Ag Briefs: Manure spreading case to be heard by Door Co. judge

Colleen Kottke
Wisconsin State Farmer
Wisconsin briefs


Manure spreading case to be heard by Door Co. judge

The three Kewaunee County men facing state charges for underreporting the amount of manure they spread on a dairy farm and sending pollutants into nearby waterways will have their cases heard by a different judge than originally was scheduled.

Farm owner Johannes Wakker, manure hauler Gregory Stodola and agronomist Benjamin Koss were charged Dec. 2 in Kewaunee County Circuit Court by the Wisconsin Department of Justice. They were scheduled for initial appearances Jan. 12 in front of Judge Jeffrey Wisnicky, the county's sole circuit court judge, but each requested on Dec. 6 to have a different judge preside over their cases, Green Bay Press Gazette reported.

The defendants said Wisnicky should be disqualified from presiding because he would have intimate knowledge of some of the facts in the case from his time as the county's corporation counsel, in which Wisnicky served from 2007 until his election as judge this past April.

As a result, the cases were assigned on Dec. 8 to Door County Judge David Weber. No future court activity has been scheduled as of that date.


Von Ruden re-elected WFU President

Westby dairy farmer Darin Von Ruden was re-elected president of the Wisconsin Farmers Union during the organization's 92nd annual State Convention in Wisconsin Dells. 

Von Ruden returned to the Farmer Union presidency this summer, after a brief term by Rick Adamski of Full Circle Farm in Seymour. Adamski shifted to the role of WFU’s Government Relations Director in July. 

Von Ruden’s presidential address focused on a theme of “persistence,” tying it to the tenacity of WFU’s founders nearly a century ago and that same spirit that fuels the organization’s efforts today. He encouraged members to remain persistent, whether facing struggles on the farm or a stumbling block in the passage of policy at the Capitol. 

“It’s easy for those of us in agriculture to get jaded over time,” he said. “...Creating lasting change can take years of work. Through the persistence of Farmers Union members throughout the past century ‒ and those in the room here today ‒ we’re seeing forward momentum.”

Looking ahead to 2023, Von Ruden said his sights are set on seeing some systemic changes implemented in the upcoming farm bill. 


Farmers of color sue govt. for promised federal aid

A class-action lawsuit says the federal government has illegally broken a promise to pay off the debts of a group of Black farmers. The group hopes to put pressure on officials to restore funding that was dropped after a group of white farmers filed legal challenges.

The USDA now is moving forward with another effort to help farmers in financial distress and to pay farmers who the agency discriminated against. However, one of the plaintiffs says that the new programs don’t match the USDA's earlier offer to pay off 120% of the debt of socially disadvantaged farmers.


Farm income jumps 14% to record high

High commodity prices, due in part to warfare in Ukraine, will propel U.S. net farm income to a record $160.5 billion this year, despite a steep climb in expenses, said the USDA. Farm income, a gauge of profitability, would be 14% higher than last year and twice as high as three years ago during the Sino-U.S. trade war.

According to Successful Farming, with good times in the farm sector, the value of farm assets would climb 10% this year, said the USDA in its Farm Income forecast, issued three times a year. Farm debt would climb more slowly, and the debt-to-asset ratio, a measure of financial health, would drop to 13.05%, its first decline since 2011.

Crops and livestock will generate $541.5B in cash receipts, up 24%, or nearly $106B, from last year. Almost all of the increase, $96.8B, would be the result of higher prices, calculated USDA economists. Corn, wheat, and soybean would fetch an additional $37B this year compared to last. Higher broiler chicken prices would boost receipts by 55%. Revenue from cattle, hogs, turkeys, and milk also would climb. “Cash receipts for chicken eggs are expected to more than double,” said the USDA.

Farm production expenses were forecast to rise 18%, to a record $442B this year. “This would represent the largest year-to-year dollar increase in nominal terms on record,” said the USDA. Nearly every category of expense would go up. Fertilizer, lime, and soil conditioners would increase by 47%, fuel and oil by nearly 48%, interest costs by 41%, and livestock feed, the largest category, by 17%.


Fond du Lac Co. Dairy-Forage Day set for Dec. 15

The public is invited to attend the Fond du Lac Co. Dairy-Forage Day set for Dec. 15 from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Fond du Lac Co. Highway Commission, 1820 S. Hickory St., Fond du Lac. On tap will are university and industry experts to discuss agronomic inputs and return on investment, dietary impacts on methane production from cows, and forage storage and feed quality. 

To register by Dec. 8 visit


2023 World Dairy Expo official judges named

World Dairy Expo announced the eight official judges selected to evaluate dairy cattle during World Dairy Expo 2023. These individuals were nominated and voted on by 2022 Dairy Cattle Show Exhibitors and include both first-time and long-time WDE judges.

The group of official judges for the 56th World Dairy Expo is as follows: Intl. Ayrshire Show, Kurt Wolf, Guttenberg, IA; Intl. Brown Swiss Show, Chris Lahmers, Marysville, OH; Intl. Guernsey Show, Kevin Hartmann, Mulberry Grove, IL.; Intl. Holstein Show, Lynn Harbaugh, Marion, WI.; Intl. Junior Holstein Show, Callum McKinven, Canton de Hatley, Quebec, Canada; Intl. Jersey Show, Mike Duckett, Rudolph, WI.; Intl. Milking Shorthorn Show, Brandon Ferry, Hilbert, WI.; Intl. Red & White Show, Phillip Topp, Botkins, OH.


State soybean farmers appointed to national board

Three Wisconsin soybean farmers have been appointed to the United Soybean Board, which was announced Nov. 28 by USDA. Serving three-year terms on behalf of Wisconsin are: Tony Mellenthin, Eau Galle; Sara R. Stelter, Wautoma; and Nancy Kavazanjian, Beaver Dam. Kavazanjian was elected to a three-year term after a one-year appointment. Mellenthin is in his second term and Stelter is new to the board.


Iowa grain elevator explosion leads to injuries

An explosion and fire at an agricultural plant in eastern Iowa has caused injuries and an evacuation of people near the operation. The explosion and fire happened about 11:15 a.m. Dec. 8 in Marengo at a soybean crushing plant and grain elevator owned by Heartland Crush.

University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City said it had received patients injured in the explosion. Residents near the plant were evacuated, and the Iowa County Sheriff’s Department advised people who live at a safe distance to stay indoors to avoid exposure to smoke. Marengo is about 80 miles east of Des Moines.