WED AM News: Edge co-op applauding passage of Ocean Shipping Reform Act; Officials announce $400,000 Transportation Economic Assistance grant

— Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative is applauding federal lawmakers for passing legislation aimed at addressing supply chain problems by targeting bottlenecks at U.S. ports. 

The Ocean Shipping Reform Act was recently approved by members of Congress and now heads to President Biden’s desk. The Green Bay-based co-op says the bill is meant to address “exorbitant fees” levied by ocean carriers and “cracks down” on companies that refuse to ship agricultural products. 

“Providing more safeguards against unreasonable and unfair practices by shipping companies will help ensure our products get to market in a timely and affordable way,” Brody Stapel, the co-op’s president, said in a statement. “Clearing out shipping backlogs is important to untwisting the supply chain and reducing costs for farmers, exporters and our customers.”  

Biden says the bill will help lower costs for U.S. farmers, retailers and consumers. 

“During the pandemic, ocean carriers increased their prices by as much as 1,000%. And, too often, these ocean carriers are refusing to take American exports back to Asia, leaving with empty containers instead,” he said in a statement. “That’s costing farmers and ranchers — and our economy — a lot of money.” 

According to a release from U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, the bill unanimously passed the U.S. Senate in April. The Madison Dem says it will ease shipping backlogs, add transparency to ocean carrier operators and help manufacturers and farmers in the state “get their products to market for a fair price.” 

It’s backed by the Wisconsin Farm Bureau, the Wisconsin Agri-Business Association and dozens of other business groups and port authority associations around the country, Baldwin’s release shows. 

If signed into law as expected, the bill will require ocean carriers to certify that late fees comply with federal regulations; require ocean carriers to prove the reasonableness of such charges rather than the invoiced party; prohibit ocean carriers from “unreasonably declining” shipping opportunities for U.S. exports as determined by federal officials; require ocean carriers to make quarterly reports on total imports and exports and other details; among other changes. 

See Edge’s statement: 

See more details: 

— State officials have announced a $400,000 grant for a new rail spur in Pleasant Prairie, supporting an expansion at Balcan Innovations. 

A release from the state Department of Transportation shows the producer of flexible packaging and lamination films acquired a manufacturing plant in 2021 that had shut down earlier last year. Balcan Innovations plans to add new manufacturing equipment and make other improvements, the release shows, as well as adding 80 new jobs at the facility. 

The Transportation Economic Assistance grant will help fund an addition to the Union Pacific Railroad mainline and about 1,760 feet of new track, the release shows. This installation will be used by Balcan to receive rail shipments of plastic resin for its manufacturing operations. 

Construction on the new railway addition is expected to begin this summer. 

“The TEA grant and our rail spur connectivity allows Balcan to supply its facility in the most economic and environmentally friendly manner,” Balcan CEO Dano Lister said. “It is the next crucial step in our development of our US flagship manufacturing location.” 

See the release: 

— Employees at another Starbucks store in Wisconsin are petitioning for a union election and calling for higher wages. 

According to a release from labor organizers, workers at a Starbucks in Milwaukee have submitted a petition to the National Labor Relations Board and are seeking union recognition from company leaders and local management. The release says an “overwhelming majority” of workers at the store signed union authorization cards. 

Cafe workers recently signed and emailed a letter to company CEO Kevin Johnson, arguing that workers are struggling to get by and the company “has the means to give us what we deserve.” 

“The standard business model for multi-billion dollar corporations has allowed for CEO’s to make over 300 times that of the average worker,” they wrote. “And though Starbucks offers a wage over the average amount for the American worker, this amount is not enough. The minimum wage, if adjusted for productivity, should be over $20 per hour.” 

The NLRB has received more than a half-dozen union applications this year from Starbucks locations in the state, according to its website. 

See the release: 

See a recent story on union trends in Wisconsin: 

— One of the state’s top coronavirus experts says the forthcoming Novavax COVID-19 vaccine may be preferable for those reluctant to be vaccinated. 

That’s because this late entrant to the U.S. COVID-19 vaccine market was made with older, more established methods for creating vaccines, according to Medical College of Wisconsin President and CEO Dr. John Raymond. 

Speaking during a webinar hosted by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, Raymond said he’s “very confident” Novavax’s product will be approved by officials this month or the next. 

“This will be the first what we would call classical option to be offered here in the U.S.,” he said yesterday. “This might be preferred by some people that have been hesitant, or reluctant, or can’t tolerate either the vector vaccine from J&J or the mRNA Pfizer and Moderna options. So I think this is promising news.” 

Raymond explained the first generation of vaccines either killed or directly weakened the target virus, while the second generation uses protein components from the virus itself to function. He said Novavax, following the second-generation formula, uses a manufacturing technique to artificially synthesize a piece of the virus and mixes it with another component that “separately stimulates the immune system” to provoke a stronger response. 

“This is very old and well-established technology. It’s used for the shingles vaccine, some of the cervical cancer vaccines, targeted papillomavirus and various [diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus] vaccines … so there shouldn’t be a lot of resistance based on this being a new technology,” he said. 

— Based on the latest data from the state Department of Health Services, little recent progress has been made on vaccinating Wisconsin residents against COVID-19. 

The DHS site shows 64.5 percent of state residents have received at least one vaccine dose, and 61.3 percent have completed the vaccine series. Meanwhile, 34.7 percent of residents have gotten an additional or booster dose. 

By comparison, 70.5 percent of Minnesota’s population has gotten at least one vaccine dose, and 66.8 percent have completed the vaccine series. Those numbers are 68.2 percent and 62.3 percent for Iowa, respectively; 70 percent and 65 percent for Illinois; 62.3 percent and 58.1 percent for Indiana; and 66.3 percent and 60.8 percent for Michigan. 

Meanwhile, the CDC’s COVID-19 dashboard shows 78 percent of the U.S. population has gotten at least one dose, and 66.8 percent is fully vaccinated. 

See the latest vaccination figures here: 

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– State maple syrup output, yields rose from 2021

– Diligent work helps farmers pull ahead of average for planting


– Symbiont joins Mead & Hunt


– Regents approve new business major at UW-EC


– Summerfest renews sponsorship ties with Potawatomi Hotel & Casino


– Hayat Pharmacy hosts giveaway of baby formula, other supplies


– Streetwise: Mangiare Italian Restaurant closes temporarily due to worker shortage


– West Allis Starbucks in the fifth in Wisconsin seeking to unionize


– TEA grant to help build rail spur for Balcan Innovations


– A Milwaukee developer has dropped out of a plan to convert north side offices into a hub of services targeting the city’s Black residents.

– Housing development for veterans to have grand opening Wednesday


– Wauwatosa’s Rose’s Flower Shop will close at the end of June. Ultimate Confections plans to move into the vacant space.


– New owners of Thibby’s ice cream truck happy to keep delivering smiles


– Badgers plan basketball doubleheader at Brewers’ stadium


– prepares for electric vehicle fleet at Racine County distribution center


– Milwaukee County Zoo strives to return to pre-pandemic times as Zoo a la Carte nears


– 2 semis collide on Wisconsin highway; fatalities reported


– More than 20,000 We Energies customers without power Tuesday following severe weather

– Xcel Energy offers tips to stay comfortable and help keep bills low


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

Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation: Members advocate for agriculture in Washington, D.C.

USDA: Makes available $200 million to strengthen U.S. food supply chain