Ag Briefs: UW team places 2nd in annual Dairy Challenge

Wisconsin State Farmer
Midwest briefs


Virtual Burgers & Buns Fun Run set for May 24-31

The Wisconsin Beef Council is partnering with Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation for the first virtual Burgers & Buns Fun Run this May with proceeds benefiting farmers and food pantries in Wisconsin.

The Burgers & Buns Fun Run is the finale of May Beef Month. Registered participants will be able to log a 5K/10K between May 24-31. The entry fee is just $30. Those registering before May 1 will receive a T-shirt, meat thermometer and tongs for grilling, sunglasses, beef jerky, and more. There will also be opportunities to enter and win free beef throughout the week.

All proceeds from the event will go to support the Wisconsin Food and Farm Support Fund organized through Wisconsin Farm Bureau and Rural Mutual Insurance.

For more information about the race as well as other ways to celebrate May Beef Month visit


UW team places 2nd in annual Dairy Challenge

College dairy students – 190 in total – from 30 colleges gathered virtually for the 19th annual Dairy Challenge. Dairy students worked to improve their dairy management and communication skills, networked with other students, and explored industry careers.

Dairy Challenge is a unique, real-world experience where dairy students work as a team and apply their college coursework to evaluate and provide solutions for an operating dairy farm.

This year’s contest included 24 universities, whose four-person teams competed for awards based on their quality of teams’ farm analysis and appropriate solutions. Their farm presentations were evaluated by a panel of judges, including dairy producers, veterinarians, finance specialists and seasoned agribusiness personnel, according to NAIDC.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison received a second place award. The team is comprised of Emma Gwidt, Caleb LaCount, Jessica Mehre, Dawson Nickels and Ted Halbach (coach).


State population counts released

The U.S. Census Bureau released its highly anticipated 2020 state population counts Monday, showing Wisconsin with 5,893,718 residents, placing it 20th among the 50 states.

The new apportionment data unveiled by the Census Bureau determines the number of U.S. House seats and the number of Electoral College votes for each state over the next decade.

As expected, the size of Wisconsin’s U.S. House delegation will remain unchanged between now and 2032 at eight seats, even though some other Midwestern states —  Michigan, Illinois and Ohio — will lose a seat due to population changes, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

Because it is neither gaining nor losing a House seat, Wisconsin will continue to have 10 electoral votes for president — based on its eight House seats and two U.S. Senate seats.

In the 2010 Census, Wisconsin had a resident population of 5,686,986, placing it 20th among the 50 states in population. It gained 206,732 people from 2010 to 2020, according to the newly released count. 


Ken's Highway 45 Meat Market issues recall of packaged meats

Ken’s Highway 45 Meat Market in Antigo, WI, is issuing a voluntary Class II recall for a variety of fully cooked meat products, according to a news release from DATCP.

The recalled products include: bacon, packaged on Feb. 11, Feb. 16, Feb. 26, March 26, March 30 and April 6; smoked pork chops, packaged on Feb. 11, Feb. 16, Feb. 26, March 26, March 30 and April 6; bacon ends and pieces, packaged on Feb. 11, Feb. 16, Feb. 26, March 26, March 30 and April 6; smoked polish sausage, packaged between Jan. 26 and April 1; snack sticks, packaged between Jan. 26 and April 1; and summer sausage, packaged between Jan. 26 and April 1

Evidence shows that the products were not produced under a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) food safety plan. No illnesses have been reported as a result of consuming these products.

Consumers who have any of these products can return them to Ken’s Highway 45 Meat Market. Consumers and media with questions about this recall can contact Ken Schmidt, owner, at (715) 623-3554.


Organic Valley Creamery damaged in fire

A fire that severely damaged an Organic Valley creamery on April 20 remains under investigation. 

Firefighters from eight departments were called to the blaze in the creamery's warehouse around 2 p.m. Residents living within a quarter-mile radius of the plant were asked by the the McMinnville Fire Department to evacuate and take shelter until 7:35 p.m., according to the Capital Press.

While the 25,000-square-foot main plant was deemed a total loss, officials say no one was injured in the fire. 

Mark Pfeiffer, Organic Valley's vice president of internal operations, estimated Organic Valley has spent up to $23 million since 2016 renovating the McMinnville, Oregon plant. After surveying the damage, Pfeiffer said he believes the smaller 2,500-square-foot dryer facility survived the fire.

Pfeiffer told the Capital Press the the cooperative had yet to decide whether to rebuild or relocate the facility elsewhere.

The damaged facility handled about 500,000 pounds of milk daily from 42 area farms.


Beverage maker plans $103M Indiana plant with 100 jobs

A California-based company plans to build a $103 million plant in southern Indiana that will produce dairy and plant-based beverages and create more than 100 jobs.

Ninth Avenue Foods announced that the family-owned company would build a 260,000-square-foot plant in Columbus that will become its first expansion outside of its home state, Associated Press reported.

The company, which specializes in extended shelf-life dairy and dairy alternative products, said the project will become its Midwest headquarters and create more than 100 jobs by late 2024 in the city about 50 miles south of Indianapolis.

The plant will produce dairy and plant-based beverages, helping give Ninth Avenue Foods a broader reach across the country, company officials said.. The plant will have up to seven filling lines and also allow for the production of some products that do not require refrigeration.


Wisconsin's first carbon neutral school up and running

A brand-new elementary school in the Oregon School District is the first school building in the state to be considered carbon neutral.

Forest Edge Elementary School was constructed to be all electric with no consumable fuel on site, said business manager Andy Weiland. The building will produce 800 Megawatts of power of the course of the year and use that much too.

Spectrum News reported that the building has 1,700 solar panels on its roof that can capture energy and power the school or send back to the power grid. It also has 252 Kilowatts of solar energy battery storage on site. Those batteries can be used for both backup power, as well as powering the school at times when they may otherwise need to buy electricity from the utility.

The news outlet reported that the building uses geothermal climate control, utilizing 99 wells that go 460 feet into the ground and pump water around the building, changing directions if the building needs to be heated or cooled and taking water from deep in the ground where the temperature is more constant.


Single week sorghum sales shatters records

Export sales of U.S. sorghum hit a single week record this month of more than 33.9 million bushels with almost all of it heading to China.

That shatters the previous record set in August 2020 by more than 10 million bushels. In addition, new sales commitments of 33.8 million bushels, predominantly purchased by China, also topped the previous record for weekly sorghum sales of 32 million bushels, also set in August 2020, according to National Sorghum Producers.


Smithfield files $6M permit to upgrade wastewater treatment facility

Smithfield Foods is investing nearly $6 million at its Sioux Falls meatpacking plant to upgrade its wastewater treatment facility.

Smithfield Foods plans to add to the facility’s existing building, as well as add new tanks with a support building and new fine screen building, according to the permit.

The meatpacking plant has a history of violating surface water discharge limits. Most recently, it violated its surface water discharge permit between October and December 2020, according to a facility report from the United States Environmental Protection Agency, according to the Argus Leader.


Biofuels coalition readies oral arguments in Supreme Court

In oral arguments scheduled this week, four agriculture and biofuel organizations will argue that the U.S. Supreme Court should affirm a unanimous 2020 decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, which held that only small refineries that have remained continuously exempt from obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard are eligible for future extensions of the compliance exemption.

The four organizations comprising the Biofuels Coalition—the Renewable Fuels Association, the National Corn Growers Association, National Farmers Union, and the American Coalition for Ethanol—will share time during Tuesday’s oral arguments with the U.S. Department of Justice, which will be representing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 

The coalition maintains the EPA had exceeded its authority by creating new exemptions when the statute only authorizes the agency to extend the temporary, time-limited exemption that Congress provided to small refineries.