- Associated Press - Monday, October 5, 2020

Fort Dodge Messenger. October 2, 2020

Iowa farmers help fight dead zone in Gulf of Mexico

Conservation practices will pay off

The Gulf of Mexico is hundreds of miles south of Iowa, but actions now being taken by the state’s farmers will, over a period of years, help to improve that body of water.

The gulf is afflicted by hypoxia, which occurs when too much nitrogen and phosphorous gets into the water. That causes algae to grow like crazy, consuming all the oxygen in the water. The result is essentially a dead zone with no aquatic life in it.

On Thursday, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig gave the Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force an update on what farmers here are doing to address the problem.

He talked about the creation of wetlands that will filter tons of nitrogen from water draining off surrounding fields.

Naig stressed the investment of private sector partners such as Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever and Nestle Purina, which has a pet food plant in Fort Dodge.

He also described the Iowa Systems Approach to Conservation Drainage, a five-year $10 million demonstration project funded by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. It includes the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and 15 other partners. Its goal is to demonstrate the connection between in-field practices that improve soil health and nutrient use efficiency and edge of field practices that further improve water quality. When completed, the project is expected to reduce nitrogen losses by 1.2 million pounds a year and phosphorus losses by 40,000 pounds a year.

Iowa’s farmers have long been stewards of the land, implementing conservation practices that will enable their families to keep farming for generations to come. Now they are becoming stewards of the Gulf waters as well.

These latest developments are part of the proud tradition of Iowa farmers protecting the environment.


Sioux City Journal. October 3, 2020

Anyone can get the coronavirus. Anyone.

The coronavirus doesn’t discriminate.

We learned that Friday when President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump revealed they tested positive for the virus that has run roughshod over the country.

At Tuesday’s debate, the president was quick to chide his opponent, Joe Biden, for wearing masks “all the time” and “hiding out” instead of holding mass rallies.

As much as some don’t like wearing masks (and have filled social media with their rants), they do offer a level of protection. On a very basic level, they point up what an individual can do to be safe and protect others. That simple list – wash your hands thoroughly, avoid crowds, stay at least six feet away from others, wear masks – has proven effective for many, just as health care leaders have said.

Thinking “I won’t get it” isn’t enough. Assume you will and take precautions so you won’t.

Mass gatherings – like the Sturgis bike rally – are an invitation to be exposed. Political rallies and protests are, too.

As much as we don’t like sitting at home, we know take-out meals can give us a semblance of our former lives. We also can go to games and participate in activities – if we maintain boundaries. And we can avoid the dreaded “second” wave if we listen to health experts and play by the rules.


Quad-City Times: October 3, 2020

The task ahead

It’s been a dizzying week for the Davenport School District.

A little more than a week ago, the state board of education voted to take over management of the district. Dissatisfied with how Davenport was tackling a plan to deal with flaws in its finances, special education department and the disproportionate punishment of minority students, the state sidelined district superintendent, Robert Kobylski.

Last Thursday, the state board temporarily replaced him with T.J. Schneckloth, who will be the interim superintendent.

Schneckloth didn’t come out of nowhere. A district employee, he was the interim superintendent after Art Tate abruptly left two years ago.

Still, critics of the district were aghast. Even state board members questioned the idea of tasking an employee of a flawed district with fixing its problems, particularly one who works for the man who’d just been replaced. But state department of education officials don’t believe Schneckloth was part of the problem; they said they thought he did a good job previously and they need someone on the ground to effect change. The state acknowledged Schneckloth’s relative inexperience and appointed mentors from the Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency, which itself has had problems with the state.

To say all this is a perplexing turn of events is an understatement. It is no less so for the lack of communication that has come from the state and the Davenport School Board on this matter. Anybody tuning into last Monday’s local school board meeting looking for an explanation or reassurance was sorely disappointed. One board member threw some unhelpful snark at the state, but any real discussion was lacking.

Some in this district believe Kobylski, who has been dealing with the chaos of a pandemic, was hung out to dry. Others wonder if the state is using Davenport to send a message to other districts that have bucked the governor’s office on returning to in-person classes.

In our discussions with the education department, however, it is clear that after three years of dealing with Davenport, officials there have lost patience. It wants the district to accomplish the goals set out in a mutually-agreed upon, multi-faceted action plan, and officials say the September progress report was significantly flawed.

State officials tell us the district has made progress on the underlying issues. It cut spending, and on Thursday, Amy Williamson, the education department’s point person on this, told us the latest figures show the district has made improvement in reducing the disproportionate suspension and expulsion of Black students. But it’s not yet where it needs to be.

The state has substantive expectations, and this management change will last at least six months.

Schneckloth has a big job ahead of him. But so does the state of Iowa; it now has a much bigger ownership stake in this problem. With control comes responsibility.

State school board members and the education department acknowledged last week a need to communicate with the community. That’s good. The sooner they come here and do it, the better.

The state’s takeover is an unprecedented development, and people here need to know why these specific steps are the right ones. They deserve the chance to ask questions and get answers.

We truly hope Schneckloth and his team are successful. Students and their families, along with taxpayers, deserve no less. All of us need to see a day when the Davenport Community School District resolves its problems, has the cloud of conditional accreditation lifted and finds a path to equity, normalcy and success.


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