Employers Can Require Covid-19 Vaccines
But Not the Best Idea
Dec 16 EEOC ruling lays solid legal foundation for requiring vaccine, but HB atty. Eisenmann said, "The reality is many of businesses are going to make it voluntary and possibly provide incentives. There are going to be very few employers who actually require the vaccine as a condition of employment. ... It helps avoid legal issues and it also helps to a certain extent minimize a potential backlash." F&L atty. Kaplan: "A lot of people are put off by the fact it can be mandatory," could hurt employee morale, suggested "strong educational programs" on vaccine benefits, mgmt. taking shots first. Political or philosophical reasons aren't adequate reasons to refuse vaccine, only religious or medical reasons, balanced against employer hardships in accommodating those who refuse. RBVD's Lopez Naleid noted 37% polled are reticent to take vaccine, employers mandating vaccine risk losing valued staff, risk suits by refuseniks, "A strongly encouraged program might be better than mandatory." 
Source: WisPolitics
CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Recommends Who Should Get Vaccine Next
On Sunday, vaccine advisors to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) voted to recommend that both older adults, ages 75 and older, and "frontline essential workers" including first responders be next in line to receive Covid-19 vaccines which will now go to the CDC for final approval.
The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) held a vote Sunday to determine the order of high-risk priority groups for Phase 1 of COVID-19 vaccine distribution, which encompasses the first months of vaccine distribution. Sunday's vote passed with 13 in favor and 1 against. It established the group's recommendation for the remainder of Phase 1 — Phases 1b and 1c. The group recommends in early December that health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities be the first people to get the vaccine, in Phase 1a. ACIP said that in determining who should get the vaccine next they took into account input/advice from a wide variety of scientist, ethicists, vaccination expert and from the public. Phases 1b, 1c and 2 are broken down as followed: 

Phase 1b: Expected to start in January
·    Persons aged 75 years and older
·    Frontline Worker:
·    First Responders (Firefighters, Police)
·    Education (teachers, support staff, daycare)
·    Food & Agriculture
·    Manufacturing
·    Corrections workers
·    U.S. Postal service workers
·    Public transit workers
·    Grocery store workers

Phase 1c: Expected to start in February
·    Persons aged 65 -74 years
·    Persons aged 16-64 with high risk conditions
·    Essential workers not recommended in Phase 1b:
·    Transportation and Logistics
·    Food Service
·    Shelter & Housing (construction)
·    Finance
·    IT & Communication
·    Energy
·    Media
·    Legal
·    Public Safety (Engineers)
·    Water & Wastewater

Phase 2
·    All people aged 16 years and older not in Phase 1, who are recommended for vaccination

The reason the committee needed to recommend specific groups to specific phases of rollout is simple: There is not enough vaccine yet for everyone who needs one.
Given the limitations, "difficult choices have to be made," Dr. Kathleen Dooling, an ACIP member, said during the meeting Sunday. "Members of the working group strongly support vaccination being offered to every person in the United States as soon as possible," calling the committee's proposal "a road map for how we can get there together."
Vaccine rollout phases are also expected to overlap. "It is not necessary to fully complete vaccination in one phase before moving to the next phase," said the CDC's Sara Oliver. She suggested that state and local health departments could decide to widen the pool of vaccine recipients if vaccine appointments for the current phase are going unfilled or if vaccine supply grows more quickly than expected.
Federal health officials have estimated that there could be enough vaccine supply to inoculate 100 million people before the end of February, including the nation’s 21 million health care workers and three million residents of long-term care facilities. The C.D.C. reported on Sunday that more than 556,000 people had received an initial shot over the last week; both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require a second dose several weeks later.
Once the advisory group's recommendations are accepted by CDC Director Robert Redfield, they are expected to be published in the CDC's "Morbidity and Mortality Weekly" later this week and will be shared as official CDC guidance.

Source: Michael Best Strategies
U.S. Dept of Labor Reminds Employers to Submit Required 2020 Injury & Illness Data by 3/2/21
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reminds employers that the agency will begin collecting calendar year 2020 Form 300A data on Jan. 2, 2021. Employers must submit the form electronically by March 2, 2021. Electronic submissions are required by establishments with 250 or more employees currently required to keep OSHA injury and illness records, and establishments with 20-249 employees classified in specific industries with historically high rates of occupational injuries and illnesses.
Source: WI Safety Council
Minnesota Lawmakers Strike Deal on Covid-19 Business Relief
The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce is urging Governor Walz to allow thousands of gyms, restaurants, bars and other businesses to reopen this weekend after his closure order ends Friday.
Source: MN Chamber
Drought Expected to Impact 2021 Acreage
Ag economists on a market panel see the U.S. drought having an impact on markets in 2021. Marty Foreman, with the University of Missouri, says the drought in the west is creeping its way to the east – in Iowa, Illinois and Indiana – and is likely to continue into the spring, “Anytime you start out with a dry pattern or dry soils it just increases the risk to the crop as you get into the growing season so I think the market will clearly be concerned about that and I think you’ll see prices reflect that.” Ben Brown with Ohio State University says acreage for 2021 will be impacted by those coming back from prevent plant. He says Ohio and the rest of the Eastern Corn Belt had a “terrible fall” last year.  Read More
Source: Michael Best Strategies
Biden Vows to Pay Farmers to Plant Cover Crops and Put Land in Conservation
The government will help farmers mitigate climate change by paying them to “put their land in conservation” and plant cover crops, said President-elect Biden, providing some details on his campaign call to offset greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. The sector accounts for roughly 10% of emissions nationwide. Climate change is among four priorities for Biden during the transition, along with the pandemic, economic recovery and racial equity. The Biden-Harris transition team describes climate change as an existential threat and says the new administration will lead a global effort “to get every major country to ramp up the ambition of their domestic climate targets.” Biden cited agriculture and climate change during a news conference on Friday in which he called Tom Vilsack, his nominee to lead the USDA, “the best secretary of agriculture that I believe our nation has every had,” based on his work during the Obama era. “He wasn’t looking for this job. But I was persistent,” said Biden with a chuckleRead More
Source: WMC
Election Brings Change of Some Food Safety Officials from Across Government
 If the United States had a single independent food safety authority like most counties, a change of administrators would not be a significant event. But with food safety spread across as many as 20 departments and agencies, elections bring topsy-turvy change. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta is getting a new boss. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, a Harvard University professor and head of infectious disease at Massachusetts General Hospital, will take over from Dr. Robert Redfield. The CDC, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) are the federal government’s top food safety agencies. Others, running from EPA to Fish and Wildlife, have various niche but important roles. CDC’s job of running lab work has not all gone smoothly of late. The early COVID-19 test did not work correctly. And before that, the decontamination chambers in its bio lab failed– not suitable performance when dealing with Ebola and smallpox viruses.  Read More
Source: Michael Best Strategies
Illinois Governor Pritzker Outlines $700M in "Painful" Budget Cuts
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker is outlining more than $700 million in budget cuts to public safety, human service grants and the prison system just a month after voters rejected his signature graduated income tax plan. On Nov. 3, Illinoisans firmly voted against changing the state constitution to move the state from its current flat income tax system to a graduated income tax, where wealthier people pay higher tax rates. The Democrat’s administration estimated that would have raised $3 billion a year. The failure of the measure – which Pritzker called the “Fair Tax” – blew a hole in a state budget that was already devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The cuts Pritzker identified are meant to address the structural deficit the state already had before the pandemic, Pritzker said, with the idea that Congress may eventually help state and local governments with their pandemic-related deficits. Read More
Source: Illinois Manufacturers Association
WI Governor's Blue Ribbon Commission on Rural Prosperity Proposed Updating State Laws That Restrict Local Governments, Including Those That Prevent Them from Setting Their Tax Rates or Providing Broadband Service
"The state should be setting the floor, not the ceiling, for local governments in Wisconsin," the report declared.
The recommendation was one of 10 the task force proposed to help rural communities. Others include reinvesting in the University of Wisconsin and its campuses, along with tech and community colleges. The call included working with the UW-Extension offices to develop strategies specific to each region of the state.
Another recommendation proposed changing the state's business incentives to "ensure economic development prioritizes the assets of Wisconsin people, communities and businesses." According to the report, stakeholders recommended to the task force an economic development program designed specifically for rural communities. They also suggested sustaining state funding, investment and finance for small business development. Read More
Source: WisPolitics
Food and Beverage Facility Project Activity Has Major November Rebound
Industrial and commercial market intelligence firm SalesLeads' released its latest monthly report covering planned food & beverage construction projects, showing a major rebound during November. SalesLeads tracked 86 such projects in North America during November, up 20 from October. It snapped a streak of three-straight months of deceleration and was the second-highest figure of the year to January's 89 and SalesLeads said Novembe''s activity was up 23% from October.  Read More
Source: CLFP
Months into the Pandemic and Frozen Food Sales Remain High
From the very start of the pandemic, frozen food sales have been strong. Even now, nine months into the pandemic, frozen food sales are trending 17.2% ahead of 2019 levels and we are seeing growth across many categories. For more frozen food market insights from November. Read Full Report.
Source: AFFI
Energy-efficient Plants of the Future
As we look ahead to 2021, several areas of the food processing world have become better defined due to the pandemic. One in particular is that employees are truly a company's greatest asset. As such, they play a big part in ensuring a facility operates efficiently. If companies want to protect their future in the food business, they must protect their most valuable resource; long-term, faithful employees.  Read More
Source: CLFP
State PFAS Plan Calls for Testing Public Water Supplies, Making Polluters Pay for Contamination
The state would test public water supplies for so-called forever chemicals known as PFAS and require polluters to commit funds to pay for cleanup of contaminated sites under a plan released Wednesday. The Wisconsin PFAS Action Plan outlines 25 action items to address perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, commonly called PFAS, in response to growing concerns over their impact on public health. Read more
Source: WMC
McCain Foods to Build Second China Plants

To meet growing demand for its potato products in China, McCain Foods will build a US$200million production facility in Yangling Agriculture Hi-Tech Development Zone, Shaanxi Province.

The new plant will augment one in Harbin, Heilongjiang province. McCain noted it's had a presence in China for 25 years. The Canadian company operates in 160 countries around the world, with 51 facilities located in local markets.

Ocean Spray Start-up Aim to Reduce Sugar Content

Ocean Spray has partnered with Amai Proteins to reduce sugar in its products by roughly 40%. Amai, an Israel-based startup, has developed "designer proteins" that are said to taste like sugar without the calorie content.
Source: CBA
Conagra Adds Brand-Building Vet Manny Chirico to Board
Conagra Brands has announced the appointment of Manny Chirico to its broad of directors to increase its brand-building efforts. Chirico will officially join the board Feb. 1, 2021.

“We’re most pleased to welcome Manny to the Conagra Brands board,” said Richard H. Lenny, chairman, Conagra Brands, through a press release. “Conagra and our shareholders will benefit from Manny’s deep experience building consumer brands, leading organizations and his strong emphasis on corporate culture and social responsibility.”
Source: Produce Processing
USDA Releases Report on the Importance of Highways to Ag
The U.S. Department of Agriculture released a report, The Importance of Highways to U.S. Agriculture, prepared in close partnership with the Department of Transportation. Agricultural producers are the single largest user of freight services, comprising 17 percent of freight movements across all transportation modes in dollar value and 33 percent of all ton-miles (U.S. DOT, BTS and U.S. Census Bureau, 2017). In 2017, 2.9 billion tons of agricultural products worth $2.5 trillion moved on the freight network. “Agricultural freight movement is essential for moving goods from the farm to the consumer’s table. Efficient transportation helps keep food prices low for consumers and enables the U.S. agricultural industry to compete in a global marketplace,” said USDA Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Greg Ibach. An earlier USDA report published in August 2019, The Importance of Inland Waterways to U.S. Agriculture, documents the critical role of barge transportation for agricultural products, particularly grains and oilseeds. Read More.
Source: Michael Best Strategies
Go from Covid-Secure to Litigation-Safe
One of the first priorities for any business is to always ensure the safety and wellbeing of its employees and customers. This principle has been put to the test like never before since the onset of Covid-19. However, given that there have now been 1,164 COVID-related lawsuits filed against employers, businesses need to ensure that they are not only making their workplaces Covid-secure but also litigation-safe. At the state level, more than a dozen states have already enacted some form of liability shield legislation. Meanwhile, at the federal level, a possible attachment to the next stimulus bill is the SAFE TO WORK Act, which would provide broad protection to businesses against “insubstantial lawsuits relating to COVID-19.” It’s of course impossible for any business to protect itself against every lawsuit, but taking some simple extra steps can help to reduce the risk. And with legal provisions designed to provide more protections for businesses already enacted or in the works, we should hopefully start seeing a flattening of the curve with litigation cases. Read More
Source: Illinois Manufacturers Association
Coronavirus Relief Package Includes Key Workplace Provisions
President Donald Trump has signed a bill to fund the government and provide economic relief in response to the pandemic, including an expansion of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act's Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The package also extends the refundable employer payroll tax credit for paid sick and family leave through March 2021, although the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) paid sick and family leave obligations, which are due to expire at the end of this year, were not extended. "This bipartisan COVID relief package will benefit work, workers and the workplace. We are pleased to see SHRM priorities included in the final bill, such as flexibility for health and dependent care spending arrangements and an extension of employer-provided educational assistance to include student loan repayment as a benefit.
Source: Illinois Manufacturers Association
Top U.S. Trade Negotiator Bullish on Last-Minute U.K. Trade Deal
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said it’s “extremely likely” the U.S. and U.K. can reach a free trade agreement before long, urging British officials to bend on their hardened positions on key issues like food safety. In an interview with the BBC, Lighthizer said the November election in the U.S. has had an impact on the timing of transatlantic talks and there is still “a short period of time” for negotiators to complete a deal before President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated on Jan. 20. “This is something that can happen,” he said. “It will require compromises on both sides.” Read More
Source:Michael Best Strategies
Mark Your Calendar
January 12, 2021 - 10:00-11:30 a.m.
Accident Investigation Webinar.
An accident investigation is an “after the fact” response. It is a process that uncovers hazards or problems that can be eliminated so that similar events will not happen in the future. This seminar provides practical information about investigating workplace accidents by emphasizing how to find the root cause(s) and conduct an in-depth investigation.
Seminar Outline:
  • Root Cause Analysis
  • Denied vs. Compensable
  • Causation
  • Adjustor Tools

Questions? Call 608-255-9946
Watch for January virtual meeting dates for the following committees.

  • Raw Products (January 14th, 10am)
  • AMO/Convention (January 20th, 10am)
  • Human Resources (To be determined)