Military veteran transitions to farming with Prairie Pride Poultry

A simple thing like a childhood visit to the grandparent’s farm can lead to a future in agriculture as an adult.

That’s the case for Grand Island, Nebraska’s Dan Hromas, who now owns a farm he calls Prairie Pride Poultry. However, the farm didn’t happen right away as he spent several years in the military, serving his country before returning home to farm.

Military veteran opens Prairie Pride Poultry

Military veteran Dan Hromas is embarking on a new mission in civilian life by taking on agriculture as owner of Prairie Pride Poultry in Grand Island, Nebraska. (photo from iptv.org)

“I enlisted in the Marine Corps when I was 17,” said Hromas. “I served four years on active duty. Then, I joined the Army, and the Army sent me to college on an ROTC scholarship. I graduated from North Dakota State University with a Bachelor’s in Microbiology. I got my commission as a Second Lieutenant and was assessed in the Nebraska Army National Guard.”

He added, “I retired from the service last year in July.”

Why make the switch from one branch of the service to another?

“I was a heavy machine gunner in the Marines,” Hromas said. “There aren’t a lot of civilian jobs you can move into from that, so I decided to go a different route.”

Military veteran on the farm

Dan Hromas is pictured here as a heavy machine gunner during his time in the Marines. He switched to the Army before coming home to start Prairie Pride Poultry in Nebraska. (photo from midwestproducer.com)

Hromas did a lot of tours overseas.

“I’m like Johnny Cash, I’ve been everywhere, man,” Hromas said. “For example, when I was in the Marines, my first overseas stop was at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, during the Cuban refugee crisis in 1995.

“I also did a deployment to Okinawa, Japan in 1996” he said. “I was part of a Marine Expeditionary Force in ’98, so we took part in operations in the Mediterranean area. We had missions sitting off the coast of Croatia, and in Albania.”

Hromas added, “My last overseas trip was during the troop surge in Iraq during 2006 and ’07.”

He credits the people he served with as the most positive memory of his time in the military.

Hromas said his transition from military life to agriculture wasn’t necessarily a case of returning to the farm.

“I was never on one to begin with,” he said. “I started Prairie Pride Poultry from scratch. May of 2013 was when I first incorporated it. Later that year I got my first buildings, my first livestock, so really, the journey for me began in 2012.

“I went to Nebraska Farm Beginnings class,” Hromas said, “which was really a series of seminars. With the help of Nebraska Vocational Rehabilitation, I was able to put my ideas to paper and draft a solid business plan, which I then took to the Farm Service Agency to get a microloan. I also used the plan to get some grants from different organizations.”

The farm began in York, Nebraska, until he moved to Grand Island to expand his business to 15 acres of land.

The visits to his grandparent’s farm started his interest in agriculture.

“I’m originally from North Dakota,” Hromas said. “My family has a farm there, and every other summer my folks would take my younger siblings and I to visit. We’d make the trip from Lincoln, Nebraska, where I grew up.”

He added, “I always enjoyed being around the livestock.”

Hromas, a disabled military veteran, started Prairie Pride Poultry in 2013 with a simple mission.

“To provide healthy, farm-fresh eggs to consumers,” Hromas said. “Since that time, I’ve expanded the farm to include pasture-raised broilers, and pigs.”

He takes a holistic approach to raising livestock.

“It boils down to humane treatment of animals,” Hromas said, “and good stewardship of the land. I’m a member of the Nebraska Sustainable Ag Society, which encourages consumers to ‘buy fresh, and buy local.’”

The message appears to be getting out about buying locally.

“Business has been very good,” Hromas said, “almost too good, because I often sell out. There are days I don’t have enough product, and I don’t have the infrastructure yet to expand further like I want to do.”

Demand for his eggs has reached into Lincoln.

“I market my eggs through one of the Hy-Vee Stores in Lincoln,” said Hromas. “I have people that headhunt for my eggs, and if they aren’t there, they leave their phone numbers with the dairy manager to let them know when more come in.”

He goes out of his way to keep customers informed on what he does.

“People come in and ask questions,” said Hromas, “and I answer all of them, so they buy with confidence.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minnesota Farm Bureau Announces YF&R Contest Winners

Minnesota_Farm_Bureau_Logo_345x143Young farmers in Olmsted and Washington-Ramsey County captured top honors in the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF) Young Farmers & Ranchers (YF&R) competitions.

Ben Storm of Dover in Olmsted County won the Achievement Award contest. Katie Miron of Hugo in Washington-Ramsey County took home first in the Discussion Meet contest. Mike Miron of Hugo in Washington-Ramsey County won the Excellence in Agriculture contest. The competitions were held during the MFBF 97th Annual Meeting at the DoubleTree in Bloomington.

These county Farm Bureau YF&R members will advance next to national competition. They will represent Minnesota at the national competition at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s (AFBF) Annual Meeting in Orlando, January 8-13.

Minnesota Farm Bureau YF&R

The Minnesota Farm Bureau Annual Meeting recently concluded after announcing several contest winners, one of which came from the local Olmsted County Farm Bureau. (Photo from fbmn.org)

The winners received a recognition plaque from MFBF, $500 prize, a trip to the MFBF YF&R Conference in Bloomington, January 22–23, 2016.  They also will participate in a leadership development trip to Washington D.C.

Achievement Award

The Achievement Award contestants are selected on their exceptional efforts in agriculture through farm management and leadership achievements, as well as effective use of capital in their farming operation.

Ben Storm is the third generation on their family farm where he works in partnership with his dad and brother raising market hogs. He also farms on his own, growing corn and soybeans and raising and selling show pigs. Ben has a bachelor’s degree in industries and marketing with an emphasis on crops and soils.

The Achievement Award runner-up was Matt Feldmeier from Rushford in Houston County. The runner-up picked up a $250 cash prize.

 Discussion Meet

The Discussion Meet finalists competed in two semi-final rounds on Saturday morning followed by the final four competition. Contestants were judged on their basic knowledge of critical farm issues and their ability to exchange ideas and information in a setting aimed at cooperative problem solving.

Katie Miron is an agricultural educator at the Academy for Sciences and Agriculture in Vadnais Heights. She lives on her family’s fifth generation dairy farm in Hugo.

Other top finalists in the Discussion Meet were Joe Sullivan of Renville County, Katie Winslow of Fillmore County and Amanda Durow of Washington-Ramsey County.

 Excellence in Agriculture

The Excellence in Agriculture contest is designed as an opportunity for young farmers and ranchers who may not derive 100 percent of their income from farming to earn recognition while actively contributing to the agriculture industry.  They also spend time building their leadership skills through their involvement in Farm Bureau and their community. Participants were judged on their involvement in agriculture, leadership ability, and participation in Farm Bureau and other organizations. 

Winning this year’s Excellence in Agriculture competition was Mike Miron. Mike is the fifth generation to live and work on the family’s dairy and crop farm near Hugo. He is a high school teacher and FFA advisor at Forest Lake.

Excellence in Agriculture runner-ups were Scott and Samantha Runge from St. James in Watonwan County. The runner-up will receive a $250 cash prize sponsored by Gislason & Hunter.

The MFBF 97th Annual Meeting concluded November 21.

The 2016 AFBF YF&R contests will each have four award winners. The winner will receive their choice of either a 2016 Chevrolet Silverado or a 2016 GMC Sierra. Three finalists will each receive $2,500 cash and $500 in STIHL merchandise and a Case IH Farmall tractor. Special thanks to our sponsors, General Motors, Case IH and STIHL, for their continued support of the American Farm Bureau Young Farmers & Ranchers Discussion Meet.

For more information on Minnesota Farm Bureau go to fbmn.org. For pictures of the Annual Meeting log onto www.flicker.com/photos/minnesotafarmbureau.

Farm Bureau Voting Delegates Re-Elect Paap President

County voting delegates at the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation’s (MFBF) 97thMinnesota_Farm_Bureau_Logo_345x143 Annual Meeting re-elected Kevin Paap to his sixth two-year term as President of the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation.

He first elected in November of 2005.The election took place during the delegate session on November 20.

Kevin and Julie Paap own and operate a fourth-generation family farm in Blue Earth County.

Minnesota Farm Bureau

Kevin Paap, pictured here with wife Julie, was reelected as Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation President at the Farm Bureau’s annual meeting. Paap was elected to his sixth two-year term as President. (Photo from northcountryfoodbank.org)

“I am humbled and honored to continue to do something that I truly love to do and am passionate about doing,” said Paap. “While agriculture faces many challenges, with every challenge there are opportunities. Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation will continue to be at the table in the public policy arena, build agriculture’s positive image and develop leaders at all levels.”

Keith Allen of Kenyon in Goodhue County representing District I, and Miles Kuschel of Sebeka in Cass County representing District VI were both elected to three-year terms on the Board of Directors.

Pete Henslin of Dodge Center in Dodge County is the Young Farmers and Ranchers committee chair and will serve a one-year term on the board of directors. Mark Maiers of Stewart in Sibley County will serve a one-year term as the Promotion and Education committee chair.

The MFBF 97th Annual Meeting concludes Saturday, November 21 with the announcement of the Young Farmers & Ranchers awards.

Minnesota Farm Bureau is the largest general farm organization in the state with nearly 30,000 family members. The main areas of focus are Farmers • Families • Food. Members determine policy through a grassroots process involving the Farm Bureau members in 78 county and regional units in a democratic process. As a result, members make their views heard to political leaders, state government officials, special interest groups and the general public.

Programs for Young Farmers & Ranchers help develop leadership abilities and improve farm management. Promotion & Education committee members work with programs such as Ag in the Classroom, and safety education for farm children.

Jon Guentzel from Mankato, MN, tells us why he is a Farm Bureau member.

For more information, contact your county Farm Bureau office.

For more information on the Minnesota Farm Bureau log onto www.fbmn.org.

Winter weather predictions at NAFB

I spent some time in Kansas City at the National Association of Farm Broadcasting’s2015-NAFB-Convention-Logo-FINAL 72nd annual convention.  During the second day of the event, a trade show brings people in from far and wide to talk about all things agriculture, a topic more complex than most outside the business would believe.  By the way, the show is called Trade Talk.

Of course, weather is one of the premium topics in any agriculture discussion, and one gentleman who’s been talking weather and ag for a long time is Bryce Anderson.    I’ve talked many times with Bryce during my years in radio, and finally had the chance to reconnect.  One of the hot topics right now is above normal temperatures in the fall with not much precipitation.  The question is:  How long does it last, and what does this foretell for the winter?

 

Weather forecasting

Bryce Anderson, the Chief Meteorologist for DTN. (Photo from hoffmanag.com)

Bryce Anderson has been DTN’s ag meteorologist and fill-in market analyst since 1991. He combines his expertise in weather forecasting with a south-central Nebraska farm background to bring in-depth, focused commentary on the top weather developments affecting agriculture each day.

His comments in the DTN Ag Weather Brief and the DTN Market Impact Weather articles are read by persons involved in all aspects of the agricultural industry and in all major crop and livestock production areas of the U.S. and Canada.

Bryce also delivers forecast commentary on regional and national farm broadcast programs and hosts DTN audio and video productions.

Prior to joining DTN, Bryce was in radio and television farm broadcasting and agricultural meteorology at stations in Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska. He holds a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Nebraska, and a certificate of broadcast meteorology from Mississippi State University.

Pork industry educates Subway on antibiotics

The Subway restaurant chain recently brought antibiotics in animal agriculture back into the national food discussion with an announcement about changes in how they source proteins.

In late October, Subway announced policy changes on it’s website, saying that the chain will only serve proteins that have never been treated with antibiotics. The transition is set to begin in it’s over 27,000 restaurants as early as 2016.

The animal agriculture industry recently met with Subway to ask questions about the new policy, as well as to educate the company about the necessary use of antibiotics to keep animals healthy.

Pork production

The pork industry, along with representatives from poultry and beef, are educating Subway as well as the public on the necessity of using antibiotics in animal agriculture to ensure the animals are healthy and safe. (photo from pork network.com)

The Kearny, Nebraska, newspaper (KearneyHub.com) recently wrote an article describing Subway’s policy change as “running into a brick wall in Nebraska.” Livestock producers rely on antibiotics to keep their animals healthy, and Subway changed its policy, stating that they would “accept meat from animals that had been treated with antibiotics to control illness, but not given antibiotics to aid in animal growth.”

National associations that represent the pork industry had a lot to say on the topic. The website meatpoultry.com restated the National Pork Producer’s Council’s position that antibiotics must be available to producers to maintain animal health. The US Food and Drug Administration regulations on antibiotics in animal agriculture are increasingly strict, and they provide safeguards against resistance.

All pork organizations agree they need to educate the public on the necessity of pork production, as you’ll hear in this audio wrap:

 

 

For help in answering questions from the public, the National Pork Producers put together a video to help you educate people who have questions about why farmers use antibiotics:

 

WOTUS rule postponed nationwide

Here’s a conversation on the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals staying the implementation of the controversial Waters of the US Rule (WOTUS):

 

WOTUS

The EPA’s implementation of the Waters of the US Rule was stayed nationwide by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals today. (Photo from alaskapolicyforum.org)

The Sixth Circuit has just stayed the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule nationwide, by a 2-1 vote, until it determines whether it has jurisdiction over the petitions for review.  The majority found a substantial possibility of success on both merits grounds (that the rule does not comport with even Justice Kennedy’s Rapanos opinion) and procedural grounds (that significant changes in the rule were never put to notice and comment).

The order is, “The Clean Water Rule is hereby STAYED, nationwide, pending further order of the court.”

A stay has the same practical effect as an injunction – it prevents the EPA/Corps from implementing the rule.

Expect the stay to last until the 6th Circuit makes a decision regarding the jurisdictional issue, which is expected sometime in November.

Here’s the link to the story on KLGR radio’s website:

http://www.myklgr.com/2015/10/09/6th-circuit-court-stays-wotus-rule-nationwide/

Here’s a video from the Kansas Farm Bureau featuring Paul Schlegel, the Director of Environment and Energy Policy at the American Farm Bureau Federation in Washington, D.C.

 

Food prices down from last year

 

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 28, 2015 – Lower retail prices for several foods, including whole milk, cheddar cheese, bacon and apples resulted in a slight decrease in the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Fall Harvest Marketbasket Survey.


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The informal survey shows the total cost of 16 food items that can be used to prepare one or more meals was $54.14, down $.12 or less than 1 percent compared to a survey conducted a year ago. Of the 16 items surveyed, 10 decreased and six increased in average price.

Higher milk and pork production this year has contributed to the decrease in prices on some key foods.

“Energy prices, which affect everything in the marketbasket, have been quite a bit lower compared to a year ago. Processing, packaging, transportation and retail operations are all fairly energy-intensive,” said John Anderson, AFBF’s deputy chief economist. Lower energy prices account for much of the modest decrease in the marketbasket.

The following items showed retail price decreases from a year ago:

  • whole milk, down 17 percent to $3.14 per gallon
  • bacon, down 11 percent to $4.55 per pound
  • apples, down 7 percent $1.45 per pound
  • shredded cheddar, down 5 percent to $4.56 per pound
  • flour, down 4 percent to $2.37 per five-pound bag
  • bagged salad, down 4 percent to $2.46 per pound
  • vegetable oil, down 3 percent to $2.61 for a 32-ounce bottle
  • Russet potatoes, down 3 percent to $2.64 for a five-pound bag
  • white bread, down 1 percent to $1.69 for a 20-ounce loaf
  • chicken breast, down 1 percent to $3.42 per pound

These items showed modest retail price increases compared to a year ago:

  • eggs, up 56 percent to $3.04 per dozen
  • orange juice, up 7 percent to $3.43 per half-gallon
  • ground chuck, up 6 percent to $4.55 per pound
  • toasted oat cereal, up 3 percent to $3.09 for a nine-ounce box
  • sirloin tip roast, up 3 percent to $5.67 per pound
  • sliced deli ham, up 1 percent to $5.47 per pound

“As expected we saw higher egg prices because we lost so much production earlier this year due to the avian influenza situation in Iowa, Minnesota and some other Midwestern states,” Anderson said.

Price checks of alternative milk and egg choices not included in the overall marketbasket survey average revealed the following: 1/2 gallon regular milk, $2.21; 1/2 gallon organic milk, $4.79; and one dozen “cage-free” eggs, $4.16.

The year-to-year direction of the marketbasket survey tracks closely with the federal government’s Consumer Price Index (http://www.bls.gov/cpi/) report for food at home. As retail grocery prices have increased gradually over time, the share of the average food dollar that America’s farm and ranch families receive has dropped.

“Through the mid-1970s, farmers received about one-third of consumer retail food expenditures for food eaten at home and away from home, on average. Since then, that figure has decreased steadily and is now about 16 percent, according to the Agriculture Department’s revised Food Dollar Series,” Anderson said.

Using the “food at home and away from home” percentage across-the-board, the farmer’s share of this $54.14 marketbasket would be $8.66.

AFBF, the nation’s largest general farm organization, began conducting informal quarterly marketbasket surveys of retail food price trends in 1989. The series includes a Spring Picnic survey, Summer Cookout survey, Fall Harvest survey and Thanksgiving survey.

According to USDA, Americans spend just under 10 percent of their disposable annual income on food, the lowest average of any country in the world. A total of 69 shoppers in 24 states participated in the latest survey, conducted in September.

 

 

 

 

I need to vent: you need to read

I need to vent.

Apathy is a word I’m becoming a lot more familiar with as I venture further into the world of journalism. I have never been more concerned about the direction of the United States of America than I am at this moment in time. Evidently, I’m one of the few that are.

I offer up a local county in my part of Minnesota as a microcosm of what’s happening in this country.

This small county might be what most would think of when they picture rural America. But this small county is being hit with allegations of government corruption. And they aren’t just allegations, but they’ve been proven. I have seen the paperwork, I’ve seen the secret emails, and I’ve seen all the relevant documentation. These accusations have even been proven in court.

Local law enforcement started a “diversion program” as a way to deal with traffic violations, which, on paper sounded like a good thing. The legality of the program was questioned immediately. The cliff notes version is this: Traffic tickets were torn up if violators paid money to the county to take a class. The tuition money stayed in the county budget. But state statutes say local law enforcement officials don’t get to change enforcement standards (i.e. tear up tickets) because state government has authority in this situation.

I won’t pretend to be an expert, but I have done some extensive research and this looks like local officials found a way to bypass the state statutes to keep all the money raised from traffic violations in their coffers. I’d be glad to admit I was wrong if someone could show me I was, but state law very specifically states how the fine money is to be split between the state and local levels. It states that very clearly.

Did the little county find a way to bypass state law, or did they put something together that stayed within the law?  I’ll let you decide, but a local district judge said “nope.”

So, the program was declared illegal, and documents provided by the same law enforcement office show that traffic tickets have dropped by half since the program was taken off the board. From the outside looking in, it looks like officials have lost their motivation to write tickets since they don’t keep the money. Do I know that for sure? I don’t know that myself, but the paperwork from that very office seems to suggest it.

Now, people who paid money to take the class have hit the county with a class action suit. They want their money back. The county doesn’t want to pay it. They still say it was a “diversionary program,” even though a local district judge said no. So that means, more litigation, which means more cost to the taxpayers.

It also means the county will be on the hook for roughly $500,000 if they lose the lawsuit. Where does the money come from? It’s a pretty small tax base.

Here’s the thing: No one seems to care. There are no serious signs of local outcry. There is no sense of holding elected officials accountable for their actions. In fact, there seems to be a lot of playing the victim card happening in local circles. Elected officials are tossing around the word vendetta.

Why doesn’t government corruption bother people? Why is it just “expected?” Why is it excused? And it isn’t just in this small county either.

This is going on all over the country. As a member of the media, I find it nauseating that my national colleagues seem to be in bed with some of the worst dregs of humanity imaginable. You really can’t single out either of the two major parties anymore, either. Fox News’ handling of the Republican debate has convinced me that there are no reputable TV news outlets left.

The American people have played right into the hands of some of the most corrupt people in the country. Politicians are playing the “Sheeple” like fiddles. We spend more time arguing with each other over the stupidest things because politicians bring it up on the very news outlets they’re in bed with. Cecil the Lion, anyone? That’s called the strategy of distraction. Get us looking one way, so we don’t hold these crooks accountable for what’s really going on.

Am I being too harsh when I call our nation’s leaders crooks?

I offer Martin Luther King as an example. He said the very definition of tyranny is making laws for others that you don’t have to live under yourselves. Can you say Obamacare? That seems to fit the definition, doesn’t it? The only ones who are exempted from this national disaster seem to be in government. I didn’t get an exemption. Did you get one?

Is it just easier not to care? Is it easier not to put the work in to save our country before it’s too late?

What’s the old saying? The surest way for evil men to prosper is for good men to do nothing?

Evil men are prospering. How much longer do we wait before it’s too late?

 

 

 

 

 

Class action lawsuit against Wabasha County

Wabasha County

Wabasha County, located in SE Minnesota, faces a class action lawsuit over it’s now illegal safe driving program. Early estimates put the county on the hook for almost $500,000 dollars if it loses in court. (photo from en.wikipedia.org)

Wabasha County, Minnesota government is once again embroiled in controversy. The County created a Safe Driving Course back in 2003, and the legality of the model was questioned immediately. In January of 2014, Judge James Fabian of the Third District Court brought the program to a halt with a summary judgment.

Now, a class action civil lawsuit against the County has been filed on behalf of those who paid fees to take the class. The big question is: where does the money come from if the county loses the legal battle?

Wabasha County started the Safe Driving Course as a way for divers pulled over for minor moving violations to avoid large fines, a court appearance, and to keep the violation off their driving record. Although Wabasha created the program, at the time it was declared to be illegal, 36 cities and counties offered the program in similar formats.

The safe driving class had numerous concerns. Did the count have the legal authority to create and run the program? Most of the questions involved what happened to the money people had to pay to take the class. The original cost of the class was $75, and later was raised to $125.

In 2003, then-State Representative Steve Smith sent a letter of inquiry to the state Attorney General’s Office questioning the legality of a county program that “imposes administrative penalties upon person violating state laws and local ordinances.” The response from the AG’s Office was 7 pages long, and listed several ways the program was in violation of state laws.

One of the notable ways the program was in violation of state law was the discretionary behavior of law enforcement. Smith stated in his letter that local law enforcement officials were “holding tickets for certain traffic offenses to give drivers a chance to sign up for the Class. If the driver signed up for the class in time, the ticket was torn up.”

The response from Assistant AG Ken Raschke said, “Cities are empowered to regulate certain areas of local interest, and to supplement state statutes in many areas. However, local governments may not redefine the nature or level of criminal offense as specified by state statute, or modify statutory procedures for enforcement or penalties for an offense.”

Because the program was started at the city and county level, there was also some question as to whether or not local officials had the authority to make that decision. Raschke’s response answered the question by stating, “It is not consistent with state and public policy for local officials to direct or urge that city peace officers not enforce the law of the state to the best of their ability.”

Raschke did say that county officials and peace officers to have substantial discretion in making arrest and charging decisions.

“But, these decisions should be made on a case-by-case basis in terms of the evidence available, the culpability of the offender, and the nature of the offense, rather than the offender’s willingness to make a payment to the city,” he said.

In 2004, another letter from the State Auditor said, “This office believes the class is an effort to issue county penalties for traffic offenses that are regulated by State law. The State has entered the arena of traffic regulation through Chapter 169 of the Minnesota statues, and the county needs to use the uniform traffic ticket for violations of state traffic laws and adjudicate those violations through the state court system”

In other words, no holding of tickets, and no tearing them up once the drivers have taken the course. But the Safe Driving Class continued on.

The other question is what happened to the money drivers paid to take the class and avoid the court system?

In 2009, new legislation was enacted which required a person successfully completing a diversion program for a violation of Chapter 169 (Again, covering traffic violations) to pay a $75 surcharge. It laid out distribution of the proceeds as well: $65 was to go to the state general fund; $9.75 for the peace officer training account; and $0.25 to the game and fish fund.

During the early years of the program, Wabasha County was keeping all revenues from the Safe Driving Class. Even after the 2009 letter from the Office of Minnesota Management and Budget outlining the distribution of revenues, Wabasha County continued to keep all the money and sent nothing in to the state.

The warnings from state government continued through 2013. In August, a lawsuit was filed against Wabasha County over the Safe Driving program. The suit actually included 2 of Wabasha County’s Commissioners. The County response stated they felt it was a legal “diversion program.”

Third District Court Judge James Fabian issued an injunction, which stopped the program.

“State Statutes didn’t allow the program,” said Erick Kaardal, of the Mohrman, Kaardal, and Erickson Law Firm in Minneapolis, who represented the plaintiffs. “The concern was, rather than following through on a traffic ticket, they offered violators a chance to pay tuition to the class. The tuition money was going to the department’s budget, but ticket revenue was to be split between the state and the county.”

After the first suit was won, Kaardal and his firm represented plaintiffs who filed petitions to the court for tuition reimbursement. They filed for a class action suit statewide, but the Third District Court said no to that. The Court of Appeals then rejected a conditional review of the case.

“What was left open by the original district court,” said Kaardal, “was doing a suit county-by-county. So we’re representing plaintiffs on a countywide basis who want their tuition money back.”

He added, “Some of the early estimates indicate the refund amount my top $400,000 dollars in revenue.”

He said the goal was to stop county sheriffs from having a financial incentive to write tickets.

Wabasha County Sheriff Rodney Bartsch did end the program as soon as the injunction was granted. He felt the Safe Driving Program was a benefit to the county, and it was run as a legal diversion program.

Sheriff Rodney Bartsch

Wabasha County Sheriff Rodney Bartsch tells a Minnesota House committee Tuesday, March 18, 2014, that the public likes the option of taking classes rather than pay tickets. (photo from republican-eagle.com)

“The lawsuit is about a personal vendetta,” said Bartsch. “It has nothing to do with right or wrong. We had over 4,500 people participate in the class over a ten-year period. Most said the education was of great value to them. For the plaintiffs to have found 8 people to come forward out of thousands doesn’t sound like much of a class action suit to me.”

Bartsch added, “What’s interesting to me is there are other similar programs across the state. Why aren’t they trying to shut those down?”

Kaardal said most of the other county programs were shut down after the Wabasha ruling came down.

“After we won in Wabasha,” said Kaardal, “most of the other counties shut down their programs. Based on our most recent information, Wright and Isanti counties continue their programs, and so we have continuing concerns there, but right now we’re focused on the class action suit in Wabasha County.”

Sheriff Bartsch said the ongoing dispute with the State Auditor shouldn’t have happened because he felt they didn’t have the authority to regulate what he classified as a “diversionary program.”

He said, “The County Attorney and I always had a different opinion than that of the state auditor. They never had any authority to interpret state statute. This was always considered a diversionary program.”

However, Kaardal feels this suit is supported by case law.

“There’s good case law that states if the county sheriff has money he obtained illegally, he should give it back,” he said. “It’s called Money Had and Received. It says if you illegally obtain money from a party, you have to give it back.”

Kaardal added, “For example, if I give you money thinking you’re a store clerk before goods are exchanged and you aren’t, you have to give it back. He obtained the money through an illegal program, and he needs to give it back. That’s just common sense.”

Kaardal said cases like this are disappointing to him on a personal level too.

“The great hope is that law enforcement officers would follow the law,” said Kaardal. “We should be disappointed when law enforcement officers violate the law, particularly here in such an official and deliberate way.”

However, Sheriff Bartsch said his Safe Driving Class was a diversion program that violated no laws. In his mind, this continues to be a personal vendetta.

“This is just a way to get people paid for their time that was invested in trying to destroy a few elected officials in Wabasha County,” said the Sheriff. I will continue to feel sorry for those people that wish harm on others.”

Bartsch added, “I won’t name any names, but this whole issue began after a county commissioner lost an election.”

Kaardal continues to insist this is not personal matter, but a clear violation of law.

He said, “The county sheriff has complied with the District Court injunction stopping the safe driving program, and I praise him for that. Now it’s time for the Sheriff to do what’s legally necessary and refund the money to the safe driving program participants. But, the County Sheriff is choosing not to give money back to the participants. However, if the Sheriff would choose to give the money back, I would praise him for that action too. The unfortunate consequence of the Sheriff’s decision is more litigation.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JM Rockets fall in double OT to Owatonna

Rochester John Marshall

The Rochester John Marshall Rockets face the defending State Class 5A champion Mankato West Scarlets in their next action Friday night in Mankato. (photo from Facebook.com)

The third quarter was the difference as the Rochester John Marshall Rockets fell in double overtime to Owatonna 27-21 last Friday.

The Rockets controlled the first half, but the Huskies threw some different looks on offense against J-M coming out of the halftime locker room. Rockets Head Coach Kevin Kirkeby said his team rallied in the fourth quarter and it turned into quite a ballgame.

“Owatonna has two different styles of offense,” said Kirkeby. “They’ll go into a pistol offense and do more of a spread formation, but they also go under center. Against Mankato West (in their season opener) they only did their pistol offense, so we weren’t sure what they would do against us and prepared for both styles.”

The Rockets defense played well against the pistol during the first half.

Rochester John Marshall High School

The Rochester John Marshall 2015 football team. (Photo from johnmarshallrockets.org)

“Offensively, we didn’t really need to throw the ball much in the first half,” said Kirkeby. “We were having really good success on the ground. (Senior Running Back) Cazz Martin scored two touchdowns (on 18 carries for 102 yards) and things were going well.”

Owatonna came out of the halftime locker room and took control of the game early in the second half.

“The Huskies defense had a whole bunch of different players than what they ran out their in loss against West,” said Kirkeby, “So it probably took them a half to get used to each other. They came out fired up and we just didn’t have a whole lot of offensive continuity.”

He added, “The third quarter was all theirs. They scored twice on their first two possessions of the second half.”

Kirkeby was proud of his team for not letting up and bouncing back in the fourth quarter with some good football.

 

 

The Rockets are 1-1 on the season, and they’ve shown some flashes of good football:

 

JM is a football team with a lot of new faces in the lineup.

“We only have a couple of returning starters on offense,” he said. “On defense, we have about 7 returning starters but some of them are playing different positions.”

They do have a lot of upperclassmen on the field, but not a lot of game day experience to go with it.

“We have a nice mixture of juniors and seniors on offense and defense,” said Kirkeby. “However, it’s not like other teams that have a lot of seniors that have been playing together since tenth grade. We don’t have that.”

Kirkeby is in his third year as Head Coach, and he wants his offense to start with a solid ground game.

“My philosophy in Minnesota is we have all kinds of challenging weather,” said Kirkeby, “so you better be able to run the football. However, you can’t just run the ball or the opponent will stack the box with 9 or 10 guys and make it very difficult. I think a nice 40-60 or 30-70 blend of running and passing plays would be a good place to be at.”

JM has a tough road assignment this week. They travel to Mankato West High School for a matchup with the State Class 5A champs. Kirkeby said, in some ways, the Scarlets might be a better team than they were last year.

 

What aspects of the game do the Rockets need to improve on?