Ag Briefs: Checkoff support helps new Taco Bell items

Wisconsin State Farmer
National briefs


Checkoff support helps Taco Bell launch menu items

Thanks to dairy checkoff support, Taco Bell recently unveiled the Grilled Cheese Burrito, its cheesiest new offering of the year, and a Pineapple Whip Freeze beverage that contains real dairy.

Mike Ciresi, a Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) senior dairy scientist who works at Taco Bell’s headquarters in Irvine, Calif., co-managed both projects. He said the Grilled Cheese Burrito, which was unveiled on July 2, resulted from a brainstorming session at the company’s office, according to DMI officials.

The burrito features a blend of mozzarella, cheddar and pepper jack cheeses in addition to sour cream, beef, rice, crunchy red strips and chipotle sauce. A layer of cheese is then grilled around the tortilla.

Taco Bell faced initial challenges in finding heat-resistant paper that the cheese wouldn’t stick to, but Ciresi led efforts to identify a solution that allowed the chain to successfully launch the product.

The Pineapple Whip, released May 21, is the chain’s first beverage to contain dairy since Taco Bell and DMI formed a partnership in 2012.


Creamery to display ginormous cottage cheese container

It’s not every day one comes across a 50,000-pound container of cottage cheese, but it won’t be long before it’s common place in Westby.

Westby Cooperative Creamery is giving its 6,280-gallon silo on Main Street a face lift and wrapping it to look like a giant cottage cheese container. The change pays homage to the area’s dairy heritage and designation as “The Cottage Cheese Capital of Wisconsin.”

“With 13 to 14 million pounds of cottage cheese leaving this facility on a yearly basis, we thought it would be fitting to create a visual representation of this work and the work of our 175 farmer-owners,” the Creamery’s General Manager Pete Kondrup said.

While the silo mostly holds yogurt, the Creamery is best known for its World Championship 4% small curd cottage cheese and the wrap helps emphasize this prestigious recognition, according to the cooperative.

The installation will be completed by Shawn Engh of Signs by Shawn, Viroqua. The installation is expected to be complete by the end of July.


Testin earns WFBF endorsement

State Senator Patrick Testin’s strong record of getting results for family farmers has earned him the endorsement of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation in his race for re-election. 

Senator Testin who represents the 24th Senate District, led the charge to reintroduce hemp farming to Wisconsin, giving farmers another crop with which to diversify. He also authored and passed bills that combat the spread of potato blight, and encourage veterans to become farmers.

He helped author the proposal to create a dairy innovation hub, a major step forward for Wisconsin dairy producers. He has offered legislation to modernize the farmland preservation tax credit and increase funding for the marketing boards for cranberries and potatoes and vegetables, according to a release.


Forage Superbowl entries sought

The World Forage Analysis Superbowl is now accepting entries for its 37th annual competition, where more than $26,000 in cash prizes will be awarded to the best samples.

Samples for the Standard Corn Silage and Brown Midrib Corn Silage must be submitted by July 10 with the remaining samples due August 31. Top forage producers from across the country will be recognized virtually on October 2.

The contest evaluates lab and visual components in eight forage categories and awards $1,500 to the top individual in each division, with additional cash prizes awarded to second through fifth place. The contest divisions include: Standard Corn Silage; Brown Midrib Corn Silage; Baleage; Commercial Hay; Dairy Hay; Alfalfa Haylage; Grass Hay; and Mixed Grass Haylage, according to a news release.

Awards are also presented to four additional outstanding forage samples. Entry forms are available by calling 920-336-4521 or visiting


Police arrest farmers protesting emission cuts

Dutch police arrested dozens of farmers who were blocking the entrance to a waste treatment plant, the latest in a string of protests by farmers angry at government plans to cut emissions of nitrogen oxide.

According to an Associated Press report, farmers have been protesting for days, blocking highways and converging in their tractors on the Dutch parliament, as the government moves to push through a measure to limit the amount of protein farmers can put in their cattle feed. 

The agriculture ministry says that reducing the protein will cut emissions of nitrogen oxide, while farmers argue that the move will hurt animal welfare.

The protesters also contend that farmers are being unfairly targeted by government efforts to cut emissions, while other sectors are spared.


WI author's book wins award

Feeding Minds Press title “Right This Very Minute” by Lisl H. Detlefsen of Wisconsin and illustrated by Renee Kurilla took home the 2020 Growing Good Kids - Excellence in Children’s Literature Award this week.

The Growing Good Kids Book Award winners, named by the American Horticultural Society and the National Junior Master Gardener Program, were unveiled during the 2020 National Children & Youth Garden Symposium.

 “Right This Very Minute,” the first book released by the Ag Foundation’s publishing venture, Feeding Minds Press, was chosen by the awards committee for its engaging story, illustration and design and excellence in effectively promoting an understanding of and appreciation for gardening, plants and the environment.

This is the second award for “Right This Very Minute,” which was named as the Ag Foundation’s Book of the Year in 2019. The book follows children through a day of meals, snacks and dessert to explore what farmers and ranchers are doing “right this very minute” to put food on our tables. 


Feral Pig Tests Positive for Pseudorabies

For the first time since testing began in 2007, a feral pig tested positive for pseudorabies, a contagious disease for livestock but not for humans.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture said the adult female pig was tested June 8 as part of an ongoing surveillance program from the USDA Wildlife Services. Pseudorabies is not related to rabies, though the symptoms may be similar, officials said in a release.

The pig is “the only natural host” for pseudorabies, which causes neurologic, respiratory and reproductive disorders. Sometimes livestock species get infected. And authorities said the commercial hog order has been free of pseudorabies since 2004.

“There is no indication that there has been any exposure of domestic livestock in Oregon to the Pseudorabies virus, and this detection does not have any impact on Oregon’s recognition as being a PRV free state,” said ODA District Veterinarian Ryan Scholz.


Checkoff program to market hemp on the horizon

The National Industrial Hemp Council (NIHC) and The Hemp Industries Association (HIA) announced they’ve entered into an agreement to work together to explore the creation of a marketing checkoff program to promote hemp.

USDA checkoff programs seek to promote farm commodities and expand market opportunity for farmers, importers, and industry stakeholders. Currently, USDA Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS) oversees 23 checkoff programs for various commodities ranging from cotton to pork to Christmas trees.

The NIHC and HIA expect to form a working group with representatives from across the industry that would discuss the details of how a hemp checkoff would be structured and operate. The effort of the working group would guide the development of a proposal to submit to the USDA that will include an industry analysis; justification for the program; program objectives; and the impact on small businesses.