Ag Briefs: 10% of  U.S. experiencing drought, highest in decade

Wisconsin State Farmer
National briefs


10% of  U.S. experiencing drought, highest in decade

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor shows nearly 10% of the contiguous U.S. is now under an "exceptional drought," which is the highest the rate has been since 2011. 

Farm Journal reports that California, Oregon, Utah and Nevada are entirely under drought conditions. And with a dome of heat hanging over much of the country this week, it could make drought matters worse. 

Monday's Crop Progress Report from USDA showed soil moisture conditions continue to decline. Just over half of the country soil's are considered to have "adequate" soil moisture, while 38% of the country is experiencing soil moisture conditions in the "short to very short" categories. 


Investigation ongoing into manure spill near town of Merrill

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is assisting with the investigation of a manure spill that occurred at a dairy farm in southern Lincoln County.

On June 9, 2021, the DNR was notified of an unknown amount of liquid manure running off of a field into Devil Creek, resulting in an observable fish kill at multiple locations within the creek and the Wisconsin River.

The manure release was reported to have originated off of Joe Snow Rd., in Lincoln County.

The source has been identified and no additional manure is being released from the manure pit. Some additional runoff may occur but the scene is secure and stabilized.

The amount of manure and duration of the release is still unknown. 


DNR issues fish consumption warnings for Yahara chain

The state Department of Natural Resources issued new consumption warnings Wednesday for fish taken from the Yahara chain of lakes and waterways in Dane and Rock counties after tests showed elevated levels of PFAS contamination. 

The advisories apply to fish taken from Wingra and Starkweather creeks, lakes Monona, Kegonsa, Waubesa, Upper and Lower Mud lakes and the Yahara River downstream to the Rock River, Associated Press reported.

The agency recommends one meal per month of crappies, largemouth bass, northern pike and walleyes. The department recommends only one meal per week of bluegill and pumpkinseed.

The recommendations come after tests revealed elevated levels of PFAS in several fish species in lakes Monona, Kegonsa and Waubesa. 

PFAS chemicals have raised concern in recent years because research has shown they've been linked to harmful health issues, including thyroid disease, infertility and testicular cancer. 


DBIA launching “Industry Impact” grant program

The Dairy Business Innovation Alliance (DBIA) is seeking to support dairy product manufacturers that want help developing an innovative idea or tackling a challenge with the potential to advance the dairy industry.

DBIA, a partnership between the Center for Dairy Research (CDR) and Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association (WCMA), is launching an “Industry Impact” Grant Program to support these efforts. DBIA will distribute up to $1 million in reimbursable grants ranging from $50,000 to $250,000.

Creating new revenue streams, developing new uses for dairy ingredients/products, solving challenges, etc., DBIA wants to hear your big ideas to help boost the dairy industry.

Applicants do not have to be dairy processors but must collaborate with a dairy company on the project in order to demonstrate industry interest and resource capabilities. Dairy processor applicants must be located or have plants/locations within the DBIA five state region of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

Grant applications and instructions will be available June 15 on the DBIA website:

To learn more, contact Tom Guerin at or Vic Grassman at


4 killed in freeway crash involving milk tanker

A milk tanker going too fast for traffic conditions collided with seven passenger vehicles on a Poenix freeway, killing four people and injuring at least nine others, authorities said.

A total of eight vehicles were involved in the Wednesday night crash that closed the Loop 202 freeway overnight.

The tanker "failed to slow for traffic congestion" and impairment was ruled out, the Arizona Department of Public Safety said in a statement.

After the initial collisions, the trailer of the eastbound tanker rig separated from the tractor and went over the freeway's median wall and ended up on its side in westbound lanes, the DPS said.


Farm-to-Table event to celebrate Alice in Dairyland

A special “dinner-in-the-field” event will take place in late July to celebrate the anniversary of the 75th Alice in Dairyland program and highlight Dane County’s rich agricultural heritage, food production, farmland and the farmers that make it all happen.

A limited number of tickets are available for purchase to the event which will feature locally-sourced products and the time and talents of local farm-to-table supporter Chef David Heide (Liliana’s Restaurant and Little John’s) who will prepare a four-course meal to be served outdoors at the J. Henry & Sons family farm in Dane, Wisconsin – located 18 miles north of Madison.

The dinner will be held on Thursday, July 22, from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm in celebration of Dane County being the host of the 75th Alice in Dairyland finals event slated for spring 2022.   

Tickets are available at at a cost of $125. The dinner will feature a variety of locally-sourced products.


Farm laborer convicted in 2018 stabbing death of Iowa runner

A farm laborer was found guilty in the abduction and killing of an Iowa college student who vanished while out for a run in 2018 and will face life behind bars for a crime that shocked the nation, Associated Press reported.

A 12-member jury unanimously found Cristhian Bahena Rivera guilty of first-degree murder in the attack on University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts.

Bahena Rivera, who came to the U.S. illegally from Mexico as a teenager, will be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The verdict came after a two-week trial  at the Scott County Courthouse in Davenport, in a case that fueled public anger against illegal immigration and concerns about random violence against women.


Organic Valley reaches record sales in 2020

A national organic food brand and one of the largest organic farmer cooperatives in the country recorded over $1.2 billion in sales in 2020 for the first time ever.

Organic Valley, which is based in based in La Farge, Wisconsin, explained it was able to hold a steady pay price for its family farmers, improve their financials and grow demand for organic dairy products during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Compared to 2019, the company adds that it improved its consolidated net income by more than $48 million in 2020, according to a news release.


2021 Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin election results announced

There were a few changes to the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin) following the 2021 Board of Directors election.

According to DATCP, of the eight seats on the ballot, just two of them were contested. While Kay Zwald of District 5 will retain her seat, fellow incumbent Jay Stauffacher of Darlington was unseated by Kyle Levetzow who will serve a three-year term in District 23. Daniel Hinz of Pickett will replace retiring District 11 director Mike Verhasselt.


USDA to address Packers and Stockyards Act

The USDA plans to unveil three proposed rules meant to strengthen enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act, potentially restarting another contentious debate about the government’s role in the relationship between processors and producers.

AgriPulse reported that the USDA noted that the rules should be released in the coming months. One of those rules will aim to “offer greater clarity to strengthen enforcement of unfair and deceptive practices, undue preferences, and unjust prejudices.”

Another rule will address the poultry grower “tournament” system and a final action will re-propose language “to clarify that parties do not need to demonstrate harm to competition in order to bring an action under section 202 (a) and 202 (b) of the P&S Act.” 

“The Packers and Stockyards Act is a vital tool for protecting farmers and ranchers from excessive concentration and unfair, deceptive practices in the poultry, hog, and cattle markets, but the law is 100 years old and needs to take into account modern market dynamic,” Secretary Vilsack said, adding that the law “should not be used as a safe harbor for bad actors.”


Firefighters respond to barn fire in western WI

Firefighters from five fire departments were called to the scene of a barn fire on County D and SS in Pepin County on June 14. 

WRDN radio reported that the structure was fully engulfed and spreading to an adjacent building when firefighters arrived. While the structure was deemed a loss, there were no reports of injury to animals or people. 

The fire remains under investigation.


Maine's blueberry crop faces climate change peril

Maine's beloved wild blueberry fields are home to one of the most important fruit crops in New England, and scientists have found they are warming at a faster rate than the rest of the state.

The warming of the blueberry fields could imperil the berries and the farmers who tend to them because the rising temperatures have brought loss of water, according to a group of scientists who are affiliated with the University of Maine.

The scientists analyzed 40 years of data and found that the state experienced a 1.1 degrees Celsius increase in average temperature, but the blueberry fields of Down East Maine experienced an increase of 1.3 degrees Celsius.

That seemingly small difference is significant because rising temperatures could lead to water deficits that put the blueberries at risk, and result in smaller crop sizes and blueberries that are less likely to survive to be harvested.


Checkoff expands export efforts with Middle East Domino’s partnership

Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) has entered a partnership with Alamar Foods Company, which owns 455 Domino’s stores in the MENAP (Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan) region.

DMI’s partnership will focus on about 300 locations in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with a goal of increasing U.S. cheese sales.

Amy Wagner, DMI executive vice president of global innovation partnerships, said the checkoff will offer technical expertise on menu development and marketing support to Alamar.

This is DMI’s first venture into the Middle East with a partner, but it’s not the checkoff’s first in the international marketplace. In 2019, DMI began a partnership with Domino’s Japan where the volume of U.S.-sourced cheese has doubled since its launch.