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Study shows Wisconsin farmers heavily use potentially deadly weed treatment chemical Submitted: 05/20/2019
Story By Stephen Goin

Study shows Wisconsin farmers heavily use potentially deadly weed treatment chemical
Photos By Associated Press

SUGAR CAMP - To prepare their fields for planting, many Wisconsin farmers use a harsh weed killing chemical called glyphosate; it's the same active-ingredient found in Roundup. 

In a recent lawsuit, a California couple was awarded more than $2 billion after a jury found that same chemical gave them cancer. Bayer, the parent company of Roundup maker Monsanto, was found at fault.

The potential dangers of herbicides have led at least one local farmer to avoid them. He feels his crops can thrive without them.

At EverGood Farm in Sugar Camp, Brendan Tuckey practices what he calls "regenerative agriculture."

"We've never wanted to use chemicals on our crops so weeds have been an issue," said Tuckey.

To manage those unwanted plants, Tuckey says he doesn't till his soil and covers it when it's not being used. 

"Because you're not turning over the soil you're not bringing up weeds seeds from underneath," said Tuckey. "Weed seeds that are in your soil kind of keep getting covered up."

Tuckey believes his natural methods are better than using harsh weed killers, but he knows they're widely used elsewhere.

"Unfortunately it's very integrated into our farming systems," said Tuckey.

A new survey from the National Agricultural Statistics Service found that 97% of corn and 98% of soybean crops across Wisconsin were treated with chemical herbicides in 2018. NASS reported that 42% of corn and 67% of soybean crops in the state were specifically treated with glyphosate. 

UW-Extension Agricultural Development Educator Dan Marzu says state laws regulating herbicides can be strict and that user instructions always come with clear warnings. 

"Some pesticides we can't use at all, others we just follow whatever's on the label," said Marzu.
According to Marzu, there's little chance those harmful chemicals could end up in your food.

"So there are an amount of days the pesticide actually breaks down, the active ingredient actually breaks down," said Marzu.

However, the more those chemicals are used, the more people like Tuckey worry negative side-effects will appear. He's made it his goal to show people farming can still be done the "natural" way.

"Just show that you can produce food without these chemicals … and it's much better for your family, it's much better for your customers," said Tuckey. 

In his role with UW-Extension, Marzu said he teaches farmers preventative methods for fighting weeds and insects naturally but he still recommends using chemicals as a secondary treatment method.


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30 years ago, the Minocqua chain of lakes had a sustainable population of walleyes; people could fish freely.

But when the population started to fall in the mid-1990's, artificial management became the only option to help restore the numbers.

Oneida County Fisheries Management Biologist Zach Woiak remembers the time when the walleye's population was all due to their natural way of life.

"Historically the Minocqua chain has had a very good walleye fishery that was all based on natural reproduction, so there was no stocking needed," said Woiak.

A local group of stakeholders, including representatives from the DNR, Walleyes for Tomorrow, and the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission came together back in the early 2000's.

The group developed a plan while gathering public input

Woiak says the majority of anglers sided with the stakeholders.

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Dr. Stewart Watson of Ascension says that a review showed that their air medical transport needs would be best met with a single helicopter, strategically placed at the Central Wisconsin Airport in Mosinee.



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