Q: I have heard of new rules for private pesticide applicators. What changes are potentially being made?
A: The EPA has proposed new rules for those getting Private and Commercial Pesticide Applicators licenses. The final set of rules will likely not take affect for some time, however the time to comment on the proposed rules is now until November 23, 2015.
Among the proposed changes, a few to note are:
• Establishment of a first time-ever nation-wide minimum age of 18 for certified applicators and persons working under their direct supervision. Currently there is no age limit for private applicators in KS.
• Requirement for all applicators to renew certifications every 3 years. Currently this is every 5 years for private applicators in KS.
• Requirement for additional specialized certifications for private applicators using high-risk application methods (fumigation and aerial). Currently there is no specialized certification for this in KS.
• Requires first time annual safety training and increased oversight for persons working under the direct supervision of a certified applicator. Private applicators will be required to pass a written, closed book-proctored exam for certification. Currently private applicators exams are open book in KS.
• The credit hours or CEU’s required for applicators will increase: Private applicators-6 general core CEU’s + 3 CEU’s per category of certification (currently no training is required for Private applicators in KS). Commercial applicators-6 general core CEU’s + 6 CEU’s per category of certification (currently 1 core hour is required +7 per category for most categories in KS)
To read more go to http://www2.epa.gov/pesticide-worker-safety/epa-proposes-stronger-standardspeople-applying-riskiest-pesticides. If you wish to comment, follow the link to docket number EPA-HQ-OPP-2011-0183.
Q: I am gearing up for lots of holiday baking, but have noticed a residue on my cookware. Any secrets to starting my holiday baking season with clean cookware?
A: Throughout the year, cooking certain types of food, such as recipes with cheese, gravies, eggs or pie fillings, can leave baked-on residue or food stains on your favorite dishes. In addition to having “recipe residue,” your non-stick cookware can also be susceptible to stains from minerals in water or excessive heat.
If you are using glass or ceramic bakeware, try soaking them in a solution of liquid dishwashing soap, a tablespoon of baking soda and water. You can use a plastic scouring pad with a mild abrasive cleaner or baking soda, but be sure to avoid metal scouring pads as these may scratch the surface.
If you are using non-stick cookware, plan on re-conditioning the pan with cooking oil or shortening after a deep clean and before its next use. Fill the pan with a solution of one quart water + one quarter cup coffee pot cleaner OR three tablespoons of oxygen bleach. Heat to simmering for fifteen to twenty minutes. Then wash, rinse and dry as normal.
For pots and pans, make a solution from one quart of water + two to three tablespoons cream of tartar, lemon juice or vinegar. Fill the pan and boil for ten to fifteen minutes. After cooling, scour the pan lightly with a steel wool soap pad.
Q: Will nitrates be a problem in winter feedstuffs this year?
A: Generally we associate the danger of high levels of nitrates in forages such as sorghum-sudangrass, forage sorghum, sudangrass, proso millet or foxtail millet with drought. During the normal growth process, the plant brings nitrogen in through the roots and uses it to create new plant tissue. If some type of stress prevents or severely slows that process, then the nitrate begins to accumulate in the plant. The stress could be from drought, fertility imbalance, hail or a freeze. This can be a temporary condition depending on the timing of the stressor and conditions that follow. The nitrate that is present at the time of harvest or a killing freeze will remain in the plant as it dries. If livestock consume enough of the high nitrate feed it can cause abortion or death.
It is hard to make any global statements about potential toxicity levels in these species this year because of the wide range in planting times, soil fertility, and timing and amount of rainfall received. It is a prudent management decision to check for nitrates every year before feeding since the cost of the test is so low compared to the consequences of dead animals or lost pregnancies.
When submitting the forage sample for nitrate testing also have it tested for crude protein and energy (TDN). Use the analysis of forage quality so that the highest quality hay can be used when the need is greatest (i.e., during lactation for cows) and that appropriate levels of supplementation can be provided as needed. If nitrate levels are high, forages can often be ground and mixed with a low nitrate hay to dilute the nitrate to a safe level. The saying ‘you can’t manage what you don’t measure’ certainly applies in this situation.
If you have questions about forage testing or nitrates in feedstuffs, contact Sandy Johnson, Extension Beef Specialist for K-State Research and Extension at 785-462-6281 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: What are the effects of freeze on forages?
A: If you haven’t experienced a freeze yet this fall, you soon will. When plants freeze, changes occur in their metabolism and composition that can poison livestock. But you can prevent problems. Sorghum-related plants, like cane, sudangrass, shattercane, and milo can be highly toxic for a few days after frost. Freezing breaks plant cell membranes. This breakage allows the chemicals that form prussic acid to mix together and release this poisonous compound rapidly. Livestock eating recently frozen sorghums can get a sudden, high dose of prussic acid and potentially die. Fortunately, prussic acid soon turns into a gas and disappears into the air. So wait 3 to 5 days after a freeze before grazing sorghums; the chance of poisoning then becomes much lower. Freezing also slows down metabolism in all plants. This stress sometimes permits nitrates to accumulate in plants that are still growing, especially grasses like oats, millet, and sudangrass. This build-up usually isn’t hazardous to grazing animals, but green chop or hay cut right after a freeze can be more dangerous. A hard freeze, down close to twenty degrees, will cause alfalfa to react in two ways. Nitrate levels can increase, but rarely to hazardous levels. Freezing also makes alfalfa more likely to cause bloat for a few days after the frost. Then, several days later, after plants begin to wilt or grow again, alfalfa becomes less likely to cause bloat. So waiting to graze alfalfa until well after a hard freeze is a good, safer management practice.
Q: I have seen several recalls on ground meats lately and I am wondering what to look for. Is ground meat still general safe?
A: While contamination is a possibility, responsibility in preventing foodborne illness should be shared by everyone involved in the production chain to the consumer’s plate. When grinding meats, the outside surface of the product—where contamination is most likely to occur—is mixed with the untouched inside. If any contaminants are mixed in, they have the potential to multiply quickly. Contaminants that could be found include pathogens such as E. coli and salmonella, among others.
Ground meats such as beef are tested throughout the processing and packing process to help ensure any meat that could be contaminated doesn’t make it to the consumer. Therefore, recalls that occur mean the industry’s system is working to protect consumers.
At the store, consumers should look for the “best by” date on meat products. The ‘sell by’ date would just be an indicator for the store when it should be sold. If it’s a ‘best by’ date, that’s the date that you as the consumer could say, ‘It’s getting close to that date; maybe I won’t buy that one if I can’t eat or use it before then. Make sure the meat package isn’t torn and that it feels cold. After deciding to buy a meat product, make sure to keep it away from other groceries in the cart to prevent meat juices dripping onto other foods. Make the meat counter the last stop at the grocery store and the grocery store the last errand before returning home.
Once home, get meat into the refrigerator or freezer as soon as possible. Check the temperature of the refrigerator to be sure it stays below 40 F. Bacteria such as listeria can grow at refrigerator temperatures, especially if the temperature creeps up to 50 F. It’s good practice to put raw meat into a plastic bag around the store packaging, so no juices drip into the refrigerator or onto other foods. Put meat on the lowest shelf in the refrigerator and ready-to-eat foods on the top shelves in case dripping occurs. Any other surfaces that raw meat products touch directly, such as countertops or sinks, should be cleaned and sanitized well.
The best way to thaw any meat is in the refrigerator. Do not thaw on the counter or in the sink, because the outside of the product could get up to room temperature while the inside is still frozen. Room temperature is a perfect environment for microorganisms to multiply. Consumers can also use the microwave to thaw meats, but be sure to cook that meat right away. Don’t thaw it in the microwave and try to put it back in the refrigerator. You can also thaw meat in cold water, just make sure the water is changed often and is staying cold. Don’t use hot water. Put a bag around the outside, so the package doesn’t leak and you don’t get water into your meat.
When cooking, always use a meat thermometer to ensure the product gets to the minimum temperature for doneness for the specific meat product. Color is not a good indicator of doneness, particularly for ground meats.