Liam Niemeyer

"Liam Niemeyer is a reporter for the Ohio Valley Resource covering agriculture and infrastructure in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia and also serves Assistant News Director at WKMS. He has reported for public radio stations across the country from Appalachia to Alaska, most recently as a reporter for WOUB Public Media in Athens, Ohio. He is a recent alumnus of Ohio University and enjoys playing tenor saxophone in various jazz groups."

 

 
 

KET

Kentucky health officials are suggesting revisions to a proposed regulation that would have dramatically increased food safety inspection fees for some small food producers. 

Department officials said they received hundreds of public comments on the proposal with concerns about fee increases and they now plan to limit fees according to a producer’s income.

Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Resources officials spoke to the Interim Joint Committee on Agriculture on Thursday about the planned rule revision, getting feedback from state lawmakers on concerns about the rule’s impact on small farmers.

Liam Niemeyer | Ohio Valley ReSource

Tina Ryan knows the hallways of East Calloway Elementary better than most. Besides working as a school nurse here for 20 years, Ryan, who is 55, was also a student here herself. 

“I’m probably one of the older ones here as far as staff and things. Or maybe the oldest one here,” she said with a laugh. “I was happy to know I was coming to East Elementary when I got the job. Because I was an alumni here.”

A pencil-shaped sign that reads “Nurse’s Office” hangs in the hallway next to her door, with all the classic supplies of a veteran nurse inside: tongue depressors, a blood pressure cuff, itch cream — “bug bites all the time” — and loads of bandages and band-aids.

 


Sydney Boles | Ohio Valley ReSource

Small food producers in Kentucky aired their disapproval during a virtual public hearing  Monday for a proposed rule that could increase permitting fees for some producers by more than 1000%. One Democratic state representative believes the proposed regulation could also clash with a bill signed by Governor Andy Beshear this year to help local public health departments become more sustainable.

The hearing heard from many small food producers, saying the Kentucky Department for Public Health proposal would cripple their business, especially given the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. Seth Long runs a maple syrup operation in Letcher County and was one of those producers who spoke at the hearing.

Animal Wellness Action

An animal rights advocacy group published a report Thursday that says Kentucky is “a center” for illegal cockfighting breeding that ships tens of thousands birds across the world to the Philippines, Mexico, and other countries.

The Animal Wellness Action report details video interviews and social media posts of seven suspected breeders, ranging from Bowling Green in southern Kentucky to Manchester in east Kentucky, as evidence of these operations.

In one example, the group cites a man named Chris Copas near Bowling Green who claims to have participated in the World Slasher’s Cup 2020, an international cockfighting tournament in the Philippines. Copas finished in second place, according to a social media profile.

USDA/Alice Welch

Tyson Foods sought and received federal permission to increase the operating speed at poultry processing plants in Kentucky and southern Indiana even as public health officials reported dozens of coronavirus cases among Tyson workers. Now, a union representing workers at meatpacking plants in Kentucky and southern Indiana is one of several plaintiffs suing the federal government over waivers that allowed Tyson Foods and other companies to operate faster.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) granted waivers in April to several plants across the country, including to Tyson Foods plants in Henderson County, Kentucky, and Corydon, Indiana, near Louisville. The waiver program, which started in 2018 following USDA denying a petition from an industry group to remove processing limits, allows select poultry slaughterhouses to increase their top processing speed from 140 to 175 birds per minute.

Lake Cumberland District Health Department/Facebook

A west Kentucky television station manager told his employees they need his permission before getting tested for coronavirus, after an employee at the station tested positive for infection by the virus. Some employees of the station’s parent company, Paxton Media Group, say that policy discourages them from getting a test. Health and legal experts say the station policy is problematic, putting employees of the station and the public at large at risk for spreading the virus.

Some employees of WPSD-TV in Paducah say their coverage promoting safety measures against the spread of COVID-19 is disconnected from how the company protects employees from the virus. The Ohio Valley ReSource spoke on background with three people associated with Paxton Media Group  which owns WPSD, the Paducah Sun newspaper, and numerous other media outlets in west Kentucky. Those people, who asked to remain anonymous to avoid reprisal, say they fear their health and safety is not a priority at the company.

Sydney Boles / Ohio Valley ReSource

By now it’s become a familiar scene: Marchers fill the streets with placards proclaiming “Black Lives Matter,” and chants fill the air as the demonstrators recite the names of those lost. 

But there’s something different about some of these protests around the Ohio Valley in the past week. They’re not just happening in the larger cities such as Louisville, Lexington, Columbus and Cincinnati. Smaller college towns such as Athens, Ohio, and Morgantown, West Virginia, have seen marches. Communities in Kentucky farmland and the heart of Appalachian coal country, such as Hazard and Harlan, Kentucky, have seen people protesting against racial injustice and police violence. 


Liam Niemeyer | WKMS

This story was updated at 1:15 p.m. to include information issued by the Murray Police Department

video posted to social media shows a man assaulting protesters with a chemical spray during an evening march on June 2 in Murray, in a second day of protests in the city related to the recent killings of unarmed black people across the country.

More than 50 protesters marched from a Confederate memorial featuring a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee aside the Calloway County courthouse, through the streets of Murray. Murray police cars escorted the protesters through the streets, with marchers disrupting traffic and holding signs with phrases including, “I can’t breathe,” and “Breonna Taylor,” the name of the black woman who was killed after Louisville police shot her in her apartment.

Liam Niemeyer I Ohio Valley ReSource

Debby Dulworth has a lot of conversations with her cattle each day. She swings open a gate, driving the herd with repeated calls and the Hereford cattle, respond in kind with groans and snorts.

“They talk to me,” Dulworth said with a laugh, as the cows come bounding out into a fresh field of Kentucky fescue and buttercups. She’s been corralling them from pasture to pasture on her farm for decades near Monkey’s Eyebrow, Kentucky, nestled in a bend of the Ohio River.

Most of the time, they move at her call. The more stubborn ones she herds with the threat of an electric wire she slowly drags through the field. The wire isn’t hot usually, but the cows don’t know that.

Aaron Payne | Ohio Valley ReSource

A new study shows the Ohio Valley has some of the nation’s highest rates of food insecurity among older adults, and anti-hunger advocates say that situation could be made worse by the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

The annual study was published May 21 in partnership with researchers from the University of Kentucky, researchers from University of Illinois, and the nonprofit food bank organization Feeding America. The researchers used Census Bureau survey data from 2018 which asked households with adults aged 50-59 a series of questions to determine whether they were food insecure.

Liam Niemeyer, Zoom screenshot

It’s the uncertainty that gets to Darlene Davis. The uncertainty of when she’ll see her 87-year-old mother in person again. The uncertainty of her co-workers’ health. The uncertainty that comes with the novel coronavirus.  

When a co-worker of hers at the JBS Swift meatpacking plant in Louisville died from COVID-19, she said that uncertainty turned into fear for many of the 1,200 employees at the plant. The Louisville Metro Health Department was made aware of the death on April 4. 


Nicole Erwin / Ohio Valley ReSource

As President Trump ordered meatpacking plants on Tuesday to keep operating amid the coronavirus pandemic, more details are emerging about the concerns workers had about their safety at a facility in Louisville, where dozens of workers were infected and one died. 

 

The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services reported as of Monday, the state was aware of 220 coronavirus cases at four meatpacking plants, including 34 cases at a JBS Swift plant in Louisville. The cabinet also reported one death — at that Louisville plant. 

 

Records of complaints filed with the Louisville Metro Public Health Department show that in early April employees were concerned that the company was not doing enough to protect them.

 

 


Daniel Schneider/U.S. Army

The Kentucky Department for Public Health has confirmed 220 employees at meatpacking plants across Kentucky have tested positive for the coronavirus, with one employee death related to the virus in Louisville.

Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services spokeswoman Susan Dunlap in an email Monday afternoon said the Beshear administration is aware of cases and one death at four meatpacking plants in the state:

USDA/Alice Welch

Dozens of coronavirus cases have been confirmed at two west Kentucky meatpacking plants, following concerns Ohio Valley worker safety advocates have raised about the spread of the coronavirus in these kinds of facilities. 

Green River District Health Department Director Clay Horton said as of Thursday afternoon at least 62 people associated with a Tyson Foods meatpacking plant in Henderson County, Kentucky, have coronavirus. Horton also confirmed 19 cases at a Perdue Farms poultry processing plant in Ohio County, Kentucky. 

“We know there are a number of confirmed cases outside our jurisdiction as well but don’t have specific data at this time,” Horton said in a statement. “We are working diligently to identify every case and close contact. Those individuals are being isolated and quarantined to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

USDA

Kentucky and West Virginia have recently been added to a federal pilot program to allow food stamp recipients to purchase groceries online, and Ohio Valley anti-hunger advocates say it’s a good move to improve food accessibility amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The pilot program lets those receiving food assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to make grocery purchases online. The program began in New York in April, 2019, but many states including Kentucky and West Virginia have just recently joined the program to let SNAP recipients buy food with less face-to-face interaction. 

 


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