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Pesticide buffer zones crop up in other states but none in Midwest

Hundreds of rural schools in Midwest states nestle against fields of corn and soybeans that are routinely sprayed with pesticides that could drift onto school grounds.

Health experts say those pesticides might pose risks to children, and nine states in other regions of the country have been concerned enough to pass laws requiring buffer zones. But states in the Midwest do not require any kind of buffer zone between schools and crop fields and seldom require any notification that pesticides are about to be sprayed, a review of laws by the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting has found.

Serious criminal immigration convictions still infrequent under Trump

The latest available data from the Justice Department show that during November 2017 the government reported 4,758 new immigration convictions.

According to the case-by-case information analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University, this number is down 5.3 percent over the previous month.

‘No Taxpayer Dollars’ for coaches at the University of Illinois? It’s a lie

While taxpayer money doesn’t technically go to pay the coaches’ actual salary lines, taxpayer money does pay for the salary packages for most every UI coach, trainer, and full-time athletic department staff member. That’s because UI athletic department employees are UI employees, so they receive the same “standard university benefits” as all other UI employees.

And benefits for UI employees – health, dental, etc. – are paid for by the state of Illinois. In other words, the taxpayers.

How did the soybean become such a common crop in the U.S.?

This story was inspired by a question submitted at a Listening Post the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting held in August. Stuart Levy in Urbana, Illinois, asked us what would be needed for row crop farmers to switch from corn and soybeans to “something more sustainable.” We dug into that question, which starts with the unlikely circumstances that turned the soybean into a multi-billion dollar industry, and what this history might reveal about the future of U.S. agriculture. 

Pesticide applicators warned Illinois ag officials in 2016 about potential dicamba damage

The warning came from an industry group of pesticide applicators during a December 2016 meeting held to discuss whether the pesticide should be designated as “restricted use,” which means only certified applicators can apply the pesticide. A non-restricted use pesticide can be purchased and applied by anyone and records of application are not required.

Report highlights fears among workers in the meat processing industry

Repetitive motion injuries, amputations and cuts continue to be common dangers that workers in the meat processing industry face, according to a Government Accountability Office report released this month. The GAO also found workers suffer respiratory illnesses from peracetic acid – an antimicrobial chemical – sprayed on meat in processing facilities. In addition, investigators from GAO identified a lack of bathroom access as a major concern among workers – one that workers were afraid to mention to federal labor inspectors at plants for fear of retribution from their employer. The report reviewed the government’s efforts – specifically the Department of Labor’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) – to protect the health and safety of workers in the nation’s animal slaughtering and processing industry, one of the most hazardous industries in the U.S.

Approximately 72 workers were interviewed in Arkansas, Delaware, Nebraska, North Carolina and Virginia. Workers in three of those states said they had suffered negative health effects, such as kidney problems, from delayed or denied bathroom breaks.

Giving away the (wind) farm

Across the windswept Midwest, wind turbine companies — often based overseas for tax shelters — have lobbied for low or non-existent property taxes rates and steep depreciation schedules.

The big losers in the deal? Rural school districts that depend on those property taxes.

In a multi-state reporting collaboration, Flatland, the digital magazine of Kansas City PBS, and the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, an independent, nonprofit newsroom in Illinois, uncover how states like Kansas have given away the wind farm.

Illinois touted as property tax model for wind farms

Illinois’ taxing model for wind energy companies is touted as one of the best in the country, bringing in $30.4 million in property taxes in 2016, according to economic experts.