Fire deaths down

Thirty-seven people died last year in fires in Minnesota — the second-lowest number on record, and the lowest number of fire deaths since 2009 when 35 people were killed, according to final numbers released by the Department of Public Safety State Fire Marshal Division (SFMD).

Fire death numbers become final once Minnesota hospital officials report their information to the Minnesota Department of Health. The SFMD issued a news release in January with preliminary 2018 fire death numbers.

• People age 50 or older accounted for 59% of people killed.

• Careless smoking was the leading cause of fires where a cause could be determined. There were no working smoke alarms in 30 percent of the homes where people died.

• Last year’s fire death total is 46% lower than the 68 deaths in 2017.

• The fire death rate in Minnesota has dropped 63% since the 1970s. Numbers below are deaths per 100,000 people:

1970s: 2.45

1980s: 1.86

1990s: 1.26

2000s: 0.91

2010s: 0.90

FirstLight named top workplace

FirstLight Health System has been named one of the Top Workplaces in Minnesota by the Star Tribune. A complete list of those selected is available at and was also published in the Star Tribune Top Workplaces special section on Sunday, June 16.

Produced by the same team that compiles the 28-year-old Star Tribune 100 report of the best-performing public companies in Minnesota, Top Workplaces recognizes the most progressive companies in Minnesota based on employee opinions measuring engagement, organizational health and satisfaction. The analysis included responses from over 140,000 employees at Minnesota public, private and nonprofit organizations.

The results of the Star Tribune Top Workplaces are based on survey information collected by Energage, an independent company specializing in employee engagement and retention.

“Earning this designation signifies FirstLight employees are engaged with the patients and families they care for every day. The employees have created this culture of excellence and I thank them for that. They are the difference makers in our patients’ health,” commented Randy Ulseth, CEO.

Located in the heart of east central Minnesota, FirstLight is an accredited, rural hospital and clinic system amidst completing a $62M expansion project specifically addressing patient access, security, services and technology challenges. FirstLight currently employs a staff of over 500 employees and has earned a Top Workplace designation for the past seven years.

To qualify for the Star Tribune Top Workplaces, a company must have more than 50 employees in Minnesota. Over 2,000 companies were invited to participate. Rankings were composite scores calculated purely because of employee responses.

Dairy Margin Coverage

signup begins

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announces that signup began June 17 for the new Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program, the cornerstone program of the dairy safety net that helps dairy producers manage the volatility of milk and feed prices, operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency (FSA).

The 2018 Farm Bill allowed USDA to construct the new DMC, which replaces the Margin Protection Program for Dairy (MPP-Dairy). This new program offers protection to dairy producers when the difference between the all-milk price and the average feed cost (the margin) falls below a certain dollar amount selected by the producer.

“In February I committed to opening signup of the new Dairy Margin Coverage program by June 17; I am proud to say that our FSA staff worked hard to meet that challenge as one of the department’s top Farm Bill implementation priorities since President Trump signed it last December.” said Secretary Perdue. “With an environment of low milk prices, high economic stress and a new safety net program with higher coverage levels and lower premiums, it is the right time for dairy producers to seriously consider enrolling when signup opens. For many smaller dairies, the choice is probably a no-brainer as the retroactive coverage through January has already assured them that the 2019 payments will exceed the required premiums.”

The program provides coverage retroactive to Jan. 1, 2019, with applicable payments following soon after enrollment. At the time of signup, dairy producers can choose between the $4.00 to $9.50 coverage levels.

For more information, visit DMC webpage or contact your local USDA service center. To locate your local FSA office, visit

Become partner in policymaking

Minnesotans with disabilities and parents of young children with developmental disabilities are encouraged to apply for a comprehensive advocacy training course, Partners in Policymaking  ( program at no cost.  Starting in September, the nationally recognized leadership training offers eight sessions over nine months.

Limited to 40 Minnesotans, the first session for the 2019 to 2020 program year is Sept. 13 to 14. Applications can be downloaded at and are due by July 8.

Those selected to participate in the program must attend all sessions and complete homework assignments. For further information, or to get an application form, contact Brenton Rice at, or 651-242-6589.

Farm Service Agency county committee nominations open

USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) began accepting nominations for county committee members on Friday, June 14, 2019. Agricultural producers who participate or cooperate in an FSA program may be nominated for candidacy for the county committee. Individuals may nominate themselves or others as a candidate.

“I encourage America’s farmers, ranchers and forest stewards to nominate candidates to lead, serve and represent their community on their county committee,” FSA Administrator Richard Fordyce said. “There’s an increasing need for diverse representation including underserved producers, which includes beginning, women and minority farmers and ranchers.”

Committees make important decisions about how federal farm programs are administered locally. Their input is vital on how FSA carries out disaster programs, as well as conservation, commodity and price support programs, county office employment and other agricultural issues.

Nationwide, more than 7,700 dedicated members of the agricultural community serving on FSA county committees. The committees are made up of three to 11 members and typically meet once a month. Members serve three-year terms. Producers serving on FSA county committees play a critical role in the day-to-day operations of the agency.

Producers should visit their local FSA office today to find out how to get involved in their county’s election. Check with your local USDA service center to see if your local administrative area is up for election this year. Organizations, including those representing beginning, women and minority producers, also may nominate candidates.

To be considered, a producer must sign an FSA-669A nomination form. The form and other information about FSA county committee elections are available at All nomination forms for the 2019 election must be postmarked or received in the local FSA office by Aug. 1, 2019.

Election ballots will be mailed to eligible voters beginning Nov. 4, 2019. Read more to learn about important election dates.

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