Noted: This year in Wisconsin, a fall armyworm population is present unlike anything most entomologists have ever seen. The pests are doing damage to alfalfa, winter wheat and other cover crops around the state. Bryan Jensen, UW-Extension Pest Management Specialist, shares that this warmer fall weather has helped to create a perfect storm for fall armyworms to thrive. Fall armyworms are different from the normal armyworms seen during late spring. The good news, according to Jensen, is they will most definitely not over-winter here in Wisconsin: they are a warm weather species, and will not survive the winter
Tom Erickson, the director of the new UW-Madison School of Computer, Data and Information Sciences, brought a message of statewide engagement with industry to a meeting of the Wisconsin Technology Council board of directors. From tourism to agriculture, and from manufacturing to transportation, computing and data is changing how those sectors perform while inventing new industries along the way.
Video: Dairy is a top industry in the Badger State, where more than a million cows produce some of the nation’s best cheese, milk and ice cream products.
Quoted: Megan Moreno, principal investigator of the Social Media and Adolescent Health Research Team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says Haugen’s interpretation of the internal research squares perfectly with other work done on social media, especially Instagram.
“For a certain population of youth, exposure to this content can be associated with diminished body image, or body image concerns,” Moreno says. “I didn’t feel like it was tremendously surprising.”
Many businesses are adopting sustainable principles and practices, which is changing the way business and economics are taught in higher education. We talk about how the UW-Madison School of Business is integrating concepts of environmental sustainability into its curriculum, and we learn how this fits within the new framework of capitalism.
Quoted: Steve Deller, professor of agricultural and applied economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said he thinks the new technology makes the plant a worthwhile investment for state tax credits and will hopefully help the state’s dairy industry move into the future.
“This is a pretty good shot in the arm for the Wisconsin dairy industry,” Deller said. “Any time we see new investment like this is a positive sign because a lot of the growth in the dairy industry has really not been occurring in Wisconsin.”
A recent survey by the Wisconsin Center for Nursing and the School of Nursing at UW Madison shows an impending nursing shortage.
Anywhere from 10-20,000 nurses plan to retire in the next 10 years, and that could cause a crisis for the state. Right now many healthcare companies are finding it hard to staff nurses, so many are offering bonuses and high salaries to professionals from out of town.
Quoted: Although Congress has come to this precipice many times before, the perception is that the two parties are more “locked-in” than before, and that has people worried, said Menzie Chinn, a professor of economics at the University of Wisconsin’s La Follette School of Public Affairs and expert on fiscal and monetary policy.
“This is the first time where it may not just be [political theater] but it is actually a case where they very well may not [pass an increase to the debt ceiling], and the consequences are big,” Chinn said. “When you shut down the government, essential services still continue, but if you hit the debt limit, you have to stop payments.”
Quoted: Amaya Atucha, fruit crop specialist for UW-Madison, said she and other researchers are grateful to the cranberry growers that let them host projects on their marshes. She said worrying about the crops was a common issue that held back progress.
“When we want to study things related to an invasive insect or a disease in which you really have to let that disease take over your marsh or your production bed, you’re not going to do that in a grower’s commercial marsh, because the grower makes their living out of the fruit,” Atucha said.
Interview with Christine Whelan, clinical professor in the Department of Consumer Science
at the School of Human Ecology, about new docuseries from Amazon Prime, detailing the rise and fall of LulaRoe, a multi-level marketing company.
Quoted: “I was surprised at the level of the drop,” said Steve Deller, a UW-Madison professor of applied economics. “I would have thought that the second quarter of this year, we would have seen modest growth.”
Deller noted there was “modest growth” in terms of earnings from work, but that was offset by a drop off in “transfer receipts,” a category of income encompassing earnings from non-work sources.
But the report also suggests that in order to keep up with the country’s emergent AI industry, Madison business leaders should forge more corporate research partnerships with UW-Madison. That would further boost the use of AI, promote entrepreneurship and encourage local job retention and attraction. “Significant money is flowing into the region to support almost exclusive contracts or research and development initiatives,” explained Mark Muro, Brookings senior fellow and report co-author. “That’s very important in itself. At the same time, because federal research done at UW-Madison is also building a talent base of skilled researchers and graduate students, there’s a pipeline for future AI expansion.”
Quoted: “There’s nobody left with the necessary oversight,” said Barry Orton, professor emeritus of telecommunications at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
UW-Madison economist Dr. Moses Altsech said the pinch started when upper middle class workers had more money available when they didn’t leave the house.
“You have all of this money sitting around that’s unspent. Then, the government starts sending you stimulus checks out the wazoo, which, for some people, are life-savers. For some people, they are purely disposable income they did not need because they are still getting paid working from home,” Altsech said in an interview with WXPR. “So now you can afford a brand-new car. Now you can afford a brand-new house, a home renovation. There’s money floating around. There’s huge demand. That creates an increase in inflation, of course. Prices are starting to go up.”
Quoted: National studies show people have been consuming more alcohol, especially women with young children, during the pandemic, said Julia Sherman, coordinator for the Wisconsin Alcohol Policy Project at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School. She said other research has found that people who increased alcohol consumption to cope with natural disasters, like Hurricane Katrina, didn’t slow their drinking afterward.
“And that is the big question,” said Sherman. “Will the drinking subside as this crisis fades? As we are able to get back to normal or the new normal? Will we all go back to the previous level of alcohol consumption? And based on this other reporting, it’s not as likely as we might hope.”
Despite supply chain and hiring woes, experts say retailers in Wisconsin have had a successful back-to-school shopping season.
Jerry O’Brien, the executive director of the Kohl’s Center for Retailing at University of Wisconsin-Madison, said “it’s actually been a pretty good season in spite of lots of problems.”
“Retailers are pretty happy with the sales,” said O’Brien. “They just wish some of the other issues were better.”
For months employers, politicians and economists have squared off over what role additional federal unemployment benefits had in contributing to a worker shortage in Wisconsin.
Now that an extra $300 a week in pandemic jobless benefits has ended, the question many have is whether — and when — people will return to the workforce.
“They will, but at a very small margin. Particularly for low wage jobs,” predicts economist Steven Deller from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Economic recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic will depend on providing workers better wages, consistent schedules and stronger benefits, including accessible health care. That’s according to a new report from University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The report from COWS, formerly the Center on Wisconsin Strategy, indicates Wisconsin still has 114,000 fewer jobs available as of July than it did before the onset of COVID-19. Leisure and hospitality in particular have been affected, losing 49,600 jobs. According to the report, that has disproportionately affected women and people of color.
Laura Dresser, the associate director of COWS, said the problems in Wisconsin’s job market came about well before the pandemic.
“Many of the problems that the State of Working Wisconsin has documented for more than two decades were really exposed and exacerbated by the COVID pandemic and its impact on work,” said Dresser. “The very workers that have faced the worst wage trends, faced the hardest conditions in their jobs were the workers who were either unemployed, lost their work through the pandemic, or who faced exposure in their jobs and could not be protected from exposure.”
When UW-Madison oncology fellow Johnathan Ebben founded Nano RED in 2015, the startup’s focus was to conceptualize cancer treatments.
More jobs, but not a full recovery. Better wages, but fewer unions — and, as a consequence, weaker protections for workers. And gaping inequalities by race and ethnicity.
That’s the picture painted in the 2021 edition of the State of Working Wisconsin, an annual assessment that COWS, a University of Wisconsin research and policy center, has been producing for more than two decades.
COWS Associate Director Laura Dresser acknowledges a widespread urge to get “back to normal” under those conditions.
“But ‘normal’ for low-wage workers has long been unsustainable, leaving too many families struggling to get by,” she writes. “Adding jobs is important, but ensuring strong job quality and supports for low-wage workers is equally important.”
Quoted: Steve Deller, an applied economics professor with University of Wisconsin-Madison, said for some businesses, not leasing office spaces has allowed them to bring down operating costs.
“I think three things are happening: a lot of businesses are embracing telecommuting as an alternative to maintaining office spaces; businesses are allowing greater flexibility for some of their workers to continue to telecommute; and finally, some workers are still uncomfortable returning to the office,” Deller said in an email.
But Deller said it’s “too soon to tell” whether shifts to remote work will continue in the long term.
As more mask requirements return, like Dane County reinstating a mask mandate in all indoor public spaces, people are heading to Amazon or other stores to stock up on masks. A group of engineers from UW-Madison wants to remind the public about the Badger Seal.
Quoted: University of Wisconsin-Madison economics professor Timothy Smeeding said the rise in wages for low-income workers means it’s a good time to reassess their jobs and find a better one.
“For those reasons, the job market is in favor of workers right now and turnover is good,” Smeeding said. “When people voluntarily leave jobs, economists think that’s good, because that meant they found something better.”
Noted: Stephen Young is a University of Wisconsin-Madison assistant professor who studies basic income programs in the United States and worldwide. Young said universal basic income is not a “magic bullet solution” but an idea that has gained traction in the past decade to “address structural unemployment and poverty.”
Quoted: “I think that there was some concern that inflation would continue to accelerate,” said Tessa Conroy, an assistant professor of agricultural and applied economics with the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Producers haven’t been able to respond with supply as enthusiastically as consumers have responded with demand as the economy has sort of opened back up.”
Conroy said the new numbers indicate the current accelerated inflation is a temporary trend brought on by supply shortages.
“I think that’s hopeful for a lot of consumers in particular, that as some of the short-term problems resolve themselves, prices will stabilize,” said Conroy.
Quoted: According to Noah Williams, director at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Research on the Wisconsin Economy, the state’s labor force participation has been declining for decades as the state’s demographics shift over time.
“The way I think about it is there’s long term trends and then on top of that there’s been the shorter term issues,” Williams said, “The population is aging; it’s aging more rapidly in Wisconsin than in the rest of the country.”
Quoted: The overall job numbers showed “a strong contribution from education hiring, as more schools than normal retained teachers through the summer and ramped up hiring for a planned return to instruction in the fall,” said Noah Williams, an economist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a right-leaning think tank.
The upward trend, however, is threatened by the virus spread, Williams added.
A new study out of Madison, Wisconsin shows that building dense, amenity-rich market-rate housing in vulnerable neighborhoods leads to higher evictions.
While there are significant differences between Madison and San Francisco, the data has implications for new local attempts to encourage more dense housing into existing residential areas that may be threatened by gentrification and displacement.
The author, University of Wisconsin Professor Revel Sims, looked at areas where five-unit or larger buildings were constructed in areas with older buildings and lower-income residents.
“No one wants to work anymore.” This is a common refrain from business owners around the country as the economy opens back up. Conservative commentators claim that unemployment insurance is keeping people from going back to work and fueling widescale laziness—but is that really what’s going on?
Today on the show, labor economist Laura Dresser joins Thursday host Allen Ruff to challenge these myths of the “labor shortage” narrative. They talk about the working class in Wisconsin, the pandemic economy, the importance of worker power, and the real reason employers are struggling to hire.
Laura Dresser is associate director of the Center On Wisconsin Strategy (COWS) and assistant clinical professor in the School Of Social Work at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She is co-editor of The Gloves-Off Economy: Workplace Standards at the Bottom of America’s Labor Market(Cornell University Press, 2008) and co-author of the annual State of Working Wisconsin report from COWS.
Much of southern and western Wisconsin has continued to experience abnormally dry conditions this year, with far southeastern Wisconsin seeing severe drought earlier this summer.
But agronomist Chris Kucharik from the University of Wisconsin-Madison said lower precipitation hasn’t had as much of an impact on the state’s crops as he was anticipating.
“I’m a bit surprised at how well the crops have been doing,” Kucharik said. “Honestly, once the crop is in the ground, (farmers) are kind of at the mercy of what happens during the growing season with the weather.”
Quoted: Even though the situation in the industry remains tough, Mark Stephenson, head of dairy policy analysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said “2020 was not as bad a year for dairy farmers.”
Milk prices had been low since 2015 — “for a longer period of time than we’ve seen in quite a while,” according to Stephenson. Farmers did their best to cut costs, and waited for demand to increase and boost prices with it.
Quoted: Although underpaid, poorly treated service workers certainly exist around the world, American expectations on their behavior are particularly extreme and widespread, according to Nancy Wong, a consumer psychologist and the chair of the consumer-science department at the University of Wisconsin. “Business is at fault here,” Wong told me. “This whole industry has profited from exploitation of a class of workers that clearly should not be sustainable.”
Noted: La Follette School Assistant Professor Lindsay Jacobs is one of the authors of the report
Americans may be richer than they think and less unequal than they’ve been led to believe. That’s the takeaway from a recent working paper by five economists from the University of Wisconsin and the Federal Reserve, which adds to standard wealth measures by including Social Security and pension guarantees.
“There’s no way to sugarcoat it, it’s going to be bad,” said Kurt Paulsen, University of Wisconsin-Madison urban planning professor. He explained that the eviction moratorium barred landlords from evicting tenants who were unable to pay their rent during the pandemic, but that renters are still ultimately on the hook for all the rent they missed when the moratorium expires.
“Thousands and thousands of renters have been unable to pay the rent because of unemployment or COVID-related financial hardships, and eventually the rent comes due,” Paulsen said.
While the debate over enhanced federal unemployment aid in Wisconsin has been settled for now, the broader, national discussion on the issue continues.
At least 26 states have cut their ties with the program. Business owners and interest groups argue that ending the additional aid is the best way to address difficulties in hiring new workers.
For more on the debate, WORT producer Jonah Chester spoke with Laura Dresser, a labor economist at UW-Madison.
Industry experts Mark Stephenson and Bob Cropp say they see optimism in price and supply for the coming months, according to the latest episode of the Dairy Markets and Policy podcast.
Cropp, professor emeritus of UW-Madison’s Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, said cold storage reports bring both bad and good news to dairy farmers: American cheese stocks are slowly decreasing at 2% this month, but butter stocks have gone up 14% in the same timeframe. Stephenson, director of the Center for Dairy Profitability, said cheese stocks will continue to see rising price support.
Quoted: “People respond to price changes by shifting their consumption,” according to Noah Williams, an economics professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute.
Quoted: Landlords have a lot more options available to them than eviction, Madison-based rental housing lawyer and University of Wisconsin-Madison law professor Mitch said. Mitch said property owners can negotiate rather than file evictions that will go permanently on the tenant’s record.
“I know that eviction isn’t the only tool in your toolbox when renters don’t pay, and I wish that property owners would realize that they have other tools such as working out agreements on early move-outs, working on payment plans or working together to get government assistance,” Mitch said.
Quoted: “You used to have to use McKinsey or another specialized consultant, but with the Internet and data science you can do this at a fraction of the cost and make it very easy for the farmers themselves,” said Tom Erickson, Founding Director of the University of Wisconsin’s School of Computer, Data and Information Sciences.
Noted: Green county has seen one of the state’s fastest growths in Latino population, increasing by an estimated 228% from 2000 to 2019, according to the Applied Population Lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Monroe is the largest city in Green county and has seen a steady increase of Latino immigrants over 20 years. With a population of only about 10,800, new people stand out, which has made the adjustment, like the farm work, incredibly difficult for some dairy workers.
Quoted: “These early plants are relatively easy and that’s a good place to start,” said Greg Nemet, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who specializes in the development of climate-friendly energy technology. “As that gets shown and proven, you get some transportation networks, then it gets easier to do the harder stuff later.”
Quoted: Mark Stephenson, the director of dairy policy analysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said the industry definitely has a lot of challenges but is nowhere near extinction.
“We’ve produced record amounts of milk in the last year or two. It’s being consumed. Most of it domestically, but increasingly with exports,” said Stephenson.
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison plan to meld computer modeling and social science in hopes of providing better responses to future pandemics. The goal is to be ready with quicker and more equitable strategies to distribute vaccines.
Interview with Jirs Meuris, assistant professor of management and human resources at the Wisconsin School of Business.
Quoted: Menzie Chinn, an economics professor with the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said in an email that while there is much demand for workers, supply remains constrained.
“Rising wages are not a ‘bad’, since that’s how the market adjusts to market conditions,” said Chinn. “There’s not a ‘shortage’ as the business community keeps on complaining about.”
Steve Deller, an applied economics professor at UW-Madison, said increased wages and benefits are one way companies are trying to be creative in the current labor market.
“Five years ago or so, people would think that a $15-an-hour job is a good paying job,” said Deller. “People are coming to the realization that’s not a good paying job. It’s got to be more than that. And businesses are coming around and saying, ‘If I want quality workers, I’ve got to up my pay.'”
Noted: Steven Deller, a University of Wisconsin-Madison economist and part of a group that studied the impact of Verso’s closure in Wisconsin Rapids, said he thinks the paper industry in Wisconsin is declining for reasons similar to what happened in Maine, where he worked at a university before coming to Wisconsin.
The problem in both states, he said, is that many of the plants are old and companies are finding it doesn’t make sense to invest in aging facilities. Instead, they are building new, often in the south to reduce transportation costs by being closer to timber producers in warmer places where trees grow faster.
States around the country are gearing up for projects that could pair engineering schools and industry, but the dean of UW-Madison’s College of Engineering warned this week the state will be at a disadvantage unless there’s more investment in infrastructure needed to compete. “If we don’t act soon, we’re going to lose out,” said Ian Robertson, dean of Madison’s 4,500-student engineering college. “Others are going to get ahead of us. They’re all gearing up to go after the Endless Frontier money. It’s that simple.”
According to Tracy, Adventa has partnered with the University of Wisconsin to research the effects of breast milk in adults.
Interview with Howard Schweber, a professor of constitutional law and free speech at UW-Madison.
During the 2020-21 academic year, 14 Wisconsin third through fifth grade teachers took part in the Shipwrecks! Game Design Fellowship with PBS Wisconsin Education and Field Day Lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Throughout the winter, these educators met with teachers, game designers, researchers and maritime archaeologists to co-design a video game that investigates shipwrecks in the Great Lakes using the practices of maritime archaeologists.
Quoted: “Management of forage fish populations should be based on data that are specific to that forage fish, and to their predators,” University of Wisconsin-Madison Associate Professor Olaf Jensen, a co-author of the study, said. “When there aren’t sufficient data to conduct a population-specific analysis, it’s reasonable to manage forage fish populations for maximum sustainable yield, as we would other fish populations under the Magnuson-Stevens Act.”
Quoted: “The classic thing is that attackers go in and lurk, sometimes for very long periods of time, and maybe exfiltrate data,” said Molly Jahn, a plant geneticist at University of Wisconsin-Madison who was undersecretary of research, education and economics at USDA in 2009 and 2010 and has done extensive research on cybersecurity. Jahn is currently on loan to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) but spoke to Agri-Pulse in her personal capacity as an expert.
This summer, UW-Madison researchers further looked at the links between certain types of crops, the growth in those types of crops and the correlation to a decline in native bees across the state and the midwest as a whole.
“Rarer [bees] that have become increasingly rare, they might not be able to thrive because we’ve eliminated those flowers that they need from the landscape,” said Jeremy Hemberger, a research entomologist at UW-Madison “by converting prairies and wetlands to agriculture and developments.”
The decline of native bees is a decades-long problem that keeps the list of endangered bees growing.
“Native bees are silently playing these really important roles, so just people becoming more aware that there’s all these other groups out there that through our actions we could be supporting, I think is a really valuable thing,” UW-Madison professor Claudio Gratton said.
Quoted: Jeff Sindelar is a meat specialist for the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Division of Extension. He said small and mid-size processors saw demand for their services and products expand rapidly in 2020, after coronavirus outbreaks forced large processing plants to reduce capacity or shut down.
“They were really stressed because (farmers) were needing places to go with their animals, (consumers) were interested in buying more protein, and there was also this small hoarding phenomenon that was going on for a short period of time,” Sindelar said.
Quoted: “I think it’s clear it’s a contributing factor. What we don’t know is how large,” said Noah Williams, director at the Center for Research on the Wisconsin Economy at UW-Madison. “It is the one piece which is most amenable to policy change.”
In 2011, the computer science major at the University of Wisconsin – Madison had about 200 students. Today, it has more than 2,000. It’s now the largest major on campus, and it’s expected to keep growing.
Quoted: Christelle Guédot is an associate professor of entomology at UW-Madison. She says establishing more habitat for pollinators could help them out.
“So having more habitats for them, and more connectivity between those habitats, and not have, like, islands of habitat for pollinators, would really help in bringing those populations – not necessarily back to where they were, but improving in their abundance and diversity,” says Guédot.
Quoted: “The FCC target for these is 25mpbs, which is sufficient for most applications. However, we are far from that in most places,” UW-Madison computer science professor Paul Barford says. “And, it’s not just about up/down speeds, it’s also about where there is still zero connectivity and about the reliability of connectivity in deployed areas. Many things must be considered.”