February 7, 2016

Lawmakers propose ‘Rural Wisconsin Initiative’

ruralwisconsininitiativeRural lawmakers in Madison have unveiled a package of bills to help their districts. State Representative Ed Brooks (R-Reedsville) said the challenges facing rural Wisconsin are clear. “Rural Wisconsin is losing population, rural counties in particular, but the towns and villages and their school systems are having trouble maintaining good programs for the future,” Brooks said. “The biggest part would be finding people for the right job, making sure they have the right training.”

The “Rural Wisconsin Initiative” includes seven separate bills on items ranging from STEM education for rural schools to teacher loan forgiveness to broadband expansion grants, a bill authored by Representative Travis Tranel (R-Cuba City). “The thought process behind allocating more money towards broadband is, obviously now education is more focused with on-line learning,” Tranel said.

Brooks said he thinks there’s an opportunity to get some of the measures passed this spring. “I’m a farmer by vocation, so I’m optimistic, but realistic” Brooks said, adding that Assembly Speaker Robin Vos is supportive.

Dems groundwater bill ‘political stunt’ says GOP lawmaker

Rep. Kitchens

Rep. Kitchens

Legislation being offered by a pair of lawmakers from northeastern Wisconsin would require the state Department Natural Resources to identify and protect areas that are susceptible to groundwater contamination, due to shallow soil depths and topographical features known as karst. A GOP state lawmaker says the bill isn’t a serious effort.

State Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) said the bill he and Representative Eric Genrich (D-Green Bay) have proposed would aim to reduce ground­wa­ter con­tam­i­na­tion from manure spreading by con­cen­trated an­i­mal feed­ing op­er­a­tions – known as CAFOS – “in rural ar­eas where the makeup of the land can­not sup­port high-vol­ume ma­nure spread­ing.”

“Somethings got to happen,” Hansen said. “We have these increasing number of farms of all sizes – not just CAFOS – where they spread manure in an area where the groundwater is especially vulnerable to activities that take place on the surface.”

“We’re trying to work out recommendations that will really address the issue,” said Representative Joel Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay). Kitchens represents Kewaunee County, which is home to some 100,000 dairy cattle, and where contaminated wells have become an issue.

“Their bill, it’s really just a political stunt,” Kitchens said. They didn’t try to get my support or any other Republicans. They didn’t even talk to the DNR. It’s a very important issue, and I don’t want to play political games with it. I just want to solve it.”

Menominee file federal lawsuit over federal hemp crop raid

A lawsuit has been filed by the Menominee Nation of Wisconsin against two federal agencies over the tribe’s hemp growing operation. Federal drug agents raided a field on the tribe’s reservation near Suring last month. Tribal officials say the raid destroyed industrial hemp plants. The Drug Enforcement Agency contends that they seized 30,000 high-grade marijuana plants. DEA and Department of Justice agents participated in the October 23rd operation.

According to the lawsuit, tribal officials argue the 2014 federal farm bill gives them the right to grow hemp, which can be used to make products such as textiles, foods, paper, body care products and building materials. Hemp grown for industrial use generally has too little THC – the psychoactive component of marijuana – to be used as an illicit drug.

“The Menominee Tribe, in cooperation with the College of Menominee Nation, should have the right under the Farm Bill to cultivate industrial hemp in the same manner as Kentucky, Colorado, and other states,” tribal chairman Gary Besaw said in a statement. “These and other states cultivate industrial hemp without threats or interference from the United States government.”

CWD prompts destruction of Eau Claire County whitetail herd

Whitetail deer (File photo: Jackie Johnson)

Whitetail deer (File photo: Jackie Johnson)

A commercial herd of 228 whitetail deer in Eau Claire County had to be destroyed this week, after a seven-year-old doe on the farm tested positive for chronic wasting disease.

The state Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection said the first positive test came back in June, while two additional deer tested positive in September and October.

State and federal officials began the process of depopulating the 163 adults and 65 fawns on Monday, and wrapped up work Wednesday afternoon. The animals were euthanized using a combination of injectable euthanasia and sharpshooting.

DATCP said preliminary tests done on animals destroyed during the first two days showed an additional 23 deer were positive for CWD. The number could rise, with more tests still pending.

Wood County will host 2018 Farm Technology Days

File photo: Farm Technology Days

File photo: Farm Technology Days

The state’s largest annual farm show will return to the Marshfield area in three years.

Officials with Farm Technology Days announced Thursday that the Daryl and Brenda Sternweis family will host the 2018 edition of the show, along with the neighboring Heiman family which owns Nasonville Dairy. The Sternweis farm recently added robotic milking, the type of technology the show always features.

It’s the first time since 1960 that Wood County will host the three day event, which draws visitors from around the world.

The 2018 Farm Technology Days will take place July 10-12. Walworth County is the host of the show next year, and Kewaunee County in 2017.