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Discovery Farms Steering Committee To Select Farms

The steering committee for the Discovery Farms program met for the first time July 20 to devise a strategy for selecting the first group of commercial farms to be included in the research program.

Discovery Farms is a farmer-driven program aimed at finding the most economical ways of dealing with environmental regulation, in order to protect the environment and promote a healthy farm economy. Part of the governor”s Stewardship Initiative, Discovery Farms will eventually include about 30 commercial farms scattered across Wisconsin and representing a variety of farm enterprises and sizes.

The Discovery Farms program solicited applications from farmers this past April and May. More than 30 farmers applied.

In order to spread out the work and get some assistance in the design and installation of environmental monitoring equipment, the program will likely sign on four to six farms at a time. For the first group of farms, the committee recommended adding a hog farm, a beef farm, a dairy herd with 80 or fewer cows (which could be a grazing herd), and a dairy herd with 250 or more cows. The Bragger farm in Independence is the first Discovery Farm. It includes a 180-cow dairy herd, 5,000 pullets, beef steers, and cropping acreage

To select the farms, an evaluation committee will visit all farms falling into these demographics that have applied to the program. The evaluation committee includes people knowledgeable in experimental design that would best understand each farm”s merits for environmental monitoring. Voting members will not make the initial farm visits to avoid bias toward applicants.

The steering committee will meet the last week of August to hear recommendations from the farm visits and select farms that will be invited to participate in the program.

Farms not selected in the first round may be invited to become Discovery Farms as more funding becomes available. Program goals for the eventual 30 Discovery Farms include dairy (30 to 80 cows, 81 to 250 cows, 250 to 500 cows and over 500 cows), beef (cow/calf, stocker and feedlot), swine (farrow to finish, sow unit, nursery unit and finisher), poultry, cash grain, vegetable, and specialty crop operations.

The steering committee is made up of 14 voting members representing producer organizations, and seven non-voting members representing the Discovery Farms program and agencies affecting agricultural policy and regulation.

The steering committee elected an executive board at its first meetings: chair Mark Riechers of Darlington-Wisconsin Cattleman”s Association, vice chair Richard Keller of Mt. Horeb-Wisconsin Farmers Union, director Joe Bragger of Independence-Wisconsin Farm Bureau, and director Dan Volden of Genoa-Wisconsin Federation of Cooperatives. Other voting members include: Bob Messer of Beaver Dam-Wisconsin National Farm Organization, Bob Uphoff of Madison-Wisconsin Pork Producers Association, Darrell Reigel of Marshfield-Wisconsin Soybean Growers Association, Amy Winters of Madison-Wisconsin Agribusiness Council, Jim Bacon of Hancock-Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers, Pam Porter of Madison-Wisconsin Citizen Action, Jay Stauffacher of Darlington-Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, Loren Asche of Lake Mills-Wisconsin Poultry Producers, and Ben Peterson of Grantsburg-Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin.

Non-voting steering committee members include: Fred Madison-Discovery Farms, Dennis Frame-Discovery Farms, Wes Jarrell-Discovery Farms, Don Baloun-USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Russ Rasmusson-Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Ned Zuelsdorff-Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, and Steve Jann-U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

For more information or an application, contact Shannon Hayes, Discovery Farms communications coordinator, at (608) 527-3462.