MON AM News: Milwaukee rivers falling short on phosphorus standards, report shows; Crop harvests continue to lag

— Waterways in the Milwaukee River basin continue to fall short on phosphorus standards, according to a recent report from a volunteer water quality monitoring group. 

The ninth annual report from Milwaukee Riverkeeper finds the health of the Milwaukee, Menomonee and Kinnickinnic rivers fell between 2017 and 2018, driven by last year’s historic rainfall, aging infrastructure and various human impacts. The report’s authors note the decline was seen in both urban and rural areas. 

By sourcing data from a network of more than 80 volunteer community scientists at over 200 different sites, the group analyzes factors such as water temperature, levels of phosphorus, chloride and dissolved oxygen and other variables. 

All three of the individual watersheds in the region failed to meet phosphorus standards for the third year in a row, the report shows. Meanwhile, chloride “persists as a growing issue,” with related water quality indicators meeting fewer targets last year than in 2017. 

Still, the report’s overall grade for chloride levels is relatively favorable, compared to the much lower grades for phosphorus and bacteria. Cheryl Nenn, who heads up monitoring and restoration efforts for Milwaukee Riverkeeper, says the lower rating for 2018 is “somewhat disappointing” but adds that policy changes and restoration pushes have made a positive impact. 

“It took many decades for our rivers to become polluted, and it’s going to take many decades to bring them back to a healthy state,” she said. “We are seeing some positive trends at the local site and subwatershed level, as well as some improving long-term trends.”

See more: 

— Slightly higher temperatures led to more Wisconsin farm fields thawing near the end of November, though many crops are still weeks behind and rain continues to slow progress with harvests. 

That’s from the latest progress report from USDA and DATCP. It shows that grain moistures remained “unusually high” for this late in the year — 23 percent on average for corn, compared to 18 percent last year. 

Due to the high cost of drying services, some farmers are choosing to store their corn at high moisture. Some of the wettest areas won’t be harvested or tilled at all this year. In northern Wisconsin, for example, field reporters say many fields still have moisture content between 30 and 40 percent. 

Still, factors vary widely across the state, with farmers in some areas grappling with still-frozen fields and others struggling to harvest in slippery, muddy conditions. 

The grain corn harvest was 57 percent complete as of Nov. 25, which remains 22 days behind last year and 18 days behind the five-year average. And corn for silage harvest was 97 percent complete. Corn condition was rated 66 percent good to excellent, an improvement of 1 percent from last week. 

Meanwhile, the soybean harvest was 82 percent complete, 18 days behind last year’s harvest and 25 days behind the average. And 69 percent of winter wheat had sprouted, which is 24 days behind last year and 27 days behind average. 

See the latest report: 

— Egg production in Wisconsin hit a record high in October, according to a report from the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. 

In October of this year, egg production hit 191 million eggs — up 10 percent from September and up 12 percent from October 2018. The previous record for egg production, 186 million, was set in December 2017. 

The average number of egg-producing chickens on hand in October was 7.36 million, which is 6 percent higher than in September and 2 percent higher than the previous October. The number of eggs per 100 egg-laying chickens was 2,594, which is up 4 percent over the month and 10 percent over the year. 

Other Midwest states largely saw a similar trend of rising egg production, though the number of eggs produced varies widely by state. At the national level, the report shows the number of egg-laying chickens has fluctuated more widely this year than in 2018. 

See the report: 

— U.S. Rep. Ron Kind is cosponsoring national legislation that would encourage deer hunters to donate a portion of their venison. 

In a release, the La Crosse Dem emphasizes the $2.5 billion impact that hunting has on Wisconsin’s economy every year, noting nearly 90 percent of that comes from the nine-day gun deer hunt that wrapped up yesterday. 

“This outdoor tradition benefits so many communities, from boosting local economies to supporting the conservation of Wisconsin’s habitats, to helping tackle food insecurity,” he said. “Many hunters already donate to local food banks and help fill those shelves, and this is just a simple way to say thank you and encourage others to do the same.”

In the past two decades, hunters in the state have donated more than 3.7 million pounds of venison to food banks in their communities. 

The new legislation would provide a tax deduction to cover the cost of processing venison when the final product is donated. It would also make all processing income from charities tax-free for processors who participate in venison donation programs. 

See more details in a release: 

— Madison is getting a $7 million federal grant to buy part of the former Oscar Mayer property for a new satellite bus facility. 

The new facility will support an expansion for Metro Transit, which is limited by its current building. The company’s current facility was built more than 100 years ago to store 160 buses, and now contains 218.  

The $7 million grant is tied to $5 million in local matching funds and is coming from the U.S. Federal Transit Administration, part of the Department of Transportation. 

“The new satellite facility is intended to enable a transition of our full fleet to all-electric buses, beginning in 2023, with installation of new electric charging stations and maintenance bays,” said Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway. 

See more on the mayor’s transportation initiatives: 


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