ALTOONA, Wis. (WEAU)- Since more than half of the agricultural work force in this country is undocumented, it's safe to say the current H-2A Guest Worker program isn't working. So this week the Labor Department is proposing a number of changes to the program that officials say will make it simpler to use and be more inclusive. The idea of the changes is to streamline and simplify the application process, strengthen protections for U.S. and foreign workers and ease unnecessary burdens from employers. The Labor Department plan would also change the definition of agricultural worker to include those who work in reforestation and pine straw activities since they share many of the same characteristics of traditional ag workers. But it's not certain if these new proposals would make it easier to hire and keep workers who are needed year 'round in the livestock industry.
Climatologists are urging farmers to have their irrigation systems ready to go as summer moves forward. That's because El Nino conditions in the Pacific Ocean seem to be ending. And that, they say, could mean hotter, drier weather for the rest of this growing season. Studies are showing the water temperature is coming down rapidly, reminding weather observers of what happened in 1988 and 2010 when hot, dry conditions led to drought conditions and smaller crops.
Both this year's corn and soybean crops in Wisconsin are expected to be a little smaller than last year-but not the oats crop. Oat production is expected to be over 8 million bushels this year-47% bigger than a year ago. That's mainly because planted acres are up 44% from last year to 130,000 acres. Actual yields are expected to be about 62 bushels an acre-up just 1 from last year.
Another busy week for county fairs kicks off today. That includes the Barron County Fair, the LaCrosse Interstate Fair and the St. Croix County fair. And opening up tomorrow are the Portage County Fair at Amherst and the Trempealeau County fair in Galesville. Also this weekend will be the annual Colby Cheese Days celebration running Friday through Sunday. Tonight and tomorrow night at the Barron County fair, there will be harness racing starting at 7 both nights. Barron County is one of the few county fairs in the state that still features harness racing-and they'll have both trotters and pacers racing.