September 19, 2018

K-State ASI Launches Resources to Address African Swine Fever Virus in Feed

Manhattan, Kan. - With the recent occurrences of African Swine Fever Virus (ASFV) and Classical Swine Fever Virus (CSFV) in countries important for U.S. trade, there have been many questions about how to best prevent foreign animal disease transmission into U.S. swine herds. While feed and ingredients are not the most likely sources of introduction and transmission, they are a documented vector for disease. Thus, the extension of on-farm biosecurity practices to the feed mill is important.

“We have made updates to the ‘Feed Safety Resources’ link on to answer producer questions about African Swine Fever Virus in feed,” explains Cassie Jones, K-State Department of Animal Sciences & Industry associate professor. “The updated site includes frequently asked questions about ASFV in feed.

For example, many producers have approached members of the KSU Swine Nutrition Team with questions about which ingredients are high risk, and what they can do to help keep their feed safe. The FAQ document describes that an ingredient may be high risk for foreign animal disease transmission based on its geographic, agricultural and transportation practices. Ingredients that may be dried on roadsides in countries with circulating ASFV would be higher risk than those fermented in a biosecure facility in a country free of foreign animal disease.

The website,, also includes a biosecurity audit for producers to use for suppliers or in their own facilities to help identify risk for disease entry into feed. There are also links to important research articles on viral transmission in animal feed, and includes questions to ask suppliers to help reduce risk of ASFV transmission.

“We encourage producers to visit this site to learn more about the risk of pathogen transmission through feed, and their options for control.” Jones says.

Maternal Mortality Review Launches in Kansas

Topeka, Kan. - Pregnancy is often a positive experience filled with joy and anticipation. For some families, this exciting time turns tragic. Miscarriage and still births are one form of tragedy, but also there is an increasing trend of maternal and pregnancy-associated deaths in our state. In 2017, there were 17 pregnancy-associated maternal deaths reported in Kansas. Today, KDHE Secretary Jeff Andersen is pleased to announce that to address this issue, KDHE has launched the Maternal Mortality Review (MMR), which includes a review committee.

“We have been focused on implementing comprehensive review of maternal and pregnancy-associated mortality for some time and look forward to working closely with partners, women and families to learn more about how to prevent these events,” said Rachel Sisson, MS, Bureau of Family Health Director, KDHE.  “We want to thank all of our partners for supporting development along the way, especially the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) Kansas leadership who was instrumental in furthering legislation needed to strengthen the process and position Kansas for this important work.”

Other project partners include the March of Dimes and other experts who represent various disciplines from across the state.

Approximately half of states in the U.S. have a comprehensive maternal mortality review process, the gold standard for maternal and pregnancy-associated death surveillance. As part of the process, a review committee gathers extensive information about each individual case of maternal death and synthesizes information to determine if the death was preventable and what specific and feasible actions, if implemented or altered, might have changed the course of events. Committee membership includes a vast array of professionals and partners engaging with and serving women during pregnancy and the year postpartum. Collectively, they will examine patient/family, community, provider, facility and system factors that led to a woman’s death. More information about the maternal mortality review process is available online at, a portal provided by national partners with many valuable resources for states.

The MMR Committee convened for the first time on June 12. KDHE Bureau of Family Health and a team from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) provided information to the committee on the importance of conducting maternal and pregnancy-associated death reviews to prevent future cases and oriented them to their new role as a member. The committee completed a mock case review. The first full meeting to review 2016 Kansas death cases will be held in November 2018.

About the Kansas Department of Health & Environment, Bureau of Family Health
The KDHE Bureau of Family Health is responsible for administering the Title V Maternal & Child Health (MCH) Block Grant Program which involves monitoring, researching and evaluating health status and conducting activities to identify and address community health problems. Within the population of women of reproductive age, maternal mortality is an indicator monitored by the department, pursuant to K.S.A. 65-177. The Title V MCH program plays a key role in the provision of maternal and child health services in Kansas and targets activities to improve the health of all women and infants. Find more information at or

Nebraska Farm Bureau Works to Lower Health Costs for Farmers and Ranchers; Unveils New Large Group Association Health Plan

Lincoln, Neb. - For the first time, individual farm and ranch families in Nebraska will have the opportunity to join Nebraska Farm Bureau’s (NEFB) new large group Association Health Plan (AHP) and avoid the higher cost of premiums in the individual health insurance market.

NEFB has announced the formation of a new large group AHP for its farmer, rancher and, agribusiness members and a new partnership with Medica to be the carrier of health insurance products within the AHP. It will be officially marketed as the “Nebraska Farm Bureau Member Health Plan” and qualifying NEFB members can sign up for this more affordable health coverage during an Oct. 1 to Dec. 1, 2018 open enrollment period.

“I don’t think there has been a group of individuals hurt more by the high cost of health insurance than farm and ranch families. By establishing this new AHP for our qualified members, we know it will help cut costs associated with health insurance premiums,” NEFB President Steve Nelson said.

Nebraska farmers, ranchers, and those who work in agribusiness, have faced significant challenges with increasing costs tied to individual health insurance. In fact, nearly 400 farmers and ranchers who took part in NEFB’s listening sessions across the state this summer said the affordability of health care, health insurance, and access to both, was one of, if not the highest issue on their list of concerns.

“The last couple of years we have heard stories from farmers and ranchers about the high cost of health insurance for their families. When farm and ranch families in Nebraska are facing $25,000 to $40,000 per year for health insurance premiums, the financial stress on those family operations are extremely high, very emotional, and can easily impact whether they can stay in the business of agriculture.” Nelson said.

This is why NEFB established a new consortium of qualifying NEFB members, creating the Nebraska Farm Bureau Member Health Plan. The Nebraska Farm Bureau Employee Insurance Consortium was created to sponsor and to manage the Nebraska Farm Bureau Member Health Plan and to help comply with state and federal laws for AHPs. The Consortium has partnered with Medica to provide this new health insurance option, which is a way to lower health insurance premiums by grouping farmers, ranchers, and certain agribusinesses so they can be in a larger more risk stabilizing pool, Nelson said. 

“We have listened to the concerns of farmers and ranchers and believe this new AHP will present a great opportunity and we think the only opportunity of Nebraska farmers and ranchers to form a large risk group to help lower premiums,” Nelson said.

The Consortium is led by a seven-member board of employer members of NEFB located throughout the state. President of the Consortium, long-time Farm Bureau member Tom Schwarz of Bertrand, NE, knows that the cost of health insurance has been a real emotional and financial strain in agriculture the last several years.

“I am looking forward to seeing how much my family will save from this plan. As far as my own farm operation, we have literally lost employees because I could not offer them health insurance benefits because of their high costs. We think the opportunities created by this new Association Health Plan will give farmers and ranchers like me some opportunities to lower health insurance costs and recruit and retain employees. I certainly look forward to helping NEFB and the Consortium develop these new and more affordable health insurance products,” Schwarz said.  

Medica has developed coverage options, premiums, and other provisions for the Nebraska Farm Bureau Member Health Plan. They are working with Farm Bureau agents to sell the new and exclusive health care products. Farm Bureau agents will be available to help resolve benefit questions or issues and provide ongoing support to the Nebraska Farm Bureau Member Health Plan.

“We are delighted to bring another health coverage option to the farmers and ranchers in Nebraska because it gives them a greater say in their health plan choices moving forward,” said Geoff Bartsh, Medica vice president of individual and family business. “Nebraskans can be confident that the Nebraska Farm Bureau Member Health Plan will meet their needs and that Medica will continue to be in the state, earning their trust every single day.”

The Nebraska Farm Bureau Member Health Plan is a regulated AHP and is a fully insured product through Medica that provides consumer protections. It is available to all eligible NEFB members regardless of health status. If you are interested in learning more about the Nebraska Farm Bureau Member Health Plan contact any Farm Bureau Financial Services agent.

“We welcome Nebraska farmers, ranchers, or agribusinesses to join our organization and take advantage of the opportunities of our Association Health Plan in the years ahead,” Nelson said.  

The Nebraska Farm Bureau is a grassroots, state-wide organization dedicated to supporting farm and ranch families and working for the benefit of all Nebraskans through a wide variety of educational, service and advocacy efforts. More than 61,000 families across Nebraska are Farm Bureau members, working together to achieve rural and urban prosperity as agriculture is a key fuel to Nebraska’s economy. For more information about Nebraska Farm Bureau and agriculture, visit

Legislators Demand Answers After Child Allegedly Raped In Foster Contractor Custody


Topeka, Kan. - In the wake of rape charge filed in an attack on a 13-year-old girl in the office of a foster care contractor, Kansas lawmakers said Tuesday they’ll investigate what went wrong.

One legislator said state officials and the contractor responsible for watching over the alleged victim will face tough questions later this month.

The case is the latest crisis for a foster care system dogged by criticism in recent years, including the disclosure that kids have had to sleep in the offices of foster care contractors because of a lack of available homes for them.

Now comes the rape case that prosecutors say happened in May in the Johnson County office of KVC Kansas.

KVC said in a statement that one supervisor was overseeing the alleged attacker, the girl who reported the rape and one other young person. That supervisor stepped out of the room for several minutes to get supplies, the contractor said. When the staff member returned, KVC said, the girl said she had been assaulted by an 18-year-old male.

Johnson County authorities have charged Michael Anthony Hamer with rape and indecent liberties.

Republican Rep. Linda Gallagher called the reported sexual assault shocking and disheartening.

“One of the most important things the state must do is to take care of its most vulnerable citizens,” said Gallagher, who is a member of the state’s Child Welfare System Task Force. “We have most certainly failed in that measure.”

Legislators will be investigating, she said. That process will likely start at a meeting of the task force later this month. Gallagher expects pointed questions for Department for Children and Families Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel and KVC Kansas staff.

“Where did the ball get dropped, on the part of KVC, their employees?” she asked. “Where did the ball get dropped, if any, on the part of DCF to oversee this contractor?”

Gallagher said lawmakers will need to gather information before they can respond. That could come during the next legislative session, which starts in January. Gallagher said she would back more funding for better crisis care centers equipped to serve children on short notice.

KVC Kansas said in a statement that a lapse in judgment by the worker left the three young people unsupervised.

“We deeply regret that there was any opportunity — even for a brief moment, as was the case here — for such a tragedy to occur,” the statement reads.

KVC spokeswoman Jenny Kutz said that the worker in question is no longer with the organization and that the contractor has reiterated staffing rules so employees know that children must be supervised at all times.

“We’re doing everything in our power to keep kids safe. We’re confident that we’ve put all the proper guidelines in place that are intended to prevent this from happening again,” she said in an email response to questions from the Kansas News Service.

The agency is holding the contractor responsible, DCF spokeswoman Taylor Forrest said in an email.

“KVC Kansas was cited for regulatory violations and appropriate action was taken,” Forrest said, without specifying the action.

DCF investigated the incident, Forrest said. Her email also noted that the employee in charge during the reported rape is no longer with the organization.

“Through a corrective action plan, investigation and conversations with KVC leadership, DCF has worked extensively with KVC to ensure the safety and security of Kansas youth,” Forrest’s email said.

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