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NEWS 8.16.22: Crop Report, ITT Student Loan Rebates, Dixon County Crash Update, and More

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A Sioux City man has been identified as the motorist killed in a two-vehicle crash in Dixon County, Nebraska Monday morning. The Nebraska State Patrol tells Siouxland Public Media that 49-year-old Anthony Amo’s Honda Civic crossed the center line on Highway 12 outside of Newcastle and hit a semi traveling east. Amo was thrown from the vehicle and pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the semi was not hurt. The crash remains under investigation.

The percentage of Iowa’s corn and soybeans rated good or excellent declined at least 7 points last week, the largest such drop this year amid worsening drought conditions, according to the USDA.

The latest report on Monday said 66% of the state’s corn and 63% of soybeans were good or excellent, down from 73% and 71% a week ago. That’s a fall of 7 and 8 percentage points.

The area of the worst drought is still in northwest Iowa near Sioux City. A new report is due Thursday.

Sioux City did set a daily record for rainfall on Monday with 1.94 inches at the Sioux Gateway Airport. Some spots in the metro area reported even higher amounts.

The Iowa Capital Dispatch reports widespread moderate and severe drought conditions are affecting much of southern Iowa, where the available soil moisture for crops is dwindling. Less than 10% of topsoil and subsoil in southwest Iowa has adequate moisture.

The opposite is true in northeast Iowa, where 90% of the soil has adequate or surplus water.

Although crop conditions have declined significantly this growing season, their ratings are still better than a year ago, and that time, corn set an all-time yield record.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has released a revised proposal for social studies standards in public schools. They would present a mostly shining vision of America’s history after an initial draft of the standards came under heavy criticism last year from both conservatives and Native American educators. The Republican governor claims the new standards are free from “political agendas” and contain an increased focus on Native American history. The new standards emphasize the qualities of America’s founders. Noem selected the 15-member workgroup that crafted the proposal.

Almost one-thousand Iowans will not have to pay back any remaining federal student loans they used to attend ITT Technical Institute. Their debt relief was announced today as part of a nationwide move by the Department of Education.

Since 2019, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller has been working to secure debt relief for former ITT students and says this last piece is long overdue. Moving forward, Miller says students should consider alternatives to a for-profit school.

The total loan amount discharged for Iowa students is $15.7 million dollars and covers money they received from January 2005 thru September 2016, that was the year the school closed its doors.

State auditor Rob Sand says the auditor’s office should serve all Iowans, not just those of one political party. The Democrat Sand told a small gathering at the Des Moines Register Political Soapbox at the State Fair he’s made sure his senior leadership team is represented by a Democrat, a Republican, and an independent. He says all Iowans should feel they’re fairly represented.

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds told a campaign event in May that she wanted her "own" auditor. Sand says his office has issued reports both critical of the governor’s office, and reports that have supported what they’re doing. Sand’s Republican opponent – Todd Halbur – is scheduled to speak at the soapbox on Saturday.

Iowa Democratic Senate candidate Mike Franken of Sioux City says his campaign is about putting country over political party.

In a rain-shortened speech at the Iowa State Fair on Monday, Franken said he is concerned that political divisiveness is causing neighbors with opposing beliefs to lose trust in each other.

People we cannot have this future. We must have a new dawning. We must think differently about things. There’s far more things that make us the same, with the same want and the same wishes, than what separate us.

He is challenging Republican Chuck Grassley who is seeking his eighth term in the U.S. Senate.

Franken spoke at the Des Moines Register Political Soapbox.

The most recent Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll also showed Grassley holding an 8-point lead. But that lead is much smaller than Grassley has seen in previous elections. The last time Grassley won an election by just 8 percentage points was in 1980, his first U.S. Senate election, and he polled above 50% against his election opponents in previous Iowa Polls..

The Iowa Capital Dispatch reports Grassley was also at the state fair Monday, talking with Iowa producers about new legislation on cattle price transparency, and he plans to come back later this week on a visit with former Vice President Mike Pence. But the longtime senator is not scheduled to speak at the soapbox.

He’s one of many Republicans skipping the soapbox this year. There are only three Republican candidates scheduled to speak: Iowa Sen. Zach Nunn, running against U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne in the 3rd district, and candidates for Iowa attorney general and auditor. All three face Democratic incumbents in the November election.

Franken challenged Grassley in late July to a series of four debates. No debates have been scheduled so far.

Whether or not debates happen, Franken said he plans to use the final months before the election to focus on rural and suburban areas where he hopes to win over Republicans and independents. He’s nearing the goal of speaking in all 99 of Iowa’s counties and is making plans to return to places where he can feel a “sea change” coming.

Democratic congressional candidate Ryan Melton says he wants to fix the problems contributing to rural population losses.

Melton is challenging Republican incumbent Randy Feenstra to represent the 4th congressional district. He says his opponent has not done enough to improve the quality of life. Melton says he believes that rural America can draw in more young residents by investing in healthcare, education and raising the minimum wage.

Melton also says he opposes the proposed construction of carbon capture and sequestration pipelines throughout Iowa. He says he doesn’t believe companies should be granted eminent domain to construct a pipeline.

A federally funded program is ending soon that’s helped some 17,000 Iowans stay in their homes with the lights on.

In addition to paying for back rent, the Iowa Finance Authority’s Rent and Utility Assistance Program has higher income barriers, opening it to many more Iowans than comparable rent assistance programs.

Social service officials tells Radio Iowa the challenge will be to find programs that can fill the gap.

The Iowa Finance Authority says the program will stop accepting new applicants at the end of August, following the national trend of dialing back COVID-era assistance programs.

A bee survey around the campus of Luther College in Decorah has found some species that have not been found there before.

Students checked some 1,500 bees in the survey this summer. They identified 55 different species with seven new ones that are usually found in surrounding states.

Once they wrap up the survey, it will provide a good baseline for the bee population.

One researcher was stung once during the survey, and says it was her fault. She says bees are pretty docile, but wasps and hornets are a different story. They are more aggressive.

https://www.radioiowa.com/2022/08/16/bee-survey-at-luther-college-finds-species-not-previously-documented/

News director from Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller:

Former ITT students in Iowa receive $15.7 million in loans discharged

Miller: For-profit school misled students

DES MOINES — Attorney General Tom Miller applauds the U.S. Department of Education's announcement Tuesday to discharge all remaining federal student loans for former students of ITT Technical Institute. The decision means 900 borrowers in Iowa will get $15.7 million of their debts discharged.

Nationally, 208,000 borrowers will receive $3.9 billion in full loan discharges. The action covers all remaining federal student loans that borrowers received to attend the for-profit school from Jan. 1, 2005, through its closing in September 2016. This includes borrowers who have not yet applied for a borrower defense to repayment discharge.

“This is great news, and it’s long overdue,” Miller said. “Our office has worked hard to provide relief for students who were deceived and incurred debts for a questionable education at ITT Tech.”

Federal Student Aid Chief Operating Officer Richard Cordray said: “Today, I am glad to announce the results of our work with Attorney General Miller to hold ITT Technical Institute accountable for cheating so many students out of their time and money. Students who put their trust in ITT were lured by lies about their job prospects and did not get the quality education they were promised. These students now will have their remaining federal student loan debt discharged without needing to take any further action.”

The Education Department also announced that it formally notified DeVry University that it is required to pay millions of dollars for approved borrower defense applications.

In September 2020, the AG’s office secured an agreement to obtain $1.3 million in debt relief for former ITT Tech students in Iowa as part of a settlement involving 48 attorneys general and the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. That settlement was with PEAKS Trust, a private loan program run by the for-profit school and affiliated with Deutsche Bank entities.

In June 2019, Attorney General Miller was part of a $168 million settlement that resulted in debt relief for 18,664 former ITT students. That agreement was with Student CU Connect CUSO, LLC, which also offered loans to finance students’ tuition at ITT Tech.

Sheila Brummer returns to her radio roots as a Reporter/Special Projects Producer for Siouxland Public Media KWIT-KOJI.