August 27, 2014

Farm Technology Days comes to Portage County

The Farm Technology Days tent city. (Photo: WSAU)

The Farm Technology Days tent city. (Photo: WSAU)

Wisconsin’s largest annual farm show begins today in Portage County. Close to 80,000 people are expected for Wisconsin Farm Technology Days, taking place just east of Plover at the Blue Top and Feltz Family farms.

The three-day show is being held a month later than normal, to allow for unique field demonstrations. It features the latest in farm equipment and technology, plus numerous demonstrations and around 600 exhibitors in a tent city.

Pete Zakrzewski of Blue Top says it took three years for the two farms to get ready. He says crop rotation was the most important thing, so visitors would not have to ride buses to see the featured potato and vegetable operations. Harvest and tillage demonstrations will take place for potatoes, sweet corn, carrots, snap-beans, cabbage, and peas.

Farm Technology Days highlights different types of farming operations at different locations each year. Last year’s show took place near Dallas in Barron County. It will be in Dane County next year, and Walworth County in 2016.

WSAU

Toledo algae outbreak a Great Lakes game-changer

PHOTO: WIDNR

PHOTO: WIDNR

The recent drinking water crisis in the Toledo, Ohio metro area could well be a warning of what might occur in other cities around the Great Lakes, if serious efforts aren’t made to stem the flow of phosphorous into the lakes.

Alliance for the Great Lakes President Joel Brammeier said that while cities like Toledo and Milwaukee have made big strides in reducing sewage discharges into the Great Lakes, the same can’t be said for runoff, much of it from agriculture.

“We are getting a very loud alarm that it is time to get serious about controlling all sources of pollution, and as evidenced by the fact that people can’t drink their water, we haven’t been doing a very good job of that so far,” said Brammeier.

Toxic algae in Lake Erie is not a new phenomenon, but it wasn’t until last Friday, August 1st, that the problem became severe enough that residents were told not use their tap water. The ban impacted some 400,000 people in the city and surrounding suburbs, and was not lifted until Monday.

Scientists have been studying it, and environmentalists and politicians have been raising concerns, but Brammeier said not a lot has been done. “We’ve seen a number of half steps, and half measures that really haven’t gotten at the root sources of the problem,” he said. “We have vast quantities of phosphorous going into places like western Lake Erie coming from farm fields, and also coming out of some sewage treatment pipes.”

While Toledo residents are once again able to drink their tap water, another outbreak could happen – and Wisconsin is not necessarily immune. “We’re already seeing these kinds of toxic algal blooms and dead zones in Green Bay, so the problem is already on Wisconsin’s doorstep,” said Brammeier.

Brammeier said a comprehensive approach will be needed across the entire Great Lakes watershed – and it’s not just a question of public health. “This is not just about the sad reality that half a million people couldn’t drink their water for two days. This is about the reputation and image of the Great Lakes as a region.

Fire destroys roof of Dane County manure digester

The roof of a manure digester in northern Dane County was destroyed this morning, after a small explosion ignited a poly fabric cover on the unit.

The Dane County Sheriff’s office says workers had just started an exhaust fan on the digester, which had been emptied earlier this week for cleaning, when they heard a loud noise. An inflatable nylon cover on top of the digester then burst into flames, destroying it. The cost of replacing the cover is $250,000.

The digester was one of three operated by Milwaukee-based Clear Horizons LLC in the Town of Vienna, as part of a public/private partnership to convert methane case from cow manure to produce electricity.

Clear Horizons project manager Leo Maney says the fire did not result in the release of any environmental contaminants and there were no injuries.. The company says the digester facility was shut down to allow fire fighters to access the scene, and the unit where the fire occureed will remain down until they are confident it can be restarted.

The fire is the latest in a series of accidents at the digesters. The facility has seen multiple spills since last November, due to burst pipes that dumped more than 400,000 gallons of liquid manure.

WIBA

Grassland Dairy fined

wisconsin-dojA Clark County dairy producer will pay a  fine for exceeding the limits of a state permit. Grassland Dairy Products has been ordered to pay $300,000 after the Attorney General’s office obtained a judgement against the dairy. Grassland reportedly failed to comply with a biochemical oxygen demand discharge limit of 82.6 pounds per day.

Department of Natural Resources investigators found the plant had several days where the discharge was 150 % of the permitted limit. The DNR regulates BOD, or biochemical oxygen demand levels because it affects the amount of dissolved oxygen in nearby waterways for aquatic life. The nearby Black River is on the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of impaired rivers due to low oxygen in Clark County.

The violations occurred between 2006 and 2013. Grassland has upgraded its wastewater treatment plant to address the problems. Grassland is one of the world’s largest producers of butter.

WSAU

Wisconsin State Fair is under way

Cream puff (PHOTO: Wisconsin State Fair)

Cream puff (PHOTO: Wisconsin State Fair)

If it’s food you seek, you won’t be at a loss to find something at the 11-day event near Milwaukee. Kristi Chuckel, spokesperson with the Wisconsin State Fair, says there are 100 foods on a stick. “Every year they add a couple extras, a lot of those absolutely involve bacon.”

If you can imagine it, Chuckel says, you can probably find it — likely on a stick and possibly wrapped in bacon. She says fair-goers will also see traditional favorites — corn dogs and funnel cakes — as well as more than 70 new treats … that may or may not be on a stick.

The highly-coveted cream puff is the most popular edible item among fair-goers, Chuckel says, celebrating 90 years of the tasty delight this year. “It’s the longest continuously-selling item at the Wisconsin State Fair. So, it’s a big year for them. Last year we did around 385,000 cream puffs, and that’s just in the 11 days of the fair. You can’t get them all year ’round.”

Visit their website for gluten-free food options along with daily admission prices and discounts, parking, special needs, bag search policy, entertainment, vendors, and ways to keep informed via social media. Guests can also expect beefed up security around the area, with more support staff and security cameras, and plenty of parking and shuttles from park-and-ride lots.

The 163rd Wisconsin State Fair starts July 31st and goes through August 10th in West Allis (near Milwaukee).