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Weekly Digest: Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers donate milk to food banks

Progressive Dairy Editor Dave Natzke Published on 25 March 2020

Digest Highlights

Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers donate milk to food banks

Three Virginia food banks received more than 45,000 half pints of milk thanks to the Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative.

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The co-op has dairy farmer members spanning several Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern states, and produces “Maola”-branded fluid milk and dairy products. With closures disrupting the co-op’s normal school milk distribution schedules and creating excess supplies, co-op leaders tapped into an existing relationship with the Virginia food bank system to coordinate the donation.

The Feeding Southwest Virginia Food Bank, the Hampton Virginia Food Bank and Norfolk Virginia Food Bank received fresh chocolate and 1% white milk for families in need.

“In these uncertain times, we need to do all we can to help our community,” said Scott Garrett, the co-op’s national accounts manager. “We had product that would typically have gone to schools, and with the widespread closures due to coronavirus, these 17 pallets of milk didn’t have a home.”

The co-op has been working with Virginia food banks since last March as part of the “Milk for Good” campaign, selling Maola-branded 2% milk to five Virginia area food banks.

FDA relaxing VCPR requirements to allow telemedicine

The FDA will implement flexible enforcement of federal veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR) requirements, allowing veterinarians to use telemedicine to address animal health needs during the COVID-19 outbreak.

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The VCPR is the professional relationship between the veterinarian, client (e.g., animal owner or caretaker) and the animal patients. The federal VCPR definition requires that veterinarians physically examine animal patients and/or make medically appropriate and timely visits to the location where the animals are kept. Therefore, as enforced, the federal VCPR definition cannot be met solely through telemedicine.

In order to help veterinarians utilize telemedicine to address animal health needs during the COVID-19 pandemic, the FDA generally does not intend to enforce the animal examination and premises visit portion of the VCPR requirements relevant to the FDA regulations governing extralabel drug use in animals and Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) drugs. This will allow veterinarians to prescribe drugs in an extralabel manner or authorize the use of VFD drugs without direct examination of or making visits to their patients, which will limit human-to-human interaction and potential spread of COVID-19 in the community.

Although the FDA intends to temporarily suspend certain federal VCPR requirements, veterinarians still need to consider state VCPR requirements that may exist in their practice area.

The FDA plans to reassess the situation periodically and provide revision or withdrawal of this guidance as necessary.

DHS announces flexibility in requirements related to Form I-9 compliance

Although it has limited applications for farmers, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced it will exercise discretion for Form I-9 employment eligibility verification due to precautions implemented by employers and employees related to COVID-19. This provision only applies to workplaces that are operating remotely due to coronavirus.

Employers with employees taking physical proximity precautions due to COVID-19 will not be required to review the employee’s identity and employment authorization documents in the employee’s physical presence.

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Employers must inspect the Section 2 documents remotely – over video link, fax or email – and obtain, inspect and retain copies of the documents within three business days for purposes of completing Section 2. Employers also should enter “COVID-19” as the reason for the physical inspection delay in the Section 2.

If there are employees physically present at a work location, no exceptions are being implemented for in-person verification of identity and employment eligibility documentation for Form I-9. However, if newly hired employees or existing employees are subject to COVID-19 quarantine or lockdown protocols, DHS will evaluate this on a case-by-case basis.

Additionally, employers may designate an authorized representative to act on their behalf to complete Section 2 and sign Form I-9 on their behalf.

The DHS also announced that any employers who were served a Notice of Inspection (NOI) by the DHS during the month of March and have not already responded will be granted an automatic extension for 60 days from March 19. At the end of the 60-day extension period, DHS will determine if an additional extension will be granted.

DFW accepting nominations electronically

In light of the COVID-19 situation, Wisconsin’s Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) has outlined remote nomination procedures for potential candidates to serve on the Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin (DFW) board. The nomination deadline is March 31 for directors in nine districts.

The DFW board administers checkoff-funded dairy research, marketing and promotion programs. To qualify for the election, a nominee must be an active dairy producer who: (1) lives in a district up for election, and (2) sells milk into commercial channels. Nominees must acquire at least five signatures from other active dairy producers who reside in the same election district.

While traditional signatures on individual nomination forms are being accepted, nominees may have their five nominators electronically sign the form. The Department of Financial Institutions’ (DFI) guidance on remote notarization can be found here.

Producers interested in serving as a director can email Debbie Gegare or phone (608) 224-5116 for a nomination form.

More dairy meetings canceled or go virtual due to coronavirus concerns

This is by no means a complete list, but here’s some of the larger dairy meetings and gatherings canceled or rescheduled as “virtual” due to COVID-19:

  • The Wisconsin Farmers Union canceled the Dairyland Forum & Rally for Rural Wisconsin, which was set to draw presidential candidates and hundreds of family farmers and rural advocates to western Wisconsin on March 29.

  • The Wisconsin Public Service Farm Show, scheduled for March 31-April 2, in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, has been canceled.

  • The Northeast Herd Health and Nutrition Conference planned for April 7, in Syracuse, New York, will now be a virtual conference.

  • The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) postponed a public hearing on a petition related to the state’s Quota Implementation Plan (QIP). Originally set for April 7-8, no new date has been set.

  • The in-person Dairy Calf and Heifer Association (DCHA) Annual Conference, previously scheduled for April 7-9, in Madison, Wisconsin, is rescheduled for April 8-9, in a virtual format. DCHA Annual Conference registrants received a full refund for the in-person event. To register for the virtual conference, click here.

  • An annual “Workshop for dairy economists and policy analysts,” originally set for April 22-23, in Baltimore, Maryland, will not be held.

  • The Animal Agriculture Alliance 2020 Stakeholders Summit, set for May 7-8, will now be a virtual meeting.

U.S.-China Phase I agreement moves forward

The USDA and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) announced continued progress in the implementation of the agriculture-related provisions of the U.S.-China Phase I economic and trade agreement. Among the recent actions:

  • Beef: China notified the U.S. of proposed maximum residue levels for three hormones commonly used in U.S. beef production and expanded its internal list of U.S. beef products eligible to enter its ports, including processed meat products. China removed all references on beef imports related to cattle age restrictions (conditionally lifting restrictions on beef and beef products from cattle aged 30 months and older).

  • Feedstuffs: China updated its list of U.S. facilities eligible to export distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS); the U.S. FDA published a notice to facilitate the registration of animal feed manufacturing facilities for export to China; and China announced a streamlined process for registering new U.S. feed products for export.

  • Tariffs: China’s tariff exclusion process is in effect, and many importers report they are receiving tariff relief for purchases of U.S. food and agricultural products.

For additional details, read: "USDA and USTR announce continued progress on implementation of U.S.-China Phase One agreement."  end mark

Dave Natzke
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