On this blog, we post recent sustainability news to help people learn about initiatives and events related to sustainability in Central Wisconsin.

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Environmental Group Seeks Greater Protection for USDA Scientists

From Reuters, March 27, 2015

An environmental activist group has filed a legal petition with the U.S. Department of Agriculture seeking new rules that would enhance job protection for government scientists whose research questions the safety of farm chemicals.

The action filed on Thursday by the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, an advocacy group for local, state and federal researchers, came less than a week after a World Health Organization group found the active ingredient in Roundup, the world’s best selling weed killer, is “probably carcinogenic to humans.” Roundup is made by Monsanto Co.

The petition to the USDA presses the agency to adopt policies to prevent “political suppression or alteration of studies and to lay out clear procedures for investigating allegations of scientific misconduct.”

Read the full article here.

Dietary Guidelines Committee Says Eat Fish–Including Farmed

From Forbes, March 30, 2015

While the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) recently made headlines for factoring in a food’s sustainability as they debated what should be included in a healthy diet, one section of the DGAC’s Scientific Report (a precursor to the final guidelines) reaped little press: what the committee recommends when it comes to a healthy diet and farmed fish.

“A moderate amount of seafood is an important component….and has demonstrated health benefits. The seafood industry is in the midst of rapid expansion to meet worldwide demand. The collapse of some fisheries due to overfishing in the past decades has raised concern about the ability to produce a safe and affordable supply. In addition, concern has been raised about the safety and nutrient content of farm-raised versus wild-caught seafood. To supply enough seafood to support meeting dietary recommendations, both farm-raised and wild caught seafood will be needed.”

The report is a clear nod to farmed fish, a food with which Americans have had a complicated relationship, yet one they need to reconcile if they want to keep fish on the menu.

Read the full article here.

Press Release: Local Food is Featured Flavor at Festival

From Golden Sands Resource Conservation and Development Council Inc., March 30, 2015

What do prairie chickens and locally-grown food have in common? The support of grass-based agriculture, which provides both habitat for grassland birds and high quality meat and dairy products. This compatibility is the highlight of the Boomin’ Brewery Bash, April 11th, at Central Waters Brewery in Amherst, BoominbrewWI.

Hosted by Golden Sands Resource Conservation & Development Council, Inc. in partnership with Central Waters Brewery, the Bash is part of 10th annual Prairie Chicken Festival, a month-long Celebration of Grasslands in April.

The highlight event is the Boomin’ Brewery Bash that brings together beer, food, music, and fun, all infused with insights about how grass-based agriculture may hold the key to saving endangered and threatened wildlife that thrive on such wide-open, grassy landscapes.

Read the full Press Release here. Several local CSA’s and farms will be selling local products as well.

Central Wisconsin Green Map Launches

By CLUE, March 30, 2015

GreenMap2A dedicated group of volunteers has been working on the Central Wisconsin Green Map for a few years. The Green Map includes local sites related to sustainability including green spaces/parks, cultural sites, and businesses that support sustainability in the Stevens Point and Wisconsin Rapids area. The map can be used by people visiting the area, as well as local residents.

The project is now launching a campaign to inform people about the effort. Watch a video by Incourage Community Foundation at this link. Check out the map at this link.



Common Pesticides Linked to Antibiotic Resistance

From The Guardian, March 24, 2015

Antibiotics and herbicides, as it turns out, don’t mix. At least that’s the conclusion of a study published today in mBio, the peer-reviewed journal of the American Society for Microbiology, which found that if someone is exposed to both herbicides and antibiotics at the same time, higher doses of antibiotics will likely be needed to kill the offending bacteria.

It’s the first study of the effect of herbicides on antibiotics, and its findings could have implications for antibiotics resistance. The growing risk of disease from antibiotic-resistant pathogens is a huge public health concern, one that was recently prioritized by both the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control.

According to Jack Heinemann, the study’s lead author, policy makers and researchers should look at multiple factors, not just over-use of antibiotics, in fighting antibiotics resistance. In addition, as more genetically modified crops are planted, use of herbicides is expected to increase.

“The countries that are growing GM crops at scale may wish to include these unanticipated effects on microbes in their evaluations,” Heinemann said.

Read full article here.

Widely Used Herbicide Linked to Cancer

From Nature, March 24, 2015

The cancer-research arm of the World Health Organization last week announced that glyphosate, the world’s most widely used herbicide, is probably carcinogenic to humans. But the assessment, by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in Lyon, France, has been followed by an immediate backlash from industry groups.

On 23 March, Robb Fraley, chief technology officer at the agrochemical company Monsanto in St Louis, Missouri, which sells much of the world’s glyphosate, accused the IARC of “cherry picking” data. “We are outraged with this assessment,” he said in a statement. Nature explains the controversy.

Read full article here.

Make a Living as a Young Farmer

From City Pages, March 19-26, 2015 Issue

The land that Whitefeather Organics now occupies didn’t have a single building on it when Tony Miller and his wife, Laura, started their farm in 2006. The young couple lived in a white canvas tee-pee pitched on the land about 5 miles east of Stevens Point, working at various half-time jobs while spending the rest of their hours prepping soil, planting and harvesting vegetables.

It’s now a success by farming standards. Neither Miller nor his wife need to work those outside jobs anymore. The couple recently bought a new greenhouse where they start plants destined for their tree-lined fields. They’ve added several buildings, including a house so they can finally call the farm home without essentially camping on the land.

The Miller’s story is starting to become a more common one. While the number of conventional farms continues to decrease in the state, Wisconsin is seeing more and more new organic farms. These operations tend to find new ways to engage their customers and bring in business. There seems to be no end in sight to the increase of organic or naturally-raised food sales; the demand is there and new farmers every year are jumping in to meet that demand. …

Wisconsin has about 12,000 dairy farms, but each year about 500 close down for various reasons, a big on being that the younger generation just isn’t taking over these businesses.

One Wisconsin program is hoping to grow the numbers of young dairy farmers, organic or otherwise. The Wisconsin Dairy Grazing apprenticeship, established in 2010, trains new recruits up to a master’s degree through a combination of university classroom work and real experience on as many as 28 dairy farms throughout the state. The program has 12 apprentices now, with 60 awaiting placement, according to the program’s website. Four people have completed the program and are full-journey dairy grazers.

Read the full article in the March 19-26, 2015 issue. Learn more on the website.

UWSP Recognized for Sustainable Practices

From the Stevens Point Journal, March 20, 2015

Often cited nationally for sustainable practices, the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point was recently listed by two organizations recently for green initiatives.

Mother Nature Network called UWSP one of 17 “Amazing Green Colleges” in the United States. It was the only Wisconsin college on the list.

UWSP was also ranked 15th in the 30 Best Value Green Colleges. Best Value Schools examined 300 colleges and universities at the forefront in environmentally sustainable practices.

Read full article here.

States Spar Over Clean Power Plan In Senate Hearing

From Law 360, March 11, 2015

The regional divide over the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan was on display on Capitol Hill Wednesday, with officials from states reliant on coal-fired power claiming the proposed rules will drive up electricity prices and hurt reliability while ones from clean energy-friendly states asserted the rules are workable.

Read full article here.

US and Chinese Companies Dominate List of Most-Polluting Coal Plants

From The Guardian, March 13, 2015

The 100 global power companies most at risk from growing pressure to shut highly polluting coal plants have been revealed in a new report from Oxford University.

Chinese companies dominate the top of the ranking but US companies, including Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, occupy 10 of the top 25 places.

The analysis, produced to help investors assess the risk of major financial losses, also found French energy giant GDF Suez was third in the list of most polluting coal station fleets in the world.

Coal currently provides 40% of the world’s electricity and three-quarters of this is produced by the most-polluting, least-efficient and oldest “sub-critical” coal-fired power stations. The International Energy Agency calculates that one in four of these sub-critical plants must close within five years, if the world’s governments are to keep their pledge to limit global warming to 2C.

The new analysis ranked the companies by how much electricity they produced from sub-critical plants. The major German utilities RWE and E.ON both appeared in the top 25, along with South Africa’s Eskom and Australia’s AGL Energy.

Read full article here.

DNR: Spring Snowmelt Can Contaminate Wells

From Wisconsin Ag Connection, March 11, 2015

As spring approaches, the warming temperatures, snow melt, residual frozen ground and rain all create conditions that can affect wells and drinking water. The state’s natural resources department says flood waters and runoff contain bacteria and other contaminants that can affect water supplies and cause water-borne illness.

Read full article here.

The Chickadee’s Guide to Gardening

From The Opinion Pages of The New York Times, March 11, 2015

Plants are as close to biological miracles as a scientist could dare admit. After all, they allow us, and nearly every other species, to eat sunlight, by creating the nourishment that drives food webs on this planet. As if that weren’t enough, plants also produce oxygen, build topsoil and hold it in place, prevent floods, sequester carbon dioxide, buffer extreme weather and clean our water. Considering all this, you might think we gardeners would value plants for what they do. Instead, we value them for what they look like.

When we design our home landscapes, too many of us choose beautiful plants from all over the world, without considering their ability to support life within our local ecosystems.

Read full article here.

Goodwill Seeks County Partners To Reduce Textile Wast

From Wisconsin Public Radio, March 12, 2015

Goodwill is working with Outagamie County to keep textiles out of landfills, and the organization wants more county recycling operations to get involved.

Goodwill of North Central Wisconsin covers 35 counties across the northern half of the state. Spokesman Dan Flannery said there are two clothing donation boxes at the Outagamie County Recycling center.

Instead of being thrown away, he said some items might be resold and others repurposed into rags. The hope is to help Goodwill make money while keeping items from being thrown out.

“It’s only been up for a couple of weeks now. But we’d love for this to take off and give us some legs across the state,” Flannery said. “In fact one of the things I’m doing in the next few weeks is I’ll be heading across the state meeting with other counties to see if they’re interested in developing some sort of partnership as well.”

Flannery said Goodwill empties the receptacles and that there is no cost to the counties.

Read or listen to article here.

Sustainability and the Tribune Building

From Joe Ancel, March 2015

As the Tribune Building Project progresses, environmental sustainability is a feature that will be a key part of the building’s design. This is based on initial feedback from community members who participated in the public meetings to determine the building’s use. This video by Incourage highlights the importance of integrating environmental sustainability into the Tribune Building Project, as well as the positive impact it will have on our community’s future. Please take time to view it at this link.

The Wisconsin Food Hub Cooperative

From The Scene, March 2, 2015

A stone’s throw from Hartman’s Creek State Park, west of Waupaca on Highway 54, sits a modest pole building looking out over hundreds of acres of tidy farm land. At the edge of the driveway leading to the building, a clean and modern sign reads, “Wisconsin Food Hub,” and it points the way to one of the big ideas in sustainable agriculture.

Several weeks ago, I met there to talk with Tara Roberts-Turner, manager of the Wisconsin Food Hub, or “the Hub” as it’s known to local farmers. The Hub, now in its third year, is a farmer-led cooperative owned by the participating growers and the Wisconsin Farmers Union (WFU), which was designed to efficiently distribute the product of small local farmers to big markets.

Read the full article.