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Rush to attract wind turbine investors leaves Kansas school districts shortchanged

The exemption leaves untaxed for life nearly $630 million in Kansas wind farm equipment, according to the Kansas Department of Revenue. If it were on the tax rolls, that equipment would generate around $82 million a year in additional revenue for the 24 rural counties with wind farms.

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.

Federal tax credits drive foreign wind investment

Investment in U.S. wind energy production has increased tenfold over the past decade with the help of billions of dollars in federal tax help, with foreign companies making up much of the increase.

How Minnesota’s Hmong American farmers got organized

Like many in Minnesota’s Hmong-American community, Pakou Hang comes from a family of farmers. “Even when we very young, starting from elementary school, we were helping our parents out in the field,” she said. “So it’s been a big part of our lives and we have that background.”

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Pesticide applicators report drift issues with dicamba, even when using brand names in good weather

In August, the Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association surveyed its 178 agriculture retail companies about their experience with dicamba this growing season. The association received 124 responses,  which were anonymous. The overwhelming majority of respondents reported issues with dicamba, even when following the label.

Report spotlights nitrate contamination in drinking water across the U.S.

A new report from the Environmental Working Group, a research and advocacy organization, indicates that more than 1,700 water districts across the U.S. recorded nitrate levels that averaged 5 ppm or more in 2014-2015. The vast majority — 1,683 of the water districts — were rural systems  serving no more than 25,000 people and generally located in farming areas where fertilizer and manure in cropland runoff can seep into the public water supply. Included in those rural districts were 118 systems that matched or exceed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s limit of 10 ppm.