San Francisco, California (ABC) — The verdict has been delivered in a landmark case that could have effects that would change the entire agriculture industry.

A California jury has decided that Monsanto knew about the health hazards of its Roundup weed killer when it was used by 37-year-old Dewayne Johnson. Johnson was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma after spraying Roundup weed killer for two and a half years and sued the company, saying Roundup caused his cancer. The jury recommended Monsanto pay Johnson over 289 million dollars in total.

Johnson wept as the jury sided with him.

The lawsuit was the first to go to trial among hundreds filed in California and in federal courts claiming Roundup causes cancer — a claim that the maker, Monsanto, denies. Jurors say the company should have provided a warning label of the health hazards.

The specific products named were “Round Up Pro” and “Ranger Pro.”

Johnson is reported to have hugged his attorneys after hearing each of the verdicts read aloud by Judge Suzanne Ramos Bolanos in a San Francisco Courtroom.

Judge Ramos Bolanos announced the award given by the jury.

She then thanked the jury:

Johnson expressed his gratitude at the over a quarter-of-a-billion dollar outcome.

Johnson’s attorney Mark Burton commented on the decision.

Meanwhile, Monsanto attorney George Lombardi says the chemical has been proven safe.

Farmers around the world are concerned about the outcome of this case and others like it, wondering if it could spell the beginning of the end for Roundup. Most farmers in our area use “Roundup Ready” corn and soybeans — seeds that grow crops that have been engineered to be resistant to Roundup — so that the weed killer can be sprayed on the field to kill weeds but not the crops.

Rock Rapids, Iowa — If you are headed to Ellsworth, Minnesota from our area — or if you’re headed north out of Lester toward Hills or Steen, Minnesota anytime in the next two months — you might want to pay attention.

Those county roads are going to go under construction next week, according to the Lyon County Engineer’s Office. Lyon County Engineer Laura Sievers says that Lyon County Road L14 (formerly Iowa Highway 91) between the Minnesota State Line and Iowa Highway 9, as well as Lyon County Road K30 between the Minnesota State Line and the Lester city limits will both close on Monday, August 13 for road construction work. She says the roads will be closed until October, weather permitting.

Sievers says that during this closure, traffic will be detoured around the two work zones. Motorists are reminded to drive with caution, obey the posted speed limit and other signs in the work area, and be aware that traffic fines for moving violations are at least double in work zones. As in all work zones, drivers should stay alert, allow ample space between vehicles, and wear seat belts.

She reminds people that if “road closed” signs are placed far enough apart that you can drive between them, it is only legal to drive on the road to get to a destination IN THE WORK ZONE. If your destination is not in the work zone and you travel through the work zone, that is illegal, and they have asked the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office to be on the lookout for people abusing the work zone.

Sievers also says that for your safety, she asks that you use extreme caution when using the route between US Highway 75, IA Highway 9 and the construction projects, and beware of increased truck traffic during the paving process. She says up to 450 loads of concrete per day may be hauled to the construction areas.

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Northwest Iowa — A Storm Lake attorney has been appointed to the Iowa 3A Judicial bench, filling the position vacated by a Spencer man who was previously appointed the the district court bench.

According to a release from the District Court Administrator’s Office, the District Court Judges of the 3A Judicial District met Friday, and appointed  Attorney Andrew J. Smith of Storm Lake to fill the District Associate Judge position vacated by the appointment of Judge Charles Borth, of Spencer to the district court bench.

Smith is currently in private practice in Storm Lake, and is a part-time magistrate in Calhoun County. Smith will start his District Associate position in 30 days.

Judicial Sub-District 3A consists of O’Brien, Osceola, Lyon, Buena Vista, Cherokee, Clay, Dickinson, Emmet, Kossuth, and Palo Alto Counties.

August 10, 2018 - 1:19 pm - Posted in News

Larchwood, Iowa — Five people were taken to Sioux Falls hospitals as the result of a crash on Thursday night near the West Lyon School.

The Lyon County Sheriff’s Office reports that about 9:30 p.m., 41–year-old Melissa Shepley of Bloomington, Minnesota was southbound on Highway 182 in a 2012 Toyota. They report that 16-year-old Julia Bruggeman of Larchwood was driving a 2001 Chrysler Town & Country mini van.

According to the report, Bruggeman was at the stop sign on A26, and then she pulled out from the stop sign and her minivan was struck by the Shepley vehicle.

Shepley and her two passengers were transported to Sanford Hospital in Sioux Falls. Bruggeman was transported to Avera Medical Center and her passenger was taken to Sanford Hospital.

The sheriff’s office report says that both vehicles were total losses.

The Lyon County Sheriff’s Office reports that the Iowa State Patrol, Larchwood Fire & Rescue, and the Lyon County Ambulance Squad assisted them with the response to the accident, which they say remains under investigation.

August 10, 2018 - 11:57 am - Posted in News

Des Moines, Iowa — (RI) — The Iowa Supreme Court heard oral arguments Thursday on the Secretary of State’s request to remove a temporary injunction that has blocked parts of Iowa’s new voting law.

The League of United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC, challenged the constitutionality of three provisions of the law. One of the provisions is the requirement that a ballot can be rejected if signatures are checked and don’t match. The attorney for the state, Thomas Ogden, says there have always been safeguards in place like this.

Ogden says it only becomes a concern when someone waits until the last minute to vote.

LULAC also challenged the move to cut the early voting period from 40 to 30 days, saying it suppressed voter numbers. Ogden says the shorter period did not have any impact on the number of recent primary voters.

Ogden says even after dropping to 30 days, Iowa’s voting period is still one of the longest.

LULAC attorney Bruce Spiva says the changes hurt the organization as they had to spend more money to get people out to vote.

Justice Thomas Waterman asked Spiva why the group why the group didn’t file a lawsuit as soon as the law changed in January, and says it has caused issues for auditors.

He says having the funds to file the lawsuit was one of the reasons they didn’t act sooner. Spiva was asked if the group would have sued in the early voting period had been 50 days and cut back to 40. He says he wouldn’t expect the concern to extend in that case, and says it is more of what voters have been used to for the early voting period.

Spiva was asked there was any evidence that the change suppressed the vote in the June primary election.

He says they are arguing that 88-thousand people voted in the 11-day period relied on the time and the state pulled it away from them. Chief Justice Mark Cady says they understand this is an important case that needs a quick answer and they will try to do deliver one.

Statewide, Iowa — Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says the chairman of the Senate Ag Committee has assured him the 2018 Farm Bill will become law before year’s end.

Iowa’s other U.S. Senator, Joni Ernst, is serving on the conference committee of House and Senate members that are trying to craft a final version of the bill that could pass both chambers.

Grassley was touring the Iowa State Fairgrounds Friday morning, visiting with fairgoers.

Doon, Iowa — The preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board or NTSB regarding the train derailment and crude oil spill near Doon says the track was washed out.
Early on the morning of June 22, 2018, a freight train hauling crude oil from Alberta, Canada derailed 33 cars just south of Doon. The BNSF railroad says it appears ten cars leaked oil for a total of 160-thousand gallons. The original estimate was 14 cars and 230-thousand gallons. Some of the crude got into the Little Rock River. The railroad said that over 100,000 gallons were recovered.

The cause of the derailment had been assumed by many to be related to the flooding that was taking place in the area at the time. The preliminary report just released from the NTSB confirms that the area received five to seven inches of rain during the 48 hours prior to the accident, “washing out track and flooding a tributary of the Little Rock River and farm fields adjacent to the derailment location.”

According to the preliminary report, the train’s speed was not a factor. The speed limit for trains in that location is 49 miles per hour. They say the Federal Railroad Administration has determined that the train was going 48 miles per hour “when the train encountered the emergency brake application.”

The report says the information is preliminary and will be supplemented or corrected during the course of the investigation. It also says that additional investigative work to examine parts removed from one of the tank cars is planned at the NTSB laboratories in Washington D.C. NTSB investigators completed on-scene work in Lyon County on July 10.

August 9, 2018 - 9:23 am - Posted in News

Northwest Iowa — It’s important to call before you dig. We hear it a lot. But people at Iowa One Call are hoping that Saturday’s date — 8/11 — will make you think about calling 811 before you dig.They tell us that six times every hour, damage occurs to underground infrastructure because someone dug without first calling 811.

Seth Hale is a spokesperson for Iowa One Call.

When calling 811, homeowners and contractors are connected to the local one call center, which notifies the appropriate utility companies of their intent to dig. Professional locators are then sent to the requested digging site to mark the approximate locations of underground lines with flags, spray paint or both.

Striking a single line can cause injury, repair costs, fines and inconvenient outages. Hale says that every digging project, no matter how large or small, warrants a call to 811.

He says the depth of utility lines can vary for a number of reasons, such as erosion, previous digging projects, and uneven surfaces. Utility lines need to be properly marked because even when digging only a few inches, the risk of striking an underground utility line still exists.

According to Hale, you can also create a ticket online by going to He says if you need help, the customer service for that site can also be reached by simply calling 811. You can also visit that site for more information about 811 and safe digging practices.

Rock Rapids, Iowa — The new hospital being built in Rock Rapids will soon have an administrator.

The Board of Trustees for Avera Merrill Pioneer Hospital has announced that Craig Hohn has accepted the position as the facility’s administrator.

Hohn will begin the full-time position Sept. 1, and he will help the Board and the Merrill Pioneer Community Hospital Association as the construction of a state-of-the-art replacement hospital and clinic in Rock Rapids continues, according to Merrill Pioneer Community Hospital Board President Jim Vander Woude.

He says that they are excited to welcome Hohn and his family to the community and to the ongoing effort to reshape the future of healthcare in this part of Iowa. He says Hohn’s wide-ranging experience as a leader will serve Rock Rapids well.

Hohn holds a master’s degree in healthcare administration from the University of Minnesota and a bachelor’s degree in business with a health-administration emphasis from The University of South Dakota. He has served as a project leader, administrative resident and fellow, and most recently worked as the director of Service Line Coordination for Avera Health.

Vander Woude tells us how he and the board feel about the announcement.

Avera handled the advertising of the position and received over 40 applications from around the country. Vander Woude says they’ve been paring down that list this spring and summer, and several board members and Avera personnel interviewed the four in early July. Late that month, the two finalists were interviewed in Rock Rapids so they could have a chance to see the community and the facility being built and get a feel for small-town living. Vander Woude says that as with all employees at the new facility, Hohn will be an employee of Avera Health, not of the Association.

Avera Senior Vice President of Managed Facilities Curt Hohman says that Hohn has proven through his hard work and successes with Avera that he’ll be a great facility administrator. He says they had many great candidates and feel they have found the best choice possible.

Hohn himself says, “It’s humbling, yet exciting, to begin this chapter in my career, and I feel honored to have the opportunity to serve with this team as we re-envision the health care of our area through this construction project.” He says he’s joining a “great group of people, and together we will achieve our goals, with patients as our priority in all we do.”

Hohn; his wife Ashley; and daughters, Jaelyn, 4; and Tenley, 17 months; will move to Rock Rapids.

Avera Health will begin leasing the operations of the Rock Rapids community hospital and clinic beginning in May 2019. The $28.9 million building comprises more than 52,000 square feet and is scheduled to open in May 2019. Vander Woude says construction is going well and they continue to run slightly ahead of schedule.

August 8, 2018 - 12:16 pm - Posted in News

Statewide Iowa — (RI) — A new study from the United States Department of Agriculture finds many farms in Iowa, and across the country, are losing money every year, but USDA economist and study co-author says there are a few key variables.

The report finds there are about two-million households that operate farms nationwide and about half of them are losing money year after year. Prager says farmers can make financial moves to off-set those losses, while losing money on the farm can actually help with taxes.

The report shows the smaller the farm operation, the greater the chance of it losing money. Still, Prager says farmers find ways to stay afloat.

Prager says the value of farm assets typically goes up every year and farmers can borrow money against those assets. The agency report found some people farm to supplement their incomes while others press on because they simply enjoy the profession.