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Newscast 7.3.2024: 2 FEMA offices now open in flooded NW Iowa towns; Safety stressed for holiday fireworks usage; Iowa group aims for more locally-produced food; Officials take steps to address bird flu

Flooding 2024.jog
Bret Hayworth, Siouxland Public Media News
Flooding in the Okoboji area of the Iowa Great Lakes is shown on June 30, 2024, as water from the north edge of East Lake Okoboji spills northwest onto Isthmus Park land in Spirit Lake, Iowa.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency opened the second of two Disaster Recovery Centers in Northwest Iowa, placing those in two towns heavily hit by flooding in late June.

The first one opened Tuesday in Spencer, Iowa, in order to provide one-on-one assistance for people affected by the recent flooding and storms. A FEMA official said more than 50 people came to the Spencer center within the first two hours.

The second Disaster Recovery Center opened Wednesday in Rock Valley in Sioux County.

Tiana Suber, a FEMA spokeswoman, said recovery from a natural disaster is more of a marathon than a sprint.

"People have lost everything. People are frustrated. People are angry, and they're just searching for answers. So, I'm always trying to let everybody know we're here, come see us,” Suber said.

State officials are saying roughly 2,000 homes were damaged or destroyed throughout Northwest Iowa by flooding.
There is concern about a shortage of housing, especially for Mayor Craig Schmidt of Cherokee. Local emergency management estimated that 70 homes in Cherokee were destroyed by Little Sioux River flooding, and Schmidt doesn’t know where displaced residents will go.

Additionally, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem came to Union County to see flooding recovery for the second time in 10 days. On Tuesday she visited the heavily damaged McCook Lake neighborhood of North Sioux City, and said FEMA teams will be in the area by roughly July 12 at the latest, according to multiple media reports.

*The Iowa Food System Coalition wants to make locally produced food the norm rather than an exception and released a 250-page plan to get there in the next decade.

One of the priorities in the plan aims to make it easier to get food from the farm to the table. This means supporting more local and regional infrastructure – like small-scale processing for specialty crops, grains, dairy and livestock.

Chris Schwartz is the executive director of the coalition. He said more than 40 partners across the state helped shape the plan “to have a food system that is more local, that is more nutritious, that is more environmentally sustainable.”

Strategies include improving farmers’ access to land and expanding incentives to adopt practices that protect Iowa’s soil, water and air.

Schwartz made his comments during an event in Des Moines, which was livestreamed on Facebook.

*In other news, federal emergency funding is now available to dairy farmers who have been impacted by bird flu.

The USDA expanded its ELAP [E-lap] program to help cover lost profits. Milk from sick cows must be discarded.

To be eligible for recovery assistance, producers need a positive test result from the National Veterinary Services Laboratories.

Matt Russell is the executive director of Iowa’s Farm Service Agency.

“This is a support for farmers that are having decreased production because of H5N1, but because it provides that support, it is also, creates that incentive for farmers to get tested,” Russell said.

He said farmers with a positive test should contact their local FSA office. Payments are based on milk production averages for specific months.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig said last week that one state action in response to Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza is that there will be new testing requirements for dairy cattle participating in Iowa fairs and exhibitions.

Through the end of June, Naig said there had been 11 positive cases of bird flu within dairy herds in Iowa. Nine of the cases have been detected in Sioux County, with one case each in O’Brien and Plymouth counties. Iowa has had three poultry cases thus far in 2024.

*With the 4th of July holiday approaching, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services is reminding people to stay safe, especially those who will shoot off fireworks.

The state agency reminds that fireworks are meant to be enjoyed, but can also be dangerous. According to the American College of Emergency Physicians, there are more than 9,000 firework-related emergencies annually. Approximately 36 percent of firework-related emergencies involve children under the age of 15.

Some key tips from the Nebraska agency include lighting only one firework at a time and keeping all flammable items away from children, plus never try to re-light or handle fireworks that malfunction or do not go off. Other tips include not lighting fireworks in containers, never pointing fireworks at people and not standing directly over any firework when lighting them.

The heavily flooded town of Spencer, Iowa, has decided to delay the annual municipal fireworks display to a later date to be determined.

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