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March 31, 2015

Wausau student is state’s cabbage growing winner

Riley Olbrantz

Riley Olbrantz

A Wausau student was named Wednesday has claimed top prize in a statewide student cabbage growing contest. Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Secretary Ben Brancel announced Riley Olbrantz as the state winner in the Bonnie Plants 3rd Grade Cabbage Program on Wednesday. Olbrantz’s winning cabbage weighed in at 28.6 pounds.

Free cabbage plants were distributed last spring to more than 11,300 Wisconsin third grade students, who took them home to grow during the summer. Teachers submitted a class winner in fall, and the state winner was randomly selected from these entries. The cabbage plants, distributed by Bonnie Plants, are the O.S. Cross variety, known for producing giant, oversized heads.

Olbrantz received her cabbage plant on April 14 and began growing it in a pot in the living room window. As the plant grew, her family helped her build a raised garden for her cabbage plant in the backyard. She watered her cabbage each day until she picked it on July 29. The cabbage is still being eaten and enjoyed by Olbrantz’s neighbors.

As the state winner, Riley received a certificate of achievement and a $1,000 scholarship from Bonnie Plants. Now a fourth grader at Newman Catholic Elementary St. Anne School in Wausau, she plans on becoming a veterinarian, because she loves animals and wants to help them.
Wisconsin ranks first in the nation in production of cabbage for sauerkraut, growing 27% of the U.S. total. The state harvested 2,900 acres of fresh market cabbage last year, a value of more than $10 million.

Walker shifts gears on ethanol mandate at Iowa forum

WRNfile photo

WRNfile photo

In what’s being deemed a shift in his position on the issue, Governor Scott Walker voiced support for ethanol mandates at an Iowa agricultural summit over the weekend. The first-ever Iowa Ag Summit convened early Saturday morning, with Iowa’s Republican Governor Terry Branstad warning participants not to “mess” with the Renewable Fuels Standard. The RFS is the federal mandate that requires a set amount of ethanol to be blended into gasoline and diesel fuel each year.

Monte Shaw is the executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association and he told Radio Iowa a candidate’s stand on the mandate will be a deciding factor for some Iowa voters. “There is, what, 14 candidates talking about running now on the Republican side and the RFS is absolutely part of the winnowing down process,” Shaw said. “In fact, part of our whole effort is to say: ‘Pick from among the guys and gals on the nice list, not the guys and gals on the naughty list.'”

By Shaw’s count, six of the nine prospective candidates who showed up Saturday – including Walker – support the ethanol mandate. “In general, on any issue, I’m somebody that believes in a free and open market,” Walker said. “I don’t like a whole lot of government interference…but I do believe it’s an access issue.”

“Now, long-term – we’ve talked about this before as well – my goal would be to get to a point where we directly address those market access issues and I think that’s a part of the challenge. So that eventually you didn’t need to have a standard.”

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Walker had previously indicated that he flatly opposed the mandate.

Wisconsin dairy farm’s license suspended over raw milk disease outbreak

Raw milk advocates serve samples during a 2010 state Capitol rally. (File Photo: WRN)

Raw milk advocates serve samples during a 2010 state Capitol rally. (File Photo: WRN)

State officials have suspended the license of a Pepin County dairy farm that supplied the raw milk tied to an outbreak that sickened 32 people last fall. The Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection says Roland and Diana Reed of Arkansaw have agreed to penalties in the case, which includes a 30 day suspension of their farm’s Grade A permit.

In a release, Dr. Steve Ingham, administrator of the Division of Food Safety for DATCP, said “after reviewing the circumstances described in the final DHS epidemiological and laboratory  report, we have determined that the farm violated current statutes and rules by distributing unpasteurized milk in an unauthorized manner, so we are taking appropriate action,.”

DATCP said the farm provided unpasteurized milk to a Durand high school football team dinner last fall, which cause an outbreak of a foodborne illness that sickened 32 students and coaches. Some of the students had to be hospitalized and several were unaware they were drinking raw milk.

The farm can keep selling its milk for cheese and butter production during the suspension, but could face further suspensions or have their license revoked if they violate the terms of the agreement with the state over the next three years.

Dean Foods to shutter Sheboygan dairy plant

deanmilkAfter more than a century in operation, the Dean Foods dairy plant in Sheboygan is closing. Dean Foods has confirmed that the plant will be shuttered “on or before April 30.” The closure will result in the loss of 70 jobs. UW Madison Director of Dairy Policy Analysis Mark Stephenson sees a couple of factors at work here.

“One of them has been a sag in sales for fluid milk,” he said. “It’s been declining really pretty dramatically since about 2010. There’s just a lot more completion for beverage space for consumers.” In addition, Dean has accumulated a lot of plants across the country. “They have consolidated and closed plants in other parts, and I think that this is probably somewhere in that continuum.”

Stephenson expects the closing of the plant to be pretty much of a wash for dairy farmers in the region, although some may have slightly higher costs to transport their milk.

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.