Wisconsin Considers Excluding Food & Ag Workers from 1B Vaccine Group
On January 12, the State Medical Disaster Advisory Committee (SDMAC) Vaccine Subcommittee released its recommendations for Wisconsin’s Phase 1b distribution priority for the COVID-19 vaccine. The draft plan for Phase 1b does NOT include farm workers or food processing workers. The recommendation for this next phase includes first responders, teachers, childcare workers, people ages 70 and older, mink husbandry workers, prisoners and others who live in congregate living settings. DHS will finalize the Phase 1b vaccine distribution priority after reviewing public comments. MWPFA joined 22 other ag-related groups in filing joint comments to the state Department of Health Services (DHS) asking for the re-instatement of food and ag workers in the 1b designation.  (MWFPA submitted comments along with the Wisconsin Ag Coalition calling for food and agriculture workers to remain in Phase 1B.)
Organic Equivalency Agreement Puts U.S., U.K. on Even Ground

The new year marks the implementation of a new agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom, making it possible for organic products certified in one country to be considered automatically certified in the other. The agreement involves the U.S. Department of Agriculture because the National Organic Program is under its control. The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, which directly oversees the organic program, reports that the agreement includes England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. There are a number of steps involved in organic trade with the United Kingdom. A new import process will be in place for all USDA organic products sent to the UK under the arrangement, according to U.S. officials. As of Jan. 1 the UK started requiring a “certificate of inspection.” The original document needs to be signed within 10 working days for the shipment to be marketed as organic. Read More

Source: Michael Best Strategies
Five Reasons Frozen Foods Will Trend Up in 2021
From fruits and snacks to entire meal solutions, the frozen food category is experiencing all-time sales highs over the past year.

From fruits and snacks to entire meal solutions, the frozen food category is experiencing all-time sales highs over the past year. Consumer research indicates this momentum will continue even after the pandemic subsides.

“Strong sales data only tells part of the story,” said American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI) President and CEO Alison Bodor through a press release. “Frozen foods align with the times we’re living in, offering consumers nutrition, variety, ease of preparation and certainty at a moment we’re needing it more than ever in our kitchens and on our tables.” Read More

Source: Processing Produce
Employee Retention Tax Credit Update
Courtesy of the Illinois Manufacturers Association
The President and Congress reached accord and passed a new economic stimulus package that includes exciting new changes for the Employee Retention Tax Credit that was originally enacted under the CARES Act.

There is a big misunderstanding about the Employee Retention Credit including who qualifies. The Illinois Manufacturers’ Association and Synergi Partners are collaborating to make sure that manufacturers are aware that they may be able to access this important program designed to help retain employees.

Some of the key changes in the recently enacted stimulus package include:

  • Companies that received PPP funding are now eligible to also apply for the Employee Retention Credit with some restrictions that prohibit double dipping. The legislation is retroactive meaning that companies receiving PPP will be eligible for to apply for ERC for wages paid from March 27 to December 31, 2020.
  • The ERC program is extended by six months through June 30, 2021.
  • Qualifying wages are increased from $10,000 annually to $10,000 per quarter.
  • The employee-count threshold is increased to 500 employees.
  • New employers who were not in existence for all or part of 2019 are now eligible to claim the credit.
  • The credit percentage increases from 50 percent to 70 percent. This means that the credit may be $7,000 per employee (70 percent x $10,000 wage base) for each of the first two quarters in 2021, or a total of $14,000 per employee.
  • There are two tests for eligibility. In one test, the gross receipts test is decreased from a 50 percent quarterly decline to a 20 percent reduction.
  • Employer health care expenses may be counted as qualifying wages when no other wages are paid (i.e. furloughed workers who continue receiving healthcare benefits).
  • Many companies including manufacturers do not realize that nearly all businesses qualify for the Employee Retention Tax Credit under the CARES Act. Confusion among business leaders is literally costing their companies millions of dollars; money that the federal government has specifically allocated to help U.S. companies continue to survive and prosper during this historic time of pandemic and economic crisis.
  • Here are the five most common mistakes made by CFO’s and CPA’s regarding the CARES Act and Employee Retention Credit.
  1. We are an essential services business and therefore do not qualify
  2. We were not shut down, stayed open the whole time and do not qualify
  3. Our company made over 50% sales year-over-year and therefore do not qualify
  4. We are profitable this year and therefore do not qualify
  5. We are a non-profit company, do not pay taxes and do not qualify

If your company falls into any one of these categories, it’s possible that your company does qualify. And unlike the PPP loans, with the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERC), there is no public disclosure because it is a federal tax credit. All information is highly protected from nondisclosure under the Internal Revenue Code.
Member Education Resources
Online presentations now available!

"MWFPA Processing Crops Conference"
The MWFPA PCC was held on December 2nd in conjunction with Virtual Summit 2020. Presentations by food industry experts/researchers are now available online. View

"Preparing for Covid-19 Vaccine: Employer Considerations" presented by M3 Insurance
Each day there are advancements in the race to approve and deploy an effective COVID-19 vaccine. Now is the time for employers to consider how their organization will handle deployment of the vaccine.
Biden: U.S. Will Consider Emergency Rule to Protect Workers from Coronavirus
The government’s worker-safety agency “has been prevented from using its full range of tools to protect workers from COVID-19,” said President-elect Biden on the 50th anniversary of creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. “The number of OSHA inspectors is at its lowest level since 1975, while millions of essential workers are working to keep the country functioning through the pandemic.” In a statement, Biden said on December 29, “My administration will ask OSHA to determine whether to establish an emergency temporary standard to keep workers safe from COVID-19. I will direct OSHA to enforce worker safety requirements, target the worst violators, and work to increase the number of OSHA inspectors to get the job done. And, I will direct OSHA and other relevant agencies to develop comprehensive strategies for addressing the most dangerous hazards workers encounter in the workplace.” Read More

Source: Michael Best Strategies
U.S.D.A. Wants to Hear Produce Industry's Voice in Anonymous Food Safety Survey
Survey It’s one thing for someone working in the produce industry to attend a conference with all sorts of regulators and scientists talking about food safety. But it’s quite another thing for those folks to be asked what their greatest challenges are when it comes to managing food safety. But that’s just the tack the USDA is taking in its anonymous online survey that asks growers, packers, buyers, consultants, suppliers, educators, auditors and regulators to rank their top five food safety management areas that need improvement. “We are trying to understand what food safety concerns keep the produce industry up at night — in general, what are their biggest concerns,” said Meredith Melendez, a Rutgers cooperative extension agent and principal investigator of the survey for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Read More

Source: Michael Best Strategies
F.D.A. Veteran Woodcock Being Considered to Lead Agency Under Biden
Janet Woodcock, a 30-year veteran of the Food and Drug Administration, is being considered by President-elect Joe Biden to serve as commissioner of the agency, according to people familiar with the selection process. Woodcock is expected to serve as acting head of the drug regulator after Biden’s inauguration next week, while being vetted by the Biden team for the permanent job along with former FDA principal deputy commissioner Joshua Sharfstein, according to the people. Earlier this year, Woodcock stepped aside as director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research to lead an effort to accelerate Covid-19 therapies under Operation Warp Speed. She remains in that role and is advising FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, who is expected to depart the agency at the end of President Donald Trump’s term. 

Source: Michael Best Strategies
Countdown Begins for Compliance with GMO Food-Labeling Rules
Four years after the thunder in Congress over labeling foods made with GMO ingredients, the deadline for compliance with the USDA labeling regulation is in sight — the end of 2021 — despite complaints that the rule is riddled with loopholes that exempt many foods. Under the rule, food makers have four options for indicating GMO ingredients, ranging from saying so on the package to a fingernail-size QR code, so consumers may find it difficult to identify a GMO food. The labels will say bioengineered, rather than the more commonly used GMO, which also might dilute their impact. And disclosure is discretionary for some GMO ingredients, most prominently corn and soy oils from biotech plants. Read More

Source: Michael Best Strategies
Federal Communications Commission Report Shows Importance of Rural Broadband
A new report by the Federal Communications Commission acknowledges the impact of rural broadband service on-farm productivity. The FCC’s Office of Economics and Analytics released the new paper called “Impact of Broadband Penetration on U.S. Farm Productivity.” In a statement Thursday, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai says this paper underscores the importance of the Commission’s top priority of expanding broadband access in rural and underserved areas. Pai says the availability of broadband has significant positive impacts on crop yields and other farm production metrics by lowering fertilizer and seed costs. The FCC report cites one example where a 1% increase in the number of rural broadband connections per 1000 households is associated with a 3.6% increase in corn yields.  Read More

Source: Michael Best Strategies
The New Dietary Guidelines, Trump-Era Edition
The Trump administration over the holidays published its formal guidance for healthy eating — and decided to buck the advice of external scientific advisers who recommended that men drink less alcohol and that everyone cut down on added sugars, our Helena Bottemiller Evich reports. The official Dietary Guidelines for Americans, updated every five years, influence federal nutrition programs and nutritional messaging for millions of American (though most people don’t follow the government’s advice). Before USDA and HHS unveiled the final blueprint last week, an advisory group of dietary experts weighed in over the summer and recommended several notable changes to the existing advice: USDA and HHS also ignored the advisers’ call for stricter limits on added sugars, instead sticking with the Obama administration’s advice that individuals get no more than 10 percent of their calories from added sugars. (The advisory committee recommended lowering the limit to 6 percent.) Read More

Source: Michael Best Strategies
Dietary Guidelines for Americans Provide Opportunities for the Inclusion of Frozen Foods
At the end of 2020, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released the latest 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs). Intended for policymakers and health professionals, the DGAs are published every five years to reflect the most current nutrition science and have an important role in guiding federal nutrition policy. For the first time the latest DGAs provide recommendations for all ages, underscoring the importance of eating nutrient-dense foods and beverages, including vegetables of all types and whole fruits. AFFI is pleased to see the latest DGAs provide ample opportunities for the inclusion of frozen foods. For more information, please read AFFI’s press release here and read this review that summarizes where frozen is incorporated in the DGAs.

Source: AFFI
FDA Allows Label Terminology "Potassium Salt"
FDA in December announced a final guidance allowing the use of the term "potassium salt" instead of potassium chloride on food labels, acknowledging the salt substitute could help reduce Americans' intake of potentially dangerous sodium.  Read More

Source: e-news
WI Dept of Health Services Launches COVID-19 Vaccine Data Page
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services launched a new data page on Tuesday, Dec. 29. This visualization tool focuses on a completely different set of numbers: It's all about coronavirus vaccine data. “We are committed to providing the public with timely COVID-19 vaccine information,” says DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm. Read More

Source: WMC
USDA & HHS Release 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines
The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, released Dec. 29, provoked little pushback despite an advisory committee's earlier recommendations to reduce sugar and alcohol intake. Bottom line for food & beverage processors is few if any changes need to be made to current product formulations.  Read More

Source: e-news
Glen Tellock Retires From Lakeside Foods Inc.
Glen Tellock, president/CEO of Lakeside Foods Inc. in Manitowoc, WI, has announced his intention to retire at mid-year. Succeeding him will be Joe Yanda, current chief operating officer.

Tellock joined the mostly private label supplier of canned and frozen vegetables and whipped topping in 2016 after a 24-year career at The Manitowoc Co. Yanda will become president/ CEO on May 1. He joined the company in 1999 and served in numerous operations and sales leadership roles before becoming COO in 2019.
“I’m honored to have the opportunity to lead this organization that my great-grandfather invested in 100 years ago," Yanda said." Tellock will stay on until June 1 to assist in the transition.

Source: Lakeside Foods, Director of Communications
High Capacity Wells/Water Discharger Permits: WI State Supreme Court Agrees to Allow GOP Lawmakers to Intervene in Suits Challenging DNR Approval
It's the first development in months in the cases, which have been before the court since spring.
One case involves a Dane County judge's ruling overturning the Department of Natural Resource's approval of seven high-capacity well permits. In the second, the agency granted a permit to Kinnard Farms, a concentrated animal feeding operation located in Kewaunee County, that required the operation to do onsite groundwater checks for pollution and strengthen its plans for storing liquid manure. But it didn't include requirements for offsite groundwater monitoring or capping the number of animals allowed as an administrative law judge had ordered.
The court accepted the cases in April. But they were put on hold the next month as the court considered in a separate action whether lawmakers had the power to intervene in such suits.
The order granting lawmakers' request to intervene noted the court was split on the rationale for allowing legislators to participate in the case. But it provided no details.
The order also noted Justice Brian Hagedorn, who has become a key vote on the court, didn't participate.
Along with granting the motion to intervene, the court set a briefing schedule for the cases and said it will set oral arguments at a later date.

Source: WisPolitics
COVID-19 Provided Automation Suppliers with Expertise to Help Food Processors Survive
It took a pandemic for us to take seriously something we take for granted: We all rely upon one another. Supply chains have taught us that. Food and beverage processors and automation suppliers, both considered essential businesses, have experienced many of the same problems during the pandemic: Gaps in the supply chain caused by people either being sick with COVID-19 or having to quarantine themselves if they were exposed to the virus. Read More

Source: CLFP
General Mills Exec:
What Consumers Want in Supply Chains
General Mills has navigated coronavirus pandemic-related disruption by accelerating the digital transformation of its supply chain, said Victoria Cobos, supply chain director, Northern Europe. This also supports the company's pivot to e-commerce and paves the way for its entire supply chain to embrace sustainability, which consumers expect in a post-pandemic world, she stated.

Source: CBA
Ocean Spray Debuts Fully Recyclable Snack Packaging
Ocean Spray has partnered with flexible-packaging provider ProAmpac to introduce 100% recyclable packaging for Craveology snack mix. The packaging features a recyclable film that offers the same barrier protection and graphics quality as traditional polyethylene film, says Maria Halford, ProAmpac's vice president of global marketing.

Source: CBA
Conagra Will Keep Rolling Post-Pandemic

Conagra Brands will seek to maintain the momentum it has gained during the pandemic through expanded production capacity, upgraded packaging and aggressive marketing, its CEO says.

Source: FoodProcessing e-news
FDA's Core Response Team Posts Weekly Outbreak Investigation Information
The following list of outbreak investigations is being managed by FDA’s CORE Response Teams. The investigations are in a variety of stages, meaning that some outbreaks have limited information, and others may be near completion or declared ended. A public health advisory will be issued for outbreak investigations that have resulted in specific, actionable steps for consumers to take to protect themselves. Outbreak investigations that do not result in specific, actionable steps for consumers may or may not conclusively identify a source or reveal any contributing factors. If a source and/or contributing factors are identified that could inform future prevention, FDA commits to providing a summary of those findings. Outbreak investigations that do not result in specific, actionable steps for consumers may or may not conclusively identify a source or reveal any contributing factors. If a source and/or contributing factors are identified that could inform future prevention, FDA commits to providing a summary of those findings. Read More

Source: Michael Best Strategies
Three Ways Food Manufacturers Can Use A.I. to Obtain Actionable Data
Manufacturers have widely embraced the Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning, and artificial intelligence to drive productivity, performance, safety, compliance, and to create better work conditions. And while this digitization of manufacturing processes has many benefits, one challenge is effectively using the data that is created by IoT. Mountains of data is often trapped in reports and spreadsheets, where it isn't useful to frontline workers, or it's out of date by the time it’s available so it lacks any real-time insights to inform decision making.  Read More

Source: CLFP
Biden Team's Proactive Outreach to Agriculture has Farm Groups Optimistic
With only 12 days until the Biden presidential inauguration, agriculture is waiting to see what a shift in power will mean for agricultural policy. There is already optimism sprouting from some agricultural groups, with leaders saying the Biden Administration is taking an extremely proactive approach. “I have been in Washington since Ronald Reagan was President, so I've seen administrations come and I’ve seen administrations go. I have never, ever seen the kind of outreach to agriculture that I’ve seen with the Biden folks,” says Jon Doggett, CEO of National Corn Growers Association (NCGA). “And it isn't one or two calls, it has been multiple calls at multiple levels, across the board and with many different organizations.” Doggett says he personally received a phone call from Biden’s EPA pick, Michael Regan, just before Christmas. Doggett also says NCGA isn’t alone, and the common theme is Regan and others want to listen to what issues agriculture is facing.

Source: Michael Best Strategies
Mark Your Calendar
February 11, 2021 - 9:30-10:30 a.m. (CST)
Lunch and Learn: How to Increase Sales and Improve Customer Service in Challenging Times, presented by Alithya

Join us to learn how Continental Mills, a leading food service manufacturer, improved sales and customer service even during Covid. You’ll hear Steve Woodside, the Continental Mills Director of Foodservice Marketing and Sales Operations, explain how Microsoft Dynamics Sales and Customer Service has helped the company be more productive, smarter, improve connections and increase sales.

Perhaps the current crisis is forcing your company to make a change in your business systems or processes. Don’t miss the opportunity to hear the Continental Mills story.

Enjoy lunch on Alithya! After attending this webcast, you will receive a $20 gift card to use toward lunch on us.

January virtual committee meeting dates:

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