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Slow start, difficult decisions
Farmers face difficult decisions during wet spring
Farmers face difficult decisions during wet spring

Farmers have spent this spring dodging rain and getting in fields as conditions allowed, planting, tilling and spreading manure as quickly as possible, in many cases working around wet spots in fields.

According to Richard Halopka, agricultural educator for UW-Extension of Clark County, fields are currently so full of moisture that any amount of new precipitation has the potential to set farmers back even more.

“When you drive past areas of wetlands, that water isn’t disappearing out of those wetlands into channels. It’s just sitting there. That’s telling me that the subsoil has got a lot of water in it yet,” Halopka said. “A lot of fields are still at or above field capacity, but farmers are getting out there and getting things planted. They may be avoiding low spots, but a lot of corn, a lot of crops have been planted (last) week.”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service’s Wisconsin Crop Progress and Condition report for the week ending June 2, a frustrating May was capped with a Memorial Day rain that soaked much of the state and brought planting to a standstill.

“We’d be in the fields if we could just get three nice days in a row,” said George Gierok, who was preparing his farm for Saturday’s Trempealeau County Dairy Breakfast while hoping to get fieldwork done.

Farmers were fortunate to be able to use the last week of May and first week of June to get as much in the ground as possible.

“There’s a lot of planting going on,” Halopka said. “It doesn’t matter where you go, it seems like areas of the state where farmers are normally done by now, they’re just getting a good start. There are areas of fields that have been planted and areas you can’t get in. It’s pretty widespread.”

According to the June 2 crop progress report, spring tillage was 76 percent complete statewide, 11 days behind last year and 14 days behind the five-year average. Corn planting was 58 percent complete, 13 days behind last year and 17 days behind the average, and 34 percent of soybeans were planted, which was 13 days behind last year and 15 days behind the average.

Halopka was hopeful things would look better on the following week’s report.

“There’s a lot of activity out there,” Halopka said. “(When reporting for the June 2 Crop Progress report) I was at 25 to 30 percent of the corn planted. By the end of (last) week I think we’ll be approaching 75 percent of the corn planted. I know there’s soybeans going in. There’s a lot of peas and oats, small grains, alfalfa getting planted.

“Everybody’s planting everything at once, which is typical when you have a spring like we’re having here in 2019.”

The June 2 Crop Progress report added that all hay condition was reported 38 percent in good to excellent condition, up 2 percentage points from the previous week, and pasture condition was rated 55 percent in good to excellent condition, up 3 percentage points from the previous week.

Halopka said the slow growing season has some farmers at risk of running out of feed. He said he’s seen a lot of winter small grains cut recently to help fill in feed gaps.

“I’ve also seen some hay across the county come off where guys are probably just getting enough in the bunk to keep things fed until they have a little bit better volume and where the maturity is where they want,” he said. “But forages are tight.

“Farmers are going to be running a lot of equipment across some hay fields this year where they are giving up some yield, but at least they’ve got some feed.”

Halopka said more than 80 percent of alfalfa/forages were lost to winter kill in Clark County.

“That might be a conservative number,” he said. “We had a lot of winter kill, and that’s across the whole state. It’s not just here.

“The stress level on the farm is extremely high. I know that there isn’t a lot we can do when you have a spring like this to alleviate the stress. Farmers have to make choices to the best of their abilities, move forward and get things planted. We’ve got a lot of growing season yet to go this year.”

Honored service

Above: Marine Corps and Air Force veteran Ian Senn of Lake Hallie participates in a flag retirement ceremony Sunday at Marc-On Shooting in Lake Hallie. The U.S. Flag Code states: “The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem of display, should be destroyed in a dignified manner, preferably by burning.” The nation will celebrate Flag Day on Friday. Right: The flags that had “served their tour” receive a 21-gun salute from a squad of local veterans. View more photos at

Proposed Wisconsin city ordinance to fine parents of bullies

WISCONSIN RAPIDS — A Wisconsin city is considering an ordinance that would impose fines on the parents of young bullies after a viral social media post showed handwritten notes that students sent to a middle school girl urging her to kill herself.

The Legislative Committee in Wisconsin Rapids voted unanimously recently to move an anti-bullying ordinance to be considered on June 18 by the Common Council, the Wisconsin Rapids Tribune reported.

The draft ordinance prohibits bullying, harassment and retaliation against anyone who reports such incidents. The measure would also hold parents and guardians responsible for such behavior of children younger than 18. Penalties for a first fineable offense would be $50, with additional costs bringing the total to $313, city attorney Susan Schill said. But parents would receive warnings first.

“Preventing bullying needs to be a partnership between the schools and parents and the police department,” Wisconsin Rapids police Chief Ermin Blevins said. “If we don’t work together, we won’t be able to solve bullying.”

The ordinance was proposed by Wisconsin Rapids schools Superintendent Craig Broeren after the social media post detailing the bullying suffered by a Wisconsin Rapids Area Middle School seventh-grader went viral in February.

The girl’s parents earlier said their daughter was handling the situation well and that she did not seem to believe what the bullies told her.

The ordinance was modeled after one implemented in by the Plover Police Department in 2015.

Plover police Chief Dan Ault said the department hasn’t fined anyone in the four years since the ordinance was passed, and it has issued fewer than a dozen written warnings. Ault noted educating the public was the most significant outcome.

“It caused a shock factor,” Ault said. “Parents had to pay attention. They have to take it seriously because there’s a penalty. This isn’t government telling you how to raise your children. It’s government begging you to raise your children.”

Wisconsin Legislature
Tax cuts, building funding await as GOP wraps up budget

MADISON — Republicans are nearly finished with reshaping the Wisconsin state budget to reflect their priorities and drop much of what Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has proposed.

With the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee set to finish its work as soon as this week and send the budget to the full Legislature, here’s what is in, what is out and what is yet to be decided.

What’s in

K-12 schools: Schools would receive a $500 million spending boost over the next two years. That is less than the $639 million they got in the previous budget and a fraction of the $1.4 billion Evers wanted. Funding for special education would go up $50 million, 90% less than the $606 million Evers wanted.

UW System: The system would get $58 million, $45 million of which would only be released after lawmakers approve of how the university intends to spend it.

That’s far less than university officials expected after weeks of discussions with lawmakers, below the $60 million cost-to-continue and short of the $150 million Evers proposed. Republicans did agree with Evers’ call to continue the tuition freeze, already in its sixth year, for at least two more years.

Roads: Republicans proposed spending $484 million on roads, less than the $624 million Evers wanted, paid for with a mixture of cash, borrowing and higher fees for titling and registering a car. The definition of hybrid car would also be reworked so a $75 fee, already in law, could be applied to them.

Pay increases: State workers will see 2% annual pay increases each of the next two years, just as Evers proposed.

Health care: Republicans approved a $77 million increase for the Wisconsin Shares program, which provides money to working parents for child care, $30 million more for nursing homes, an additional $37 million for personal care workers and $27 million more for direct caregivers in the Family Care program.

What’s out

Medicaid expansion: Republicans rejected Evers’ plan to expand Medicaid, a move that would have put an estimated 82,000 more people on the program, saved the state $324 million and leveraged $1.6 billion more in federal money. But Republicans said they didn’t want to put more people on public assistance. Expanding it would have also handed Evers a huge political win, delivering one of his central campaign promises on an issue that Democrats say propelled him to victory over Scott Walker.

Marijuana legalization: Evers wanted to legalize medical marijuana and decriminalize small amounts of recreational pot, but Republicans snuffed it out.

Voucher schools: Evers wanted to freeze enrollment in private voucher schools and block any new independent charter schools. Republicans love school choice, so they killed these proposals as soon as they could.

Gas tax increase: Evers wanted to raise it about a dime over the next two years as part of a long-term plan to pay for road construction and repair. Republicans said the 32.9-cent per-gallon gas tax is high enough already and killed the plan, opting instead for higher fees, cash and borrowing.

Immigrants: Proposals to allow immigrants living in the U.S. illegally to pay in-state tuition, and to get driver’s licenses, were spiked by Republicans.

Redistricting: Evers called for creating a nonpartisan redistricting process for the next time the Legislature has to draw political boundary lines following the 2020 census. Republicans favor the current system, which they will control if they maintain the majority in the Legislature.

Minimum wage: Evers called for raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.50 by 2023 and tying subsequent increases to inflation. Republicans nixed it.

Manufacturing tax credit: Evers wanted to all but eliminate a tax credit for manufacturers that Republicans enacted under Walker and that they credit with spurring economic growth. Evers was counting on more than $516 million in savings from reducing the tax credit to pay for his income tax cut plan, but Republicans rejected his proposal.

What’s to come

Tax cuts: Evers proposed a 10% middle class income tax cut, similar to one Republicans passed earlier this year and that Evers vetoed. The rub was over where the money was coming from to pay for it. Republicans are still talking about cutting taxes, but which ones and by how much remains to be seen.

Building projects: Republicans punted in March on recommending which of the $2.5 billion in proposed building projects across the state should be funded, and by how much. That broke with precedent and leaves the budget committee with no recommendation as it figures out how much money there is to fund projects across the state, including $1.1 billion the University of Wisconsin wants.

Stewardship: Evers’ budget reauthorizes the state Department of Natural Resources stewardship program through mid-2022. The DNR uses stewardship funding to purchase land for the state and help conservation organizations purchase land. Republicans have criticized the program for running up too much debt and taking too much property off tax rolls.

E-cigarettes: Evers wants to impose a new tax on e-cigarettes and vaping products, higher than what is placed on traditional cigarettes and tobacco products. Republicans haven’t said what they plan to do.

Large animal farms: Republicans are considering moving regulation of Wisconsin’s largest animal feeding operations from the Department of Natural Resources to the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. Evers opposes doing that, but some dairy and farm groups support moving regulation to the agriculture department. Evers is also seeking higher fees for concentrated animal feeding operations, known as CAFOs.