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Agriculture: The annual Status of Wisconsin Agriculture report from the UW-Madison Agricultural & Applied Economics Department finds the state’s net farm income increased about 14 percent in 2013, rising $550 million from 2012 levels to $3.75 billion. That’s the second-highest profit level in the report’s history, falling just short of the $3.8 billion earned in 2011. Analysts attribute the strong year to a record $5.6 billion in dairy sales, bolstered by high milk prices and increases in production. Other sectors, meanwhile, also saw strong years, including sales of meat animals and other livestock, poultry and eggs and vegetables. Farmland values increased as well, while total farm debt declined by 7 percent. The analysis, however, found the value of the state’s corn crop declined when compared to high prices during the drought of 2012. And economists caution that rising dairy production could mean lower milk prices in the new year.
Milwaukee Bucks: Forbes magazine estimates the value of Wisconsin’s NBA franchise at $405 million, an increase of nearly 30 percent over the $312 million estimated value in last year’s NBA rankings. But the franchise still ranks dead last among the NBA’s 30 teams, and Forbes’ number is well below the estimate of Bucks owner Herb Kohl. The former senator — who is currently seeking additional investors for the team’s ownership group — had pegged his franchise near the $543 million selling price of the Sacramento Kings, who were the subject of a fierce bidding war between the current California owners and a rival group seeking to move the team to Seattle. The report also comes as Bucks supporters try to ramp up support for replacing the downtown BMO Harris Bradley Center with a new arena — an issue that has pitted Milwaukee leaders, who see an arena a matter of regional concern, against suburban counties still sore over the sales tax used to fund the Milwaukee Brewers’ Miller Park.
Propane supply: Gov. Scott Walker declares a state of emergency due to a lack of propane as another swath of brutally cold weather descends on the state — putting those relying on an already short supply of the fuel at risk. Exports of domestic propane have been steadily increasing, a wet harvest season led to increased use of the fuel for drying grain, and a major pipeline into Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa was closed down in November and December. Those factors, combined with a historically cold winter, have resulted in propane rationing and skyrocketing prices, hurting families and businesses primarily in rural areas. The state responds with millions to help low-income residents keep their heat on, with millions more to help propane distributors meet the cost of acquiring and transporting the fuel. Walker also says utilities have chipped in to relieve energy bills and that he hopes to reach a deal with Texas to bolster the state’s access to propane, while he echoes calls from Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin for the Obama administration to curb propane exports.