Ag Briefs: 100 animals die in Buffalo Co. barn fire

Wisconsin State Farmer
National briefs


100 cattle perish in barn fire

A barn fire in the town of Lincoln on March 20 left nearly 100 cattle dead, said Buffalo County Sheriff's Office officials. No people were injured in the blaze. 

According to officials, emergency responders found the structure fully engulf when they arrived on the scene on County N in the town of Lincoln near Alma.

Firefighters from more than a dozen local fire departments assisted at the scene for nearly five hours. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.


3M hens infected by bird flu to be composted at Jefferson Co. farm

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) announced that the birds at a Jefferson County poultry farm infected by the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) will be composted after depopulation.

The agency said composting is the most efficient and environmentally responsible method for disposal of bird carcasses. Compost piles will be constructed in a manner that includes a thick cover of compost carbon on top and underneath the carcasses.

Encasing and topping the carcasses with at least one foot of the carbon layer encourages the higher temperatures that speed decomposition, absorbs odors, and provides additional protection against water penetrating to the area of the windrow where the chickens have been placed.

The selected compost site, which is owned by the producer, has sufficient area and meets the locational criteria for a compost site to avoid groundwater contamination.


Gov. Evers celebrates Ag Day by signing bills

Gov. Tony Evers today celebrated National Agriculture Day in his hometown of Plymouth, Wisconsin—renowned for being the Cheese Capital of the World—by signing Senate Bill 827, now Wisconsin Act 207, to help bolster Wisconsin's dairy exports. 

In December, Gov. Evers signed Assembly Bill 314, now 2021 Wisconsin Act 92, which required DATCP to work collaboratively with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to increase the value of Wisconsin’s milk and dairy, meat, crop, and other product exports by 25% by June 30, 2026. 

Wisconsin Act 207, which the governor signed Tuesday, allows the DATCP to supplement these efforts by investing $883,160 from an existing, unused appropriation to be used for the newly created agricultural exports program for the purpose of promoting dairy exports. 

"This bipartisan legislation builds on our work to expand and increase our dairy exports so folks around the globe can experience the high-quality dairy products we know and love produced right here in Wisconsin,” Gov. Evers said.


Schaefer joined WFB as Ag in Classroom coordinator

Beth Schaefer has joined the Wisconsin Farm Bureau team as the Ag in the Classroom Coordinator. 

Schaefer most recently served as a Regional Program Manager for the Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin. Prior to that, she was an agriculture teacher and FFA Advisor in Merrill and Oconto Falls. Beth is a graduate of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Leadership Institute, American Farm Bureau Communications Bootcamp and served on the WFBF Young Farmer and Agriculturist Committee.

Schaefer can be contacted at or 608-828-5644.


Henkels tapped as managing director for DBA, Edge dairy groups

The Dairy Business Association and Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative have hired an experienced leader in the agricultural cooperative system to serve as managing director, a new role for the advocacy organizations.

Jeremy Henkels will drive the day-to-day business operations as the sister organizations enhance their focus on strategic priorities. Henkels most recently was executive vice president-shared services for Agfinity, a member-owned cooperative that provides agronomy, energy, feed, grain and retail services in Colorado, Nebraska and Wyoming. There, he oversaw human resources, marketing, safety and information technology.

The native Wisconsinite will succeed Trotter who now serves as the organizations' CEO.


Producer-led grant requests for 2022 total nearly $1.2M

The latest round of Producer-Led Watershed Protection Grants has been awarded to 36 farmer groups by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP).

Farmers will use the funds to work with conservation organizations to address soil and water issues specific to their local watersheds. Seven of the groups are first-time recipients.

Together, the 36 groups will receive the full $1 million included in the state budget. Grants range from $3,250 to $40,000 for conservation practice incentives, education and outreach, on-farm demonstrations, and water quality testing and monitoring efforts.


Meteorologist provides mixed weather forecast

A leading ag meteorologist is expecting a dry growing season west of the Mississippi River and a wet one to the east.

Eric Snodgrass with Nutrien Ag Solutions tells Brownfield if current drought impacts west of the river aren’t relieved by the beginning of April, growers could have a rough growing season.

He told the ag media outlet that 75 percent of the lower 48 states are already in some form of drought.

Snodgrass said the Eastern Cornbelt and Delta regions are likely to see good moisture, making for a potentially ‘tight’ planting window. 


Rainfall shortage noted in Corn Belt

Despite forecasted rain across the Midwest, much of which did not occur, states have been falling short on rainfall. Without that much-needed precipitation, soil moisture will be below levels needed for an ideal planting season, Successful Farming reported. 

According to NASA's Short-term Prediction and Transition Center, the Corn Belt has limited soil moisture available, with less available on the western edge and more becoming available to the east. Nebraska and South Dakota are in the 0 cm to 30 cm percentile, and Indiana and Ohio are in the 20 cm to 70 cm percentile of moisture in the soil, depending on the county.


State non-probate farm equip transfer bill now law

Legislation that received the backing of several state agriculture groups which would help transfer farm equipment from one generation to the next following a death in the family has now become law in Wisconsin.

Gov. Tony Evers signed the bipartisan SB 893 on March 19, allowing farm implements - including tractors, machines, attachments, fuel, replacement/repair parts and accessories - to be transferred immediately through a process called Transfer on Death, via written designation of a beneficiary and witnesses.  

While the new law authored by Sen. Joan Ballweg includes equipment such as feed elevators, grain dryers, silo unloaders, milk coolers and milking machinery, barn elevators and more, it does not apply to personal property or real estate. 

Under current law, the transfer of assets would be held up during the probate process which can be oftentimes lengthy.


Bird flu case forces killing of 5.3M chickens in Iowa

The confirmation of bird flu at another Iowa egg-laying farm will force the killing of more than 5 million chickens, Associated Press reported.

It's the second confirmed case of avian influenza in Buena Vista County, about 160 miles northwest of Des Moines, but the latest outbreak is at an operation with 5.3 million chickens. The earlier case was at a farm with about 50,000 turkeys.

The latest case confirmed by the state Department of Agriculture means nearly 12.6 million chicken and turkeys in at least eight states have been killed or will be destroyed soon.

Spread of the disease is largely blamed on the droppings or nasal discharge of infected wild birds, such as ducks and geese, which can contaminate dust and soil. Infected wild birds have been found in at least 24 states, and the virus has been circulating in migrating waterfowl in Europe and Asia for nearly a year.


Regulators OK purchase of solar park despite objections

Wisconsin regulators have approved utilities' $433 million purchase of the state's first and largest utility-scale solar project using battery storage in Kenosha County.

The Public Service Commission's action comes despite objections from consumer advocacy groups, which have raised affordability and reliability concerns with the project, Wisconsin Public Radio reported.

We Energies, Wisconsin Public Service and Madison Gas and Electric are acquiring the 200-megawatt solar project that will produce enough power for around 60,000 homes, as well as provide 110 megawatts of battery storage.

Construction is set to begin this year, and the project will begin operating in 2023.

MAASSLUIS, Netherlands

Lely ceases commercial activities in Russia, Belarus

Lely, one of the leading dairy technology companies in the world, is now among businesses that have suspended or halted commercial activities in Russia and Belarus.

Lely says it will not unilaterally stop supporting existing farmers in Russia, Belarus and surrounding countries due to the only reason of supplying parts and maintenance products to existing customers who are not on a sanctions list. The company says this is in the interest of supporting animal welfare and acknowledging the role farmers have in the country’s food supply, NPR reported.


Judge finds another Iowa ag-gag law unconstitutional

A federal judge has struck down an Iowa law that seeks to stop animal welfare groups from secretly filming livestock abuse, the latest in a decade of legislative measures and judicial rejections.

The decision Monday rejected the law approved by Iowa lawmakers in March 2019 that created a trespass charge punishable by up to a year in jail for those who use deception to gain access to a farm to cause physical or economic harm, Associated Press reported.

A temporary court order will prevent enforcement of the law, and the restriction is expected to soon become permanent. The state can appeal to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The case is one of many so-called ag-gag laws that have surfaced in the U.S. in recent years that pit the right of farmers to protect their property from trespassers against animal welfare advocates. Farmers argue intruders could track in disease and want to unfairly portray their livestock practices, while animal welfare groups say producers don't want the public to see how farm animals are treated.


Columbus man sent to prison in Georgia farm loan scam

A former loan officer accused of defrauding banks out of $648,000 in loans to fake farmers has been sentenced to more than three years in federal prison.

U.S. District Judge Marc T. Treadwell of Macon recently sentenced 33-year-old William Spigener III of Columbus to serve 40 months in prison. Spigener pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud a financial institution, The Telegraph reported.

The judge also ordered Spigener to pay $474,148 in restitution to AgGeorgia Farm Credit and $174,489 to AgSouth Farm Credit.

Spigener had accomplices in the scheme — three Macon residents who have been convicted of conspiracy to defraud a financial institution, authorities said. They have not yet been sentenced.


55 tons of lettuce fed to starving manatees

More than 55 tons of lettuce have been fed to starving Florida manatees as part of an experimental program to help the slow-moving marine mammals since their natural food is being destroyed by water pollution, wildlife officials told Associated Press.

The lettuce, funded by more than 1,000 individual donations, is offered to manatees that gather in the warm water discharge near a power plant on Florida's east coast as they typically do during cold months.

Officials from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in a conference call that the feeding program has made a difference.

The unprecedented feeding response came after a record 1,100 manatees died last year, largely because of starvation. The problem requires a long-term solution because pollution from agriculture, septic tanks, urban runoff and other sources is killing the seagrass on which the marine mammals rely.