Wetland assistance offered

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is making available $30 million in technical and financial assistance through the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership. The funding is being provided to help conservation partners protect and restore critical wetlands on agricultural lands.

The partnership enhances the locally driven process to better address critical wetland functions that progress beyond localities, said Kevin Norton, acting chief of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Eligible partners will work through the program to voluntarily protect, restore and enhance activities on eligible lands. The Natural Resources Conservation Service will review partners’ project proposals and evaluate priority resource concerns, objectives, costs and expected outcomes for each project. The agency will rank proposals based on criteria set forth in the requirements listed on each state’s Natural Resources Conservation Service website.

Wetland Reserve Enhancement partners are required to contribute a financial or technical assistance fund match. Partners looking to learn more about fiscal-year 2021 funding are encouraged to attend a virtual workshop beginning at noon Central Daylight Time Oct. 22. Proposals should be emailed to the Natural Resources Conservation state contact by Nov. 30.

Visit nrcs.usda.gov and search for "Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership" for more information.

Local-food system resources launched

A hub designed to help local and regional food producers recently was launched by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. USDA and its partners are developing, sharing and assessing resources on local and regional food system responses to COVID-19.

The hub features a searchable database with insights and educational materials from 16 partner organizations. The information is provided to help local and regional food producers and businesses adapt market strategies in the current environment.

The partner organizations represent a diverse array of market channels – from direct-to-consumer to restaurants and institutions – and various stakeholder groups.

  • Center for Environmental Farming Systems
  • CSA Innovation Network
  • Farm to Institution New England
  • Farmers Market Coalition
  • The James Beard Foundation
  • Local Catch Network
  • National Co-op Grocers
  • National Farm to School Network
  • National Grocers Association Foundation
  • North American Farmers Direct Marketing Association
  • National Association of State Departments of Agriculture Foundation
  • The Network for Incubator & Commissary Kitchens
  • Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network
  • University of Arkansas - Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative
  • The Wallace Center
  • Washington State University Bread Lab

USDA is gathering real-time intelligence to better understand impediments as well as successful marketing and production strategies and innovations. The project also features snapshots of each part of the local food economy, case studies, sector innovations and research on consumer attitudes about local foods. Visit ams.usda.gov for more information.

Fund targets underrepresented groups

The 2020 Bayer Diversity Fund recently was created to help about 200 undergraduate students, graduate students and early career professionals from underrepresented groups attend the virtual annual meeting of the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America and Soil Science Society of America. The meeting will be held Nov. 9-13.

Attendees will have the opportunity to participate in scientific sessions, undergraduate- and graduate-student programs, round-table discussions with other scientists, poster sessions, and a graduate-school forum.

Recipients of the funding also will receive one year of membership with the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science Society of America and the Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences.  Visit surveymonkey.com/r/YHBPNJ9 or contact schapman@sciencesocieties.org to apply and for more information.

Hemorrhagic disease found in deer

A tissue sample collected from a deer in Wisconsin’s Buffalo County has tested positive for the virus that causes epizootic hemorrhagic disease – EHD. The disease was identified after several landowners in Buffalo County contacted the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources about 30 dead deer north of Fountain City, Wisconsin. The disease also recently was detected in a deer from Wisconsin’s Oconto County.

The virus that causes epizootic hemorrhagic disease can be carried by small flies also known as biting gnats. People aren’t at risk of developing disease from the virus even if they handle infected deer, eat venison from infected deer or are bitten by infected midges, according to the DNR.

Epizootic hemorrhagic disease can be fatal to deer, especially in populations that have limited previous exposure to the virus, such as in Wisconsin. The disease is typically short-lived because flies that transmit the disease generally die with the first hard frost. Affected deer die of the disease within seven days of infection.

“We ask that the public continue reporting observations of sick or dead deer,” said Kris Johansen, the wildlife-management supervisor for the DNR’s west-central district. “Their observations will help us evaluate the geographic distribution and number of deer affected by this disease.”

Clinical signs of the disease in deer are listed.

  • Excessive salivation or foaming around the nose and mouth,
  • Appearing weak and approachable by humans, and
  • Carcasses found in or near water sources; infected deer will often lay in water for cooling or drinking.

The DNR won’t be collecting or removing deer suspected of having died from the disease. Carcasses from deer that die of the disease aren’t a threat to spreading the disease to other deer because the virus doesn’t survive long after an infected deer dies, according to the DNR. But the agency advises against handling deer carcasses because other pathogens harmful to humans could be present. Visit dnr.wisconsin.gov and search for "diseases and conditions" for more information.

Private-lender applications accepted

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is now accepting applications for the OneRD Guarantee Loan Initiative. The agency has launched a common loan-guarantee application for four programs.

  • Water and Waste Disposal Loan Guarantee Program
  • Community Facilities Guaranteed Loan Program
  • Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Program
  • Rural Energy for America Guaranteed Loan Program

Through the initiative the department has standardized requirements for credit reviews, loan processing, loan servicing and loss claims. The measures will make the application process simpler and faster for lenders, according to the USDA.

The agency is providing automatic approval to participate in all four programs to lenders in good standing who are supervised or created by state or federal regulatory agencies. Non-regulated lenders may seek approval to participate through a single certification process that will be valid for five years. Visit rd.usda.gov and search for "OneRD guarantee" for more information.

Farm Bureau selects leadership participants

Fourteen emerging agricultural leaders have been selected to participate in the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Leadership Institute. The year-long leadership-training program’s mission is to develop strong and effective agricultural leaders.

The institute gives participants the skills and confidence necessary to lead the future of farming and agriculture in their county Farm Bureau, local community and beyond, said Wendy Kannel, senior director of member relations at the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation. Members of the 2021 Farm Bureau Leadership Institute class are listed.

  • Paige Blair, Brooklyn
  • Chad Bruss, Green Lake
  • Heather Erdman, Augusta
  • Robert Fox, Kaukauna
  • Logan Frei, Janesville
  • Rachel Harmann, Algoma
  • Michael Luebke, Maribel
  • Shawn Monien, Beaver Dam
  • Kat Nissen, Rock Springs
  • Sam Olson, Chetek
  • Charisse Orth, Fennimore
  • Nichole Rabitz, Crivitz
  • Andrea Rippley, Whitehall
  • Tess Zettle, Juda

The leadership institute consists of five multi-day sessions which provide hands-on learning on agricultural issues, leadership development, speaking skills, interaction with Farm Bureau staff and government leaders at state and national levels, and networking with other participants. The class capstone event will be a trip to Washington, D.C., in March 2022 with the Wisconsin Farm Bureau’s board of directors.

Farm Bureau members interested in applying for the 2023 class may contact wkannel@wfbf.com or call 608-828-5719 for more information.

Dairy processor earns energy-efficiency award

Foremost Farms USA recently earned a 2020 Energy Efficiency Excellence Award from Focus on Energy and the Wisconsin Public Service Corporation. The company’s Plover, Wisconsin, facility has participated since 2015 in Focus on Energy’s Strategic Energy Management program. To date the facility has accumulated more than $135,000 in energy savings.

Foremost Farms received support from Focus on Energy through development of the Energy Management and Information System that optimizes operational process efficiency for the plant’s largest energy users.

Foremost Farms also earned one of five Wisconsin Department of Energy 50001 Ready recognitions, which distinguishes companies that have established business practices around energy. The Plover facility implemented the 50001 Ready energy-management system. It reduced energy costs, upgraded overall operations, and improved risk management.

Focus on Energy partners with 107 utilities across Wisconsin to offer energy expertise and financial incentives to residents and businesses that choose to reduce energy waste. A third-party evaluation in 2019 revealed Wisconsin runs the most cost-effective energy-efficiency programs in the nation, in terms of energy savings per dollar spent. A separate evaluation released in 2020 found that every $1 invested in Focus on Energy generates $4.80 in benefits for Wisconsin, including economic benefits, reduced energy costs and reduced pollution. Visit focusonenergy.com and foremostfarms.com for more information.