Free Tuesday Trends sample: Mining rising, Summerfest mixed and agriculture falling

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RISING

Mining: The ink is dry on legislation to overhaul the state’s regulations on iron mining. Now, it’s a question of when — or if — the massive iron ore mining project in Ashland County targeted by the bill can get underway. Gov. Scott Walker signs the bill on Monday during ceremonies in Rhinelander and Milwaukee, saying he hopes it will result in the creation of thousands of jobs in coming years. The governor’s comment draws charges of false hope from Democrats, who also raised all kinds of environmental and legal questions before the Assembly passed the bill. Conservatives shrug off those concerns, saying they’ve found a proper balance that will make it easier to mine while maintaining environmental standards. They also knock the Bad River Chippewa Band — the chief critic of the proposed mine and its impact on the river’s watershed — after reports of problems at the tribe’s own wastewater treatment facility. The tribe shoots back that issue is being raised only to distract from what it says are potentially devastating environmental consequences — foreshadowing the legal battle that’s almost certainly looming. For now, the tribe is gearing up to raise money for a possible legal challenge over the new law’s constitutionality. The tribe’s chair also says the tribe could look at intervening once the permitting process gets underway.

MIXED

Summerfest: Despite an increase in operating expenses and a decline in net assets, the parent company of what’s billed as the world’s largest music festival reports an increase in operating revenue for 2012. Milwaukee World Festival Inc. said revenue rose from $35.7 million in 2011 to $36.3 million as an increase in sponsorships and group sales helped alleviate an attendance decline. The attendance drop, however, led to revenues falling short of projections despite the increase — and a drop in assets from $40.6 million at the end of 2011 to $38 million at the end of last year.

FALLING

Agriculture: Wisconsin’s farming sector, along with the rest of the country’s agricultural economy, is also set to face impacts from sequestration — particularly in dairy, as U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack argues cuts in the agency’s promotions could slow dairy exports by some $500 million. Vilsack says dairy farmers can also expect a drop of 5 or 6 percent in payments under the Milk Income Loss Contract. Other federal cuts that could potentially hamper Wisconsin agriculture, the secretary says, include a drop in farm loans, furloughs and shutdowns at meat and poultry plants, and an inability to finalize farmers’ conservation plans.