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New legislative session brings new state ag committees

The new session of the Wisconsin Legislature began on Jan. 4, which means that new agriculture committees in both the Senate and Assembly are in effect as well.

For the Senate Agriculture and Tourism Committee, Sen. Joan Ballweg, R-Markesan, will serve as committee chair, and Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, will serve as vice-chair.

Former nominee for secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection and newly elected Sen. Brad Pfaff, D-Onalaska, was named as the committee’s ranking member.

Other Senate agriculture committee members include Patrick Testin, R-Stevens Point; Jerry Petrowski, R-Marathon; Kathy Bernier, R-Chippewa Falls; Jon Erpenbach, D-West Point; Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee; and Jeff Smith, D-Eau Claire.

In the Assembly, the Committee on Agriculture will be chaired by Rep. Gary Tauchen, R-Bonduel. Rep. Loren Oldenburg, R-Viroqua, will serve as vice-chair.

Rep. Dave Considine, D-Baraboo, will serve as ranking Democrat on the committee.

Other members include Travis Tranel, R-Cuba City; Joel Kitchens, R-Sturgeon Bay; Nancy VanderMeer, R-Tomah; Jeffrey Mursau, R-Crivitz; Todd Novak, R-Dodgeville; Treig Pronschinske, R-Mondovi; Jon Plumer, R-Lodi; Clint Moses, R-Menomonie; LaKeshia Myers, D-Milwaukee; Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point; Mark Spreitzer, D-Beloit; and Don Vruwink, D-Milton.

The full list of state legislative committees for the current session can be found online at legis.wisconsin.gov.

USGS to conduct helicopter survey of northeast Wisconsin bedrock
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Through a partnership with multiple state and federal agencies, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection will use airborne electromagnetic technology to measure the depth to bedrock in areas of northeastern Wisconsin.

A low-flying helicopter will tow a magnetic sensor that will provide accurate science-based data about below ground properties to update depth to bedrock maps. Knowing how deep the soil is before reaching bedrock is key to understanding how to protect groundwater from potential pollutants applied on the surface.

The U.S. Geological Survey is leading the project, with collaboration from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey, and DATCP.

“This project will update our maps and help landowners better understand how surface applications of certain materials can impact groundwater quality,” said Sara Walling, administrator of DATCP’s Division of Agricultural Resource Management. “Protecting Wisconsin’s groundwater is essential to public health and to the state’s economy. We all rely on clean groundwater for drinking, irrigating crops, watering livestock, and processing foods.”

Depending on weather and flight conditions, DATCP anticipates surveying to begin in early January, with the helicopter flying over the following counties: Brown, Calumet, Door, Fond du Lac, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, and Sheboygan. The helicopter will fly in a grid pattern, with half-mile spacing between flight lines. To ensure data accuracy, flight measurements will be compared against a three-mile control line of on-the-ground measurements taken by WGNHS. Currently, the project focuses on several counties with Silurian bedrock. Silurian bedrock is composed of highly fractured dolomite that allows materials to pass through it more easily to reach groundwater quicker.

By updating depth to bedrock maps, the project will reduce the financial burden on private landowners to verify existing maps, and produce data that will enhance the understanding of below ground properties in order to improve groundwater quality. Results of the survey will be made public once available.

To learn more about this project, visit https://aemsurvey.wi.gov.

Wisconsin dairy initiative to benefit from federal spending package

A Wisconsin-based dairy initiative is one of three regional innovation initiatives that will benefit from the $22 million in funding for Dairy Business Innovation Initiatives that was approved in the latest federal omnibus spending legislation.

The Dairy Business Innovation Alliance is a partnership between University of Wisconsin’s Center for Dairy Research and Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association.

DBIA assists dairy farmers and processors with development of value-added products, development of an export program and farm diversification. Grants, resources and free workshops/webinars for the dairy industries in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota and Wisconsin are also part of the program.

Initiatives at the University of Tennessee and Vermont Agency for Agriculture, Food and Markets are the other two programs selected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service to fulfill the purpose of the Dairy Business Innovation Initiatives.

According to AMS, these initiatives’ focus is threefold: diversifying dairy product markets to reduce risk and develop higher-value uses for dairy products; promoting business development that diversifies farmer income through processing and marketing innovation; and encouraging the use of regional milk production.

“In these challenging times, we must continue to focus on innovation and assist the growth of artisan dairy products, as they will add value that can be returned back to our dairy farmers,” John Lucey, CDR director, said in a statement.

WCMA Executive Director John Umhoefer shared similar sentiments in a separate statement: “Now more than ever, the dairy industry needs targeted investments to boost the creation and marketing of value-added dairy products.

“With additional federal support, we will to guide and support more projects to increase the profitability of family farms and the stability of the whole supply chain.”

The legislation sets aside $22 million in fiscal year 2021 to be “available until expended” pursuant to the 2018 legislation that established the Dairy Business Innovation Initiatives, and of that amount, $20 million is to be given for established dairy business innovation initiatives. The legislation directs measures to be taken to ensure “an equal distribution of funds” between the three regional centers.

DBIA will submit a proposal this year to secure additional funding as a result of the allocation, according to a statement.

In fiscal year 2020, these initiatives were awarded $18.4 million in funding by AMS.

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, was credited by the organizations behind DBIA for securing the allocation.

“Wisconsin’s dairy businesses are a key driver of our state’s economy, but our dairy industry continues to face enormously challenging times during this global pandemic,” Baldwin said in a statement. “It’s critical that farmers, cheesemakers and dairy processors have the tools to innovate and develop new Made in Wisconsin dairy products to build a brighter future for our dairy farms and drive our rural economy forward.”