Tag Archives: COVID-19

LINCOLN, NE. – The 13th Annual Nebraska Wind & Solar Conference scheduled for November 9-10, 2020, has been postponed due to COVID-19 based restrictions and health risks. The Planning Committee feels the face-to-face interaction and networking between participants and conference exhibitors and sponsors is an important component of the annual conference. “The safety of our participants and the need for our participants to freely visit with each other were the primary considerations,” said Conference Chair John Hansen.

The next annual Nebraska Wind & Solar Conference will be held on November 8-10, 2021, at the Lincoln Cornhusker Marriott.

The Planning Committee is also working to develop virtual outreach opportunities to share information about the issues and progress within the industry. “There are many exciting developments going on in both the wind and solar industries,” Conference Chairman John Hansen said.

The Planning Committee encourages everyone wanting more information on the wide range of issues facing wind and solar energy development to visit the Conference website at www.nebraskawsc.com. The website includes an extensive library of recent presentations from leading state and nationwide industry experts as well as past Conference presentations. Past expert presentations can be found under “Resources” and are organized by year and topic on the website. The Planning Committee urges you to take full advantage of the resources our website has to offer.

Details regarding virtual outreach and the 2021 Conference will be posted on the conference website as they develop. To sign-up for email updates, please visit the Conference website.

The Planning Committee thanks everyone for their past support and looks forward to seeing you next year.

MANHATTAN — A team of Kansas State University researchers is using a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture — and an additional grant from the state of Kansas — to study how to effectively control the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in the nation’s meat and poultry processing facilities.

The study “Translating SARS-CoV-2 Research Into Practical Solutions For The Meat And Poultry Processing Industry” seeks to protect meat plant workers and their surrounding communities from the spread of COVID-19. It involves researchers from K-State’s College of Veterinary Medicine and College of Agriculture.

As part of the study, $330,000 from the State of Kansas National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility Transition Fund will be used for research in K-State’s Biosecurity Research Institute, or BRI, at Pat Roberts Hall. The BRI is a high-containment research facility.

A key objective of the project will be verifying the effectiveness of many of the approved cleaners and sanitizers for inactivating SARS-CoV-2 during plant processing and sanitation operations.

“Nationally and internationally, many facilities that produce meat and poultry products have been temporarily closed because of COVID-19 outbreaks,” said A. Sally Davis, an assistant professor of experimental pathology in the College of Veterinary Medicine and project director of the K-State grant. “This has put a major strain on food production, limiting the amount of meat and poultry on grocery store shelves and disrupting food and feed supply chains across the globe. Research is necessary to understand why SARS-CoV-2 is such a problem in meat and poultry processing environments and how we can mitigate the problem.”

Davis said infections with SARS-CoV-2 are primarily thought to occur by exposure to infectious micro-droplets in the air and contaminated surfaces.

“We are investigating the conditions within meat and poultry processing environments, such as low temperatures, relative humidity, increased air movement and workers being in close proximity to one another, to help identify areas and surfaces that are at high risk for contamination and spread of infectious SARS-CoV-2,” Davis said.

The team will evaluate potential sources of exposure and determine the amount and the longevity of infectious virus that is present during and after meat processing and packaging activities. The team seeks to identify, develop, validate and deliver practical cleaning and disinfection strategies, plus develop mathematical models to predict and reduce the risk of SARS-CoV-2 exposure in meat and poultry processing facilities.

Joining Davis on the research team are food safety faculty from K-State’s Food Science Institute, including Randall Phebus, co-project director and professor of animal sciences and industry, and Jeanette Thurston, director of the Food Science Institute and co-investigator on the project. The project also will rely on input from an industry advisory board.

“Our advisory board will be regularly updated on research progress,” Thurston said. “We will communicate with them in real time to make sure we are on the right track with our research and recommendations, and ensure that our findings are rapidly deployed across the processing sector.”

The industry advisory board is composed of senior-level directors of food safety and plant operations at Hormel Foods, Smithfield Foods, National Beef Packing Company, Cargill Protein North America, JBS USA, Wayne Farms, Jennie-O Turkey Store, Tyson Fresh Meats and Costco Wholesale.

Collaborating with the K-State team are co-project directors from the University of Georgia poultry science department, Harsha Thippareddi and Manpreet Singh, who will provide extensive poultry experience and industry connections and lead the grant’s industry outreach efforts. Valentina Trinetta and Sara Gragg, food safety faculty from the Food Science Institute, are co-project directors. Co-investigator Anke Richter, a public health-focused operation research specialist at the Naval Postgraduate School, will lead the risk assessment driven by mathematical modeling. Co-investigators Yunjeong Kim and Erin Schirtzinger in the K-State College of Veterinary Medicine and the Food Science Institute’s Daniel Vega round out the project team.

As recently as September 1, Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue said USDA was finishing up writing the rules for the second round of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. Late last week at a stop in Iowa, the secretary said the rules have been written and they’ll be announced this week.

The Bismarck Tribune says the first $16 billion in funding during the first round of the program was geared to the first quarter of 2020. The idea was to just get the aid out the door as quickly as possible to whoever needed it. Round two of the program will factor in more producer feedback to make it a program that works best for the people who truly need it. Farm Journal’s Ag Web Dot Com says payments in the second round will compensate producers for any losses they had from April 15 through the end of 2020.

The deadline for applying during the first round of CFAP is this Friday, September 11. He says round two payments will go to the same commodities they did in the first round. There won’t be any money for ethanol producers and other agricultural commodities seeking aid because of COVID-19. Perdue says he doesn’t have the necessary authority from Congress to make those particular payments.

The Department of Agriculture says farmers will earn more net farm income in 2020 due to federal relief programs. Net cash farm income is forecast to increase $4.9 billion to $115.2 billion.

In inflation-adjusted 2020 dollars, net farm income is forecast to increase $18.3 billion, and net cash farm income is forecast to increase $4 billion. If realized, both income measures would be above their historical average across 2000-2019 when adjusted for inflation. However, the increase is not because of better prices or markets. USDA says overall, farm cash receipts are forecast to decrease $12.3 billion to $358.3 billion in 2020.

Total animal receipts are expected to decline $14.3 billion, and total crop receipts are forecast to increase $2.0 billion from 2019 levels. USDA says direct government farm payments, including federal aid but not loans and insurance, are forecast at $37.2 billion, a $14.7 billion, or 65.7 percent increase. USDA says the expected increase is due to supplemental and ad hoc disaster assistance for COVID-19 relief.

The USDA’s Farm Service Agency is reminding farmers and ranchers that the deadline to apply for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program is September 11.

The program is designed to provide direct relief to producers who faced price declines and additional marketing costs due to COVID-19. “FSA offers several options for farmers and ranchers to apply for CFAP, including a call center where employees can answer your questions and help you get started on your application,” says Richard Fordyce, Administrator of the Farm Service Agency. “As we get closer to the deadline, now is the time to check out our resources on our website and contact the call center or your local office for your last-minute questions.”

Over 160 commodities are eligible for CFAP, including certain non-specialty crops, livestock, dairy, wool, specialty crops, eggs, aquaculture, and nursery crops and cut flowers. All eligible commodities, payment rates, and calculations can be found online at farmers.gov/cfap. Customers seeking one-on-one support with the CFAP application process can call 877-508-8364 to speak directly with a USDA employee who can offer general assistance. This is the recommended first step before producers talk to the team at their local FSA county office.

Congress won’t consider any coronavirus relief until September, and the streamlined package won’t likely include agriculture.

Senate Republicans indicate they plan to introduce a “skinny” bill next month, according to the Hagstrom Report. The Senate returns to session on September 8, and the House has scheduled to return for committee meetings on September 8, with the full House returning to session September 14.

The delay sets up speculation the general coronavirus aid may be included in spending bills Congress must pass by September 30, the end of the current fiscal year. Congress must also pass the spending bills to avoid a government shutdown. Many in agriculture agree more aid is needed for farmers and ranchers facing losses from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The failed HEALS Act in the Senate would have provided an additional $20 billion for agriculture. The CARES Act included $14 billion for agriculture, and the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program includes $16 billion for agriculture.