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UDAF’s Plant Industry Recognized with USDA Data Quality Award

The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food’s Organic Certification Program was recognized as one of ten recipients of this year’s
Investing in INTEGRITY Data Quality Awards from the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP). Organic data reporting
advances both market development and robust enforcement. This award celebrates those who exceeded requirements for
delivering high quality data to the Organic INTEGRITY Database in 2020.

R-L: Nicole Hobbs, Brooke Hobbs, and Shayley Cartwright

“Certifiers play a critical role in organic oversight and enforcement,” said Jennifer Tucker, who heads the NOP. “Quality, timely data deters fraud by making it faster for investigators to identify high risk activities and focus additional enforcement resources to protect the organic market.”

Up-to-date public information about organic operations also helps buyers and sellers find each other in the marketplace, making data an important market development tool. The database lists certified products for each farm and business, providing a resource for other companies looking for certified organic ingredients or needing to bolster their supplies.

“I’m proud of the work these folks have done and continue to do to make the Organic Program one of the best in the country. They continue to expand and provide valuable resources for the producers and consumers of this state.” Robert Hougaard, UDAF Director of Plant Industry.

Learn more about UDAF’s Organic Certification Program here and find a link to the USDA Organic INTEGRITY Database here.

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UDAF and USU Study Finds Growth Potential for Utah Beef Processing and Sales

Findings from a recent joint study between the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food and Utah State University Extension Department of Applied Economics indicates Utah markets demonstrate the potential for growth opportunities for Utah beef processing and sales businesses.

Utah’s cattle industry accounts for roughly 78% of the state’s cash receipts for meat animals, bringing in just shy of $450 million annually. Dairy and hay are two other large sectors of Utah agriculture, both heavily impacted by local cattle and meat processing. Currently, most Utah cattle are sold as calves and are sent out of state for finishing. With enough demand and processing facilities, Utah beef could feasibly stay in Utah to be processed and sold. This could potentially provide additional revenue for Utah ranchers and economic benefits throughout the state, particularly in rural areas.

The impacts of COVID-19 on the food supply chain highlighted the need for increased capacity and resiliency in Utah’s meat supply chain. Processing plants faced significant impacts, with harvest and processing numbers approximately double those from the same period the previous year. The study indicates wait times for beef processing in 2020 reached 6-12 months, with some wait times lasting as long as 24 months according to anecdotal accounts from producers.

The study also emphasizes the desire of Utah consumers for local beef products and the strong interest of Utah producers in growth opportunities. Smaller processing plants in regional areas can increase the resiliency of the meat supply in Utah and provide the potential for ranchers to develop additional revenue streams. Efforts to build brand awareness and availability as well as education for consumers on how to directly purchase beef from producers will be critical to the success of local beef operations. Programs like Utah’s Own or marketing cooperatives could help satisfy this need.

Read the study in full, including a detailed financial feasibility assessment for very small-scale processing plants here. For questions or additional information about economic development opportunities, please contact Linda Clark Gillmor, Utah Department of Agriculture and Food Director of Marketing and Economic Development at: lgillmor@utah.gov

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UDAF Celebrates 100 Years of Supporting Utah Agriculture and Food

 

This year marks the 100th year in operation for the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF). For the past century, the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF) has proudly supported agricultural and food producers throughout the state. 

The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food’s roots date back to the year of Utah’s statehood when the 1896 legislature formed the State Board of Horticulture, later combined with other agencies in 1921 to form the Department of Agriculture. Through records and photographs available in archives, we’re able to see that farmers even 100 or more years ago faced many of the same challenges familiar to us all today.

“Anniversaries like this centennial can be valuable to help us evaluate where we’ve been and where we’re going. I hope to take this opportunity to look to the future and build on the past,” says UDAF Commissioner Craig Buttars. 

Whether large or small, urban or rural, UDAF serves our farms, ranchers, and food producers as they provide us with safe and delicious food, build our economy and conserve our beautiful mountain valleys and desert landscapes.

As Utah’s population continues to grow and technologies continue to advance, UDAF’s programs and services will rise to meet the needs and challenges ahead. We look forward to the coming years with great optimism.

Watch here as Commissioner Buttars highlights UDAF’s 100 Year Anniversary.

 

UDAF Welcomes Craig Buttars as New Commissioner of Agriculture and Food

 

Craig W. Buttars

The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF) is pleased to welcome Craig Buttars as the new Commissioner of Agriculture and Food. Commissioner Buttars has served as Cache County Executive for the past six years and as a member of Utah’s House of Representatives from 1997-2006.  Along with his experience in the legislature and as Cache County Councilmember he brings a wealth of service and experience in production agriculture as a dairy farmer as well as his time in the Utah Farm Bureau where he served as the State Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee Chairman and the Cache County Farm Bureau President.

Click here to learn more about Commissioner Buttars.

 

 

Encouraging Results from Ongoing Investigations on Utah Mink Farms

The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF) and the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) continue to work with Federal partners, including the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to respond to confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19 in people) at Utah mink farms. After multiple rounds of testing and ongoing research and investigations, UDAF and UDOH are pleased to report encouraging findings.

In response to the outbreak, UDAF placed quarantines on all the affected farms restricting movement of mink, products and waste on or off affected farms; these quarantines will remain in place until health officials are confident that the virus is no longer circulating on the farms. UDOH and CDC began testing mink and other domestic animals on the farms, including dogs, cats and mice. Sampling also included farm workers and a small number of their household contacts. Initial testing showed positive results in mink, dogs, and feral cats on the farms.

APHIS also established surveillance and testing of free-roaming animals in the area surrounding the farms to assess any potential spillover into wildlife. Animals captured around the farms included wild and feral mink, skunks, raccoons, house mice and deer mice. The only positive specimen from animals considered to be wildlife was a single wild mink. Epidemiologic investigations and subsequent genomic sequencing of the virus strongly suggest that the virus initially entered the farms and was spread to the mink through infected human contact.

Caretakers and officials observed that once the virus was introduced to the farms, it moved quickly through the farmed mink herd. An increase in deaths occurred over an average span of about 1 week. Deaths were predominantly seen in the adult breeding population of the farms with losses approaching 50% of the breeding animals. No mortalities attributable to SARS-CoV-2 were seen in the other species (cats, dogs, wildlife).

On a few of the affected farms, a second and third round of testing was conducted in October and December to monitor the virus and help determine when and if the quarantines on these farms could be safely lifted. While the results and analysis are still underway for the third round of testing, there is encouraging evidence suggesting that the levels of virus are going down in the mink, cats and dogs living on the farm. Additional community sequencing is needed to fully understand the potential for transmission between people and different animal species in this area; however, at this time, based on extensive epidemiologic investigations, there has been no evidence to date of spread from mink to people in Utah.

All affected farms remain under quarantine. Investigations, including testing, are ongoing for all stages of production on these farms. APHIS has provided guidance for quarantine release that includes serial testing to ensure that infectious virus is cleared from the farms. UDOH and UDAF will continue to work together with Federal partners to provide support and education to affected farmers and promptly respond to any new outbreaks should they occur.

We’d like to thank our One Health partners as well as farm workers for their continued efforts in monitoring, controlling and working to eliminate the spread of this disease on Utah farms.

For additional information visit: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Frequently Asked Questions | CDC

To view the initial August 17, 2020 press release, regarding confirmation of SARS-CoV-2 in Utah mink, click here.