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Thursday Afternoon News, March 6

Branstad Joins In California Egg Lawsuit

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Gov. Terry Branstad says he has joined a lawsuit seeking to strike down a California law regulating the living conditions of chickens.
      Branstad announced Thursday he'd joined the lawsuit filed in February by Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster. Attorneys general in Alabama, Kentucky, Nebraska and Oklahoma also have joined the lawsuit.
     It seeks to block a California law taking effect in 2015 that prohibits eggs from being sold there if they come from hens raised in cages that don't comply with California's new size and space requirements.  The voter-approved law requires that egg-laying hens, pigs and calves be given enough space to lie down, stand up, turn around and fully extend their limbs.
     Iowa is the nation's top egg producer. About 9 percent of those eggs are sold in California.  Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey spoke to KLEM news about this issue.

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Northey worries that California's move may be like falling dominos with other agricultural goods.

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UNI Students Reducing Debt

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (AP) - Students at the University of Northern Iowa have managed to significantly reduce average student debt by taking advantage of a federal program that requires them to teach a high-need subject in a high-poverty school for four years. 
     The average UNI graduate last year had about $23,000 in debt. That's down from about $26,000 three years ago.
     The Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education grant offers $4,000 per year to students who follow the unique requirement. The grant, which offers up to 16,000 over four years, converts to a loan with retroactive interest if a student doesn't fulfill the requirement within eight years of graduation.
 
     UNI officials say more than 600 students this year have received $2.3 million through the program.
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Judge Rules Horses To Be Returned

 KEOKUK, Iowa (AP) - A judge says the Lee County Sheriff's Office erred in its seizure of 37 horses from a southeast Iowa farm, and the department must return them to their owner who still faces charges of animal neglect.
     The  ruling Wednesday means the horses must be sent back to Jeffrey Lee Graber. The animals were taken in January. 
     The judge ruled deputies failed to follow proper procedure when removing the horses. It's unclear when the horses will be back. Some were adopted by rescue facilities in Iowa and surrounding states.
     Graber faces three counts of livestock neglect and improperly disposing of an animal carcass. A trial date in North Lee County District Court has not been scheduled. Court records do not list an attorney.
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Legislator Wants Bill To Help With Low Income Child Burials

 CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (AP) - A Cedar Falls lawmaker is pushing for legislation that would help low-income families pay for child burials. 
     Democratic Rep. Bob Kressig's bill would give qualifying individuals up to $2,000 for funeral expenses after the death of a child. The measure has been assigned to an appropriations subcommittee.
     Kressig says the legislation was inspired by Sing Me to Heaven, a nonprofit group in northeast Iowa that raises money to help pay for such funerals. Group organizers say the cost of a funeral can range from $2,000 to $10,000 or more.
     The bill would provide $100,000 to be administered through the state Department of Public Health. The amount is not expected to be used up within a year, and the funds would not necessarily be recurring.
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