonprofits and self-employed individuals to remove any access restrictions in their way and receive the financial support their business needs,” says Janessa Calderon, the executive director of the chamber.

The Chamber will hold bilingual sessions later this month to further help small, minority-owned businesses access PPP funding. Only seven percent of the first round of PPP payments went to Latino-owned businesses.

10:25 a.m. - Bill that would cut Iowa unemployment benefits advances through state House and Senate committees

A bill advanced by Republican lawmakers this week would reduce state payments to unemployed Iowans.

It proposes less money for unemployed Iowans with multiple dependents, requires claimants to wait a week to receive benefits and to take a new job that pays significantly less than their old one. The bill also cuts the period of time that someone can receive benefits if their workplace closes permanently.

Republican supporters say the changes will keep the unemployment trust fund sustainable.

“That will last us generations into the future, that treats unemployed workers fairly and generously and recognizes that employers are the ones funding the system and need a predictable, sustainable system,” says Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig.

Democratic lawmakers say it is cruel to cut benefits when there is still so much economic uncertainty during the pandemic.

“A person with three or four children ought to get a little bit more than somebody that only has one. Their expenses are greater,” says Bill Dotzler, D-Waterloo. “And in this bill, you get rid of that.”

The bill passed the House and Senate Labor committees and would take effect next summer if signed into law.

10 a.m. - 25 additional deaths, 648 new cases of COVID-19 reported Friday

Thursday, February 25

4:05 p.m. – Vilsack’s USDA priorities include pandemic response
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack says pandemic response is one of his top priorities as he enters office. He says about 350 U.S. Department of Agriculture employees are engaged in vaccine work. “We have veterinarians who are administering vaccinations in a number of states that authorize that. We have a number of forest service personnel who are who are experts in incident control, working to create opportunities for significant vaccination testing.”

Vilsack says other priorities include working on the SNAP program, workforce development and looking for ways to improve farm income, including through initiatives connected to climate change.

3:39 p.m. - Mother and son facing charges for alleged role in siege on U.S. Capitol granted pretrial release
The mother and son from central Iowa facing charges for their alleged role in the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6 were back in federal court Thursday.

A Washington D.C. district judge has granted pretrial release to Deborah Sandoval and Salvador Sandoval Jr., though they face travel restrictions and other conditions.

The Sandovals face multiple federal charges, including violent entry and disorderly conduct. Salvador Sandoval is also accused of interfering with law enforcement officers that day.

So far, a total of four Iowans have been charged in connection with the deadly riot.

3:38 p.m. - Reynolds announces new vaccine locator website
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds says the state will launch a vaccine locator website Friday.

Vaccinate.Iowa.gov will allow people to find vaccine providers nearby, but they will still have to sign up directly with those providers. The announcement comes a week after Reynolds announced she canceled a contract to develop a centralized vaccine sign-up system.

Reynolds also says that starting March 8, Iowans age 65 and older who are struggling to get vaccinated will be able to call 211 to have a navigator schedule an appointment for them.

“It’s important that Iowans understand that this service is only for adults aged 65 and older who are truly in need of scheduling support,” says Reynolds.

In the meantime, navigators will start reaching out to some seniors to make appointments. Navigators will ask only for the person’s name, birth date and county of residence—NOT social security numbers or insurance information.

Reynolds also announced that vaccinations for essential workers and Iowans with disabilities will start in early March.

3:38 p.m. - Reynolds estimates that 70 percent of eligible Iowans should receive a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by mid-March
Reynolds says she expects 70 percent of Iowans currently eligible for a vaccine to have received at least one dose by mid-March. Next in line are essential workers in areas like food processing, manufacturing and distribution, as well as Iowans with disabilities and the staff caring for them. That group could be 70 percent vaccinated by early April.

IDPH vaccination timeline
Iowa Department of Public Health
The IDPH has released a new timeline for vaccinations across eligible groups.

“But I want to reiterate that projections are just estimates, and these are intended to provide Iowans with a sense of how long it will take to vaccinate each population and when vaccine (sic) could open up further,” says Reynolds. “They’re not hard dates, and some areas of the state will be able to transition to their next eligible population more quickly than others.”

The federal government is increasing its vaccine shipments to states, but demand is still far greater than supply. Reynolds also says the state will soon release new resources for helping Iowans to find vaccine appointments.

3:10 p.m. – Iowa House panel advances education bill, but school choice question is still up in the air
An Iowa House panel has advanced an education bill that includes some proposals favored by Gov. Kim Reynolds, but which leaves out the school choice programs she has championed this year.

The bill expands a tax credit for tuition and textbooks. It would also extend the deadline for open enrollment in some cases.

It does not address charter schools or private school vouchers, but House Speaker Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, says those proposals have not been ruled out.

“I think there still is that interest within the caucus when it comes to parental choice,” Grassley says.

Grassley says House Republicans will decide how to approach other parts of the governor’s bill next week.

The Iowa Senate passed the governor’s school choice package about one month ago.

1:53 p.m. – Iowa House advances bill that would fine tech companies for removing content, de-platforming users

A bill advancing in the Iowa House would fine tech companies up to $100,000 for removing content or de-platforming users without explanation.

Tech companies have been more aggressive in addressing misinformation online, but many Republican lawmakers claim the process is biased against conservative views.

Rep. Jon Jacobsen,R-Council Bluffs, says that was the main concern he heard at a recent town hall.

“The number one issue, and the people were piping hot mad about it, was the de-platforming and the censoring of our citizens on social media and in educational institutions,” says Jacobsen.

A related bill in the Iowa Senate would end tax incentives and government contracts for tech companies that remove content.

Gov. Kim Reynolds did not weigh in on the proposals when asked about it at a press conference Thursday, but said she understands lawmakers’ frustration.

1:49 p.m. – Iowa lawmakers advance governor’s controversial renewable fuel standards bill

Iowa lawmakers have advanced the governor’s renewable fuel standards bill out of the Senate Agriculture Committee, even though they say it needs changes.

The controversial bill would require gasoline with ethanol and biodiesel-blended fuel at almost all fuel pumps in Iowa, and it would allow just one pump at each site to sell gasoline with no biofuels. It also would extend tax credits for retailers.

Committee Chair Dan Zumbach, R-Ryan, says the bill is not ready to be debated in its current form, but lawmakers want to keep it alive ahead of an upcoming legislative deadline.

“I’ve been working with all these players, from retailers right up to folks that generate our biofuels,” says Zumbach. “We want a bill so we can sell more biofuels in this state. It is not in the shape or form that is ready for any of us today.”

Zumbach said lawmakers will continue to mold it into an “acceptable form.”

11 a.m. Gov. Reynolds announces timeline for expanded vaccine eligibility, new website at press conference

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds Press Conference | February 17, 2021, 11:00 a.m.

10 a.m. 23 deaths, 653 new cases of COVID-19 reported Thursday

Wednesday, February 24

11: 32 p.m. – GOP-Backed Bill that would make changes to Iowa voting laws heads to the Governor’s desk

House Republicans have given final approval to a bill that would give Iowans less time to vote. The bill is on its way to the governor’s desk for final approval.

Early in-person voting and the mailing of absentee ballots would begin 20 days before Election Day, instead of the current 29. Mail-in ballots would be due by the time polls close, instead of a week later. And polls would close at 8 p.m. instead of 9 p.m. on Election Day.

Rep. Jennifer Konfrst (D-Windsor Heights) says moving up the deadline for absentee ballots to count would disenfranchise some voters.

“Iowans’ freedom to vote shouldn’t be dependent on whether or not a ballot cast on Monday arrives at the auditor’s office on Tuesday,” says Konfrst. “Iowans’ freedom to vote shouldn’t be left to chance.”

Rep. Bobby Kaufmann (R-Wilton) says voting will be easy, even with all these changes.

“This protects Iowans’ right to vote, and it adds certainty and security to it,” Kaufmann says. “This bill does not suppress one single vote.”

The changes will take effect immediately if Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds signs the bill into law.

4:31 p.m. - Woodbury County health department holds mass vaccination clinic
About 1,500 people got their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Sioux City Wednesday.

Those who are currently eligible to receive the vaccine booked appointments in advance.

Siouxland District Health Department’s Tyler Brock says vaccine demand is still high. He says a mass clinic like this can help meet that demand a little. “We know it's not enough. We know there's more people out there still that want vaccine and haven't been able to get it. But we also are starting to see more and more people actually cancel their appointments because they're getting vaccine somewhere else.”

This was the fourth mass clinic at the Tyson. University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics has also been holding large scale vaccination events.

3:34 p.m. - Iowa Board of Regents adds to free speech policies on the state’s public university campuses
Recommendations adopted by the board Wednesday include annual training and a statement on every course syllabus that students will not be penalized for sharing their views.

Regents president Mike Richards says students and faculty on campus should expect to disagree. “What should not happen is preventing another person or group’s opinion from being expressed or threatening those opinions with possible repercussions.”

The Regents’ action comes as Republican state lawmakers take up proposals aimed at what they view as bias against conservative views at state universities.

Those proposals include banning tenure and surveying faculty on their political preferences.

2:29 p.m. – U.S. House to vote on coronavirus relief package – and minimum wage increase – later this week

The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote later this week on a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package backed by President Joe Biden.

The bill includes an effort to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, which poses a major hurdle in the Senate. The only Democrat in Iowa’s congressional delegation, 3rd District Rep. Cindy Axne, backs that move. Axne says she plans to vote for the relief package and that it’s time to raise the minimum wage.

“I know $15 overnight wouldn’t work in certain parts of our state though,” says Axne. “I do want to make sure that we phase an increase in over a period of time so we don’t hurt those small businesses and some of those industries. I would look to some tax credits for those businesses if we can make that happen.”

Iowa’s three Republican members of the House do not support the $15 an hour minimum. Fourth District Rep. Randy Feenstra says it would cause Main Street businesses to shut down.

2:28 p.m. – Rep. Axne calls on Gov. Reynolds to implement centralized vaccine system

A member of Iowa’s congressional delegation is calling on Gov. Kim Reynolds to put in place a centralized COVID-19 vaccine system. Vaccine distribution is up to the states. U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne says the process has been troubling for many of her constituents in Iowa’s 3rd congressional district.

“The governor needs to step up and get a process in place,” Axne says. “We need mass vaccination sites. We need to be able to call a hotline number and then get sorted out to the appropriate locations and be put in queue then for your vaccination so that you know you’re on a waiting list.”

Reynolds announced last week that the state had scrapped plans with Microsoft for a centralized vaccine registration system. Reynolds, a Republican, said it would have caused disruptions.

1:58 p.m. – UIHC to forge ahead with plan to build $230 M hospital in North Liberty

The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC) intends to forge ahead with a plan to build a new, $230 million hospital in North Liberty, despite a rejection from a key state board last week.

The State Health Facilities Council declined to issue a certificate of need for the proposed hospital, which would offer inpatient and emergency services.

Speaking to the Board of Regents Wednesday, UIHC Vice President for Medical Affairs Brooks Jackson said it is not uncommon for proposals to be denied multiple times before being approved.

“We will continue to give 100 percent effort to make the case for this project for the people of Iowa, just as we gave 100 percent effort to ensure we could meet the needs of our community, to protect our state’s hospital from collapse against the weight of a terrifying COVID surge,” Jackson said.

The council is slated to release a formal report on its decision, after which the UIHC may file an appeal.

1:00 p.m. – Bill to ban tenure at Iowa’s public universities advances in the state legislature

Republicans in the Iowa legislature are advancing bills that would ban professors from getting tenure at Iowa State University, the University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa. If these bills become law, Iowa would be the only state that doesn’t have tenure at its public universities.

Legislators who support the move say it is about protecting the free speech of conservative students, who they say are being silenced, and making it easier to fire faculty.

There are no groups registered in support of these bills, and the colleges say it would make it harder to recruit and maintain faculty.

12:36 pm. – Tech companies would lose tax breaks in Iowa under bill advanced by state Senate subcommittee

Companies like Facebook and Google could lose tax breaks in Iowa under a bill advanced Wednesday by a state Senate subcommittee.

The bill would prohibit cities and counties from providing incentives to tech companies that remove online content.

Sen. Jake Chapman (R-Adel) says he is upset that social media sites sometimes block conservative content. He says the bill creates consequences if that continues.

“They can continue with all of the policies they have administered thus far, but Iowans aren’t going to foot the bill for it,” Chapman says.

Tech industry representatives say content is taken down when it is harmful or obscene.

Opponents of the bill say it would shift investments by tech companies away from cities in Iowa such as Altoona, where Facebook has a large data center.

10 a.m. - 15 deaths, 721 new cases of COVID-19 reported Wednesday

Tuesday, February 23

4:59 p.m. – Iowa Senate passes elections changes bill
Iowa Senate Republicans have passed a bill that cuts the time allowed for voting by mail, early in-person voting and Election Day voting.

Early in-person voting and the mailing of absentee ballots would begin 20 days before Election Day, instead of the current 29. Mail-in ballots would be due by the time polls close on Election Day, instead of a week later. And polls would close at 8 p.m. instead of 9 p.m.

State Sen. Jim Carlin (R-Sioux City) repeated false claims about voter fraud in other states to justify changes to Iowa’s laws.
“Millions and millions and millions of people believe there was fraud. Most of us — in my caucus in the Republican caucus — believe the election was stolen.”

Democrats say Republicans believe that because former President Donald Trump lied to them about voter fraud, and that this bill will make it harder for some Iowans to vote. Courts in multiple states and the federal government found no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

4:15 p.m. – Doug Jensen, charged in attack on the U.S. Capitol, to remain in custody
A Des Moines man facing seven charges for his alleged role in the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6 will remain in custody.

Others connected to the riot have been granted pretrial release, but, at a hearing Tuesday, Federal Judge Timothy Kelly said the release of Doug Jensen would present a “substantial danger” to the community.

Jensen, a QAnon adherent, was among the first rioters inside the Capitol and led an angry mob in chasing a police officer through the building.

Based on the evidence so far, Kelly said he had no reason to believe that Jensen's “interest in revolution” against the U.S. government has come to an end.

3:27 p.m. – Iowa Department of Corrections expecting further overcrowding after pandemic
The director of the Iowa Department of Corrections (DOC) told lawmakers Tuesday that she expects overcrowding issues in the state’s prisons to intensify after the pandemic.

Before the crisis, the facilities were some 20 percent overcapacity on average. Population numbers have fallen since, in large part due a shutdown in the court system.

As courts resume normal schedules, DOC Director Beth Skinner expects those numbers to increase, which she says is concerning.

“There’s a lot pending cases, more than the previous year and we still have people waiting to get in...while we’d love to hold our numbers steady as they are…we believe that those numbers are going to rise.”

The pandemic has added even more strain on the department’s workers. Staffing levels remain hundreds of positions short of what they were during the Great Recession, according to department numbers.

3:24 p.m. Iowa Senate Panel Advances Bill That Would Make It Easier To Discipline School Officials Who Act Against State Law
A bill advanced by an Iowa Senate panel would make it easier to remove school board members if they act against state law. In addition, school superintendents would be subject to stricter discipline by their licensing board.

The proposal would retroactively apply to Des Moines Public Schools, which has been under fire from Republican lawmakers for starting the year online without state approval. Under the Senate bill, which does not name Des Moines Public Schools directly, that would be grounds to recall school board members and to revoke the superintendent’s license.

“I recognize that there’s a lot of great things that are going on in the Des Moines Public Schools, but there’s some kids and parents that are being let down,” says State Sen. Brad Zaun (R-Urbandale). “And I think all this does is just make sure that we fix a system that I think is broken right now.

Opponents of the bill say it would be unconstitutional to increase the penalties for Des Moines school leaders after the fact.

The bill now goes to the Senate Education Committee.

1:46 p.m. – Grassley Applauds EPA Announcement To Grant Fewer Waivers To Small Fuel Refineries
Iowa’s senior U.S. Senator is applauding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for changing its stance on a court decision concerning small refinery waivers.

The EPA now says it supports a federal appellate court’s ruling that it overreached in granting three waivers to small refineries. These waivers excuse the refineries from blending biofuels into their gasoline. The court’s ruling means fewer waivers could be granted going forward.

”The announcement yesterday provided certainty for Iowa farmers and biofuel producers regarding the use of the waivers,” says Sen. Chuck Grassley.

In a statement, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds called the EPA’s announcement an encouraging sign that it supports renewable fuel policy. The Renewable Fuels Association, National Farmers Union and two other groups involved in the court case also praised the announcement.

1:13 p.m. – Polk County health officials: up to 14,000 people may be delayed in getting 2nd dose of Moderna vaccine
Polk County health officials are reporting that as many as 14,000 people who received their first dose of the COVID-19 Moderna vaccine through the public health department may be delayed in getting their second dose.

Officials say the department has received a much higher allocation of the Pfizer vaccine than the Moderna vaccine this month as compared to January. This means it does not have enough doses for all follow-up Moderna vaccinations. The two vaccine brands cannot be interchanged. The CDC recommends that the second Moderna vaccine dose be administered within six weeks of the initial dose.

Polk County health officials say those who are eligible for a second dose will get an email to sign up for an appointment.

More on COVID-19 vaccination efforts in Iowa: Weeks Into Vaccine Rollout, Some Worry Vulnerable Iowans Will Be Left Behind

12:37 p.m. – U.S. citizenship test to revert to previous, simpler form

President Joe Biden has signed an executive order that reverts the U.S. citizenship test back to its previous form with simpler language and fewer questions.

Even though the test is now easier than it was when the Trump administration changed it in December, the back and forth has been “chaotic” according to Gianna Pugliese, a refugee education coordinator at Lutheran Services in Iowa. She helps run a ten-week citizenship class.

“So we have two weeks left in this current citizenship class where we need to stop and tell all of the students everything you've learned over the last eight weeks, forget it,” Pugliese says.

Pugliese says the switch was relatively easy for educators since they can just pull up old material. As for students, she says it has been a slight relief to memorize fewer answers, but they have to change their studying tactics. She also says that telling community partners to forget about the harder test from last year was the most frustrating part.

10:00 a.m. 26 additional deaths and 621 cases of COVID-19 reported in Iowa Tuesday

6:30 a.m. – Bill that would prevent city and county police budget cuts advances
Cities and counties that reduce their police budgets would lose all state funding under a bill advancing in the Iowa Senate.

State Sen. Chris Cournoyer (R-Le Claire) says preventing cities from defunding police is about keeping communities safe.

“Our members believe that these local budgeting decisions need to remain at the local level,” says Robert Palmer, a lobbyist for the Iowa League of Cities, which is opposed to the bill. “This is not about public safety. This is about state imposition into local budgeting decisions.”

The state would continue to provide funding that goes toward law enforcement purposes. The bill has some exceptions, including for communities that reduce their overall budget, or had large one-time expenses the previous year.

No groups have registered in support of the proposal.

Monday, February 22

8:19 p.m. Bill that would shorten early voting window and make other changes to Iowa election law advances
Iowa Republican lawmakers plan to send a bill to the governor’s desk Wednesday that would shorten the early voting period and makes other changes to the state’s election laws.

The majority of speakers at a public hearing Monday were opposed to the bill, which would make a lot of changes, including limiting who can return another voter’s absentee ballot. It would enact criminal penalties for county election officials who don’t follow state guidance.

Janice Weiner of Iowa City says shortening the period for absentee voting will disadvantage snowbirds, domestic violence victims and voters in rural areas.

“Just as Senator Ernst won her election and each of you won yours, President Biden won freely and fairly. The remedy for the big lie of a stolen election is not to take an ax to election laws that worked exceedingly well. It’s simply to tell the truth.”

Law student Emily Russell says she supports the bill because it would stop so-called “ballot harvesting.”

“We need to face the reality that after recent events surrounding the 2020 election, many Americans do not have faith in our elections. If we don’t start taking steps to increase public confidence in the integrity of our elections now, all of us will continue to live in a divided society.”

Some Iowans speaking in support of the bill cited unfounded conspiracy theories about widespread voter fraud as proving the need for these changes. Some opponents of the bill pointed out that many Americans don’t have faith in elections because they’ve been lied to by Donald Trump and some other Republicans about the extent of voter fraud.

The Iowa Senate is scheduled to pass the bill Tuesday, and the House expects to pass it Wednesday.

3:54 p.m. – Iowa redistricting process unknown following announced Census data release delay
How Iowa will complete its legislative redistricting process is “entirely unknown,” a state staffer said Monday, due to an extreme delay in the release of Census data.

The population numbers needed to redraw districts are expected to be released by September 30, weeks after the deadline for Iowa’s general assembly to finish the apportionment.

If the deadline is missed, it’s up to the state Supreme Court to take over the process.

Ed Cook of the Legislative Services Agency told the state’s redistricting advisory commission that at this point he has no idea how that would work. “How they…agree to address that is entirely unknown. And so it’s entirely…at this point we don’t have any idea how legislative redistricting is going to be conducted.”

Asked how the Supreme Court would handle the process, a spokesman said the chief justice can’t speculate or comment on pending or future cases.

1:12 p.m. – New rental assistance program to offer $6.5 M worth of aid to renters in Polk County
A new rental assistance program is open for residents of Polk County. The funds will offer $6.5 million to help relieve financial strain caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Renters are eligible if they have seen a reduced income or increased costs due to the coronavirus pandemic, as well as having a household income at or below 80 percent of the median area income.

“We know, from our experience, that the need is extremely high right now, that we have a lot of families facing eviction,” says Anne Bacon, the executive director of IMPACT Community Action Partnership, which is collaborating with the county to release the funds. “This program can really turn that around.”

Applications are available over the phone and will soon be available online as well. Bacon says they are prioritizing households that are currently experiencing unemployment.

Des Moines and Polk County received the funds from the U.S. Department of Treasury.

10:00 a.m. - 38 additional deaths and 186 new cases of COVID-19 reported Monday

6:40 a.m. – New study finds Midwest can tackle nitrogen pollution from farming without sacrificing crops

A new study finds that many states in the Midwest have the unique potential to reduce nitrogen pollution without hurting crop yield.

Researchers at the University of Vermont set out to identify nitrogen hotspots around the country, which are caused by farming and contribute to environmental degradation. Researchers also took into account social, economic and agronomic factors in order to determine where nitrogen reduction was most feasible. They found that Midwestern states, including Iowa, had the most potential.

“This is something we can do,” says Eric Roy, who co-authored the study. “We can get better at our nitrogen use. It's not a problem that is hopeless. And, hopefully, by taking a more targeted approach, we will have a better chance of success.”

A more targeted approach, Roy says, could ultimately benefit both the farmer and the environment.

Read more about the study from Harvest Public Media’s Dana Cronin.

Sunday, February 21

12:57 p.m. – After record-breaking lows, Iowa to see warmer temperatures this week
Warmer temperatures will settle in across Iowa this week after much of this month has been plagued by bitter cold.

Last week Sioux City saw two days of -28 degree low temps, breaking records from 1936.

But temperatures will be in the 30s to low 40s across much of Iowa this week. National Weather Service meteorologist Brooke Hagenhoff says another stretch of bitter cold does not seem likely in the near future.

“While we can't rule out another really cold spell, just climatologically we're moving into a time of year where that would be a little more difficult to achieve.”

Hagenhoff says this week’s temperatures are more normal for this time of year and adds that last week’s cold was an anomaly. She says the negative temperatures came from a trough, a dip in the jet stream that allowed arctic air from Canada to move into the central United States and as far down as into Texas.

10:00 a.m. - 951 new cases, no deaths reported this weekend in Iowa

On Saturday, 560 new COVID-19 cases were reported by the Iowa Department of Public Health.