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Ag Briefs: Bird flu winging its way back to the Midwest


Bird flu winging its way back

Two commercial turkey facilities in Iowa have been hit by the reemerging highly pathogenic bird flu, causing about 100,000 birds to be killed to prevent the disease from spreading, Associated Press reported. The Iowa Dept. of Ag reported the infected poultry flocks within weeks of a turkey farm in South Dakota and one in Utah reporting the first outbreaks in the U.S. since April, raising concerns that more would follow. Bird flu last year cost U.S. poultry producers nearly 59 million birds across 47 states, according to the USDA. The outbreak caused spikes in egg and turkey prices for consumers and cost the government over $660 million.


Former WFBF president passes away

Former Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation President and Elk Mound farmer Jim Holte, 69, died on Oct. 22, 2023, due to complications from Multiple System Atrophy, Type C. He graduated with a degree in Farm Management from UW River Falls. He served 24 years on the WFBF Board and spent seven years as president before retiring in 2019. He also served on the American Farm Bureau Board from 2015-2019.

WFBF President Kevin Krentz said Holte was an advocate on the state and national level, and understood the need to bring issues pertinent to farmers and rural Wisconsin to those who needed to hear them. “He took pride in being the voice for so many,” Krentz said.


Bluetongue virus outbreak spreading like wildfire

The Bluetongue virus is spreading like wildfire among livestock in the Netherlands for the first time in 14 years, killing sheep and sickening cattle, Dairy Global reported. Hopes for a vaccine are high but manufacturers must act swiftly as new cases keep coming. A hidden question upon the unveiling of the vaccine is whether the government will implement a mandatory or voluntary vaccination strategy.

Bluetongue virus, which is endemic in tropical and subtropical regions, is transmitted by biting insects called midges. It does not infect humans, but the new outbreak is worrisome because Dutch livestock have been stricken by a potent strain for which no vaccine is currently available in Europe.


Rain slows down harvest

Rain across most of the state slowed fieldwork and harvest down considerably for the week ending October 29, 2023, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Rain across most of the state slowed fieldwork.

Nearly 96% of the corn crop is mature. Corn for grain harvest was 35% percent complete, with moisture content of corn around 23%. Corn condition was 54%, up 4% from last week. Corn for silage harvest was 98% complete.

Although lagging behind last year, nearly 77% of the crop was complete. In adjacent fields, 93% of the winter wheat seed has been sown, with 72% of the crop having emerged.


Agreement ends strike that shut down Great Lakes shipping artery

A deal has been reached to end a week-long strike that had shut down a major shipping artery in the Great Lakes, halting the flow of grain and other goods from the U.S. and Canada. The agreement was announced Sunday. Around 360 workers in Ontario and Quebec with Unifor, Canada’s largest private-sector union, walked out Oct. 22 in a dispute over wages with the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp. Seaway management said ships will start moving again when employees return to work Monday.


Walmart teams up with Denali to tackle food waste at retail

Full-service recycler Denali and retail giant Walmart are teaming up to provide food waste recycling at Walmart’s 4,700 stores throughout the U.S. The companies aim to divert millions of pounds of food waste from landfills and toward uses such as creating compost, feeding animals and generating renewable energy.

Three key challenges in delivering food waste recycling at scale include transportation logistics, material processing and data, The Packer reported. Produce is a very large fraction of the unsold food at grocery stores.


Johnsonville unveils new CEO

Johnsonville, one of the largest sausage producers in the country, has tapped former Kraft Heinz executive Don Fussner to become its new CEO. Currently the company’s CFO and COO, Fussner will take the reins in January after current CEO Nick Meriggioli retires. Fussner joined Johnsonville in 2019. Before joining the company, he had a 24-year career with Kraft Food.

Based in Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin, Johnsonville can trace its roots back to 1945 when the Stayer family established a butchers’ shop. The same family continues to run the business today.


Free tuition offered at SWTC for butchery program

Southwest Wisconsin Technical College will offer free tuition to students of their new Artisanal Modern Meat Butchery program thanks to a grant from DATCP. Lectures for the course are offered online while labs will be conducted on campus. Students completing program may enter careers in the meat industry or go on for degrees in meat science or more. For more info visit https://bit.ly/45VQz0


5 die in ag chemical tanker crash

Autopsies have confirmed that five people who died when a chemical tanker overturned in central Illinois last month died from exposure to caustic anhydrous ammonia fumes. Effingham County. The five victims, including two children, suffered severe chemical burns to their entire bodies, as well as their eyes and respiratory systems, Associated Press reported.

Authorities believe the tanker accident occurred when a car tried to pass the truck, which jackknifed, overturned and landed on a trailer hitch near the road, which punched a hole in it.


New organic rules tighten restrictions on livestock and poultry producers

Livestock and poultry producers will need to comply with more specific standards if they want to label their products as organic under final rules announced by the USDA. The USDA’s new Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards follow years of negotiations with organic groups, farm organizations and livestock and poultry producers. The Organic Trade Association pushed hard for new regulations, saying they’ll promote consumer trust and ensure competing companies abide by the same rules. The rules cover issues including outdoor space requirements, living conditions for animals, maximum density regulations for poultry and how animals are transported for slaughter.


Birds nesting in ag lands more vulnerable to extreme heat

Birds nesting in agricultural settings were significantly less likely to successfully raise their young during extreme heat events than birds nesting in forests under the same weather conditions, a new study finds. A study published in the journal Science examined a database of decades of bird nesting attempts observed by citizen scientists.

The study suggests that if farmers purposefully left just a little more natural space around farms with a few trees or native plants — not necessarily changing everything about their operations — birds could better coexist with humans, researchers said.

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