Ag Briefs: House Ag OKs $8.5B disaster aid bill

Wisconsin State Farmer
National briefs

WASHINGTON D.C.

House Ag OKs $8.5B disaster aid bill

The House Agriculture Committee advanced an $8.5B disaster bill that would cover a wide range of producers’ losses in 2020 and 2021, with somewhat more generous provisions than recent relief programs, AgriPulse reported.

The covered losses under the nine-page bill, which was approved on a voice vote, would include damage from the ongoing Western drought; the 2020 derecho in Iowa; the polar vortex that struck Texas in February, and wildfires that tainted California wine grapes with smoke.

Losses caused by power outages, such as those that forced Texas milk producers to dump milk, also would be eligible for payments.

HUDSON, WI

35th Midwest Championship Sheepdog trials set

Hudson will be the site of the 35th Midwest Championship Sheepdog Trials Sept. 2-6 at the Badlands Sno-Park, Hudson, WI. Events will be held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Sunday and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Monday. 

The event will feature the top sheepdogs from across the USA and Canada and their handlers square off against some wily sheep in a herding challenge second to none. Qualifying rounds Thursday - Sunday with the top twelve dogs qualifying for the Midwest Championship on Labor Day. Admission $10/day (children under 10 free. For more information visit www.wwsda.org/laborday.

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. 

ZHENGZHOU, China

Flood wash away farmers' livelihoods

Countless animals have died in flood waters that paralyzed China's central Henan province last week, and the outlook for those left alive is bleak. The Henan province was struck by heavy rains last week that sparked the worst flash flooding in centuries, catching many by surprise.

At least 200,000 chickens and up to 6,000 pigs were lost in the flood, half of the village of Wanfan's herd, farmers told Reuters. Across Henan, rains have deluged 1,678 larger scale farms, killing more than a million animals.

Though Chinese pig production has become increasingly intensive in recent years, millions of small farmers still play a major role in producing the country's favorite meat.

CAMBRIDGE, WI

Make it with Wool deadline approaching

Wisconsin fiber artists, sewing and fashion design enthusiasts are encouraged to enter in the annual Make It With Wool competition. The entry deadline to compete is August 8, 2021. 

Make it With Wool is a sewing, fashion and design competition open to all Wisconsin residents. Contestants select, construct and model their garments at the 2021 competition on Sept. 11th at the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival in Jefferson, WI. Winners of the junior, senior and adult age categories go on to compete at the National Competition in San Diego, CA, January 19-23, 2022.

For more information visit www.wisconsinsheepandwoolfestival.com.

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.

Applications Open for Holstein Association USA’s Virtual Interview Contest

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.

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.

SACRAMENTO, CA

California could cut off water from thousands of farmers

California regulators are planning to stop thousands of farmers from taking water out of the state's major rivers and streams because of a worsening drought.

The Sacramento Bee reported  that the State Water Resources Control Board will vote on the "emergency curtailment" order Aug. 3. If approved, it would take effect about two weeks later. There would be exceptions for drinking water and other needs.

Farmers' water allocations this year have already been dramatically reduced. This new order will further weaken their ability to produce this year, said Karen Ross, secretary of of the state Department of Food and Agriculture. But she said the move is "absolutely necessary." 

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.

PLATTEVILLE, WI

Gov. Evers visits new solar array installed at UW-Platteville

Gov. Evers made a visit to the UW-Platteville campus to view its newly-installed 2.4 megawatt solar array that will offset electricity costs by an estimated 17%. That represents more than $200,000 in saved costs and reduced carbon emissions of 2,300 tons per year. The solar array will begin operation this October.

Also of interest was the newly-renovated Boebel Hall, which underwent $23.7 million worth of remodeling for the upcoming fall semester. Boebel Hall is the campus' primary science building and hosts state-of-the-art chemistry, environmental science and biology facilities.

BARABOO, WI

Organic herb growers host field day on medicinal herb production

Organic herb farmers Jane and David Stevens, who've been in the industry for over 30 years and grow more than 200 herbal varieties, will be hosting a field day for planting, harvesting and drying medicinal herbs Saturday, Aug. 7 from 12-4 pm. Their 130-acre farm Four Elements Organic Herbals is located in North Freedom, Wis.

Registration is available on their website at mosesorganic.org/medicinal-herb-production-august-7 or you can call Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service at 888-90-MOSES. The nonprofit organization is sponsoring the field day. The Stevenses were named MOSES Organic Farmers of the Year in 2020.

TOKYO, Japan

Grass turf in Olympic stadium developed by American company

The turf used for the 2021 Olympics in Japan was originally developed at the University of Georgia, Tifton campus. TifSport bermudagrass, which was designed for high-traffic sports and herbicide resistance, was conceived at UGA. The fields were recently resodded with Tifton grass, a tough hybrid bermudagrass inspired by UGA's Tifway grass.

UGA has led grass turf research and innovation throughout the globe since the 1950s, a press release said. Two varieties created there, Tifway and Tifdwarf, were at one point the most popular choices covering golf courses, athletic fields and lawns. Researchers at UGA "developing cultivars with improved shade tolerance while maintaining a pretty, dense and dark green surface."