Hy-Vee seafood now fully sourced from environmentally responsible producers


A recently constructed Hy-Vee store in New Hope, Minnesota. (Flickr)
A Hy-Vee store in New Hope, Minnesota. (Flickr)
Nick Fetty | February 10, 2016

Hy-Vee Inc. announced this month that it has met its goal of procuring 100 percent of its seafood from environmentally responsible producers.

The Midwestern grocery store chain – which has more than 230 stores in eight states – set the goal in 2011 to procure 100 percent of its seafood from environmentally sustainable sources by 2015. As of December of 2015, “100% of Hy-Vee’s fresh and private label frozen seafood met the goal of being responsibly sourced.”

For this initiative, Hy-Vee partnered with FishWise, an environmental nonprofit that promotes the health and recovery of ocean ecosystems and the people that depend on them through environmentally and socially responsible business practices. Together the two entities have transitioned nearly 5 million pounds of seafood to responsible sources.

Seafood purchased is rated as Green ‘Best Choice’ or a Yellow ‘Good Alternative’ according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program.

Responsible sourcing of seafood is just part of Hy-Vee’s commitment to sustainability which also includes efficient store design, energy and resources conservation, and waste reduction and recycling efforts.

Hy-Vee was founded in Beaconsfield, Iowa in 1930. Today the employee-owned company is headquartered in West Des Moines and has more than 140 stores across the Hawkeye State.

 

On The Radio – USDA announces new initiative for Iowa farmers


U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack during an event hosted by the Great Green Fleet on Jan. 20, 2016. (U.S. Department of Agriculture/Flickr)
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack speaks during an event hosted by the Great Green Fleet on Jan. 20, 2016. (U.S. Department of Agriculture/Flickr)
Nick Fetty | February 8, 2016

This week’s On The Radio segment looks at an initiative by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide farmers and livestock producers with more funding for conservation efforts.

Transcript: USDA announces new initiative for Iowa farmers

Iowa farmers and livestock producers could receive additional funding to implement soil and water conservation practices thanks to a recent initiative by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

In January, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced that USDA will expand access to its conservation programs to include an additional 85,000 acres of sensitive lands in Iowa. Additionally, the initiative will provide more funding for technical assistance and capital improvements and encourage state partners to identify priorities for an improved “watershed-based strategy” for nutrient management.

USDA has invested more than 2-point-2-billion-dollars in Iowa conservation efforts and has helped to enroll more than 4-point-5-million-acres of Iowa working lands in USDA conservation programs since 2009. USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program has led to a reduction of 260 million pounds of nitrogen and 534 million pounds of phosphorus in the Mississippi River Basin between 2008 and 2013.

In addition to protecting farmland, the initiative also encourages the restoration of wetlands and other natural habitats. The initiative also aims to strengthen cooperation between public and private entities working together on conservation efforts.

For more information about this initiative, visit Iowa-Environmental-Focus-dot org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Betsy Stone.

On The Radio – Iowa experienced unusually warm and wet conditions in 2015


Storm clouds roll through Polk County south of near Elkhart in November 2015. (Carl Wycoff/Flickr)
Storm clouds roll through Polk County south of near Elkhart in November 2015. (Carl Wycoff/Flickr)
Nick Fetty | February 1, 2016

This week’s On The Radio segment looks at unusually high temperatures and precipitation levels that Iowa experienced at the end of 2015.

Transcript: Warm fall and winter

While global temperatures continued to set records, Iowa experienced an unusually warm and exceedingly wet winter in 2015.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The United States Department of Agriculture reports that between August 31 and December 31, only 25 days recorded below average temperatures in Iowa. Temps during that period were 5.8 degrees Fahrenheit above normal, the warmest for that period since 1931.

Iowa also experienced by far its wettest December ever in both rain and snow, with a single storm system in mid-December shattering the records set by most winter months since record keeping started in 1873. Grundy Center’s 8.2 inches of precipitation dwarfed its previous December record of 3.7 inches set in 1982, while Des Moines’ 5.4 inches broke its previous record of 3.7 inches set in 1931. This continued a trend of unpredictability in weather patterns – which even included the first ever recorded tornado warnings in December. The heavy precipitation contributed to devastating flooding downstream from Missouri to Texas.

For more information about Iowa weather, visit IowaEnvironmentalFocus.org.

From the UI Center for Global & Regional Environmental Research, I’m Betsy Stone.

University of Iowa professor appointed to USDA task force


University of Iowa associate professor of chemical and biochemical engineering Charles Stanier has been appointed to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Air Quality Task Force. (Brynne Schweigel/CGRER)
University of Iowa associate professor of chemical and biochemical engineering Charles Stanier has been appointed to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Air Quality Task Force. (Brynne Schweigel/CGRER)
Nick Fetty | January 28, 2016

University of Iowa associate professor of chemical and biochemical engineering Charles Stanier has been appointed to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Air Quality Task Force (AAQTF).

Stanier – who is member of the UI’s Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research and also an associate research engineer at IIHR-Hydroscience and Engineering – will serve a two-year on AAQTF beginning in 2016 and ending in 2018. AAQTF is composed of 35 members from 20 different states representing a wide range of fields from academia and government to agriculture and industry.

AAQTF aims to promote USDA research efforts and also identify cost-effective ways to improve air quality in the agricultural industry. Additionally, AAQTF aims to better coordinate activities and resources among USDA agencies and other federal partners including the Environmental Protection Agency.

“The Agricultural Air Quality Task Force is another example of USDA’s continued commitment to developing science-based solutions and conservation measures that not only reduce the agriculture industry’s environmental impact, but in many ways enhance our natural resources through improved agricultural practices,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “Bringing together a variety of perspectives and scientific insights to this task force will help reach solutions to resolve air quality challenges.”

Hongwei Xin, professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering at Iowa State University, served as an Iowa representative on AAQTF prior to Stanier’s appointment. Stanier along with Chris Peterson – who serves on the Board of Directors for the Iowa Farmers Union – are the two Iowa representatives currently on the task force.

AAQTF was formed by Congress in 1996 to address agricultural air quality issues.

ISU researchers study economic productivity of Iowa farmland


A screenshot of the economic productivity of Iowa farmland in 2015. (Iowa Environmental Mesonet/Iowa State University)
A screenshot of the economic productivity of Iowa farmland in 2015 based off of research by agronomists at Iowa State University. (Iowa Environmental Mesonet)
Nick Fetty | January 27, 2016

A team of researchers at Iowa State University recently published a study which found that “significant portions of Iowa farmland consistently produce yields that fall short of the cost of the inputs required to grow crops.”

The study was a collaboration between agronomists at ISU and AgSolver, an Ames-based agricultural services company. Together the researchers examined data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture as well as data from ISU’s annual Farmland Value Survey. The data is available to the public through an interactive map on the Iowa Environomental Mesonet.

The research team estimated that 2.5 million hectares of Iowa farmland lost $250 or more per hectare last year. Additionally, roughly 6.2 million acres (approximately 27 percent of all Iowa farmland devoted to row crops) are expected to have lost $100 or more per acre.

Emily Heaton, an associate professor of agronomy at ISU and co-author of the study, said she hopes the research will provide farmers with alternative ways for re-purposing unproductive land. One alternative she suggested is to plant perennial grasses which can improve soil health, reduce erosion, provide wildlife habitat, and even serve as a renewable source of energy when harvested. Heaton is currently working with officials at the University of Iowa on the Biomass Fuel Project which uses perennial grasses such as miscanthus to power the UI campus.

The article was published earlier this month in the academic journal Environmental Research Letters.

On The Radio – Proposal would use school funding to improve water quality


Iowa governor Terry Branstad during a state budget hearing in Des Moines on December 15, 2015 (John Pemble/Flickr)
Iowa governor Terry Branstad during a state budget hearing in Des Moines on December 15, 2015 (John Pemble/Flickr)
Nick Fetty | January 25, 2016

This week’s On The Radio segment looks at a recent proposal by Iowa governor Terry Branstad that would use funding dedicated for schools to improve water quality across the state.

Transcript: Proposal would use school funding to improve water quality

A proposal by Iowa governor Terry Branstad would use funding dedicated for school building and technology projects to improve water quality in the state.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus

Earlier this month, Governor Branstad announced a proposal that would extend Iowa’s 1-percent sales tax 20 years – to 2049 – while diverting a portion of future sales tax growth for water quality improvement projects. The extension is expected to generate an additional 20-point-7 billion dollars for schools and 4-point-6 billion dollars to improve water quality.

This announcement comes on the heels of a lawsuit between the Des Moines Water Works and three northern Iowa counties. The water utility claims that the counties are not doing enough to prevent nitrate runoff from their fields which eventually enter the Raccoon River, which has forced the Des Moines Water Works to operate additional machinery to remove nitrates from drinking water.

The legislature will likely be looking at this proposal as well as others to address the need for future water quality funding.

For more information about the governor’s proposal visit Iowa-Environmental-Focus-dot-org

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Betsy Stone.

On The Radio – UI grad organizes committee to address water needs for small towns


Matt Wildman leads a committee that focuses on wastewater treatment solutions for small Iowa communities. (KC McGinnis/CGRER)
Matt Wildman leads a committee that focuses on wastewater treatment solutions for small Iowa communities. (KC McGinnis/CGRER)
Nick Fetty | January 18, 2016

This week’s On The Radio segments looks at a University of Iowa graduate who has organized a committee that he hopes will assist small Iowa communities in addressing wastewater treatment and water infrastructure needs. 

Transcript: UI grad starts committee to address water needs for small towns

A University of Iowa graduate has started up a committee that he hopes will make wastewater projects more affordable for small communities.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Matt Wildman – a Project Manager for the Cedar Rapid-based engineering firm HR Green – hosted the inaugural meeting for the Iowa Water Environmental Association’s Small Community Committee last week. Roughly a dozen engineers as well as governmental officials at city and state level were at the meeting to discuss ways that various public and private entities can work together to improve water treatment systems and infrastructure.

Wildman – who holds a master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering from the University of  Iowa – said that he hopes the members of his committee will be able to work with state regulators, city officials, engineers, and others to make wastewater projects more practical for small communities that have limited resources. He said that certain regulations can make these projects especially difficult.

“What I’ve seen occur is that new regulations come down, new permits get issued, and a lot of times this seems to be a shock to these small communities. When they get a shock then they have to figure out how to fund things. There are a lot of communities in the state that are low- to middle-income that are disadvantaged communities and doing a one million to five million to ten million dollar wastewater treatment plant is not within their financial capabilities. So to kind of give them an education of what to prepare for and address that and be ready for those financial impacts as well as look at other technologies that can help bring those costs down.”

For more information about this committee and do find out ways you can get involved, visit Iowa-Environmental-Focus-dot-org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Nick Fetty.