Recent editorials published in Iowa newspapers
Des Moines Register. June 21, 2019
Funding conservation trust could help clean up this toilet of a state
Leaders can choose to fund conservation, clean up waterways, spare the Gulf of Mexico and reduce nitrates in drinking water linked to cancer
Iowa is full of feces. Literally.
This state leads the nation in the amount of poop generated, according to research from a University of Iowa scientist.
The problem is not our mere 3.2 million human residents. The problem is the more than 100 million chickens, pigs, turkeys and cattle in agricultural operations. They poop. Iowa is left with waste equivalent to 168 million people — about as many as the third-world country Bangladesh.
The consequences of this leaking diaper of a state extend beyond our borders.
Scientists predict this summer’s Gulf of Mexico “Dead Zone” will span 8,717 miles, the second-largest area on record. Nitrogen and phosphorus — largely from agricultural runoff in the Midwest — make their way into and down the Mississippi River, where excessive algae blooms deplete underwater oxygen levels.
According to researchers at Louisiana State University, low oxygen levels started to appear 50 years ago, when agricultural practices intensified in the Midwest. There have been no reductions in nitrate loading in recent decades.
Perhaps that’s because Iowa has packed more and more animals into confinement operations. The population of hogs has increased 64% since 2002.
The abundance of fertilizers and manure kills marine life. Humans are not safe, either.
Nitrates in drinking water may cause as many as 12,594 cases of cancer a year nationwide according to a new study in the journal Environmental Research. Scientists also estimate some 4,700 cases of babies born with very low birth weight, very pre-term birth or neural tube defects may be linked to nitrates as well.
Iowa was one of four states singled out in the study as having levels of nitrate contamination that could cause more than 10 cases of cancer per 100,000 people. Researchers pointed to studies finding increases in the risk of ovarian, thyroid, kidney and bladder cancers associated with exposure to nitrate in Iowa women 55-69 years old.
Will this finally prompt our politicians to invest in cleaning up Iowa’s waterways?
Sioux City Journal. June 22, 2019
Commendable PlyWood Trail project moves forward
Even casual Our Opinion readers know how important we believe quality of life is to local economic growth and prosperity and how important we believe a connected system of trails for the enjoyment of walkers, runners and bikers is to local quality of life. Members of our editorial board have used this space on many occasions to advocate for trail construction and to applaud efforts taken to expand our metro region’s system of trails.
To these ends, we commend progress achieved by supporters, both private and public, of PlyWood Trail, a proposed $18 million, 16-mile trail between Sioux City and Le Mars, detailed by The Journal’s Bret Hayworth in a page-one story today.
The goal is to build PlyWood Trail in three phases (Le Mars to Merrill, Merrill to Hinton, Hinton to Sioux City) beginning in 2020 and finishing in 2025. A campaign to raise funds for construction and an endowment for maintenance is under way; to date, it’s produced more than $4 million.
“We couldn’t be more pleased with the fundraising efforts so far, but we still have a long way to go,” Ryan Meyer, chairman of the PlyWood Trail Foundation, said in a Plymouth County public announcement of the campaign made in Le Mars in April. “Every dollar we raise has the ability to be matched by both state and federal funds.”
The Foundation plans a similar Woodbury County campaign announcement from 5 to 7 p.m. on July 15 at Cone Park in Sioux City. We encourage anyone interested in learning more about PlyWood Trail to attend the event, visit plywoodtrail.org or visit the PlyWood Trail Facebook page.
Because we share with PlyWood advocates a passion for trails, an appreciation for the many benefits (including economic, health, and safety) they produce and the dream of a tri-state, metro-area system of linked trails second to none, we have supported this project from the start of discussion.
Throughout our metro region, we see, hear and sense appreciation for what we have with respect to trails and enthusiasm for what can be achieved in the future. To their credit, both private and public sectors understand this is a citizen priority and continue to demonstrate, in words and actions, a commitment to growth of the local trail system.
“The PlyWood Trail has great momentum and we’re excited to move forward with our fundraising efforts,” Lesley Bartholomew, a project spokeswoman, told us. “The trail will be a unique feature in Northwest Iowa connecting four communities. It will provide economic development opportunities for those communities and a great place for families to recreate. We know quality-of-life features are important to the citizens of Plymouth and Woodbury counties, and we’re excited to help bring one more option to life.”
Fort Dodge Messenger. June 22, 2019
Attracting new Iowans
State launches effort to address tight labor market
Iowa’s booming economy has produced one of the nation’s best environments for job seekers. The most recent government statistics put the unemployment rate here at 2.4 percent, which means the Hawkeye State is tied for third place among all American states. Our state has been a national leader in keeping unemployment low for many months. That’s an impressive achievement.
Unfortunately, leaders of existing businesses considering expansions and companies contemplating investing in Iowa are concerned that the tight labor market could be an obstacle. Through Future Ready Iowa and other initiatives more Iowans are gaining the skills employers need. Efforts are underway to improve the state’s already excellent labor force participation rate, which currently is 69.1 percent.
Even so, robust further growth may require a larger workforce than can be generated from Iowa’s current population. That’s why state leaders have launched the “This Is Iowa” campaign. The mission quite simply is to get people who live in other states to move here. A website — www.thisisiowa.com — has been created that features content designed to sell Iowa to potential residents. This month a new video has been released that will be used on assorted media. It explains just how appealing a place Iowa is to work and live. The video can be viewed on the website.
The Iowa Economic Development Authority is taking a lead role in this aggressive effort to get the story out about the superb quality of life our state affords.
“The truth is, you can live big in Iowa!” said Debi Durham, director of IDEA. “The video . is a perfect example of how This is Iowa will challenge people’s expectations and increase awareness of the benefits of traveling and doing business here.”
That’s a message strongly championed by Gov. Kim Reynolds.
“Iowa is the best place in America to live, work and raise a family,” she said in a statement announcing this initiative. “This is Iowa will raise awareness to the numerous opportunities that exist to establish careers, raise families and have new experiences. There has never been a better time to tell our story and to encourage both businesses and people to make Iowa their home.”
Plentiful, great jobs and affordable housing make Iowa attractive to folks who currently live in places where one must command a huge salary to be able to purchase or rent a desirable home. Iowa’s superb educational system is also a major draw for families. In many American cities expensive private schooling has become the option parents feel obliged to choose when faced with failing public schools. Here making sending children to public schools remains an excellent decision. Additionally, the state’s private schools are more affordable than in many locales. Deciding to choose Iowa is sweetened by the relatively short commute one must make to a workplace.
Consequently, it isn’t surprising that the governor and state officials have concluded that convincing people to move to Iowa is a feasible goal. Once they learn what Iowa has to offer, closing the deal may not be that difficult.
The Messenger applauds the This Is Iowa campaign. Our state has a wonderful story to tell. If getting the word out can influence more people to make Iowa their home that story will get even better.