Ag Briefs: Sand County Foundation founder passes

Wisconsin State Farmer
Midwest briefs


Compeer Financial returns $34M to WI member-owners

Compeer Financial is returning $125 million in patronage payments to member-owners in August. The cooperative’s board of directors voted to increase patronage in 2020 after seeing strong financial results from the organization’s diverse portfolio in 2019.

According to Compeer, of the $125 million returned, $34.2 million will be paid out to member-owners in the 49 Wisconsin counties Compeer Financial serves.

Including $52 million in allocated equities already paid out in February, in total, member-owners will receive over $177 million in patronage returns this year, which is approximately 50 percent of the organization’s 2019 adjusted earnings. This is an increase of $26 million in patronage payments compared to the organization’s patronage returns in 2019.

Patronage payments are based on the amount of products and services purchased by member-owners, along with the organization’s financial performance.

This is the second of two patronage payments Compeer Financial will make to member-owners in 2020.


Derecho forces evacuation of 25,000 pigs

The force of hurricane speed winds in last week's derecho that pummeled the Midwest left growers for JBS Live Pork scrambling to find housing for 25,000 pigs affected by the storm. According to Farm Journal, eight sites experienced damage from downed roofs and walls to the loss of entire buildings.

According to the report, pigs were trapped and facilities left without feed, water or power. Of the 25,000 that were evacuated, 1,200 were market-ready and shipped to a packing plant, 10,000 newly weaned pigs were transported to a vacant facility near Ottumwa, IA, and others ranging from 80-180 lbs. were sent to empty buildings around the state within 48 hours of the storm. Less than 50 animals had to be euthanized.

While the concrete slats and foundation walls survived, seven of the eight sites in Keystone will need to be completely rebuilt including new gating, roofs and curtains.


Sand County Foundation founder passes

Sand County Foundation’s founder and chairman emeritus Jerome "Reed" Coleman passed away on Aug. 17, one month shy of his 87 birthday. 

The Coleman family's friendship with Aldo Leopold greatly influenced Reed's love of conservation and the outdoors. Later he would work with neighboring landowners of Leopold's Shack to create the Leopold Memorial Reserve – a pioneering venture in cooperative land conservation that ultimately brought Sand County Foundation to life, according to his obituary.

Reed’s skilled executive leadership ability...not only led Sand County Foundation through 50 years of improving private land conservation across the U.S. and abroad, but it made him a sought-after board member and volunteer leader of many organizations. 

In 2016, as Sand County Foundation approached its 50th anniversary of addressing conservation challenges, Reed transitioned to chairman emeritus and remained active in the decision-making, leadership and succession well into 2020.   


Commercial MD test now available

The American Hereford Association announced that Neogen® has developed a commercial test for Mandibulofacial Dysostosis (MD) and is ready to test all animals recorded in the AHA database. Members must contact AHA Customer Service either by phone or email to request an official MD test. 

There are two pricing structures available for this test. If you request a test for MD on a DNA sample already at the lab or request an MD-only test on a new sample, the cost is $20. To test for MD on a new sample in combination with our basic test (genomic profile, parentage and all other AHA abnormalities) the charge is $13 plus the $42 basic test fee, making the MD plus basic combination package $55.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) will no longer test samples for MD now that Neogen has a commercial test available.


Pfaff wins primary

One of the hottest contests this November figures to be for an open seat in western Wisconsin's 32nd Senate District.

Former state Agriculture Secretary Brad Pfaff emerged from a three-way Democratic primary on Tuesday, Aug. 11. Pfaff decided to run for the seat after Republican senators fired him from his post last year, an unprecedented move that reduced Evers to sputtering profanity to reporters.

Pfaff will face a familiar Republican foe in November. Dan Kapanke, the La Crosse Loggers baseball team owner, bested Pfaff to win the seat in 2004 before losing it to Democrat Jennifer Shilling in a 2011 recall spurred by his support for then-Gov. Scott Walker's labor union restrictions. He lost again to Shilling by just 61 votes in 2016.

The district looks like a toss-up this time around, too. Trump won the district in 2016 but Ron Kind, the district's long-time Democratic congressman, will be on the ballot and he's been campaigning with Pfaff. In another telling sign of how close the race is, Kapanke and Pfaff are neck-in-neck in fundraising, with each raising around $212,000 as of the end of July.


Destructive European Chafer beetle discovered

The European chafer beetle, an insect that can cause major damage to turf grass, has been found for the first time in Minnesota.

A resident of south Minneapolis first noticed large swarms of beetles in their yard at dusk and reported the find to a University of Minnesota Extension entomologist who suspected the beetles were European chafers and reported them to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA). The MDA worked with the USDA to confirm the identity of the insect since it had never been found in Minnesota before.

The European chafer beetle was discovered in the United States in 1940 in New York state and is currently found in the northeastern U. S., as well as Michigan and Wisconsin.

The grub of the European chafer can cause more damage to turf than Japanese beetles because it spends a longer portion of the summer feeding on turf. However, adults do not eat at all, so they do not defoliate other plants like Japanese beetles are known to do. Home lawns, golf courses, and turf growers could be significantly impacted if the European chafer beetle becomes established in Minnesota.


Maple syrup producers now eligible for pandemic help

Producers of maple syrup, a major agricultural product in northern U.S. states, are now eligible for financial relief to help mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Maple syrup is an economic driver in states such as Vermont, New York and Maine, which are the top three producers in the U.S. The industry, like many sectors of agriculture, has taken a hit from the pandemic, which canceled events such as Maine Maple Sunday.

Politicians from northern states, including Maine Gov. Janet Mills and the state's Congressional delegation, have pushed for aid for syrup producers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Wednesday that producers of the sap used to make maple syrup are now eligible for direct financial relief.

"Like many pillars of our economy, Maine's maple syrup producers have suffered unprecedented financial hardship caused by the coronavirus pandemic," said Mills, a Democrat.

Maine alone is home to more than 550 maple syrup producers.