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Great Need For Quality Child Care In Rural Minnesota

Human Services Assistant Commissioner Jim Koppel visited Cedar Mountain Cougar Childcare Center in Franklin, Minn., to emphasize the importance of quality child care, and highlight businesses and communities coming together to address the need for child care.

“Without consistent, quality child care, children often struggle and are not prepared to enter kindergarten, and parents often are unable to go to school or work as a result,” said Koppel. “We need to help ensure children are well cared for and educated in safe, stable, nurturing learning environments.”

According to Koppel, state government has a critical role to play, including:

Supporting child care programs with tools, materials and guidance through the Parent Aware quality child care rating systemProviding financial support to families with low incomes through the Child Care Assistance Program

Providing state tax credits to families for child care expenses; this year, Gov. Mark Dayton and the Minnesota Legislature expanded the credit to cover 55,900 families, providing more than 42,800 Minnesota families an average additional tax saving of $342 a year, worth a total of $35.8 million in the first biennium.

Businesses and communities play a role as well. Franklin Industries, a collaborative group of business leaders, helped build the Cedar Mountain Cougar Childcare Center, which opened in December 2016, to meet a community need. The program currently serves 29 children. The center is currently working with Parent Aware and accepts families on the Child Care Assistance Program.

“The Cedar Mountain Cougar Childcare Center is a great example of people coming together to meet a need for child care,” said Koppel. “It’s a model of how communities can solve a problem and address needs. While state government plays a critical role, families, businesses and communities do as well.

Across the state, the number of providers is declining – there were 12,449 licensed child care providers in 2012 and 10,599 in 2016 – making it difficult for families, particularly in Greater Minnesota, to find care.

Cedar Mountain Cougar Childcare Center is filling that need. The center’s Executive Director Jody Rose, who operated a family child care business for two decades, echoed that, stating challenges in providing quality child care include difficulty in hiring qualified teachers, struggles for families with low incomes to pay for child care expenses, and need for scholarships and other financial supports for families.

“We are thankful for the scholarships and other financial supports for our low income families, however there are many families in rural Minnesota that miss those income guidelines by a few thousand dollars or there is not enough money allocated to help those who qualify,” Rose said. “Those families struggle to pay for quality child care because they cannot afford it and often times end up staying home with their children instead of going to work. It would be nice to see Parent Aware scholarships and other financial supports expanded to help more of these families.”

Currently 16,000 Minnesota families with 30,000 children are enrolled in the state’s Child Care Assistance Program, receiving financial support to help pay for child care expenses.

“We all have the same goal in mind: To ensure children are well cared for and have a healthy development,” said Koppel.

Visit Minnesota Farmers Union at Farmfest 2017!

ST. PAUL (July 26, 2017) – Join Minnesota Farmers Union at Farmfest 2017! The event takes place at Gilfillan Estates just outside of Redwood Falls, Minn., from Aug. 1-3. 

Farmfest is an annual event that brings together farmers and agricultural professionals from around the country. Elected officials will also be in attendance to hear from constituents.

“With the upcoming Farm Bill, it is important for the voices of farmers and rural residents to be heard in its development,” said MFU President Gary Wertish. “Farmfest is a great opportunity for them to talk with elected officials.”

Minnesota Farmers Union activities:

• PANELS: President Wertish will speak as part of the National Ag Policy Roundtable at 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 2. He will also greet members of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee for the Farm Bill conversation on Aug. 3 at 9:30 a.m.

• MNSURE: Allison O’Toole, CEO of MNSure, and representatives will visit the MFU hoop barn from 10:30-11:30 a.m. on Aug. 2 to answer questions and visit with MFU members.

• AGRABILITY: Representatives from Agrability will be in the MFU hoop barn all three days to talk about how they can help farmers with disabilities and demonstrate Rollover Protection Systems (ROPS).

• AGRITOURISM SIGNS: MFU will have signs available for members and farmers at our hoop barn. Agritourism signs explain to consumers the risks of visiting a farm.

• PIZZA: MFU will have pizza from Big River Pizza available at our hoop barn. Additionally, Minnesota Farm Families of the Year may use a coupon for one FREE pizza pie at the barn, or 50 percent off a pizza at Big River’s location in St. Paul.

The MFU hoop barn is located just west of the forum building in lot 509.

FSA Offers Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) for Livestock Losses

The Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) compensates livestock owners and contract growers for livestock death losses in excess of normal mortality due to adverse weather, including losses due to wildfires, hurricanes, floods, blizzards, extreme heat or extreme cold. 

For 2017, eligible losses must occur on or after Jan. 1, 2017, and no later than 60 calendar days from the ending date of the applicable adverse weather event. A notice of loss must be filed with FSA within 30 days of when the loss of livestock is apparent.  Participants must provide the following supporting documentation to their local FSA office no later than 90 calendar days after the end of the calendar year in which the eligible loss condition occurred. 

• Proof of death documentation

• Copy of growers contracts 

• Proof of normal mortality documentation

USDA has established normal mortality rates for each type and weight range of eligible livestock, i.e. Adult Beef Cow = 1.5% and Non-Adult Beef Cattle (less than 400 pounds) = 5%. These established percentages reflect losses that are considered expected or typical under “normal” conditions. Producers who suffer livestock losses in 2017 must file both of the following:

• A notice of loss the earlier of 30 calendar days of when the loss was apparent 

•An application for payment by March 31, 2018. 

Additional Information about LIP is available at your local FSA office or online at:

Keep Strong Safety Net For Agriculture And Rural Communities

As commodity prices remain low and rural economies struggle, farmers and rural citizens need a strong safety net to stay afloat until conditions improve.

However, the budget proposals from the White House and the U.S. House of Representatives do not address that need. The House Budget Committee recently released its 2018 budget proposal, which called for a $10 billion cut in programs under the control of the House Agriculture Committee. And the 2018 Agriculture Appropriations Bill, released by the Congressional Budget Office, called for $8.5 billion less in agriculture funding than the 2017 fiscal year enacted level. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has decided to eliminate its undersecretary position for rural development. We are deeply concerned about these changes.

Public funding helps farmers through programs such as crop insurance. Weather is never totally predictable. Minnesota experienced heavy rains in fall 2016 and spring 2017, which directly hit harvest and planting times. Farmers need strong funding not only to cover lost income, but for research on navigating these tough times. Public services such as local soil and water conservation districts and university extension services provide valuable information on soil health, fertilizer management and more. The good news is, according to news reports, the CBO expects the option of re-enrolling in the Agricultural Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture to remain viable.

Our members consistently tell us how much they have been helped by rural development programs. It’s not just farmers who receive the benefits, and the 2018 Farm Bill will include titles on rural development. Funding cuts of this size will prevent the Farm Bill from serving the people who need it most. For instance, many rural residents are investing in renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Tax credits and federal and state assistance make it easier to do this. In a time when climate change is becoming more apparent, incentivizing renewable energy in rural areas is crucial.

Minnesotans were lucky this spring to get a strong agriculture budget from the state legislative session. Our state relies heavily on the agriculture industry for economic health, as does the whole nation. Federal legislators should follow that example as they construct the 2018 Farm Bill. We urge them to listen to real American farmers and rural residents and keep strong safety net funding. Minnesota Farmers Union will continue to fight for the funding farmers deserve.

Eye Problems That Are Detected and Treated Early Can Help Kids in the Classroom and Beyond

As children in most parts of the country head back to school, Prevent Blindness, the nation’s oldest non-profit eye health and safety group, asks all parents and caregivers to set their child on a path to success in the classroom with a certified vision screening or eye exam.

More than one in 20 preschool-age children and one in four school-age children have a vision disorder.  The National Center for Children’s Vision and Eye Health at Prevent Blindness (NCCVEH) issued a comprehensive report, “Children’s Vision and Eye Health: A Snapshot of Current National Issues,” detailing the link between healthy vision and the impact it may have on learning:

· Visual functioning is a strong predictor of academic performance in school-age children.

· Uncorrected refractive errors in infants and preschool-age children are associated with developmental delays, as well as with clinically identified deficits in cognitive and visual-motor functions that may in turn affect school readiness.

· Vision disorders of childhood may continue to affect health and well-being throughout the adult years.

Prevent Blindness has declared August as Children’s Eye Health and Safety Awareness month to inspire parents to make their child’s vision health a priority.  Prevent Blindness recommends a continuum of eye care for children to include both vision screening and comprehensive eye examinations. All children, even those with no signs of trouble, should have their eyes checked at regular intervals. Any child who experiences vision problems or shows symptoms of eye trouble should receive a comprehensive eye examination by an optometrist or an ophthalmologist.

Children generally do not complain about problems with their vision. These problems may range from common refractive errors, such as nearsightedness (myopia) and farsightedness (hyperopia), to serious eye conditions including: 

Amblyopia or “lazy eye” – has many causes. Most often, it results from either a misalignment of a child’s eyes, such as crossed eyes, or a difference in image quality between the two eyes (one eye focusing better than the other). In both cases, one eye becomes stronger, suppressing the image of the other eye. If this condition persists, vision from the weaker eye may become useless. Amblyopia is found in about 2 percent of 6- to 72-month-old children and is the most common cause of vision loss in children.

Strabismus or “crossed eyes” – a condition where eyes are misaligned, or do not line up with each other.  This problem is caused when the muscles do not work together. Between 2 and 4 percent of children under the age of 6 years have strabismus. Strabismus may eventually lead to amblyopia. 

Astigmatism – an irregularity in the shape of the cornea or lens that causes blurry vision at all distances if not corrected. Between 15 and 28 percent of children ages 5 to 17 years have astigmatism, depending on the diagnostic threshold used. Children who have myopia or hyperopia are more likely to have astigmatism. 

“The good news is that many vision problems in children can be treated successfully if detected early,” said Hugh R. Parry, president and CEO of Prevent Blindness.  “Prevent Blindness provides free information on a variety of vision health topics for kids, and partners on many fantastic programs that provide free exams and glasses for those who qualify.  We encourage the public to contact us for more details on ways to keep children’s eyes healthy.”

To support children’s vision programs, OCuSOFT ® Inc., a privately-held eye and skin care company dedicated to innovation in eyelid hygiene and ocular health, has agreed to donate 10 percent of all online sales to Prevent Blindness during August’s Children’s Eye Health and Safety Awareness Month.

For more information on children’s eye health and safety, the NCCVEH, or financial assistance programs, please call Prevent Blindness at (800) 331-2020 or visit

About Prevent Blindness

Founded in 1908, Prevent Blindness is the nation’s leading volunteer eye health and safety organization dedicated to fighting blindness and saving sight.  Focused on promoting a continuum of vision care, Prevent Blindness touches the lives of millions of people each year through public and professional education, advocacy, certified vision screening and training, community and patient service programs and research.  These services are made possible through the generous support of the American public.  Together with a network of affiliates, Prevent Blindness is committed to eliminating preventable blindness in America.  For more information, or to make a contribution to the sight-saving fund, call 1-800-331-2020. Or, visit us on the Web at or

Slayton Police Plan the Arrests of Scandalously Generous Jailbirds

Citizens throughout Murray County are being “arrested” to support learning opportunities for the youngest members of our community in the 12th annual ECFE Jail & Bail fundraiser.  Money donated to bail out the inmates is used by the Early Childhood Initiative for local programs targeted to children from birth to age 5. This includes FRED (Families Reading Every Day) events that provide educational activities and books for each child, Preschool Open Gym, children’s music concerts, the annual Family Fair, visits to area daycares by ECFE on Wheels, “Getting Ready for School” backpacks and child fingerprint IDs during preschool screenings, children’s books for waiting rooms in area businesses, and other outreach projects to encourage learning and school readiness in Murray County.

Do you have friends, family members, or coworkers who should be “arrested” by the SPD?  To arrange the “bust,” you will need to make a $25 donation to the Early Childhood Initiative and contact Marilyn Carlson at 836-6552 or toll free at 1-800-348-0021 to give the “criminal details.”

The Jail & Bail fundraiser will take place on the east lawn of the Murray County Courthouse on the opening day of the fair (Wed., Aug. 16th) from 2-7 PM.  Participating community members will have the choice of turning themselves in or being picked up by the Slayton Police Department.  Either way, they will end up in the mock-jail on the courthouse lawn where they will stand before a community judge to be charged with their “crime.”  The detainees will then begin making phone-calls to raise their bail goal of $100.  Bail can either be raised in the form of pledges or donations. 

If you would like to make a donation, you can visit ECI’s jail by the courthouse on Wednesday, August 16th, and your gift will be applied to the inmates currently trying to make bail.