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Tuesday State News Briefs: Milk producers make nearly the same amount of money in 2012 as in 2011

Wisconsin milk producers made almost as much money last year as in 2011. The National Ag Statistics Service said the total value of the milk produced in the state last year was just over five-and-a-quarter billion dollars. That's was about 1500th of one percent less than in 2011.

Total production was up slightly in 2012, and it almost made up for a drop in the average price paid to farmers for their milk. That price was $19.40 for every hundred pounds produced - 90-cents less than the previous year. Almost 27-billion pounds of milk were utilized in Wisconsin last year, just over a billion more pounds than in 2011. Last year's total milk value was over $600-million more than in 2008, when the Great Recession began in earnest. And it's 60-percent more than the recession's worst year in 2009, when Wisconsin's milk was valued at just $3.3 billion dollars for producers.


The long winter has Wisconsin farmers off to their slowest spring planting start on record. Half the state's oat crop is normally in the ground by now. But this year's planting was only five-percent complete as of Sunday - the latest start in 30 years of federal data. Spring field work is just four-percent finished, breaking a record-low set in 2011. The state's winter wheat crop is greening up, and it's too early to tell if there's any damage. Some potatoes are being planted in Portage and Waushara counties in central Wisconsin. Despite some late snow last week, farmers are finding at least some dry soils. Four-percent of the state's top-soil is short on moisture, along with one-percent of sub-soil moisture. A quarter of the top-soil has surplus moisture, along with 11-percent of sub-soils. A recent warm-up has made farmers more optimistic about getting things done. The warmest day of the year is expected, with highs today from the upper-60's in northwest Wisconsin to the low-80's in the south. But a cold front is expected to drop temperatures back into the 30's-and-40's by Thursday. Rain is at least possible all week, with snow likely in some areas on Thursday.


Another hail-storm went through southern Wisconsin early this morning. Baseball-sized hail fell near Eastman in Crawford County just before 1:20 a-m. Over the next three hours, Sauk City had quarter-sized hail. And smaller hail was reported at Rio (rye-oh) in Columbia County, Markesan in Green Lake County, and Chilton in Calumet County. Much of southwest Wisconsin also received hail yesterday afternoon. Grant County had the biggest hail in that storm - up to an inch in diameter. More thunderstorms are possible throughout the day, as a low pressure system moves northwest of Wisconsin. Southern areas could see highs in the low-80's today and tomorrow before a major cool-off on Thursday.


Two groups that lost a challenge to the Wisconsin Republicans' redistricting plan will have to pay their own way to continue their legal battle - at least for now. A three-judge federal court panel ruled this morning that there's not enough evidence yet to make anyone but the plaintiffs pay their attorneys for their current investigation. The panel ruled last year that virtually all of the GOP's new state Assembly and Senate districts were constitutional. But over a dozen Democrats and a Milwaukee Hispanic group still contend that Republicans hid damaging evidence by deleting computer files. And they want either the taxpayers, or the Legislature's law firm to foot the bill, as the plaintiffs examine three large computers that the GOP used to help redraw the maps. The court panel agreed that many documents were deleted after the computers were handed over. But the two groups have not proven that the GOP showed bad faith in getting rid of certain evidence, and there's no proof yet that any relevant documents in the case have been withheld improperly. The two plaintiffs have been getting depositions from the legislative aides who drew up the maps. The court expects to get a final report on plaintiffs' current investigation by May 10th.


A new bill in the state Legislature would give a tax break to parents of students in Wisconsin private schools. Senate Republican Glenn Grothman of West Bend and Assembly Republican Dean Kaufert of Neenah introduced the measure in both houses today. It's an alternative to the governor's plan to expand tax-funded vouchers for kids to attend private schools in up to nine new school districts. The tax credits would be phased in. Parents of those in private elementary schools would get credits of up to $1,500 dollars. A $2,500 tax break would go to families of youngsters in private high schools. GOP Governor Scott Walker has proposed the vouchers to give parents an alternative in places with underperforming public schools. Madison and Green Bay would be among those getting the vouchers for the first time. For now, they'd be worth over $6,400 dollars per student. But a number of Senate Republicans oppose the Walker voucher plan - and talks continue behind closed doors on a compromise. Walker has said he'd favor private school tax credits in addition to vouchers - but not as a replacement for them.


Two former Wisconsin TV stars were nominated today for Tony Awards, for their work in the live theatre. Green Bay native Tony Shalhoub was nominated for his performance in the boxing drama "Golden Boy." Judith Light, a former actress in the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, was nominated for the Featured Actress in a Play award for her role in "The Assembled Parties." Shalhoub has won three Emmys as the title character in the TV series "Monk." Light has a number of TV and theater credits, including her role as advertising executive Angela Bower in the 1980's-and-'90's TV comedy series "Who's the Boss." Also, Carrie Coon was nominated for a Tony in the same category as Light. Coon is a former actress in the Milwaukee Renaissance Theater-Works and the American Players' Theatre in Spring Green. The Tonys will be handed out June Ninth at Radio City Music Hall in New York.


Authorities in Sheboygan now say there was an explosion in a man's apartment early this morning - and the man was killed as a result. Also, another resident was treated at the scene for smoke inhalation. Fire-fighters were called about 1:40 a-m to a two-story complex with 16 apartments. Sheboygan Fire Chief Jeff Hermann said the blaze was pretty much contained to the victim's dwelling - but other apartments received smoke damage. Several people were rescued from the second floor. Hermann said fire-fighters could not go down the second-floor hallway due to the smoke - so they used ladders to get the residents to safety. Earlier reports said several people were displaced, and the Red Cross was helping them.


Madison police are investigating the death of an infant on the city's far east side late last week. Emergency responders were called to the scene Friday just before 5 p.m. An adult at that location said chest compressions had been tried. The infant was taken to a hospital, but it died. Police are not saying whether the death of the child is considered to be suspicious or not.


The question is - how effective are text alerts at letting students and staff at universities know about a potential threat? Only three of the University of Wisconsin System's 13 four-year campuses have more than half signed up to get the text alerts. Those universities are in Platteville, Stevens Point and Parkside. Overall, about 32 percent of the people on System campuses are taking part. So far, that participation isn't mandatory, but some are pushing to make it so. The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater has no text alert system.


People who visit Mazo Beach saying shutting down the clothing-optional beach during the week was a drastic reaction. Last weekend was the first where the weather made things comfortable at the state's only legal public nude beach. Users say the decision to shut down the beach west of Madison during the week was made too suddenly. Under the new rules, the beach is open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday, from March 1st to September 15th. Beach goers say it brings business to the area, with people coming there for vacations or long weekends. Some have come for decades. DNR wardens say the changes were necessary because the illegal activities had multiplied in recent years.