FRI AM News: Ag leaders calling for purchase program for excess dairy products; WisBusiness: The Podcast with Kathy Henrich of the Milwaukee Tech Hub Coalition

— Agriculture groups in Wisconsin are urging the federal government to immediately begin purchasing excess dairy products to donate to food banks and other programs. 

The push comes as farmers and other producers are grappling with an oversupply of milk and other dairy products driven by closures of schools and restaurants, which make up a major piece of their market. 

“As we went into 2020, this was to be a rebound year for dairy,” said Tim Trotter, executive director of the Dairy Business Association and the Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative. “Now we see a more devastating outcome for dairy farmers.” 

He and other industry leaders detailed their request yesterday during a call with reporters after sending a letter to USDA officials. 

In the wake of 9/11 and after the previous economic downturn around 2008, Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association Executive Director John Umhoefer noted members saw sales decline. But he said the current crisis is “without precedent,” as nearly half of restaurants are closed or operating at a reduced level. 

Across the industry, Umhoefer noted “it’s a mixed bag” with some production plants running at full capacity to keep up with increased retail demand. Others have cut back on shifts since their market has largely dried up. 

The ag groups are asking USDA to purchase a number of products including cheddar, mozzarella and Italian cheese, as well as butter and nonfat dry milk. They’re requesting the agency works with them to estimate quantities for any purchasing program. 

See more: 

— This week’s episode of “WisBusiness: The Podcast” features Kathy Henrich, CEO of the Milwaukee Tech Hub Coalition, created to boost and amplify technology growth in southeastern Wisconsin. 

The coalition sees a need for technology talent in the region and technology’s ability to drive economic growth for the region. The Tech Hub’s goal is to double that tech talent over the next five years.

“Our ‘machine shop of the world’ actually requires technology,” said Henrich. She added that industries such as manufacturing, distribution, health care and agriculture are being transformed by technology. “We are already a tech hub, we’ve just not been recognized as one.”

The Milwaukee Tech Hub Coalition has several initiatives to transform the image of the region for people outside of the area. One of these includes a 10-week “incubator” for startups called For-M. 

“It was really a way of helping people who may have an idea in their head of a tech business that they would be interested in starting and helping them through the process… so that they feel like they can really take that to the next level,” said Henrich.

Listen to the podcast below, sponsored by UW-Madison: 

— Virologists at UW-Madison are collaborating with biotech companies in Madison and India to develop a vaccine for COVID-19 called CoroFlu. 

According to a release from the university, the vaccine could be ready for human clinical trials by fall 2020. 

It’s being developed by Bharat Biotech as well as Madison-based FluGen, which was founded by Yoshihiro Kawaoka and Gabriele Neumann. These researchers are modifying an existing flu vaccine candidate from FluGen with genetic material from the new virus, so that it will grant immunity to COVID-19. 

The CoroFlu vaccine will be tested in laboratory animals at UW-Madison for up to six months. After that, Bharat Biotech will begin scaling up resources for human testing which could happen as soon as this fall. 

FluGen’s flu vaccine candidate is genetically modified to lack a certain gene, which means the virus can only replicate once after it enters the body. 

“The single replication means the virus can enter the cell, but it can’t leave,” said company co-founder, president and CEO Paul Radspinner. “So, in essence it tricks the body into thinking it’s infected with flu, which triggers a full immune response. But since it can’t replicate further, you don’t get sick.” 

Bharat Biotech has previously commercialied 16 vaccines including one for the H1N1 flu, a pandemic in 2009. The UW-Madison release shows the company can produce nearly 300 million doses per year if the vaccine passes all clinical and regulatory hurdles. 

Medical College of Wisconsin President and CEO Dr. John Raymond notes that clinical trials for vaccines are being rolled out in May, June and July. But he emphasized the process takes a long time. 

“Realistically, what we are hoping for is if there’s a second wave of the pandemic in the fall or next spring, then we’ll have a vaccine ready for that,” Raymond said during a webinar hosted yesterday by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce. 

See the release: 

— Mayor Tom Barrett called it “extremely good news” that organizers of the Democratic National Convention chose to delay the gathering in Milwaukee until the week of August 17 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think we all recognize that increasingly it looked more and more difficult for us to host this convention during the week of July 13 through the 16th,” Barrett said.

He said as excited as the city was about having the convention in July, its resources have been committed to addressing COVID-19 pandemic and the convention “immediately got moved to the back burner.”

“By having this additional month of breathing room, we are hoping that this will allow us then to pivot once we are moving out of these turbulent waters and use this as a very, very important shot in the arm, as I said, to moving the community forward,” Barrett said.

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan also told reporters he backs the move.

“If they think that’s the best guidance to put a convention on at this point, I think that’s a good decision,” the Town of Vermont Dem said on a conference call.

In a release explaining the move yesterday, Democratic National Convention Committee CEO Joe Solmonese said organizers believe “the smartest approach is to take additional time to monitor how this situation unfolds.”

Read the release:

— Wisconsin county health departments are reporting 35 deaths in Wisconsin due to COVID-19, while the state Department of Health Services reports 1,730 confirmed cases. 

Of those confirmed cases, 27 percent have been hospitalized, according to DHS.

Milwaukee County reports 16 deaths and Washington and Ozaukee counties report seven deaths total. 

Dane County reports three deaths. Sauk and Fond du Lac counties each report two deaths. 

Iron, Waupaca, Waukesha, Rock and Sheboygan counties each report one death. 

But DHS announced yesterday Wisconsin has 31 deaths listed from COVID-19. 

DHS numbers show 52 of the state’s 72 counties have at least one confirmed case, up from 50 counties the day before. 

“Many of the cases we are seeing now are folks who were infected before ‘Safer at Home,’” said DHS Secretary Andrea Palm in a DHS Facebook Live event.

Ninety-four percent of people who died from COVID-19 in Wisconsin are over the age of 50, according to DHS. 

Twenty percent of patients who have tested positive for coronavirus are between the ages of 60- 69. This is followed by people ages 50-59 (19 percent) and 40-49 (16 percent).

In Wisconsin, women make up 52 percent of the confirmed cases, but account for 42 percent of deaths. Meanwhile, men make up 48 percent of confirmed cases, but account for 58 percent of the total deaths. 

Find coronavirus resources here: 

— Dr. Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer and state epidemiologist for communicable disease, says the “stay-at-home” order is working.

Using Wisconsin COVID-19 case data in early March, DHS projected 22,000 confirmed cases by April 8 without intervention. Those cases would have resulted in anywhere from 450 to 1,500 deaths. 

“The real data we experienced in the second half of March looked better,” he said. “That’s some good evidence that the interventions that we’ve taken are showing that the outcome hasn’t been as bad as we predicted. I think what we’re doing is working.”

— The Department of Administration has granted the Department of Workforce Development’s request for 25 new staff to help process unemployment claims. 

According to a release from the DWD, 110,000 unemployment insurance claims were submitted to the agency last week. 

“I appreciate DOA’s swift action in approving this position authority to help process UI claims,” DWD Secretary Caleb Frostman said in the statement. “DWD will move quickly to hire, train and get these additional staff members in a position to provide support for out of work Wisconsinites.”

See the release: 

— Robert Cherry Jr., the chief development and partnership officer for Employ Milwaukee, is taking over as deputy secretary at the Department of Workforce Development following the retirement of JoAnna Richard.

The agency said Cherry’s tenure at Employ Milwaukee, the Milwaukee County workforce development board, included creating the Office of Career Exploration. It is dedicated to improving the job skills of those 18-24.

Richard, who retired March 26, served eight years with the agency under Gov. Jim Doyle.

See the release:

— Local police have been shutting down non-essential businesses across the state that aren’t complying with Gov. Tony Evers’ order. 

Local media reports indicate that craft shops in particular have been targeted by police closures. Two Hobby Lobby stores in Green Bay agreed to shut down by the end of the day Wednesday after staying open past March 25 when the order took effect, a report from the Green Bay Press Gazette shows.

Meanwhile, a Hobby Lobby store in Rib Mountain was open as recently as Tuesday, but has now shut its doors for the duration of the stay-at-home order, the report shows. And another Hobby Lobby store in Manitowoc has closed at the request of police. 

Police in Grand Chute have shut down several craft and fabric stores and CBD retailers, according to a separate report from the Appleton Post-Crescent. 

And the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that multiple Hobby Lobby stores in the Milwaukee area were closed by police after initially bucking the order. 

See more in headlines below. 


# Wisconsin police close craft stores, CBD shops as essential vs. non-essential business debate continues

# Democratic National Convention postponed amid COVID-19 concerns

# Versiti to collect plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients for potential treatment

# Wisconsin company creates wireless network system for temporary COVID-19 testing sites



– Randall, Carter to co-lead Potatoes USA committees


– Dairy Markets: “It’s remarkable in a bad way” 

– Milk disposal on Wisconsin farms no April Fool’s joke


– Ixonia Bank acquires Egenhoefer’s Novus Home Mortgage

– Ixonia Bank acquires Novus Home Mortgage


– Wisconsin Center District board approves $420M expansion of Milwaukee event center


– Last two weeks of unemployment claims nearly equal worst 6-week period in 2009


– Wisconsin Universities Adjusting Admissions Process Amid Coronavirus

– New chancellor named at UW-Green Bay

– UW-Madison extends nomination date for CALS recognition awards


– From roller skates to Dr. Fauci cookies, Wisconsin restaurants adapt to business during pandemic


– DHS: 1,730 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin


– Wisconsin included in USDA’s next labor survey


– Janesville police shutting down ‘nonessential’ businesses under state COVID-19 rules


– Jason Industries cuts exec salaries 25% along with wage reduction and furloughs


– 2020 Democratic National Convention postponed until August

– Milwaukee leaders pleased with DNC delay and pledge to keep convention in town


– From roller skates to Dr. Fauci Cookies, Wisconsin restaurants are adapting to business during pandemic 

– La Crosse Distilling Co. seeks support with hand sanitizer project


– Golfers, operators want golf courses to be given essential status 


– Dohmen acquires Madison-based online marketplace for local food producers, buyers


– Northern Wisconsin State Fair remains on schedule

– Hospitality businesses begin preparations for new DNC dates


– Pam Jahnke: Milk dumping explanation for non farm consumers


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

Urban League: Announces COVID-19 Workforce Recovery Initiative

NFIB: Justice Kelly will provide predictable legal climate for small business