MON AM News: Dairy expert predicts U.S. milk prices will rise in 2020; Wisconsin hemp industry ‘way behind’ other states

— UW-Madison’s director of dairy policy analysis predicts U.S. milk prices will continue to climb in 2020 as low production helps clear out domestic and international stocks of milk. 

Still, Mark Stephenson noted that a recession would throw these numbers off course, though he doesn’t expect an imminent downturn. 

“At this point in time, we’re at a level where a recession would seem to be perhaps on the horizon,” he said last week at a UW-Madison agriculture forum. “I don’t think this is going to happen in 2020, so I’m not so worried about this today.” 

Milk prices will hinge on production levels this spring, and Stephenson urged attendees to “watch the flush.” 

“If it’s a big flush this spring — and by that I mean 620 million pounds of milk per day during April, May and possibly June — that indicates we’ve got plenty of product and prices are going to grow more slowly,” he said. 

But if spring production is on the light side — 615 million pounds or less per day — then Stephenson expects stronger growth in milk prices. 

Since around 2017, milk production for the United States, European Union, parts of South America and elsewhere has been on a downward trend. Because of that, the United States hasn’t relied as much on international trade and has been able to reduce milk inventories, he said. 

He also addressed “one of the elephants in the room” — declining demand for dairy products, particularly fluid milk. Sales have been eroding steadily for nearly 10 years, driving large bankruptcies in the industry. 

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— Renk Agribusiness Institute Director Paul Mitchell says the state’s hemp industry is “way behind” other states, though he sees some advantages for Wisconsin producers. 

In a presentation during last week’s UW-Madison agriculture forum, Mitchell said at least 14 U.S. states have more experience than Wisconsin in hemp production and at least 10 states have more permitted acres for the crop. Plus, he said Canadian hemp producers are years ahead

“This is like being in Utah 20 years ago, whenever they started going into dairy,” he said. “They weren’t in the game, and now there are some large operations in places like that.” 

Similarly, Wisconsin isn’t a leading state for hemp production but Mitchell sees promise for hemp to “happen here at a certain level.” He noted farmers in the state have experience planting many different kinds of crops across both commercial and more small-scale farming. 

Based on a recent survey of hemp businesses in the state, Mitchell said most of these companies are self-financed and less than a third had secured a buyer for their crop. 

“That’s a major issue,” he said. “So many people who put in the ground without a buyer in mind; I feel bad for you if you don’t have a buyer and it’s August.” 

A website run by UW-Extension helps connect hemp producers with buyers, but Mitchell said the state still lacks established grower networks. Another top challenge for hemp growers in the state is seed availability, which Mitchell said has “always been an issue.” 

“Hemp is a very labor-intensive crop yet seed is the number one cost,” he said. 

Wet weather conditions have been a significant problem for hemp farmers this year, just like for the rest of agriculture. And with very low unemployment in the state, Mitchell said labor availability is another “major issue” for hemp farmers. 

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— U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Green Bay, is calling for a “targeted” travel ban to combat the coronavirus outbreak coming out of China.

U.S. health officials this week confirmed the first person-to-person transmission of the virus in the nation. Since the outbreak less than a month ago, the coronavirus has killed at least 300 people and infected more than 14,000 others worldwide. 

On Twitter last week, Gallagher said the Chinese Communist Party wasn’t being “fully transparent” about the origins or scale of the problem.

“If we don’t get more aggressive in confronting the Chinese Communist Party’s Chernobyl, we will be putting U.S. citizens at risk. Time for a targeted travel ban,” he wrote.

The U.S. State Department has elevated its China travel advisory to “do not travel” due to the outbreak and advised those now in the country to consider leaving.

See the thread: 

See the travel advisory: 

— Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce has named Kwik Trip Vice President Steve Loehr as the new chairman of its board of directors. 

According to a release, Loehr has been on the board since 2015 and will serve a two-year term as chairman. 

“I have been honored to serve on the Board and look forward to continuing to bring our state’s business leaders together to continue our work to make Wisconsin the most competitive state in the nation,” he said in a statement. 

See the release: 

— CUNA Mutual Group is being recognized as the newest gold member of the Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce. 

A release shows the Madison company has been a regular corporate member of the chamber since early 2018. The expanded membership comes with a seat on the chamber’s leadership council and other benefits. 

“We are thrilled about the impact that this increased investment will have in building and supporting the LGBT and allied business community around Wisconsin,” Jason Rae, president and CEO of the chamber. 

See the release: 

— A media streaming and storage company called Crossies has acquired the assets of Murfie, a Madison startup that shut down late last year. 

According to a letter sent to former Murfie customers, Crossies has committed to re-enabling Murfie’s functions for those who become customers. Founded in 2011, Murfie was a digital music service that also stored CDs and vinyl records for customers. 

The deal for Murfie’s assets was finalized on Jan. 23, though the financial terms were not disclosed. Murfie announced it would cease operations in November 2019. 

Crossies says it will transfer all of the physical media to its Arkansas warehouse and integrate Murfie’s systems with its technologies. Once that’s completed, the company will allow owners to sell or store their items, or have them returned. 

In a statement, Crossies founder John Fenley said the acquisition was unexpected, and the company’s service isn’t “currently capable of serving everyone right off the bat.” 

“We’ll be transferring your collections, and scaling up as quickly as possible, but it may take a little time for us to catch up,” Fenley said. 

See more at Madison Startups: 


# Milwaukee manufacturing index improves for first time since June

# Madison shares plan to transform ‘sea of asphalt’ left behind by closed Oscar Mayer plant

# Amid plan-review delays, state struggles to keep staff

# Kohler to pay $20M penalty for California engine emissions



– USDA still taking sign-ups for hemp pilot insurance coverage


– Eau Claire commits upwards of $7M toward major events facility partnership


– Evers declares state of emergency after flooding, storms


– Marquette receives $8 million gift to boost mental health provider pipeline

– Froedtert & MCW plans small-scale hospital in Pewaukee


– Sprecher Brewing Company sold to local investors


– Veolia Water Milwaukee union employees ratify new contract


– Abele backs African American Chamber’s new co-working space with $300,000 gift


– Wimmer Communities plans phase two of RiverWalk development in Menomonee Falls


– Evers appoints West to Natural Resources Board

– Gnaw on this: Bills would let officials shoot beavers to protect roads


– Johnson Outdoor: Fiscal 1Q Earnings Snapshot


– Wisconsin Badgers to play in college hockey tournament planned at Fiserv Forum, report says

– Wisconsin Special Olympian wins X Games gold


– Wisconsin Regulators approve $100M solar farm southeast of Madison


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

ManpowerGroup: Reports 4th quarter and full-year 2019 results

WMC: Kwik Trip’s Steve Loehr elected chairman of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce Board

Twin Disc, Inc.: Announces fiscal 2020 second-quarter financial results