MADISON, Wis. – A delegation of dairy leaders from Wisconsin and Minnesota are partnering with government and industry leaders in Kosovo for a two-year collaborative project to assess food safety risks and improve milk quality.
Kosovo, a former territory of Yugoslavia, is a small country with a tumultuous history. As a result of conflict and war in the 1990s, many farmers lost their lives. Livestock was destroyed and the nation’s dairy industry was left devastated. The country gained independence in 2008 and is still working to rebuild its agricultural industry to meet the nutritional and economic needs of the population.
The Wisconsin and Minnesota delegation of dairy experts traveled to the war-torn county in January to begin work on a milk quality project. The initiative is led by Dr. Pamela Ruegg, professor of Dairy Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Karen Nielsen, director of the Babcock Institute for International Dairy Research and Development. Accompanying Ruegg and Nielsen to Kosovo in January were Dr. Scott Wells, director of education for the Center for Animal Health and Food Safety at the University of Minnesota; Trisha Wagner, Jackson County UW Extension agent; and John Kappelman, a consultant for Cereal Byproducts Company who has worked on many USAID Farmer to Farmer projects in Eurasia.
While in Kosovo, the team of U.S. agricultural experts traveled throughout the country, visiting small dairy farms, milk collection centers, dairy processing plants, national testing laboratories, and the University of Prishtina.
The trip culminated in a presentation of the proposed program by Dr. Ruegg, who spoke to a room of government officials, university staff, embassy personnel and representatives of private organizations. The proposal received enthusiastic endorsement by the Ministry of Agriculture in Kosovo, the University of Prishtina and the Kosovar Food and Veterinary Agency, who will be key partners.
“This project is a partnership in every sense of the word,” Nielsen said. “We have an enthusiastic team of researchers who are committed to the project. This dedication ensures that everyone will be able to benefit from the work being done.”
The collaborative project will strengthen Kosovo’s ability to identify and address food safety risks in its dairy chain, as well as provide opportunities to train American experts and strengthen their ability to understand food systems in emerging markets. Immersing UW faculty, extension agents and students in issues faced by Kosovo’s dairy industry will help internationalize Wisconsin’s education and outreach efforts.
Students from the University of Prishtina in Kosovo will visit milk collection centers to obtain milk samples, which will be tested at the Food and Veterinary Agency of Kosovo. Once the collection and testing has been completed, university faculty and students from Wisconsin and Kosovo will work together to analyze data. During this project, a risk assessment tool will be developed for use in Kosovo, on farmstead dairy processing facilities in Wisconsin and other parts of the U.S., and in emerging dairy industries throughout the world.
Initial funds used to support the project come from a USDA – International Science and Education grant, which covers only travel expenses and a small portion of testing and equipment costs. All individuals involved are personally invested in the project and are volunteering their time and expertise.
To learn more about the Babcock Institute and its collaboration with Kosovo, visit www.babcock.cals.wisc.edu or call 608-265-0561.