MADISON, Wis. – The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection is providing regular updates on department activities. Randy Romanski, the agency’s secretary-designee, recently shared the department’s activities related to food security, the Tri-National Agricultural Accord, and a second case of mink testing that was positive for the SAR-CoV-2 infection.

A mink at a second farm in Wisconsin’s Taylor County recently tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 infection, he said. The first incidence occurred in early October. Between the two farms about 5,400 mink have died.

“We believe that the most effective way to protect animals and humans is a combination of enforcement action, strategic testing, strong collaboration with state and federal agencies, robust communication with industry, and direct involvement with the affected locations,” he said.

Transnational trade encouraged

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection participated in the Tri-National Agricultural Accord. Representatives from the United States, Canada and Mexico discussed ways in which they can build transnational trade.

Their priorities will be to continue with swift implementation and enforcement of the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. The United States and particularly Wisconsin focused on eliminating the Class 6 and 7 milk classes in Canada, providing additional market access for U.S. dairy products. They also focused on maintaining Mexican market access for U.S. cheese products marketed with certain names, also known as geographic indicators, Romanski said.

Another priority is maintaining robust collaboration between the three countries to prevent an outbreak of African swine fever in North America. That will be done by fortifying safeguards such as import restrictions to prevent African swine fever from reaching the three countries, working with industry to strengthen biosecurity, conducting surveillance to identify gaps in country defenses against African swine fever, and improving testing capacity and protocols, he said.

A work group has been identified to address African swine fever. In addition Mexico has increased prevention measures by checking passengers at all points of entry to the country. Canadian officials also have been discussing the development of standards and guidelines to prevent the swine disease from entering Canada.

Funds added to help residents

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers recently approved an additional $10 million to help Wisconsinites experiencing food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Hunger Task Force and Feeding Wisconsin, strong partners with us in the food-security program, will each receive $5 million in grant funding,” Romanski said.

The money will be used to purchase food for distribution, and for food storage and transportation, he said.

The governor’s announcement brings the total investment in Wisconsin’s agricultural and food industries during the COVID-19 pandemic to $75 million. The food-security initiative has been distributed in three parts.

  • The $5-million COVID-19 Food Security Network Support Grant was made available in May.
  • The $10 million COVID-19 Food Security and Wisconsin Products Grant program followed in summer.
  • The additional $10 million announced Nov. 12.

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Lynn Grooms writes about the diversity of agriculture, including the industry’s newest ideas, research and technologies as a staff reporter for Agri-View based in Wisconsin.