DATCP Blog - 2019 archive

Dec. 2, 2019: Bring Something Special from Wisconsin Home for the Holidays

By Abigail Martin, 72nd Alice in Dairyland​

Nothing evokes that “home for the holidays" feeling like the gift of a unique Wisconsin-made product. The Something Special from Wisconsin™ program makes it easy to find products and companies that make our state feel like home. Administered by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP), the program highlights products grown, raised, and produced right here in Wisconsin, making perfect gifts for family and friends.

Founded in 1983, the Something Special from Wisconsin program and logo bring recognition and credibility to Wisconsin products, building upon our reputation for providing the finest goods and services available. Program members benefit from having a "Wisconsin" brand identity that consumers recognize as top quality and high value. Businesses of any size, big or small, and with any scale of market, local or international, can participate. 

This holiday season, we are excited to highlight participating member companies' outstanding products. From award-winning cheeses and delicious confections, to quality meats and specialty spices, there is something for every food-lover on your list. And the products are not limited to food! Shop for homemade candles, scarves, lotions and more, all through the Something Special from Wisconsin program.

Participating businesses guarantee that at least half of the value of the product is attributable to Wisconsin ingredients, production or processing activities. These products are easy to identify thanks to a bright red, oval logo with white and yellow lettering. The Something Special from Wisconsin logo elevates products above the rest on store shelves and in consumers' minds.

As schedules fill up this season and you turn to online gift shopping, be sure to keep Something Special from Wisconsin products in mind. Many participating companies offer online ordering, to help make your gift-giving season a breeze. Order products to your home for gift wrapping, or ship straight to friends and family. Pre-packaged gift boxes filled with cheese, sausage, soaps, lotion and more truly showcase the quality goods made in our state.

Buying local, Wisconsin-made gifts this season, and all year-round, keeps dollars in our state and supports our farmers, processors, communities and economies. When you support the Something Special from Wisconsin program, you give a gift that truly keeps on giving. Begin and finish your shopping with the hundreds of participating businesses at somethingspecialwi.com. 

Be sure to bring Something Special from Wisconsin home for the holidays!

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 athooraywisconsindairy.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?

​​​May 1, 2019: Something Special from Wisconsin Program Lives Up to Its Name

By: Krista Knigge - Administrator, Division of Agricultural Development

Spring is a time of energy, creativity and new beginnings, and for many of the nearly 500 members of the Something Special from Wisconsin™ (SSfW™) program, it also means it's time to renew their memberships in a truly special brand identity program that helps SSfW members stand out from the competition.

Founded in 1983 and administered by DATCP's Division of Agricultural Development, SSfW is one of several local food-focused programs administered by the agency. It uses an easily recognizable red, white and yellow logo to provide a quick and reliable way to identify genuine Wisconsin products and services at grocery stores, retail outlets, farmers markets and restaurants throughout the state and nation and around the globe.

The logo gives SSfW members a “Wisconsin" brand identity that consumers recognize as top quality and high value. It brings instant recognition and credibility and builds upon Wisconsin's reputation for providing the finest products and services available.

Increasingly, consumers want to know where their food comes from.  Not surprisingly, statistics show that SSfW member businesses are likely to have a strong competitive edge over those without the logo, as more than 70 percent of Wisconsin consumers are more likely to purchase a product made or grown in the state.

In addition to the logo, there are several other benefits to joining the program. All member companies gain more market exposure with the program by being listed in the SSfW Membership Directory published on DATCP's website. Another benefit is the chance to participate in trade shows and exhibits at a reduced cost, saving companies hundreds of dollars in booth fees.

Wisconsin's agricultural ambassador, Alice in Dairyland, features SSfW companies in media interviews and promotional activities around the state. New members also receive a welcome kit containing free banners, buttons, stickers, bags and signage -- all displaying the popular logo.

With so much to offer, Something Special from Wisconsin is something special indeed! It's no surprise why so many providers of Wisconsin products and services have joined the effort to incorporate the red, white and yellow logo into their branding.

If you or someone you know would like to learn more about becoming a member, visit the SSfW website: http://somethingspecialwi.com/.

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​​​​April 1, 2019: This Day and Every Day, Avoid Being Phooled by Phishing Emails

By: Lara Sutherlin - Administrator, Division of Trade and Consumer Protection


Today is a day filled with pranks, jokes and gags. For the goofballs and tricksters in our lives, April Fools’ Day is like Super Bowl Sunday. For those of us who aren’t wild about being pranked, April 2nd comes as a relief.

Most April Fools' gags are harmless, but there are some tricksters out there with bad intent, an eye on your wallet or identity, and no concern for what day it is. April 1st, September 9th, June 12th…it doesn’t matter what the calendar says, they will set up traps every day to try and fool us.

For scammers like these, there is no better tool than the phishing email. They are cheap, easy to distribute widely, and effective. Like real fishing, scammers will cast out these emails with the hopes that you will bite. If they can reel you in, they get a payday (at your expense).

Fake shipment emails. Fake account update emails. Fake gift card offer emails. Emails with fake invoices. There are any number of ways these scammers will try to grab your attention and get you to send them money or personal information. Or they prompt you to click a link or download an attachment – either action opens your system up to malware.

So, how can you stay protected?

For starters, you can download DATCP’s free fact sheet on phishing scams. Stay suspicious of too-good-to-be-true emails and unsolicited emails from major companies. Most companies will not send you emails unless you opted in for their messages. If you do get unsolicited emails from major retailers or shipping companies (like FedEx, Amazon, Walmart, the U.S. Postal Service, etc.), keep an eye out for poor grammar and awkward language. And, of course, any email that contains a threat is likely an attempt to get you to take an immediate and dangerous action - like clicking a link or opening an attachment to find out why you are being attacked.

Phishing emails are a type of scam DATCP warns about often, because they are so common. You can help us with our message by sharing what you’ve learned with others. No one wants to be made a fool (on April 1st or otherwise), so help your friends and family stay protected by getting the word out about these scams. Don’t take the bait!

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​​​​March 14​, 2019: National Ag Day​​

By: DATCP Secretary-designee Brad Pfaff

​About one in nine people working in Wisconsin holds a job related to agriculture. Agriculture is the cornerstone – one of the most important components of our state’s strong and diverse economy. March 14, National Ag Day, is an opportunity for all of us – those of us who are from the farm and those who are not – to take a moment and reflect on the importance of agriculture and our state’s family farmers in our day-to-day lives.  

Agriculture is not just the farms and the fields we see as we drive along the interstate or back roads. It is more than just the farmers’ market​​s or the days you remember spending on your grandparents’ farm. It’s more than the $88 billion that agriculture brings into Wisconsin every year. It’s the farm families that grow our crops and care for our livestock. It’s the local schools and libraries where their children learn, and the small local businesses they support in their rural communities. Agriculture is a source of pride in our heritage, a source of jobs, and a source of support that helps keep our rural areas thriving.

Wisconsin is a proud, diverse, and strong agricultural state, from our productive farms to our rural manufacturing to our urban food processing. No state raises more cranberries than Wisconsin. We rank among the nation’s top producers of processing vegetables, and are second only to California is fresh organic vegetables. When you squeeze toothpaste onto your brush, the mint flavoring probably came from our top-ranking mint farms. Our wine grape growers are coming into their own, along with our hops growers. With about 72,000 milk goats, our state also leads the nation in the dairy goat industry. 

Our state is and will continue to be known as America’s Dairyland with thousands of dairy farms across Wisconsin. I grew up on my own family’s dairy farm in northern La Crosse County. It is there that my admiration and deep respect for farmers began. As we always say, we need farms of all types and sizes, and we have room for them all. We all know that farmers are facing challenging times with high production, low prices in the marketplace, and trade uncertainty. 

What makes me most proud to be part of our state’s agriculture industry is that when a challenge presents itself, farmers come together to address it. Some farmers are incorporating technology into their barns and farm machinery to gain efficiencies. More and more dairy farmers are turning to grazing as a system that cuts down on feeding costs and managing manure. Our Dairy Task Force 2.0 is working to develop recommendations to support the industry, find new ways to improve profitability, and to carry our dairy heritage into the next generation. 

Governor Evers has made water quality one of his top priorities. Whether we are talking about groundwater or surface water, we all share an interest in keeping it clean. Farmers and their families drink the same water as their neighbors. Streams and aquifers don’t follow town lines or county borders or city limits. It’s an issue that connects us all, and we all share in the solution. The Governor has proposed new resources in his budget to focus on water quality, including additional funding for DATCP to help counties work directly with farmers to further their conservation goals.

Wisconsin agriculture has many growth opportunities, from local markets where farmers are adding value and selling straight to consumers, to international markets. Wisconsin ag products are enjoyed by consumers in all corners of the world. Wisconsin also leads the way in new, cutting-edge ag production and processing. Hemp is an example of a product with countless new opportunities. In our second growing season, applications to grow hemp have grown from under 250 last year to more than 1,400 this year. Industrial hemp also creates numerous opportunities off the farm, including agronomics, processing, and marketing.

National Ag Day is a good time to remember that agriculture connects us to one another, to our past, and to our future. It’s a day for farmers to connect with their non-farm neighbors and share our story – a story that is so important to everyone’s daily life, and to our economy in Wisconsin and the nation. We all share in the strong, diverse economy that agriculture helps support. Let’s celebrate that. Happy National Ag Day!

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​March 1, 2019: Welcome!

By: DATCP Secretary-designee Brad Pfaff

Welcome to the DATCP blog! In the coming months, this page will feature Wisconsin’s rural communities, agricultural businesses, and some of the great work being done in our agency. Our state has so much to offer, and I’m excited to tell the story of rural Wisconsin.

Let me start by introducing myself. My name is Brad Pfaff, and I serve as the Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer ​Protection (DATCP). I grew up on a dairy farm in La Crosse County that has been in my family since they arrived to this country in the 1800s. Farmers have always been my mentors and my role models. From my time with Senator Herb Kohl to the USDA Farm Service Agency to Congressman Ron Kind, I’ve devoted my career to serving Wisconsin’s rural communities and agriculture industry.

I believe agriculture is a crucial part of who we are in Wisconsin. As Governor Evers outlined in his first budget address yesterday, it’s also important to remember how closely connected we all are. Our agricultural community relies on a strong rural transportation network, from the first mile to the last mile, to get our world-class products to consumers. Rural communities need better access to child care, training, and health care so people can get to work and participate in their local economy. I want to help connect these dots, and I am excited to work with Governor Evers to do so.

We also have many opportunities to develop new and existing markets. Through programs like Farm to School, Something Special from Wisconsin™, Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin, and our international promotion efforts, DATCP is working to connect farmers and consumers. As we approach new frontiers in resource management, agriculture, and consumer protection, it is critical that we have the resources to take full advantage of these opportunities. As we saw from Governor Evers’ proposed budget, he understands that need.

In the coming weeks, I plan to travel all around Wisconsin. I want to hear your thoughts and ideas about how DATCP can better serve our local communities and support the agricultural businesses that form such a large part of our state’s economy. Connecting the dots across our wonderful state is no small task. Agriculture is an $88 billion industry in Wisconsin - and that’s only one part of DATCP’s mission. Governor Evers and I need your input as we build those connections.

I believe we have a great story to tell, and I am excited to share it. By working together, I know we can ensure a brighter future for Wisconsin farm families, rural communities, and all citizens.

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