Regional UW campuses to shift to online instruction

Three western Wisconsin regional University of Wisconsin campuses recently decided to shift to remote instruction after the Thanksgiving break. Despite remote instruction, campuses in Eau Claire, Menonomie and River Falls will remain open.

Students may continue to live in residence halls and use dining services. They also may have access to campus WiFi, libraries, laboratories, creative activity or other independent project spaces. Employees also may continue to access offices and research and laboratory spaces. But those planning to return to campus after the Thanksgiving break must be tested twice the week they return to campus. Routine testing will continue to be mandatory for students living in the halls.

Intensive-care-unit bed capacity recently was reached in the Eau Claire area, according to Jim Schmidt, chancellor of UW-Eau Claire. There also has been an increased strain on hospital capacity in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area caused by an increase of COVID-19 cases. Also factoring into the universities’ decision was the recommendation by Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers that Wisconsinites stay home during the crisis.

UW-Stout Chancellor Katherine Frank said that when hospitals are at full capacity, a sudden spike of COVID-19 cases could overwhelm local healthcare systems.

UW-River Falls Chancellor Connie Foster said that western Wisconsin’s three regional campuses believe moving to remote instruction is the right decision. Visit uwec.edu and uwstout.edu and uwrf.edu for more information. 

Companies form input-supply agreement

Meristem Crop Performance Group LLC and Axis Seed Direct LLC recently formed a supply agreement to serve farmers in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. The Meristem Crop Performance product line will become a key component of Axis Seed Direct’s new crop-input offering.

Axis Seed Direct aims to meet specific needs of farmers in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin with corn and soybean genetics and trait packages. It also will offer Meristem’s line of plant growth regulators, drift-control products, water conditioners and surfactants, starter fertilizers, nitrogen stabilizers, micronutrients and foliar nutritionals. Visit meristemag.com and axisseeddirect.com for more information.

Grant applications sought

Compeer Financial’s Fund for Rural America, the Farm Credit cooperative’s giving program, is accepting applications for its general-use grant program. The grants are available to fund programs and organizations whose work aligns with Compeer Financial’s mission of enriching agriculture and rural America.

Applications will be evaluated based on their alignment with the company’s mission. Applications also will be evaluated for the focus areas listed.

  • Education – educating young, beginning or future farmers
  • Environment – maintaining or improving the quality of the rural environment
  • Technology – supporting the advancement and use of technology for the benefit of farmers and rural communities
  • Quality of life – programs or initiatives that enhance the quality of life for farmers and rural communities

To date Compeer Financial has awarded more than $1 million to 195 different groups in Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Applicants located in the company’s 144-county territory will be eligible to apply for as much as $10,000 per year for project or program support, technical assistance, general operating support or equipment. Grant applications are due Dec. 4. Visit compeer.com/giving-back for more information.

Cranberry plant purchased

American Berry Company recently acquired the CranGrow cranberry processing facility in Warrens, Wisconsin. American Berry is a new company co-owned by John Potter and Willie Traina.

The new ownership team represents multiple generations of experience in the dried-fruit industry. Traina Foods, which is located in California’s San Joaquin Valley, grows and produces sundried fruit. Potter co-owns Innovative Sales Inc. of Modesto, California. It is a centralized source for bulk raw and processed nuts and dried-fruit ingredients. Potter also co-owns New Aces Pecan Company of Las Cruces, New Mexico.

The formation of American Berry and the acquisition of the CranGrow plant provide synergies for Traina Foods, Innovative Sales and Wisconsin cranberry growers, Traina said. The companies have sales experience in the industrial, food service, consumer packaged goods and export markets. That coupled with American Berry’s ability to provide high-quality dried cranberries provides vertical integration benefiting customers, the local cranberry community and the industry at large, he said.

The Wisconsin cranberry plant features more than 58,000 square feet of processing space and dried-fruit processing technology. When fully operational about 70 people will work at the plant.

Cranberry Growers – CranGrow – was founded by more than 30 Wisconsin cranberry growers. The growing operations that constitute the cooperative are family-owned and operated farms, many of which have been in families for several generations. Visit americanberryco.com for more information.

Energy-innovation grants offered

Wisconsin's Public Service Commission is accepting applications for its Energy Innovation Grant Program. The commission will award $7 million to grantees for energy-related projects.

The grants provide funding for projects that reduce energy consumption, increase clean energy and transportation technologies, bolster the energy system’s preparedness and resiliency, and incorporate comprehensive energy planning. During application evaluation, the commission will consider energy savings, additional funds leveraged, economic impact, equitable distribution of projects and benefits, innovation, and improvement of Wisconsin's energy resiliency.

Rebecca Cameron Valcq, chairwoman of the Public Service Commission, said that energy efficiency and innovative ideas about how to power Wisconsin are critical components toward achieving the state’s goal to have all electricity consumed to be carbon-free by 2050. Grant applications are due Jan. 22, 2021. Visit psc.wi.gov and search for “Energy Innovation Grant Program” for more information.

Grants assist veteran farmers

Easterseals Wisconsin’s Farm Assessment and Rehabilitation Methods – FARM – program and its partner AgrAbility of Wisconsin have long provided services to farmers with disabilities in Wisconsin. They recently were awarded a three-year grant funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2501 Program.

The new outreach grant provides 100 current and new Wisconsin veteran farmers and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers increased access to USDA programs and services. Grants are awarded to higher education institutions, nonprofits and community-based organizations to extend USDA’s engagement in those communities.

In the first year of the grant the Farm Assessment and Rehabilitation Methods program’s focus identifies qualifying farmers and connects them to resources and the possibility of USDA funding. The grant continues through October 2022. Contact jkratochwill@eastersealswisconsin.com or call 608-279-9436 for more information.