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MADISON

Dairy feedlot appeal will proceed in Waukesha, not Madison

The Wisconsin Supreme Court says an appeal in an environmental case involving a large dairy feedlot should be heard in Waukesha, not Madison.

The Supreme Court, in a 5-2 decision Tuesday, agreed with the Department of Natural Resources that the proper venue is Wisconsin Court of Appeals District II, not District IV. The ruling clarifies the right of an appellant to select the venue under changes to Wisconsin statutes in 2011.

The case dates from 2012, when Kinnard Farms in Kewaunee County applied to expand in an area where groundwater contamination had created tensions between farmers and non-farmers. The DNR granted the permit. A dispute ensued over the proper venue for the farm's opponents to appeal.

Conservatives typically file in the appeals court in Waukesha, located in the most conservative part of the state, rather than in Madison, a liberal stronghold.

The appeal on the merits of the case will now proceed in District II.
 

ST. PAUL, MN

Minnesota farmers plan to plant more soybeans than corn

Minnesota farmers are joining with other farmers across the country in planting more soybeans than corn this spring.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says Minnesota farmers intend to plant 7.9 million acres of soybeans this year, compared with 7.5 million acres of corn.

That would be Minnesota's lowest corn acreage since 2006, and a 7 percent decrease from last year. The projection for soybean acres represents a 3 percent decline from 2017, when Minnesota farmers also planted more soybeans than corn.

Soybeans have been more profitable than corn lately.

Minnesota sugarbeet producers intend to plant nearly 423,000 acres, up slightly from 2017.

The USDA also projects a 38 percent jump for Minnesota spring wheat to 1.6 million acres and a 35 percent increase in oat acres to 230,000.

ALEXANDER, N.D.

Man killed after being pinned between trailer and fence

Authorities say an 89-year-old man was killed after he was pinned between a livestock trailer and a fence post in northwestern North Dakota.

The North Highway Patrol says a 33-year-old Jacob Heen was backing up a tractor and trailer to a fence to load cattle in a pasture Friday morning, March 30, near Alexander.

Troopers say the victim sustained serious injuries after being pinned and was transported to a Montana hospital where he died.

The man's name has not been released.

MUNCIE, IN

Officials end fight against 10,000-hog farm

Officials in a central Indiana county are dropping their fight against a proposed 10,000-hog farm after threats of legal action since a state agency has approved the project.
The Delaware County commissioner had put a hold on building permits for the farm in the northern part of the county.

The (Muncie) Star Press reports the Indiana Department of Environmental Management recently approved plans for the confined animal feeding operation. That's despite concerns from residents over possible well water pollution and the farm field application of manure produced in the site's four barns.

Project opponent Perry Evans told county commissioners Monday he was disappointed with their decision. He says one of the barns will be 1,000 feet from his front door and that the project will change his life.

DES MOINES, IA

Governor signs law allowing health plans that skirt ACA

Iowa will allow people to buy a cheaper form of health insurance that skirts Affordable Care Act rules, under legislation signed into law Monday by the state's Republican governor.

The law will allow Iowa's Farm Bureau to partner with a designated insurance company to offer so-called health benefit plans that technically aren't defined as insurance. The plans, which won't be regulated by the state, aren't required to cover "essential health benefits" like maternity care and mental health. They don't have to offer protections to people with pre-existing medical conditions and can implement annual limits on coverage.

Gov. Kim Reynolds said the legislation is about providing relief to people who have seen their health insurance premiums spike in recent years. Many of those individuals do not qualify for subsidies that have helped others offset those costs.
Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the partnering insurance company, said the plans will be competitive.

HASTINGS, MN

Minnesota watershed uses wood chips, wetlands to treat water

Watershed experts are using wetlands and wood chips to try and reduce nitrate runoff in Vermillion River and other Minnesota waters.

Runoff from local farms has polluted the waters, Minnesota Public Radio reported. High concentrations of nitrates can give adults headaches and cramps, and cause life-threatening blue baby syndrome in infants.

Nitrate levels in groundwater near the river's mouth in Hastings have risen over the past two decades, despite local farmers trying to curb runoff. Recent tests in one of the river's branches detected nitrate levels at more than twice the safe drinking-water standard.

Vermillion River Watershed experts have created a 3-acre artificial wetland with more than 1,000 cubic yards of wood chips mixed into the topsoil in an effort to filter out those nitrates. There's an additional 5-acre wetland that can be used for overflow when the first wetland is full.

Wetlands are effective natural filters for water, according to a recent University of Minnesota study. The bacteria that grow on wood chips are also useful nitrate filters, said Travis Thiel, Vermillion's senior watershed specialist.

Vegetation will need to grow in the area before the experiment is fully functional. Then water can be rerouted to fill the wetland.

The project is estimated to cost between $200,000 and $300,000 and could last up to 30 years, Thiel said. The watershed organization estimates the project will treat 13,600 pounds of nitrate annually.

If the hybrid treatment method is successful, it could be used more widely at other Minnesota waters, the watershed organization said.
 

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