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Meat-industry talent boosted

An investment of $5 million is being appropriated from the American Rescue Plan Act to develop talent in Wisconsin’s meat industry. The funding will be used to attract and provide financial support to students in meat-processing training programs. It also will support program development and connect the meat-processing industry with potential employees.

While Wisconsin's unemployment rate declined to 3 percent in November the state's meat industry, like many other industries, has struggled to find workers. The investment builds on Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers’ commitment to invest in and support programs that reduce barriers to employment, provide skills and job training, and ensure both growth and retention of Wisconsin's workforce and long-term success of the state's food processing industry.

Evers proposed substantial investments in his 2021-2023 biennial budget proposal, including $2 million for meat processors to expand and modernize their operations, $2.63 million for a Meat Talent Development Program, and additional meat inspectors to keep pace with industry needs. During the budget process the Wisconsin State Legislature agreed on the need for an annual investment of $200,000 for a Meat Processor Grant Program and four new meat-inspector positions at the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. But the legislature didn’t provide funding for the talent-development program.

Autonomous tractor unveiled

John Deere recently introduced a fully autonomous tractor that's ready for large-scale production. The machine combines Deere's 8R tractor, TruSet-enabled chisel plow, GPS guidance system, and new advanced technologies. The autonomous tractor is expected to be on the market later in 2022.

The tractor’s six pairs of stereo cameras provide 360-degree obstacle detection and distance calculation. Images captured by the cameras are passed through a neural network that classifies each pixel in about 100 milliseconds. The network determines if the machine will continue to move or stop, depending on whether an obstacle is detected. The autonomous tractor also continuously checks its position relative to a “geofence.”

To use the autonomous tractor, farmers transport the machine to a field and configure it for autonomous operation. Using John Deere Operations Center Mobile, they can swipe from left to right to start the machine. While the machine is working the farmer can leave the field to focus on other tasks. The farmer can monitor the machine's status from a mobile device.

John Deere Operations Center Mobile provides access to live video, images, data and metrics. That enables a farmer to adjust speed, depth and more. In the event of any job-quality anomalies or machine issues, farmers will be notified remotely and can make adjustments. Visit JohnDeere.com for more information.

Pork prices examined

Pork prices – not industry profits – are increasing, according to a new report authored by economists at Iowa State University, North Carolina State University and the National Pork Producers Council. Prices are increasing due to increased transportation costs, supply bottlenecks and increased labor costs. Those factors were either caused or exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the authors.

A 2.5-percent loss in pork-packing capacity also affected prices in the past 18 months. That resulted from a federal court order stopping faster harvesting-line speeds, increased energy costs, increased feed costs, and a shortage of workers, according to the report.

“The report shows there are numerous issues affecting pork prices, but increased profits, whether at the retail, wholesale or farm level, are unlikely a significant contributor,” said Jen Sorenson, president of the National Pork Producers Council.

Labor is a critical factor in easing supply-chain challenges and increased prices. It’s dependent on future immigration policy and agricultural-labor reform. If not addressed it “will continue to be a limiting factor in food and pork production for the foreseeable future,” the authors wrote. Visit nppc.org for more information.

Watershed funding available

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is encouraging local sponsors to submit project requests for funding through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service offers several programs to help communities improve land and water resources within watersheds as well as relieve imminent hazards created by a natural disaster.

Programs include the Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations Program, the Watershed Rehabilitation Program and the Emergency Watershed Protection Program. Funding is available for new projects as well as those already submitted to the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The agency will give additional consideration to projects in historically underserved communities that directly benefit limited-resource areas or socially disadvantaged communities.

Eligible project sponsors include state-government entities, municipalities, conservation districts and federally-recognized tribal organizations. Visit nrcs.usda.gov for more information.

Mental-health training offered

Wisconsin Women in Conservation and Farm Well Wisconsin will provide virtual-training programs beginning Jan. 20 to help women learn to recognize someone in need and to respond effectively. Wisconsin Women in Conservation team members reached out to Farm Well Wisconsin to lead the workshops after becoming aware of the need for mental-health resources while facilitating their own conservation-education events in 2021.

Training-program participants will explore the “COMET” method, which stands for Changing Our Mental and Emotional Trajectory. The workshops will be led jointly by FarmWell and Wisconsin Women in Conservation facilitators. The workshops will be in a “learning circle” format, encouraging peer-to-peer interaction among participants.

Five training programs are organized by region to facilitate community among neighbors, but are open to all women farmers, landowners and conservationists. Registration is free but necessary to obtain a Zoom link. Visit WiWiC.org and farmwellwi.org for training-session dates, times and more information.

Clark County prepares for show

Volunteers in Wisconsin’s Clark County are preparing to host 2022 Wisconsin Farm Technology Days, which will be held July 12-14 at Roehl Acres Farm, N7779 County Highway K, Loyal, Wisconsin. The three-day event is expected to attract 40,000 visitors to 50,000 visitors.

Citizens State Bank of Loyal has become a gold-level sponsor of the event. Citizens has “always been an ag bank” so supporting the show “is a natural” for the bank, said Travis Holt, president and CEO of Citizens State Bank of Loyal.

Holt said that in his 20 years at the bank there has been a notable change in the size of equipment and the resulting increased speed of planting and harvest. Wisconsin Farm Technology Days provides farmers a chance to see the latest equipment, he said.

Sponsors are welcomed. Contact Jim.mildbrand@gmail.com or call 715-797-8356 for more information. Visit wifarmtechdays.org for more information.

Producers reminded about premises renewals

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, in partnership with the Wisconsin Livestock Identification Consortium, is sending more than 60,000 premises renewals to the state’s livestock owners. State law requires that all livestock owners register where their animals are kept. Current registrants must renew their premises registration by July 31.

Registrants can contact the Wisconsin Livestock Identification Consortium to renew prior to July 31 and don’t have to wait until they receive a letter. Livestock owners must register their premises regardless of the number of animals they keep; there is no cost to register.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection uses the information to respond to animal-disease outbreaks to protect animal health, the food supply, public safety, and Wisconsin’s agriculture economy. Examples of locations that must be registered are listed.

  • farms and hobby farms
  • backyard poultry flocks
  • veterinary clinics with large-animal hospital facilities
  • stables
  • livestock exhibitions, markets and feedlots
  • dealers and haulers that keep livestock on their property
  • slaughter, rendering and dead-animal facilities
  • any other location where livestock is kept or congregated

Registration renewal is required every three years. Current registrants can renew their premises registration – or, as required, report that they no longer house livestock – by reviewing the information on the renewal form and returning the application to the Wisconsin Livestock Identification Consortium.

Those who need to register a new location can find more information at the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection’s website. Failing to register a premises can result in fines and ineligibility for state indemnity payments if animals are condemned due to disease exposure.

Livestock owners can register new premises or renew previous registrations. Registrants will receive confirmation once their registration or renewal is processed. Premises identification numbers may be required by certain municipalities, organizations and/or fairs.

Livestock in Wisconsin includes cattle and other bovines; swine; poultry; sheep; goats; horses and other equine animals; farm-raised deer and other cervids; gamebirds including pheasants, quail, wild turkeys, migrating waterfowl, pigeons, and exotic birds raised in captivity; bison; llamas and other camelids; ratites such as emus and ostriches; and farm-raised fish.

Visit wiid.org/premises-registration-renewal or contact info@wiid.org or call 888-808-1910 for more information.

Land-brokerage platform launched

AcreTrader of Fayetteville, Arkansas, AcrePro, recently launched a land-brokerage platform for land sellers and buyers across the United States. AcrePro will work with land brokers and agents who are looking to expand their businesses and improve outcomes for their customers.

Through the technology platform, sellers gain exposure to potential buyers nationwide and comparable sales data from across the country. The sales data are compiled with other data sets such as historical performance, remote sensing, and soil surveys, in a tool that delivers analysis alongside expert local opinion. The platform is continuously updated to provide clients with real-time information. Visit acretrader.com for more information.

Avian influenza detected

A strain of avian influenza that was detected in a laying-hen population in Western Norway in mid November has been confirmed as the highly pathogen H5N1 virus. It’s the first time that the strain has been detected in a commercial flock in Norway, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service. Visit fas.usda.gov and search for “Norway” for more information.

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