THU AM News: Ag Day at the Capitol gives farmers a chance to share their stories; DFI includes cryptocurrencies in list of top investor threats

— The head of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation says the group’s annual Ag Day at the Capitol event gives farmers a chance to share their stories with lawmakers. 

“Farmers are less than 2 percent of the population, but the population needs us three times a day with meals,” WFBF President Kevin Krentz said in an interview. “It is so important in the Capitol because that disconnect from agriculture is becoming more and more prevalent as we move forward and people get further generations away from agriculture.” 

Farmers from around the state gathered in Madison yesterday for a number of issue briefings before heading off to the state Capitol to “become lobbyists for the day,” he explained. 

He listed some of the top issues for farmers, including the importance of farmland preservation, protecting crop profitability from wildlife damage, the sandhill crane hunting season, nitrate reduction incentives, water bills and more.

“The farmer needs to have an active voice with legislators on the issues that impact them on their farms,” said Krentz, who operates a dairy farm in Waushara County. 

He noted about 60 percent of his farm’s spending goes to the community within a 15-mile radius. 

“Legislators are very, very interested in what farmers have to say, because they’re a huge impact on local communities within their areas,” he said. “Every year we always have such a positive response from legislators, not only meeting with their own constituents but meeting with farmers in their areas.” 

Nearly 200 farmers and agriculturalists attended this year’s event, a WFBF release shows. 

The group’s process for identifying policy targets starts with members proposing and voting on suggestions at county-level meetings, which make their way to the group’s leadership. Proposals are considered at the group’s annual meeting in December, establishing a framework for the coming year’s priorities. 

See more on the group’s top legislative issues: 

— The state Department of Financial Institutions has listed investments tied to cryptocurrencies and other digital assets as the top investor threat this year. 

In a release, the agency warns investors to proceed with caution when considering “popular and volatile” unregulated investments. 

“Stories of ‘crypto millionaires’ attracted some investors to try their hand at investing in cryptocurrencies or crypto-related investments this past year, and with them, many stories of those who bet big and lost big began appearing, and they will unfortunately continue to appear in 2022,” DFI Secretary-designee Cheryll Olson-Collins said. 

Other top threats for investors include fraudulent offerings related to promissory notes, solicitations through social media and other “internet investment offers,” as well as financial schemes related to self-directed individual retirement accounts.  

To avoid these potential pitfalls, DFI urges investors to identify information sources, watch out for fake testimonials designed to inspire confidence, and avoid offerings that seem “too good to be true.” 

The agency’s announcement draws from a national survey of state securities regulators by the North American Securities Administrators Association. 

See more on the topic from DFI: 

See a recent story on cryptocurrencies: 

— One of the state’s top health officials says Wisconsin “may have turned a corner” as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to fall. 

But top state health official Dr. Ryan Westergaard cautions that “this is still a dire situation, especially considering the toll it’s taking on our hospitals.” 

The seven-day average for new cases has fallen by more than 50 percent in less than a week, going from a recent peak of 18,875 cases per day on Jan. 19 to 9,012 cases per day at latest count. That’s according to the Department of Health Services dashboard. 

Meanwhile, the Wisconsin Hospital Association reports the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients has also been falling. The WHA site shows 1,831 patients are hospitalized with the virus, including 366 intensive care patients. Over the past seven days, those numbers have decreased by 332 and 93, respectively. 

While case numbers in Wisconsin and around the country are declining, Westergaard noted in an email the number of people in hospitals and ICUs are still “about as high” as they were in November 2020. He attributes the lower case numbers to “the knowledge and tools that we have now that we didn’t have at the start of the pandemic,” pointing to vaccinations and booster shots as particularly important. 

“While the numbers are encouraging, we all still need to be vigilant about getting the vaccine, a booster, or an additional dosage, getting tested, isolating/quarantining when necessary, staying home when we’re sick, plus wearing masks and frequent handwashing,” said Westergaard, the chief medical officer for the DHS Bureau of Communicable Diseases.

The DHS site shows 63.2 percent of state residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 59.1 percent have completed the vaccine series. More than 1.8 million additional or booster doses have been administered in the state, making up over 50 percent of the nearly 3.5 million fully vaccinated residents. 

See the latest case numbers here: 

See the WHA site here: 

— Dane County’s health department has again extended its mask mandate, which now runs through the end of February. 

Public Health Madison & Dane County notes that rates of COVID-19 infection and hospitalization are starting to decrease, though they “remain very high.” 

Still, PHMDC Director Janel Heinrich said in a release that “it does appear we have reached a plateau” in the surge of cases caused by the omicron variant. 

“This does not mean it is the time to let our guard down; we must continue to collectively take as many steps as possible to reduce risk of transmission, including masking,” she said. 

The health department says the county’s testing capacity has been increased by about one-third over the past three weeks through a free testing clinic at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison. 

And the county is distributing 100,000 free KN95 masks to nonprofits in the area, which will help get them to community members. 

See the latest emergency order here: 

— Sen. Mary Felzkowski, R-Irma, and Rep. Patrick Snyder, R-Schofield, have introduced a bill to allow patients to be treated with medical marijuana

LRB 0250/1 would allow health care providers to recommend medical marijuana for qualifying patients in the form of a liquid, oil, pill or topical application, and create a Medical Marijuana Regulatory Commission to regulate the program.

“It can be extremely debilitating to Wisconsin patients who are given no legal option to try a natural drug that their medical care team may otherwise recommend,” Felzkowski said.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, has expressed his openness to the use of medical marijuana. However, Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, has said he opposes legalizing medical marijuana without FDA approval first.

Felzkowski said that in conversations with colleagues, other lawmakers expressed concerns about “smoking and if minors would be around.”

“Will that stand, who knows? You know, that will all be fleshed out during the committee process,” Felzkowski said.

Sen. Melissa Agard, who has been a leading proponent of legalizing recreational marijuana, said in a statement that the bill did not go far enough because it does not allow for marijuana plants or inhalants.

“The bill introduced today only addresses a small fraction of those who will benefit from a legal medicinal market,” the Madison Democrat said.

Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-West Point, criticized the bill for potentially allowing a political commission to dictate access to medication.

“I believe that people should have access to safe, legal cannabis, under the direction of their trusted physician. I hope that we can move forward with a bill that does that, but Senator Felzkowski’s bill isn’t it,” he said.

— The Natural Resources Board has approved rules meant to limit the spread of PFAS and clarify standards set by a 2019 law that regulates the testing of firefighting foam that contains the forever chemicals.

The board unanimously adopted new rules to replace emergency rules it passed in 2020 regulating DNR’s monitoring of PFAS cleanup efforts. A 2019 law prohibits manufacturers of PFAS-containing firefighting foams from testing the foam without proper containment and treatment.

Permanent rules the board adopted are in line with those set by the Joint Committee on R​​eview of Administrative Rules that removed a provision from NRB’s emergency rules that would have required reporting to DNR’s spill emergency hotline all discharges of PFAS foam into the environment.

The new rules also omit the term “foam-contaminated materials” from all references to PFAS cleanup efforts.


# Steep decline in new Wisconsin COVID-19 cases predicted by Mayo Clinic computer modeling

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# Two Milwaukee companies are semifinalists for national ‘Startup of the Year’



– WFBF to hold IGNITE conference in March


– New CEO putting Associated Bank in growth mode


– Panel OKs bill to advance planning for $300M UW-Madison engineering building

– Husch Blackwell to host construction conference and small-business accelerator Thursday


– COVID-19 cases at Madison schools drop by nearly 50 percent

– UWM breaks ground for $118 million chemistry building


– What’s next for FPC’s Third Ward venue proposal


– Wisconsin counties impacted by Michigan disaster designation

– Board member suggests no population goal in new wolf plan


– Building blocks: ProHealth Care hospital in Mukwonago 

– Dane County extends mask mandate until March 1

– Abbott sold nearly $8 billion in Covid tests in 2021 but underscores diversification

– Covid-19 cases decline in Milwaukee but deaths are up

– Wastewater offers another way to track COVID-19 in Eau Claire


– Commission: MMSD engaged in ‘prohibited practice’ in wage talks


– Judge: DNR can continue PFAS sampling, but can’t enforce

– Judge rules DNR can test for PFAS, but it can’t take legal action without standards


– See Harley-Davidson’s juiced-up 2022 lineup with new models; big 120th anniversary event in works


– State farm groups support water quality bill

– Wisconsin DNR policy board picks new chairman

– GOP lawmakers try again to legalize medical marijuana

– Republican lawmakers spearhead another attempt at medical marijuana in Wisconsin


– West Allis apartment development marks third in region for nonprofit builder AbleLight

– Lake Geneva estate sold for $36 million


– Green Bay Public Market proposed for Old Fort Square by On Broadway Inc.


– This northeastern Wisconsin technology program has become a national job training model


– Milwaukee airport sees a 72% traffic increase from 2020 to 2021


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

Public Health Madison & Dane County: Face covering order extended amid continued surge in COVID cases & hospitalizations

UW Carbone Cancer Center: Encourages radon testing