Editorial Roundup:

Omaha World Herald. September 8, 2020

New rules help ensure farm subsidies go to actual farmers

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has begun to implement new restrictions on who is eligible to receive farm commodity payments. The requirements, directed by the 2018 farm bill, are warranted. As Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley has long asserted, farm supports can be sustained only if the public has confidence the payments are going to individuals genuinely involved in farm production.

Under the USDA rules, a payment recipient must provide either 25% of a farm’s total management hours on an annual basis or perform at least 500 hours of management annually. The individual also must provide the management on a “regular, continuous and substantial” basis.

These requirements assure proper accountability for the nation’s farm payments.

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The Grand Island Independent. September 6, 2020

Northwest Public Schools is protecting staff, students

Beginning last Monday, Northwest Public Schools has been requiring all students and staff members to wear masks while at school.

This decision was not easily made as the district’s school board had preferred to recommend, but not require masks. But the change was made after someone from the school district tested positive for COVID-19, resulting in more than 100 Northwest students being instructed to quarantine for 14 days.

This is a large portion of the Northwest student body. The district, with the advice of the Central District Health Department, realized the threat that the coronavirus poses to its students and staff members and took action to minimize it.

According to Northwest Superintendent Jeff Edwards, the district’s students have adapted well and understand the reason for the mask mandate.

“Most of our teachers have been masking up since school started,” said Edwards, so the mandate has not affected them much.

If students didn’t have a mask, the school provided them with a cloth mask.

School district officials plans to reevaluate the situation weekly in determining whether the mask mandate will continue. It is doing everything it can to ensure it recognizes the individual rights of staff members and students while still protecting the health of the entire Northwest community.

This policy change was needed and is totally appropriate, considering the threat that the coronavirus continues to pose in central Nebraska and throughout the state. During the past week, the state reached 35,000 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and topped 400 deaths.

As of Friday, the three counties in the Central District had reported 2,058 cases and 59 deaths. Its risk dial had risen from 1.5 last week to 1.9, at the top of the moderate section of the dial.

These statistics just confirm what the CDHD has been saying, that we are not out of the woods and need to continue to take all the preventive measures we can, maintaining a 6-foot distance from others whenever possible, wearing face coverings when around other people and avoiding large crowds.

It is important that our children be able to attend school in person, but that will not be possible if they aren’t following these measures while at school. For our schools to continue to be open, everyone must be wearing masks while in the schools. Then, if someone tests positive, it isn’t necessary for everyone who has been around that person to be quarantined.

It’s great to know that the students at Northwest Public Schools, as well as Grand Island Public Schools, Grand Island Central Catholic, Heartland Lutheran High School and Trinity Lutheran School, can safely attend school. It’s also encouraging that all our schools are providing virtual experiences for students who can’t be at school.

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Lincoln Journal Star. September 9, 2020

Cutting programs at UNL could have long-term dire effects

Football has been called the front porch to a university -- that comforting entry point that enthusiastically welcomes newcomers and keeps everyone else coming back.

Nowhere is that more apt than the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where the psyche of an entire state hangs in the balance each Saturday in the fall.

It’s like that at any number of places, particularly in a Big Ten Conference that prides itself on being competitive in everything its schools do -- be it on the athletic fields or in the classrooms.

No, football isn’t the only venue of competition in the Big Ten. And so when UNL announced last week a number of proposed cuts -- caused by a 2020 calendar year that has been a kick in the collective shin to all of us -- we have to ask if there is another way.

We urge the Academic Planning Committee to find a way to make ends meet without cutting programs, as Nebraska desperately needs to keep its college-educated students in the state after graduation.

We need to remember that we are competing against other schools for recruits and the tuition dollars they spend to major in a variety of programs, including dance, textiles and hospitality.

Chancellor Ronnie Green announced last week that the undergraduate dance program in the Glenn Korff School of Music in the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts was on the chopping blocks. So, too, are the textile and hospitality programs, which draw students from all over the region.

Cutting a program like, say, dance is a decision that could have calamitous ramifications. Anytime a unique program is eliminated, it has dire long-term effects because it costs more to start and stop a program than it does to simply maintain.

That said, when a program goes away, it’s difficult for it to ever come back -- and those students who gravitate toward those kind of programs will end up spending their education dollars elsewhere.

It’s hard to ignore the difficult situation in which UNL finds itself. The COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with the decision to scrap the football season this fall, has left the university on the short end of a budget deficit.

Eliminating $18.9 million in faculty and staff positions over the next three years, while also proposing program cuts in textiles, dance and hospitality, is one way of closing a $38.2 million budget gap.

In November, the committee will report its final recommendations back to the chancellor’s office.

“I know for many of you, this is yet another impact you are being asked to shoulder,” Green said. “For our university, the only way to face this is head-on, together. While very difficult, I am confident we can do so and emerge stronger on the other side.”

It’s hard to imagine UNL emerging stronger and more well-rounded without the programs currently attracting a wide variety of students.

We hope the planning committee will keep searching for another way. We urge it to exhaust all alternatives before chopping programs.

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