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USDA Seeks Public Comment on Proposal to Strengthen Animal Disease Traceability Regulations

The USDA is proposing to amend animal disease traceability regulations and require electronic identification for interstate movement of certain cattle and bison. APHIS is also proposing to revise and clarify record requirements. These changes would strengthen the Nation’s ability to quickly respond to significant animal disease outbreaks.

Members of the public will be able to submit comments through March 20, 2023 regarding this proposed amendment. Click here to see the stakeholder announcement.

UDAF Announces New State Veterinarian

The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF) is announcing the hiring of Dr. Daniel W. Christensen as the new Utah state veterinarian, taking the place of Dr. Dean Taylor who retired from UDAF on December 30, 2022.

“We are excited to welcome Dr. Christensen to our department and are confident that he will serve the people of Utah well,” said Craig Buttars, UDAF Commissioner. “We would also like to extend our gratitude to Dr. Taylor for his dedication and service as the state veterinarian for the past three years, managing an unprecedented number of animal disease outbreaks and helping provide stability to animal health regulation.”

Dr. Christensen received his DVM from Kansas State University and has spent the last several years serving our nation working for the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute as well as at the Tripler Army Medical Center as the attending veterinarian. His background in infectious disease research and veterinary practices make him well-qualified to oversee the industry’s needs as state veterinarian. Dr. Christensen will be joining UDAF in August of 2023.

During the interim, Dr. Amanda Price will serve as the Utah state veterinarian. Dr. Price has been the assistant state veterinarian for the past three years and has been a vital part of UDAF. She has expertise in infectious diseases and animal health and has played a major role in helping contain the various outbreaks during her time at UDAF. Following Dr. Christensen’s start at UDAF, Dr. Price will continue to serve as the assistant state veterinarian.

For more information on the role of the state veterinarian, visit the Animal Health Program page on the UDAF website.

 

 

USDA Expands Local Foods in School Meals through Cooperative Agreement with Utah

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) announced it has signed a cooperative agreement with Utah for more than $1.9 million to increase their purchase of nutritious, local foods for school meal programs.

Through the Local Food for Schools Cooperative Agreement Program (LFS), the Utah State Board of Education (USBE) will purchase and distribute local and regional foods and beverages for schools to serve children through the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. These products will be healthy and unique to their geographic area, with the goal of improving child nutrition and building new relationships between schools and local farmers.

“This cooperative agreement supporting Utah schools is another example of how USDA is working to build a more resilient food system rooted in local and regional production,” said USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Jenny Lester Moffitt. “The Local Food for Schools Cooperative Agreement Program provides an opportunity for states to strengthen ties between local farmers, ranchers, food businesses and schools, and gives students access to nutritious foods unique to the area they live in, building stronger connections across local communities.”

“Strengthening relationships between local producers and schools is a long-term strategy to ensure our children always have access to nutritious foods in school, a win-win for child health and American agriculture,” said Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Stacy Dean. “Through this program and many other efforts to support the school meal programs, USDA is committed to giving schools the tools they need to set children up to learn, grow, and thrive.”

With the LFS funds, USBE will support Utah’s small ranchers, local meat producers and processors by procuring competitive programs. This project will allow Utah meat producers the opportunity to explore new market channels and build relationships with new buyers, while helping schools improve meal quality with healthy, locally produced protein. 

“The Utah State Board of Education is excited to expand markets for our state’s farmers and offer more nutritious, locally-produced foods to our students,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sydnee Dickson. “Parents can rely on the National School Lunch Program to provide a healthy lunch for their students. Now they can also know that they are helping Utah’s farmers at the same time.”

The LFS cooperative agreements will allow organizations the flexibility to design food purchasing programs and establish partnerships with farmers and ranchers that best suit their local needs, accommodate environmental and climate conditions, account for seasonal harvests, improve supply chain resiliency and meet the needs of schools within their service area. Additionally, the program will provide more opportunities for historically underserved producers and processors to sell their products.  Local Food for Schools Cooperative Agreement Program is authorized by the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act. AMS looks forward to continuing to sign agreements under this innovative program.

The Local Food for Schools cooperative agreement program is one of many ways USDA is supporting school meal programs this school year and transforming our food system in the long term.

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, lowering costs for American families, creating 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.

 

 

UDAF Supports the Governor’s Budget Recommendations Focusing on Agriculture

The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF) is excited to support the budget recommendations announced by Governor Cox’s office on Friday, December 9. Budget recommendations to support agriculture in Utah includes $200 million for the Agricultural Water Optimization Program, $3 million for the Utah Food Security Processing Grant Program, and $18 million for Agriculture Infrastructure, which will be run through the Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity.

These budget recommendations show the governor’s commitment to the agriculture community in Utah and local food security,” said UDAF Commissioner Craig Buttars. “We are hopeful that we will receive the same support from the legislature in the upcoming legislative session.

The Agricultural Water Optimization program has been in place since 2019 and has brought about huge successes in optimizing agricultural water use, saving over 7 billion gallons of water in the first year of data collection. This program has also seen increasing interest and support from the agriculture community. $70 million dollars in grants were administered in 2022 alone, funding over 300 projects. For more information on the program, visit the Agricultural Water Optimization Page.

The Food Security Processing Grant Program is a new program created in the last legislative session that administered $1 million in grants with the goal of bolstering food processing, making local food easier to access, and providing local markets for Utah’s farmers and ranchers. In the first round of funding, UDAF received over $14 million dollars in requests, demonstrating that there is a significant need and demand to increase food processing in the state. Visit the Food Security Processing Grant Program page for more information.

UDAF is also excited to work with the Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity and Six County Association of Governments to facilitate the development of an area for agriculture infrastructure in central Utah to increase the production, processing, storage, and transportation of food. This project would further UDAF’s goal to increase food processing and food security in Utah.

 For more on the Governor’s budget recommendations visit gopb.utah.gov

 

 

Avian Influenza Case Update

The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food has confirmed two additional cases of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in a backyard flock of chickens in Utah County and a flock of gamebirds in Iron County.

UDAF and the USDA have worked to contain the disease to these two locations. All birds have been depopulated and surveillance will continue in surrounding areas to prevent further spread of the disease.

UDAF is asking for the public’s help to prepare for this expected increase of HPAI cases. All domestic bird owners, including backyard chicken flocks, ducks, geese, turkeys, gamebirds, etc., should strengthen their biosecurity practices. If possible, birds should be kept locked inside enclosures to avoid contact with migratory birds. Flocks should not have shared water, feed, or grazing sources with wild bird habitats.

Anyone involved with poultry production from the small backyard to the large commercial producer should review their biosecurity activities to assure the health of their birds. USDA APHIS has materials about biosecurity, including videos, checklists, and a toolkit available at: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalhealth/animal-disease-information/avian/defend-the-flock-program/dtf-resources/dtf-resources.

Indicators of HPAI in avian flocks are high death loss, nasal discharge, decreased appetite or water consumption, and lack of coordination in birds. If birds are experiencing any of these symptoms, it should be reported to the state veterinarian immediately at statevet@utah.gov.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the recent HPAI detections do not present an immediate public health concern. One case of this strain of HPAI has been detected in the United States.

For more information and guidance on how to protect animal and human health in Utah, visit https://ag.utah.gov/hpai/.