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home : columnists : don wick July 25, 2017

5/15/2017 3:19:00 PM
Not playing fair

Don Wick

President Donald Trump brought his "America First" message to Wisconsin and promised to stand up for the U.S. dairy industry in its current dispute with Canada. Canada has implemented a new pricing policy that prevents U.S. dairy farmers from exporting ultra-filtered milk across the border. Trump responded, saying Canada is not playing fair. "It's another typical one-sided deal against the United States. It's not going to be happening for long." Trump went on to say the North American Free Trade Agreement is a disaster. "NAFTA has been very bad for our country, bad for our companies and workers. We will make some very big changes or we are going to get rid of NAFTA once and for all."

Baldwin said it is time for action
With Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue now on the job, Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin is urging the USDA leader to take action on the dairy conflict between the U.S. and Canada. "He needs to sit across the table from his Canadian counterpart and he needs the U.S. Trade Representative at his side. He also has to show and demonstrate that we are serious about this. I'm thankful for the President's strong words on this, but we need to follow up with action." Baldwin said it is also important to preserve trade relations with Mexico. "We don't want to lose any ground in our trade with Mexico. There has been a cooling of relations because of the wall and the way our president talks about immigrants, they may be looking for other (dairy) markets."

Trudeau's input
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is defending supply management, saying it works for suppliers, the agriculture industry, and it works for Canadians. This comment is in response to the Canada-U.S. dairy dispute. Trudeau also said there will always be issues that come up. "The way Canada deals with issues will be based on facts, a strong-defense of Canadian interests, and an approach that is respectful and productive."

The Canadian Ambassador to the United States, David MacNaughton, has upset leaders within the U.S. dairy industry. MacNaughton has said the market problems for dairy farmers in Minnesota, Wisconsin and New York is due to overproduction and has nothing to do with Canada's new pricing policies. In a statement, National Milk Producers Federation President and CEO Jim Mulhern said MacNaughton's comments are "absurd" because it is very clear the losses experienced by U.S. dairy farmers are directly linked to Canada's pricing system.

Bad timing
It is unusual to have President Donald Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to agree on anything, but all three are pointing the finger at Canadian policies and its impact on U.S. dairy farmers. Canada's new pricing strategy was blamed when a Grassland Dairy cut off more than 75 dairy farms from Wisconsin and Minnesota. A home has been found for all of that milk, but the decision also highlights the tight processing capacity for the Midwest dairy industry. National Milk Producers Federation spokesman Chris Galen said, "Certainly, the Canadian decision to stop buying milk from the U.S. couldn't have come at a worse time. The beginning of April is the start of the spring flush. The last few years, we've had a lot of spring flush. It looks like this year, that's also the case. It was bad timing all the way around." Galen said the capacity issue is a longer term issue that will be addressed.

Mexican and Canadian leaders discuss NAFTA with Trump
More details are emerging about President Trump's decision not to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement. On April 26, Trump received calls within 30 minutes from his Mexican and Canadian counterparts urging him not to terminate the trade agreement. Trump told Wall Street Journal he is convinced Mexico and Canada are now more serious about renegotiating NAFTA.

Back and forth over U.S.-Canada trade
President Donald Trump has imposed a preliminary tariff of about 20 percent on softwood lumber coming out of Canada. This action comes just days after Trump challenged Canada's new dairy pricing strategy. In an interview with Wall Street Journal, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the dairy and lumber disputes are connected during the negotiations process. Canadian President Justin Trudeau's office released a statement reinforcing "the importance of stability and job growth in trade."

Seeking relief for dairy farmers
A coalition of dairy-state Senators has written a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue seeking immediate action to help dairy farmers hurt by Canadian trade barriers. In addition to the development of new markets, the lawmakers want the government to purchase surplus dairy products. The letter was signed by Senators from Minnesota, Wisconsin and New York, which are the three states most affected by the new Canadian dairy pricing policy.

FGI files lawsuit against Alforex Seed
Forage Genetics International has filed a lawsuit against Alforex Seeds with allegations of false and misleading advertising. The suit claims Alforex inaccurately promotes its Hi-Gest alfalfa as a low-lignin variety that is comparable to FGI's HarvXtra alfalfa. In reality, the Hi-Gest alfalfa is only comparable to conventional alfalfa varieties and Forage Genetics International company officials said that is confusing for the marketplace.

Stockholders approve AgCountry-United FCS merger
As of July 1, AgCountry Farm Credit Services and United FCS will become one entity. Stockholders overwhelmingly approved the merger. AgCountry President and CEO Bob Bahl said the merged organization will best serve the needs of its customer/members. "Both associations are significant in size and have a great position in the marketplace." The new entity will operate in 65 counties in North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin, and have $7.2 billion in assets. Bahl said this merger positions the two farm credit associations for the long term. The merged organization will operate under the AgCountry Farm Credit Services name and will be headquartered in Fargo, N.D.

Biggs named state conservationist
Wisconsin has a new state conservationist. Angela Biggs replaces Jimmy Bramblett, who accepted a position with the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Washington, D.C. Most recently, Biggs was the assistant state conservationist in Illinois.

Trivia challenge
Fuel Up to Play 60 is the joint initiative of the NFL and the Dairy Checkoff. That answers our last trivia question. For this week's trivia, when did Congress approve the mandatory beef checkoff? We'll have the answer in the next edition of Dairy Star.
Don Wick is owner/broadcaster for the Red River Farm Network, based in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Wick has been recognized as the National Farm Broadcaster of the Year and served as president of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting. Don and his wife, Kolleen, have two adult sons, Tony and Sam, and five grandchildren, Aiden, Piper, Adrienne, Aurora, and Sterling.

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