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a.MKE: Gov. Walker Declares Drought Emergency in 42 Counties & Fondy Food Center Wins Fruit Orchard: Today's Top Stories

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Governor Walker has declared a state of drought emergency in 42 counties in Southern Wisconsin. The state of emergency will basically streamline farmers’ efforts to temporarily use stream or lake water to irrigate dry fields. Walker is encouraging farmers with withering crops to report their conditions to the U.S. Farm Service Agency, which compiles information that could be used by the governor to request a federal disaster declaration. The forecast this week calls for sunny skies with increasing temps as the week continues.

With Summerfest now over – it’s time to look back at the popular music festival. President and CEO, Don Smiley said that the oppressive heat that stuck around Milwaukee during much of Summerfest had a financial impact on attendance, revenue and vendor sales. According to the National Weather Service, the official temp in Milwaukee exceeded 90 degrees seven out of the eleven days of the festival. Smiley said attendance was down and it was all heat-related, and when people showed up, they did not eat or drink. This week crews will clean up the grounds, because up next is Festa Italiana.

President Obama is pushing to extend tax cuts for the middle class. Yesterday, Obama called on Congress to pass a one-year extension of tax cuts for households making less than $250,000 a year. The president’s appeal to middle-class voters is aimed at drawing a contrast with Republican rival, Mitt Romney. The Bush-era tax cuts are set to expire at the end of the year unless Congress votes to extend them. Economists worry that across-the-board tax increases could be a blow to the shaky U.S. economy.

This summer First Stage Theater Academy is launching its “Next Steps Program”. The program is designed to help autistic students experience drama, music and movement through life skills through stage skills philosophy. First Stage Program director, Jennifer Adams, said, “The program enables students with autism take their next steps as an artist and as a person.” Slasses are open to students entering grades 6 through 12 and classes will be offered at the end of August.

Milwaukee’s Fondy Food Center is one of four neighborhood organizations across the country that will receive a fruit orchard. The prize is part of the Edy’s Fruit Bars Communities Take Root Program. The program focuses on planting fruit trees and plants across the world. The center will get twenty fruit trees, shrubs, an irrigation system and training in organic fruit production. Over 33,000 people voted for the Fondy Food Center. Fondy plans to plant the orchard at its Port Washington Farm and the fruit will be sold at the Fondy Farmers Market.

Now through July 14th, the YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee is opening select pools to the community to help residents stay cool during this hot summer. The open swim hours are free and no Y membership is required. The goal is to provide an opportunity for Milwaukee community residents to take a healthy break during high temps. Children under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian in order to take part in open swim.