Wisconsin Agriculture Youth Council members named

Fifteen individuals recently were named to the Wisconsin Agriculture Youth Council. They will serve a one-year term, receiving a certificate of completion at the end of their service.

The students’ insights will be valuable to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection and the state's agriculture industry, said Randy Romanski, secretary-designee of the agriculture department. The department will engage with young people to promote agricultural-career opportunities, share resources available for farmers, and discuss agricultural-policy development. Members of the new Wisconsin Agriculture Youth Council are listed.

  • Chad Achenbach, Eastman
  • Haley Beukema, New Richmond
  • Hannah Dahl, Columbus
  • Charles Fahey, Sussex
  • Kendra Goplin, Osseo
  • Samantha Hammiller, Burlington
  • Abigail Helbach, Amherst
  • Sophia Larson, Reedsburg
  • Adaire MacSwain, Hudson
  • Jamison Meier, Windsor
  • Natalie Ott, Berlin
  • Natalie Roe, Monticello
  • Lauren Thompson, Woodville
  • Drew Tuttle, Drummond
  • Randy Winch, Fennimore

The purpose of the Wisconsin Agriculture Youth Council is to encourage young people to engage with state government and increase their awareness of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection’s interactions with the agriculture industry. Council members will attend monthly virtual sessions, hear presentations and engage in discussion. Visit AgYouthCouncil.wi.gov for more information.

Agricultural officials approve diversity policy

The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture recently adopted a new diversity and inclusion policy at its annual meeting. The policy formally incorporates the association's commitment to racial justice into its policymaking framework.

“To combat systemic racism we must consider diverse audiences from the start of our policymaking process,” said Barb Glenn, the association’s CEO. “We believe the future of agriculture is best served when all of those in the agriculture community are empowered regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation and-or religious creed.”

The policy recommends supporting programs consistent with the new guiding principle and encourages all levels of government to do the same. In addition the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture Foundation and the National Society for Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences formed a partnership to increase racial diversity in agricultural leadership and to provide a study into agriculture policy for National Society for Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences students. The partnership also will advise diversity training for National Association of State Departments of Agriculture members and staff. While efforts to develop the partnership started in 2019 the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture racial-justice statement will guide work through the organizations’ memo of understanding. Visit nasda.org and manrrs.org for more information.

Canada invests in COVID-19 mitigation

The governments of Canada and Manitoba recently invested $3 million in a cost-shared Canadian Agricultural Partnership program to support projects to help agricultural processors mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The initiative will provide financial assistance to agri-food and agri-product processors, food distributors and agri-food industry organizations in main areas.

  • personal protective equipment and sanitation supplies;
  • business-continuity practices, training and resources to support COVID-19 mitigation; and
  • financial assistance for materials, supplies and equipment rentals needed to adapt production processes to meet social distancing and other precautions related to COVID-19.

The governments will provide assistance for projects executed between March 1, 2020 and Jan. 31, 2021. Projects must be completed on or before Jan. 31. Governments will contribute a maximum of 50 percent of eligible project costs, to as much as $25,000 per applicant. Visit agr.gc.ca for more information.

Best agricultural-sciences colleges ranked

The 2021 Best Colleges for Agricultural Sciences ranking recently was published by Niche, which publishes online college rankings based on user reviews and statistics from the U.S. Department of Education. Several factors are considered for the rankings.

  • Overall niche grade
  • Agricultural sciences student SAT/ACT scores
  • Percent majoring in agricultural sciences
  • Agricultural-sciences program demand
  • Agricultural-sciences student surveys
  • Agricultural-sciences research expenditures per student
  • Agricultural-sciences test scores compared to schools
  • Percent of U.S. agricultural-sciences graduates
  • Agricultural-sciences research expenditures

The top 10 colleges for agricultural sciences in America for 2021 are listed.

  1. Cornell University
  2. University of Georgia
  3. University of Florida
  4. Texas A&M University
  5. University of California-Davis
  6. University of Wisconsin-Madison
  7. University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
  8. Kansas State University
  9. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
  10. Clemson University

Visit niche.com and search for "best colleges for agricultural sciences" for more information.

Startups selected for business boot camp

Eight startup companies recently were selected to participate in a five-week virtual boot camp hosted by AgLaunch, the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, Sync Space and The Biz Foundry. Participating teams will receive instruction on agricultural markets and the framework for organizing and communicating their ideas. They also will have access to investors and mentors and the chance to apply for the AgLaunch365 accelerator. The startups are listed.

  • AgriKnect. The company’s dual-sided digital platform enables farmers and other agricultural businesses to connect and hire workers.
  • Benanova Inc. The company is developing application-customized and environmentally benign replacements for silver nanoparticle antimicrobials.
  • BurgerFit. The startup blends ground meat and vegetable burgers.
  • SCAREcrow Farm Tech. The company has created a series of algorithms to help reduce time-consuming farm tasks.
  • S&J Nanochemicals. The startup has designed a nanoparticle fertilizer with a seed pre-soaking nutrient-delivery strategy to increase plant growth and vigor.
  • Soil1 LLC. The company has developed technologies to enable inexpensive soil-ecology testing.
  • Sustainable Aquatics Inc. The startup company farms salmon with reduced costs, good-quality feeds, increased yields and low-cost logistics.
  • Veggie Mines. The startup has created a new concept in vegetable farming by using technology solutions to address farming problems.

Visit aglaunch.com for more information. 

Animal-traceability developer acquired

Merck Animal Health recently acquired IdentiGEN, a developer of deoxyribonucleic acid-based – DNA-based – animal traceability solutions. IdentiGEN’s technology combines each species’ DNA and data analytics to provide a traceability solution called DNA TraceBack.

The addition of specialized digital technology to Merck’s line of medicines, vaccines and services provides holistic solutions to help advance animal health, according to Merck. Visit merck-animal-health.com for more information.

USDA adds H-2A features to website

To help farmers hire H-2A workers the U.S. Department of Agriculture has added new features to its Farmers.gov website.

  • A real-time dashboard to help farmers track the status of their eligible-employer application and visa applications for temporary non-immigrant workers;
  • Streamlining login information so if a farmer has an existing login.gov account that person can save multiple applications tracking numbers for quick viewing at any time;
  • Easy access to the Department of Labor’s Foreign Labor Application Gateway;
  • Enables farmers to track time-sensitive actions taken in the course of Office of Foreign Labor Certification’s adjudication of temporary labor-certification applications; and
  • Access to all application forms on-line.

Visit farmers.gov/manage/h2a for more information.

Nestlé launches plant-based seafood

Nestlé recently introduced a plant-based alternative to tuna, its first move into the growing market for plant-based seafood alternatives. The product is made from a combination of six plant-based ingredients.

Nestlé developed the tuna alternative within nine months. The company already offers several plant-based alternatives to burgers, meatballs, sausages, cold cuts, chicken nuggets and chicken filets.

The product is being launched first in Switzerland. The company is offering both a chilled product and plant-based tuna sandwiches in select stores. Visit nestle.com for more information.

PFAS studies target rural areas

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is investing $4.8 million in research projects focused on gaining better understanding of the potential impacts of per- and polyfluoroalkyl – PFAS – substances on water quality and availability. Researchers will study rural communities and agricultural operations.

The grant recipients will study major sources of per- and polyfluoroalkyl contamination, fate and transport. The researchers will study exposure risks from private drinking-water wells and wastewater-treatment methods to remove the chemicals from water and biosolids that may be used for agricultural purposes. Three institutions have been granted project funding.

  • Indiana University – to develop a scalable platform for predicting per- and polyfluoroalkyl occurrence in private wells to improve understanding of risks to rural communities relying on private wells for drinking water.
  • Purdue University – to investigate the occurrence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl and their concentrations in private drinking wells and water resource-recovery facilities in rural communities. The project also will study the relative contribution of per- and polyfluoroalkyl from land-application wastewater and biosolids to rural water supplies.
  • University of Georgia – to develop improved, cost-effective treatment systems with advanced technologies for the removal of per- and polyfluoroalkyl from water, wastewater and biosolids to ensure safe water for drinking and agricultural applications.

Visit epa.gov and search for "Research on PFAS Impacts in Rural Communities and Agricultural Operations" for more information.

Crop-protection collaboration formed

A collaboration focused on speeding development of crop-protection solutions recently was formed by FMC and Zymergen. The companies will target biochemical processes specific to pests. They also plan to scale production for natural-product gene clusters.

Zymergen has a library of more than 1 million gene clusters, fermentation capabilities and bioinformatics experience. FMC will provide criteria that reflect growers' needs for novel modes of action to manage resistance. The selection criteria will inform computational models and speed discovery of crop-protection solutions, according to FMC.

Zymergen's expertise in synthetic biology, automation and machine learning will complement FMC's deep understanding of agriculture, said Zach Serber, chief science officer and co-founder of Zymergen. Visit fmc.com and zymergen.com for more information.

Broadband coalition grows

Six companies and national organizations recently joined Connect Americans Now. The coalition advocates for solutions to bridge the country's digital divide.

Connect Americans Now works on policies to clear regulatory barriers to innovation and maximize resources to increase the pace, scale and cost-effectiveness of rural-broadband deployments. It advocates for improvements to the nation’s broadband-mapping data to help direct public and private investments. And it supports allocating resources for broadband deployments with a technology-neutral approach to rapidly and cost-effectively bridge the broadband gap.

The coalition is comprised of 275 members. Its newest members are BASF, Corteva, Digital Wish, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the National Pork Producers Council and the National Cotton Council. Visit connectamericansnow.com for more information.