Farm Bill 2018; Mental Health in Prison Report; CU Satellite Launch; Christmas Tree Shopping

December 12, 2018

Eric Allix Rogers/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

On The 21st: The Farm Bill affects food, agriculture and rural America. It’s a gigantic law that will cost $867 billion. Plus, a new report says that some Department of Corrections officers are abusive with mentally ill inmates. Also, we catch up with the students working on the CubeSail satellite. And, this year Amazon is delivering real Christmas trees right to your door. Are more traditional tree retailers worried about this?

867 billion dollars. That’s the amount of money in the 2018 Farm Bill. It’s a huge piece of legislation that’s normally renewed every five years and it touches all of our lives in some way, whether it’s the SNAP program, crop insurance for farmers or rural economic development.

It’s also, historically, been fairly bipartisan. But this time around, the bill was caught in a contentious political fight over proposed changes to the SNAP program. And after the last farm bill expired on October 1st, our lawmakers in Washington still hadn’t agreed on how to renew it.

Late Monday night, we finally got our farm bill. It has bipartisan support in both chambers, and the Senate passed it yesterday by a big margin. How will all of this affect Illinois and the Midwest?

Joining us in our Urbana studios we had Jonathan Coppess. He served in the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is now Director of the Gardner Agriculture Policy Program at the University of Illinois. Grant Gerlock also joined us from the studios of NET News in Lincoln, Nebraska, where he reports for them and for Harvest Public Media. 

Plus- 

A new report by a court-appointed psychiatrist says that the Illinois Department of Corrections continues to flounder with prisoner mental health. Dr. Pablo Stewart was appointed after a lawsuit settlement in 2016 regarding the lack of adequate mental health care in state prisons.

And he says he’s convinced the staff are abusing mentally ill inmates at one correctional center, Pontiac.

Just on the heels of this, another report from a national non-profit called FWD.us says Illinois prisons are nearly 40 percent over capacity. Illinois Public Media’s Christine Herman has been reporting on on the state of mental health in prisons and she joined us in the studio.

Alan Mills also joined us on the line from the Uptown People’s Law Center in Chicago. 

And- 

Some central Illinois scientists are hitching a ride to space tonight - or at least, their satellite is.

It’s called CubeSail, and it was designed and built by CU Aerospace and engineering students from the U of I. And tonight at 10, it will tag along on a ride launched by NASA from New Zealand.

Michael Lembeck is an associate professor at U of I’s Department of Aerospace Engineering and the director of the Laboratory for Advanced Systems. David Carroll is a Principal Investigator at CU Aerospace. And Dawn Hawken is the student project lead working on CubeSail. She’s a senior studying Electrical Engineering. All three joined us in our Urbana studio. 

Also- 

For those of you who celebrate Christmas, what are your Christmas tree traditions? Maybe you have an artificial tree you assemble every year. Perhaps you visit the local lot and take one home. Maybe you even head out into the fields and cut down your own tree. Some people can even buy a real tree online. In fact, Amazon now offers this.

One thing is for sure- every family has their own traditions when it comes to trees. George Richardson's family has been farming in Spring Grove, Illinois since 1836. Every year they welcome thousands of visitors to Richardson Adventure Farm to cut down their own Christmas trees from their 130 acres near the border with Wisconsin.

Also joining us on the line we had Chris Hohenstein, the founder of City Tree Delivery. In addition three tree lots in the city of Chicago and one in the western suburb of Elmhurst, Chris’ company also offers the option of shopping online and delivery.