Business Group Lawsuit Seeks to Halt PFAS Sampling Program by WI DNR
Wisconsin’s largest business interest lobbying group has filed suit against the state Department of Natural Resources, asserting that state law doesn’t allow the agency to carry out a program to sample wastewater at industrial and municipal sites for the “forever chemicals” known as PFAS. The lawsuit, filed Monday in Jefferson County Circuit Court, seeks to block DNR from requiring that certain facilities, including some that are WMC members, allow testing of wastewater for PFAS, for which WMC states there are as yet no standards under state law. It also wants to bar making the results of those samples public. DNR and its secretary, Preston Cole, “do not have statutory authority to implement and enforce their program to sample for compounds that they have no standards for under state law,” WMC’s lawsuit states.

Source: WMC
Sticker Shock: WI Customers Seeing Big Gas Bills After Winter Storm Crippled Texas

Many Wisconsin consumers are facing hefty heating gas bills in the coming months as a result of the winter storm that left Texas residents freezing in darkened homes last month. Across the Midwest, unusually cold temperatures led to an increased demand for natural gas over a two-week stretch of February. Then, on Feb. 13, winter storm Uri brought ice and record cold to Texas and other major gas-producing regions, triggering an additional spike in demand just as many wellheads froze, constricting supplies. This one-two punch caused gas prices to spike, and not just in Texas. The price of gas in western Wisconsin jumped from about $2.60 to more than $200 on Feb. 17, an increase of nearly 10,000%. Read More

Source: WMC

Ag Sec'y Calls for Structural Changes in US Food Distribution Systems

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stressed the need for structural changes to U.S. food distribution systems in order to tackle hunger, strengthen equity, and increase access to school meals during his keynote address Wednesday at the National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference, a multiday event co-sponsored by Feeding America and the Food Research & Action Center, in cooperation with the National CACFP Forum. Vilsack drew attention to the twin crises of food insecurity and “nutrition insecurity,” citing striking levels of childhood and adult obesity — 18.5% and 71%, respectively — along with the 40% of Americans suffering from more than two chronic illnesses, many of which stem from poor diets. Read More

Source: Michael Best Strategies
Pew's Sandra Eskin Names USDA's Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety

The new administration in Washington has yet to name an Under Secretary for Food Safety, but it has named a “power player” as Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety. She can take office immediately as Senate confirmation is not required for the USDA job. Named in the secondary role at USDA’s Office for Food Safety (OFS) is Sandra Eskin, (above) long known as the food safety project director for The Pew Charitable Trusts. In that role, Eskin was known for bringing diverse parties together to work on common solutions for food safety challenges. She’s led Pew’s work on food safety in the charitable trust’s campaign to reduce health risks from foodborne pathogens by working with the federal government, industry and other stakeholders to improve food safety. Until the president nominates and the U.S. Senate confirms a USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety, Eskin will head the OFS, which is charged with carrying out the Biden Administration’s food safety priorities. Read More

Source: Michael Best Strategies

USDA Invites Ideas on Climate-Smart Ag Policy

To carry out President Biden’s goal of net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases from agriculture, the USDA said it would accept suggestions through April 30 on elements of a climate-smart agriculture and forestry policy. “This includes making the most of USDA programs, developing new USDA-led climate strategies, strengthening existing markets, and developing new markets that generate new income,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Agriculture is responsible for 10% of U.S. emissions. “We see farmers making American agriculture first in the world to achieve net-zero emissions and gaining new sources of income in the process,” said Biden when he issued an executive order on climate change at the end of his first week in office. He instructed the USDA to consult with landowners, farmers, conservation groups, and other interested parties on how to encourage voluntary adoption of policies that sequester carbon in the soil and in trees and that produce biofuels and bioproducts.  Read More

Source: Michael Best Strategies

Vilsack Says a Carbon Bank Fits into USDA's Portfolio

The USDA has the authority to create a so-called carbon bank to encourage climate mitigation on the farm, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Monday, but he is waiting for farmers’ ideas on how the bank should operate. Speaking at a farm conference, Vilsack said he was open to an increase in USDA spending power, if needed, to prevent a squeeze on money needed for the farm program. President Biden has a goal of seeing American agriculture as the first in the world to achieve net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases. There are recurrent suggestions that a USDA carbon bank could help farmers adopt climate-smart practices or even set a floor price for each ton of carbon sequestered into the soil or trees.  Read More

Source: Michael Best Strategies

IRS Says Face Masks, Hand Sanitizer are Tax Deductible Medical Expenses

The IRS said Friday that face masks, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes bought to curb the spread of COVID-19 are tax-deductible medical expenses. “The purchase of personal protective equipment, such as masks, hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes, for the primary purpose of preventing the spread of coronavirus are deductible medical expenses,” the agency said in a statement. These amounts are also eligible to be paid or reimbursed under health flexible spending arrangements, health savings accounts, Archer medical savings accounts or health reimbursement rearrangements, the agency said. Read More

Source: WMC
Pritzker Vetoes Prejudgement Interest Litigation Bill
From Alton Daily News: Gov. J.B. Pritzker vetoed a trail lawyers bill which would have allowed plaintiffs in all personal injury and wrongful death cases to collect interest on money they were awarded by a court starting when the incident took place. In a veto message, Pritzker said the bill would be burdensome for hospitals and medical professionals, potentially driving up health care costs and deterring physicians from practicing in Illinois. He added that the majority of Illinois hospitals are self-insured and as a result, would be required to pay the costs of the legislation directly, at a time when they can least afford the added expense. Mark Denzler, president and CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, said the bill would significantly increase litigation costs on manufacturers, hospitals and doctors who have been on the front lines during the pandemic. “Manufacturers across Illinois that have created life-saving vaccines, produced personal protective equipment for first responders and health care professionals and kept grocery stores stocked with safe and nutritious food will be hit with tens of millions of dollars in additional costs,” Denzler said. Read More

Source: IMA
AgriGrowth Exec Director Names to Governor's Committe on Safety, Health and Wellbeing of Ag and Food Processing Workers
Governor Tim Walz announced a new Committee on the Safety, Health, and Wellbeing of Agricultural and Food Processing Workers. Tamara Nelsen, the Executive Director of AgriGrowth, was appointed to the committee. The Minnesota Farmers Union and Minnesota Farm Bureau are also represented on the committee. Read More

Source: AgriGrowth
WI Legislature Blocks DNR's Unlawful Moves on PFAS
The Republican-led Wisconsin Legislature has effectively blocked part of the Department of Natural Resources' proposed limits on PFAS contamination. The move comes one year after Gov. Tony Evers signed off on a bill from lawmakers that directed the agency to put forward the language as part of an effort to cap the use of firefighting foam. While Republicans and industry groups, including the state's largest business lobby, have argued DNR overstepped its authority in issuing components of the language, Democrats and environmental advocates counter the agency was following state law and the Legislature's actions this week undermined that. Read More

Source: WMC
Minnesota Looks to Bring Meat Processing Capacity Up to Producer Need
According to Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen, Minnesota had a backup in meat processing that the Department of Agriculture was looking at before the COVID-19 pandemic hit last March. In January 2020, Petersen assigned the Ag Department's assistant commissioner to set up meetings around the state to address local meat processing backlogs. Read More

Source: MN Chamber
House Passes 2 Bills Aimed at Overhauling Immigration System
The House has overwhelmingly passed a pair of immigration bills that offer a targeted approach to amending the immigration system but have an uncertain future when it comes to passage in the Senate. The American Dream and Promise Act, which previously passed in the House in 2019, would create a process for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children — otherwise known as "DREAMers" — to earn permanent resident status and eventual citizenship. It also includes a path to citizenship for people with temporary protected status and beneficiaries of deferred enforced departure. It passed by a vote of 228-197. "Millions in this country live in fear, holding their breaths every day, that they could be deported to faraway lands that are not their homes," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Thursday. "Because America is their home. For Dreamers, it has been their home since their earliest days. And today, this House is going to take action – as we did last Congress – to help them breathe easier." The House also approved the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which would establish a system for agricultural workers to earn temporary status with an eventual option to become a permanent resident. Read More

Source: IMA
NPC, Ag Industry Groups Raise Alarm on US-Mexico Trade Relationship
The National Potato Council and 26 leading food and agriculture associations sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai yesterday communicating growing concerns over the rapid deterioration of the U.S.-Mexico trade relationship. The letter calls attention to alarming recent developments with regard to food and agriculture trade relationship with Mexico and urges action to address these challenges. Together, the group of associations represent much of the food and agriculture sector that is responsible for roughly one-fifth of the country’s economic activity, directly supporting over 23 million jobs – constituting nearly 15 percent of total U.S. employment. Signers include the American Farm Bureau Federation, the American Soybean Association, Corn Refiners Association, International Dairy Foods Association, North American Meat Institute, National Grain and Feed Association, and the U.S. Dairy Export Council. Read More

Source: Michael Best Strategies
Leveraging the Fast-Changing World of Robotics
Robots continue to revolutionize the future of work by improving efficiency, both through automation of repeatable tasks, as well as by being able to act autonomously to make complex decisions. The more robots are able to adapt to changing situations, the more value they can provide. Read More

Source: CLFP
Curd Immunity: How WI Cheesemakers and Dairy Farmers are Getting Vaccines for Workers and Others
The list of registered COVID-19 vaccine providers in Wisconsin features hundreds of hospitals, pharmacies, doctors and health centers — and some cheesemakers. Grande Cheese Company, a longtime Fond du Lac-based family business known for its Italian cheeses, began holding vaccination clinics after food supply chain workers became eligible earlier this month. Sargento Foods, a nearly 70-year-old cheese company founded in Plymouth, has started administering vaccine doses at its on-site wellness centers and is planning to soon host a mass vaccination site for other food production workers. Read More

Source: WMC
WI Supremes Rules Evers' Emergency Orders, Face Mask Requirement Unlawful
The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled Gov. Tony Evers acted unlawfully when he issued multiple pandemic emergency orders — including face mask requirements — handing Gov. Tony Evers a significant setback in his ability to impose COVID-19 mitigation efforts. The order means the governor will be barred from extending the state's current COVID-19 emergency order and mask mandate, which was set to expire on April 5, unless the Republican-controlled Legislature votes to extend it. Otherwise, it will continue to be up to local governments, such as cities and counties, to impose their own virus restrictions. Read More

Source: WMC
Food Companies Hire to Adapt to Shifting Landscape
Food companies are adapting their workforce strategies as the industry transitions to a digital marketplace and increased demand for healthy options during the pandemic. "It is an exceptionally hot market for people in data analytics, e-commerce and people who can think flexibility, think across functions," said Michael Lindsey, chief growth officer with PepsiCo's Frito-Lay and Quaker Foods North America. Read More

Source: CBA

MN House Passes Paid Sick Time Bill
The Minnesota House has narrowly passed a bill requiring all employers to offer sick time to their employees, with Democrats and Republicans split on whether the coronavirus highlights the need to guarantee sick time, or if the proposed mandate could deal a lethal blow to struggling businesses. House File 7 passed by a 69-63 vote on Thursday, March 25. Democratic proponents say the bill is timely, with employees needing the ability to take off if they or their loved one is sick during a yearlong airborne pandemic. Republican opponents refuted that employers are struggling enough amid the pandemic’s recession, and a new state mandate could bury them. Rep. Liz Olson, D-Duluth, said the pandemic is ‘another stark reminder that when people get sick, they should be able to stay home not just for their own health, or that of a loved one, but for the health of all of us.’ Olson’s bill would require employers to provide at least one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to at least 48 hours per year. Currently, Minnesota employers can choose to provide paid time off, but are not required to. Read More

Source: Brainerd Dispatch
Appeals Court Panel Appears Skeptical of Groups' Effort to Block C-19 Records

Judges on a state appeals court based in Madison appeared skeptical Wednesday toward an effort from Wisconsin business groups to block the release of state health department data on businesses linked to COVID-19 cases. The case is one of the most notable public records cases during the COVID-19 era in Wisconsin, and pits business’ right to privacy against the public’s right to information. Read More

Source: WisPolitics
MN Senate Overwhelmingly Passes PPP Tax Relief
The Minnesota Senate passed full federal tax conformity for the forgivable PPP loan last week with a strong vote of 55-12. Thank you to the tripartisan group of senators that voted to prevent a state income tax hit on the small businesses that received federal PPP loans. This is positive news for Minnesota businesses who have struggled to keep their doors open and people employed during the pandemic. It is a Minnesota Chamber priority for the session. 
With a $1.6 billion surplus and billions more dollars now coming from the federal government, there is no reason Governor Walz and House leaders shouldn’t provide this tax relief now – just like neighboring states have done. Providing this one-time relief will help the 100,000 businesses that received a PPP loan to continue growing the economy and creating and sustaining jobs for Minnesotans.
The House now needs to take action to prevent this tax hit for the many businesses that need to pay taxes.  Read More

Source: MN Chamber
Consumer Survey Reveals 4 Emerging Shopping Habits to Track in 2021
Food and health discovery platform Social Nature released its latest report about how natural product consumer behaviors and shopping habits have shifted over the last year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. It engaged 5,400 online consumers across the U.S. and Canada and revealed four distinct trends.  Read More

New OSHA Program Centers on Protecting High-Risk Workers
In response to President Joe Biden's executive order on protecting worker health and safety, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has launched a national emphasis program focusing enforcement efforts on companies that put the largest number of workers at serious risk of contracting the coronavirus. The program also prioritizes employers that retaliate against workers for complaints about unsafe or unhealthy conditions, or for exercising other rights protected by federal law. Read More

Source: CLFP
Nestle Unveils Wrapper Made from Recycled Soft Plastic

Nestle has collaborated with several companies in Australia to release a prototype KitKat bar packaged in recycled soft plastic. "We have shown that there's a pathway to solve the soft plastics problem," said Sandra Martinez, Nestle Australia CEO.

Deal Gives General Mills Full Control of Yoplait Canada

General Mills is selling its majority stake in the European Yoplait unit to French dairy cooperative Sodiaal in exchange for Sodiaal's 49% stake in the Canadian Yoplait division. The deal gives General Mills full ownership of the Canadian business.

OS CEO: Brand Trust Helps Enter New Territory

Ocean Spray Cranberries understands the pandemic-related demand for retail shelf space has made grocers reluctant to accept new products, said President and CEO Tom Hayes. This reluctance has prompted Ocean Spray to focus on growth categories and leverage its brand loyalty with the recent debut of the Ocean Spray Wave sparkling energy water line and functional Fruit Medley Blends snack set, explained Hayes.

Meijer, WalMart, Hometown Pharmacies Getting C-19 Vaccine
Meijer, Walmart, some Hometown Pharmacy locations and others in Wisconsin began getting COVID-19 vaccine doses from the U.S. government this week through a federal program launched in February by the Biden administration aimed at expediting vaccinations around the country. Officials with the state Department of Health Services said Friday that four new pharmacies have joined the program, known as the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program. They include: the Community Pharmacy Enhanced Services Network (which includes some Hometown Pharmacies), Managed Health Care Associates, Meijer and Walmart. The latest pharmacies join Kroger and Walgreens. Read More

Source: WMC
Consumer Survey Reveals 4 Emerging Shopping Habits to Track in 2021
Nostalgia marketing reflects consumer desire to return to normal as coronavirus-related restrictions lift and will trend this year, as it has after previous national crises, according to Jeremy Goldman, principal analyst at Insider Intelligence's eMarketer. Consumer packaged goods brands taking part in this trend include PepsiCo's Doritos, which ran a Super Bowl ad for the return of its 1990s favorite 3D Crunch variety to stores. Read More

Source: CBA
Mark Your Calendar
April 8 - Sanitation's Role in HACCP/Preventive Controls
Sanitation preventive controls provide solutions for food that is exposed to the environment and employees. This presentation identifies hazards controlled with sanitation programs, the difference between a Preventive Control and a GMP/Prerequisite program, and Sanitation Preventive Controls, including monitoring activities, verification activities and the difference between corrections and corrective actions.

June 2-3 - Annual Spring Summit & Scramble
June 2nd - SUMMIT: The Board of Directors, AMO/Convention Committees and Raw Products Committee will be meeting in-person at the Kalahari Convention Center the day prior to the golf scramble. (Request for RSVPs at a later date.)

June3rd - SCRAMBLE: Back by popular demand, the highly anticipated annual in-person golf outing! Trappers Turn, Wisconsin Dells

April 22 - Field Service Automation

May 6 - Elements of a Great Leader
Presented by Russell Associations (REGISTRATION CLOSED AT THIS TIME)