November 24, 2014

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.


Miller-St. Nazianz acquired by CNH Industrial

millerManitowoc County based Miller-St. Nazianz has been acquired by CNH Industrial, and company president John Miller says nearly everyone will be retained. “One thing that was very important to me in the negotiating process was to keep the employee base intact,” Miller said. “They’ve agreed to hire every single one of our employees. Except for me, actually.”

The firm employs some 260 people, manufacturing spraying equipment, and has been family owned for five generations. CNH also owns Racine-based Case IH. Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but it’s expected to be finalized by the end of the year. CNH Industrial is a global manufacturer of farm equipment, based in the United Kingdom.


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.


Toledo algae outbreak a Great Lakes game-changer



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.