Ag Briefs: State FFA chapters receive $20,000 for COVID-19 challenges

Colleen Kottke
Wisconsin State Farmer
National briefs


FFA chapters across state receive $20,000 in grants

The Wisconsin FFA Foundation and Wisconsin FFA Alumni & Supporters Association have partnered to provide $20,000 in grants to local chapters facing challenges posed by COVID-19.

Forty chapters each received $500, from Amherst to Medford and Pittsville to Wisconsin Dells. Director of WFFAF John Hromyak said, "These important activities help support everything on the local level – dues payments, classroom supplies, competition resources, and agricultural projects – and will be critical for continued FFA participation and sustained membership this school year and into the next."

The program, called Wisconsin FFA Chapter Assistance Grant Program, is supported by the Star Mission from WFFAF and is also sponsored by Alliant Energy Foundation, Armor Animal Health, Compeer Financial, Culver’s, Investors Community Bank, Organic Valley/CROPP Cooperative, and Rural Mutual Insurance Company.


Animals die in Marathon Co. barn fire

Farm animals perished in a fire that destroyed a dairy barn in Marathon County on Dec. 22.

Wisconsin Ag Connection reported that the fire started around 5 a.m. in a small barn being used as a milking parlor on a dairy farm in the unincorporated community of Rozelville, southeast of Stratford.

Authorities say no one was injured in the blaze, however a heifer and two calves died in the incident.

Responding to the scene were fire departments from Stratford, McMillan, Edgar, Marshfield, and Hewitt.


Dane Co. extends program linking growers to food pantries

Officials say Dane County has secured a six-month extension of a program linking local growers with food pantries that was set to expire at the end of this year.

According to the Associated Press, County Executive Joe Parisi announced earlier this week that a $5 million agreement has been reached with Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin to continue the program through at least the end of July.

The program began in April with the help of about $8 million of the county's federal coronavirus relief funding. More than 4,000 hours of service have been logged to help those experiencing hardship and hunger, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

Many people facing job losses have turned to food pantries for meals. Requests for food from Second Harvest has increased more than 50% since last year, the nonprofit's leader said last month.

Parisi said the program helps families struggling to put food on the table, keeps pantry shelves stocked and benefits local agricultural producers who need new markets to sell their goods. Second Harvest has teamed up with the Dane County Dairy and Pork Producers, Dane County Farmers' Market and Fairshare CSA Coalition.


Landmark Cooperative provides 100,000 meals to those in need

Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin, the state's largest hunger relief charity, received funding from Landmark Cooperative to provide 100,000 meals during the holiday season to needy families.

Landmark employees raised the money through an online auction, mystery envelope game, virtual bingo and prize drawing. Landmark has been a partner of Second Harvest for eight years. 

This year's donations were fueled by the annual NBC15 "Share Your Holidays" campaign, which started 25 years ago as a small food drive to honor late anchor Mike McKinney. Now, the yearly event is one of the biggest food drives in the country and has given 51 million meals over those years.


Florida farm fire kills 250,000 chickens

A massive fire early Thursday killed as many as 250,000 chickens at a Florida farm operated by the company that sells eggs under brands including Eggland's Best and Land O' Lakes.

Pasco County Fire Rescue Division Chief Shawn Whited said crews arrived around 1 a.m. at the Dade City farm near Tampa, operated by Cal-Maine, one of the country's largest egg producers.

No injuries were reported, but two of the four barns on the property were destroyed.

Cal-Maine Vice President and CFO Max Bowman told USA TODAY it was a "rough day," but that the company was "very thankful" nobody was hurt in the fire. 

Because the Dade City farm only contains pullets, which are young female chickens that have not started producing eggs, Bowman said there won't be an immediate impact on the company's egg supply.

Based in Mississippi, Cal-Maine is the largest egg producer and distributor of shell eggs in the U.S., according to its website.

The Florida State Fire Marshal is investigating the cause of the blaze, which resulted in an estimated $6 million in property damage and the value of the chickens.


Midwest university extensions announce Driftless Region Beef Conference

University extension programs from Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois have teamed up to provide the Driftless Region Beef Conference, which will be held virtually Jan. 26-28.

Webinar sessions each night of the conference will run from 7-8:30 pm with two presentations. Topics of interest will include sustainability, farm resiliency, antibiotic resistance and a market outlook for the new year.

You can register for free on the Iowa State University Extension website.


Court rejects NAMI's latest challenge

The North American Meat Institute (NAMI) lost its bid to halt implementation of California’s Proposition 12, a law that establishes minimum requirements for confinement of laying hens, breeding pigs and veal calves.

In a ruling issued on Nov. 22, Judge Christina Snyder denied NAMI’s request for a preliminary injunction against Proposition 12 which was enacted by California voters in 2018.

Meat + Poultry reported that the group is looking to consider its options, including a possible appeal to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.”

Under the law, producers of veal calves will be required to house animals with at least 43 sq. ft. of usable floor space per calf by 2020. Beginning in 2022, sows will need a minimum of 24 sq. ft. of usable space per animal and laying hens will be cage-free. Meat, poultry and eggs not produced under these standards cannot be sold in California.


Man charged for filing false disaster claim

A 23-year-old Illinois man has been charged with fraud for filing a false claim on a vacant house in Cedar Rapids after a major storm caused widespread damage in the area in August.

Federal prosecutors say Tavonte Donnell Stewart of Chicago improperly received $5,927 in aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency after the August derecho, including more than $2,200 in rental assistance. He was charged last week.

The Cedar Rapids Gazette reports that Stewart was one of 16 people who applied for assistance related to the same property. When officials contacted the firm that owns the home, the property manager said it was vacant at the time of the storm and only sustained minor roof damage.

Investigators said Stewart also applied this fall for FEMA benefits on a property in Felton, California although that claim was denied.


Mink caught outside OR farm tests positive for virus

The Oregon Department of Agriculture said among animals captured during wildlife surveillance near a mink farm that recently had a coronavirus outbreak, a mink believed to have recently escaped confinement tested positive for low levels of the virus known to cause COVID-19 in humans.

Associated Press reports that recent tests confirm mink at the farm that tested positive for the virus in late November are now clear of the virus. 

Officials say the department conducted two rounds of follow-up tests, 14 days apart, to document the animals' recovery. 

The first follow-up testing occurred on Dec. 7 with only on of the 62 tested animals testing positive for barely detectable levels of the virus. With the second round of testing on Dec. 21, there were no signs of the virus among all 62 tested, indicating the mink population on the farm had recovered, ODA said. 

One more round of testing will be conducted prior to releasing the quarantine, per federal guidelines.