MON AM News: Crop values for 2021 up 25 percent, report shows; State payments from $26B opioid agreement to start in April

— The value of Wisconsin’s field and miscellaneous crop production vaulted to $5.38 billion last year on higher commodity prices, a recent USDA report shows. 

That marks a 25 percent increase over 2020’s production value of $4.3 billion. Before 2020, that number hadn’t exceeded $4 billion since 2012. The increase was driven in part by higher average prices for grain corn and soybeans. 

The value of corn for grain production was $2.85 billion in 2021, rising 26 percent from the previous year. Soybean production was $1.43 billion, for a 33 percent increase over the year. 

And the average corn price was $5.20 per bushel, which is 76 cents above the prior year. And the average price for soybean increased to $12.60 per bushel for an increase of $2.20. 

Overall production value also increased for Wisconsin’s alfalfa hay, potatoes and winter wheat last year, while it decreased for barley and oats. 

The top five counties in the state for soybean production were: Dane, with 5.38 million bushels; Rock, 5.33 million; Dodge, 4.98 million; Grant, 4.72 million; and Lafayette, 4.14 million. 

Meanwhile, Lafayette County had the highest soybean yield — which equals production divided by area harvested — with an average of 63.5 bushels per acre. The next four highest were: Dane, 62.9; Dodge, 62.9; Grant, 62.9; and Iowa, 61.3. 

Dane County also had the highest total corn silage production with nearly 1.07 million tons, the USDA report shows. That was followed by: Fond du Lac, 1.05 million; Manitowoc, 970,000; Dodge, 748,000; and Brown, 731,000. 

The highest yield for corn silage was seen in Green Lake County, which had an average of 25 tons per acre harvested last year. The next highest were Pierce, with 24.5, and Jackson, with 24. Six counties had a yield of 23.5 tons per acre. 

See the crop report here: 

— Wisconsin is set to start receiving its share of the $26 billion national opioid agreement on April 2, the state Department of Justice release says. 

The state will be getting more than $400 million overall, with 87 of Wisconsin’s local government entities participating in the agreement. AG Josh Kaul announced final approval Friday.  

“The hundreds of millions of dollars coming to Wisconsin as a result of this agreement will significantly strengthen Wisconsin’s ability to fight the opioid crisis,” Kaul said in the release. “With these funds, communities across the state will be able to do more to prevent addiction and to support people with substance use disorder.”

The agreement involves Johnson & Johnson and three of the country’s largest pharmaceutical distributors: Cardinal Health, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen. Fifty-two states and territories and thousands of local governments have signed onto the agreement. 

The state DOJ says defendants will begin releasing funds in April, with funds going out to state and local governments in the second quarter of this year. Wisconsin will get its first payment from the distributors on April 2, and those payments will continue for 18 years. Meanwhile, the payments from Johnson & Johnson will start July 1 and will continue over nine years. 

Thirty percent of the state’s share will go to the Department of Health Services for opioid abatement efforts, while the rest will be divided among participating local governments. 

See the release: 

— Workers and others in most state facilities will no longer have to wear masks starting tomorrow under new guidance the Evers administration issued.

Employees at Corrections, Health Services and Veterans Affairs who work in care facilities will still have to wear masks until at least April 1, according to the guidance.

Meanwhile, the administration is also suspending its weekly COVID-19 testing requirement for state employees, effective March 13.

Gov. Tony Evers reinstituted a mask mandate for state buildings in August as COVID-19 cases began to rise.

As of Friday, the seven-day average for COVID-19 infections in the state had dropped to 779, marking the lowest it’s been since early August 2021. That’s after reaching a peak of over 18,000 cases per day last month. 

Along with falling case numbers, the number of COVID-19 patients in Wisconsin hospitals has also been declining after reaching a peak of 2,278 on Jan. 12. That number has now dropped to 561 patients, according to the Wisconsin Hospital Association dashboard. The number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care has fallen from 488 to 109 over the same period. 

And the percent positivity rate for testing has decreased from 29.5 percent in early January to 5.4 percent most recently. 

The mandate from August required executive branch employees, regardless of their vaccination status, to wear marks while indoors. Members of the public were also strongly encouraged to wear a face covering under that guidance, which was updated in January.

In October, the administration implemented a requirement that all executive branch employees, interns and contract staff had to take a weekly COVID-19 test unless they were fully vaccinated and provided the administration with their vaccine status.

See the new guidance here: 

— The author of an Assembly bill that would reduce the cost of breast cancer screening for women at higher risk of breast cancer says her bill is being held up by insurance companies looking to increase the maximum out-of-pocket cost over the bill’s $50.

Nurse Practitioner Rep. Rachel Cabral-Guevara, R-Appleton, told in an email insurance companies want a $150 maximum out-of-pocket cost for women whose health care providers decide are at an above-average risk for breast cancer. AB 416 would require health insurance policies to cover, either fully or with a maximum out-of-pocket cost of $50, essential breast screenings beyond mammography for those women.

America’s Health Insurance Plans’ Rebecca Hogan, a representative of the insurance trade, told the insurance group opposes the measure because capping costs for such a procedure could drive up coverage costs in other areas of care. She added AHI “has never suggested an alternative dollar amount for a copay cap.”

AHI also objects to language around risk assessment tools, and giving health care providers what it called wide discretion in determining the medical necessity of additional screenings, according to its written testimony from a Senate Health public hearing on the companion bill. 

Breast cancer awareness advocate Gail Zeamer told she wants to see the bill pass because she doesn’t want other women to have to forgo expensive screenings not covered by insurance.

Zeamer was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer recently, and she said she wants to help others with breast cancer address the issue before their cancer progresses to late stages. 

“The purpose of the bill is so that medical care for women with dense breast tissue is equal to other women who just need the mammogram,” Zeamer said. 

Cabral-Guevara said she’s honored to author the bill and praised Zeamer’s advocacy. 

“Her energy is fierce and unmatched! I will continue to battle for this to pass as Gail continues her battle with breast cancer,” she said. “However, due to tough negotiations with the insurance companies, the bill has been stalled.”

Zeamer was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in 2016 despite having annual mammograms. She later learned that she has dense breast tissue, which makes it much less likely that mammograms will detect cancer.

Had Zeamer’s cancer been detected earlier, she said she might have been diagnosed with earlier stage cancer, which has a higher survival rate and is usually less expensive to treat. 

“This is what I’m trying to avoid for thousands of other women in Wisconsin,” Zeamer said. “This [bill] is a money saver for insurance companies, but it’s also a lifesaver for women.”

The bill has 12 Republican and nine Democratic coauthors, including Cabral-Guevara. The Senate companion bill, SB 413, also has bipartisan support. 

Cabral-Guevara said she hopes the bill garners the same support next session.

— GOP Rep. Jesse James says he withdrew his support on a bill that would legalize and remove kratom from the list of illegal controlled substances because he needs to learn more about the drug before removing it from the list. 

The Altoona Police officer and former police chief told in a phone interview he originally supported the measure because he did not realize kratom is listed as a schedule 1 drug on the list of controlled substances. The chair of the Assembly Substance Abuse and Prevention Committee added he’s keeping an open mind but wants to learn more about kratom and potential uses before delisting it.

According to a Mayo Clinic article, kratom is an herbal ​​supplement sold as an energy booster, mood enhancer, pain reliever and antidote for opioid withdrawal. However, the article also noted that in a study on kratom’s use as a treatment for symptoms of opioid withdrawal, people who took kratom longer than six months reported withdrawal symptoms similar to opioid withdrawal.

Mayo Clinic also found that it is possible to overdose on kratom. 

“One thing I realized once is if we decriminalize or deregulate something, it is very difficult to add it back in statute,” James said.

The bill was originally scheduled for an Assembly floor vote Wednesday, but was not taken up during any of the three scheduled floor session days this week. The Assembly is not due back this year, and a new session starts in January.

AB 599 also would legalize the manufacture, distribution, delivery and possession of kratom with some limitations. The bill would also prohibit the sale of a kratom to anyone under the age of 21. The bill would also make those who violate the prohibition guilty of a Class C misdemeanor. A Class C misdemeanor is punishable by a fine not more than $500 or imprisonment not more than 30 days, or both.

Assembly Minority Leader Greta Neubauer said she and her colleagues offered amendments to give Republicans a chance to legalize medical marijuana if they chose to legalize kratom. 

See more on the bill here: 

— A telehealth company offering services for transgender individuals has announced an expansion into Wisconsin and three other states. 

The Colorado company, called Plume, now operates in 37 states after adding Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Connecticut and New Mexico to its service area. With the latest expansion, the company says it can reach 93 percent of the U.S. transgender population. 

The business was founded in 2019 with a goal of breaking down barriers that transgender patients face in seeking “gender-affirming care.” 

“Since starting Plume, our goal has always been to transform healthcare for every trans life and make it accessible for all, despite the obstacles others have built up before the community,” said Mathew Wetschler, co-founder and CEO of Plume. “This new expansion takes us one step further to achieving our goal of reaching 100 percent of the transgender population.”

The company’s monthly subscription program can include services such as personal consultations, home delivery of hormone medications and more. 

See the release:

— Milwaukee’s Water Council will be working with a coalition of auto manufacturers to develop an industry water stewardship program. 

The Suppliers Partnership for the Environment recently announced the collaboration, the first phase of which will be co-chaired by Ford Motor Company and Toyota Motor North America. Partners will create a “decision matrix and action plan” for water resource management to be used by automakers and their suppliers. 

Goals of the framework include identifying impacts on source waters and watersheds, exploring water-related risks, evaluating options for businesses, developing stewardship strategies, and communicating about these efforts with customers and stakeholders. 

“We intend to chart a credible and transparent path for individual companies to follow leading toward meaningful enterprise-wide water stewardship strategies, commitments and actions,” Matt Howard, vice president of water stewardship for the Water Council, said in a release. 

See more details on the effort: 

See the release: 


# Warming trends in Wisconsin are upending winter activities and ways of life

# Report: Expansion of high-skilled immigration could address Wisconsin’s tech labor shortage

# Q&A: Cheese expert Marianne Smukowski judges the funky stuff



– Cain, Prill-Adams appointed to National Pork Delegate Body

– State crop values rose by 25 percent in 2021


– Assembly approves funding for new youth prison

– HSA Commercial plans spec building near I-94 in Franklin, adding to region’s industrial surge


– Majority of UW System colleges have announced the end to face mask requirements

– HGTV star and Marquette alumnus Marcus Lemonis launches $5 million giving challenge for university

– Milwaukee Excellence Charter School to open freestanding high school in former MPS building


– Mercies Coffee warms hearts on Madison’s east side


– Ansay & Associates acquires another Appleton-based firm


– ‘Good jobs are worth fighting for’: Union workers rally support for bringing 1K jobs to Wisconsin

– At protest, UW Health nurses demand leadership recognize union

– Wisconsin union members rally over USPS vehicle contract

– Oshkosh Defense union workers, leaders press on with fight to build USPS delivery vehicle in Oshkosh


– Former Harley-Davidson executive Michelle Kumbier joins Briggs & Stratton


– Pandemic prompts Morning Glory Art Fair organizers to secure 501(c)(3) status

– New Milwaukee-based nonprofit focused on supporting independent artists


– Rep. Tiffany unveils FARM ACT bill to protect farmland

– After address, Biden to travel to Wisconsin to talk infrastructure

– Bill calls for giving bidding preference to all veteran-owned contractors


– Safe Haven: Apartment investors like city of Milwaukee’s stability, healthy market

– Biocut Systems, Breakthrough Strategies to move to multi-tenant building planned in Muskego

– HSA Commercial plans to build $20 million spec industrial building in Franklin

– Williams Bay mansion seized by federal government following tax fraud case, to be sold at auction


– Unlike COVID-19, traffic deaths show no sign of slowing down


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