October 7, 2015

Egg shortage leads to higher grocery prices

File photo: DACTP

File photo: DACTP

Months after the last case was reported, the effects of avian influenza continue to be felt in Wisconsin.

Grocery prices in the state are up 2.7 percent from a year ago, according to a report from the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation. The organization said a main reason for that is a shortage of eggs, which is the result of numerous farms having to destroy their chickens after the flu virus was detected in the spring.

The prices of a dozen eggs jumped 72 percent, climbing to almost $3. Overall, the Federation’s Market Basket survey of 16 common food items in 26 cities was up $1.41, to $53.37. The total cost in Wisconsin is about 1.4 percent below the Farm Bureau’s national survey.


Farmers urged to check for treated seed

File photo: Learfield

File photo: Learfield

State agriculture officials are reminding farmers to take another look at their equipment this fall to make sure treated seeds stay out of their harvest.

Seeds treated with pesticide or fungicide are specifically designed to be planted in the spring and are very brightly colored to make sure they can’t be confused with regular grains or vegetables. Federal law requires they stay out of the food supply, and Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection spokeswoman Donna Gilson says there is a zero tolerance policy. “If as the load is being dumped into a storage bin and you see the treated seeds, that entire bin gets condemned. And again, the farmer can be held liable for that and that can certainly be enough to bankrupt someone.”

Gilson says the best practices on farms should be keeping that seed as far as possible from your harvest. “If you have any unused treated seed around, check with the supplier to see if you can return left over seeds, or dispose of any unused seeds. If you have to store it, keep it separate from all your grains.”

Gilson says farmers should check equipment carefully before heading out to harvest. “They should use a pressure washer, and clean out all the equipment they used for treated seeds. That includes gravity boxes, trucks, wagons. Visually inspect them and look for any of those bright colored seeds.”

Gilson says farmers should also make sure to go over any equipment they may be borrowing.


Wisconsin gets federal boost to expand ethanol access

File photo

File photo

Wisconsin is among 21 states that will receive grants to help increase the availability of biofuels.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Thursday that it will issue $100 million to the states, which will match the funding through private and state resources, to add infrastructure needed to roughly double the number of gas pumps delivering higher blends of corn-based ethanol. Vilsack said the move should lead to more E15 and E85 being sold nationwide.

The USDA estimates the funding to the state of Wisconsin will support 120 more gas pumps offering higher ethanol blends.

Vilsack believes the effort will give consumers more choices and provide a much needed boost to the rural economy. He cited a study showing the biofuels industry has $184 billion impact on the U.S. economy, through job creation and tax revenue.

The USDA estimates the grants will support nearly 5,000 pumps at over 1,400 gas stations in the 21 states.

Pat Curtis

Farm Technology Days begins in Dane County

Photo: Farm Technology Days

Photo: Farm Technology Days

The state’s largest agricultural show of the years gets underway today in Dane County.

More than 600 exhibitors will be on site for Farm Technology Days, taking place on the Statz Brothers farm near Sun Prairie. Executive Committee Chair Bob Wipperfurth says there will be plenty for people to see in terms of new machinery, products and other services, with a 70 acre tent city and about 300 acres more of demonstrations.

Wipperfurth says the show also provides a chance to show off Dane County’s agricultural offerings, along with the 20 percent of the state economy the industry accounts for.

The show, which moves locations each year, runs through August 27.

Stevens Point lowers first-time marijuana fine

Marijuana plant (file photo)

Marijuana plant (file photo)

The Stevens Point city council has voted to drop the fine for first-time possession of small amounts of marijuana from $300 dollars to $100 dollars, or the equivalent of an underage drinking fine. Supporters and opponents spoke prior to the 7-4 vote at Tuesday’s city council meeting.

“Harmful drugs do exist in Stevens Point,” supprter Ben Kollock said. “There’s heroin, there’s cocaine, there’s things that take lives that do a gigantic detriment to our society. But, because someone uses marijuana, that does not put them in that same category of someone who’s going to steal things from you or commit a crime.”

Pete Shuda spoke against the change, arguing his neighborhood already has a drug problem and this would make it worse. “If the city approves this, I make a motion that the city change their logo from ‘Gateway to the Pineries’ to the ‘Gateway to hard drugs.'”

Alderperson Mary Kneebone supported the change, saying there is a bigger drug problem than marijuana in the city. “I think some of the biggest purveyors of illegal drugs in our community are Walgreens and the Copp’s Phamacy with kids abusing prescription pain killers and muscle relaxers and things like that, and I think education goes a whole lot farther than punitive fines that are, I think, not in line with the offense.”