Ag Briefs: Stepp recuses herself from WI review

Wisconsin State Farmer
Midwest briefs


EPA's Stepp recuses herself from Wisconsin review

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Cathy Stepp has recused herself from a Wisconsin compliance review.

Midwest Environmental Advocates and 16 individuals petitioned the EPA in 2015 to review Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources' compliance with the Clean Water Act. The EPA in 2011 cited 75 deficiencies in DNR water regulation.

Stepp served as DNR secretary from 2011 through August 2017.

EPA spokeswoman Allison Lippert said in emails that Step consulted with an EPA ethics attorney and recused herself about two weeks ago.

Word of the recusal came after MEA sent Stepp a letter on Feb. 1, questioning her impartiality and demanding she step away from the review.

Lippert said Stepp decided to recuse herself before MEA made its demand and the decision wasn't influenced by "prodding and petitions."


CRI scholarship deadline March 31

Cooperative Resources International (CRI) is accepting applications for its 2018 collegiate scholarship. A minimum of six scholarships valued at $750 each will be awarded to youth pursuing undergraduate degrees in agricultural fields.

The collegiate scholarship is available to undergraduate students attending a four-year college/university or two-year technical college this fall. In addition to pursuing a degree in an agricultural field, applicants must be affiliated with a member of one of CRI’s cooperative businesses - GENEX or AgSource - by having an active role on the member’s dairy or ranch.

The deadline to apply is March 31, 2018. Visit for more information and to access the application.


Michigan companies win ag innovation grants

Two Michigan companies will receive state grants to develop innovative agriculture projects.

The Food and Agriculture Investment Program provides financial support for initiatives that boost the farming and food processing industries.

The Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development this week awarded a $75,000 grant to Hartford Farm Supply to help build a controlled atmosphere storage facility in Hartford.

It will allow for more capacity and storage for apples grown in southwestern Michigan and the Traverse City area.

Always Local LLC will get a $50,000 grant to construct a greenhouse and a warehouse on a site in Caledonia. The company is developing a commercial aquaponics farm, in which fish and plants are grown in the same water system. The system will produce fresh salad mix. 


Two more lawsuits accuse chicken producers of fixing prices

Two major food distributors have filed their own federal lawsuits accusing Tyson Foods and other major chicken producers of fixing prices, but the industry denies any wrongdoing.

The lawsuits filed this week in Illinois by Sysco Corp and US Foods Holding Corp. join several other lawsuits pending against the chicken producers. The allegations date back at least to a 2016 lawsuit filed by New York-based Maplevale Farms.

The lawsuits accuse chicken producers of working together to reduce the supply of chickens and also coordinating efforts to set the retail price for them between 2008 and 2016.

Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson says Tyson plans to continue defending its actions. He says the Springdale, Arkansas-based company believes the claims are unfounded.
Representatives of Pilgrim's Pride and Sanderson Farms didn't respond immediately on Feb. 1.


Proposed pesticide regulations are redundant, pose risks to farmers

Despite the public concern over unintended drift of pesticides, the Washington Association of Wheat Growers (WAWG) said it believes that, thanks to technological advancements in nozzle spray technology and chemical formulations, the vast majority of pesticide applications are done safely, with no adverse effects to the public. 

In recent years, several pesticide bills have been introduced in the 2018 Washington State Legislative Session. In a Senate Committee hearing last week, WAWG and other groups representing Washington agriculture joined together to oppose SB6529, which would require unreasonable reporting and notification periods prior to pesticide applications.

Because pesticide applications can only be done under certain weather conditions, including temperature, humidity, wind speed and wind direction, regulations that require advance notification periods before a spray application are extremely burdensome and could result in crop devastation due to a grower's inability to address a pest or weed problem in a timely manner.

"When we discover a problem in one of our fields, time is of the essence in applying crop protection products. I would hate to be required to let one or two 'good spray days' pass us by and then have wind and rain on the day I'm scheduled to spray," Green said. 


More than 170 cows seized from farm north of Seattle

Authorities have seized more than 170 cows from a farm in northwest Washington after about 50 cows were found dead on the property.

The Skagit Valley Herald reports the Skagit County Sheriff's Office found the cattle carcasses were improperly disposed of after complaints from neighbors prompted a search of the property in Bay View early last week.

Animal Control Officer Emily Diaz says most of the cows were seized Saturday with the help of between 15 and 20 people who were mostly volunteers with cattle experience.
Diaz says more cows were expected to be removed from the farm this week.
Skagit County Public Health issued a notice of violation to the property, which is owned by Roger and Marsha Pederson.

The newspaper's efforts to reach the Pedersons were unsuccessful on Jan. 30.


Lawsuits over herbicide dicamba to be heard in St. Louis

A special panel of judges says 11 lawsuits filed in four states against the makers of the herbicide dicamba will be centralized in federal court in St. Louis.

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation made the determination Thursday regarding farmers' lawsuits filed in Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas and Illinois. The lawsuits argue that the makers of dicamba are responsible for damage caused by the herbicide to their crops, especially soybeans.

According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette , attorneys for the companies that make dicamba opposed the centralization of the lawsuits but said that if it had to be done, St. Louis was their preferred location.

Arkansas has banned dicamba use from April 16 through Oct. 31 after the state received nearly 1,000 complaints last year about the weed killer.