At the nation’s largest student farm organization, a reckoning on race

When Xavier Morgan first enrolled in the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences in 2010, he wasn’t necessarily interested in farming. In fact, his admission to the school, which his aunt recommended due to its strong reputation for career and technical education, was in part a product of chance.

“I actually have no family ties to agriculture whatsoever,” says Morgan, who grew up in Chicago. “We went one day, took an application, and then I got in.”

By his sophomore year, Morgan found himself involved with the school’s chapter of the National FFA Organization, formerly known as Future Farmers of America. He was first drawn to the organization — the largest student-led farm group in the country, with 600 members at his school — for its leadership opportunities. But soon he came to have a passion for agriculture, eager to shape the future of an industry that he now considers “the most important in the world.” He began to rise through the group’s leadership ranks.

Thousands of students from states with higher infection rates may return to University of Illinois

As many as 25,000 students may return next week to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign from areas with much higher infection rates of Covid-19 than Champaign County, according to a review of public health data by the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting. The campus has a total of about 51,000 students, of which 5,508 attended online in the last academic year. The university is located in Champaign County, which has a population of about 207,000, has an overall positivity rate of about 2%, although recently rates have been below 1%. 

The Midwest Center compared infection rates from public health data with student demographics and found: 

More than 20,000 students came from 357 Illinois ZIP codes that have positivity rates over 5%. About 33,000 students from 1,050 ZIP codes attended the university in the last academic year.10,769 of those students are from Illinois ZIP codes with positivity rates above 8%.As many as 5,000 students may be arriving from 33 states that have positivity rates higher than 5%. Governments are advised to have a Covid-19 positivity rate at 5% or lower for at least two weeks before reopening, according to the World Health Organization.

Seeking a Cure: The Quest to Save Rural Hospitals

A seven-state news investigation revealed plenty of problems facing rural patients but also a variety of creative attempts to solve them. The head of the National Rural Health Association puts it this way: “Everyone realizes we’re at a crisis point.”

Knowing what’s safe to eat in game fish varies state to state in Midwest

The rainbow trout released into Prairie Lakes were fine to eat because they came from a hatchery. But trying to distinguish what fish to eat from one Midwest state to the next can be difficult, an IowaWatch/Cedar Falls Tiger Hi-Line investigation showed.

That’s because rules guiding what’s safe to eat vary in each state. Also, despite fish sampling by the states, knowing where to fish is hard because fish from only a few waterways where people fish are tested each year, the investigation showed. Anglers at farm ponds are on their own when it comes to the health of the fish they catch because the state’s natural resources department (DNR) does not sample fish in private water bodies for contamination.

For rural Missourians, access to quality health care is a nightmare

The status of health care in rural parts of Missouri paints a bleak picture for farmers who live and work in such a dangerous profession. On top of working under constant risk of injury and death, farmers have very few options when it comes to the types of care they can receive. And, when and if that care is available, patients can be billed exorbitant costs.

TAKEN: Despite reforms, burden still heavy on owners of seized property

The value of the property seized has totaled in hundreds of millions of dollars in property, cash, jewelry and real estate over the last eight years, according to an analysis of Illinois State Police data by the Midwest Center for Investigative Center.