January 29, 2015

Wisconsin cranberry growers ponder fee increase

Wisconsin cranberry growers may increase fees, in order to allow for more marketing of the state’s official fruit. Lower prices caused by an over supply of cranberries is the backdrop on the effort to put more money into marketing, education and research.

Department of Ag, Trade and Consumer Protection’s Ann Marie Ames says growers are being asked to up the amount of money spent per barrel of fruit. If the cranberry growers approve the measure, the fee per barrel would increase from the current maximum of 20 cents in 2017, to 25 cents per barrel in 2019.

Wisconsin produces the most cranberries in the U.S, some 6 million barrels in 2013. The abundant supply has driven prices down for the last two years.

Wisconsin ag experts to help food producers market locally

(PHOTO: Jackie Johnson, file)

(PHOTO: Jackie Johnson, file)

Wisconsin state ag officials want to help local producers do a better job of marketing their food products to the public. The Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin Local Food Business Seminar Series will continue in the New Year with marketing seminars starting January 5th. DATCP Local foods specialist Kietra Olson says this low-cost seminar gives local producers an opportunity to see exactly how other people succeeded.  “Tera Johnson from the UW Extension Food Finance Institute, who is the founder of Tera’s Whey, and she’s going to be specifically talking about strategic marketing, how to target your consumers. We also have Melissa Pahl, who is the owner of Twenty Marketing, who’s going to be focusing on the social media aspect of your marketing and communications plan.”

Olson says having real-world successes demonstrated in this public format is rare, so growers and producers should take advantage of the chance to learn something new.  “Having these experts share their first-hand knowledge is not normally something that you’d have access to, so although people can do a pretty good job of it on their own, coming to this class will expose them to ideas and channels that they hadn’t thought of previously.” This Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin seminar will be held in Waukesha on January 5th, Stevens Point on January 6th and in Madison on January 8th.  Other seminars are being scheduled through March, and will also be offered in multiple locations.


Wisconsin Supreme Court won’t take up raw milk case

Wisconsin dairy farmer Vernon Hershberger’s 2013 conviction for selling raw milk will be allowed to stand. Without explaining why, the Wisconsin Supreme Court refused to consider whether Hershberger was properly convicted, after he violated an order from state inspectors.

The holding order at the center of Hershberger’s appeal came from state agriculture inspectors in 2010, who raided his Sauk County farm and ordered him to stop selling his product. Prosecutors argued that he continued to violate the order though, which resulted in additional charges. While he was convicted of violating the holding order and fined $1,000, Hershbergrer was found not guilty on charges that he was selling food, producing milk, and operating a dairy plant without the proper state licenses.

Hershberger appealed the conviction, arguing that he was not allowed to present evidence at trial that would have helped his case and that an unedited copy of the holding order was kept out of evidence. The Fourth District Court of Appeals sided with the circuit court’s decision to keep Hershberger from making what amounted to a “collateral attack” on the factual basis for the holding order, keeping his conviction in place.

Hershberger also argued that he was not subject to state rules against selling unpasteurized milk because his hundreds of buyers were in a private club that did not sell the product to the general public. The appeals court rejected that argument.

Wisconsin farm groups say more is needed on immigration reform

President Obama’s executive order on immigration did little to address the needs of Wisconsin’s agriculture industry. Farmers here – particularly dairy farmers – are heavily reliant on the labor of immigrant laborers.

Wisconsin Farmers Union President, Darin Von Ruden, said farmers were disappointed that the president’s executive order did little to address what he calls a frustrating situation. “They have a hard time hiring folks, simply because they’re a little bit unsure of their legal status here, and then you have farmers competing with farmers for the workers that are legal,” Von Ruden said.

Karen Gefvert, Director of Governmental Relations for Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, agrees that farmers are frustrated. “It’s really become a pretty fragile discussion,” she said. “We’re not only talking about the business side of things, we’re talking about the humanitarian, emotional side of things.”

Both organizations supported a comprehensive immigration package which was passed by the U.S. Senate in 2013 – but which was never brought up for a vote in the House.

We were little disappointed to see that he (Obama) didn’t have much to say about agricultural workers,” Von Ruden said. “We need both a short-term and long-term solution,” Gefvert said. “The president’s executive action gives us some, but not enough.”

World Dairy Expo set to open in Madison

(Photo: World Dairy Expo)

(Photo: World Dairy Expo)

Madison will become the center of the dairy universe this week, as the World Dairy Expo begins its five-day run.

State Agriculture Secretary Ben Brancel calls the event a “gem” for Dane County and Wisconsin, attracting up to 70,000 people to various activities during the week. Visitors come from across the country and from more than 90 foreign countries.

The economic impact of the show in the Madison area alone is estimated at over $15 million. Brancel says it helps other areas as well, since many trade groups hold their annual meetings in Wisconsin this time of year to take advantage of the show. Many visitors also travel to agricultural vendors and operations around the state, where they tour facilities and purchase products.

The expo is Tuesday through Saturday.