July 8, 2023 at 8:00 a.m.

Seeking dairy checkoff transparency

By DON WICK | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

Two groups are calling on Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to release the dairy checkoff program’s financial information. Farm Action and the National Dairy Producers Organization said these annual spending reports are mandated by law but have not been released for the years 2020, 2021 and 2022. The two groups cite the current economic hardship facing dairy farmers in its criticism of the National Dairy Promotion and Research Program.


Preparing for the farm bill dairy title

Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow and House Agriculture Committee Chair Glenn “GT” Thompson have experience with dairy policy. American Farm Bureau Federation dairy economist Danny Munch said that is positive news going into the farm bill process. The Dairy PRIDE Act is one priority, “making sure that products that are milk and dairy get those terms rather than some of the alternatives,” Munch said. Dairy Margin Coverage adjustments are also being sought. Trade issues are also addressed in the farm bill. Munch said Canada’s supply management program complicates the trade relationship. “There’s really no incentive for them to follow the rules that they signed up for in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, and we don’t expect them to suddenly start following the rules and accepting U.S. dairy products into their country,” Munch said. “We’re continuing to work with the Trade Representative’s Office on our challenge within the trade agreement.”

Expanding access to veterinarians in rural areas

Rural communities are faced with a shortage of essential veterinary services. The Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program provides student loan reimbursement to veterinarians who practice for three years in federally designated shortage areas. A similar program is available for medical doctors, but their loan repayments are exempt from federal withholding taxes. The VMLRP payments are not.

More cows go to slaughter

Year-to-date, nearly 76,000 more dairy cows have entered the beef chain than one year ago. In May, dairy cow slaughter totaled 249,000 head. That is 5,500 more than April and nearly 24,000 head more than May 2022. In a report prepared by Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection livestock and meat specialist Jeff Swenson, the Holstein steer market has been trading steady to higher at $157 to $159. Cows were $2 to $3 higher with the bulk of the cows bringing anywhere from $69 to $101 per hundredweight. Dairy bull calves were mostly steady to lower at $100 to $310 per hundredweight.

Precision technology at work

Technological advances are being seen throughout the dairy industry, including robotic milking systems, genomics and electronic ID tags. Holstein Association USA and Zoetis have had a relationship for nearly 10 years, working on genomics. Zoetis Vice President of Precision Animal Health Dr. Jason Osterstock said the use of DNA testing offers insight into an animal’s potential contribution and value to the herd. Sexed semen, embryo transfers and in vitro fertilization are other examples of precision technology in the dairy sector. “I think we’re also going to see our ability to select for feed efficiency, our ability to select for cows that produce naturally less methane; those are all going to unlock opportunities for us,” Osterstock said.

$1B-plus for broadband

Wisconsin will receive over $1 billion in federal funds to connect more people to high-speed internet. Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin supported the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment program. “No matter where you live in the state, you deserve access to reliable high-speed broadband, and these resources will help us do that,” Baldwin said. The first 20% of funds will be awarded in 2024 and the remaining 80% in 2025.

Support for local roads

Gov. Tony Evers has signed the Local Roads Improvement Program. This program provides state support for local governments to deal with deteriorating county highways. There are also targeted investments that support agriculture.

Yara, DMI collaborate 

Yara North America and Dairy Management Inc. have launched a new soil health collaboration. This work is meant to complement the Dairy Soil & Water Regeneration project and will explore the use of organic fertilizers derived from manure.

AJCA recognizes Owens

The American Jersey Cattle Association has honored Walter Owens of Frederic, Wisconsin, with its Distinguished Service Award. Owens served on the AJCA board from 2012-19 and now chairs the Junior Activity Committee for the All-American Show and events in Louisville, Kentucky.

Elite Breeder Award goes to Bomaz Farms

Holstein Association USA has honored Bomaz Farms of Hammond, Wisconsin, with its 2023 Elite Breeder Award. Bob and Kay Zwald operate the dairy farm with their son Tom and his wife Ashley and daughter Annette and her husband Steve Schalla. The family has had more than 500 bulls in A.I. programs worldwide with the Bomaz prefix.

Basse to chair Farm Foundation Board 

AgResource Company President Dan Basse is the new chair of the Farm Foundation board. Natural Prairie Dairy owner Chris DeJong was elected vice chair and American Seed Trade Association President and CEO Andrew LaVigne is the treasurer. Six new board members were also elected: former Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, former Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Jewell Bronaugh, The Nature Conservancy global managing director Micheal Doane, Kinder Farms co-owner James Kinder, S2G Ventures managing director Christina Rohr and Farm Credit Council President/CEO Todd Van Hoose. The Farm Foundation is an accelerator for practical solutions for agriculture.

Armstrong steps away from the microphone

After 48 years as a farm broadcaster, Max Armstrong has retired. Forty-five of those years were with Orion Samuelson at WGN, U.S. Farm Report and This Week in Agribusiness.

Trivia challenge

It takes 12 pounds of whole milk to make 1 gallon of ice cream. That answers our last trivia question. For this week’s trivia, what American ice cream company bills itself as “the ice cream of the future.” We will have the answer in our 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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