BANCROFT – The city of Bancroft, called “the garden spot of Iowa” for almost 90 years, may not be growing in population. But like a good perennial plant with solid roots, it is regenerating and flowering. Located in northern Kossuth County in north-central Iowa about 20 miles south of the Minnesota state line, Bancroft has a population of 699 residents, according to 2020 Census data, down from 732 in 2010. It’s who makes up that 699 number that matters. Bancroft has an eclectic mix of new, longtime and returning residents.
I stumbled across a statistical tidbit the other day that probably will surprise many people. U.S. Census Bureau figures show that between 1900 and 2000, the state that grew the least in population, on a percentage basis, was Iowa. Read that again. No state had smaller population growth between 1900 and 2000, as a percentage, than Iowa. Not North Dakota.
ByMark Schapiro / Public Health Watch and the Investigative Reporting Workshop |
Until the drought, water engineers at the Des Moines Water Works had to make a difficult choice every morning between two rivers that supply the 600,000 people in Iowa’s capital city with clean drinking water. Would it be the Raccoon River, flowing from the northwest and often laced with levels of nitrates in excess of federal safety standards, or the Des Moines River, flowing from the north and often carrying dangerous concentrations of cyano-bacteria in burgeoning populations of algae? It’s a no-win choice: Extended exposure to nitrates in drinking water has been linked to a range of cancers, the consumption of algae to kidney and liver damage and an array of acute symptoms.
But there’s been a twist to this unappealing choice, some version of which is playing out in cities across the Midwest that lie astride major rivers. For much of the fall, the drought in Iowa made the decision easy for Ted Corrigan, a water engineer and CEO of the Des Moines Water Works. Less rain meant less nitrogen seeping from the fertilizer applied across the state’s millions of acres of farmland and running off the tiles that undergird many fields into the Raccoon.
ByAmanda Perez Pintado / Investigate Midwest and Report for America |
Linnea Kooistra’s roots in farming go back 10 generations. She and her husband, Joel, were both raised on dairy farms, and they operated their own in Woodstock, Illinois, for over 40 years. But in 2018, they were confronted with the hard decision of selling their herd of almost 300 cows. After months of deliberation, they decided to sell the herd in part because they relied on immigrant workers to care for and milk the cows, and they feared losing their workforce. “The labor situation, you know, it was just so hostile,” Kooistra said.
Through the years, the Iowa Legislature is the place where Iowans gather to debate the biggest issues and challenges facing our state. It has been this way for 175 years.
The 2021 session is days from adjournment, but there has been precious little time spent discussing one of the thorniest problems confronting this state in decades or looking for solutions. The issue is the quality of our water. Our lakes, streams and rivers are so polluted with agricultural runoff that experts urge people, for health reasons, to not swim in many lakes and to avoid eating fish caught in certain rivers. While most lawmakers dodge this issue, a University of Iowa researcher has become a no-nonsense voice on the problem and its solutions. Chris Jones is a scientist at the Iowa Institute of Hydraulic Research. Water quality is his area of expertise.
Farmers market managers and vendors are still waiting for guidance from state officials, even as the outdoor season approaches, causing some to postpone their seasons. Jam-packed lines, and even live entertainment during the markets, will be relegated to the past — at least for now — in light of changes underway in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic. “It’s a whole new world,” said Bob Shepherd, the market manager in Washington. He also serves on the board of the Iowa Farmers Market Association. While the Washington market plans changes for its upcoming season, others remain in limbo.
This podcast of an original IowaWatch Connection radio report lets those in the Midwest U.S. trying to attract the necessary resources to meet mental health care demand in flood-stricken regions tell you about the problem. It includes one health care center that is trying to address the health care worker shortage head-on with a full-time recruiter.
Psychologist Lauren Welter says she faces an ethical issue with no easy answer on a regular basis: Should she take on more clients and provide less care to those she already sees, or turn away potential clients who have no alternatives?