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home : columnists : don wick August 23, 2017

5/30/2017 10:44:00 AM
Politics at play in omnibus negotiations

Don Wick

Congress has passed a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill and it was signed by President Trump. This bill funds the government until the end of September. There was hope the omnibus bill would include help for dairy and cotton farmers. That fell apart late in the process. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway blames Senate Democrats for political gamesmanship. "It's a classic example of what the Senate does, in particular (Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member) Debbie Stabenow and (Vermont Senator) Pat Leahy. They are reckless in the way they treated cotton and dairy producers. I think they intended it to fail, and it did." This dust-up over dairy and cotton policy may linger into the debate over the next farm bill. House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson joined Conaway in pointing the finger at the Senate. Peterson said Senate negotiators sought additional baseline funding for agriculture without budget offsets. As the process wore on, congressional leadership abandoned the entire concept.

Budget drama included dairy and cotton policy
During Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue's first appearance before the House Agriculture Committee, cotton and dairy policy got attention. Most agriculture groups agree that those two commodities need to see changes in the next farm program. Committee Chairman Mike Conaway used his time during the hearing to again voice frustration over the recent budget negotiations. Conaway criticized Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow and Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy for stabbing cotton farmers in the back by trying to add a dairy assistance program during the final days of the work on the 2017 budget bill.

USDA leader plans Canadian trip
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue will visit Canada in June. The Canadian dairy pricing policy, which has caused heartburn for U.S. dairy farmers, will be addressed.

Senate ag leaders seek action on Canadian dairy policy
Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Pat Roberts and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow have sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer about dairy trade. In the letter, the lawmakers outline the recent changes to Canada's dairy pricing policies. "It is imperative that we hold them accountable for policies that function as trade barriers to U.S. products," said Roberts and Stabenow in the joint letter.

Dairy terminology addressed at national conference
At the National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments, state regulators voted unanimously for a resolution that seeks clarification of FDA policy on dairy product terminology. FDA has rules on the books that has standardized names for milk and milk products. The dairy industry wants the FDA to enforce those standards and not allow plant-based products to be labeled soymilk or almond milk. Beth Briczinski, vice president of dairy foods and nutrition for the National Milk Producers Federation said, "The FDA needs to stop picking and choosing which regulations it wants to enforce."

S/D report updates dairy numbers
According to USDA's supply/demand report, U.S. milk production is expected to total 216.9 billion pounds this year. That's down slightly from the April forecast. The outlook for Class III milk prices was left unchanged. With stronger milk prices and moderate feed prices, 2018 milk production is expected to reach 222 billion pounds. For 2018, Class III milk prices are projected to be in a range of $16.40-to-$17.40 per hundredweight. USDA is forecasting higher cheese and non-fat dry milk prices and lower butter and whey prices next year.

April milk production rises
Milk production in the 23 major dairy producing states totaled 17.2 billion pounds in April. That's up 2 percent from April 2016. In Wisconsin, production rose 0.6 percent. Minnesota milk production increased 2 percent. In South Dakota milk, output increased 3.8 percent.

Land O'Lakes begins year with an earnings uptick
Land O'Lakes is reporting first quarter net earnings of $110 million, up from $104 million in the same period last year. The dairy foods business performed well, due to improved margins for butter and cheese. Sales were also described as strong for the Land O'Lakes animal feed and crop inputs business.

Undeniably Dairy
The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy has launched a new campaign to build consumer confidence in dairy products. The campaign is called 'Undeniably Dairy' and will educate consumers about dairy foods and dairy farming. National Dairy Board Chair Amber Horn-Leiterman is excited about this multi-year project. "Now we have the means to open that barn door and really share what is undeniably dairy and it gives us a way to reconnect with those consumers and reassure them that we can be trusted."

Buy local, buy Wisconsin
The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection has announced eight local food projects as recipients of its Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin grants. Projects include a collaboration of cheesemakers and a dairy farm that will design and build an affordable cheese aging facility for new and small cheese businesses. Another project was organized by wineries and creameries developing a wine and cheese tourism effort in southwestern Wisconsin.

CHS names new president/CEO
CHS Inc. has named a new president and CEO. Jay Debertin succeeds Carl Casale, who led the cooperative for the past seven years. Debertin has been with CHS since 1984. Previously, Debertin was the executive vice president and chief operating officer for the CHS energy operations and processing food business.

WI FFA Foundation hires new exec
John Hromyak is the new executive director for the Wisconsin FFA Foundation. Most recently, Hromyak was the fund director for Edgewood College in Madison. Hromyak is also a lifetime FFA Alumni member.

Trivia challenge
Congress approved the mandatory beef checkoff program in 1985. That answers our last trivia question. For this week's trivia, what percentage of U.S. dairy farms are operated by multiple generations? 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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