Agriculture news

Washington Winegrowers to host WineVit 2022

The Washington Winegrowers will host WineVit 2022 on Feb. 7-10 at the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick. 

An annual event, WineVit, is the educational and networking opportunity for the Northwest grape and wine industry to discover new technologies, connect with peers, and engage with industry thought leaders.

The three-day event is one of the largest of its kind featuring a trade show, poster session spotlighting the latest industry research, a State of the Industry report, diverse educational sessions addressing key industry topics and issues such as sustainability, efficiencies in wineries, and cost saving on labor, a Leadership & Legacy Luncheon recognizing industry leaders and legends, keynote speaker Will Bowen, Founder of the Complaint Free Movement with more than 13 million followers worldwide, and in-person networking opportunities — while adhering to rules and recommendations of public health experts and standards set by the CDC and federal, state, and local governments.

Attendee registration opens November with early-bird registration available. Winegrowers’ members receive significant discounts on registration.

WineVit is formerly Winegrowers Convention & Trade Show. 

Visit WineVit.org for announcements. Follow and like Winegrowers Facebook (@WAwinegrowers) and Twitter (@WAwinegrowers) social media pages to keep up-to-date.

The Washington Winegrowers Association serves as the synergistic leader and unifying voice – through advocacy and education – for growers, vintners, partners, and policymakers.

 

USDA to provide relief to farm/food workers impacted by COVID-19

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack announced that $700 million in competitive grant funding will be available through the new Farm and Food Workers Relief (FFWR) grant program to help farmworkers and meatpacking workers with pandemic-related health and safety costs.

The announcement was made in press call with United Farm Workers Foundation Executive Director Diana Tellefson Torres and United Food and Commercial Workers International President Marc Perrone.

Additionally, to recognize the essential role and costs borne by front-line grocery workers, $20 million of this amount has been set aside for at least one pilot program to support grocery workers and test options for reaching them in the future.

The new program is funded by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 and is part of USDA’s Build Back Better efforts to respond and recover from the pandemic.

The program will provide relief to farmworkers, meatpacking workers, and front-line grocery workers for expenses incurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This relief is intended to defray costs for reasonable and necessary personal, family, or living expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as costs for personal protective equipment (PPE), dependent care, and expenses associated with quarantines and testing related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This aligns with the Administration’s efforts to revitalize the economy and provide relief to historically underserved communities. The Request for Application (RFA) will be announced in early Fall and will be open for 60 days.

Additional information and technical assistance for applying to these grants and program updates will be provided by USDA when the application period opens.

The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) will offer technical assistance through one or more partners and webinars for applicants to help them understand the RFA, once it is published.

Additionally, grants management specialists will be available to answer any incoming questions and emails after the details are announced.

For more information about upcoming webinars, grant eligibility, and program requirements, visit the FFWR webpage at www.ams.usda.gov/services/grants/ffwr, or contact us at ffwr@usda.gov.

Applications must be submitted electronically through www.grants.gov. A subsequent press release and materials will detail the deadlines and application procedures.

To learn more, visit usda.gov.

 

USDA expands assistance to cover feed transportation costs for drought-impacted ranchers

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced its plans to help cover the cost of transporting feed for livestock that rely on grazing.

USDA is updating the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees and Farm-raised Fish Program (ELAP) to immediately cover feed transportation costs for drought impacted ranchers.

USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) will provide more details and tools to help ranchers get ready to apply at their local USDA Service Center later this month at fsa.usda.gov/elap.

ELAP provides financial assistance to eligible producers of livestock, honeybees, and farm-raised fish for losses due to disease, certain adverse weather events or loss conditions as determined by the Secretary of Agriculture.

ELAP already covers the cost of hauling water during drought, and this change will expand the program beginning in 2021 to cover feed transportation costs where grazing and hay resources have been depleted.

Cost share assistance will also be made available to cover eligible cost of treating hay or feed to prevent the spread of invasive pests like fire ants.

Under the revised policy for feed transportation cost assistance, eligible ranchers will be reimbursed 60% of feed transportation costs above what would have been incurred in a normal year.

Producers qualifying as underserved (socially disadvantaged, limited resource, beginning or military veteran) will be reimbursed for 90% of the feed transportation cost above what would have been incurred in a normal year.

To be eligible for ELAP assistance, livestock must be intended for grazing and producers must have incurred feed transportation costs on or after Jan. 1, 2021.

Although producers will self-certify losses and expenses to FSA, producers are encouraged to maintain good records and retain receipts and related documentation in the event these documents are requested for review by the local FSA County Committee.

The deadline to file an application for payment for the 2021 program year is Jan. 31, 2022.

To learn more, visit usda.gov.

 

USDA says handle frozen foods safely this school year

As students, parents and caretakers adjust to a physical return to classrooms this fall, the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reminds families to follow food safety practices to prevent foodborne illness when it comes to preparing frozen foods.

After a year of virtual learning, households are adjusting to new schedules and routines as students and schools return to in-person learning.

When it comes to packing lunches, preparing after-school snacks, or quick and convenient dinners between after-school activities, frozen foods are a popular option.

In a recent USDA study (PDF, 4 MB), 76 percent of study participants said they would buy not-ready-to-eat frozen chicken products for their children to prepare at home.

Follow the below tips to prepare frozen foods safely all school year long.

Check the Package: Not all frozen foods are fully cooked or ready-to-eat. It can be difficult to tell when foods are not-ready-to-eat when they have browned breading, grill marks or other signs that normally show that a product has been cooked.

In the USDA study, 22 percent of the participants preparing frozen foods were not sure if the products were raw or fully cooked despite reading the product instructions, and among these participants, nearly half incorrectly believed it was fully cooked.

Always check the product packaging to see if the food is fully cooked (and therefore ready-to-eat) or not-ready-to-eat.

Frozen products may be labeled with phrases such as "Cook and Serve," "Ready to Cook" and "Oven Ready" to indicate they must be fully cooked to safe internal temperatures to be eaten safely.

Wash hands and surfaces: Following proper handwashing steps before, during and after preparing frozen food reduces the risk of transferring harmful bacteria from your hands to food and other surfaces. It is important to complete all five steps to handwashing:

Wet your hands with clean, running water, and apply soap: Lather your hands by rubbing them together with soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water. Dry your hands using a clean towel.

In the same study, 97 percent of participants did not attempt to wash their hands during the preparation of not-ready-to-eat frozen, breaded chicken products. Of those who tried, 95 percent failed to wash their hands properly with all five steps.

Use a food thermometer: Although there are cooking instructions on frozen food packages, the only way to know if the food has been thoroughly cooked to a safe internal temperature is to measure it with a food thermometer. Cook not-ready-to-eat frozen foods to the following temperatures:

Beef, pork, lamb and veal (steaks, roasts and chops): 145 F with a three-minute rest time

Ground meats (beef, pork, lamb and veal): 160 F

Poultry (whole or ground): 165 F

All ready-to-eat or fully cooked frozen foods should be thoroughly heated to 165 F.

Keep out of the danger zone: After cooking or heating frozen foods, they need to be eaten or refrigerated promptly for safe storage. When foods are in the danger zone, 40-to-140 degrees Fahrenheit for too long, bacteria can reach dangerous levels that can cause illness.

Store food in the refrigerator within two hours after cooking or heating (one hour if over 90 F).

If packing frozen foods for lunch or to take outside of the home, fully cook or heat the food and then pack with a cold source (such as a frozen gel pack, water bottle, or juice) to keep out of the Danger Zone.

Leftovers that are handled properly may be safely refrigerated at 40 F up to four days. Use an appliance thermometer to make sure your refrigerator is below 40 F.

To learn more, visit usda.gov.

 

USDA invests $464 Million in renewable energy infrastructure to help rural communities, businesses and Ag producers build back better

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the Department is investing $464 million to build or improve renewable energy infrastructure and to help rural communities, agricultural producers and businesses lower energy costs in 48 states and Puerto Rico.

USDA is financing $129 million of these investments through the Rural Energy for America Program.

This program provides funding to help agricultural producers and rural small businesses purchase and install renewable energy systems and make energy efficiency improvements.

These climate-smart investments will conserve and generate more than 379 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) in rural America, which equates to enough electricity to power 35,677 homes per year.

USDA is financing $335 million of these investments through the Electric Loan Program.

The loans will help build or improve 1,432 miles of line to strengthen reliability in rural areas.

The loans include $102 million for investments in smart grid technology, which uses digital communications to detect and react to local changes in electricity usage.

The department is announcing investments in several states and U.S. territories, including Washington.

To learn more about these and other resources for rural areas, contact a USDA Rural Development state office.

Under the Biden-Harris Administration, Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities, create jobs and improve the quality of life for millions of Americans in rural areas.

This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural, tribal and high-poverty areas.

For more information, visit rd.usda.gov. If you’d like to subscribe to USDA Rural Development updates, visit our GovDelivery subscriber page.

USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America.

To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.