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Northern Star

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The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

(left to right) graduate student Eric Cnus and Sareh Nerwell, first-year psychology major work in the Anderson Hall Communiversity Gardens, 520 Garden Rd. The gardens are open for volunteers every Wednesday.

Communiversity Gardens invites volunteers to learn about food production

By Ally Formeller | April 7, 2022
Volunteers can learn more about food production and farming practices at NIU's Communiversity Gardens with a wide variety of produce.
Tequechees is Provechos most popular dish ordered by delivery or catering. Provecho is in the works to open a restaurant in downtown DeKalb.

Multicultural catering business to open brick and mortar restaurant in DeKalb

By Abby Byer | March 17, 2022
Provecho serves multicultural food, with a lot of dishes from Venezuela, that people can order by delivery and is in the works to open a restaurant.
Huskie Fresh is a new meal service for students.

Huskie Fresh brings meal kits to campus

By Kurt Bitting | February 1, 2022

DeKALB —NIU community members now have the option to order premade meals with the Huskie Fresh meal kit program. Huskie Fresh is a collaborative project involving community members and personnel and facilities from Campus Dining Services, the College...

Takis To Go, 817 W Lincoln Hwy, serves traditional American food.

Local restaurant struggles due to opening during COVID-19

By Jaylen Conwell, News Reporter | January 26, 2022

DeKALB — Any DeKalb resident or NIU student looking for a new place to hang out with a diverse menu should consider visiting Taki’s To Go, 817 W Lincoln Hwy. Customers can order a variety of food including burgers, homemade chicken sandwiches,...

Pasta shells stuffed with minced beef meat with herbs.

5 cheat day meal recipes to try

By Ariel Morris, Lifestyle writer | January 20, 2022

Finding new ways to spice up your meal on a cheat day is exciting, considering the abundance of delicious meals to try. One of the best things about cooking is that you can improvise and make whatever your heart desires. Cheat meals are rewarding after...

A photograph of three vegan drinks from Starbucks.

5 vegan drinks to try at Starbucks

By Madelaine Vikse, Editor-in-Chief | December 30, 2021

Starbucks has a good amount of vegan options, including hot drinks, iced drinks and frappuccinos. The chain offers almond, oat, coconut and soy non-dairy milk substitution as well. These five vegan Starbucks drinks are perfect for those who do and...

India, US struggling to bridge trade dispute as Trump visits

By PAUL WISEMAN | February 22, 2020

WASHINGTON (AP) — American dairy farmers, distillers and drugmakers have been eager to break into India, the world’s seventh-biggest economy but a tough-to-penetrate colossus of 1.3 billion people.Looks like they’ll have to wait.Talks between the...

Police find secret cigarette factory 4 meters underground

February 20, 2020

MADRID (AP) — Police have dismantled what they say is the Europe Union’s first clandestine underground cigarette factory — four meters (13 feet) under a horse stable in southern Spain.Statements Thursday from Spanish police and Europol said 20 people...

UK employers fear worker shortages in new immigration plan

By JILL LAWLESS | February 19, 2020

LONDON (AP) — Vegetables rotting in the fields, food going unprocessed, the elderly and disabled left without care.That’s the alarming picture painted by some British employers about the impact of new U.K. immigration rules set to be introduced in...

More US firms are boosting faith-based support for employees

By DAVID CRARY | February 11, 2020

NEW YORK (AP) —It has become standard practice for U.S. corporations to assure employees of support regardless of their race, gender or sexual orientation. There’s now an intensifying push to ensure that companies are similarly supportive and inclusive...

Amid uncertainty, French wine industry puts itself on show

By THOMAS ADAMSON | February 11, 2020

PARIS (AP) — France's big wine industry, shaken by U.S. President Trump’s painful tariff hikes and the threat of climate change, is hoping to re-energize global interest in its products with a big trade fair in Paris.Two thousand winemakers - including...

Factory farms provide abundant food, but environment suffers

By JOHN FLESHER | February 6, 2020
AKRON, Iowa (AP) — In recent years, Fred Zenk built two barns housing about 2,400 hogs between them — long, white, concrete-and-metal structures that are ubiquitous in the Midwestern countryside.The Iowa farmer didn’t follow state requirements to get construction approval and file a manure disposal plan. But Zenk’s operation initially flew under the radar of regulators, as have many others across the United States because of loopholes and spotty enforcement of laws intended to keep the nation’s air and water clean.Beef, chicken and pork have become more affordable staples in the American diet thanks to industry consolidation and the rise of farms with tens of thousands of animals. Yet federal and state environmental agencies often lack basic information such as where they’re located, how many animals they’re raising and how they deal with manure.The animals and their waste have fouled waters. The enclosures spew air pollutants that promote climate change and are implicated in illnesses such as asthma. The stench of manure — stored in pits beneath barns or open-air lagoons and eventually spread on croplands as fertilizer — can make life miserable for people nearby.For most of the nation’s history, meat and dairy products came from independent farms that raised animals in barnyards, pastures and rangeland. But the system now is controlled by giant companies that contract with farmers to produce livestock with the efficiency of auto assembly lines inside warehouse-like barns and sprawling feedlots.The spread of corporate animal farms is turning neighbor against neighbor in town halls and courtrooms. Iowa, the top U.S. producer of swine and egg-laying chickens, has been a major battleground.“It’s a fight for survival,” said Chris Petersen, who still raises pigs in outdoor pens.Michele Merkel, a former EPA attorney who quit over the agency’s reluctance to punish polluting mega-farms and is co-director of the advocacy group Food & Water Justice, said the industry “has avoided any effective regulation and accountability for a long time.”Industry groups say there are plenty of regulations and livestock agriculture is simply adapting to improved technology, equipment and methods.“We’re responding to what the market is giving us,” said Brady Reicks, whose company runs numerous large hog structures in northeastern Iowa. “We’re doing it responsibly; we’re passionate about doing it. It increases growth in rural Iowa and it helps feed the world.”The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency began to count the nation’s factory farms during the Obama administration but retreated when industry groups sued. Instead, the agency uses state data to produce annual statistics about only the biggest operations.As of 2018, the nationwide EPA tally was about 20,300 — a roughly five-fold increase over nearly four decades.Yet it’s a tiny fraction of all confined animal operations. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates there are more than 450,000, most too small for inclusion in the EPA count.Iowa has 80 million farm animals and 3 million people. Yet in 2017, regulators didn’t know how many livestock farms were in the state. Under federal pressure, the Department of Natural Resources pored over aerial photos, discovering 4,200 previously unknown facilities.Zenk’s Plymouth County farm was among them.“We knew nothing about his operation,” said Sheila Kenny, an environmental specialist with the state agency.Zenk acknowledged breaking the rules but said no harm was done. He paid a $4,500 fine.“You think you can get by with something once in a while and you can’t,” he said, strolling among his barns, tractor and feed bins.To state regulators, such discoveries mean the system works. Critics say the Iowa experience shows how easily livestock operations can escape detection.Putting thousands of animals in one enclosure produces huge amounts of manure. Unlike human sewage, which is treated and released to waterways, animal waste is stored, then spread on croplands as fertilizer.Farmers insist they are careful.“We take soil tests, we decide how much manure it needs and that’s how much we apply,” Reicks said.Environmental groups say fields often can’t handle the volumes of manure produced, leading to runoff. Such pollution is exempt from regulation under the 1972 Clean Water Act, even though agriculture is the biggest contaminator of rivers and streams, according to the EPA.In Emmett County, Iowa, small farmer Gordon Garrison sued a nearby operation with 4,400 hogs, contending manure from its croplands fouls a creek that runs through his property and feeds the Des Moines River.“They’re using me for a waste disposal site,” Garrison said.Livestock farms generate about 70% of the nation’s ammonia emissions, plus gases that cause global warming, particularly methane.Yet they aren’t required to get permits under the Clean Air Act. The government hasn’t decided how to measure emissions from barns, feedlots, storage lagoons and croplands.And under President Donald Trump, EPA has exempted livestock operations from requirements under other laws that industries report significant releases of air pollutants including ammonia and hydrogen sulfide.Critics say yesteryear’s barnyard whiffs were nothing like the overpowering stench from today’s supersized operations.“You don’t want to be anywhere near them,” said Brad Trom, a crop producer in Minnesota’s Dodge County, who lives within three miles of 11 structures housing 30,000 swine. He says he’s been staggered by powerful odors barreling across his fields.Farmers say they’re trying to reduce the smells but contend they’re a normal part of country life.“I’ve never lived on a farm that didn’t have nature’s fragrances on it,” said Gary Sovereign, a swine producer in Iowa’s Howard County.Research has linked proximity to factory farms to various health risks. But scientists acknowledge it’s nearly impossible to pin someone’s illness on a certain polluter.Jeff and Gail Schwartzkopf say after a hog mega-barn was built a quarter-mile from their home in northern Iowa, they developed burning and itching eyes, throat soreness and body rashes. They fear the manure odors are making them sick and ruining their home.“Nobody’s going to want to buy it. We’re stuck,” Jeff Shwartzkopf said———Follow Flesher on Twitter: @johnflesher———The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.——