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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: Cheese-making continues to be on the upswing

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news Ellsworth, 54011
Ellsworth Wisconsin 126 S. Chestnut St. 54011

Wisconsin cheese-making continues to be on the upswing, after six straight months of production declines ended in April.  According to new federal figures, the Badger State pumped out 235-million pounds of cheese in June -- three-point-six percent more than the same month a year ago.  The Brownfield Ag News Service says the increase reflects better quality in Wisconsin's first hay crop this year.  The state's higher output was much larger than the national increase of one-half percent in June, to 916-million pounds.  Wisconsin also extended its national lead over second-place California, which had just a one-tenth percent jump in June to 195-million pounds.  Wisconsin had a big increase in its production of Italian cheeses, at just over seven-percent from a year.  Cheddar and American cheeses were both down slightly.  For the first six months of the year, total U-S cheese production was up one-and-a-half percent from the first half of 2013.

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Travis Mizejewski of Amery is the new brat-eating champion in Sheboygan.  He downed 18 sausages in ten minutes over the weekend at Sheboygan's annual Brat Days Festival.  Mizejewski broke a possible tie by woofing down his final bratwurst in the final 15 seconds.  A year ago, the 34-year-old Mizejewski finished second to Bobby Smith of Racine, by a count of 20-to-17.  Smith did not return to defend his title, which gave Mizejewski an opening.  He won 500-dollars and a year's supply of Johnsonville Sausage.  He also won 500-dollars for a charity of his choice.  He gave it to the Sheboygan Neighbors Against Drugs program.

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At least 55 Wisconsin school districts have applied for a federal program that gives all students free breakfast and lunch, regardless of their incomes.  The Beloit district is one of the latest to be approved for the Community Eligibility Provision of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act that was passed in 2010.  Beloit had been offering universal breakfasts, and it will add lunch when fall classes begin September second.  The program applies to lower-income districts.  To qualify, at least 40-percent of students must be eligible to receive free-or-reduced-price school lunches.  In Beloit, 77-percent qualify.  School spokeswoman Janelle Marotz tells the Beloit Daily News that students cannot focus on learning when they're hungry, and in her words, "We have to take care of their physical needs before we can meet their academic needs."  Students will not have to submit income applications to receive the free meals -- but the Beloit district will still collect them for other funding programs.  Maureen Fitzgerald of the local Hunger Task Force says about Wisconsin districts and 200 individual schools have been approved for the universal meals -- and more could be approved by the time the program's application deadline on August 31st.

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Wisconsin Democrats need to gain two seats this fall to regain control of the state Senate.  The Republicans now have an 18-15 majority in the upper house.  With four G-O-P incumbents stepping down, Democrats hope they can take at least half those seats and end the total control Republicans have had in both houses since 2011.  Voters in southwest Wisconsin will choose a nominee a week from tomorrow for one of those Senate posts, as two Democrats hope to replace long-time Republican Dale Schultz of Richland Center.  Spring Green lawyer Pat Bomhack and former state D-O-T budget director Ernie Wittwer are competing for the right to go up against Assembly Republican Howard Marklein of Spring Green in November.  Marklein will have a tremendous financial edge, with 285-thousand dollars in his campaign fund as of last month.  Wittwer had 54-thousand dollars, and Bomhack 23-thousand.  However, former legislator and U-W Milwaukee political scientist Mordecai Lee says it will be a "real race," due to the moderate nature of Schultz's district.  Lee tells the A-P it depends on whether the Democratic finalist can portray Marklein as an "out of the mainstream conservative."

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More thunderstorms are in the forecast through this evening -- especially in central and southern Wisconsin.  The National Weather Service says small hail, gusty winds, and heavy rains can be expected.  Another hail-storm hit northeast Wisconsin last night.  One-inch hail fell near Argonne in Forest County.  Once the storms clear out, only isolated sprinkles are predicted for tomorrow in the far south.  Otherwise, the Weather Service says it will stay dry for the rest of the week, with mostly normal temperatures.   Highs are supposed to be in the 70's to near 80, with lows mostly in the 50's.  A few 40's are possible in the north tonight.

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Loons in northern Wisconsin are having enough problems surviving, without boaters trying to chase them down.  A Crystal Lake Illinois was cited last week for allegedly using his personal watercraft to chase both adult and baby loons on Deer Lake near Tomahawk.  A D-N-R warden said the mother loons and their babies appeared to escape the incident unharmed.  But the same couldn't be said for their alleged pursuer.  The D-N-R gave him a citation for harassing wildlife, and Lincoln County sheriff's deputies cited him for not having a boater's safety certificate.  Northern Wisconsin loons have had trouble with growing numbers of black flies this year.  One expert said in June that 70-percent of nesting loons in north central Wisconsin have been forced to leave their eggs behind.  

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The family of Sikh minister Punjab Singh continues to hold out hope for his recovery, almost two years after he was shot in the head in Oak Creek.  The 66-year-old Singh is an internationally-known priest for the Sikhs.  He was among four people injured two years ago tomorrow, when gunman Wade Michael Page opened fire at the Sikh Temple near Milwaukee.  Six worshippers were killed.  Page's motive was never determined, although many point to his white supremacist background.  The A-P says Punjab Singh still cannot speak or move his body.  But he does answer yes-or-no by blinking his eyes -- and there are hints of motion in his right arm and leg.  Singh's family is still hopeful that a recovery remains possible, although doctors said his injuries might be too severe for that.  Relatives say they draw their strength from the constant Sikh optimism -- an acceptance of God's will -- and a lack of anger against the gunman.  Memorial services are being held through tomorrow at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek.

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The state continues to restrict increases in local property taxes.  So the city of Madison has been looking at new ways to charge its residents for the growing cost of fighting the tree-killing emerald ash borer.  The city's Alternative Revenue Work Group has been studying ideas to pay for programs with large price spikes.  Wisconsin Public Radio says an ordinance will be introduced tomorrow for a fee to help Madison's Forestry Division do its work.  The amount has not been determined -- but the fee could be based on the length of a residential property line next to its adjoining street.  The average fee would be around 50-dollars.  Madison plans to boost its forestry budget from three-point-six-million dollars in 2013 to five-point-nine million next year, due largely to the city's effort to fight the emerald ash borer.

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