Sept. 29, 2017 – CNS Budget

Sept. 29, 2017 — Week 4
To: CNS Editors
From: David Poulson and Sheila Schimpf

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Here is your file:

HOTWEATHER: The record-breaking temperatures in late September combined with the lack of rainfall throughout the summer is drying out Michigan crops and cows. On the plus side: The heat produces better wine. We talk to commodity groups and farmers from Mason and Alma. By Kaley Fech. FOR TRAVERSE CITY, PETOSKEY, LEELENAU, LANSING CITY PULSE, GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS, HOLLAND, OCEANA, BLISSFIELD AND ALL POINTS

CRAFTBEER: Craft liquor distillers and beer makers could tap into a new source of funds for research and promotion under a plan to expand the state wine council’s mandate. A bill already reported out of committee would create the Michigan Craft Beverage Council that would include craft beer brewers, liquor distillers and winemakers. We talk to the bill’s sponsor from Oshtemo Township, representatives of beer, wine and liquor makers and the state. By Jack Nissen. FOR GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS, MARQUETTE, BIG RAPIDS, LANSING CITY PULSE, METRO TIMES, STURGIS, THREE RIVERS AND ALL POINTS

UPPOET: The unofficial poet laureate of the Upper Peninsula has just published a new collection of poems, many of them heralding the scenery and wildlife of Northern Michigan. We interview Russell Thorburn, who lives in Marquette.  By Kate Habrel. FOR MARQUETTE, BAY MILLS, SAULT STE. MARIE, ST. IGNACE, CHEBOYGAN, PETOSKEY, HARBOR SPRINGS, TRAVERSE CITY, LEELANAU, ALCONA, CRAWFORD COUNTY, CADILLAC, BIG RAPIDS, MANISTEE, MONTMORENCY & ALL POINTS.

        w/POETCOVER: Russell Thorburn’s new collection of poetry, “Somewhere We’ll Leave the World.” Credit: Wayne State University Press

MOOSE: About 500 moose live in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. And as their numbers grow, so does their draw for tourism. There are another 1,600 of the animals on Lake Superior’s remote Isle Royale. With the wolf population there down to two, experts predict the number could double in three to four years. By Carl Stoddard. FOR MARQUETTE, SAULT STE MARIE, ST. IGNACE, CHEBOYGAN AND ALL POINTS

w/MooseSnow: The Department of Natural Resources surveys moose numbers from the air. Credit:  Department of Natural Resources

w/MooseSign: Michigan’s moose population is on the rise. Police reported 18 traffic accidents involving moose in 2016.  Credit: Carl Stoddard


Bill would create a council for beer, wine and liquor makers

Capital News Service

LANSING — Craft beer and liquor makers could soon see some money coming their way that originally only winemakers could access.

A bill introduced in the House would replace a statewide council for winemakers with the Michigan Craft Beverage Council for beer, liquor and wine makers. It’s music to some micro-beverage makers’ ears. The money they receive would go to researching and promoting all three beverages.

“Our bill really says, ‘Hey, this Grape and Wine Council has been a good thing for wine grape growers and small winemakers in Michigan. Let’s see if it can be similarly good for breweries,’” said Michigan Brewers Guild Executive Director Scott Graham.

Currently several winemakers appointed by the governor sit on the council, which is under the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. Non-voting members such as Michigan State University researchers and Michigan Economic Development Corp. members advise the council on the best way to spend its money. The bill would remove those advisors and the department, which is the source of some concern.

“This bill removes us from being a voting member, and I have zero problem with that,” said Matt Blakely, the director of policy and legislative affairs with the department. “But it also removes other departments and people in the state from non-voting status that I feel is important to include in this.”

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Brandt Iden, R-Oshtemo Township, says that the industry has changed and the council needs to reflect that change.

“I took a look at the Grape and Wine Council and said, ‘it’s no longer just that industry in Michigan now,’” Iden said. “As we look at all the craft beverages — from distilling to, obviously, the many breweries that are in my district—I’ve said we really need to expand this. We need to be inclusive of all of this.”

The bill would mandate that the new council spend half its budget on research projects and financial aid programs. Blakley doesn’t like those restrictions.

“In the current Grape and Wine Council, members decide how the money is to be spent,” he said. “I would support letting the industry members as part of this new council choose how this money is to be spent. It’s the council’s money and they should get to decide how it’s spent.”

Last year, the council received $550,000 from small winemaker, brewery and distillery licenses that the Liquor Control Commission passes on. Under the new proposed legislation, the council would receive no additional funds.

But Iden said he hopes to work with the appropriations committee to get extra money for the council.

“That’s the next step, and I need to get the framework in place first and then I can look at some specifics of where those dollars could come from in the budget process,” he said.

The research supported by the council focuses on methods of planting, growing and insect and disease prevention. Adding beer and distillers to the group would mean looking into hop and barley production, a prospect that’s of particular interest to the Michigan Craft Distillers Association.

Local distillers  usually get their ingredients from out of state, said John O’Conner, the president of the distillers group.

If researchers could look for ways to more profitably grow those ingredients in Michigan, that would be great, he said

“We’ve had no seat at the table in the past, so we just appreciate getting tacked onto it,” he said.

New to the craft industry, the distillers association started in 2014 and now has about 30 members.

The Michigan Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association, which represents distributors, likes the proposal but remains officially neutral.

“Expanding the scope to include all of the craft manufacturers is probably a good thing,” said Spencer Nevins, the group’s president.

The distillers association hasn’t analyzed its Michigan revenues. Michigan wine generates $4.9 billion in economic activity, reports WineAmerica, a national industry analyst. Michigan’s beer industry is worth $10.5 billion, according to the National Beer Wholesalers Association and the Beer Institute.

Michigan has almost 200 craft breweries and 195 wine producers.

The bill has been referred to the House after the Regulatory Reform committee voted it out.

Dry summer, hot September stress farmers

Capital News Service

LANSING — The record-breaking temperatures in late September combined with the near- drought like conditions throughout the summer is drying out Michigan crops and cows.  

On the plus side: the heat produces better wine.

“With the heat we’ve had, and we’ve only gotten about six-tenths of an inch of rain since July, it’s only making things drier,” said Matt Cary, an Alma soybean farmer.

These hot, dry conditions cause soybeans to mature earlier, according to Mark Seamon, the research coordinator with the  Michigan Soybean Promotion Committee.

“The heat and the dry weather sped up maturity, which means farmers can harvest earlier,” he said. “But it’s also causing the beans to be drier.”

That’s a problem that could cut into profits.

Nearly 30 percent of Michigan experienced abnormally dry conditions by the end of September, and 3 percent was hit with moderate drought, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The weather has pushed soybean harvests up by a couple of weeks, said Kate Thiel, a field crops specialist with Michigan Farm Bureau. But growers are ready.

“Farmers are the ultimate risk-takers,” she said. “There are so many elements out of their control, like the weather. They have to be prepared for anything.”

Usually the soybean harvest runs from the beginning to the middle of October, Cary said. “We’re one and a half to two weeks ahead of previous years.”  

Dave Cheney, a farmer from Mason, began harvesting Sept. 22. “This is the earliest our farm has ever started harvesting,” he said.

The optimal moisture level for soybeans is right around 13 percent, Thiel said. Too  much moisture and farmers have to pay to dry their beans so they don’t get moldy.

But if they are too dry, it will take more beans to make up a 60 pound bushel. That cuts into profits.

High temperatures in late September could reduce the moisture by as much as 2 percent in a day, Thiel said. That creates a short window for farmers to harvest.

Soybeans are sold by weight — one bushel weighs 60 pounds, Seamon said. The more soybeans it takes to reach 60 pounds, the fewer bushels a farmer can produce and sell, resulting in a loss of revenue.

“Some of the ones that are ready are too dry,” Cheney said. “They’re coming out at 9 or 10 percent.”

He said that can equate to a $10 to $15 loss per acre.

Carry expects his yield to suffer.

“Last year I had between 60 and 62 bushels per acre,” he said. “This year I’ll be happy with 40 to 43.”

Dairy farmers are also hurting.

“The heat makes cows lethargic and their appetite wanes,” said Ken Nobis, president of the Michigan Milk Producers Association. “When they don’t eat as much, they don’t produce as much milk.”

He estimated the decline in milk production to bottom out at nearly 8 percent. Production should return with cooler weather, he said.

The news isn’t all bad. Vineyards and wineries have benefited from the late season heat.

“As a grape grower, I’m delighted,” said Charles Edson, owner and winemaker at Bel Lago Vineyards and Winery. “Grapes need a certain amount of heat to ripen. We had a cool summer on the Leelanau Peninsula, so the hot temperatures really moved it along.”

Cheney, who operates a farm that’s been in his family for generations, said things could be much worse for soybean farmers. It’s better to have too little rain than too much rain, he said.

“A dry year will scare you,” he said. “But a wet year will starve you.”

New poetry collection showcases beauty of Northern Michigan

Capital News Service

LANSING — In his most recent book, poet Russell Thorburn imagines familiar characters from around the Upper Peninsula and beyond.

In “John Lennon on the Beach in the Upper Peninsula,” Thorburn imagines the titled celebrity wading on the Lake Superior shoreline:

“Just the idea that John’s here, his arms wrapped around his body,

like some whaler whose ship went down, glows in me like fire.”

A 2013 grassroots fundraising campaign earned Thorburn the unofficial title of the U.P.’s poet laureate. His recent book, “Somewhere We’ll Leave the World,” celebrates the joy of wandering. It’s his seventh poetry collection.

His poems take readers on what Thorburn calls “parallel journeys” through nature and history. He uses familiar characters and personal experiences to call attention to the scenic beauty of Northern Michigan.

“The Lake Superior shoreline is very unique, and I love walking along the water, especially in winter,” said Thorburn, who lives in Marquette. “These characters, the environment, and my relationship within that environment created these poems.”

John Lennon isn’t the only famous name to appear in the book. Walt Whitman, Billy the Kid and Marilyn Monroe co-star in several poems.

But celebrities aren’t the only people featured in the book. Thorburn also connects the landscape with soldiers in the Civil War.

“Union soldiers came back here to heal,” he said. “Quite often I read about people who served in Iraq or Afghanistan — they take a wilderness walk. So I thought, well, this is kind of like a precursor to that.”

Of course, Thorburn didn’t completely ignore the view. Images of nature and animals often surface in his poetry. Foxes are a common sight—sometimes appearing in unusual places. From the poem “Chinese Restaurant:”

“She tells the animal he can eat only what’s

on the carryout menu: egg rolls, noodles.

She shows him a table in the corner, not

understanding why a fox would want Chinese

at this hour.”

Several poems are based on events in Thorburn’s life. It’s those experiences that started his artistic career.

“It began much earlier when I was 18 or 19 in the Detroit area, and I had a garage band,” Thorburn said. “Music was very big back in Detroit, so there’s poems about that. And as a teenager and in my 20s, I wandered around. I hitchhiked. So a little bit of that spirit is in there too.”

Thorburn includes several poems about his time in the Mojave National Preserve in San Bernardino County, California. He was a resident artist there in 2012, staying in a desert study center near Soda Lake.

There’s a little bit of something for everyone in the collection—recognizable faces, natural beauty and musical turns of phrase.

In the end, Thorburn’s poetry insists that the journey is worth as much as the destination.

“I’m not trying to educate anybody, or teach,” Thorburn said. “It’s just to have the poem, and they’re on the journey with me as a reader. I hope you get on the bus and go on this journey.”

“Somewhere We’ll Leave the World” is available from Wayne State University Press for $16.99.

Kate Habrel writes for Great Lakes Echo.

Michigan moose on the loose — and on the rebound

Capital News Service

LANSING — About three years ago, a sign went up outside the U.P. Trading Co. in Newberry that says, “Report Your Moose Sightings Here.” Inside is an area map where people who’ve spotted moose can mark the spot with a pushpin.

Moose can be hard to find, but the map is slowly filling in with pushpins, said Sharon Magnuson. She and her husband, Bill, own the U.P. Trading Co. and an adjacent store called the Exclusive Moose.

The village of Newberry, about  21 miles southwest of Tahquamenon Falls State Park in the Upper Peninsula, is the official “Moose Capital of Michigan.” That designation helps bring in tourists, Magnuson said.

“We do get a lot of people … coming up for that reason,” she said.

The U.P., excluding Isle Royale National Park, has fewer than 500 moose but their numbers are growing, according to recent  Department of Natural Resources (DNR) estimates.

About 100 moose live in the eastern U.P., “spread across portions of Alger, Schoolcraft, Luce and Chippewa counties … ranging across a 1,200-square-mile area,” the DNR said in a June 12 report. Newberry is in Luce County.

That same report said wildlife biologists estimate the number of moose in the western U.P. at 378 animals, up from 285 in 2015.

The western U.P. moose range over about 1,400 square miles in parts of Marquette, Baraga and Iron counties, the DNR said.

Moose in the eastern U.P. got there on their own. But moose in the western U.P. were relocated there from Ontario in 1985 and 1987, said John Pepin, the DNR deputy public information officer in Marquette.

Candy Kozeluh remembers watching some of those moose being helicoptered into the area back in 1985. She was 10 years old and going to school in Marquette.

Today, she’s the recreation director for Travel Marquette, based in one of the western U.P. counties with a growing moose population.

“We don’t have exact data, but we have noticed more calls coming in” about where to see moose, said Kozeluh, whose organization is part of the Marquette County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Kozeluh said she often suggests visitors go the Greenwood Reservoir, 10 miles southwest of Ishpeming, where they can hike, canoe and kayak while looking for the big, elusive creatures.

“That’s where I’ve had luck seeing them,” she said.

Jason Schneider, executive director of the Marquette Chamber of Commerce, said his office has seen some interest in the shy, majestic animals.

“We do get a call or so a month from people wanting to know where to go see the moose,” Schneider said.

He usually recommends the Baraga Plains, a state wildlife management area between Marquette and Baraga, as the best place to glimpse one.

Newberry got its Moose Capital designation several years ago from the Legislature, thanks to the efforts of a local developer, said Jennifer James-Mesloh, Newberry’s village manager.

“Local businesses are embracing this (designation), making it part of their marketing plans,” James-Mesloh said.

A moose was painted on the town’s water tower and added to the village’s seal, she said. There also has been talk about painting moose tracks on the village sidewalks, she said.

The DNR does not survey the moose population in the eastern U.P.

It does conduct surveys of moose in the western U.P. in the winter every two years from fixed wing aircraft, the DNR said in its June report.

“Our survey findings this year are encouraging” after a possible population decline was detected in the 2015 survey, said Dean Beyer, a DNR wildlife research biologist who organizes the survey efforts.

But the numbers are still too low to consider allowing a moose hunt in Michigan, the DNR said.

The moose population on Isle Royale, a 45–mile-long island in Lake Superior, has grown to about 1,600, according to the most recent annual winter survey  by researchers at Michigan Technological University in Houghton.

The island’s moose population is growing while the number of wolves on Isle Royale has flatlined at just two, the Michigan Tech researchers said.

“The Isle Royale wolves are no longer serving their ecological function as the island’s apex predator—the creature at the top of the food chain. With only two wolves left on the island, the moose population has grown,” said Rolf Peterson, a research professor at Michigan Tech and co-author of the report on the winter survey.

Without wolves keeping moose numbers in check, said John Vucetich, a professor of ecology at Michigan Tech and co-author of the report, the island’s moose population could double in the next three to four years.