Grants promote safer teen driving

By EDITH ZHOU
Capital News Service
LANSING – After its first year’s success, the Strive for a Safer Drive project is driving into its second year with more than double the number of participating schools. The program is a public-private partnership among AAA Michigan, Ford Driving Skills for Life and the Office of Highway Safety Planning. Jessica Russell, program manager, said 16 high schools participated last year. That number increased to 34 this year in 15 counties. “This year, the whole class or school clubs is participating in the project instead of the small groups in the past.

Number of graduate students dips in Michigan

By EDITH ZHOU
Capital News Service
LANSING – U.S. graduate schools saw a 1.7 percent dip in enrollments of first-time students between fall 2010 and fall 2011, marking the second consecutive year of slight decreases, according to a recent national report. The main reasons for the decline can be attributed to the economic cycle and policy changes. Overall, according to the survey, more than 441,000 students began graduate studies in fall 2011. First-time enrollment in master’s and certificate programs declined 2.1 percent, while doctoral programs enrolled 0.5 percent more new students. According to the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan, 67,711 graduate students are enrolled in 15 public universities in the state, which is a slight decrease of 0.8 percent compared to last year.

New network links in-state businesses

By EDITH ZHOU
Capital News Service
LANSING –A new business-to-business networking program called Pure Michigan Business Connect is linking in-state companies to help them grow. Participants can find resources to expand their supply chain, find business opportunities, access a business-to-business database and receive help such as legal, accounting and other services at little to no cost, according to the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC). The pilot program works to attract procurement leads from both in and outside of Michigan and uses partner organizations to match these needs with potential Michigan suppliers. Chuck Hadden, president of the Michigan Manufacturers Association, said the association is providing its members’ information for the program’s database.

Dogs may pose threat to water supply, health

By EDITH ZHOU
Capital News Service
LANSING – Environmentalists and public health experts want that new puppy to come with a lifetime supply of plastic bags, preferably biodegradable
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency(EPA), the 78 million dogs in the United States create 10 million tons of feces annually, polluting waterways and posing a threat to public health. Michigan has 3,288 miles of coast line, the second only to Alaska’s, and all those beaches are irresistible to dog owners. “Pets can contribute fecal pollution to our waterways. This is mostly in the spring to fall when we are out enjoying the water with our pets,” said Joan Rose, the co-director of the Center for Water Sciences of Michigan State University. According to a survey by EPA, 40 percent of dog owners do not pick up their pets’ waste at all and all that waste pollutes waterways.

Some (not all) state wines heading for China, Asia

By EDITH ZHOU
Capital News Service
LANSING – Significant growth in the wine-grape industry and wide availability of cherries have created a boost in Michigan wine production and its appearance in other states and even other countries. “The industry is growing fast—nine wineries were added to our list last year,” said Karel Bush, promotion specialist at the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council. According to Bush, the state has more than 150 wineries with more than 100 of them using home-grown fruits. And half are located along the Lake Michigan shoreline from Traverse City to Southwest Michigan. Bush said both the quality and the quantity of this year’s wine is very good.

New website posts food safety inspection reports

By EDITH ZHOU
Capital News Service
LANSING – With the holidays around the corner, nobody wants their festivities ruined by poisoned food. The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has a lunched an online system that enables consumers to easily access inspection results from more than 19,000 groceries and other retail food establishments. MiSafe gives consumers access to inspection results for grocery and convenience stores, including violations since September 2011. The website is www.michigan.gov/foodsafety. Violations are issued for problems such as post-dated foods that, if not resolved, may lead to foodborne illness, food contamination or an environmental health hazard.

Fewer Michigan chestnuts roasting over an open fire this year

By EDITH ZHOU
Capital News Service
LANSING – Michigan’s chestnut growers are facing the same problems other fruit growers confront this year. The early surge of temperatures in March and the inevitable cold weather in April and May curtailed nut production, just as it did for apples and cherries. “Our yield is about a quarter of last year’s,” said Joyce Ivory, the sales representative of Chestnut Growers Inc. (CGI), Michigan’s only chestnut grower coorperative based in Jackson. Ivory grows 20 acres of chestnut trees with her husband in Hadley Township near Flint. “There are huge demands and our supply can’t meet them,” she said.

Veterans need help getting more benefits, advocates say

By EDITH ZHOU
Capital News Service
LANSING – Michigan ranks last among the 50 states on veteran’s funding per capita, according to a federal report. Veterans in the state received $2.2 billion in veterans funding, for an average of $3,409 per capita in 2010, while the national average was $4,894 per capita. The state also ranks below in per veteran expenditures for compensation and pensions, education, vocational rehabilitation and medical care. However, some experts view the ranking differently. James Topps, the director of the American Legion Department of Michigan, questioned the federal figures and said the state actually ranks 14th.

More farms up north mean opportunity, development

By EDITH ZHOU
Capital News Service
LANSING – More farming opportunities have come to northern Michigan this year because of climate changes and global warming, agriculture experts say. According to the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Michigan is home to 10 million acres of farmland, but only 10 percent is in the northern parts. Department Director Jamie Clover Adams said there are additional farming opportunities in the north (both the Upper Peninsula and the northern Lower Peninsula) and that there is a trend of more acres being farmed in those regions. “In theory that would mostly be rooted in climate change enabling a longer growing season for areas in northern Michigan,” Jeremy  Nagel, the media relations specialist for the Michigan Farm Bureau, said. Nagel said, “Agriculture up there is mostly hay, some small grains, potatoes, beef cattle and dairy.

Hunting for a hunting spot? Check out DNR website

By EDITH ZHOU
Capital News Service
LANSING – The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has enhanced its Mi-HUNT computer app and made it more user-friendly in time for the fall deer hunting season. Michael Donovan, a DNR wildlife biologist, said that the most important and useful enhancement lets users “view 7 million acres of public hunting lands and print hunting maps highlighting the vegetation of most interest to hunters.”
The other improvements include detailed information and printable maps of Hunting Access Program lands and state game and wildlife areas, and capacity to load that information directly into the user’s personal GPS. The free application, originally released in 2010, can be customized to fit hunters’ and other outdoor enthusiasts’ trip-planning needs. It allows them to view, print, measure and create custom routes. Donovan said, “The application makes it easier for people to find a place close to them and hunt.