WED AM News: Wisconsin corn growers, ethanol producers opposing small refinery exemptions; U.S. Ag secretary questions if small dairy farms can survive without growing

— Ethanol producers and corn growers in Wisconsin say the Trump administration’s move to exempt certain refineries from biofuel requirements is harming their industries. 

Mark Marquis is CEO of Marquis Energy, which has operations in Wisconsin and Illinois. He says the company’s Necedah plant has had to cut ethanol production and corn purchases due to low margins, driven domestically by the small refinery exemptions recently approved by the EPA. 

“We reduced the run rate, because of the tight margins, and of course when we reduce the run rate, we buy less corn,” he told “When you buy less corn, you’ve got lower corn prices and farmers suffer.” 

Wisconsin Corn Growers Association President Doug Rebout notes “quite a few” ethanol plants in Wisconsin and across the Midwest are either shutting down or cutting back operations due to the exemptions, leading to lower ethanol demand. 

“At this time of year, when we’re about to start harvesting, we need as many markets open as possible,” Rebout said. “These exemptions are limiting our markets.” 

The EPA recently moved to issue new waivers for 31 fuel producers, removing the requirement for blending ethanol into the fuel they make. 

Marquis explained that about 44 percent of all the corn grown in the United States goes to ethanol plants, making them the largest market for corn farmers in the country. He said the new small refinery exemptions, or SREs, cover about 10 percent of that market. 

“Farmers view ethanol and corn as going hand-in-hand; that’s why the farmers watch what happens,” he said. “They understand that allowing 10 percent to not be blended, that takes away 10 percent of your market, bringing down corn demand and the price of corn drops.” 

Rebout describes a “perfect storm” of unfavorable weather, uncertainty in global trade markets, low commodity prices and now these exemptions — “they’re really impacting us on our farms, what we’re getting paid.” 

See more: 

— U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is warning it will be “very difficult” for family dairy farms to stay in business unless they scale up in size. 

Speaking after a town hall event yesterday with dairy stakeholders at the World Dairy Expo in Madison, President Trump’s ag secretary told reporters he doesn’t think small businesses should “have a guaranteed income or guaranteed profitability.” 

“In America, the big get bigger and the small go out,” Perdue said. 

Those comments vexed dairy farmer Jerry Volenec, who spoke with reporters in a news conference organized by the state Dem Party shortly after Perdue’s appearance. 

“What I heard today from the secretary of agriculture is there’s no place for me,” said Volenec, who has 330 cows at his Grant County farm. “I feel like we’re a benefit to society.” 

According to data from the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, Wisconsin has lost 551 dairy farms so far this year — a rate of roughly two per day. That figure puts the state on pace to surpass the 638 dairy operations lost in 2018 and already tops the 465 lost in 2017. 

Farmers at the town hall attributed the decline to: low milk prices; a transition away from the traditional family farmer model towards operations that “flood the market” with product; and Trump’s trade policies that have sparked retaliatory tariffs on dairy from Mexico and China. Perdue labeled the Chinese as “cheaters” in international trade. 

Perdue said he believes the 2018 farm bill enacted by Congress will “stem the flow” of those losses but forecasted it will still be difficult for smaller operations to compete with larger factory farms. 

See more at 

— WEDC has authorized up to $1.5 million in state tax credits for a new manufacturing facility being built by Matalco Inc. in Wisconsin Rapids. 

The $80 million project is expected to directly create 80 jobs over the next three years, according to a release from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. The actual amount of tax credits awarded to the company will depend on the number of jobs created and the amount of capital spent in the state during that period. 

Robert Roscetti, vice president of corporate development for Matalco, said the company decided to build the new plant in Wisconsin Rapids due to its location relative to its market, the region’s workforce and incentives at the state and local levels. 

“Overall, we are proud to be part of this progressive community, as this will bring new jobs and opportunities to the region,” he said in a release. 

Matalco plans to build a 110,000-square-foot greenfield manufacturing facility, with capacity to produce more than 230 million pounds of aluminum billet, or blocks per year. The plant is expected to be up and running by the fourth quarter of 2020. 

The company currently has three locations in Ohio and Indiana. It is headquartered in Ontario, where it was founded in 2005. Between those four plants, the company already has annual capacity to produce 1 billion pounds of billet, according to the WEDC release. 

Aside from the 80 jobs expected to be created directly, WEDC cites an economic modeling study to estimate the project could indirectly create 48 more jobs in the region, for a total impact of 128 jobs. 

See the release: 

— The state DOJ is urging a judge to reject the Operating Engineers’ challenge of Act 10, saying a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision hasn’t changed anything since the last two times federal courts upheld the union restrictions. 

The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 139 is challenging Act 10 on First Amendment grounds, citing the 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that public employees couldn’t be compelled to pay dues to a union. 

Among other things, the suit argues the law Republicans approved under Gov. Scott Walker violates the First Amendment by prohibiting wage reductions for union dues, pointing out public employees can support other non-profit entities by having money withheld from their paychecks. Banning the practice for unions is a content-based restriction that violates the First Amendment, the suit argues. 

But DOJ argued in last week’s filing the issues in the 2018 Janus decision are unrelated to the new challenge Local 139 has filed to Act 10. 

Read the motion to dismiss:

— WMC’s Coolest Thing Made in Wisconsin contest has narrowed down the running to four entries, with nearly 210,000 votes cast so far. 

The top four finalist companies are: Henry Repeating Arms, Rice Lake; Mercury Racing, Fond du Lac; Mayville Engineering company, Mayville; and LDV, Burlington. 

This year’s winner will be announced at the WMC Foundation Business & Industry Luncheon on Oct. 8 at State Fair Park in Milwaukee. 

“This contest is about more than just the winner, however,” said WMC President & CEO Kurt Bauer. “Our state has a remarkable manufacturing heritage and a strong manufacturing future. This contest showcases both, and it is meant to bring attention to the cool things we make here and the rewarding careers available making those cool things.” 

See more contest info: 

— Before Miller Park opened, the Milwaukee Brewers went to the post-season playoffs twice.

After playing in Miller Park since it opened in 2001, the Brewers have been in the post-season four times, including yesterday’s wild card game against the Nationals in D.C. The Brewers lost the game 3-4. 

That was one of the benefits then-club President Bud Selig pitched in trying to convince state lawmakers and taxpayers that a new stadium was needed.

In the following excerpt from his memoir, “For the Good of the Game,” the ex-MLB commissioner recounts the political struggles to get financial help to build a new Brewers ballpark in the mid-1990s.

The Legislature in 1995 approved a .01 percent sales tax in southeast Wisconsin to help pay for the stadium. This led to a successful recall of Sen. George Petak, R-Racine, who voted to approve the deal despite earlier telling constituents he’d vote against it. 

The Miller Park sales tax is on pace to expire in March, roughly 25 years since its inception.  

Read the excerpt here: 


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– World Dairy Expo kicks-off in Madison

– Slightly better week for harvest in Wisconsin


– Wisconsin Pork Association to offer scholarships


– Evers’ pick to head Wisconsin DNR wins committee approval


– Wipfli acquires Atlanta firm, establishing foothold in southeastern U.S.


– Police arrest mother in Wisconsin counterfeit vaping case


– Rockwell Automation makes a move in senior leadership


– TAPCO acquires Adaptive Micro Systems


– UPAF allocating $8.8 million to member groups


– Ryder Cup captains say Whistling Straits is ideal course


– Midwest Composite Technologies acquires West Coast additive manufacturer


– Sheboygan Airport adding US customs facility before Ryder Cup


– Dr. Robert Sander: Why I support medical aid in dying as an option for terminally ill patients

– Margaret Krome: Wisconsin’s farmers have always been a sound investment


<i>See these and other press releases: </i>

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce: Nearly 210,000 votes cast to determine Coolest Thing Made in Wisconsin 

Dairy Business Association: Farmers attend Dairy Strong for free – Register by Nov. 1

Wisconsin School of Business: Enrolls first MS in business analytics class