By Erin Andrews
For Mike Biadasz, farming was a way of life: “Live today like you are going to die tomorrow, but farm today like you are going to farm forever,” was Mike’s motto. Despite the long hours, dangerous conditions and sacrifices required, Mike loved farming and was immensely proud of his work.
One quiet, early morning last August, Mike headed out to agitate the open manure pit on his family’s beef operation. The combination of clear skies, lack of wind and heavy fog proved deadly when the manure pit released toxic levels of hydrogen sulfide gas. Mike was killed instantly, along with 16 Holstein steers from the farm.
“Mike was our son, our friend and our business partner,” said Mike’s mother, Diane. “It is who you have beside you that makes life worthwhile. Mike walked beside us – he walked beside a lot of people – that is why we are all hurting like we are.”
By Cathy Stepp
Wisconsin DNR Secretary
Let's be clear from the start - the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is not going to be allowing large livestock operations to write their own environmental permits. If you have seen or heard that we were, you have been given wrong information. We are not "giving away the environmental store."
True, DNR recently rolled out a plan to better align our current resources with the core work that our dedicated employees do in carrying out our mission of protecting the state's natural resources for all. In some cases, several programs that have overlapping areas of responsibility are being consolidated into one efficient unit that can address issues more effectively and free up time from non-essential work so staff can focus on what this agency has been charged to do.
However, and I can't stress this enough, none of these changes will diminish, relax or loosen the laws, rules or standards currently in place or our commitment to upholding those standards. In fact, this alignment process, which we initiated without demands from outside sources, will give us the ability to strengthen our efforts in upholding those laws, rules and standards. That includes the permitting program, particularly in the area of large livestock operations.
Watch closely who howls loudest in the aftermath of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resource’s reorganization plan.
We can easily predict the major complainers: Environmental “activists,” who are fueled by out-of-state dollars and serve as a chorus of Sierra Club sycophants; deep-pocketed lawyers who make a lucrative living by filing the endless current of frivolous anti-agriculture lawsuits; and publicly paid state bureaucrats, more concerned about pursuing their own personal agendas then enforcing the laws that are on the books.
No government agency is perfect nor do we pretend that the Wisconsin DNR is. But that’s part of what makes Secretary Cathy Stepp’s announcement today so eye-opening: It is so practical and so immediately beneficial to the state’s citizenry, that it “feels” revolutionary. The truth is, most taxpayers simply are not accustomed to common sense solutions.
One such “breakthrough” will reduce the current log jam built into the environmental permitting process that cripples economic growth, does little to actually protect the natural resources and costs countless millions in public dollars.
By The American Dairy Coalition
The American Dairy Coalition held an Immigration Round Table during the World Dairy Expo in early October to discuss new federal policy options and a path forward in resolving our broken immigration system. Panel members from the left included: moderator Mike Opperman, editor of MILK Magazine; Laurie Fischer, president of the American Dairy Coalition; Jon Baselice, director of immigration policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute; Kristi Boswell, director of Congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation; Duane Hershey, a Pennsylvania dairy producer; and John Pagel, a Wisconsin dairy producer.
The discussion entitled “So, Who’s Going to Milk Our Cows?” focused on the dire need for a reliable, legal labor force to ensure the workforce farmers desperately need to maintain and grow their operations. Throughout the United States, even in areas that see high unemployment rates, producers remain uncertain of their future as dairies struggle to find labor that will keep their operations in business. As farmers raise the wages and benefits they offer, they continue to find that domestic laborers simply do not want these jobs. So what is a farmer to do?
By MaryBeth Matzek
HUDSON, Mich. — Acquiring one of Michigan’s most controversial farms and transforming it into a model of green sustainability put Milk Source LLC on the state’s agricultural map in a big way.
But three years after picking up the defunct Vreba-Hoff farms — and investing more than $40 million into new technology and site upgrades — the owners of the newly minted Hudson Dairy say they will continue to seek innovations that will bolster both the economic and environmental prospects of the operation.
“South Central Michigan boasts a very progressive dairy culture, so we knew we would fit in well here,” said Bill Harke, Milk Source’s director of public affairs.
FEAST: A September “report” issued by a coalition of activists opposed to large, modern agriculture revealed even they can’t hide from the truth. “The Shifting Currents Report,” a regurgitation of debunked anti-farming propaganda talking points, included such “authors” as two members of Clean Wisconsin, the head attorney for Midwest Environmental Advocates and a representative from the Sierra Club.
While these factions often attempt to paint Wisconsin’s water use as being unduly exploited and abused by farmers, even the report’s authors had to acknowledge in the most recent set of state natural resources data ALL agricultural irrigation accounted for a mere 4 percent of the state’s groundwater withdrawals — 4 percent. That was, in fact, the smallest percentage used by any government or industry with the exception of cranberry production (3 percent).
By Chloe Vosters
My family has been actively farming for five generations. I intend to represent the sixth.
I was raised with an appreciation that agriculture — whether livestock or crops — is a fundamentally honorable profession. My family has always taken pride in being good stewards of natural resources, attentive animal caregivers and respectful neighbors in our communities.
However, open any daily newspaper in Wisconsin today and this is not the impression conveyed by today’s journalists. Imagine if you can …
A major Wisconsin livestock farm releases 110 million gallons of untreated manure into area waterways. State environmental officials are permitting the farm to make massive releases of its manure up to six times a year.
How do you think the state’s largest newspaper would handle that story?
I can say, without hesitation, that it would be splashed across not only the top of the front page of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (daily for at least a week), but virtually every other news outlet as well.
By Damian Mason
Case IH made a big splash at the Farm Progress Show with it’s autonomous tractor. It looks like a normal tractor, with an enhanced cool factor, that’s been decapitated. That’s right, there’s no cab because there’s no operator.
To be clear, this is a concept tractor. It’s not currently for sale at dealerships.
That’s a good thing for manufacturers and sellers of farm machinery, which have experienced double digit annual sales declines since 2013. According to the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, four-wheel drive tractor sales are down 31 percent through the first half of 2016.
The Autonomous Tractor’s time has come, but the timing is terrible. With Google getting weekly media attention for it’s driverless car and Tesla managing PR for it’s autonomous vehicle, the headless horseman of tractors was imminent. Look at how effectively agriculture utilizes auto steer and GPS technology — and adoption of the technology was swift.
Using drones, water saving innovations and biotech seed, our industry is quite innovative. Which is why I firmly believe driverless tractors are the future of food production.
FEAST: We applaud the 107 Nobel laureates who are trying to knock some sense into Greenpeace.
The activist organization has opposed genetically modified organisms’ (GMO) use in modern agriculture, a position that a collection of the finest scientists, researchers and physicians in the world say will endanger some of the most vulnerable populations on the planet.
In a letter to Greenpeace, the 107 signatories noted that a genetically engineered strain of rice — aptly named “Golden Rice” — will help reduce Vitamin A deficiencies that are causing blindness and death in children in the developing world.
“We’re scientists. We understand the logic of science. It’s easy to see what Greenpeace is doing is damaging and is anti-science,” Chief Scientific Officer of New England Biolabs Richard Roberts told The Washington Post. “Greenpeace initially, and then some of their allies, deliberately went out of their way to scare people. It was a way for them to raise money for their cause.”
By MaryBeth Matzek
For students pursuing a career in agriculture, there’s nothing like getting hands-on experience. But before heading out to a dairy farm and working on a live animal, students need practice. That’s where full-sized bovine models come in.
Designed and manufactured by Canadian-based Veterinary Simulator Industries, the full-size bovine models allow students to practice delivering a calf and checking a cow for California Mastitis. Worldwide, the company has produced just 42 bovine models. Four models are located in the Midwest – Iowa State University, Michigan State University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton, Wis.
Headquartered in Canada, Veterinary Simulator Industries modeled the simulators after a true-type Canadian Holstein Friesen. The company created the simulators to allow veterinary and agriculture students to become proficient in their practical skills and diagnosing ability without causing unnecessary discomfort to live animals. The company works with veterinarians on the animal design. In addition to the Holstein, the company manufactures a Hereford Dystocia Simulator and several equine models.