Ag Briefs: Zehren was a leader in the cheese industry

Wisconsin State Farmer
Vincent Zehren


Zehren was a leader in the cheese industry

Vincent Zehren, a leader in the modern cheese industry and longtime owner and executive of Schreiber Foods, died Nov. 5 at his home in Green Bay.

Zehren, 96, was born to the business. His birthplace on Nov. 19, 1923, was in the living quarters of the family's Belle Plaine and Richmond Cheese and Butter Association plant between Shawano and Pella. His father, Leo, was a cheesemaker, and Vincent received his own cheesemaking license in 1942, according to the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

“My dad was a pioneer Wisconsin cheesemaker. My uncles, my grandfathers, cousins, myself and my brother, the cheese industry was our industry," Zehren said for a St. Norbert College profile in 2014.


Johnson urges talks for U.S.-Taiwan trade agreement

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (Wis.) joined 49 fellow senators, led by U.S. Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), in sending a letter urging U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to begin negotiating a comprehensive trade agreement with Taiwan. 

The senators wrote: “As we look to advance our initiative for a free and open Indo-Pacific, we believe thatnow is the time to establish trade agreements with like-minded countries in the region. Given their record as a longstanding economic partner and security ally, we highly encourage you to begin the formal process of negotiating a comprehensive trade agreement with Taiwan.” 

“We are confident that a U.S.-Taiwan trade agreement would promote security and economic growth for the United States, Taiwan and the Indo-Pacific as a whole,” The senators concluded. “We urge the administration to prioritize a comprehensive trade agreement with Taiwan, and we look forward to working with you to secure this framework.” 


WI man honored by American Angus Association

On Nov. 8, four Angus industry leaders were honored by the American Angus Association during the 137th Annual Meeting in Kansas City, Missouri. Among the 2020 inductees is Brian McCulloh of Viroqua, Wisconsin.

McCulloh and Woodhill Farms is one of American Angus Association’s Heritage Award winners. Nestled in the rolling hills of southwest Wisconsin, Woodhill Angus is known for a cow base that has been built carefully over the years by emphasizing selection for a combination of data and phenotype.

Woodhill Angus began in 1984, and since then, McCulloh has strategically selected balanced trait cattle, using the guidance of the data to build the Woodhill program to what it is today. Brian and his wife Lori manage Woodhill Angus and hold their annual bull sale once a year, since 1986.


Innovation Center for US Dairy to collaborate with EPA

The US Environmental Protection Agency and the Innovation Center for US Dairy have entered into a memorandum of understanding in an agreement to collaborate on sustainability efforts.

The MOU was announced in mid-November by the Dairy Sustainability Alliance, of which the EPA will now become a member. Current membership includes more than 130 companies and organizations who share mutual interests in maintaining sustainable agriculture and its long-term viability and profitability.

The Alliance also met to discuss many of their key priorities, including supporting natural ecosystems and biodiversity, preserving air quality by reducing methane emissions and addressing packaging waste.

"The MOU will explore mutually beneficial opportunities for dairy farms of all sizes, geographies and practices to gain benefits from EPA resources, including research grants, educational training materials and data," Innovation Center for US Dairy President Barbara O’Brien said.


Registration open for Wisconsin Agribusiness Virtual Classic

Members of the agriculture industry in Wisconsin can now register to attend the virtual Wisconsin Agribusiness Classic happening Jan. 11-14, 2021.

In partnership with the University of Wisconsin Division of Extension, the event will feature 25 Certified Crop Advisor credits and an interactive trade show. There will also be educational sessions and the Wisconsin Agri-Business Association awards program. The WABA Scholarship Silent Auction will be fully virtual and is open to the general public.

 "Our team has worked hard to transition this popular event to a virtual format and we truly believe it will not only meet, but exceed the expectations of our attendees," said Tom Bressner, Wisconsin Agri-Business Association Executive Director.

A full schedule listing can be found on their website.


Three UW campuses in West Wisconsin to go virtual after Thanksgiving

The University of Wisconsin has decided to move to remote instruction at its Eau Claire, Stout and River Falls campuses because of concerns regarding the spread of COVID-19.

The campuses will remain open to allow students to continue living in their residence halls and access the library, dining halls and other important areas, said a joint statement made by the chancellors of those campuses. Students and employees choosing to return to campus after Thanksgiving will be required to get tested twice when they return to campus and regularly afterward. 

Eau Claire hospitals have reported 100% capacity of all ICU beds in the height of the pandemic in Wisconsin. The state has consistently hit records of new daily cases with a death toll surpassing 2,600. There have been more than 310,000 cases since March.


20 farms fined for not protecting workers from COVID-19

Three Mid-Columbia farms are among those receiving the biggest fines in the state from the Washington state Department of Labor and Industries for serious violations of agriculture regulations to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. 

More than 20 farms have been cited for inadequate COVID precautions, The Tri-City Herald reported.

King Fuji Ranch of Mattawa was fined $13,500 after L&I accused workers assigned to different living spaces of interacting with others and not social distancing. The ranch owner has 15 days to appeal.

Agriculture workers should be assigned to work and living groups of up to 15 people and are not supposed to mingle with workers in other groups, according to Washington state COVID-19 safety plans.

Evans Fruit Co. of Sunnyside, Cowiche and Tieton was fined $6,600 after inspections in all three locations found employees were not wearing face masks, taking temperatures or social distancing, according to L&I.

Agrilabor of Benton City was fined $5,400 after L&I said it had worker beds that were less than six feet apart.

While King Fuji Ranch has been issued the largest fine for agriculture coronavirus-related violations to date, an investigation involving workers who died is underway at Gebbers Farm Operations in Bridgeport, state officials said.


EU tariff will impact sweet potatoes

The European Union has imposed $4 billion in tariffs on US goods this week in response to the WTO conclusion that aerospace company Boeing has benefitted unfairly from state support. This provided the EU with a green light to impose tariffs on the US.

The list of products to which the tariffs will apply is lengthy and includes sweet potatoes and fresh grapefruit as well as fruit juices and nuts.

The new tariffs are a big increase, from 3% to 25%, and they come right at the time where the demand in the EU for US sweet potatoes is starting to pick up. 

The Texas citrus industry has been looking to increase their grapefruit shipments to the EU over the past few years. The main markets are in North America but about 3-4% of the grapefruit crop is exported to Europe and other destinations. This new tariff will likely greatly diminish exports to the EU this season, according to Fresh Plaza.


Signup opens for CRP in early 2021

The USDA announced the signup periods for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and the CRP Grasslands in 2021. Signup for general CRP will be open from Jan. 4, 2021, to Feb. 12, 2021, and signup for CRP Grasslands runs from March 15, 2021 to April 23, 2021. Both programs are competitive and provide annual rental payments for land devoted to conservation purposes.

Through CRP, farmers and ranchers establish long-term, resource-conserving plant species, such as approved grasses or trees, to control soil erosion, improve water quality and enhance wildlife habitat on cropland. The competitive general signup includes increased opportunities for enrollment of wildlife habitat through the State Acres For Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) initiative.

CRP Grasslands helps landowners and operators protect grassland, including rangeland, pastureland, and certain other lands while maintaining the areas as grazing lands. A separate CRP Grasslands signup is offered each year following general signup.

Signed into law in 1985, CRP is one of the largest private-lands conservation programs in the United States. For more information on CRP, visit or contact your local FSA county office.