September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

USDA prepares for Farm Bill implementation

By Don Wick- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack remains hopeful the farm bill can be finalized in early 2014. Once the farm bill is finalized, USDA will begin work on implementation. In an interview, Vilsack said work is already underway. "The longer it goes, the more difficult it is for us to provide help and assistance and direction immediately for 2014," said Vilsack. "But, I've instructed my team at USDA, under the leadership of the Deputy Secretary, to begin already, even before passage of a farm bill. We have a good idea of what likely could be in most of the titles, so we're already making a list of rules and regulations that may need to be tweaked, changed or produced and we're going to prioritize them." If farm bill negotiations move forward, allowing for action in January, USDA won't need to implement permanent law, "but, if for whatever reason, Congress decides that it can't or won't get a farm bill done, we will be compelled by law to implement permanent law." That would mean USDA would purchase commodities, including dairy products, at highly inflated prices.

House passes Farm Bill extension
On a simple voice vote, the House has passed a short-term farm bill extension. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas said this action would prevent permanent law from being implemented on January 1. "The press headlines already speak of doom and that we're on the brink of going off the dairy cliff. Time magazine is saying and I quote 'people are freaking out about $8 a gallon milk;' it is not necessary to have that kind of panic throughout the country." While the House quietly passed an extension, Senate leadership said it isn't necessary. House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson said the dairy title will be workable. Peterson, who sponsored the Dairy Security Act, previously described the dairy package authored by Virginia Representative Bob Goodlatte as unworkable, so it can be assumed the dairy plan that includes margin insurance and market stabilization is in the final farm bill. Full conference committee action is expected in early January.

Dairy reform must stabilize milk prices
Due to the volatility in dairy markets, too many farmers have left the industry in the past decade. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said something must be done to stabilize milk prices. "Representative (Collin) Peterson has worked extremely hard to establish a program that creates greater stability, less volatility and he is also conscious of that fact that any program of this kind must be fiscally responsible." The Dairy Security Act will likely be part of the final farm bill, which Vilsack supports.

Farm credit quarterly condition report
In its quarterly report on the condition of the Farm Credit System, the Farm Credit Administration's Office of Examination said the system remains fundamentally safe and sound and is well positioned for the risks facing agriculture. In general, the risk profile for the farm economy is shifting. The profitability outlook for the protein and dairy sectors is strong; however, corn producers will face tighter margins because a large crop has driven corn and soybean prices down significantly. Lower crop prices will also put pressure on farmland values, particularly in the Midwest.

USDA updates milk production forecast in S/D Report
The 2013 milk production forecast has been adjusted downward, based on the latest estimate of cow numbers. USDA's Supply/Demand Report increased its milk production projections for next year. The declining feed costs and an increase in cow numbers are expected to put more milk in the tank.

A major change for animal agriculture
The U.S. livestock industry has three years to come into compliance with new Food and Drug Administration rules on antibiotic use. The FDA is asking animal health companies to restrict over-the-counter sales of antibiotics and require farmers to get a prescription before administering drugs to livestock. In particular, the FDA is targeting antibiotics used to increase feed efficiency and promote growth.

New regs facing organic farmers
Organic farmers and others who rely on manure are worried about proposed Food and Drug Administration food safety rules that would restrict its use. The FDA is proposing that farmers would not be allowed to harvest certain crops for nine months after untreated manure is applied to a field. The proposed rule would also require farmers to wait 45 days after application for fields treated with composted manure.

Beef checkoff deadline extended
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is extending the deadline for producers to request ballots for the upcoming beef checkoff referendum. That deadline is now January 17 and was extended after a series of public hearings. The vote is part of a proposed $1 per head increase in the Minnesota beef checkoff. The additional $1 checkoff is voluntary. Dairy cattle sold for meat production are subject to the checkoff, but those purchased for milk production are not.

Sysco-U.S. Foods merger announced
Sysco Corporation and U.S. Foods are planning to merge. The value of this combination is over $8 billion. The Sysco name will be used for the new company and Sysco leadership will be in charge of the new entity. The merger has been approved by the board of directors of each company. Pending regulatory approvals, the merger is expected to be finalized in the third quarter of next year.

MMPA elects board members
During the Minnesota Milk Producers Association business meeting, Kristine Spadgenske, Menahga; David Buck, Goodhue; Greg Jans, Grove City; and Pat Lunemann, Clarissa, were re-elected. New board members are Bob Dombeck of Perham and Craig Roerick of Upsala. Bruce Stone, Henning and Dennis Ritter, Melrose, retired from the MMPA board.

Hammer inducted into IAFE Hall of Fame
Minnesota State Fair executive vice president and general manager Jerry Hammer has been inducted into the International Association of Fairs and Expositions Hall of Fame. Hammer has spent 44 years at the Minnesota State Fair, taking over as general manager in 1997. The IAFE also presented Al Paulson of Shevlin with its Heritage Award, recognizing his decades of volunteer service to the Clearwater County Fair in Bagley, Minn.

MFBF creates new foundation director position
Minnesota Farm Bureau has implemented a staff reorganization, adding a foundation director. Ruth Meirick will take on that new role. In addition to the foundation, Meirick will oversee MFBF Young Farmer and Rancher programs and the promotion/education programs. Meirick, who has been the MFBF southeast area program director, will move into the state office. Katie Brenny, who has been serving as the associate director of public relations will take over the southeast area program director job.

Trivia Challenge
'Fuel Up to Play 60' is the name of the NFL/Dairy Checkoff project. That answers our last trivia question. For this edition, who was the U.S. agriculture secretary immediately before Tom Vilsack? We'll have the answer in the next edition of Dairy Star.[[In-content Ad]]


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