THU AM News: Corn and ethanol producers feeling short-changed by proposed fuel standards; Molson Coors bringing more jobs to Milwaukee

— Corn growers and ethanol producers in Wisconsin are feeling short-changed after new details from the EPA undercut what they saw as a done deal with President Trump. 

Cal Dalton grows corn in Marquette County, and has served on the National Corn Growers board of directors as well as the National Ethanol Committee. He explains the Trump administration earlier this month unveiled a proposal that would have required U.S. refineries to blend a minimum of 15 billion gallons of ethanol into fuel each year. The proposal aimed to cover exemptions for small refineries by increasing the ethanol requirements for larger ones. 

Dalton says the issue hinges on the exemptions being granted to small refineries. According to him, those displaced requirements are supposed to be reallocated to other refineries under current law, but he says that hasn’t occurred in recent years. 

According to him, Trump’s proposal from the beginning of October would have made up for that unmet requirement by adding those gallons to the renewable fuel standard over the next three years, driving up demand and prices for both corn and ethanol. 

“That was the Trump deal, that was what he promised… to make us whole again,” Dalton told “If they followed that, everybody would be happy.” 

But less than two weeks after Trump announced the deal, additional details released by the EPA muddied the water and stirred outrage in the corn and ethanol industry. The draft proposal would use government projections, rather than the actual number of gallons waived in the exemptions for small refineries. Dalton says the agency’s proposal would bring the annual requirement below the promised amount. 

“That’s the rub,” he said. “They’re not following the deal announced by the administration.” 

The EPA held a field hearing yesterday in Michigan on renewable fuels volumes for 2020, giving members of the ag community a chance to voice their concerns about the uncertain regulatory environment.

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— The parent company for MillerCoors plans to move an unknown number of jobs to its Milwaukee offices as part of a sweeping consolidation plan.

The company’s “revitalization plan,” announced yesterday, involves closing its Denver office and moving its North American headquarters to Chicago. Molson Coors plans to cut up to 500 jobs in the United States, Canada and elsewhere, while bringing various positions from offices around the country to Milwaukee.

Company spokesman Marty Maloney said the exact number of jobs being moved to Milwaukee won’t be known “until we are completely through the process.” MillerCoors currently employs close to 1,300 workers in Milwaukee — about 600 office jobs and 700 brewery jobs.

Maloney said the jobs coming to Milwaukee will be administrative in nature, including finance, legal, information technology and human resources.

The company will tweak to its name starting next year, from Molson Coors Brewing Co. to Molson Coors Beverage Co. This reflects a new focus on other drinks besides beer, as net sales for the third quarter were down 3.2 percent in the company’s latest financial report.

During a Milwaukee news conference yesterday, Mayor Tom Barrett said his administration and Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. officials have been working with the company on its plans to relocate jobs to the city.

WEDC doesn’t comment on active discussions. In 2017, the state approved through WEDC $1.95 million in business tax credits if the company created 150 positions and another $750,000 in credits for workforce training. The package gave the company until September 2021 to meet the job creation requirements, and WEDC spokesman David Callendar said the company hasn’t applied for either package of credits.

Callendar said he couldn’t answer whether the jobs being moved to Milwaukee would qualify the company for the previous credits for job creation. He said the company would have to apply for them and then the agency would verify if they met the terms of the contract.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos thanked the company for bringing more jobs to the state and commended Gov. Tony Evers for “following through” on the income tax credits authorized under then-Gov. Scott Walker in 2017.

“It’s good to see that the governor is beginning to understand the importance of providing incentives to help spur business and job growth,” said Vos, R-Rochester.

See the company’s announcement and financial report:

— A bill that would allow pharmacists to prescribe birth control pills continued to divide Republican lawmakers as it passed out of an Assembly panel with bipartisan support and opposition.

Republicans introduced the measure in June with the aim of expanding access to contraception. When birth control pills were first introduced to the market, they contained much higher doses of hormones, specifically estrogen and progestin, than needed to prevent pregnancy. This increased the severity and likelihood of negative side-effects and necessitated consultation with a doctor.

In an August public hearing, bill author Joel Kitchens, R-Sturgeon Bay, said modern birth control pills had far lower hormone levels and noted the medical community broadly claims oral contraceptive pills are no more dangerous than ibuprofen.

But at the public hearing, the measure faced pushback from GOP Reps. Chuck Wichgers of Muskego and Dave Murphy of Greenville, who expressed concerns ranging from the language used in the testimony — which drew a sharp back-and-forth between Wichgers and the three GOP co-authors — to the safety of the contraceptive.

Wichgers again voiced concerns about the bill yesterday, this time noting the use of state dollars to “to bring services to the rural areas because of a lack of people.” The Muskego Republican said he was “floored” that lawmakers would advance a bill making contraceptives more accessible when rural areas are in need of new residents.

“I don’t know how that’s going to make sense 10 years from now,” he said.

But bill author Rep. Mary Felzkowski, R-Irma, fired back that the intent of the bill was not “to decrease the population in northern Wisconsin.”

“We’re just giving people the tools to have that family, plan those families when it makes not only sense for them mentally to have those children but maybe financially also,” she said. “This is one more tool to allow young women especially the opportunity to complete their education and get ready for those children instead of having those children when it’s more challenging for them and maybe holding them down.”

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— A UW-Madison program covering tuition costs for low-income students is growing, with 848 students benefiting from the initiative this year. 

Bucky’s Tuition Promise, launched last year, covers four years of tuition and fees for incoming freshmen who reside in Wisconsin and whose families earn less than the state’s median income. Transfer students who meet those criteria can get two years of their costs covered. 

More than half of this year’s participants are first-generation college students, and they hail from 65 of the state’s 72 counties. From this year’s group of 848 participants, 686 are freshmen and 162 are transfer students. 

The program covers nearly 20 percent of the 4,357 freshmen and new undergraduate transfer students from Wisconsin joining the university this year. 

See more: we-year/ 

— Wisconsin had the largest gap of any state in the nation for the performance of white and black students on the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress, according to results released by DPI.

Only the District of Columbia had a wider gap of all the states and jurisdictions that participated in the test, which is known as the Nation’s Report Card.

Overall, Wisconsin scores for fourth and eighth graders exceeded the national average.

Wisconsin fourth-graders scored a 220 on reading, compared to a 219 nationally, and a 242 on math, compared to 240.

But white Wisconsin fourth-graders had a 227 on their reading scores, compared to 188 for black students. On math, white students scored 249 compared to 212.

Overall, Wisconsin eight graders scored 267 on reading compared to 262 nationally and 289 on math vs. 281 nationally.

Still, white eighth-graders scored a 274 on the reading test compared to 235 for black students. On math, white students scored 297 compared to 250 for black students.

DPI said the state’s scores are statistically unchanged from 2017, while the nation saw significant declines in three of the four measures. The state’s results are also in line with where they were in 2009.

See the release:

— Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes and Dem lawmakers are touting a bill to decriminalize marijuana as a “new green deal” for the state that would help address racial disparities in Wisconsin’s justice system.

But GOP legislative leaders said the bill won’t pass their chambers.

In announcing the legislation yesterday, Barnes highlighted disparities in arrests and prison sentences for marijuana possession between black and white Wisconsinites. He said African Americans make up 72 percent of all marijuana arrests in Milwaukee while only being 40 percent of the city’s population.

“This is about bringing parity to the way we do criminal justice in Wisconsin,” Barnes said at a news conference on the bill’s introduction.

But Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said; “I’ve long been an opponent to any type of marijuana legalization and doubt that any proposals currently being floated will gain support from Republicans in the Senate.”

A spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said he “remains opposed” to decriminalization and there isn’t support among the Assembly Republican caucus for such legislation. 

Watch the news conference:


# Marquette and UW react to NCAA decision to pay student athletes

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