July 30, 2014

State sets up animal feed trade mission

Wisconsin cows (File photo: Jackie Johnson)

Wisconsin cows (File photo: Jackie Johnson)

State agriculture officials are launching a new effort in the coming months to help farmers market their livestock feed internationally.

The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer protection is getting ready to take part in a number of trade missions that will reach buyers from around the world. One in particular is set to coincide with the World Dairy Expo in Madison at the start of October. DATCP’s Jennifer Lu says producers will have a chance to market to overseas buyers with the help of state officials. “We’re expecting six international buyers from six different countries to come to Wisconsin to purchase our animal feed.”

Lu says an increased demand for meat in Asia is fueling an increased demand for value-added animal feed. “The population is growing, and they need more nutrition, and Wisconsin provides quality, consistency, and good value for our overseas markets.” But it’s not just corn and soy that they buyers are interested in, they’re looking for products that will improve the quality of their livestock. “Milk replacers, animal nutrition products, vitamins, whey protein, meat and bone meal, minerals all the good stuff to help the animals grow faster and better.”

Registration for the trade mission is required by August 19th. A discount is availabe with early registration by August 9th.


Federal trade agreements could impact Wisconsin agriculture

As work continues on new federal trade agreements, some farmers are raising concerns about the impact those deals could have on Wisconsin agriculture.

Close door negotiations have been underway on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Matt Urch, a farmer from Viroqua, says those deals could force changes to state ag programs and policies. He worries that requirements, such as country of origin labeling, or even local food purchasing programs, could be struck down as barriers to trade.

Urch recently traveled to Washington D.C. with the Food and Ag Justice Collaboration to lobby lawmakers on the future of the trade agreements. Both deals are expected to broaden markets for U.S. products in both Asian and European markets. However, Urch says there are also concerns that they could flood the North American market as well with new competition, which local producers may have a hard time competing with.

In addition to the possible impact of those deals, he says another concern is that the talks are being done largely in secret, with little input from the public or Congress. “Our concern is that, first of all, they are trying to get fast track authority for these agreements, which would mean Congress would have very limited input.”

Urch says the negotiations need to be more transparent, and include more input from key industry stakeholders.

Wisconsin cranberry growers set record

Wisconsin will retain its title as the top cranberry producer in America. In a U.S. Department of Agriculture report just released, Wisconsin set a record last fall by harvesting 6.02 million barrels of cranberries, which was 25% more than the year before. Wisconsin produced 67% of the nation’s supply, more than three times what second-place Massachusetts produced.

Wisconsin cherry and apple growers also rebounded from a rough 2012 with big 2013 yields. There were 12.3 million pounds of tart cherries produced, making the Badger state the fourth biggest producer. There was also an 18% gain in apple production with 41.7 million pounds, with the majority of them being sold as fresh market apples.


State adds 7 counties to EAB quarantine

The emerald ash borer (Photo: DATCP)

The emerald ash borer (Photo: DATCP)

The state Department of Agriculture is adding seven more Wisconsin counties to the list of those quarantined because of the emerald ash borer.

The move comes after the tree-killing insect was confirmed in Columbia, Grant, and Monroe counties. The new quarantines cover those three areas, along with neighboring Richland, Iowa, Lafayette, and Green counties. While EAB has not been found in those counties yet, officials say their proximity makes it likely the insect will show up there.

There are are now 29 counties in the state that are under a quarantine, which means ash-wood products and hardwood firewoods can’t be moved out of them. Businesses must prove to the state that their wood products are pest-free before they can be shipped.

The emerald ash borer has killed millions of trees in the US. It has slowly spread across Wisconsin since it turned up in Washington County in 2008.

Appeals court upholds conviction of dairy farmer for raw milk sales

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

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

A state appeals court has upheld the conviction of a Sauk County dairy farmer who was charged with violating state laws by selling raw milk.

Vernon Hershberger of Loganville was convicted last year on a misdemeanor count of violating a state holding order, which directed him to stop selling unpasteurized milk from his farm. Hershberger 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 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.

The case is just the latest chapter in an ongoing debate over the sale of raw milk in Wisconsin. Advocates of the product have been pushing the state for years to legalize its sale, arguing raw milk is healthier and tastes better than pasteurized milk. Opponents, which include health groups and the Wisconsin Dairy Association, contend sales of the product could risk the spread of food-borne illnesses and ruin Wisconsin’s worldwide reputation as a dairy leader.