May 25, 2015 - 8:12 am - Posted in News

Northwest Iowa — Some of the response has not been fast enough. That’s what Senator Joni Ernst and other leaders heard from some of the farmers whose barns have been hit by avian influenza. Ernst had planned to be at meetings in Sibley, Rock Rapids, and Sioux Center but due to late votes on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement and an extension of the Patriot Act in the Senate, she was only able to make the Sioux Center meeting.
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Congressman Steve King, and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey were at all the meetings, as were local legislators.

One of the producers said that there have been dumpsters full of birds producing an odor and attracting millions of flies — sitting on his property for four weeks. He says he’s been told several times that they would be taken care of “soon”. Some people also worry that flies could transmit the virus, but Congressman King says research is leaning toward that being unlikely.

Some turkey farmers near Cherokee have banded together and have started composting birds on their own instead of waiting for government crews. But that brings up the issue of compensation.

Ag Secretary Northey says the problem is that no one expected an outbreak this large. He says the size is unprecedented.

Another big question is when the barns that held the infected birds can be re-populated, says Northey.

He says options being considered include fumigation and “shrink wrapping” the barn and heating it to the point that the virus couldn’t survive.

According to Northey, there may be another phase where producers put what he calls “sentient birds” into a facility to see if it’s disease free. He says these birds would probably be layers that were close to the end of their egg-producing stage anyway.

Northey says experts still don’t know how the virus is spreading, except that it arrived via wild birds. He says the truth is, we may never know whether it’s spreading via foot traffic, truck traffic, dust, dander, feed, or another method. In fact he says it may be spreading many ways.

Representative John Wills says people also have to remember the economic ripples this outbreak is going to have.

We asked Wills if he had any solutions to the economic impact. He says right now, they’re just trying to get through the initial disaster stage. He says they talked about a response through the Legislature, but decided that the best thing to do would be to let the disaster funds kick in.

Congressman King says the main things they are working on right now are on-site incineration of birds, disinfection with heat, and the possibility of a federal insurance program for poultry producers. He says the producers will be receiving indemnification payments because the USDA requires them to destroy healthy birds to prevent the spread of the disease.

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May 23, 2015 - 9:42 am - Posted in News

Northwest Iowa — As the response to and cleanup of the bird flu continues, disposal — specifically having enough disposal options available to deal with the quantity of birds that have been euthanized, has become a huge issue.
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We talked with Iowa Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig about the disposal of the birds. He tells us the current situation.

Naig says the goal is to decrease the amount of time that it takes to clean up. He says that not only makes turnaround faster for the facilities affected, but also stops the spread of the virus quicker.

He says different kinds of birds are being disposed of in different ways in Iowa.

But he says chickens are not composted in the buildings.

Naig says the Northwest Iowa Solid Waste Agency Landfill near Sheldon and another landfill in southwest Iowa are the only two landfills that are taking the chickens.

Naig says when it warms up, that should help stop the virus, plus depopulating and disposal of infected flocks quickly will help stop the spread as well. He says biosecurity needs to be stepped up as well.

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May 23, 2015 - 9:41 am - Posted in News

UPDATE: Senate business has concluded and Senator Joni Ernst will attend the town meeting in Sioux County at 1:45 pm on Saturday to discuss the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in addition to other topics.

Representatives from the Senator’s office will host the other two meetings in Lyon and Osceola counties on her behalf. In addition, the guests below are still confirmed to attend.

These town meetings are open to the public.

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Northwest Iowa —  U.S. Senator Joni Ernst says she’ll do everything in her power to attend the town meetings she has set up in Osceola, Lyon, and Sioux counties this Saturday, May 23rd to discuss the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI). However, due to pending votes in the Senate, she now says it’s unlikely that she’ll be able to make it. The town meetings, which are open to the public, will still be held. Members of Ernst’s staff will attend, whether she’s able to attend or not.
Ernst
The Senator’s staff (and hopefully Ernst herself) will start the day at 9:30 AM at Cooperative Energy at 1708 Pierce Avenue at Sibley.  At 11:15 AM, they will be at the Rock Rapids Public Library at 102 South Greene Street in Rock Rapids. At 1:45 PM, it’s on to Sioux Center for a meeting at the De Yager Student Activities Center in the Campus Center on the campus of Dordt College at 498 Fourth Avenue Northeast.

Confirmed guests at the Sibley and Rock Rapids appearances will be Congressman Steve King, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, State Senator David Johnson, and State Representative John Wills.

At the Sioux Center appearances, will be King, Northey, and State Representative John Kooiker.

Ernst tells us why this issue is important to her and to the state.

Ernst says she’s interested in hearing from people whose lives are being affected by the outbreak.

Last week, Ernst and Senator Grassley sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack encouraging the USDA to ensure that resources have been properly deployed to Iowa to fight the ongoing outbreak of HPAI.

If your browser or device cannot access the audio players above, here are the direct links to the audio sound bytes:

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May 20, 2015 - 4:21 pm - Posted in News

George, Iowa — Eleven people were overcome by fumes of some kind on Wednesday afternoon at a chicken confinement between George and Boyden.
Ambulance Front Generic
According to Lyon County Sheriff Stewart Vander Stoep, the call came in about 2:40 PM, for eleven people experiencing symptoms such as vomiting, headaches, blurred vision, and respiratory problems at 3902 260th Street. That’s about five miles south of George, or 11 miles north of Boyden, and a mile west on A52.

The sheriff says that the people were washing the walls after a bird flu outbreak. He says they originally thought the gas was anhydrous ammonia, or ammonia of some kind, but the workers said that their gas masks should have protected them from that.

We are told that about half of those who were overcome were taken to hospitals in Rock Rapids and Sheldon.

The Sheriff says the George Fire Department was on the scene late Wednesday afternoon checking oxygen levels in the building.

The Sheriff says the investigation continues.

May 20, 2015 - 4:03 pm - Posted in News
First section of 24 inch steel pipe

The first section of 24-inch steel pipe being installed

Washington, DC — Minnesota’s senators continue to push for funding for the Lewis and Clark water system.

Democrat U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken have introduced a bill to invest in rural water projects in order to address delays and complete construction. The Authorized Rural Water Projects Completion Act would establish a guaranteed annual investment of $80 million from the Bureau of Reclamation for 20 years to fund the construction of six Congressionally-authorized rural water systems, including the Lewis and Clark project. When completed, the Lewis and Clark Water System will cover a service territory of more than 5,000 square miles and provide drinking water to 300,000 residents and businesses in southwest Minnesota, northwest Iowa, and southeast South Dakota.

Franken says that communities across the region have in good faith paid their full share to fund this project, and they’ve been waiting “far too long for the federal government to do the same”. He says this bill will help fund projects like Lewis and Clark, and that he’ll keep fighting for funding until the Lewis and Clark project is completed.

Ongoing construction of 14 inch PVC pipe

Ongoing construction of the 14-inch PVC pipe

Funding under the Authorized Rural Water Projects Completion Act would complement existing appropriated funds. The 2015 Energy and Water appropriations bill provided $47.2 million spread across the Bureau of Reclamation’s rural authorized water projects, but current funding is insufficient to complete the projects in a timely fashion.

For more information, click here for the news release on Senator Franken’s site.

Meanwhile, Lewis and Clark Executive Director Troy Larson says that Carstensen Contracting of Pipestone is making good progress on the pipeline to Luverne. He says they started construction in February on the 23 borings for the highway, stream and railroad crossings between the Iowa border and Luverne. The contract includes 5.9 miles of 14-inch PVC pipe and 12.7 miles of 24-inch steel pipe. He says Carstensen started installing the 14-inch PVC pipe in early April and plans to have it all in the ground by late May. The first section of 24-inch steel pipe was installed on May 12. Weather permitting, Luverne is expected to begin receiving Lewis & Clark water in December. The City has reserved 821,000 gallons a day.

May 20, 2015 - 2:09 pm - Posted in News

Sheldon, Iowa — Some of the dead birds from the bird flu outbreak will be buried near Sheldon.

The Northwest Iowa Solid Waste Agency Landfill north of Hospers will be accepting truckloads of euthanized birds at its facility.

Landfill Compactor (generic file photo)

Landfill Compactor (generic file photo)

We talked to landfill director Larry Oldenkamp, and he says they signed a contract on Tuesday, May 19th to accept four million pounds of dead birds from flocks that were destroyed after Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza was found in the flock. He says the birds will be placed in large bags, and then loaded onto roll off dumpsters for transport to the landfill for disposal.

The birds will be kept separate of other refuse, and will be buried in a segregated area of the landfill, he says. According to Oldenkamp, the bird carcasses will be transported by a USDA contractor, along pre-approved routes.

He says trucks moving the birds will be disinfected at the poultry barn, they’ll be kept separate from other traffic at the landfill, and then the trucks will be disinfected before they leave the grounds as well.

May 18, 2015 - 4:13 pm - Posted in News

WErnstashington, DC —  U.S. Senator Joni Ernst will host town meetings in Osceola, Lyon, and Sioux counties this Saturday, May 23rd to discuss the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in addition to other topics. These town meetings are open to the public.

The Senator and her staff will start the day at 9:30 AM at Cooperative Energy at 1708 Pierce Avenue at Sibley.  At 11:15 AM, she will be at the Rock Rapids Public Library at 102 South Greene Street in Rock Rapids. At 1:45 PM, it’s on to Sioux Center for a meeting at the De Yager Student Activities Center in the Campus Center on the campus of Dordt College at 498 Fourth Avenue Northeast.

Representatives from other offices and organizations have also been invited to join the town meetings. Their participation has not been confirmed, however.  They include the offices of:

  • Senator Chuck Grassley
  • Congressman Steve King
  • Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey

And representatives of:

  • Iowa Egg Council
  • Iowa Poultry Association
  • Iowa Farm Bureau
  • Iowa Turkey Federation
  • Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture

Last week, Senators Grassley and Ernst sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack encouraging the USDA to ensure that resources have been properly deployed to Iowa to fight the ongoing outbreak of HPAI.

May 18, 2015 - 9:12 am - Posted in News

Sibley, Iowa — A George man will serve time behind bars after he was found guilty of a number of crimes.

jail behind bars

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The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office reports that 28-year-old Joseph Lee Daggett of George was found guilty last week of of the crimes of Theft in the Fourth Degree, a Serious Misdemeanor; Eluding, an Aggravated Misdemeanor; False Imprisonment, a Serious Misdemeanor; and Assault with a Dangerous Weapon, an Aggravated Misdemeanor.

On the Counts of Theft and False Imprisonment, Daggett was sentenced to a year in the Osceola County Jail. The fine and surcharge were waived. He was ordered to pay court costs, restitution of attorney’s fees and a surcharge of $125.

On the counts of Eluding and Assault with a Dangerous Weapon, Daggett was committed to the custody of the Director of the Iowa Department of Corrections for a term not to exceed two years.

These sentences were imposed concurrently with each other but consecutively to the other counts.

May 17, 2015 - 8:16 am - Posted in News

Ocheyedan, Iowa — A Slayton, Minnesota woman has been arrested on several charges after a traffic stop.
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The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office reports that they arrested 29-year-old Sheila Marie Wilson of Slayton last week. The arrest stemmed from a traffic stop northeast of Ocheyedan. 

Wilson was charged with Operating While Intoxicated – 3rd Offense, Possession of a Controlled Substance – 3rd offense, and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia.  She was also issued a citation for Speeding. 

During the traffic stop Wilson was found to have an outstanding warrant in another county as well. 

Wilson was booked into the Osceola County Jail and released after posting a $5,000 bond.

The Osceola County Drug Recognition Expert assisted with the investigation and arrest.

May 14, 2015 - 2:14 pm - Posted in News

Harris, Iowa — Several hundred hay bales went up in smoke on Wednesday afternoon into Thursday morning in a fire on the Osceola/Dickinson County line near Highway 9. Personnel from six fire departments assisted at the scene.
Rotating Light FS Wheeler
The initial call went out around 4:00 PM on Wednesday, May 13th. When firefighters got there, they found about 350 bales on fire near a building. Fire officials say they had to break down every bale and spray them with water. Firefighters were able to save the building.

Fire officials say the cause of the fire was a nearby burning rubbish pile.

No injuries were reported.

Firefighters from Harris, Lake Park, Melvin, May City, Ocheyedan and Milford fought the fire.