Deadline Looms for USDA Discrimination Claims

Feb 27, 2013

Women and Hispanic farmers who believe that were discriminated against by the USDA have one month left to file a claim with the federal government.

Women and Hispanic farmers who believe they were denied USDA farm service loans have until march 25th to file claims.

USDA Cracks Down on Food Stamp Fraud

Feb 26, 2013 (via wikipedia)

The USDA says it’s changing  the rules of its aid program commonly known as “food stamps” to help crack down on fraud.

The agency is expanding its legal definition of “trafficking” to crack down on people exchanging food stamp benefits for cash.

USDA Works with Farmers to Cut Greenhouse Gases

Feb 13, 2013
Credit: Lynne Betts, USDA/NRCS)

A program across Illinois and Iowa is looking at ways for farmers to help reduce the amount of greenhouse gases they produce, and to be compensated for it.

The program explores ways farmers can change the way they apply nitrogen fertilizer to reduce the amount of nitrous oxide gas that is created.

Months after the USDA enacted rules making school lunches healthier, the agency is proposing rules to mandate healthier snacks in schools as well.

The Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 set new guidelines for school lunches but also required the USDA to establish nutrition standards for all food served in schools, not just lunches.

USDA Creates New Microloan Program

Jan 24, 2013

The USDA has launched a new microloan program that it says is designed to help small and family operations along with beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers.

According to a  local farm loan specialist  it may especially help a specific kind of small farmer, and give a boost to the local food movement.

Funding Will Advance Colchester Sewer Project

Sep 10, 2012

Colchester has the last and most important component to move forward with a large-scale sewer project-money.

The USDA's Rural Development program will give the city a grant of a $1.56 million and a loan of $2.35 million. The interest rate on the loan is 2.125%.

Mayor Danny Bice is glad for the money but he still thinks it will put stress on the city's finances.

He says, “We were actually hoping to get a little bit more (in the grant). We're going to have to run the numbers and make sure it's still feasible for the customers in town.”

Rich Egger

All counties in Illinois have  been designated as “primary disaster areas” due to drought.

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said the designations came at the request of Governor Pat Quinn and  because of a national drought monitor that shows lack of rain plaguing the entire state. All counties have been affected by drought  for  at least the past eight weeks.

The designations mean all Illinois farmers are eligible for emergency loans from the federal government.

City to Hold Public Hearing on Sewer Rates

Jul 5, 2012

Residents of Colchester will get a chance to make their voices heard on sewer rate increases. The public hearing is Monday, July 9th, at 7 p.m. in city hall.

They face sewer rates of between $40 and $50 per month to pay for repairs to the city's sanitary sewer system. The hikes are needed to bring the city into compliance with federal EPA regulations.

Mayor Danny Bice hopes for a large turnout at the hearing.

Colchester Changes Plans on Sewer Project

Jun 26, 2012

Colchester planned to take nearly a decade to complete a large-scale sewer replacement project with an estimated price tag of $4.2 million.

The city will now seek to complete the project in the next four years. The change is driven by the prospects for grant funding.

Mayor Danny Bice says the city counted on a combination of state and federal grants to help pay for the project. It's necessary to meet federal EPA requirements.

The city has found the funding forecast a dismal one.

Croton and Mooar/Powdertown are a couple of Lee County’s small unincorporated communities.  Mooar/Powdertown is located just north of Keokuk, along Highway 61 while Croton sits just a few miles south of Farmington near the Avenue of the Saints.

Neither community has a sanitary sewer system, which prompted them to start working with Mount Pleasant-based RUSS (Regional Utility Service Systems) in 2010.

The US Department of Agriculture is confirming what gardeners in Illinois already knew: it has become warmer in the state during recent years.  

The change can be seen in the USDA's plant hardiness map that appears on the back of packages for seeds and plants. 

State climatologist Jim Angel said the previous map was based on a much colder period in Illinois history.

“Since then we've had some milder winters in the 1990s and the early 2000s, and that's reflected in the new map,” Angel said.