Ag Briefs: Heartland Produce breaks ground on $29M facility

Wisconsin State Farmer
Midwest briefs

MADISON, WI

Alliant Energy plans to plant 1 million trees

Madison-based Alliant Energy announced it will plant 1 million trees across Wisconsin and Iowa as part of efforts to promote sustainability and transition to clean energy. The utility would be the state's first corporate partner to help Wisconsin fulfill its pledge of planting millions of trees in the next decade, Wisconsin Public Radio reported. 

The utility announced the initiative as part of its 2021 Corporate Responsibility Report, which outlines Alliant’s progress on reducing carbon emissions and advancing renewable energy.

Alliant will partner with the WI DNR on the effort. Gov. Tony Evers pledged on Earth Day that the agency would plant 75 million trees by 2030. The utility plans to plant the trees primarily on public land in rural and urban areas within its service territory as part of reforestation and preservation projects identified by the DNR over the next decade.

KENOSHA, WI

Heartland Produce breaks ground on $29M facility

State and local dignitaries gathered at the groundbreaking of Heartland Produce’s new $29 million headquarters and distribution facility in Kenosha.

Heartland Produce, a third-generation family-owned business, supplies fresh produce to retailers and foodservice distributors. WEDC supported the expansion plans with up to $500,000 in state income tax credits over the next three years.

The actual amount of credits Heartland Produce will receive is contingent upon the number of jobs created and the amount of capital investment during that period. Officials expect to hire 40 full time employees, according to a news release.

The project includes construction of a 205,000-square-foot state-of-the-art produce distribution facility with room for future expansion. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the company saw increased demand, and the new facility will give Heartland Produce room to create additional fruit and vegetable ripening rooms to increase production.

SMITHFIELD, VA

Smithfield Foods stops slaughtering pigs at U.S. hometown plant

Smithfield Foods, the world's largest pork processor, has stopped slaughtering pigs in the United States' so-called ham capital, where the company was founded 85 years ago.

The end of slaughtering in Smithfield, Virginia, is the latest reconfiguration for the company's namesake plant and follows a months-long internal review of its East Coast operations, Smithfield Foods said in a statement.

The company, owned by Hong Kong-listed WH Group, is shifting slaughtering to some of its 47 other U.S. facilities and spending $5 million to upgrade the Virginia plant to produce more packaged bacon, ham and other pork products, Reuters reported.

U.S. meat companies came under scrutiny during the pandemic as plant workers got sick and died, and slaughterhouse shutdowns highlighted supply-chain vulnerabilities.

KANSAS CITY, MO

Darlington teens wins Golden Bull award at Hereford Expo

Outstanding Hereford youth were recognized for their achievements during the 2021 VitaFerm® Junior National Hereford Expo (JNHE) in Kansajs City, Mo., on July 8. 

recent high school graduate Lauren Jones of Darlington was selected to receive the Junior Golden Bull award. The award recognizes junior members for their involvement in the Hereford and agriculture industry as well as their communities.

has been a member of the state and national Hereford associations for 10 years. She was one of four National Junior Hereford Association members elected to the NJHA board of directors. The 17 year old has plans to continue her involvement with the agriculture industry as she begins college this fall at Oklahoma State University.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN

Pork industry loses appeal on line speeds

A bid to overturn a federal judge's decision to reduce line speeds in meat processing plants has failed. A lower court ruling denied the appeal by four major hog processors.

After the USDA said it would not appeal the ruling to allow some pork processors to operate at "maximum line speeds", the pork processors appealed to a lower court to stay the decision, according to Farm Journal.

In March, the Minnesota judge struck down a provision of swine slaughter inspection regulations, ruling that the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service didn’t take workers’ safety into account.

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley said six pork processing plants that are under that provision will have to reduce their output, which means they’ll buy and process fewer hogs from producers. Those plants will need to slow down their lines to a maximum of 1,106 hogs per hour.

Grassely says the order will reduce national packing capacity by two and a half percent - creating a surplus of hogs on the market.

WASHINGTON D.C.

House Ag OKs $43B bill for USDA broadband programs

The House Agriculture Committee unanimously advanced a bipartisan bill  authorizing $43 billion to expand rural broadband service nationwide by dramatically increasing USDA's expiring loan and grant program. 

The Broadband Internet Connections for Rural America Act would authorize $4.5 billion in annual funding, starting in fiscal year 2022 for the ReConnect Rural Broadband program through fiscal year 2029, Agri-Pulse reported.

It is unknown  whether this bill will be folded into the bipartisan infrastructure package currently being negotiated between Congress and the White House; that package includes $65 billion for broadband funding.

Under the bill, USDA must give the "highest priority to applications for projects to provide broadband service to unserved communities that do not have any residential broadband of at least" 10 megabits per second download and one megabit per second upload. Communities with less than 10,000 permanent residents and areas with a high percentage of low-income families will come next, according to the bill.

Under the bill, USDA also would be authorized to provide grants up to $50,000 to applicants who collect broadband service data to improve coverage maps.

50,000 Arizona cows to power vehicles, heat homes

Avolta, a renewable energy company focused on originating, developing, owning and operating renewable natural gas (RNG) projects, and its regional development partner, Atlas Global Holdings, LLC, broke ground on a RNG project at the Butterfield Dairy in Buckeye on June 29.

HAMBURG, Germany

Germany confirms 2 farms positive for ASF 

A third case of African swine fever (ASF) was confirmed over the weekend in farm pigs in the eastern German state of Brandenburg, German authorities said.

The case was on a small farm with four pigs inside the restriction zone where the disease is common among wild boar, the Brandenburg state health ministry said.

ASF was found in two nearby farms late last week, Reuters reported.

China and a series of other pork buyers banned imports of German pork in September 2020 after the first case was confirmed in wild animals.

WASHINGTON D.C.

U.S. reps request $725M to help dairy farmers

Twenty-five members of Congress pleaded with President Joseph R. Biden Jr. this week to reimburse dairy farmers millions of dollars for lost milk revenue as the market faces continued disruption in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, NNY 360 reported.

Congressman Antonio R. Delgado, D-Rhinebeck, a member of the Agriculture Committee, led the group of federal representatives to send a letter to Biden, a Democrat, on Wednesday asking for $725 million to compensate dairy farmers nationwide for foregone milk revenue after changes to milk’s national pricing structure in the 2018 Farm Bill and compounding difficulties caused by COVID-19.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN

Deepening drought prompts Minn. to step up response

Minnesota officials stepped up their drought response as the state grows drier, which threatens water supplies, agriculture and more wildfires.

Minnesota has now reached the threshold to trigger the "warning phase" under the statewide drought plan, the Department of Natural Resources said. And the department said it expects another threshold for public water systems that draw from the Mississippi River will be tripped in the coming days as stream flows drop.

"Under current conditions, it will take at least three to five inches of precipitation spread over a period of about two weeks to significantly alleviate the drought," the DNR said in statement. 

Associated Press reported that the updated U.S. Drought Monitor map shows that 98% of Minnesota is now in a drought, with 52% of the state in a severe or extreme drought, and conditions are expected to grow drier.