Spring 2022


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Healthier Prisoners, Safer Community

The presence of a state prison in a county was associated with 11% more COVID-19 cases during the spring and early summer of 2020, according to a nationwide study by researchers in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics. The findings suggest that prisons can acquire, incubate, and amplify outside diseases and then spread them to surrounding communities. The key takeaway is that prioritizing the health of prison popula-tions and surrounding communities ensures better protection for all.

Pandemic Unemployment Disparity

An analysis of counties in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin revealed that those more reliant on dairy and animal agriculture experienced higher unemployment rates during the COVID-19 pandemic than counties more reliant on crops. The study, co-authored by assistant professor Andrew Stevens and professor emeritus Daniel Bromley in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, suggests that rural communities that rely heavily on hired agricultural or food processing labor will require more robust public safety nets to deal with future crises.

Money-Saving Innovation for Meat Processors

In 2017, in an effort to better control Salmonella, the federal government issued new guidance on minimum humidity levels during meat and poultry cooking. The change presented problems for processors using certain dry-heat ovens. In response, a team at the Food Research Institute worked with meat industry advisors to design, test, and validate a new steam injection method called hydrated surface lethality (HSL). HSL meets the new guidelines without expensive equipment replacements or modifications.

A Protected Forest’s Best Defense: More Forest

A research team led by Zuzana Buřivalová, assistant professor of forest and wildlife ecology, conducted a satellite imagery analysis of trends in forest loss from 2000–2018 in all the world’s protected forests and nearby territories. They discovered that when more than 90% of a boundary zone remains forested, the protected area is likely to experience little or no deforestation. When the adjacent territory drops to about 20% forest cover, however, the protected area starts to lose forest cover at equal rates to the nearby unprotected region.

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