WED AM News: Early soybean planting this spring could mean record yields come fall; Health tech companies build better COVID testing infrastructure

— Wisconsin’s soybeans are about three weeks ahead of the game compared to last year’s crop due to early planting — setting the stage for a possible record yield.

UW-Madison Prof. Paul Mitchell said the normal, average weather that’s good for crops this year seems exceptional after a couple years of wet weather that delayed farmers from planting soybeans. This year, farmers got their soybeans planted early. 

Soybeans are only about one week ahead of the five-year average, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. But regardless of timing, good crop weather does result in a great yield. 

“We should be expecting trend yields or maybe a little better particularly for soybean just because of the early planting and the weather has been pretty good,” Mitchell said. “We could possibly have a record soybean yield. We could have some pretty serious soybean production here in the state.” 

The DeLong Company, a leading exporter in soybeans, is expecting a big soybean crop if ideal growing conditions continue, said DeLong spokesman Doug Kloepping. 

August is critical to the development and “finishing” of the soybean crop, he said. “Current conditions and moisture levels here in the stateline area should have area producers smiling at the potential of their 2020 crops.”

Read the full story at 

— Three Wisconsin health technology companies joined forces to build a better infrastructure for COVID-19 testing within the state. 

Epic, Exact Sciences and Promega discussed their efforts yesterday during a Wisconsin Technology Council briefing in responding to the COVID-19 crisis.

Sara Mann, general manager of the North American branch of Promega, said the companies started off by talking daily about ways to expand testing capacity around the state, looking at factors such as testing space and testing collection supplies. 

“A lot of knowledge sharing happened within the scientific community and within our different companies,” she said. “We really came together to problem solve.”

Jake Orville, a general manager at Exact Sciences, said their companies together have donated countless project management hours, and learned to trust one another to come together and get work done quicker. 

Epic Systems worked with Exact to implement an interface called COVID-connect, which has expanded testing efforts around the state. The interface was developed with Wisconsin’s emergency operations center and Microsoft. 

Read the full story at 

— Charter Communications, Inc. completed its construction project to bring its advanced fiber-optic network to more than 860 residential and business sites in the villages of Orfordville and Footville.

Charter is continually extending its high-speed network to additional residential and business locations, as part of a commitment to expand access to broadband to unserved and underserved communities. Broadband expansion in the two rural southern Wisconsin communities follow a similar effort completed earlier this year to bring services to the Village of Monticello.

While Rock County was not directly involved in Charter’s efforts, Administrator Josh Smith told that it’s great news for the county. 

“The rural areas in our county have been seeking expansion of broadband for some time as they look to increase their access to digital services,” he said.

Charter’s expansion to the villages of Orfordville, Footville and Monticello builds upon the connection to 31,000 additional homes and businesses across Wisconsin in 2019. Charter serves customers in more than 475 communities and employs over 3,800 Wisconsinites.

Pete Hall, Charter’s regional vice president touted the company’s “long-standing history” of efforts to expand broadband and bring Spectrum services to rural locations such as Orfordville and Footville. 

Sen. Janis Ringhand, D-Evansville commended Charter’s commitment to bringing high-speed broadband service to Orfordville and Footville residents. 

“As we’ve experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic, access to a reliable and fast internet connection is more critical than ever,” she said. 

Rep. Mark Spreitzer, D-Beloit also chimed in his praises as a proponent of increased internet access for rural areas. 

He told he’s pleased with Charter’s broadband expansion in the two villages since he’s held listening sessions with his constituents to discuss broadband access in communities including Orfordville. 

“The current COVID-19 pandemic has further underscored the importance of broadband access — it is not lost on me that many folks in the district are unable to telecommute or teleschool easily due to challenges with connectivity,” he said. “I am grateful that this project will expand access to broadband in the district.”

— A number of Wisconsin residents notified the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection that they have received unsolicited packages in the mail containing seeds, appearing to have originated from China. 

DATCP said in a release that the types of seeds in the packages are currently unknown and may contain invasive plant species. Similar packages have been received in other locations nationwide. 

A department spokesperson told it is still collecting information and doesn’t have exact reporting numbers or photos to share. DATCP is working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to get more information. 

If an individual receives unsolicited packages in the mail containing seeds, they are not to plant or throw away the seeds. If the person has already planted the seeds, they are to leave it until they receive further guidance. If the seeds are in sealed packaging, DATCP says to not open the package. The packaging may be useful for the department as it investigates the issue. 

Finally, report the seeds to DATCP using its online form below.

USDA APHIS, which is leading the investigation, released yesterday that there is no evidence indicating this is something other than a “brushing scam” — people receive unsolicited items from a seller who then posts false customer reviews to boost sales. USDA is testing package contents to determine if it contains anything that could be of concern to the nation’s agriculture industry or the environment. 

Report unsolicited packages containing seeds here: 

— Case levels in Wisconsin exceed the threshold of New York, Washington D.C. and Chicago, throwing the Badger State on three travel quarantine lists.

Chicago’s emergency travel order directs travelers entering or returning to Chicago from Wisconsin to quarantine for a 14-day period from the time of last contact with the state, effective July 31.

Additionally, Washington D.C.’s health department released Monday its first list of high-risk states where the seven-day average of daily new COVID-19 cases is 10 or more per 100,000 people. Wisconsin was one of 27 states that are high-risk. The district also requires travelers to self-quarantine for 14-days upon arrival.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has Wisconsin on his quarantine list as well due to Wisconsin’s community spread and high positive test rate. Travelers coming to New York from Wisconsin also have to quarantine for 14 days.

The orders note that if the individual experiences symptoms of COVID-19 in that two-week period, to seek medical help and testing.

Chicago’s order, to start Friday at 12 a.m., applies to individuals arriving in Chicago, while they are in the city.

People traveling through Wisconsin on their way to Chicago from a state not on the list do not need to quarantine if they were in Wisconsin for less than 24 hours. Individuals who travel to Wisconsin, even if for less than 24 hours, still need to quarantine upon returning unless deemed an “essential worker.”

Essential workers — a person who works in critical infrastructure, such as state, local and federal officials and employees on government business — do not have to self-quarantine, unless traveling for non-work purposes.

However, essential workers must limit activities to work-related activities only, self-monitor, and avoid contact with strangers, gatherings and extended periods in public. Exceptions to the order for personal travel include medical care and parental shared custody. 

See Chicago’s order: 

— The Wisconsin Department of Health Services reported 762 new cases and a seven-day average of 863 cases per day.

The percentage of positive tests per total tests remains just above the desired 5 percent — 5.3 percent from 8.5 percent yesterday, according to DHS figures.

The new cases bring the cumulative case count to 50,179 and active cases to 9,742 or 19.4 percent of the state’s total confirmed cases. Active cases are defined as those still in a 30-day waiting period of symptom onset or diagnosis.

Newly diagnosed cases and deaths disproportionately impact communities of color, said Medical College of Wisconsin President Dr. John Raymond, noting new cases in Latino and Hispanic populations continue to rise along with deaths and hospitalizations. 

The Latino and Hispanic population account for 6 percent of the state’s population, 25 percent of the state’s confirmed cases and 12 percent of the state’s deaths.

“We need to focus our efforts on the Near South Side of Milwaukee and redouble those efforts, because that is the population that is at risk,” Raymond told a Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce briefing yesterday.

In Wisconsin one person infected with COVID-19 on average infects 1.06 people throughout the course of the disease. The reproductive number needs to be under one to reflect a decelerating pandemic, he said. It’s been over one for 39 consecutive days. 

The number of recovered patients number 39,513 or 78.8 percent, while 1.8 percent of patients have died. Patients have a 9 percent chance of being hospitalized. 

The hospitalization rate has been decreasing due to more tests being available to catch early onset of symptoms and more knowledge on how to treat people with COVID-19, Raymond said.

The state received 14,424 total tests yesterday, double that of Monday, but still well under Wisconsin’s capacity for 24,156 tests per day. 

Raymond said there is concern about the supply chain of nasal testing swabs, reagents and personal protective equipment. 

“That’s in part being driven by the surges that we’re seeing across the Sunbelt… many of those have been reemployed to the Sunbelt,” he said. “Our supply chain remains fragile and continues to be vulnerable.”

Click here for more coronavirus resources and updates: 

— While DHS reports 13 more COVID-19 deaths and a total of 906, MCW President Dr. John Raymond warned that deaths lag behind an increase in cases by five to six weeks. 

“It’s the most important, but most lagging indicator,” he said. Right now, the death rate remains flat at 1.8 percent after a steady decrease, but it’s worth watching.

Waukesha County reported five new deaths, Washington County had two, and Dane, Fond du Lac, Kenosha, Kewaunee, Milwaukee and Racine counties each reported one new death.

Counties reporting deaths include: Milwaukee (428), Racine (73), Brown (50), Kenosha (51), Waukesha (48), Dane (35), Rock (25), Walworth (21), Washington (21), Ozaukee (16), Winnebago (16), Grant (14), Waupaca (14), Outagamie (12), Clark (7), Fond du Lac (7), Dodge (5), Sheboygan (5), Forest (4), Jefferson (4), Marathon (4) and Richland (4).

Barron, Door, Eau Claire, Marinette and Sauk counties report three deaths each. Adams, Buffalo, Calumet, Kewaunee, Polk and St. Croix counties report two deaths each.

Bayfield, Burnett, Columbia, Green, Iron, Jackson, Juneau, LaCrosse, Langlade, Manitowoc, Marquette, Monroe, Rusk, Trempealeau and Wood counties report one death each.


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– As Presidential Candidates Make Their Pitch To America’s Dairyland, Farmers Divided On Whether Trump Has Helped Ag 

– Broker: soybean price is not the only reason to empty some grain bins 

– Wisconsin’s first 2020 case of Eastern equine encephalitis confirmed 

– Wisconsin elects new Potatoes USA board member 

– State Fair Park to Hold Week 2 of Fair Food Drive-Thrus 


– Associated Bank: Customers resuming payments after loan deferrals 


– Greater Milwaukee Foundation to direct $30 million for equitable economic recovery in the community 


– Wausau Schools Will Start With Virtual Classes As Districts Around State Face Hard Choices 


– Aurora St. Luke’s again ranked best hospital in Milwaukee area 

– How Psilocybin And Other Psychedelic Drugs Could Treat Some Mental Illnesses 


– WEDC to invest $500,000 in Wisconsin-based startups through pilot program 


– Rising COVID-19 infection rates, business conditions stop Rockwell from reversing pay cuts 

– Harley pushing brand’s desirability after chasing ‘the downward trend in sales’ 

– Jelly Belly closing its Pleasant Prairie store and tour 

– Rockwell continues to drive growth during pandemic 


– Milwaukee’s phase 4.1 order to include mask mandate, options for schools 

– ‘It Is Insanity’: Petition Calls For Tighter COVID-19 Rules On Dane County Businesses, Gatherings 


– Woodman’s Markets adding robots to monitor inventory on its store shelves 


– Modern Hire acquires Ireland-based tech company 

– Modern Hire expands global footprint with acquisition of Ireland-based firm 

– Packers, Microsoft building steady economic pipeline from Green Bay with TitletownTech 


– WEC Energy Group invests $235M in South Dakota wind farm 

– Report Outlines Recommendations To Speed Up Wisconsin’s Clean Energy Transition 


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

– Rural Mutual Insurance: Receives A+ credit rating for third year 

– Security Health Plan: Helps ease COVID-19 cost burden for employers, consumers 

– WPS: New coverage provisions for health insurance and Arise Health Plan 

– Hy-Vee: Offering drive-up flu vaccines beginning Aug. 17