Ag Briefs: EPA head expects mid-Oct. dicamba decision

Wisconsin State Farmer
National briefs


Neighbors pitch in to help ailing farmer

Within hours of a farmer being airlifted to a hospital in Minot, North Dakota, a close family friend began organizing a group to help while Lane Unhjem was recovering from a heart attack.

According to CBS News, Jenna Binde told reporters that farmers began contacting her, asking if they could be a part of a group to help harvest the 57 year old Unhjem's crop. The Crosby, ND, was working to put out a fire on a combine when he suffered the heart attack.

She said 60 volunteers showed up to the Unhjem farm, bringing 11 combines, six grain carts and 15 semis with them.


WFU Coffee Chat series set 

Wisconsin Farmers Union (WFU) is creating a space for connections and conversations with a new virtual Coffee Chat series. Planned for Wednesdays through October, each chat will feature a short presentation on a topic, followed by open discussion and time to socialize. The event kicked off this week with WFU Communications & Special Projects Coordinator Tommy Enright, a wellness enthusiast who farms in Central Wisconsin, covering Wellness & Farming.

The full line-up includes: Oct 14 - Managing Natural Areas on the Farm, Bill Hogseth, WFU Watershed Coordinator; Oct 21 - What Farmers Union Is Doing For You, Lauren Langworthy, WFU Special Projects; and Oct 28 - Cooperatives 101, Cathy Statz, WFU Education Director. 

Conversations begin at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesdays. You do not need to be a current WFU to participate. RSVP at


Farm Management update meeting

The second webinar in the Farm Management Update Meeting for Agricultural Professionals series will be held on October 22 from 1:00 to 2:30 pm. This meeting typically was offered as an in-person meeting, but has been moved to a virtual format.

This webinar will focus on dairy markets and the recently harvested 2020 corn silage crop. Dr. Mark Stephenson will give an update on the dairy market and Dr. Luiz Ferraretto will give an overview of how the 2020 corn silage crop fared this year and best practices for feeding it out.

There is no registration fee, but you must pre-register by 5:00 pm on October 21. Registration can be made online at


Late freeze shortens fall apple season for orchards

During what would normally be primetime for Midwest apple-picking, orchards around Indiana are running out of apples early this season following a late spring freeze that obliterated much of the state's crop.

According to an Associated Press report, statewide temperature drops in late April and early May wreaked havoc on the budding, flowering apple trees unable to withstand the cold.

The sub-freezing snaps — which led to severe fruit damage and significant crop loss — impacted roughly 70% of the apple crop, said Peter Hirst, a tree fruit specialist at Purdue University. 

Damage was widespread across Indiana's orchards, but growers say cold-related damage in neighboring Michigan — the country's third-largest apple-producing state — was likely limited to crops in the southwest, with Red Delicious and Jonagold apples affected most.

Spring frosts in New York's Hudson Valley and parts of Pennsylvania and Virginia are also expected to reduce the bloom on several apple varieties this year, although the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates the nation's 2020 apple crop to be just 3% less than in 2019 and 2% less than the five-year average.


Wheeler expects mid-Oct. dicamba decision

The head of the EPA expects a decision on the re-registration of two dicamba herbicides by mid-October.

During a webinar hosted by Minnesota Farm Bureau, Brownfield Ag News reported that Wheeler said his agency is reviewing applications for Bayer’s Xtendimax and Engenia from BASF.

He says he understands timing is important as farmers make plans for next year.

“I know people need to have advanced notice on it, so we’re working very hard. We can’t just approve dicamba without going through all of the science, and taking a look at all of the issues and the court decision itself to see what issues they raised.”

Wheeler is referring to the 9th Circuit Court ruling in June that vacated registrations for Xtendimax, Engenia, and Corteva’s dicamba herbicide FeXapan.  He says EPA is doing a very thorough review to prevent the Court from immediately striking down those registrations again, the report said.

Ottawa, ON, Canada

Import requirements raises alarm

Proposed regulations that would impose testing requirements on Canadian imports of romaine lettuce from California’s Salinas Valley are raising concerns for growers, buyers and industry associations.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) wants to require importers of romaine from California’s Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, San Benito and Monterey counties to provide a certificate of analysis for each shipment to demonstrate that the product does not contain detectable levels of E.coli O157:H7, according to The Packer website.

Draft regulations for the plan were released Sept. 28. 

Romaine lettuce from the U.S. has been the cause of several outbreaks of foodborne E. coli O157:H7 illnesses in Canada and the U.S. in previous years. The draft regulation said food safety investigations have identified the Salinas Valley as a source.

The CFIA’s plan caught the industry by surprise, said Jane Proctor, vice president of policy and issue management for the Canadian Produce Marketing Association.

Wibinga, Australia

Record-breaking blueberry weighs in at .57-oz

The Ozblu blueberry variety has again set a Guinness World Record as the heaviest, breaking a record for an Ozblu berry 2 ½ years ago.

According to The Packer, the 16.2-gram (0.57-ounce) berry breaks the previous record of 12.39 grams, and was grown by Dave and Leasa Mazzardis, founder of Natures Select breeding program in Wibinga, Australia.

The record was officially recorded by the Guinness organization on Sept. 20.

At 36.3 millimeters, the record-setting berry is more than twice the diameter of the average 18 millimeters of an average Ozblu.


Search underway for murder hornets nest

Agricultural officials in Washington state said Friday they are trying to find and destroy a nest of Asian giant hornets — also known as murder hornets — amid concerns they could kill honey bees crucial for pollinating raspberry and blueberry crops.

Evidence of six of the hornets were found recently near the town of Blaine in Whatcom County, the Washington state Department of Agriculture told reporters.

The number of hornets found — nearly double the previous number discovered in the state — would indicate a nest has been established in the area, the Associated Press reported. One of the hornets was trapped alive, a first for the agency, spokeswoman Karla Salp said.

The Asian giant hornet — the world's largest at 2 inches — can decimate entire hives of honeybees and deliver painful stings to humans. Farmers in the northwestern U.S. depend on those honey bees to pollinate many crops.

The invasive insect found in China, Japan, Thailand, South Korea, Vietnam and other Asian countries was first documented in Washington state late last year. Officials have said it's not known how it arrived. Washington and the Canadian province of British Columbia are the only places the hornets have been found in North America.

Despite their name, the hornets kill at most a few dozen people a year in Asia, and experts say it is probably far less. Hornets, wasps and bees typically found in the United States kill an average of 62 people a year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said.