Ag Briefs: Hepatitis A outbreak linked to organic fresh strawberries

Wisconsin State Farmer
National briefs

WASHINGTON, D.C.

Hepatitis A outbreak linked to organic fresh strawberries

The US Food and Drug Administration is investigating a hepatitis A outbreak, with cases possibly linked to organic fresh strawberries.

The federal agency issued a statement Saturday warning about the “multistate outbreak” and announced the investigation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

So far, there have been no deaths, but there have been 17 cases and 12 hospitalizations spread between California, Minnesota and Canada, the FDA noted.

The infections in the United States and Canada are “potentially linked” to fresh organic strawberries branded as FreshKampo and HEB.

The FDA noted the strawberries in question were sold at retailers including Aldi, H-E-B, Kroger, Safeway, Sprouts Farmers Market, Trader Joe’s, Walmart, Weis Markets and WinCo Foods.

MADISON, WI

Gov. Evers issues order prohibiting baby formula price gouging

Gov. Tony Evers has issued an executive order barring price gouging on baby formula. The governor issued the order on May 26, the AP reported. 

The order declares that a period of “abnormal economic disruption” exists in Wisconsin and prohibits wholesalers and retailers in the state from charging “unreasonably excessive prices,” defined in administrative code as prices more than 15% higher than prices over the last two months.

The order comes as the United States is facing a shortage of baby formula driven largely by a recall of Abbot Nutrition plant closing in February, which has led to a recall of Abbott formula.

LOYAL, WI

FTD sends out call for volunteers

Clark County is seeking volunteers for Wisconsin Farm Technology Days, July 12-14. Those interested should visit wifarmtechdays.org and click on the “Volunteer Information” button. You will be taken to the Volunteer Page where you can click on the area you would like to help with, then pick the day or days and times you can help.

 Volunteers receive free admission to the show and a commemorative T-shirt. Non-profit club or organizations interested in fund-raising opportunities should contact Paula at 715-302-1177.

BLUE MOUNDS, WI

Dairyfood USA, Gilman Cheese Corp. announce merger

Two of Wisconsin’s leading cheese processors – Dairyfood USA and Gilman Cheese Corporation – announced today they will merge, creating an expanded product mix for their customers around the world.

Following the planned retirement of Dairyfood USA president and CEO Daniel Culligan, Gilman Cheese Corporation president David Delgado will oversee integration of the combined organization alongside Dairyfood USA and Gilman management teams. Dairyfood USA and Gilman currently employ 149 and 184 employees, respectively. Each company will retain its name.

Dairyfood USA operates out of a facility in Blue Mounds, located 25 miles west of Madison. Gilman Cheese Corporation is located about 190 miles northeast in the Village of Gilman.

MADISON, WI

DATCP waives fees for ag chemical cleanup program

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) will continue to waive the fee for the Agricultural Chemical Cleanup Program (ACCP).

Fertilizer and pesticide businesses normally pay this fee when renewing their license, and farmers pay it when purchasing fertilizer. The fee goes into the ACCP fund to help pay for cleaning up agrichemical spills. When the fund remains above $1.5 million, DATCP can waive the fee, according to a news release. 

The fee holiday will extend through June 2021 for fertilizer sales, and through the 2020-21 license year for other licensees.

For more information about the ACCP fund and surcharges, visit https://bit.ly/3wRHnE2

MADISON, WI

Hourly wages for farmhands working in Lake states averages $17.45

Wages for farmhands across the nation rose 8% over this time last year according to a farm labor report issued by the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), Agricultural Statistics Board, and USDA.

In the three state region of Lake States (Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota), farm operators employed 56,000 farm workers during the week of April 10-16, 2022. Hourly wages for field workers averaged $17.36/hr, while livestock workers averaged $16.22/hr. Employees performing both fieldwork and animal-related duties averaged $16.73/hr. Gross wages in Wisconsin averaged $17.45/hr. - an increase of $1.70 compared to 2021.

The report also noted that hired laborers in the three-state region averaged 38.4 hours per week, compared to the national average of 39.7 hours during the April 2022 reference week.

WEST ALLIS, WI

WI State Fair Dairy Promotion board seeking volunteers

The Wisconsin State Fair Dairy Promotion Board is seeking volunteers for the Real Wisconsin Cheese Grill, Dairyland Shake Shop and for the interactive Dairy Lane, formerly the House of Moo, at the 2022 Wisconsin State Fair, August 4-14, 2022. 

In addition to making grilled cheese sandwiches, volunteers will also serve shakes in the Dairyland Shake Shop, the organizations newest venture at the Fairy. Funds benefit the Wisconsin State Fair Foundation and Wisconsin dairy youth.

To sign up visit wsfdairypromo.org and click on the volunteer box. For more info on the paid positions, email programassistant@wsfdairypromo.org. 

FALLS CHURCH, VA

U.S. apple industry hit hard by loss of exports

The U.S. Apple Association has joined more than 40 agriculture and food groups to call for the elimination or reduction of U.S. tariffs being imposed on other countries, which it says are sparking retaliatory tariffs that harm U.S. agriculture.

In a letter sent to U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, the groups said U.S. agriculture communities are already suffering with higher fuel, machinery and input costs due to the pandemic; supply chain disruptions; inflation and the war on Ukraine. These challenges are compounded by decreased market access, the groups said.

The U.S. apple industry has been hit particularly hard with the loss of exports, which had accounted for about $1 billion worth of apples annually, roughly one-third of the country’s crop, said the Falls Church, Va.-based USApple in a release.

KANSAS CITY, MO

USDA NIFA Invests $25M in meat and poultry ag workforce training

The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture  announced an investment of $25 million, as part of the American Rescue Plan for meat and poultry agriculture workforce training.

NIFA will invest $25 million through new and existing workforce development programs to provide a pipeline of well-trained workers to meet the demand increased independent processing capacity.

Acting NIFA Director Dr. Dionne Toombs said these investments will enhance equity and capacity across the food supply chain by supporting meat and poultry research, education and training at the local level.

USDA will leverage its robust regional education and Extension networks and establish new, or supplement existing, Centers of Excellence. She said workforce training will increase the resiliency and competitiveness of local and regional supply chains and support the industry’s urgent need for highly skilled talent to meet labor demands across the country.

MADISON, WI

Registration for tractor safety virtual course now open 

The Wisconsin Youth Tractor & Machinery Safety Certification Program is offering a free virtual online course from July 11-15, 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Driving dates will be determined. 

The course is designed for youth is designed to meet requirements established by the US Department of Labor, pertaining to special provisions made for the employment of youth ages 14-15 on farms not operated by their parents. In addition, Wisconsin Act 455 provides specific provisions for tractor operation by 12-13 year olds.

To register visit https://bit.ly/38mXBgb. For more information email farms@extension.wisc.edu. 

KYIV, Ukraine

Kremlin blames West for food crisis

Moscow pressed the West to lift sanctions against Russia over the war in Ukraine, seeking to shift the blame for a growing food crisis that has been worsened by Kyiv’s inability to ship millions of tons of grain and other agricultural products due to the conflict.

Britain immediately accused Russia of 'trying to hold the world to ransom,' insisting there would be no sanctions relief, and a top U.S. diplomat blasted the 'sheer barbarity, sadistic cruelty and lawlessness' of the invasion, Associated Press reported.

Russian President Vladimir Putin told Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi that Moscow 'is ready to make a significant contribution to overcoming the food crisis through the export of grain and fertilizer on the condition that politically motivated restrictions imposed by the West are lifted,' according to a Kremlin readout of the call.

Ukraine is one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat, corn and sunflower oil, but the war and a Russian blockade of its ports has halted much of that flow, endangering world food supplies. Many of those ports are now also heavily mined.

MADISON, WI

Harvest levels approved for 2022 fall elk hunt in WI

State and tribal hunters will be able to harvest eight elk from northern Wisconsin’s herd as part of the fifth-annual hunt set for this fall.

The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board unanimously approved the eight-elk quota at its meeting Wednesday. The decision maintains the elk quota set last year, WPR reported.

Wisconsin has two elk ranges: the Clam Lake herd in northern Wisconsin and the Black River Falls herd in southwestern Wisconsin.

Wisconsin first approved a modern-day elk hunt in 2018 after the northern elk herd surpassed 200 elk for the first time since they were reintroduced to the Clam Lake area in 1995. While once widespread, the animal had been eliminated from the state since the 1880s. 

MADISON, WI

Man accused of stealing timber faces federal charges

A federal grand jury has indicted a Bayfield County man on charges that he stole timber from the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. T

he Wisconsin State Journal reports 40-year-old Jerod Hecimovich of Mason is charged in a three-count indictment with stealing, injuring and knowingly cutting and removing live oak timber from the forest last year.

According to the indictment, Hecimovich had a contract with the U.S. Forest Service to harvest certain timber but he harvested live oak in violation of his contract. The indictment seeks a $24,736 forfeiture. 

MADISON, WI

DBIA: dairy industry impact grant coming July 2022

Dairy product manufacturers in five Midwestern states can prepare now to apply for a new, $1 million round of grants to be administered by the Dairy Business Innovation Alliance (DBIA), a partnership between the Center for Dairy Research (CDR) and the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association (WCMA).

This grant program is targeted to help dairy businesses develop an idea or tackle a challenge with the potential to advance the dairy industry as a whole. Reimbursable grants of up to $250,000 each will be awarded through a competitive review process. Grant recipients will be required to share results of their project.

The grant competition opens July 11, 2022 when applications will be available on the DBIA website. Applicants must be located in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, or Wisconsin. Initial abstracts are due Aug. 31, 2022. Successful applicants will be invited to submit full proposals by Nov. 3, 2022. Companies interested in applying in July should contact Vic Grassman at vgrassman@cdr.wisc.edu or Tom Guerin at tguerin@cdr.wisc.edu.

WASHINGTON D.C.

Food and ag leaders call for tariff relief

A broad and diverse group of American food and agriculture leaders sent a letter to the U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai office on May 26 calling for the suspension, reduction or elimination of tariffs in order to ease the burden of retaliatory tariffs on the industry and American farm families.

The letter, led by Farmers for Free Trade, comes as the Biden Administration is undergoing a mandatory review of recently increased tariffs and following Administration comments that tariff changes are under review as part of efforts to address inflation.