Posts tagged with "Wisconsin"

It’s a tough year. So, a Wisconsin farmer planted 2 million sunflowers just to cheer us up

September 16, 2020

We can’t say everything is coming up roses this year. But, at the Thompson Strawberry Farm in Bristol, Wisconsin, everything is coming up sunflowers—two million sunflowers, in fact.

And that’s enough to make most people smile, which is just the reaction that the family farmers who own the property were seeking, according to a report by USA Today.

Scott Thompson, a fourth generation berry farmer, said it was his wife’s idea to bring blossoms of sunshine into the mix this year. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, they knew they wanted to help people—especially those in nearby urban areas—with an escape “to get away from their reality for a little bit,” Thompson told the news outlet.

So, over five weeks, Thompson progressively planted sunflower seeds across 22 acres. The grand number of two million wasn’t originally in his head—but the result allowed visitors to experience (and Instagram) a six-week to eight-week bloom instead of a typical 10 to 14-day stint.

“It just keeps going and going — and I think that’s really captured the hearts of people,” Thompson told USA Today.

“Every single day has just become busier and busier.”

Thompson Strawberry Farm is about an hour outside Chicago and a 35-minute drive to downtown Milwaukee. The establishment offers “Pick-Your-Own” strawberries, raspberries, pumpkins, and now sunflowers.

“You get to walk through these beautiful fields,” said Thompson.

“It’s just a naturally, socially-distant activity,” he said. “[People want] an hour … to be outside, and just kind of feel a little sense of normalcy in our lives—so it’s had a lot of positive impact.”

“And whether we made a dime or not, we’ve sure had a lot of fun doing it.”

Research contact: @USATODAY

Peapod to shut down grocery delivery in the Midwest and cut 500 jobs

February 13, 2020

Peapod, the grocery delivery pioneer developed by Stop & Shop in 1989, has announced plans to cease operations in the Midwest—a move that will mean the loss of 500 jobs, according to a report by The Chicago Tribune.

Customers of the online grocer who live in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana won’t be able to place delivery orders through the Peapod website starting as soon as February 18, the parent company of both the online grocer and its bricks-and-mortar originator, Netherlands-based Ahold Delhaize, announced Tuesday.

About 50,000 people in the Midwest currently use Peapod, placing 10,500 orders weekly.

Chicago-based Peapod will close a distribution center and food preparation facility in Lake Zurich, a pick-up point in Palatine; and distribution facilities in Chicago, Milwaukee and Indianapolis — affecting 400 employees. Another 30 employees will be cut at corporate headquarters in the West Loop, and about 100 drivers will lose their jobs.

Chicago will remain the headquarters for Peapod Digital Labs, which runs the e-commerce technology for Ahold Delhaize’s U.S. grocery brands. Peapod Digital Labs employs about 450 people, half of them in Chicago, and plans to hire 100 more people this year.

Peapod is exiting the Midwest as grocery delivery heats up, the Tribune says. The value of the online grocery market more than doubled from $12 billion in 2016 to $26 billion in 2018, and some projections have it reaching $100 billion by 2025.

Peapod will continue to serve customers on the East Coast, where Ahold Delhaize—the Dutch parent of Food Lion, Stop and Shop, and Giant—is the region’s largest grocery retailer. The decision to cut service in the Midwest will allow the company to focus on a strategy that offers in-store, delivery, and pick-up options.

“Customers really want groceries to be available for them whichever way they choose to shop,” JJ Fleeman, Chief ECommerce Officer and president of Peapod Digital Labs, explained to the news outlet.

Peapod’s Midwest operation posed challenges because it was online only, so it didn’t have a network of stores to connect to the supply chain and it was more difficult to gain new customers who want to know the grocery brand where their fresh food is coming from, said Selma Postma, president of Peapod.

“This was a very difficult decision given our rich history in Chicago,” Postma told the Tribune. “We have a lot of loyal customers, we have a lot of loyal employees.”

Peapod’s Midwest operations accounted for about $97 million of Ahold Delhaize’s $1.1 billion in online revenue in the United States.

 Research contact: @chicagotribune

In America’s heartland, saying ‘cheese,’ no longer brings a smile

December 18, 2018

In Wisconsin, the “cheeseheads” are not happy—and it has nothing to do with football. Nor will you find smiles in America’s second and third top cheese-producing states: California and Idaho.

“It’s a nightmare,” Errico Auricchio, president of BelGioioso Cheese, a second-generation family company based in Green Bay, Wisconsin, told The Wall Street Journal recently—noting that demand for the producer’s classic and artisan cheeses has dropped precipitously since last summer, when Mexico and China, major dairy buyers, instituted retaliatory tariffs on U.S. cheese and whey.

Cheese shipments to Mexico in September were down more than 10% annually, according to the U.S. Dairy Export Council trade group, and shipments to China were down 63% annually. Indeed, an Informa Agribusiness analysis commissioned by the council predicts that Chinese tariffs on U.S. dairy products will costs U.S. dairy farmers $12.2 billion by 2020, if they stay in place. The tariffs are now as high as 45% on some exports.

What are producers to do with all the cheese?  Today, about 1.4 billion pounds of American, cheddar, and other kinds of cheese is socked away at cold-storage warehouses across the country—the biggest stockpile since federal record-keeping began a century ago.

And that’s definitely not a good thing: Cheese has a limited shelf-life—making the stored inventory less valuable once it spends weeks in cold-storage—and producers are concerned that the glut and price drop that has come with it could eat into profits. Spot market prices for 40-pound blocks of cheddar fell around 25% this year from 2014 prices, while 500-pound barrels typically used for processed cheese declined 28%., the Journal reported.

“There’s a whole ton of aged product lying around,” Nate Donnay, director of Dairy Market Insight at INTL FCStone Financial, told the financial news outlet.

Driving the glut are cheese-makers who ramped up production before trade tensions abroad tamped down demand for many of their products, the Journal reports. And not only are exports down, but shifting tastes at home—including a reluctance by Millennials to eat processed cheeses, such as American cheese—have further changed the outlook for traditional cheese-makers.

Americans ate a record 37 pounds of natural cheese per capita last year. But they are ditching processed, American and plain cheddar cheese for foreign varieties. Per capita consumption of mozzarella has topped cheddar since 2010. Consumption of processed cheese spreads per capita is about half what it was in 2006, according to the news outlet.

Strong pizza sales have helped rocket mozzarella into the top cheese spot, dairy analysts said. Grocers big and small are also increasingly beefing up cheese counters with imported and less typical varieties as Americans turn away from processed foods for unique products.

More adventurous cheese eating poses a challenge for big U.S. cheese makers focused on traditional varieties.

In response, some cheese producers say they are adjusting their operations to produce newly popular varieties. Wisconsin-based Sargento Foods. has added Gouda and Havarti varieties to its line of sliced cheeses. Schuman Cheese in New Jersey has added twists on Parmesan, Asiago, Fontina and Alpine to its product line.

Those who are betting that the tariffs will be negotiated down are hoping that it happens sooner rather than later. Stan Ryan, chief executive of the Seattle-based Darigold, told the Journal that falling prices have driven down profits for the affiliated Northwest Dairy Association cooperative’s roughly 450 farmers.

“It is very challenging for dairy farmers to stay in the game,”  Ryan, adding that more than 25 of his farmers have gone out of business in the past year.

Research contact: heather.haddon@wsj.com

 

Newsprint tariffs hit U.S. media hard

August 10, 2018

The Trump administration is hitting the nation’s “fake news” publishers where it hurts, even as it continues a simmering trade war with its closest ally, Canada.

On August 2, the Department of Commerce announced that it would proceed with somewhat lower tariffs on Canadian newsprint, a blow to an already-flailing (and failing) U.S. newspaper industry. Indeed, the administration’s decision to impose these tariffs is leading to the demise of local newspapers—forcing already-struggling publications to cut staff, reduce the number of days they print; and, in at least one case, close their doors entirely, according to an August 8 report by The New York Times.

Papers throughout the country already are feeling the effects of the tariffs, the Times said. At least a dozen newspapers across the country have cut publication days, and one newspaper, The Jackson County Times-Journal in Ohio, shut down, citing declining print readership and the tariffs.

An August 3 story by The New York Post, revealed that the tariffs originally imposed by America in May had added up to 30% to the price of newsprint imported from Canada. The latest tariffs range from 8% to 20%.

In reaction to the revision, the trade group News Media Alliance stated that it “doesn’t solve [the] underlying problem.”

Specifically, President and CEO of the alliance David Chavern released comments noting, “While we appreciate the hard work the Commerce Department has put into this investigation and that the margins have been reduced, we believe the final determination does not solve the underlying problem. These taxes on Canadian imports for newsprint, which have been collected during in the preliminary phase, have already caused job losses at newspapers across the country and resulted in less quality news and information being distributed in local communities.’

Others in the industry agreed. “We appreciate Commerce’s slight reduction in tariffs; however, commercial printing companies, book printers, suppliers, and consumers will still pay a price with increased costs and less business, which will hurt our member companies, their employees, and ultimately U.S. newsprint manufacturers. We hope the International Trade Commission will reverse this tax on paper,” said Michael Makin, president and CEO, Printing Industries of America.

“It’s a step in the right direction, but these tariffs are still causing damage and need to be repealed to protect newspapers,” said Paul Boyle, head of Stop Tariffs on Printers & Publishers (STOPP). Newsprint, the second biggest cost to publishers after workers, is now close to $800 a metric ton, said Boyle.

According to the Times report, surging newsprint costs are beginning to hurt publications like The Gazette in Janesville, Wisconsin, the hometown paper of the Speaker of the House Paul D. Ryan (R-Wisconsin). The paper, with a newsroom staff of 22, was the first to publish the news in 2016 that Mr. Ryan would support the presidential candidacy of Donald J. Trump. And while its editorial board has endorsed Mr. Ryan countless times, the paper made national news when it chided him for refusing to hold town halls with his constituents. Now, with newsprint tariffs increasing annual printing costs by $740,000, the Gazette has made several cuts to its staff and is using narrower paper—thereby, reducing the number of stories published every day.

We’re all paying a huge price,” Skip Bliss, the publisher of the Gazette, said of the tariffs’ effect on the industry. “I fear it’s going to be a very difficult time. I

As with Mr. Trump’s other tariffs on steel, aluminum, solar panels and washing machines, the newsprint duties will help some American manufacturers but hurt many other domestic  companies, the Times reported.

A study conducted by Charles River Associates on behalf of a coalition of printers, publishers and paper suppliers projects that American newsprint prices will increase more than 30% within the next one to two years, and that newspapers and printers will face an increased cost of roughly half a billion dollars from the remaining five American mills producing newsprint.

Research contact: sgarnett@crai.com