Ag Briefs: USDA designates 3 WI as primary natural disaster areas

Wisconsin State Farmer
Wisconsin briefs


Wisconsin wildlife officials worried about bird illness

Wisconsin wildlife officials are asking people to be on the lookout for sickly birds.

The Journal Sentinel reports the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources made the request after seeing signs of illnesses that have affected birds in the eastern United States since May.

That month, wildlife managers in Washington, D.C, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky began receiving reports of sick and dying birds with eye swelling and crusty discharge.

The DNR has received "a few scattered" reports of birds with swollen, crusty eyes. The illness affecting birds in the East has not yet been identified by scientists or linked to observed bird mortalities in Wisconsin that have occurred since June. 

It is unknown if the illness is being transmitted from bird to bird. Juvenile or fledgling blue jays, common grackles, European starlings and American robins have been the species predominantly associated with mysterious illness. 


Conservation Observance Day set

Conservation Observance Day will be held at Kevin and Carolyn Parr's Harmony Hills Farms, S4201 County O, Viroqua. The Parrs were named the 2020 Conservation Farmers of the Year.

Conservation Observance Day is a free farm event intended to celebrate and showcase conservation farming. It is also an opportunity to learn more about regenerative agriculture, managed grazing operations, and how producers are protecting our natural resources.

The event will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, August 13, at Harmony Hills Farms and will feature speakers UW Madison's Erin Silva, Will Winter of Thousand Hills Beef and Jim Munsch of Munsch Consulting.

RSVP Required at For more information call 608-637-5480 or email


Hunting, hidden deaths lead to decrease in wolf numbers

About 100 additional wolves died over the winter in Wisconsin as a result of the delisting of grey wolves under the Endangered Species Act, alongside the 218 wolves killed by licensed hunters during Wisconsin’s first public wolf hunt, according to new research.

The study, conducted by Dr. Adrian Treves and others at UW Madison,.says the combined loss of 313 to 323 wolves represents a decline in the state’s wolf population of between 27% and 33% between April 2020 and April 2021. Researchers estimate that a majority of these additional, uncounted deaths are due to something called cryptic poaching, where poachers hide evidence of illegal killings.

The findings are the first estimate of Wisconsin’s wolf population since the public hunt in February, which ended early after hunters exceeded the quota of 119 wolves within a few days. These population estimates can help the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) prepare for the next legally mandated wolf hunt this fall.

They also provide guidance to other states planning wolf hunts following the removal of federal protections announced in November 2020 and effective January 2021.


USDA designates 3 WI as primary natural disaster areas

Kenosha, Racine and Walworth have been designated as natural disaster areas by the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) due to drought conditions. This designation allows the agencies to extend much-needed emergency credit to producers impacted by the disaster via emergency loans.

Those loans can be used for meet various recovery needs including replacement of essential items such as equipment or livestock, reorganization of a farming operation or refinancing of certain debts.

Contiguous counties of Jefferson, Milwaukee, Rock and Waukesha are also eligible for the aid. The application deadline is Feb. 22, 2022.


Wisconsin FFA Foundation Raises Over $460,000

Financial support behind the Wisconsin FFA continues to be near the half-million dollar mark. During the 92nd Wisconsin FFA Convention in Madison.

Wisconsin Ag Connection reported that State FFA Foundation Board President Janet Scheider announced that sponsorships and other contributions to the organization have totaled $461,906 during the past year; and that the organization has also raised $2.57 million over the past five years.


Volunteers need for WI State Fair Dairy Lane

The Wisconsin State Fair Dairy Promotion Board is seeking volunteers for the interactive Dairy Lane, formerly the House of Moo, at the 2021 Wisconsin State Fair, Aug.5-15.

Dairy Lane was unveiled in 2019 and features new displays using the latest technologies to educate people of all ages about the importance of the dairy industry here in Wisconsin.

Individuals interested in talking with people about dairying and Wisconsin are encouraged to sign up at Click on the volunteer box on the home page. It will take you to an online form showing shift availability. Click on the desired shift and complete the questionnaire. Shifts are four and half hours each and volunteers receive a free Dairy Lane shirt, fair pass and grilled cheese sandwich.


Celebrating WI beef youth

Wisconsin 4-H Foundation and Wisconsin Beef Council are hosting a youth beef farmer social media contest that will feature Wisconsin 4-H Beef Exhibitors throughout the month of July.

Community members, family, and friends can nominate a 4-H member who has achieved outstanding work during their time in the program by filling out an application by July 21 at providing brief information about themselves and the nominee along with a photo of the nominee.

Each youth nominated will be featured on the Wisconsin 4-H Foundation page, as well as receive the opportunity to win a prize package. Facebook users will have the opportunity to ‘vote’ for their favorite 4-H Beef Farmer by ‘liking’ their photo and caption; the 4-Her with the most likes by the end of the week will receive the prize package.

The contest will begin on July 25th and end on July 31st, with the announcement of the winner on August 1st. Nominees must be a Wisconsin 4-H member and enrolled in the Wisconsin Beef Project.


Ted Turner to give land to nonprofit but keep paying taxes

Media mogul and billionaire bison rancher Ted Turner, 82, is donating an 80,000-acre ranch he owns in western Nebraska to his own nonprofit agriculture ecosystem research institute and says he might do the same with four other ranches in Nebraska's Sand Hills. 

But he'll continue to pay taxes on the land, much to the relief of local officials and Nebraska leaders, the Omaha World-Herald reported.

"I believe that local property taxes provide essential support for services on which our ranches and communities depend," Turner, 82, said in a news release last week announcing the new institute. "The Institute will continue to pay its share of taxes to support the local communities."

State officials had feared Turner — Nebraska's largest landowner with nearly 500,000 acres of western Nebraska ranchland — might turn over the land to a nonprofit and remove vast tracts of land from property tax rolls. 

Turner Institute of Ecoagriculture, which expects to work in conjunction with South Dakota State University to conduct research and develop strategies to conserve ecosystems while raising bison and generating income off grazing lands.


Wisconsin FFA Convention news and notes

For the 14th time in the past 20 years, the Waupaca FFA Chapter has garnered the honor of being named the winner of the National Chapter Award. The chapter will represent Wisconsin at the National FFA Convention and Expo this fall.

Other chapters placing in the Top Ten for the national chapter award include: Big Foot, 2; Badger, 3; Columbus, 4; Manawa, 5; DeForest, 6; Marshall, 7; Waupun, 8; Granton, 9; and Clintonville, 10.

The following chapters received gold awards: Beaver Dam, Big Foot, Bloomer, Badger, Bonduel, Cashton, Clintonville, Columbus, DeForest, Denmark, Elkhorn, Granton, Manawa, Marshall, Mishicot, New London, Portage, Randolph Cambria-Friesland, Reedsburg, Shullsburg, Slinger, Union Grove, Waupaca, Waupun and Weyauwega-Fremont.

Winning a silver designation was: Adams-Friendship and Fennimore.

Denmark FFA was named the winner of the Food For America award while the New London FFA earned top honors in the Sr. High Quiz Bowl competition. Waupun was named the chapter with the top scrapbook.


U.S. Customs and Border Protection intercept rare pest in produce shipment

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists at the Pharr International Bridge discovered a rare pest, a first-in-nation discovery, in a shipment of coconuts.  

The Packer reported that CBP agriculture specialists at the Pharr cargo facility conducted an inspection on a commercial shipment of coconuts arriving from Mexico on June 17, which resulted in the discovery of a live pest. The insect was id'd as Eburia nigrovittata, a species of longhorn beetle, which feeds on stems, trunks, roots of herbaceous or woody plants and can cause extensive damage to living trees or untreated lumber.

According to USDA entomologists, this pest has never been found at any of the nation’s ports of entry. CBP refused entry to the shipment and returned it back to Mexico.