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NEWS 6.29.23: Drought impacts Midwest, meat packing grants, South Dakota sales tax cut, and more

The middle of the country is extraordinarily dry.

The U.S. Drought Monitor, operated by the federal government and the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, reports that nearly half of Kansas is in either extreme or exceptional drought condition — the highest drought designation.

More than a quarter of Nebraska is in extreme drought, and 13% is in exceptional drought.

Arid conditions permeate Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Missouri and Kentucky.

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor released today shows a large section of eastern Nebraska is experiencing the worst drought category of “Exceptional Drought.” Conditions in northwest Iowa did ease up a little bit with the region seeing anywhere from “Moderate Drought” to the second worse category of “Extreme Drought.”

Crops are feeling the impact. The U.S. Department of Agriculture now rates only half of the U.S. corn crop as good or excellent — the lowest percentage since 1988. Nearly two-thirds of the nation’s corn-growing areas are in drought.

The frequency and intensity of droughts and rainfall are increasing due to burning fossil fuels and other human activity that releases greenhouse gases, according to data from a pair of satellites used to measure changes in Earth’s water storage. The study was published in March in the journal Nature Water.

People in South Dakota will save money on their purchases starting Saturday.

A bill signed by Governor Kristi Noem will lower sales tax rates in South Dakota from 4.5% to 4.2% for the next four years. Noem expressed disappointment that the change would only be temporary.

Some South Dakota lawmakers are calling on their colleagues to convene for a special legislative session to address one of the state's most emotional issues right now: carbon dioxide pipelines and the threat of eminent domain.

The Argus Leader reports some key legislative voices, however, say it would be a waste of time and taxpayer money.

Summit Carbon Solutions and Navigator CO2 Ventures, two carbon capture companies with plans to build what would be the largest CO2 pipeline systems in the U.S., are under the critical eye of legislators and landowners alike due to concerns associated with their projects.

To call a special session for a specific purpose, both the South Dakota House of Representatives and Senate would need to have a two-thirds majority vote from its members to convene.

Smaller meat and poultry operators in 17 states will receive $115 million in grants. The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the funding Thursday. The grants are the latest in a series of awards President Joe Biden's administration has made that are intended to increase meat and poultry processing, benefiting farmers and providing more job opportunities in largely rural areas. The funding includes 10 awards to recipients in 12 states totaling $77 million through a program that finances the startup or expansion of meat and poultry processing plants. The USDA has made five awards totaling $38 million through a processing expansion program that will help independent producers in five states.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary and former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack was back in Iowa today. He talked about ways the U-S-D-A is expanding market opportunities for smaller farms.

He touted a $25-million-dollar grant going towards Cattlemen’s Heritage Beef Company in southwest Iowa. The grant will help the company buy equipment for a Mills County facility that it’s building. The facility will be able to process 1,500 head of cattle each day.

"You think it's going to create jobs, good-paying jobs? Think it's going to support Mills County in southwest Iowa? I suspect so." 

The facility is being built to increase competition in beef processing. Four major companies control most of the beef slaughter across the U.S.