Series

Wisconsin's wealth of freshwater is foundational to the state's agricultural economy. As livestock farms in the state grow ever larger in the 21st century, their impact on this resource is growing. The largest of these farms are termed concentrated animal feeding operations, often called CAFOs. These farms with hundreds or thousands of animals not only require more water, but they also produce colossal amounts of manure. Managing this livestock byproduct is a major undertaking. Manure can serve as a resource for fertilizing crops or for generating energy. At the same time, this waste regularly enters surface and groundwater, contaminating wells and wildlife habitat. How manure is handled is a focus of policymaking, and its increasing volumes can contribute to contentious relationships between CAFO operators and their neighbors.More
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Rural life poses distinct obstacles when it comes to improving health outcomes. The reality of distance is paramount — getting to and from doctors' offices and hospitals requires more time, and when there is an emergency, that issue becomes acute. A related concern is the availability of healthcare providers across broader areas, particularly in places where population is decreasing. Moreover, rural populations are increasingly becoming proportionally older than the state as a whole, compounding difficulties related to mobility, specialized treatment and end-of-life care. Public health efforts in rural communities focus on preventive goals that are both universal and particular to specific groups of people or conditions. As the demographics, economy and environment of rural Wisconsin shifts, so do the health needs of its people.More
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Wisconsin's deal with electronics manufacturing giant Foxconn has stirred up a mix of excitement and doubt. The state offered the Taiwan-based company about $3 billion in economic incentives and a waiver on a variety of environmental and other regulations to build a large LCD fabrication complex. In return, Foxconn touted the possibility of creating thousands of jobs and invigorating Wisconsin as a Midwestern tech hub. This type of manufacturing would place considerable demands on the state's natural resources, especially water, and can create significant pollution. The net effect of this deal will take years to emerge, but boosters and skeptics alike agree that a Foxconn footprint would have profound and complex implications for Wisconsin's future.More
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About one in nine Wisconsin households faces food insecurity — a lack of reliable access to safe, affordable and culturally relevant food that supports an active, healthy lifestyle. Those who have trouble keeping their refrigerators and pantries stocked include people who are unemployed and others who are working but aren’t able to find enough hours or wages, as well as many who are children and senior citizens. A variety of safety nets — from public-assistance programs to non-profit and religious food banks — struggle to keep up with demand. Fluctuations in the broader economy add uncertainties for the needy, as do changing state and federal aid policies. At the same time, innovative projects seek to improve food security, including efforts to directly connect hungry Wisconsinites with fresh food through growers and farmers' markets.More
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Manufacturing and agriculture have historically reigned supreme in Wisconsin's economy. But automation and consolidation in those sectors, and a shifting emphasis toward service- and technology-based industries, means the nature of work is changing rapidly. As workers across the state seek to start their careers, pursue better jobs, or find themselves struggling to reap the benefits of economic growth, they're looking for new opportunities wherever they might find them, including outside Wisconsin. As demographic and workforce shifts shape the state's future, political and business leaders are looking to attract and retain workers with advanced skills and education. These efforts are related to larger forces affecting Wisconsin's future, including population decline in rural areas, the role of higher education, and how public resources are used to develop the economy.More
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