Community News Archives for 2019-07

New feature helps producers find farm loans that fit their operation

A new online tool can help farmers and ranchers find information on U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) farm loans that may best fit their operations. USDA has launched the new Farm Loan Discovery Tool as the newest feature on, the Department’s self-service website for farmers.


“Access to credit is critical in the agriculture industry, especially for new farmers,” said Bill Northey, Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation. “This new interactive tool can help farmers find information on USDA farm loans within minutes. We are working to improve our customer service, and part of our solution is through improving how farmers can work with us online.”


USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) offers a variety of loan options to help farmers finance their operations. From buying land to financing the purchase of equipment, FSA loans can help. Compared to this time last year, FSA has seen an 18 percent increase in the amount it has obligated for direct farm ownership loans, and through the 2018 Farm Bill, has increased the limits for several loan products.


USDA conducted field research in eight states, gathering input from farmers and FSA farm loan staff to better understand their needs and challenges.


“We received suggestions from both farmers and our staff on how to improve the farm loan process, and we wanted to harness this opportunity to be more efficient and effective,” Northey said. “This feature is one step in our efforts.”


How the Tool Works


Farmers who are looking for financing options to operate a farm or buy land can answer a few simple questions about what they are looking to fund and how much money they need to borrow. After submitting their answers, farmers will be provided information on farm loans that best fit their specific needs. The loan application and additional resources also will be provided.


Farmers can download application quick guides that outline what to expect from preparing an application to receiving a loan decision. There are four guides that cover loans to individuals, entities, and youth, as well as information on microloans. The guides include general eligibility requirements and a list of required forms and documentation for each type of loan. These guides can help farmers prepare before their first USDA service center visit with a loan officer.


Farmers can access the Farm Loan Discovery Tool by visiting and clicking the “Start” button. Follow the prompts and answer five simple questions to receive loan information that is applicable to your agricultural operation. The tool is built to run on any modern browser like Chrome, Edge, Firefox, or the Safari browser, and is fully functional on mobile devices. It does not work in Internet Explorer.




In 2018, USDA unveiled, a dynamic, mobile-friendly public website combined with an authenticated portal where farmers will be able to apply for programs, process transactions, and manage accounts.


The Farm Loan Discovery Tool is one of many resources on to help connect farmers to information that can help their operations. Earlier this year, USDA launched the My Financial Information feature, which enables farmers to view their loan information, history, payments, and alerts by logging into the website.


USDA is building for farmers, by farmers. In addition to the interactive farm loan features, the site also offers a Disaster Assistance Discovery Tool. Farmers can visit to find disaster assistance programs that can help their operation recover from natural disasters.


With feedback from customers and field employees who serve those customers, delivers farmer-focused features through an agile, iterative process to deliver the greatest immediate value to America’s agricultural producers – helping farmers and ranchers do right, and feed everyone.


For more information or to locate your USDA Service Center, visit

Duke Energy offers customers tips for managing electricity costs as summer heat rises

Trying to stay cool during this heat wave? That probably means you’re using more energy at home – which can lead to a higher energy bill. Air conditioners use a lot of electricity, but there are a few things you can do to help avoid surprises on your monthly bill.


Three tips for understanding your bill

The first step to keeping your bill in check is understanding what’s on it. Here’s what to look for:

Billing cycle length
Check the number of days in your billing cycle. Most bills cover 30 days, but sometimes it varies. Bills that cover more days can be higher.

Average kWh
Look at average kilowatt-hour (kWh) use per day. At first glance your bill may look higher, but if your average use is similar to the same time last year, or similar to another month with extreme temps, it’s a normal bill.

Online usage tools
If you have a smart meter, check for a daily usage analysis tool online. Smart meters collect info by the hour, so you can check for spikes in energy use to see what appliances and behaviors are increasing your bill.


10 ways to avoid billing surprises

Now for the good stuff. Here are some things you can do to keep tabs on your energy use and lower your bill.

1.    Get usage alerts.
The best way to avoid billing surprises is to track your use. Duke Energy customers with a smart meter can sign up for Usage Alerts. Similar to data alerts you get from your cellphone company, you can set a budget amount for your monthly energy bill and receive notices when you are approaching your limit.

2.    Upgrade your bulbs.
Replace standard bulbs with light-emitting diodes (LEDs). LEDs are more efficient than regular bulbs and emit less heat, while giving off the same amount of light.

3.    Check your HVAC.
Have your heating and cooling system checked to maintain performance. Duke Energy offers qualified customers rebates to help offset the cost of replacing older units with energy-efficient ones. Use to find a certified contractor.

4.    Change your filters.
Change air filters regularly. A dirty air filter makes an HVAC system work harder and use more energy.

5.    Adjust your thermostat.
Set your thermostat as high as comfortable. The smaller the difference between the inside and outside temperatures, the lower your energy bill will be.

6.    Shut the blinds.
Close blinds and curtains on sunny days.

7.    Put the whole-house fan to work.
If you have a whole-house fan, use it to pull cool air into your home at night or in the early morning through open windows. Turn the fan off and shut the windows during the day.

8.    Use exhaust fans.
Bathroom and kitchen fans remove heat and humidity from showering and cooking. (And take short showers instead of baths to save even more year-round.)

9.    Cool off with ceiling fans.
A ceiling fan can cool you off enough that you’ll feel comfortable raising the thermostat a few degrees.

10. Save washing for the evening.
Run your dishwasher, washing machine and dryer at night when it’s cooler. Also, run full loads and consider air drying dishes and clothes to save even more.

Assistance programs

To help manage your energy use, Duke Energy offers assistance programs and services, including:

  • Budget Billing gives customers better control over their energy spending by establishing predictable monthly payments.
  • Online savings calculators help customers understand how their homes use energy – and how they can potentially reduce their consumption and better manage their summer bills.
  • Eligible homeowners can get a free home energy assessment, which includes an Energy Efficiency Starter Kit containing LEDs, an energy-efficient showerhead and switch and outlet energy seals.


Duke Energy Indiana 


Duke Energy Indiana, a subsidiary of Duke Energy, provides about 6,600 megawatts of owned electric capacity to approximately 840,000 customers in a 23,000-square-mile service area, making it Indiana’s largest electric supplier.

USDA extends deadline to report spring-seeded crops in Indiana

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is extending the deadline to file crop acreage reports for agricultural producers in Indiana impacted by flooding and heavy moisture. The new July 22 deadline applies to reporting spring-seeded crops to USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) county offices and federal crop insurance agents.


“Agriculture operations throughout the state have been hit hard by heavy rains and flooding that have affected their operations,” said Steven Brown, FSA State Executive Director in Indiana. “The deadline extension provides more flexibility for producers who experienced planting and field work delays.”


Filing a timely crop acreage report is important to maintaining eligibility for USDA conservation, disaster assistance, safety net, crop insurance and farm loan programs. A crop acreage report documents all crops and their intended uses and is an important part of record-keeping for your farm or ranch.


Producers filing reports with FSA county offices are encouraged to set up an appointment before visiting the office. Acreage reports from producers in Indiana who set up appointments before the July 22 deadline are considered timely filed, even if the appointment occurs after the deadline.  


The following exceptions apply to acreage reporting:


If the crop has not been planted by the reporting date, the acreage must be reported no later than 15 calendar days after planting is completed.


If a producer acquires additional acreage after the above acreage reporting date, the acreage must be reported no later than 30 calendars days after purchasing or acquiring the lease. Appropriate documentation must be provided to the county office.

“Even though the deadline has been extended, I encourage producers to contact their local FSA office today to schedule an appointment to report acreage,” Brown said.

- more -


Other USDA Efforts to Help Producers


USDA is taking additional steps to help producers across the country, including:


Updating the haying and grazing date for producers who have planted cover crops on prevented plant acres;


Offering special sign-ups through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program for assistance to plant cover crops; and


Extending the deadline to report prevented plant acres in certain places.


For more information, visit our Prevented or Delayed Planting webpage.


More Information


To learn more, contact your FSA county office or visit or

FUSE announces new Executive Director

FUSE is pleased to announce that Joanne Tedescohas been appointed as Executive Director and will officially take the helm in mid-August when she relocates with her family to central Indiana. 


As a mother of child with a disability, a Human Rights Commissioner who has focused on educating her community about the disability population, a newly elected School Board member, and a public relations and branding professional, Tedesco brings a unique set of skills and experiences to the table.  


In addition, Joanne was one of 34 Indiana residents chosen to be part of the Indiana Governor’s Council for People with Disabilities - Partners in Policymaking Academy and graduated in 2017.


“Joanne certainly has a heart for the disability community.  It was obvious when we first met her that her drive and passion for this population sparks a certain energy within her that fuels her to create events, educate families and do all that she can to make an impact,” said Denise Arland, previous Executive Director and Co-founder of FUSE.


As a Human Rights Commissioner in Michigan City, Tedesco worked tirelessly to educate her community and raise the awareness about issues that impact the disability population.  In this role she partnered with Michigan City Area Schools, prior to securing a seat on the School Board, to recognize Special Education staff including support staff and therapists who enrich the lives of students with disabilities and push them toward independence.This year alone, and as a soldier of one, she developed, promoted and hosted six events – The Special Education Forum, The Autism Forum, Multiple Sclerosis – the Invisible Disability, The Deaf and Hard of Hearing Forum and two appreciation events for Special Education staff and bus drivers and monitors.


“The selection of a new Executive Director is one of the most important duties a Board of Directors has to perform to ensure the future success of the organization,” said Cheryl Blocher, FUSE Board President. “Joanne has just the right combination of skills and passion to lead our organization into the future. We look forward to her getting started.”


As the founder of the Michigan City Parents Support Group, she hosted events to try and raise the bar on disability awareness.  The events focused on special education offerings and services in Michigan City Area Schools, parents’ rights and Article 7, sub-minimum wage with the showing of the movie, Bottom Dollar, Autism and ABA therapy, Down Syndrome and Vocational Rehabilitation services available locally to adults and children.


“It’s just simply my calling to increase awareness of people with disabilities to ensure equality for ALL people,” said Tedesco.  “I’m honored to have the opportunity to work with families and individuals in Hancock and Shelby counties as well as others across central Indiana.”





In 2017, during Disability Awareness month (March) Tedesco announced the formation of Dance with Me, a creative movement class for children with disabilities, developed through a local partnership with a dance studio.  The class offers the disability community the opportunity to participate in a freeing activity that has no boundaries.

Tedesco is also a Board Member of the Mental Illness Advisory Council (Indiana Disability Rights) and Special Olympics of LaPorte where she worked to develop a bowling league for youth with disabilities.

Families United for Support and Encouragement (FUSE) is a 501(c)3, not-for-profit organization (Federal I.D. # 35-2106430) that empowers families and individuals with disabilities and mental health needs by providing information, training, support, and encouragement. FUSE serves individuals and families across central Indiana, with educational events hosted monthly in Hancock and Shelby counties. To request information or support, contact FUSE at 317-462-9064 or visit

Our Hospice of South Central Indiana offers Camp Eva, a bereavement camp for children ages 5-12

Our Hospice of South Central Indiana is offering a half-day bereavement camp for children on Saturday, September 14, 2019 from 11:30AM-5:30 PM.  Any child ages 5-12, who has experienced the death of a significant person or persons in their lives, is welcome and encouraged to attend. Camp Eva provides a structured and supportive environment for children to openly share their feelings and memories of their loved one.


“Children experience grief differently than adults,” said Jessica Curd, Social Worker at Our Hospice of South Central Indiana. “Children often grieve in spurts as it is difficult to handle these challenging feelings all at once. Children may also incorporate themes of death and dying into their play. They also cope with grief differently at various developmental stages. Their grief may express itself in various emotions including anger, sadness, shock, fear and sometimes relief. “


Camp Eva was started by Melissa Clark in 2016 and since 2017, Our Hospice has partnered to grow the camp and provide this important outlet to children in our communities.Melissa has been a volunteer for Our Hospice since 2015 and is also a trained social worker.


Our Hospice President, Laura Leonard, said, “We are so pleased to be able to provide bereavement services to children and grateful to our donors who provide the funds for us to offer this important camp and support these children and families through their grief.”


Curd continued, “Any child who has experienced a loss is welcome to attend! The camp is free of charge. This camp is important because it allows children to explore and express their grief through various creative medium including arts, music, pet therapy, play theatre, interactive and team building exercises and a balloon release.  This gives a safe and confidential space to process grief with other children and also be able to balance a heavy topic with some play and fun. It is truly important to give children the free space to talk and express their feelings. Adults may believe that it will cause more harm for a child to talk about death but typically talking is a way to work through concerns or questions they may have and to come to terms with the loss. Children are usually often very aware and know more than we may realize. Problems can arise if we ignore or avoid difficult topics. When addressing grief in children, it is important to use clear and concrete language and to meet them at their developmental stage. This camp strives to implement such an approach and many of its volunteers are trained hospice and bereavement specialists.”


Camp Eva was created to provide a nurturing environment for grieving children to remember their loved ones and connect to other children their age. The Clark family created the camp in memory of their daughter and sister, Eva Julianna Clark, who was stillborn in August 2013. The camp was started under the Eva's Hands Project and in 2017 became an annual service offered through Our Hospice of South Central Indiana.


Camp Eva takes place from 11:30 AM-5:30 PM on Saturday, September 14 and this year will be held at Columbus Youth Camp at 12454 West Youth Camp Road in Columbus. Registration is open now and pre-registration is required by September 9th to attend this year’s camp. Registration materials are available on the Our Hospice website at


A 1 hour parent/caregiver meeting is included as part of the Camp. Questions can be directed to Jessica Curd at 812-314-8044 or


If you want to know more about Our Hospice and how we support patients and families, please contact us at 812-314-8083 or 800-841-4983ext. 8083.

State Fire Marshal, IDHS urging all Hoosiers to practice firework safety

As Independence Day approaches, the Indiana Department of Homeland Security (IDHS) encourages all Hoosiers to visit and become familiar with proper firework safety and state laws. 


“While fireworks are fun to set off and watch, they can be life threatening and disastrous if proper safety precautions aren’t taken,” said State Fire Marshal Jim Greeson. “When using personal fireworks, always follow the written instructions on the packaging, and make sure a water source is nearby in case of a fire.”


The State Fire Marshal oversees the IDHS Division of Fire and Building Safety. Each year, the division permits retailers and wholesalers of fireworks within Indiana.


To keep this Independence Day fun filled for everyone involved, safety is encouraged by following these tips found on


  • Never smoke or consume alcohol when lighting fireworks.
  • Store fireworks in a cool, dry place away from the reach of children.
  • Steer clear of others setting off fireworks. They can backfire or shoot off in the wrong direction.
  • Do not attempt to make or alter any fireworks or firework devices.
  • Always have a fire extinguisher or water supply, such as a hose or bucket of water, nearby.
  • Only light one firework at a time and never attempt to re-light or fix a “dud” firework.
  • Be considerate of individuals with post-traumatic stress and other types of medical conditions. The noise can cause severe stress and reaction in neighbors.
  • Think about pets. Animals have sensitive ears and can be very frightened or stressed by firework sounds.

When can fireworks be used?

  • July 4: from 10 a.m. to midnight;
  • July 5-July 9: from 5 p.m. until two hours after sunset

For more information on firework and Independence Day safety, visit

More drugged drivers in fatal crashes than alcohol impaired

A report published this week finds high rates of fatal crashes involving drugged drivers and that alcohol-impaired drivers are more likely to cause traffic deaths and injuries.


The Indiana Criminal Justice Institute (ICJI) partners with the Indiana University Public Policy Institute to analyze crash statistics for the annual Alcohol-Impaired Driving Fact Sheet, which is available at


After a crash involving death or serious bodily injury, the responding law-enforcement agency is required to offer a portable breath test or blood test to the drivers involved. In 2018, more drivers tested positive for drugs after a fatal crash than were alcohol impaired.


Alcohol-impaired drivers were involved in 1.6 percent of Indiana property damage crashes and 3.2 percent of injury crashes, but fully 8 percent of fatal crashes. Rates of alcohol-impaired crashes in Indiana were highest on weekends between midnight and 4 a.m., the same time when the rate of traffic deaths and serious injuries were highest.


Vehicle drivers made up two thirds of road users killed in alcohol-impaired crashes, and about three fourths of alcohol-impaired drivers in fatal crashes were males.

Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving


Independence Day

AAA and mobility analytics company INRIX predict that 41.4 million Americans will travel by car this week for the Independence Day holiday, a 4.3 percent increase from last year. Drivers making their way home from summer festivities must remember that Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving.



In every state, it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher. In Indiana, drivers under age 21 with a BAC of .02 or higher are subject to fines and a driver’s license suspension for up to one year.


Impaired driving can also include prescription and illegal drugs. Even over-the-counter medication can cause impairment, especially when combined with alcohol or other drugs. Anyone taking a new or higher dose of a drug should speak with their doctor about driving or avoid it until they know the effect the drug could have.


Impaired boating

This weekend, July 5-7, Indiana Conservation Officers will increase enforcement of boating-under-the-influence laws, which are the same on bodies of water as they are on the road. More information is on the national Operation Dry Water website,


Ride sober

Motorcycles are about 3 percent of registered vehicles, but are dramatically over-represented in impaired driving crashes. And the more that bikers are impaired, the less likely they are to wear helmets.


Sober driving tips

With all of today’s options for getting home safely, there’s no excuse for getting behind the wheel impaired as it endangers you and everyone else around you. Law enforcement recommends these safe alternatives to impaired driving:


    Designate, or be, a sober driver.

    Use public transportation.

    Call a cab or a ridesharing service.

    Download the SaferRide mobile app on the Apple App Store or Android Play Store. This simple app only has three options: call a taxi, call a friend, and identify your location for pickup.

    Celebrate at home or a place where you can stay until sober.

    Throwing a party? Offer non-alcoholic beverages and plenty of food.

    Never provide alcohol to minors.

    Ask young drivers about their plans.

    Friend or family member about to drive? Take the keys and make alternate arrangements.


Report impaired drivers

If you see an impaired driver, turn off the road away from the vehicle and call 911. Signs of impaired driving include:


    Weaving, swerving, drifting, or straddling the center line

    Driving at a very slow speed

    Braking erratically

    Making wide turns

    Stopping without cause

    Responding slowly to traffic signals

    Driving after dark with headlights off

    Closely missing an object or vehicle

    Turning abruptly or illegally

    Driving on the wrong side of the road


Drivers should also watch for impaired pedestrians who may not be paying attention to their surroundings.

Health officials urge precautions against mosquitoes due to West Nile virus activity

State health officials have confirmed the presence of West Nile virus in mosquitoes in two counties and are urging Hoosiers to take steps to protect themselves from the insects and the diseases they can carry.


As of July 1, mosquitoes in Elkhart and Clark counties have tested positive for West Nile virus. No human cases of West Nile virus disease have been detected so far in 2019; however, the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) expects to see increased West Nile activity throughout the state as the season progresses.


“Each year, we see people become ill as a result of mosquito bites,” said State Health Commissioner Kris Box, MD, FACOG. “When we find evidence of the virus in multiple counties, that means the risk is starting to increase statewide. It only takes one bite from an infected mosquito to cause a severe illness, so Hoosiers in every county should be taking precautions.”


Health officials recommend the following preventive measures:

  • Avoid being outdoors when mosquitoes are active (especially late afternoon, dusk to dawn and early morning);
  • Apply an EPA-registered insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol to clothes and exposed skin;
  • Cover exposed skin by wearing a hat, long sleeves and long pants in places where mosquitoes are especially active, such as wooded areas;
  • Install or repair screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out of the home.


Even a container as small as a bottle cap can become a mosquito breeding ground, so residents should take the following steps to eliminate potential breeding grounds:

  • Discard old tires, tin cans, ceramic pots or other containers that can hold water;
  • Repair failed septic systems;
  • Drill holes in the bottom of recycling containers left outdoors;
  • Keep grass cut short and shrubbery trimmed;
  • Clean clogged roof gutters, particularly if leaves tend to plug up the drains;
  • Frequently replace the water in pet bowls;
  • Flush ornamental fountains and birdbaths periodically;
  • Aerate ornamental pools, or stock them with predatory fish.


West Nile virus can cause West Nile fever, a mild form of the illness, which can include fever, headache, body aches, swollen lymph glands or a rash. Some people will develop a more severe form of the disease affecting the nervous system, including inflammation in the brain and spinal cord, muscle paralysis or even death. People who think they may have West Nile virus should see their healthcare provider.


To see the latest results of ISDH’s mosquito surveillance, go to To learn more about West Nile virus, visit


For important health updates, visit or follow the Indiana State Department of Health on Twitter at @StateHealthIN and on Facebook at

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