Now Is Your Chance To Give To FFA

Now Is Your Chance To Give To FFA

The Wisconsin FFA Foundation takes immense pride in recognizing and celebrating the profound impact of the FFA program on Wisconsin’s vibrant agricultural landscape. Give FFA Day is Feb. 22.

At its core, Wisconsin FFA plays an indispensable role in shaping the future of agriculture by fostering leadership, nurturing personal growth, and cultivating career success among its dedicated members. Through a steadfast commitment to hands-on learning and active community engagement, FFA equips the next generation of agricultural leaders with the tools to succeed.

Give FFA Day stands as a pivotal moment for our deeply interconnected community to rally together and wholeheartedly support this vital organization. The generous funds raised during this empowering campaign will directly contribute to a wide array of impactful initiatives, including scholarships, immersive leadership programs, invaluable educational resources, and state-of-the-art technology that empowers Wisconsin FFA members to reach their full potential and make a lasting impact on the agricultural industry.

For more information on Give FFA Day and to make a donation, visit

Saying Goodbye To A Legend

Saying Goodbye To A Legend

The Wisconsin Pork Association is sad to announce the passing of Hilman B. Schroeder, age 84, of Sauk City.

Hilman was a true leader and trailblazer of the swine industry. Mike Wehler, a close friend, recounts the influence Hilman had on him and the industry.

“Hilman called me one day and asked me why I was wasting my time serving on a county farm organization board. After reacting to his question, he then told me I should run for a position on the Wisconsin Pork Producer Board,” Wehler remembers. “It usually didn’t pay to argue with Hilman, so I did and was soon elected to the Board.”

Hilman was one of the original board members of WPPA and one of the Moline 90 that laid the groundwork for the National Pork Producers Organization.

He played significant roles in establishing the national and state pork organizations. He didn’t seek to lead either organization until 1990 when he became president of the National Pork Board. The national pork organizations were struggling in those early years to define roles. NPPC owned the building and NPB employed most of its former staff.

His unique style of explaining to USDA bureaucrats how pork producers and the government could work together helped establish the early format for both organizations.

He was instrumental in helping the board highlight the need for the industry and move the project from the bottom of the UW priority list to the top of the legislature list. It ended up having a higher priority than most other UW Systems projects because leaders like Hilman donated their time to explain the importance of applied research to Wisconsin producers.

Hilman also played an important role in establishing the Pork Industry Fund in Wisconsin. This demonstrated to government leaders that the industry would support raising money to promote the
swine industry in Wisconsin. The fund raised close to $200,000 to promote the industry through research and scholarships that are still available today.

National Hog Farmer named Hilman as one of the “50 most influential leaders” in the industry. He’s also both an NPPC and Wisconsin State Fair Hall-of-Famer.

“The list of Hilman’s accomplishments is long and influential, but what I will remember is his unique style
and his ability to look at the pedigree of a hog,” Wehler says. “I believe he was one of the best swine geneticists in the country when it came to breeding hogs even though he never took a genetics class. He was a top exhibitor at the National Barrow Show before his 20th birthday.”

He served as president of the Wisconsin Agri-Business Council, earned CALS honors, and earned the title of Wisconsin Master Agriculturist.

“Hilman will be greatly missed, but his legacy will live on for generations to come,” says the Wisconsin Pork Association.

Hilman’s visitation is Feb. 22 from 3-6 p.m. at Hooverson Funeral Home, 251 Water St., Sauk City.

Creating Value For U.S. Meat Overseas

Creating Value For U.S. Meat Overseas

The United States Meat Export Federation (USMEF) continues to navigate the global trade landscape by implementing a variety of strategies to help strengthen existing trade relationships and explore new market opportunities.

“At USMEF, we don’t key in one country,” explains Dean Meyer, Past chair of the US Meat Export Federation. “With 19 offices around the world and a presence in 80 countries, we’re flexible. We can swiftly redirect products to alternative markets when necessary due to factors like inflationary issues and currency fluctuations.”

With cattle numbers being low, Meyer says their strategy lies in the diversification of meat products. They are particularly focusing on underutilized cuts and variety meat.

“By adding value to cuts such as tongues, livers, and kidneys, USMEF opens doors to markets like Japan and Mexico. We aren’t taking away from the US consumer. Instead we’re adding value to the cuts that we don’t consume here.”

In addition to this product diversity, Meyer says they are using value-added promotions of sliced pork loin to create products like “tonkatsu” in Japan. They also have cooking trucks that go around to different retailers and show people how to cook our product.

Looking ahead, Meyer sees both challenges and opportunities on the horizon. While emerging markets like Africa present new frontiers for expansion, competition from countries like Brazil poses a significant challenge. However, USMEF remains confident in its ability to differentiate US meat products through superior quality, infrastructure, and sustainability practices.

As part of its commitment to transparency and consumer education, USMEF continues to promote the quality, safety, and sustainability of US meat products through various media channels, including podcasts, YouTube, and social media platforms.

Meyer added, “While challenges persist, with our strategic focus on diversification, value addition, and sustainable growth, we are ready to overcome challenges and capitalize on emerging opportunities, cementing our position as a global leader in meat exports.”

Planting Intentions Survey Is Coming Around

Planting Intentions Survey Is Coming Around

The National Agricultural Statistics Service will contact producers nationwide about their planting intentions for the upcoming growing season.

“Each year, the agriculture industry anticipates USDA’s Prospective Plantings report, which provides initial survey-based estimates of U.S. farmers’ planting intentions for the year,” says Greg Bussler, Wisconsin State Statistician. “The March Agricultural Survey provides the data that underpin projections, making it one of the most important surveys we conduct each year.”

NASS will mail the survey to approximately 1,800 Wisconsin producers on Feb. 19. They’ll ask producers about the types of crops and the number of acres they intend to plant in 2024. Producers can respond online at or by mail. Those who do not respond by Feb. 27 can expect an emailed reminder for an interview.

By federal law, NASS keeps responses confidential. NASS publishes data in aggregate form only, ensuring that no individual operation or producer can be identified.

The data will be in the Prospective Plantings and quarterly Grain Stocks reports on March. 28. These and all NASS reports are available online:

Support For Evansville Soybean Facility Passes Assembly

Support For Evansville Soybean Facility Passes Assembly

Bipartisan legislation to support the city of Evansville is on its way to the governor’s desk. The bill will enable city leaders to bring jobs and economic activity to Evansville through a partnership with agricultural cooperative CHS on a new soybean processing facility.

Senate Bill 787 grants a one-time exception to state statutes. It limits tax incremental financing districts to 12 percent of the total equalized value of taxable property. The proposed CHS project alone would exceed this limit. SB 787 will allow for an exception that will help make the project a reality.

Authors of the bill say it’s common for the legislature to make these types of exceptions for projects like this.

Sen. Mark Spreitzer, Rep. Clinton Anderson, Sen. Howard Marklein, and Rep. Todd Novak led the bipartisan legislation. The state Senate passed SB 787 on Feb. 13. This week, the Assembly passed the bill. Now, it’s off to Gov. Tony Evers for his signature.

“Rock County is the top producer of soybeans in the state of Wisconsin, and the entire state will benefit from this processing plant in Evansville,” says Spreitzer. “When it is completed, the proposed CHS facility will be able to process 70 million bushels each year – representing an almost 50% increase for the state of Wisconsin’s total soybean processing capacity.”

See past coverage on the project:

Country Living Requires Homework

Country Living Requires Homework

For some people, the dream of finding that little piece of paradise in the country might come true this year. Warmer weather’s got home buyers out earlier than normal for the state, and lenders are seeing a surge in interest with the hope of lower interest rates later this year.

Steve Leffew is a loan officer with Compeer Financial. Today, Wednesday, he’ll be helping home buyers that want to target rural properties navigate around potential landmines when it comes to liabilities, and financing options, with an online webinar starting at 1 p.m.. Compeer Financial has launched a First Time Home Buyer Program, designed to help eliminate barriers like down payments and Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) costs.

Leffew is part of Compeer’s Rural Living Solutions team. He says what sets them apart is their program allows prospective buyers to access up to $400,000 in financing to purchase homes situated in small towns and rural areas within Compeer’s territory. Leffew says that not only helps make the sale, it also helps invigorate rural communities with new faces!

Leffew say they’ll be discussing their unique offer of a 0% down payment requirement and the exclusion of PMI expenses. Those are two things that can often stand in the way of aspiring homeowners, but Compeer’s program aims to make the dream of homeownership a reality.

Leffew is quick to point out that potential partners will still need to meet rigorous credit standards, and their properties will have to meet certain criteria as well, but if all the pieces come together – that little slice of paradise could be yours!

For more information about Compeer’s First-Time Homebuyer Program, and to see if you or someone you know qualifies, please visit

Dodge County Farmers Share Conservation Research

Dodge County Farmers Share Conservation Research

Dodge County Farmers for Healthy Soil & Healthy Water (DCF HSHW) brought together farmers, community members and industry experts to share conservation research outcomes and celebrate their continued efforts to make a positive impact on the environment.

The Soil Health Expo took place on Wednesday, Feb. 7, drawing more than 130 attendees to the Juneau Community Center.

DCF president Tony Peirick of T and R Dairy Farm, LLC welcomed attendees. He shared the group’s accomplishments from the past year, including the seven events they hosted. He spoke about goals for 2024, stating that the group wishes to increase its community engagement and membership over the coming year.

DCF’s 2023 Member Conservation Practice Survey results were presented by Farmers for Sustainable Food data collection specialist Shawn Wesener.

“This group really excels in no-till usage and planting green,” Wesener said.

Based on the findings, 48% of the 36,507 cropped acres surveyed had cover crops and 34% were planted green. The 2023 survey gathered data from 49 respondents, encompassing a total of 39,232 acres, 5,959 dairy animals and 2,843 beef animals.

Jeff Hadachek, University of Wisconsin Madison assistant professor in ag and applied economics discussed the finances behind adding wheat to the crop rotation. Corn and soybeans generally dominate crop rotations in Dodge County and throughout the U.S., driven by price, he explained. During his presentation, he examined how yields change over time in a corn-soy-wheat rotation.

“Realizing what the costs are can help us move forward on our farms,” Hadachek said. “Ultimately, in addition to being environmentally sustainable, practices also need to be economically sustainable.”


Attendees also heard a series of Lightning Talks focusing on local and regional research projects.

Bill Stangel of Soil Solutions Consulting presented results from a two-year nitrogen optimization pilot program through the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. The project aims to build confidence in decision-making regarding nitrogen application rates on the farm.

Jim Stute, an independent research agronomist from East Troy, provided an update on the first year of a two-year research trial focused on the relationship between rye cover crop termination and weed suppression.

The Sand County Foundation field projects director Greg Olson spoke about a soil health project comparing conventional fields to no-till in the 2023 drought. Using soil sensor data, Olson found that soil health systems had better water infiltration and marginally better water retention.

More information can be found here.

Wisconsin Pork Gives 85 Scholarships

Wisconsin Pork Gives 85 Scholarships

The Wisconsin Pork Association Youth Committee awarded 85 youth with a $100 scholarship. The money helps offset the costs of their upcoming 4-H and FFA swine projects.

The Youth Pig Project grant program began in 2003. It aims to encourage youth to become involved in the Wisconsin pork industry through projects. These projects offer opportunities to develop life skills and showcase career opportunities.

Wisconsin youth submitted 171 applications for consideration.

Congratulations To The Recipients:

Tessa Langrehr, Emma Langrehr, Lucy Neumann, Gus Neumann, Evalyn Schmoker, Dakotah Patrie, Archer Umnus, Ali Coggins, Wyatt Coggins, Lukas Huebner, Levi Huebner, Lucy Rosemeyer, Owen Hartwig, Quayde Doyle, Trevor Hoffman, Warren Brown, Elise Gilbertson, Alaina Cushman, Brock Nelson, Alexis Morby, Paisley Groleau, Gemma Desjarlais, Brooklyn Bohlman, Aubrey Bohlman, Ariana Bartz, McKenna Healy, Hadley Smith, Siera Childs, Ariana Reinsbach, Peyton Raisbeck, Holt Jacobson, RaeLynn Niemeier, Sadie Neuman, Amber Matyka, Elliot Meyer, Milo Henke, Elliana Rettler, Alison LeMahieu, Emmett Sedelbauer, Klay Conley, Korbin Conley, Molly Kedroske, Lincoln DeFlorian, Dylan Kohn, Avery Roberts, Faith Kohn, Evelyn Parilek, Robert Parilek III, Kaden Langrehr, Eleanor Schneiderwent, Kya Kelleher, Alexis Lonsdorf. Maycee Wells, Kylie Heise, Makenna Gilbertson, Kellen Nelson, Blake Bohlman, Tatym Travis, Jameson Bartz, Logan Groleau, Sydney Watson, Kaia Jacobson, Josie Zander, Kayla Anfang Kruizenga, Addyson Rettler, Nolan Ewings, Joshua Roberts, Mallory Cepress, Nadia Harrig, Kendyll Theobald, Makenzie Frisch, Melanie Healy, Logan Schmidt, Megan Rocheleau, Luke Fischer, Jenna Brogley, Sarah Wagner, Shannon Roberts, Jillian Schlewitz, Reese Eichelkraut, Makenna Rettler, Karissa Rettler, Jaxon Fallos, Victoria Kavlik, and Keira Leitermann.

Where Does An Aspiring Farmer Start?

Where Does An Aspiring Farmer Start?

This may surprise you! A number of people are looking to start farming, but don’t have any agriculture background. However, it can be challenging to get an ag business loan if you don’t have farm experience.

Rene Johnson, vice president of ag banking with Lake Ridge Bank, says there are steps you can take before applying for a loan to improve your chances.

Johnson has been in the ag lending and farming industries for more than 20 years. She’s noticed an uptick in nonfarm consumers wanting to get involved in agriculture or even start their own farm businesses. Some of these folks have a romantic idea of what agriculture entails. Others have what it takes and just face a barrier to entry.

Johnson’s first recommendation is to connect with an established farm business to learn the ropes — like a mentor. She recommends connecting with someone who is doing similar work to what you want to do, whether it’s a dairy, llama herd, viticulture, or a pumpkin patch.

From there, an aspiring farmer can get a better understanding of their needs as a beginner when it comes to required assets, balance sheet, and workload.

Johnson says the cost of entry in agriculture is expensive. The good news is that for a beginning farm, you likely don’t need a lot of land or brand-new machinery. She says it’s important to work with a bank or lender who specializes in agriculture, so they can guide you through the process.

Lack Of Snow Sparks Disaster Loans

Lack Of Snow Sparks Disaster Loans

Wisconsin businesses may be eligible for federal disaster loans if they have suffered losses due to the unusually mild winter.

The National Weather Service reports snowfall statewide has been 20 to 30 inches below normal this winter. In the Lake Superior snowbelt, generally across Ashland, Iron, and Vilas counties, snowfall was 40 to 70 inches below normal.

The U.S. Small Business Administration says they will consider loss from recent low snowfalls to be drought-related and eligible for assistance. The lack of snow has impacted travel and recreation businesses that rely on downhill and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling.

“The lack of snow we’ve experienced so far this winter has had serious economic impacts on folks and businesses, especially in our Northern counties, who rely on snow and winter weather to attract customers and be successful,” says Gov. Tony Evers. “I encourage all eligible businesses to apply for these loans as soon as possible, and in the meantime, I encourage Wisconsinites to plan a trip, visit local businesses, and find other exciting ways to enjoy winter in Wisconsin in our beautiful Northern and Central communities.”

USDA’s disaster designation for drought already covers many Wisconsin counties. This designation allows businesses in counties identified as drought disaster areas to be eligible for emergency loans to offset their business losses in those counties if their business loss is related to the drought.

Impacted businesses in counties with a drought declaration can apply for the U.S. SBA Economic Impact Disaster Loans. The loans aim to help businesses get through emergencies that have impacted their economic well-being. Under the EIDL program, businesses can borrow up to $2 million to cover their losses. Businesses pay no interest on the loan for the first year and a maximum rate of 4 percent for the rest of the loan period.

To take advantage of the program, businesses must apply by the application deadline for their county. Find more information on if you qualify and how to apply: