September 5, 2015

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.”


Menominee Tribe votes on marijuana legalization

Menominee Chair Gary Besaw

Menominee Chair Gary Besaw

A Wisconsin tribe is voting this week on marijuana legalization. The Menominee Tribe in northeastern Wisconsin is voting Wednesday and Thursday on whether to legalize marijuana for medicinal and recreational use. “We continue to look for revenue sources,” said Tribal chairman Gary Besaw. “There are several we are looking at, this happens to be one.”

In January, Governor Scott Walker rejected the Menominee’s bid to open an off-reservation casino in Kenosha which tribe leaders say would have created thousands of jobs both on and off the reservation. “We’re not afraid to look at potential options,” Besaw said. “Menominee have been leaders in this way of thinking. If you’re elected here, you try in your best way to help your tribal members.”

Besaw said if tribal member vote in favor of legalizing marijuana, tribal legislators will begin figuring out how to navigate state and federal law to potentially make marijuana the tribe’s cash crop. Results of the vote will be announced Friday.

In December, the U.S. Department of Justice cleared the way for some tribal nations to decide for themselves whether or not to legalize medicinal or recreational marijuana. Tribe chairman Gary Besaw says the Menominee are the only tribe in Wisconsin which has this designation.

“We are the only reservation that the state does not have criminal jurisdiction over our membership,” Besaw noted, adding that this week’s vote is just the first step in a long process of determining how exactly legalizing marijuana could benefit the tribe.

Federal disaster designation requested for Wisconsin ginseng farmers

Wisconsin ginseng (Photo: Jackie Johnson)

Wisconsin ginseng (File photo: Jackie Johnson)

Governor Scott Walker is asking federal officials to grant a disaster designation for some Wisconsin ginseng farmers.

The governor is asking the USDA to issue a Secretarial Disaster Designation for several Wisconsin counties where ginseng farmers suffered crop losses in May, due to a late freeze. The request covers growers in Langlade, Lincoln and Marathon Counties, where it’s estimated farmers lost 28 percent of their crop and 50 percent of their seed.

A disaster declaration would allow farmers in the affected counties to apply for emergency loans.

Wisconsin is the leading producer of ginseng in the U.S. Walker notes that it takes three years from planting to harvest for most ginseng crops, so the losses from this spring will likely have an impact for years to come.

Wisconsin Ag officials lift remaining bird flu quarantines

File photo: DACTP

File photo: DACTP

The state has lifted the last six quarantines for poultry operations in the state, following an outbreak of avian influenza this spring that forced the destruction of more than a million turkeys and chickens in Wisconsin.

The move comes after the final six premises were tested and cleared for signs of the highly pathogenic avian influenza, which hit ten poultry operations in the state earlier this year. Division of Animal Health spokeswoman Raechelle Belli says four of the sites were in Barron County and two were in Jefferson County, which were cleared after a lengthy cleaning and disinfection process, and sampling of the property to make sure they were rid of the virus.

All of the operations had to destroy their flocks earlier this year and had been shut down during the quarantine period. Belli says they will now be allowed to resume operations and repopulate with new birds.

While no new cases of bird flu have been found since this spring, officials are urging operators to be watchful this fall. The virus is believed to have been spread across the Midwest by migratory birds. As the weather cools and those birds begin moving again, poultry operations should consider limiting the exposure of their flocks by keeping them isolated or in covered pens. Belli says operators should also institute biosecurity measures, to prevent the virus from being spread from area to another by farm workers.

The state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection plans to reach out to poultry owners this fall, with informational sessions on steps they can take to reduce the risk of exposing their flocks to the virus.