Axios Des Moines

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πŸš— Vroom, vroom, Thursday. Happy Jeep 4x4 Day.

πŸ’¨ Weather: Sunny and breezy with a high of 51Β°.

Today's Smart Brevityβ„’ count is 876 words β€” a 3-minute read.

1 big thing: Fighting the food barons

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Iowa's food scene could be like Italy's if more small and mid-sized farmers could get support, author Austin Frerick argues in a new book.

Why it matters: "Rural Iowa ... is producing the most wealth it's ever produced, but none of that money is staying there," Frerick, a Yale University antitrust expert and Cedar Rapids native, tells Axios.

Driving the news: In his new book, "Barons: Money, Power, and the Corruption of America's Food Industry," Frerick examines how companies like JBS, Walmart and Driscoll's have monopolized the country's food industry and pushed smaller farmers out.

By the numbers: An Iowa State report shows large-scale commercial farms in the state doubled in size between 2011-21, while small farms decreased by 27% over that same period.

State of play: To help decentralize Iowa farms, Frerick advocates for federal intervention to break up "meat monopolies," he says.

  • He also supports scrapping the farm bill, which incentivizes the overproduction of corn and soybeans, he says.

Zoom in: Instead, Frerick argues Iowa's rural towns could encourage agro-tourism, especially as more people travel for good, locally-sourced food.

  • Hogs in confinement should return to the countryside, he says. That would reduce pollution and improve their meat quality.
  • Local entities should also focus on local procurement β€” schools and colleges could source milk from Iowa dairy farms and provide a stable source of income.

The intrigue: Decentralizing farms may seem like a big step, but it's actually towards something "very traditional," Frerick says.

  • "What we have now is radical."

The other side: Meatpackers, including the CEO's of Tyson and JBS, testified before Congress in 2022 and denied any anti-competitive practices.

  • Some Republican lawmakers at the time also defended them, noting they provide "invaluable service and do so with incredible efficiency," according to Politico.

What's next: Frerick is speaking at Ames Public Library on Saturday at 10:30am.

2. Greenwood Pond artist challenges demolition

A ramp that's part of "Greenwood Pond: Double Site" purposely disappears into the water after getting visitors to the pond's surface level, as seen in 2014. Photo: Judith Eastburn, courtesy of The Cultural Landscape Foundation

The artist behind Greenwood Pond's boardwalk alleges the Des Moines Art Center distorted her words from more than a decade ago "in the unseemly effort to destroy" her work.

Why it matters: Demolition is slated to begin next week for "Greenwood Pond: Double Site."

  • Artist Mary Miss contends a 1994 contract prohibiting changes to the work without her written approval is still enforceable.

Catch up fast: The wooden pavilion opened in 1996 as part of a beautification project and a way to "move art outside the walls" of the adjacent museum.

State of play: DSM Art Center director Kelly Baum published an open letter in February outlining current hazards associated with the pavilion.

  • In 2012, Miss recommended deinstalling her work if repairs weren't feasible, Baum wrote in the letter.

The other side: Miss contends the 2012 letter she wrote to former art center director Jeff Fleming did not give consent to the current proposed demolition.

  • Her one conditional remark about removal was made in the context of a possible partial disassembly, she wrote in a recent letter.

State of play: Multiple residents urged DSM City Council to save the pavilion during a meeting Monday, the DSM Register reports.

Yes, but: On Wednesday the art center issued a press release announcing demolition.

  • The city will collaborate with the art center to reimagine the park, Mayor Connie Boesen said in yesterday's announcement.

What they're saying: An art center agreement with the city covers public safety matters, which predates and supersedes the one with Miss, Amy Day, a spokesperson for the art center, tells Axios.

What's next: The Cultural Landscape Foundation, an advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., contends the demolition raises legal and ethical issues.

  • The group will make a statement about possible next steps to save the work in the coming days, spokesperson Nord Wennerstrom tells Axios.

Read Mary Miss's letters

A photo of Greenwood Park in Des Moines.
The ramp at Greenwood Pond in December. Photo: Courtesy of The Cultural Landscape Foundation

3. The Ear: Catch up on the news

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

πŸ€ Caitlin Clark won the Naismith Award for the second year in a row, which commemorates her as the best women's basketball player of the year. (KCCI)

A former librarian is suing Des Moines Public Library, saying its policies and trainings are "inadequate" at protecting employees, including from a "nearly constant stream of masturbating patrons." (Des Moines Register)

🎀 Former "SNL" star Pete Davidson is bringing his comedy tour to Vibrant in Waukee on May 25. (KCCI)

πŸ’΅ Iowa lawmakers approved a bill giving Perry district staff bonuses if they do not quit their jobs. The retention effort comes after a deadly school shooting earlier this year. (WHO-13)

πŸ• A new plan consolidates and transitions Iowa DNR state park rangers to conservation officers that oversee counties, rather than specific parks. (The Gazette)

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4. Where's Jason?

Photo: Jason Clayworth/Axios

Hit reply and correctly guess Jason's location and we'll add you to a drawing for a free Axios shirt!

  • Check back tomorrow for the answer and a story about this spot.

5. 1 pic to go: Consumable hemp's future

A sign outside Despensary off Ingersoll Avenue. Photo: Linh Ta/Axios

The newly opened Despensary off Ingersoll Avenue is encouraging customers to tell Gov. Kim Reynolds not to sign a bill that would cap THC in hemp products.

Driving the news: House File 2605 imposes a limit of four milligrams of THC per serving or 10 mg per container β€” a move that would put a "dent" in Despensary's sales.

Zoom out: A limited edition of the popular Climbing Kites' "high potency" drink contains 15mg of THC, likely wouldn't stay legal.

🚲 Linh is excited for the return of the gravel biking season.

πŸ‘‚ Jason will listen online to a Harvard expert's data-driven insights about the influence of the youth vote in November's election at Simpson College tonight.

This newsletter was copy edited by Lucia Maher.