MON AM News: Talking Trade with Mark Rhoda-Reis of DATCP; Humane Handling Institute aims to boost meat industry

— In the latest episode of “Talking Trade,” Mark Rhoda-Reis of DATCP discusses another potentially record-setting year for Wisconsin ag exports. 

Rhoda-Reis, the director of the agency’s International Agribusiness Center, said the state set a new record with $3.94 billion in ag exports in 2021, marking an 18 percent increase over the prior year. 

“And we’d had some challenging years, so that was good news to see,” he said. “And then year-to-date June, so our second quarter, we are already up 10 percent over that record amount. So it’s shaping up to be a strong year.” 

He gives an overview on the latest figures for Wisconsin dairy, crop and meat exports, all of which are on the rise. 

And he shares his thoughts on how the state has been faring amid all the challenges of the past several years, pointing to supply chain disruptions, shipping container shortages, higher shipping costs and COVID-19 disruption of export markets. 

“There’s a long list of things that we’re looking at, you would think that we would be down at this point,” he said. “But I think post-COVID demand has been so strong — and this is what the companies that we work with are telling us — that it’s actually been driving a lot of that need.” 

Watch the latest episode here: 

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— DATCP and UW-River Falls have announced the launch of the new Humane Handling Institute, which will provide training for meat industry workers in the state.

According to a release from the agency, participants who complete a series of workshops through the program will get a certificate in humane handling and stunning. And tuition reimbursement is being offered to 120 trainees from small slaughter operations in the state for two of the workshops. 

The institute is funded through the state’s $5 million Meat Talent Development Program, which Gov. Tony Evers announced earlier this year. The program is backed with American Rescue Plan Act dollars, the DATCP site shows. 

Kurt Vogel, HHI director and associate professor of animal sciences at UW-River Falls, says the new institute aims to “develop humane handlers, stunner operators, and maintenance personnel that have a deeper understanding of the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ of humane handling, stunning, and slaughter.” 

See more in the release: 

— Environmental advocacy groups are touting a report that shows about 63 percent of the over 30,000 comments submitted to the DNR on the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline relocation are opposed to the project. 

Dozens of volunteers from Sierra Club Wisconsin and 350 Wisconsin went through 98 percent of the comments received by the state Department of Natural Resources on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the project, according to the report. 

Elizabeth Ward, director of the state chapter of the Sierra Club, says the report “makes clear what we have known all along- Enbridge’s proposed expansion of the Line 5 pipeline is too dangerous for our climate, water, and Lake Superior. We cannot afford it.”

The analysis comes several years after the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa sued the Canadian energy company, arguing the risk of a spill from the nearly 70-year-old pipeline posed a threat to the tribe’s reservation. 

Enbridge has since proposed a 41-mile reroute that would circumvent the Bad River reservation, which was the subject of the environmental impact statement. The company says the pipeline is “a vital link to propane and other energy supplies” for the upper Midwest region. 

While the rerouted pipeline would be located outside the reservation, the tribe has argued that Enbridge’s proposal “to locate the pipeline around and upstream of the Bad River Reservation still unreasonably interferes with the Band’s treaty-protected rights to fish, hunt, and gather, and to control the use of its lands consistent with public health, safety, and welfare.”

See the report: 

See the Enbridge site on Line 5: 

— Teens who participated in a group therapy program saw a “substantial reduction” in trauma-related mental health issues, according to a study involving researchers at UW-Madison’s Center for Healthy Minds. 

The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, focused on the potential for such programs to help patients experiencing long-lasting effects from childhood trauma. It was conducted in Colombia in partnership with the University of Santander in Colombia and the nonprofit Innocence in Danger Colombia. 

Participants included 44 teenage girls who had experienced more than four “adverse childhood experiences” and were living in residential or semi-residential child care settings. Half took part in a one-week group therapy program, which involved mindfulness exercises, creative activities and a type of treatment called eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy. 

This EMDR therapy helps with “reprocessing” of traumatic experiences, according to a release from the university. 

Along with improved attention and awareness, participants who underwent the therapy also experienced changes to gene expression related to vulnerability to stress, inflammatory response, neurotransmission and more, the release shows. The researchers say these changes are linked to mental health improvements for participants. 

Perla Kaliman, an honorary fellow at the Center for Healthy Minds and the study’s lead author, says the research team is “really excited to see the encouraging results” from the study. 

“This work generates scientific evidence to help promote health policies with the potential to reduce a great deal of suffering and health risk factors in children and adolescents,” Kaliman said. 

See more in the release: 

— The seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin remains relatively low and stable, according to the latest DHS figures. 

The latest average was 863 cases per day, the Department of Health Services site shows. 

Meanwhile, just three Wisconsin counties are seeing high levels of COVID-19 activity based on cases and hospital data: Barron, Rusk and Crawford. Twenty-one counties are seeing medium activity levels, and the rest of the state is at the lowest level for virus activity. 

The Wisconsin Hospital Association reports 448 patients in the state are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, including 59 intensive care patients. While the ICU figure remains flat, the number of hospitalizations has seen more variability in recent weeks, rising from 387 since the start of October. 

And the percent positivity rate for COVID-19 tests has remained between 9 and 10 percent for the past three weeks after falling from the recent peak of 15.3 percent in early August. 

See more from DHS here: 

Track hospital figures here: 

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