Business & Economy
USDA Information Available for You PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by USDA Office of Communications   
Friday, 07 September 2012 12:51

Have you ever struggled to find information on or someone to talk to about a USDA program?

The USDA has developed a guide to organic and organic-related programs, and is implementing a department-wide training program to improve service to current and prospective organic stakeholders.

USDA has also developed a toolkit that helps farmers and businesses answer the question, "is organic an option for me?"

Organic Literacy Initiative

In response to requests from the organic community, USDA developed these materials to help connect current and prospective organic operations with appropriate USDA resources.


Through this effort, USDA staff will be better equipped to help current and prospective organic customers:

  • Obtain technical and financial assistance.
  • Insure crops and livestock.
  • Access and fund research.
  • Secure loans.
  • Develop conservation practices.
  • Find current organic price information.
  • Access local, regional, and international markets.

By 2015, the USDA hopes to have 20,000 certified organic farmers and businesses in the United States. We're well on our way to achieving this goal, but we're not there yet.

We hope you will use and share these materials widely, helping current and prospective organic operations fully benefit from USDA services.

View Guide to Organic and Organic-Related USDA Programs

Access All Organic Literacy Initiative Materials

Includes training and outreach materials

Are You a USDA Employee?

In order to credit your training and track USDA participation, please access the organic 101 and 201 courses through USDA's AgLearn system. However, AgLearn is currently down for routine maintenance until September 12th.

Once AgLearn is back online, USDA staff will be invited to access these online training modules.

In the meantime, we welcome you to:

Thank you for your patience and help supporting organic agriculture!

About the National Organic Program (NOP)

The NOP facilitates trade and ensures integrity of organic agricultural products by consistently implementing organic standards and enforcing compliance with the regulations throughout the world. Learn more.

About the NOP Organic Insider

The NOP Organic Insider is intended to inform the organic community on a wide range of NOP functions, including organic standards, accreditation and international activities, compliance and enforcement, the National Organic Standards Board, training events, and the Cost Share program.


You are receiving this email because you elected to receive selected updates from the USDA National Organic Program. You may manage your profile to receive additional updates on other NOP functions or unsubscribe at any time by using the links below.

Branstad, Reynolds praise trust fund management as Iowa’s employers see $100 million in tax savings PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Office of Governor Terry Branstad   
Friday, 07 September 2012 12:44

(DES MONIES) – Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds today praised Iowa’s management of the Unemployment Insurance Trust Funds, which for the second year in a row will allow a significant savings for Iowa’s employers.

This year, Iowa employers will see $100 million in tax savings by moving from tax table four to table five. The average rate will fall from 2.4 percent to 2.0 percent for 2013.

“Our efficient, effective management of this trust fund will allow Iowa’s employers more flexibility with their own dollars,” said Branstad. “This is $100 million that will be reinvested in Iowa’s communities, and is a clear sign that Iowa works to ensure that our valuable employers are successful in building Iowa’s economy.”

In 2013, over 52 percent of Iowa businesses will experience a zero rate.  Iowa is one of only six states in the country that provides a zero rate within the tax tables. Additionally, the new employer non-construction rate will decrease from 1.5 percent in 2012 to 1.1 percent in 2013.

“This is another positive signal we are sending to Iowa’s employers,” said Lt. Gov. Reynolds. “The state of Iowa is leading with sound management of our resources, and employers are counting on this stability when considering whether to locate or expand here.”

Iowa Workforce Development is the state agency charged with collecting unemployment insurance taxes from employers and operating Iowa’s unemployment insurance payment programs for workers. Annually, Iowa Workforce Development identifies the appropriate table for the following year. Unemployment tax rates are based on wages and recent unemployment benefit payments.  In 2013, the tax rate will move favorably to table five.

“This is exciting news for Iowa businesses and the economy,” stated Iowa Workforce Development director Teresa Wahlert.  “While states across the country have struggled with the stability of their Unemployment Insurance Trust Funds, Iowa has moved the rates in a positive direction for businesses two years in a row.”

“The people of Iowa have our commitment to carefully manage the trust fund in the coming year to continue this beneficial trend for Iowa businesses.  Iowa has one of the lowest UI tax rates in the nation,” stated Wahlert.

Due to the design of Iowa’s unemployment tax system developed under Gov. Branstad’s administration in the 1980’s and Iowa Workforce Development’s diligent oversight of the UI Trust Fund throughout the national recession and initial recovery, Iowa businesses will benefit with an average decrease in taxes.

Throughout the state, Iowa Workforce Development provides critical services and resources to support the prosperity, productivity, health and safety of Iowans and their communities. Services are available in 15 regional centers, four satellite offices and hundreds of Access Points.



Let's Call It Labor Week PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Ed Fallon   
Friday, 07 September 2012 12:34
Dear Friends,

It’s appropriate that America designates a day to recognize the incomparable contributions of labor unions. But with so many politicians (mostly Republicans) actively working to obliterate organized labor, we would do well to spend more than just a day discussing issues affecting America's workers.

With that in mind . . . Tuesday, Colin Gordon with the Iowa Policy Project talks about wage theft and the $600 million each year stolen from Iowa workers! Folks might be astounded to learn how many low-wage workers are not paid the wages they are legally owed. And if you think the State of Iowa is doing its job to crack down on violators and protect such workers, think again. For a little homework on the subject, check out the Iowa Policy Project’s new report.

Wednesday, Chris Wilbeck of Greene County talks about the potential impact of a 5,000-head corporate hog confinement proposed for her area. Folks there are still reeling from an unsuccessful battle to stop a confinement earlier this year. If the second one is built, there would be 12,400 hogs within a two-mile radius of Chris’ home. (To sort of put that in perspective for us city folk, the population density of two-square miles in Des Moines is 5,030 - and a hog produces twice as much excrement as an adult human!)

The confinement operator is Prestage “Farms,” a huge enterprise with its corporate tentacles wrecking havoc in six states. To sign a petition to stop them, click here.

And let me just throw this out there: What is it going to take before Iowa Democratic lawmakers - who for years campaigned in favor of local control yet did nothing when they had power - free themselves from the chains of corporate money and stand with the people they pledged to support?

Thursday, we discuss why labor leaders are unhappy with Whole Foods’ CEO John Mackey, who once said that binding arbitration is "not the way we normally do things in the United States" and that allowing workers to organize without a secret ballot "violates a bedrock principle of American democracy." As Mother Jones once pointed out, “Mackey's tired canard has been debunked over and over. Even the Wall Street Journal editorial board, home of anti-labor commentary, finally admitted . . . that the ‘the bill doesn't remove the secret-ballot option.’"

Also, Thursday, Sonia Ashe with Iowa Public Interest Research Group discusses a new report on Super PACs. The report is called “Megaphones for Millionaires,” and it’s timely given the vast infusion of corporate money in the November election.

Friday, with one eye looking back at this week’s Labor Day celebrations and one looking forward to an Iowa Legislature set to convene in just four months, we’ll talk about some other issues affecting Iowa workers, including raising the minimum wage and the Earned Income Tax Credit.

So, join the conversation live, Monday-Friday, online from 12:00-1:00 pm on the Fallon Forum website. Call in at 244-0077 or toll free (855) 244-0077. And tune-in to Bradshaw, Monday-Friday from 1:30-2:30, also on the Fallon Forum website. Video and audio podcasts are available, too.

Thanks! - Ed



September 6 - Drinking Liberally (Des Moines)
You don't have to be a card-carrying liberal to enjoy political conversation and excellent libations at AJ's, 419 E Court starting at 8:00 pm every Thursday. If the revolution is going to start anyplace, it's over a frosty libation. Contact

September 14-30 - World Premiere of “Sense and Sensibility” (Des Moines)
The book by Jane Austen has been adapted for the stage by Iowa’s Kerry Skram. Performances are at the Des Moines Social Club’s Kirkwood Theater, 4th and Walnut. For tickets, call MIDWESTIX at (515) 244-2771.

September 18 - Irish Jam at Open Sesame (Des Moines)
Discover the fusion of Lebanese and Celtic culture every third Tuesday of the month with Irish jigs and reels, Mideastern belly dancing, and Lebanese cuisine washed-down with a pint of Guinness. All musicians and patrons are welcome at 313 E. Locust St from 8:30-10:30 pm.

September 27 - Coleen Rowley 'Blowing the Whistle on War' (Des Moines)
At 7:00 pm at Plymouth Congregational Church, 42nd and Ingersoll, Iowa's own Coleen Rowley talks about the need to end our permanent war economy and state of perpetual war. Coleen grew up in New Hampton Iowa and was part of the Federal Bureau of Investigation before blowing the whistle on bad intelligence work in the wake of September 11. She was Time magazine's PERSON OF THE YEAR in 2002 and is an important voice in favor of government transparency. Contact Jeff Weiss at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

October 3 - Jim Hightower: Taking Back Our Food and Agriculture (Fairfield)
Hightower gives the keynote at the Jefferson County Farmers & Neighbors annual meeting at 7:30 pm at the Arts & Convention Center, 200 N Main St. An outspoken critic of CAFO animal production, Hightower will address what is needed to turn around our environmentally destructive, nutritionally compromised system of industrial food production. Contact Diane at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

October 6 - The Shrinking Middle Class (Des Moines)
At Plymouth Church, 4126 Ingersoll Avenue, 10:00-2:00. Cost is $10 and lunch is provided for this presentation and panel discussion. Income inequality, rising costs, political corruption, and economic instability threaten our global household. This seminar will explore a variety of current problems and contemplate solutions surrounding the erosion of middle class political and economic power while providing a theological context for these contemporary struggles.

October 7 - Images of Peace Interfaith Prayer Service (Des Moines)
A 7:00 pm at DMACC Auditorium, Urban Campus, 9th and University for an interfaith prayer service featuring a video by Rodger Routh, presenting images of peace from various faith traditions and a variety of perspectives. At the end of the service people will walk to the Path of Peace Sculpture nearby to scatter the soil gathered from representatives of many different faiths at last year’s Interfaith Service. Sponsored by the Des Moines Area Ecumenical Committee For Peace. Contact Eloise Cranke at (515) 262-5974 or Susie Paloma at (515) 480-1872.

October 20 - Contra Dance at Odd Fellows Hall (Des Moines)
Contra-Indications is hosting a contra dance at Odd Fellows Hall, 2904 Kingman Blvd, 8:00-11:00 pm, with lesson at 7:30 pm. Live music by Barn Owl Band; Jill Allen as caller. $10 adults; free under 12; $25 family maximum. Visit This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


Personal Finance Article: High School Grads Need to Understand Credit PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Steve Burke   
Friday, 07 September 2012 12:30

By Jason Alderman

If you've got a recent high school graduate who's getting ready to head off to college or join the workforce, let me share a few lessons I learned the hard way about managing personal finances that you can pass along to your kids.

Young adults are just starting to build their credit history. In the coming months they'll probably encounter many unfamiliar expenses – and many financial temptations. If they're not careful, a few ill-thought decisions made now could damage their credit for years to come.

Here are several actions your kids can take to build good financial habits and strong credit – and a few minefields to watch out for:

Probably the most fundamental tool to for young adults to help manage their finances is a basic checking account and debit card. A few tips to pass along:

  • Look for a bank/credit union that charges no monthly usage fee, doesn't require minimum balances and has conveniently located ATMs so you don't rack up out-of-network ATM charges.
  • Enter all transactions in the check register and review your account online regularly to know when deposits, checks, purchases and automatic payments have cleared.
  • Don't write checks or make debit card purchases unless the current balance will cover them – many transactions now clear instantaneously.
  • Banks must ask whether you want overdraft protection. If you opt for coverage, understand that overdrafts can be expensive – up to $35 or more per transaction.
  • Request text or email alerts when your balance drops below a certain level, checks or deposits clear, or payments are due.

Credit cards for young adults can be a useful tool, but they must be used responsibly. By law, people under 21 must have a parent or other responsible adult cosign credit card accounts unless they can prove sufficient income to repay the debt. If you allow your child to become an authorized user or joint account holder on one of your accounts, remember that any account activity, good or bad, goes on both your credit reports, so careful monitoring is critical.

Another way to build credit history is to start out with a "secured" credit card – a card linked to an account into which you deposit money. Typically you can charge up to the amount you've deposited and then replenish the account with more funds.

After they've made several on-time payments, have your kid ask the lender to convert it to an unsecured card, or to at least add an unsecured amount to the account. Just make sure that the lender agrees to report your payment history to at least one of the three credit bureaus; otherwise, the account does nothing to improve your credit.

If they qualify for an unsecured credit card, have your kids follow these guidelines:

  • Always make at least the minimum payment – on time – each month.
  • Strive to pay off the full balance each month; otherwise, the accumulated interest will add significantly to your repayment amount.
  • Avoid using credit cards for cash advances, which often incur upfront fees and begin accruing interest immediately.
  • Look for a card with no annual fee and also compare cash advance, late payment, balance transfer, over-the-limit and other fees.

For more tips on building and maintaining strong credit, visit What's My Score, a financial literacy program for young adults run by Visa Inc. (

Bank workers fired over federal regulations, Grassley pursues answers PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Grassley Press   
Friday, 07 September 2012 12:17
Friday, August 31, 2012

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa is looking into the enforcement of federal regulations that are meant to protect consumers from financial fraud but might be penalizing bank employees for old, minor infractions that are not a threat to current financial consumers.  The Des Moines Register reported that Wells Fargo has fired workers including a 68-year-old customer service representative in Des Moines for putting a cardboard dime in a washing machine 49 years ago.  Grassley’s staff has had an initial conversation with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the agency that promulgated the rule, to learn more.  His staff has asked the agency for a briefing to cover the topic in more depth, especially regarding allegations that banks including Wells Fargo are seeking waivers from the regulation for executives but simply firing low-level employees rather than pursue waivers for them.  Grassley also wants to know whether the firing of individuals for minor infractions, such as the washing machine incident, was an unintended consequence of the rules.  Grassley’s staff also contacted Wells Fargo for a briefing on how the bank is implementing the rules.


Sen. Grassley comment:

“I intend to get to the bottom of how these rules can be applied fairly.  The intent of the law was to go after those who posed a potential danger to the financial system, not to target employees who may have committed petty crimes that are decades-old.  Congress gave the FDIC the responsibility to write these regulations.  We have a responsibility to make sure the rules make sense and have their intended effect of protecting the general public.”

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