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NEWS 8.8.22: Bond Set for Laurel, Nebraska Murder Suspect, Fertilizer Tariffs, Kids Count Survey, Pollock's Mural Returns to Iowa, and More

A judge has set bail at $5 million for a man suspected of killing four people in the small northeast Nebraska town of Laurel last week.

42-year-old Jason Jones would have to put up 10%, or $500,000, to be released from jail while he awaits trial on four counts of first-degree murder, two counts of arson, and four weapons counts.

Police say Jones set fire to two houses, severely burning himself in the process. He remains hospitalized in a Lincoln burn unit.

A Norfolk woman is facing five criminal charges, including three felonies, alleging she helped her teenage daughter abort, burn, and bury her fetus earlier this year.

The Sioux City Journal reports, that 41-year-old Jessica Burgess pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial in Madison County District Court. Her then-17-year-old daughter Celeste Burgess, who is being tried as an adult, also pleaded not guilty to three charges, including a felony.

And a 22-year-old man accused of helping the two bury the fetus pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor and will be sentenced later this month.

Both of Iowa’s U.S. Senators joined their Republican colleagues in voting against the Democrats’ package of climate and health proposals.

Senator Joni Ernst is among the Republicans who unsuccessfully offered amendments to the bill. She offered an additional restriction on the 75-hundred-dollar subsidies for electric vehicle purchases.

Ernst said the critical minerals needed for electric vehicle batteries are mined in areas of Africa where some companies have a history of using child labor

Senator Chuck Grassley offered an amendment to modify the federal tax deduction Americans in high-tax states may claim. Grassley unsuccessfully proposed increasing the deduction for student loan interest and the child and dependent care tax credits.

Grassley also blasted the Senate’s Democratic leader for scheduling votes this weekend after indicating months ago that the Senate would be on recess, forcing Grassley to miss a family reunion he had scheduled. Grassley’s opponent, Democrat Mike Franken, said Grassley should try deploying for a year, as Franken did in the Navy.

Iowa’s Attorney General is calling on President Joe Biden to waive fertilizer tariffs. Tom Miller is joining Farm Bureau, the American Soybean Association, and National Corn Growers in asking the president to lift import duties on phosphate fertilizer products from Morocco.

Miller says while crop prices have roughly doubled during the past couple of years, fertilizer prices are two to four times higher than in September of 2020, according to research from Iowa State University.

A new report has ranked Iowa ninth in the nation for child well-being.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual Kids Count report ranks states on twelve factors divided into four categories: economic well-being, education, health and family and community.

But Iowa’s high ranking can be misleading. That’s according to Anne Discher, the executive director of Common Good Iowa, which partners with the foundation.

For example, Discher says Iowa ranks first in the nation for high school kids graduating on time, but falls behind in other areas.

“We're 21st on the share of young children attending preschool. We're ranked 22nd on the share of fourth graders not reading proficiently, and we're ranked 25th on the share of eighth graders not proficient in math.”

Discher says these rankings should alert state lawmakers to better fund education and other initiatives aimed at kids.

The Iowa Department of Education has received a federal grant to get more local food in schools and early child care centers.

It’s the second time the department has received a two-year grant for the Iowa Farm to school program. The Iowa Department of Agriculture contributes matching funds.

Brenda Windmuller is with the Iowa Department of Education. She says the department will host more training for school workers on food safety and how local food could be incorporated into school lunches.

“Our big thing is that we want to make sure that the public is is aware of what's going on. We want to increase the number of schools that participate in Farm to School initiatives, maybe eliminate some of that hesitation around it.”

The USDA awarded the Iowa Department of Education a $67,000 grant to support its farm-to-school program. The state’s agriculture department will also contribute $25,000.

The 2022 Iowa State Fair starts Thursday. CEO and General Manager Gary Slater says the organization is still recovering financially from the cancellation of the 2020 fair due to the pandemic.

The State Fair lost $13 million when the event was canceled in 2020 but qualified for an $11 million “shuttered venues” grant from the federal government.

Events are held at the fairgrounds every month of the year, and the Fair has nearly 60 year-round, full-time staff members. Attendance was down a bit during last year’s Iowa State Fair, but the 11-day run of the 2021 State Fair turned a $36 million profit.

* For more on the State Fair story click here: https://www.radioiowa.com/2022/08/08/iowa-state-fair-still-in-recovery-after-hit-of-2020-cancellation/

The Iowa DNR is looking for help with its annual wild turkey count.

Officials tell Radio Iowapeople can go to the Iowa DNR website and look for the turkey tab to report sightings. So, far the population has been pretty strong.

Each year the DNR sees 50,000 wild turkey licenses purchased each year — but most hunters never bag a bird. The success rate is 22%. The turkey survey lasts through August.

After a near-decade-long world tour that included a stop in Sioux City, the Jackson Pollock oil painting, simply known as “Mural,” is back in Iowa City and will return to public display later this month.

The director of the University of Iowa’s Stanley Museum of Art says if Mural were a person, its passport would show at least 14 new venues, and it would have earned more than 20,000 frequent flier miles.

Besides being in Sioux City the painting was in Berlin, London, Venice, and Barcelona, in addition to many locations in the United States.

The oil painting was produced in 1943 and measures 8 feet high by 20 feet long. Pollock was commissioned to create "Mural" by legendary art collector Peggy Guggenheim, who donated the piece to the University of Iowa in 1951.

The painting was viewed by more than 2.7 million people after leaving Iowa City on a planned world tour immediately after a flood in 2008. During its tour, Mural was insured for $144 million, although that figure is abstract because the painting is irreplaceable.

The Stanley Museum of Art will reopen on August 26th.

The Pollock is among some 700 works of art in all media by more than 600 artists that will be on display.

*For more on the "Mural" story click here: https://www.radioiowa.com/2022/08/08/jackson-pollock-painting-back-at-u-i-after-long-road-trip/

News release from Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller:

Miller calls on Biden to waive fertilizer tariffs

'Farmers, and the consumers who depend on them, cannot afford a delay'

DES MOINES -- Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller issued the following statement:

“I am joining the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, and National Corn Growers Association in asking President Biden to waive import duties imposed on phosphate fertilizer products from Morocco.

“I’ve talked to many Iowa farmers and ag groups about the impact of high fertilizer prices. It’s critical that the President act as soon as possible, as growers begin purchasing fertilizer in preparation for the 2023 growing season. These farmers have already suffered enough: While crop prices have roughly doubled over the past couple of years, fertilizer prices are two to four times higher than they were in September 2020, according to a study from Iowa State University that I requested.

“More evidence is emerging that these tariffs are unnecessary to protect domestic manufacturers of fertilizer. These tariffs are the result of intense lobbying by Mosaic Co. and resulted in increased concentration of the phosphate fertilizer market in which Mosaic already had a near monopoly. The ISU study shows that from 2018-19 to 2020-21, net income for Mosaic increased 418%.

“I’m grateful that in July, the U.S. International Trade Commission unanimously voted to reject anti-dumping and countervailing duties on imports of urea ammonium nitrate, another critical fertilizer for farmers.

“The trade commission should also reverse its decision to allow the tariffs on phosphate fertilizer products. In the meantime, however, President Biden should use his authority to waive the duties. Farmers, and the consumers who depend on them, cannot afford a delay.

“I remain concerned that manufacturers are taking advantage of higher crop prices to increase their returns. My office will continue to look into the factors leading to the high prices, and I will continue to work with U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who has called on fertilizer makers to avoid taking advantage of the situation.”

The following are previous statements and actions by Attorney General Miller on fertilizer prices this year: