DATCP Blog

November 1, 2019: Thankful for Farmers

By: Brad Pfaff​, DATCP Secretary-designee 

Here in Wisconsin and across the United States, many of us are looking ahead to Thanksgiving this month. Over the years, this is a holiday that has, for many, come to focus on food and family. It brings families and friends together around the dinner table to share gratitude and a meal. On Thanksgiving and every day, I am thankful for the abundant supply of safe, nutritious food we have - and I am especially thankful for the farmers who produce it.

We are incredibly lucky to live in a country with a reliable food system. Most of us do not wake up early each day to milk cows, jump in a tractor, or feed our livestock. We simply head to a farmers’ market, stop at a grocery store, or visit a restaurant to make our food choices. Even though you rarely see the farmer who made your meal possible, each farm produces enough food for about 165 people annually.

Wisconsin farmers help make Thanksgiving nutritious and delicious. Nearly 600 farms in Wisconsin raise turkeys, harvesting more than 2.3 million turkeys in 2017. Wisconsin is the leading producer of cranberries, producing nearly two-thirds of the nation’s crop each year. For your green bean casserole, Wisconsin is also the leading producer of snap beans, harvesting 660 million pounds last year. Wisconsin ranks third in the nation in potato production for those delicious mashed potatoes. And what would Thanksgiving be without a pie? In 2018, Wisconsin harvested 244,000 pumpkins and produced 49 million pounds of apples, as well as nearly 11 million pounds of tart cherries.

As American consumers, we spend just 10% of our disposable income on food each year, much less than in other countries. However, not everyone in our country is as fortunate. Too many people struggle each day with food insecurity. If you are fortunate enough to have resources to spare this season, I hope you will consider helping your fellow Wisconsinites fill their Thanksgiving plates by giving to a local food pantry near you. Any and all contributions are appreciated.

Finally, I want to thank farmers for sharing their harvest with all of us. It has been a challenging growing season, harder than most, but they have done the best they can to pull through and support their communities. I am grateful for all our farmers do to produce food for all of us. Happy Thanksgiving to all, and may your plates and hearts be full this season.

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​​September 3, 2019:  Go Back to School with DATCP

By: Brad Pfaff​, DATCP Secretary-designee 

As a relaxing and fun-filled summer comes to a close, many families across Wisconsin are headed back to school. You may not have realized it, but the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) is working for you every step of the way to keep this busy time of year running smoothly!

DATCP's Bureau of Consumer Protection warns Wisconsinites about identity theft risks throughout the year, and this topic is particularly important during the back to school season. Given the amount of personally identifiable information (PII) that is needed for school forms, DATCP asks parents and college students (who are responsible for protecting their own information) to safeguard Social Security numbers, minimize the sharing of PII, safely store sensitive documents, and shred all unnecessary paperwork that contains sensitive personal or financial data.

Once your student hits the schoolgrounds, DATCP continues working for you – this time in the lunchroom. Through school gardens, farm visits, and more, our Farm to School program helps local producers across Wisconsin bring their fresh, nutritious foods into school cafeterias and classrooms. Farm to School promotes the health of children, farms and communities by connecting schools to local farms that supply nutritious, fresh, and minimally processed foods. In 2018, this program resulted in $9.2 million of fresh foods purchased from Wisconsin farmers.

You can also find our agency at the grocery store. When you get ready to pack up those lunches, support local Wisconsin businesses by looking for products with the red-and-yellow Something Special from Wisconsin™ logo! This trademarked marketing program, administered by DATCP, was founded in 1983. It provides nearly 500 member companies and millions of consumers with a quick and easy way to identify high-quality, genuine Wisconsin products. Whether you're looking for a healthy snack or a delicious dessert, there's Something Special for you.

Even though summer has come to an end, DATCP is here to ensure you have a healthy, safe and exciting school year. Our agency has plenty of resources to help you and your family shop safely and eat wisely – all while supporting Wisconsin's agriculture producers and local businesses!​

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​August 1: Join DATCP at the Fair This Summer​

​By: Deb Gegare, DATCP Fairs Program Manager​

Which part of Wisconsin makes it feel like home to you? Could it be the endless rolling hills and beautiful farms along the roads we drive every day? Or maybe it’s spending a hot summer on the lake with family and friends. For many of us, going to the State Fair is what summer in Wisconsin is all about. 

The state of Wisconsin has more than 75 county fairs, three district fairs, and of course, the widely-known State Fair. You might have visited the Farm and Family Building at the State Fair, with the ever popular Veggie 500 and many other games that help kids learn a little while they have a lot of fun. 

But you might not know that the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection staff works behind the scenes, too, to make each county fair safe and enjoyable. From the food to the animals, and everything else that makes each fair special, we are there to help make sure things run smoothly for every fairgoer.

With so many unique and delicious fair foods, the DATCP staff helps to ensure food safety by working with the fair committees and all the food vendors, making sure each is properly equipped and licensed. Food safety is very important to help maintain a healthy and functional fair. That’s why DATCP food safety inspectors ensure every funnel cake and cream puff is prepared and handled correctly.

We can’t forget about our furry and feathery friends at the fair. Every animal at the fair comes with big responsibilities, so DATCP is there to handle any issues that may arise. For example, our staff ensures that all waivers and forms about an animal’s health conditions are completed so everyone is happy and healthy. We also answer questions and provide information directly to fairgoers about the many ways DATCP maintains biosecurity and animal welfare in Wisconsin. 

You’ll be able to see DATCP involvement when you look around the fair and see all the livestock judges. One of the big responsibilities of DATCP is finding the most qualified and skilled judges to make the fair the most fun it can be when people are there to show off their prized animals.   

In 2018, the Wisconsin State Fair welcomed over 1 million visitors, celebrating the 167th annual fair. With so many people heading to the fair for summer fun, these events take a great deal of time, energy, and staff work. To help ensure a well-run fair that everyone can enjoy, DATCP staff work with fair organizers across the state to keep their fair operations running smoothly and safely. In partnership with local organizers, DATCP works to make sure everyone working with food, animals or any other part of the fair is informed and prepared to host everyone who comes through their gates. 

​With over 75 fairs that happen in Wisconsin throughout the summer, it’s impossible not to have a blast no matter where you live. Bring family, friends, neighbors and make your way to your county’s fair and the State Fair, August 1-11. While you’re there, keep an eye out for DATCP staff members, and enjoy all the activities Wisconsin has to offer!​​

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July 1:  Summer Safety Starts with DATCP

By: Dr. Steve Ingham - Administrator, Division of Food and Recreational Safety

It’s finally summer in Wisconsin. For many of us, that means ice cream, parades, cookouts, and plenty of other fun activities. Whether you plan to camp or swim, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) is working to keep you and your family safe so you can have fun.

Each day, DATCP staff perform inspections and communicate with businesses across the state to make sure they are following the rules and statutes that help ensure your safety. We keep an eye on camps, campgrounds, waterparks, hotels and more so you can be confident when you are away from home this summer.

At recreational and educational camps, inspectors make sure campers have safe water to drink and the right amount of supervision. Our team checks that safety devices, such as smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms, are functional and that adequate food safety measures are in place.

Similarly, at campgrounds, DATCP verifies that safe water is provided and that smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms are functional. They also make sure that there are enough garbage receptacles for vacationers to keep the space clean and that there are enough toilets for visitors. 

Even when making a splash at a waterpark, our inspectors have been there to ensure your safety. DATCP staff make sure that there are enough lifeguards at each facility and that they are properly trained and credentialed. When in the water, know that our inspectors make sure that the water chemistry is maintained as appropriate to keep swimmers from getting sick.

Where you are swimming, look for posted rules to ensure basic safety practices. Our inspectors make sure those rules are displayed. We also make sure there is rescue equipment, such as shepherds crooks and ring buoys, available in case they are needed. 

When your fun is done for the night and you make your way to a lodging establishment or rental home, DATCP has been there too for a safety check. Inspectors again look for functional smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms. They make sure there is safe water to drink and effective measures in place to keep rodents and insects away.

This summer, enjoy all Wisconsin has to offer for fun and recreation with your family. And know that DATCP’s inspectors are right there with you, making sure you are safe.
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June 1, 2019:  June Dairy Month -- Show Your Dairy Pride 

By: Brad Pfaff​ - DATCP Secretary-designee 

I’ve really enjoyed my first five months as Secretary-designee of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. However, I’m looking forward to what might be my favorite month so far: June Dairy Month!

June Dairy Month is a tradition that goes back to the 1930s. Breakfasts on the farm started in the 1970s. It’s a time to celebrate dairying as part of our shared heritage and to recognize it as an important economic driver in Wisconsin. The dairy industry contributes $43.4 billion a year to the state’s economy (that’s more than $82,500 a minute). This community is more than just dairy farms; it is the feed mills, equipment manufacturers and technicians, veterinarians, construction companies, milk haulers, dairy plants, software companies, and more. Most importantly, it is people. People who work hard, play by the rules, and have pride in what they do.

Wisconsin’s dairy landscape is in a transition phase, with some dairy farms exiting or transitioning, while others are re-investing and seeking new dairy marketing opportunities. Each dairy farm in our state is unique – no two farms are identical or operate in the same way. Almost all of our farms are family-owned. Wisconsin’s dairy footprint fits our state’s diverse topography, with operations that differ in size and scale depending on the land and soil quality. Grazing may better fit the landscape and geography of southwestern and northern Wisconsin, while contained facilities are better suited to other areas of the state. Regardless, we need them all. Our strength is in our diversity, and during this June Dairy Month, we can all appreciate the many different types and sizes of dairy farms that make this industry so unique in our state.

In a time of greater and greater polarization, dairy brings us together. All of us should be proud of the great contributions dairy makes each day. Even Wisconsinites who have never stepped on a farm or milked a cow understand and recognize the pride in Wisconsin’s dairy industry. Our license plates, with the slogan “America’s Dairyland,” remind us all of our shared dairy heritage. Even our foam cheese head hats worn at Green Bay Packer games remind the world of who we are and what we stand for.

So this June, please join me in visiting a dairy breakfast on a farm near you. You can find a list of them at hooraywisconsindairy.com​. What could be better than spending a beautiful June morning on a working Wisconsin farm, meeting people who love their life and work, and enjoying a great meal – including ice cream for breakfast?

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