Virus Outbreak-Farm Rescue

In this photo provided by Farm Rescue, volunteers plant crops on Paul Ivesdal's farm June 3, 2020 in Edmore, N.D. The wet spring offered only a tiny window for planting, so when Ivesdal fell ill to a coronavirus infection he knew the timing couldn't be worse. Thanks to Farm Rescue, Ivesdal got his crop in even as he was rushed to a hospital and spend eight days on a ventilator.


Farm Rescue shifts to help farmers sickened by COVID-19

The wet spring offered only a tiny window for planting, so when North Dakota farmer Paul Ivesdal fell ill with the coronavirus he knew the timing couldn't be worse.

The 63-year-old man knew if he didn't recover quickly and plant his crop of wheat, barley, canola and flax, it could mean an end to his decades of farming 2,300 acres just south of the Canadian border. But his condition deteriorated and, due to the bad weather, even his neighbors had no time to help.

That's when Farm Rescue stepped in. When Ivesdal was rushed to a hospital where he spent eight days on a ventilator, volunteers from the nonprofit planted his crops and made sure his farm would endure.

Ivesdal spent the summer in rehabilitation, regaining the strength and ability to walk, and he said he tires more easily than before, but that he plans to continue working the land.

The founder of Farm Rescue, Bill Gross, a North Dakota native who grew up on a farm, launched Farm Rescue in 2005, inspired by the 1980s farm crisis that forced his parents to sell land and most of their cattle.

The group has given assistance to about 700 farm families in the last 15 years in North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas. The group usually helps farmers beset by injuries, illness or natural disasters, but volunteers have this year been helping those taken out of commission by COVID-19.

The group is planning a country music benefit concert on Dec. 9, to be streamed live on YouTube from the Brooklyn Bowl in Nashville and featuring performers including Dustin Lynch, Maddie & Tae, Mickey Guyton, Travis Denning and Tyler Farr.


Most of legislative session to be delayed due to pandemic

CHEYENNE — The Wyoming Legislature will delay most of its 2021 general session beyond January as a safety precaution against COVID-19, which has spread at record levels in the state in recent weeks.

Lawmakers at a meeting of the Legislature's Management Council on Nov. 24 discussed a handful of possibilities that would all involve holding some sort of in-person session later in the spring.

Prior to the decision to delay the session from the Management Council, which includes leadership from both parties, lawmakers received an update from Legislative Service Office Director Matt Obrecht, who told the committee that the possibility of maintaining social distancing during a session is "nonexistent."

Though much of the legislative session would be delayed under the motion approved by the council, a few aspects required by the Wyoming Constitution, such as the swearing in of new lawmakers, the adoption of rules and the delivery of an address from Gov. Mark Gordon, would carry on as planned Jan. 12.

But with Wyoming currently among the states with the highest number of new daily COVID-19 cases per capita, legislative staff felt the statewide situation wouldn't be improved enough in less than two months to host hundreds of visitors at the Capitol.

Obrecht noted many legislators are elderly, putting them at higher risk for severe complications from COVID-19. Forty-six of the body's 90 members are older than 60, and 13 of those are over the age of 70. Additionally, at least three lawmakers have already contracted COVID-19, with one case leading to the death of Rep. Roy Edwards, R-Gillette, earlier in November.

Not every legislator was on board with pushing the session back, as a handful of conservative lawmakers, none of whom are on the Management Council, testified against the delay. Sen. Tom James, R-Rock Springs, argued some lawmakers won't be able to attend a session later in the spring due to agricultural work that has to be done at that time, a point of concern echoed by others during the meeting.


2 detained for speaking Spanish settle border patrol lawsuit

HELENA — Two women who were detained in northern Montana by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents for speaking Spanish while shopping at a convenience store have reached an undisclosed monetary settlement in their lawsuit against the agency, the ACLU of Montana announced Nov. 24.

Ana Suda and Martha "Mimi" Hernandez, both U.S. citizens, said their constitutional rights were violated when they were detained in the parking lot outside a the store in the city of Havre for 40 minutes after an agent demanded their identifications.

In settling the case, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said it did not admit liability and added in a statement that "the overwhelming majority of CBP employees and officers perform their duties with honor and distinction, working tirelessly every day to keep our country safe."

The case emerged after Suda took a video of the May 2018 interaction in which she asked Agent Paul O'Neill why he was questioning them.

"Ma'am, the reason I asked you for your ID is because I came in here and I saw that you guys are speaking Spanish, which is very unheard of up here," O'Neill said in the video. Suda and Hernandez had valid Montana drivers licenses.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection did not respond to emailed questions asking if O'Neill still works for the agency or faced any discipline related to the case. The agency and the women's lawyers did not disclose how much money would be paid in the settlement.

Suda was born in Texas and moved to Montana with her husband in 2014. Hernandez was born in California and moved to Montana in 2010. Both are certified nursing assistants and worked at an assisted-living center.


Netflix to expand Albuquerque production hub

ALBUQUERQUE — Netflix plans to establish one of the largest production hubs in North America with an expansion of its existing studio complex in New Mexico and a commitment to an additional $1 billion in production spending, government and corporate leaders announced Monday.

Ten new stages, post-production services, offices, mills, backlots and other infrastructure would be added to Netflix's growing campus on the southern edge of Albuquerque. Aside from construction jobs, the project is expected to result in 1,000 production jobs over the next decade.

A total of $24 million in state and local economic development funding will be funneled toward the expansion, and industrial revenue bonds will be issued by the city of Albuquerque to help reduce some taxes for Netflix.

Over the last 20 years, the film and television industry has become an economic force in New Mexico, with direct spending topping $525 million in the last fiscal year.

Since coming to New Mexico in 2018, Netflix said it has spent more than $200 million, used more than 2,000 production vendors and hired more than 1,600 cast and crew members.

Netflix is in production in New Mexico on the original films "The Harder They Fall" and "Intrusion" and is expected to soon begin filming "Stranger Things 4" in Albuquerque.

University to offer industrial hemp certificate

LAS VEGAS — Regents at New Mexico Highlands University have approved a new program that will offer students a certificate in industrial hemp entrepreneurship.

Approval came earlier in November, but school officials say the program must still go through any required state and accreditor reviews. The Higher Learning Commission must also sign off.

Industrial hemp production was legalized in New Mexico in 2019, and federal officials just recently approved the state Department of Agriculture's hemp production regulatory plan. That allows the state to continue regulatory oversight over hemp production within its borders.

Growers and state officials say New Mexico has advantages over other states due to optimal growing conditions and an abundance of relatively cheap land.

Industrialized hemp can be used in many products, from textiles and bioplastics to biofuels and medicinal applications.

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