Ag Briefs: WPS show cancelled again

Wisconsin State Farmer
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WPS show cancelled again

Organizers of the Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) farm show have rescheduled the three-day show for 2022. 

Communications specialist Matt Cullen said WPS officials made the decision to forego the show in December, noting that the organization would not be able to safely host the 2021 event due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

"We are already planning for the WPS Farm Show to return in 2022," he said. The show is scheduled for March 29 - March 31, 2022.

The show is held annually at the EAA Grounds in Oshkosh.


Organic Valley to use satellite tech to improve pasture grazing 

Organic Valley is launching a pilot program that uses satellite photography to measure pasture health on its dairy farms, providing its farmers with nearly real-time feedback every week to support dairy herd nutrition, protect and improve their pastures, and benefit the environment. 

According to a news release, Organic Valley farmers will use intensive rotational grazing, dividing their perennial pastures into smaller sections and moving herds frequently between them based on the maturity and quality of forage available.

“Rotational grazing requires farmers to measure the forage in each paddock on a regular basis, a manual and time-intensive practice,” said Wade Miller, Organic Valley senior director of farm resources says based on university trials, the company expects its farmers will be able to capture at least a 20% increase in pasture utilization through the use of this technology.

Through this pilot program, Organic Valley will test the technology on a cross-section of farms nationwide in 2021, and will make it available to all Organic Valley farms in 2022, Miller added. 


Senate Ag committee advances Vilsack nomination

The Senate Agriculture Committee on Tuesday advanced the nomination of Tom Vilsack for Agriculture secretary, setting the former Iowa governor up for a quick Senate confirmation.

Politico reported that the committee approved Vilsack by voice vote just off the Senate floor hours after holding an overwhelmingly friendly confirmation hearing.

Vilsack is expected to be easily confirmed by the full Senate in the coming days. Vilsack served eight years as USDA secretary in the Obama administration.


Storms could tighten strawberries for Valentine’s Day

The rainstorms over California this week may throw a wrench into supplies of strawberries for Valentine’s Day.

“I fear California may not rebound for a few weeks if this rain comes as forecasted. I unfortunately think the timing of this rain will force California to miss the Valentine’s Day pull,” Dave Akahoshi of Plan Berries Inc., a hydroponic strawberry grower in Santa Maria, CA, told Fresh Plaza.

Akahoshi notes there hasn’t been rain for six months prior to this and the variety that most growers have in the ground is Frontera, which doesn't tolerate rain. 

The rain event could put pressure on Mexico and Florida crops to help cover for the U.S. demand, Akahoshi said.


73.4% dairy operations sign up for Dairy Margin Coverage

Nearly three-quarters of all dairy producers are signed up for the Dairy Margin Coverage Program. Enrollment this year is up nearly 5,000 to about 18,500 producers. That is compared to only a little more than 13,500 producers last year, or about half of all the operations. 

RFD-TV reported that payments last year averaged almost $14,800 dollars per dairy. A professor with the University of Minnesota says that the program offers a lot of benefits. 

According to Marin Bozic, "Had this program been in existence over the last 10 years, for 15 cents premium contributed to the program, the average payout per hundredweight would have been $1.38. For every $1 dollar paid into premium over the last 10 years, producers would have collected $9 dollars in gross indemnities, in gross payments before premiums. 

The Farm Service Agency Program offers protection to dairy farmers when the difference between milk and feed prices fall below a certain dollar amount.


Jimmy Dean adds plant-based breakfast patties

Jimmy Dean, the quintessential breakfast sausage brand, is adding plant-based patties in a product debut that is as sure a sign as any that America is in the midst of meat-free revolution.

The Chicago Tribune reported that Jimmy Dean, owned by Tyson Foods, recently announced the launch of two breakfast items featuring plant-based patties, the first alternative protein products under the 52-year-old Jimmy Dean brand.

The egg and cheese croissant sandwich, available at Sam’s Club stores nationwide, uses a patty made with soy protein and egg white, while the spinach frittata sandwich, which will launch in the spring, uses a patty made of soy protein, black beans, brown rice, quinoa and egg white. The patties use the signature sausage seasoning to taste like the original, the company said.


UW-Madison arboretum designated National Historic Landmark

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum has been designated as a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service. The designation is based on the Arboretum's pioneering work in restoration ecology, its place in the history of conservation, and its commitment to Aldo Leopold's land ethic.

The UW-Madison Arboretum was established in the 1930s as an outdoor laboratory to study how to repair damaged and degraded landscapes. Its function, according to Leopold in his 1934 dedication speech, was to be "a reconstructed sample of old Wisconsin, to serve as a benchmark, a starting point, in the long and laborious job of building a permanent and mutually beneficial relationship" between people and the landscape.

Early experiments and research generated a better understanding of local ecosystems, contributed to the development of effective restoration and management practices, and helped define the field of ecological restoration.


Cattle raiser allegedly bilked Tyson out of $225M in fake cattle sales

Tyson Fresh Meats, Inc is suing a major Washington state cattle operator who allegedly “fed” more than 200,000 head of cattle that didn’t exist for years.

According to Northwest News Network, Tyson filed a lawsuit in court claiming Easterday Ranches bilked it out of $225 million for false cattle sales and feed costs.

Tyson alleges in legal court filings that the cattle feeder was stealing from the company by billing and falsifying records for feed and cattle that were never purchased, beginning around 2016, according to Northwest News.

Easterday Ranches is one of the largest agriculture operations in Washington, with 25,000 acres of farmland, a massive dairy operation and thousands of head of cattle used for meat processing.


Global food trade been upended by a container crisis

Food is piling up in all the wrong places, thanks to carriers hauling empty shipping containers.

According to a Bloomberg report, global competition for the ribbed steel containers means that Thailand can’t ship its rice, Canada is stuck with peas and India can’t offload its mountain of sugar. Shipping empty boxes back to China has become so profitable that even some American soybean shippers are having to fight for containers to supply hungry Asian buyers.

The core issue is that China, which has recovered faster from Covid-19, has revved up its export economy and is paying huge premiums for containers, making it far more profitable to send them back empty than to refill them.

While it’s not entirely uncommon for containers to transit back empty after a voyage, carriers usually try to backfill them to profit from shipping rates in both directions. But the cost of carrying goods from China to the U.S. is almost 10 times higher than the opposite journey, prompting liners to favor empty boxes instead of loading them, Freightos data showed, Bloomberg reported.

At the port of Los Angeles, the U.S.’s biggest for container cargo, three in every four boxes going back to Asia are traveling empty compared with the normal 50% rate,  Executive Director Gene Seroka told Bloomberg.


Heavy rains in Chile hurt grape crop

About 50% of mid-season grape varieties soon to be harvested in Chile could be split because of heavy rains from Valparaiso to O’Higgins, according to a news release from Fedefruta, the Chilean fruit growers association.

“These rains were a climatic phenomenon out of proportion, a catastrophe that fruit growing had not seen before,” Fedefruta President Jorge Valenzuela said in a news release Jan. 31. 

The central Chile town of Malloa was “ground zero” for the rains, according to the release.

O'Higgins says the most affected fruit crop is table grapes, estimating that half of the mid-season varieties have split.

Valenzuela said in the release that 40% of the volume of annual exports of fresh fruit by Chile are tied to table grapes, and said the damage will create economic and employment problems.

Organic Valley to Pioneer use of Satellite Technology to Improve Pasture Grazing 

Regenerative farming system leader taps new technology to improve cow nutrition, sequester carbon in the soil.


WSCGA elects new board members, presents awards at annual meeting

The Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association held their annual meeting Jan. 27 via Zoom, where they elected new board members and presented awards that recognize industry leaders.

All sitting board members were re-elected for their new terms. Rusty Schultz of Madison, Karl Pippenger of Philips and Jenna Van Wychen of Tomah are all set to serve another three-year term. Steven Bartling was also re-elected as the president, Rocky Biegel as vice president, Mary Smedbron as secretary and Jenna Van Wychen as treasurer.

Award winners include: Nicole Hansen, Cranberry Creek Cranberries (Service to Industry Award); Tom Gardner, Hay Creek Companies and Gardner Cranberry (President's Award); Karl Pippenger (Public Policy Advocate Award); Pam Verhulst (Education Advocate Award); Amber Bristrow (Communications Advocate Award); Jack Perry (Researcher of the Year Award); and Vine Vest, LLC (Associate Member of the Year Award).