Investing In Fruits And Vegetables

As the U.S. tries to tackle its obesity epidemic, there’s been plenty of debate about how to get people to eat better. Do we need to improve access to healthy foods? Teach cooking? Tax sugary drinks? But there’s one really unsexy issue that’s hardly ever discussed: Specialty crop research!

In Politico fruits-and-vegtables Report, a special report focused on obesity that published today, dives into the world of fruit and vegetable research and related technology, from farm to salad bowl, past and present. It might seem strange to think about vegetables as technology, but they are. Spinach is a prime example: Breathable packaging designed in the 1980s has driven a big jump in consumption of the dark leafy green.

The average supermarket produce aisle represents decades, if not centuries, of agricultural R and D. In the U.S., big-league commodity crops like corn and soy, as well as meat, have historically gobbled up most of the agricultural research investment from both the public and private sectors — but that’s starting to change as the government invests much more in specialty crops.

The piece also debunks the oft-repeated theory that farm subsidies are what makes junk food cheaper than vegetables, calorie for calorie. Here’s a stat for you: Today, we get about six times as much corn out of one acre of land as we did in the 1920s. Iceberg lettuce yields, on the other hand, have only doubled in that time. The USDA didn’t start tracking such data for most of the darker leafy greens until the 1990s.

WI Hi-Cap Well Bill To Modify Regulation Introduced

WI Assembly Republicans have introduced an identical companion bill to a Senate measure that would modify high-capacity well regulation (SB 76/AB 105).

Last month Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald introduced a bill exempting well repairs and ownership transfers from Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ additional review and calling for groundwater studies in the central sands region of WI.
The Senate passed an identical bill last session but it died in the Assembly. The Assembly passed a similar bill but included language that would have required the loser of well nuisance actions to pay attorney fees. The Assembly bill then died in the Senate due to Republican opposition in that chamber to the attorney fee provision.

Removal of this provision in the current Assembly version of the bill eliminates the stumbling block that prevented passage of the proposal last year.

MWFPA supports this legislation as a means to provide certainty for farmers who need to repair, replace, reconstruct or transfer ownership of a high capacity well.

IL “Grand Bargain” Budget Deal Hits Snag

The IL Senate adjourned this week after lawmakers failed to take a vote on key components of the “grand bargain.” budget package. Several non-controversial components of the package including procurement reform and local government consolidation passed the Senate with limited Republican support. When the Senate President sought to vote on contentious issues such as tax reform, pension reform, and workers’ compensation, Republicans balked because final agreements had not been reached on these key issues. Senate Dems sought to lay blame at the hands of Governor Bruce Rauner.

MN Budget Surplus Rises To $1.65 billion

An economic forecast prepared by the Department of Minnesota Management and Budget reports the state has a $1.65 billion surplus to work with as lawmakers prepare a new two-year budget to go into effect in July.

The forecast represents an uptick in anticipated revenues between now and mid-2019. The last report, produced in December, pegged the projected surplus at $1.4 billion. MN Gov. Mark Dayton had to prepare his budget proposal using the December figure, meaning he’ll now have to come forward with changes to match the latest figures.

A face-off has been shaping up over new spending that Dayton wants in his nearly $46 billion budget for preschool, health care and technology upgrades and the reduced spending and tax cuts Republicans anticipate pursuing during the budget debate.

Lawmakers need to agree on a two year budget before the legislative session ends in May.

MWFPA Scholarship Applications Due March 3

For those wishing to apply for an MWFPA Scholarship, the March 3 deadline is almost here. Scholarships are awarded to deserving children of parents or guardians who are employees of MWFPA member companies and are a high school senior or post-secondary student accepted into, or attending any post-secondary school, in the United States. A post-secondary school means an institution of higher education including a vocational and technical college, two-and four-year colleges and private trade schools. Winning applicants may attend these schools with any major of study.

Applications will be reviewed by the MWFPA Human Resources Committee and the winners will be announced in April of 2017.