— A specialist with UW-Extension says the deadly strain of avian influenza spreading in the state poses a threat to Wisconsin’s poultry industry.
“I think it has been for a while, and certainly continues to spread,” Ron Kean, a faculty associate in UW-Madison’s Department of Animal & Dairy Sciences, said in a recent interview.
State officials recently found cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza, or HPAI, in three more counties, bringing the total number of domestic flocks infected since mid-March to seven.
DATCP announced last week new cases have been identified in Columbia, Polk and Sheboygan counties. Two of these were in non-commercial flocks with fewer than 50 birds while the case in Polk County was in a 20,000-bird flock. The first case identified by the agency in March was in a flock of nearly 3 million birds.
“I think you’re definitely going to see, and already have seen, increases in ag prices,” Kean said. “I would expect turkey prices to be fairly high for a while, because there’s been a lot of turkey flocks affected … Wisconsin so far hasn’t had as many as some other states, but through the Midwest and the East Coast there’s been a fair number of [infected] flocks.”
He expects consumers will see increased costs for poultry products, while commercial operations will face “a lot of cost for increased biosecurity,” as they pay for protective gear, cleaning and disinfecting.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture provides reimbursement for birds that need to be killed after an infection is found, and the agency also pays for some of the clean-up process afterward, Kean said.
“There’s lost production and things like that, but it helps,” he said.
A previous HPAI outbreak in 2015 hit more than 200 poultry flocks around the country, resulting in more than 50 million chickens or turkeys either dying from the disease or being killed to stop the virus from spreading, Kean wrote in an earlier report. He noted the 2015 outbreak had a $3.3 billion impact on the U.S. economy.
“I don’t believe we’ve had the numbers yet that we’ve had in 2015, as far as number of birds lost, but certainly it’s a high loss that we have,” he said.
Kean explained certain strains of avian flu “may hardly cause any symptoms at all,” while the strain currently circulating has a higher mortality rate for infected birds. Wild waterfowl are thought to be spreading the virus to domestic birds, and the Department of Natural Resources has found cases of the virus in wild birds in a handful of counties.
While some wild ducks and geese can carry the virus without getting sick or dying, other wild birds such as hawks and eagles are being killed by the virus, Kean said.
Kevin Hoffman, public information officer for DATCP, noted wild birds aren’t the only path for the virus to reach domestic flocks. He said the virus can also spread through objects or materials such as clothes or tools, underlining the agency’s focus on biosecurity at these operations.
“Awareness, biosecurity, and reporting are critical,” Hoffman said in an email. “In coordination with our state and federal partners, we’re making every effort to educate flock owners about identifying symptoms of avian influenza and reporting illnesses so we can work together to prevent the spread.”
Kean also stressed that the food supply is safe, as products from infected farms don’t make their way to consumers. Plus, cooking poultry products “will destroy any virus that might be there,” he added.
DATCP has suspended all poultry shows and exhibitions through the end of May in hopes of limiting HPAI spreading. If more cases continue to be found, Hoffman said pushing back the end-date “would require a new order, but at this time it’s unclear whether that would be necessary.”
See the agency’s HPAI site: https://datcp.wi.gov/Pages/Programs_Services/HPAIWisconsin.aspx
— The League of Wisconsin Municipalities is criticizing Lowe’s Home Centers’ argument as the retailer challenges several local tax assessments in a case before the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
The League says it filed an amicus brief in the case that “seeks to educate the Court about the negative practical implications of accepting Lowe’s dark store related theories.” According to a release from the group, Lowe’s has sought to lower its tax assessment in Delavan, Wauwatosa and Plover, but a circuit court and court of appeals decided against the international retailer.
The League argues that large retailers are unfairly using sale prices of closed and vacant stores in an attempt to lower the tax burden on their own operations, through a perceived “dark store loophole.” But Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the state’s largest business association, says no such loophole exists.
In an issue brief from 2019, WMC says “overly aggressive” tax assessors are “using an illegal strategy to dramatically increase the taxable value of local businesses” resulting in larger tax assessments.
“These companies challenge the illegal assessments in court to bring their taxable amount back to an appropriate amount,” WMC wrote in the report.
Jerry Deschane, executive director of the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, says Lowe’s “dark store related theories would result in an unequal application of the law and a massive tax shift causing other taxpayers to make up the difference.”
Lowe’s Home Centers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
See the amicus brief: https://acefiling.wicourts.gov/document/eFiled/2019AP001987/510304
See the WMC report on the “dark store” issue: https://www.wmc.org/issues/5-dark-store-myths-debunked/
— The Public Service Commission is providing $10 million to 46 projects through its Energy Innovation Grant Program.
Funded projects include efforts to reduce energy consumption and demand, install battery storage and renewable energy technologies and create “comprehensive” energy plans. The funding per project ranges from around $26,000 to $1 million, and awardees provide or otherwise secure matching funds.
Grants are going to manufacturers, farmers, schools, nonprofits, local governments and others.
The agency says it received 105 applications for more than $31 million in funding. That’s after the PSC funded 32 projects with a total of $7 million in the previous grant cycle.
“The Energy Innovation Grant Program is a vital resource to help in our statewide efforts to keep energy affordable and reduce carbon emissions,” Commissioner Tyler Huebner said in the release.
See the list of grants: https://files.constantcontact.com/ea808663201/d1b8c002-dee5-469b-9e83-4a29c33cd795.pdf
— The Medical College of Wisconsin is getting a $1 million grant to study whether a dietary supplement could improve COVID-19 patient recovery.
The funding comes from the American Heart Association, which is providing over $10 million to 11 U.S. research teams as part of its “Mechanisms Underlying Cardiovascular Consequences Associated with COVID-19 and long COVID” grant program.
The MCW team is led by Dr. Michael Widlansky, the college’s Northwestern Mutual Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine. He said in a release that patients recovering from a COVID-19 infection have an increased risk of heart attack for at least one year.
“Our preliminary work suggests that this increased risk may be in part due to activation of systemic and blood vessel inflammation,” he said.
The researchers will test the impact of a dietary supplement called Lp299v on blood vessel function in hopes of reducing this risk.
“We believe that the dietary supplement could reduce inflammation in blood vessels … and lead to improved function of blood vessels, as well as improve the activity and health of the immune system in patients after they have recovered from acute COVID-19 infection,” Widlansky said.
American Heart Association President Dr. Donald M. Lloyd-Jones says the lingering effects of “long COVID” can impact heart and brain health, and “are contributing to an increase in cardiovascular disease in ways we do not fully understand.” The group’s grant program aims to improve that understanding.
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— Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce has announced the 26 finalists for the group’s 33rd annual Manufacturer of the Year Awards.
This year’s finalists are grouped into small, medium, large and “mega” categories, ranging from as few as one employee to more than 500. The Grand Award winners will be announced May 19 at the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee.
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