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Dairy: This year is likely to be the best one many state dairy farmers will ever see, according to an analysis by a Madison-based ag company. Randy Greenfield of livestock feed company Vita Plus estimates an average state dairy farm — about 117 cows — will take in profits in excess of $200,000 after expenses this year, with larger farms expected to see millions in profits. The projections reflect record high milk prices combined with record low feed prices. Most farmers, however, likely aren’t rushing to spend any windfall they’ll see. For one, some are still paying off debts from the collapse of milk prices in 2009 following the recession. For another, a global forecast predicts milk prices will fall more than 20 percent next year due to shrinking exports. Greenfield, however, says dairy farmers still stand to make money at that price. And even if the price falls further than expected, observers say safety net programs included in the new federal farm bill will better insulate farmers this time around.
Transportation funding: Republican state lawmakers have been fairly measured in their reactions to recently released budget recommendations from the state Transportation Department, acknowledging the need to address the issues that have led to a projected shortfall in the state’s road fund. But the plan — which, in part, calls for some $750 million in new taxes and fees — gets some of its first significant pushback after a coalition of business groups questions the amount of revenue increases sought by the DOT. The ten groups signing onto the release, including Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, say they recognize the need to raise revenue to fund infrastructure improvements, but raise concerns about the amount of increases and the mechanisms to generate them, which they say “may place Wisconsin employers at a competitive disadvantage.” The co-chair of the Legislature’s powerful Joint Finance Committee, meanwhile, also raises concerns, indicating Senate Republicans likely couldn’t get behind the request for $751.4 million in increased taxes and fees. Gov. Scott Walker has said the DOT budget would undergo significant changes before he unveils his full 2015-2017 budget proposal early next year.
Deer hunt: Preliminary numbers from state wildlife officials show the number of deer harvested during the recently completed gun-deer hunting season dropped more than 15 percent compared to the 2013 season. For the nine-day season, hunters took in 191,550 deer in 2014 compared to 226,582 harvested last year, according to the Department of Natural Resources — though the agency notes this year’s number is likely to rise once registration tags are officially counted. The buck harvest was down 8 percent this year, while the antlerless harvest declined by 21 percent. The decline was sharpest in the far northern counties, where the buck harvest decreased by 18 percent and the antlerless harvest dropped by 58 percent — in part due to a buck-only requirement in some counties to help boost populations following severe winters, increased predation and other factors. DNR officials said neighboring Minnesota, Illinois and Iowa each saw similar declines in 2014, and rainy weather hampered the state’s initial hunting weekend. The DNR, however, also previously reported the 589,830 licenses sold before the hunt began was down compared to last year’s pre-hunt permit sales of 615,872.