Jonathan Ahl | KCUR

Jonathan Ahl

Jonathan Ahl joined Iowa Public Radio as News Director in July 2008. He leads the news and talk show teams in field reporting, feature reporting, audio documentaries, and talk show content. With more than 17 years in public media, Jonathan is a nationally award-winning reporter that has worked at public radio stations in Macomb, Springfield and Peoria, IL. He served WCBU-FM in Peoria as news director before coming to Iowa. He also served as a part-time instructor at Bradley University teaching journalism and writing courses. Jonathan is currently serving a second term as president of PRNDI – the Public Radio News Directors, Incorporated.

Jonathan has a master's degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois - Springfield along with a bachelor's degree from Western Illinois University.

Jonathan’s favorite public radio program is All Things Considered.

ROLLA — If Missouri receives money from its lawsuits against opioid manufacturers, rural health care providers want to make sure they get some of those dollars to support underfunded opioid addiction services.

The Your Community Cares Rural Health Coalition invited Attorney General Eric Schmitt and representatives from the U.S. Attorney's office in St. Louis to Rolla on Friday to talk about the programs and how they are underfunded.

ROLLA — More than $60 million in grants and low-interest loans is headed to Missouri as part of a U.S. Department of Agriculture program to increase broadband internet access in rural areas.

Six businesses are receiving the grants to install fiber optic internet lines that will bring high-speed service to areas that have little to no access.

Gascosage Electric Cooperative is one of those businesses. It provides electricity to rural areas of Camden, Maries, Miller, Phelps and Pulaski counties in south-central Missouri. This grant is part of its entry into the internet service provider market.

For the first time in more than 70 years, farmers in Missouri will be allowed to grow industrial hemp during the 2020 growing season.

But first they will need a permit from the Missouri Department of Agriculture. Those applications are online now, and the department will start processing them right after the first of the year.

Utility company Ameren has come to an agreement with Missouri’s Department of Natural Resources to donate an old rail line for use as a recreational trail. 

The former Rock Island and Pacific Rail corridor owned by Ameren stretches 144 miles from Beaufort to Windsor and would complete a trail that would connect Kansas City to St. Louis. 

Fort Leonard Wood is home to more than 6,000 soldiers and at least three endangered species.

Those animals and two more that are threatened are protected and cared for despite living among shelling and other military training.

And scientists flock to the installation, saying it’s a boon to their research and gives them an opportunity to help these animals.

Holly Bickmeyer is worried about what a large livestock operation would do if it moves in next door. 

She points to the small lake in front of her house on the 20-head cattle farm she operates in Maries County.

“Sinkholes open up all the time,” Bickmeyer said. “You see the lake that’s in my front yard here? If somebody builds a hog operation at the end of my driveway, I would be concerned about that waste getting into the groundwater and I walk out one day and all my bass are dead.”

Bickmeyer said that’s why she wants her local county commissioners to decide if concentrated animal feeding operations, also known as CAFOs, can locate nearby. 

ROLLA - Sometimes, the best way to see how strong something is means shooting it with a cannon loaded up with stuff found in a coal mine.

While this may sound like a TV comedy bit, it’s part of serious research at the Missouri University of Science and Technology that could make coal mines safer for workers.

Feral hogs are causing major damage to the Mark Twain National Forest.

The animals dig up grasslands and crops, they eat eggs and baby wildlife, and scratching an itch on their backs can literally strip the bark off a tree.

Hunters want a chance to help out with this menace that can weigh over 200 pounds and produce 40 to 50 offspring a year. But the National Forest Service is considering outlawing feral hog hunts on public land in the Mark Twain.

The mostly nondescript Building 2101 at Fort Leonard Wood was the home of the Black Officers' Club before the Army was desegregated in 1948. 

The building had been slated for demolition, but a preservation effort restored it. The goal is to honor African American soldiers who served in difficult times.

Updated at 1 p.m., June 25 with comments from Bayer — Two Missouri law firms have filed a potential class-action lawsuit against Bayer, alleging the company violated state law in not disclosing the health risks associated with the weed killer Roundup. 

The lawsuit is different from others because it seeks purchase refunds, not compensation for personal injury.

Jonathan Ahl / Harvest Public Media

Summer festivals are ubiquitous (especially across the Midwest), and often highlight the local food specialty, be it corn, apples or beef. But when the food has a less-than-glamorous reputation, a town has a decision to make.

Decades ago, the small town of Nixa in Missouri’s Ozarks embraced what is often called a garbage fish. Catostomidae, better known as a sucker fish, is a bottom-feeder that’s plentiful in the cold waters of the Ozark Plateau. It’s also filleted, fried and at the center of Nixa Sucker Days.

Animal waste and nitrogen-based agricultural fertilizers contribute to nitrate runoff, which ends up in creeks, streams, rain and, eventually, water systems. Nitrate, that mix of nitrogen and oxygen, can cause serious health problems if it’s too concentrated.

The best defense is filtering, which forests are great at doing. But a new study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service suggests forests are falling behind, and heavy rains brought on by climate change are making it worse.

Many high school students choose college as their destination after graduation, and receive lots of attention for that decision. A collection of high schools near Missouri’s Fort Leonard Wood wanted to bring that same recognition to students who join the military.

“Sapper” is the Army’s nickname for the combat engineers who take on a variety of duties all centered around clearing the way for infantry to get where they need to go.

The name comes from the French word “sappe,” meaning to undermine and collapse a wall.

This week, 50 two-person teams of sappers from around the world are at Fort Leonard Wood in the Missouri Ozarks to compete against each other in an event designed to test the wide-ranging skills a sapper needs.

Meat and dairy are piling up across the U.S. It has cold storage places packed to the rafters, and the federal government, which subsidizes the agriculture industry, looking for ways to alleviate the problem, at least in the short-term.

U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Donna Martin is the first woman to be in charge at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri’s Ozarks. She took the post in August. Martin, 53, is also only the third African American to hold the position in the installation’s 78-year history.

In an interview with St. Louis Public Radio’s Jonathan Ahl, Martin talked about a variety of issues including how she balances the responsibilities to the military and to the community that relies upon the base:

Lt. Col. Alfred Boone saw a disturbing trend among the new recruits he oversees at Fort Leonard Wood in the Missouri Ozarks.

“Infected blisters, hairline fractures, hip strains,” Boone said, describing the increase in injuries among the new soldiers.

Boone said the Army had a hunch that its iconic boots — the tan, heavy, high laced footwear — were to blame, because so many of the new recruits have never before worn hard-soled shoes.

In theory, closing off China’s soybean market due to the trade dispute with the U.S. on top of generally low prices for the commodity should affect all industry players, big to small. Agriculture economist Pat Westhoff begged to differ.

A stand of trees in the Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri looks a little more sparse than what is often depicted in a forest.

The trees are eight to ten feet apart, and that’s on purpose, fire management officer Greg Painter said.

Gov. Mike Parson selected House Budget Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick to be state treasurer.

The 31-year-old Barry County Republican will succeed Eric Schmitt, who Parson selected to be Attorney General. It’s the third statewide vacancy that Parson has filled since taking office on June 1.

Updated at 3 p.m. Dec. 20 with Trump signing legislation — The long-awaited final version of the farm bill was unveiled Monday night, and it hews somewhat closely to the previous piece of massive legislation — aside from legalizing hemp on a national level. 

Updated at 11 a.m. Nov. 26 with a correction — A southeastern Missouri cotton and soybean farmer has the distinction of being the first person in the United States to face federal charges over alleged dicamba misuse.

The latest proposal for the farm bill — the law governing everything from food stamps to rural development grants — is being considered by the U.S. Senate this week. It's designed to save more than $23 billion over the next 10 years, in part by getting rid of direct payments to farmers. The direct payment program alone costs taxpayers $5 billion per year.