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Wisconsin's broadband access expands

Federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funding for broadband expansion in Wisconsin was authorized in September 2020 by Wis. Gov. Tony Evers. After reviewing applications in October the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin approved $5.3 million in funding for 12 projects.

The projects expand high-speed broadband internet to underserved locations in Barron, Lafayette, Polk, Door, Dodge, Fond du Lac, Green, Burnett, Dane, Jefferson and Rock Counties. Grant recipients were required to submit final reports of their projects by Jan. 15, unless granted an extension.

According to the awardees’ reports the projects exceeded the initial number of locations expected to be reached by the end of 2020. They provided new or improved broadband access to more than 20,000 homes, businesses and farms across the state.

The Public Service Commission since 2019 has received more than $112 million in requests to fund broadband infrastructure through the state's broadband-expansion grant program. The 2019-2021 biennial budget allocated $48 million for grants.

The Public Service Commission’s State Broadband Office in 2020 awarded 72 grants totaling $24 million. The grants extend high-speed broadband internet access to as many as 3,182 businesses and 46,537 homes, including 39,778 locations that had been unserved.

The commission is expected to award the remaining $24 million of the 2019-2021 biennial budget by spring 2021. Visit psc.wi.gov and search for "broadband grants" for more information.

Value Added Producer Grant applications sought

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development agency is accepting applications for the Value Added Producer Grant program. The grants help farmers and ranchers offset costs of developing or expanding their added-value products. The application deadline is March 22.

Planning grants of as much as $75,000 help pay for feasibility studies and business plans that support future financing and business development. Working capital grants of as much as $250,000 help pay for marketing and product-development costs.

Individual farm businesses as well as groups of farmers and ranchers may apply for funds to develop new or existing products. Applicants must own at least 50 percent of the agricultural commodity being addressed. Matching funds of 50 percent of the project are required.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition website describes program requirements with examples of eligible products such as organic or local-food crops, renewable-energy crops and lightly processed raw commodities. Visit rd.usda.gov and search for "customer service center" and sustainableagriculture.net and search for "value-added producer grants" for more information.

Directors elected to Corn Promotion Board

Wisconsin’s corn growers have elected one new director and re-elected two directors to the industry’s market-order board. The nine-member Wisconsin Corn Promotion Board is responsible for overseeing the collection and use of about $1.7 million in assessment fees paid by Wisconsin corn growers. The money supports the corn industry through research, market development and consumer education.

Zachary Soltvedt of Seymour has been elected to serve District 3. Ryan Ripp of Dane has been re-elected to serve District 6. James Birchman of Fennimore has been re-elected to serve District 5. All three directors will serve three-year terms starting Feb. 1. The three districts involved in the election cycle represent the counties listed.

  • District 3 – Forest, Florence, Marinette, Langlade, Oconto, Shawano, Door, Outagamie, Brown, Kewaunee, Winnebago, Calumet, Manitowoc, Fond du Lac and Sheboygan
  • District 5 – La Crosse, Vernon, Crawford, Richland, Grant, Iowa, and Lafayette
  • District 6 – Sauk and Dane

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection administers elections for the Wisconsin Corn Promotion Board and the state’s other commodity-marketing boards. Visit datcp.wi.gov and search for "marketing boards" for more information.

Nominations sought for Wisconsin Potato Industry Board

Three seats on the nine-member Wisconsin Potato Industry Board are open for election. The board is responsible for collecting and allocating about $1.3 million in annual assessment fees paid by Wisconsin potato growers. The money is used to support the industry through research, market development and consumer education. The open positions represent the districts listed.

  • District 1 – Ashland, Barron, Bayfield, Brown, Burnett, Chippewa, Clark, Door, Douglas, Dunn, Eau Claire, Florence, Forest, Iron, Kewaunee, Langlade, Lincoln, Marinette, Menominee, Oconto, Oneida, Pepin, Pierce, Polk, Price, Rusk, Sawyer, St. Croix, Taylor, Vilas, and Washburn counties
  • District 2 – Marathon, Outagamie, Portage, Shawano, Waupaca, and Waushara counties
  • District 3 – Adams, Buffalo, Calumet, Columbia, Crawford, Dane, Dodge, Fond du Lac, Grant, Green, Green Lake, Iowa, Jackson, Jefferson, Juneau, Kenosha, La Crosse, Lafayette, Manitowoc, Marquette, Milwaukee, Monroe, Ozaukee, Racine, Richland, Rock, Sauk, Sheboygan, Trempealeau, Vernon, Walworth, Washington, Waukesha, Winnebago, and Wood counties

Each nomination form must include signatures of at least five eligible potato growers, other than the nominee, from the district in which the nominee is running for office. An affidavit of eligibility is located on the nomination form and must be completed and notarized. Completed forms must be postmarked on or before Apr. 1.

Only affected producers are eligible to nominate or be nominated. An affected producer is an individual, partnership, corporation or other business entity selling in commercial channels potatoes produced in Wisconsin on five or more acres that the producer owns or leased during the crop year of 2018, 2019 or 2020.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection will mail nomination forms to eligible growers. Growers who haven’t received nomination forms by March 1 or who have questions about the nomination process should contact Debbie.Gegare@Wisconsin.gov or call 608-224-5116.

The Wisconsin Potato Industry Board election will be conducted by mail from May 15 to June 15. Elected board members will serve from July 1, 2021, to June 20, 2024.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection administers elections for the Wisconsin Potato Industry Board and other commodity marketing boards in the state. To visit datcp.wi.gov and search for "marketing boards" for more information.

Ginseng board nominations sought

Nominations are sought to fill three positions on the seven-member Ginseng Board of Wisconsin. The board is responsible for the management of an annual assessment of between $100,000 and $200,000 for research, national and international marketing, new product development, and education. Elected producers will serve three-year terms beginning July 1.

Completed nomination forms must include signatures from at least five eligible growers other than the nominee. The affidavit of eligibility located on the nomination form also must be completed and notarized.

The Ginseng Board of Wisconsin election will be held from May 15 through June 15 by mailed ballot. The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection administers elections for the ginseng board and other commodity marketing boards in the state.

The department will mail nomination forms to eligible growers. Growers who haven’t received nomination forms by March 1 or who have questions should contact Debbie.Gegare@Wisconsin.gov or call 608-224-5116. Nomination forms must be postmarked by Apr. 1.

Visit datcp.wi.gov and search for "marketing boards" for more information.

Conservation Reserve Program signup extended

The Conservation Reserve Program general signup period has been extended. Producers will now have an opportunity to enroll land for the first time or re-enroll land in existing contracts due to expire Sept. 30. All interested producers, including those on Indian reservations and with trust lands, are encouraged to contact their local U.S. Department of Agriculture Service Center for more information. The USDA will continue to accept offers as the incoming administration evaluates ways to increase enrollment. Visit farmers.gov/coronavirus for more information. 

Baldwin to chair agriculture-appropriations subcommittee

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin-2-Madison, recently was named to serve as chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies.  Baldwin has served on the Senate Appropriations Committee since 2015. Visit baldwin.senate.gov for more information. 

Asian soybean rust-research pact formed

The 2Blades Foundation and Bayer recently formed a research agreement building on earlier work and complementing ongoing efforts to identify new disease-resistance genes to combat Asian soybean rust.

The 2Blades Foundation will apply its experience in discovering cell-surface pathogen receptors to soybeans. It will work to discover additional types of immune receptors.

If not managed properly with frequent fungicide applications, Asian soybean rust can cause yield losses of as much as 80 percent. In 2017 2Blades and Monsanto – since acquired by Bayer – initiated a project on cell-surface receptors to tackle diseases that significantly reduce yield.

The platform developed in that program will now be used to combat Asian soybean rust in parallel with a soybean-rust collaboration between the two organizations. The joint approach will provide for various modes of action against the complex pathogen. Visit 2blades.org and cropscience.bayer.com for more information.

Gates tops list of 100 largest landowners

Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, is reported to own the most private farmland in the United States by the “Land Report,” a national magazine read by landowners, investors and others. The publication recently published the “Land Report 100,” an annual survey of the country’s largest landowners.

The survey indicated that Gates owns 242,000 acres of productive farmland in 16 states. It also showed that 17 landowners added acreage in 2020 while just four divested holdings. Four new landowners – owning a minimum of 152,000 acres – were added to the Land Report 100 list. Visit landreport.com for more information.

Company invests in agriculture workplace 

Compeer Financial recently committed $1.9 million in grants and scholarships to help young adults pursue agricultural-related careers. The grants and scholarships will be provided in the next five years through Compeer’s Agriculture and Rural Initiative.

Compeer is partnering with community and technical colleges to bolster vocational agriculture-education programs and make them more accessible to young adults. Representatives from Compeer’s Fund for Rural America Board recently met with 30 post-secondary colleges to announce the first major gift from the initiative.

The investment will be in the form of $1.6 million in grants and $375,000 in scholarships. Colleges participating in the effort serve 144 counties in Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Colleges may use the grants for equipment and technology, student recruitment, outreach, retention and professional development, and teacher training. Each partner college also will receive two annual $1,250 scholarships to award to students enrolled in the school’s agriculture program or pathway.

In addition to extending financial support Compeer will connect partner colleges with its team members to serve as resources for teachers, students and advisers. Compeer will serve as a conduit between graduates and its business clients that have job openings. Visit Compeer.com/giving-back for more information.

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