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State News: March 13-20

Wisconsin Ag Experts Worry about Farms’ Financial Resilience

As the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) forecasts a slight decline in farm income this year, Wisconsin agriculture experts continue to worry about the financial resilience of the state’s farms.

The USDA’s annual Farm Income Forecast expects net farm income to increase by 1.4 percent from 2019 in inflation-adjusted terms. But net cash income – a measure of farm-related income minus cash expenses during the year – is forecast to decline by 10.7 percent this year.

A big part of that decline comes from large sales of commodities in inventory or storage. In 2019, inventory sales reached $14.7 billion, but the USDA expects this year’s inventory sales to be only $500 million.

State Senator, Marinette County Residents Oppose PFAS Amendment

State Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) and a group of Marinette County residents spoke out March 3 to denounce a last-minute amendment on PFAS regulation that passed the Assembly in February. The amendment calls for additional research on PFAS contamination in Wisconsin.

At a press conference at the Brown County Courthouse, Hansen said the measure doesn’t hold the companies that contributed to the contamination accountable. He called for senators to vote it down. Hansen and members of the community group S.O.H20 said they would urge Gov. Tony Evers to veto the amendment if it passes the Senate.

“Unfortunately, if the amendment were to become law, it would not be a step forward, but more than a few steps back in an effort to protect our children around the state from drinking water poisoned by PFAS,” Hansen said.

PFAS, or per- and polyfluorinated substances, are a type of chemical believed to be hazardous to human health. They’re known as “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down in nature. High levels of PFAS contamination have been found in Marinette and Peshtigo and have been attributed to the firefighting foam used at Tyco’s fire-training facility in Marinette.

Some Counties Struggling to Recruit Census Workers

Some Wisconsin counties are lagging behind in receiving applications for census-worker jobs.

Census postcards will be mailed to Wisconsinites in mid-March, and they can respond online, by phone or by mail. The U.S. Census Bureau and local communities are pushing to get the most responses possible because the census, which happens every 10 years, helps to determine the state’s congressional representation and the amount of federal funding that Wisconsin gets.

Any undercount could mean a loss of money, so census takers will knock on the doors of people who don’t fill out the census form on their own.

But as of March 3, Dane County needed 2,380 more applications to meet its recruitment goals, and La Crosse County needed 1,029, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

Census Bureau spokesperson Bob Giblin said Wisconsin’s tight labor market has made it hard to recruit people, so the bureau raised the per-hour pay a couple of months ago. “In Wisconsin,” Giblin said, “they can earn between $17 and $24 an hour depending on the county.”

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