May 25, 2023 at 4:10 p.m.

Vang pleased with omnibus ag bill

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

House Agriculture Committee Chair Samantha Vang said her goal is to solve the problems of farmers. The inclusion of $10 million for a grain indemnity fund and $4 million for the Dairy Assistance Investment and Relief Initiative are examples of that work. Vang is also proud of the ag committee’s work to support emerging farmers. “When we think about a farmer in America, we often think about a white man who has a tractor and a barn, but that’s not the farmer today,” Vang said. “I come from a strong history of farmers. The Hmong community has always been farmers even before they arrived to the U.S.” Vang said the issues facing emerging farmers include access to land and to capital. The omnibus bill creates an emerging farmers office within the Minnesota Department of Agriculture with additional staff to provide support. Dating back to the last election, there is often a perception of a divide between metro and outstate Minnesota. Vang does not share that view. “I haven’t heard of any urban-rural divide; if anything, it is more of a partnership,” Vang said.

Rural, urban interests represented in omnibus ag bill
According to Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation public policy specialist Kaytlin Bemis, the omnibus agriculture finance bill is a good compromise. “The House and Senate versions were pretty different from each other, so there was a lot of negotiations throughout the week, but I feel like both urban ag and rural ag made out pretty well with the agreements they did have,” Bemis said. “Everybody had to take a beating and everybody also got a slice of the pie, so I think they came out with a pretty good agreement.” There was an initial proposal to change the makeup of the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, expanding it from six to 11 members with each congressional district represented. The final bill took the Board of Animal Health from six to seven members with three producers, three veterinarians and one federally recognized tribal member. “The previous legislation had the governor also appointing the (Minnesota Board of Animal Health) executive director or state veterinarian, which is generally appointed by the board itself, and we had concerns surrounding that,” Bemis said. “I would say on the Board of Animal Health, we fared pretty well.”

DAIRI provision prevails in MN ag omnibus
Minnesota Milk Producers Association Executive Director Lucas Sjostrom said the omnibus agriculture bill was short of their original ask of $10 million for the DAIRI program. However, Sjostrom said he is pleased with the final bill. “Rebates for the Dairy Margin Coverage Program was our main focus on this bill,” he said. “Considering everything working against us, including a relatively small amount of money compared to the general Minnesota budget in this surplus year, we’re very happy.” This rebate program in Minnesota has shown increased enrollment in the federal program.

Rural finance authority funding approved
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has signed legislation, providing $50 million to the Rural Finance Authority. With this approval, the RFA will continue to finance beginning farmers, livestock expansion and other ag loans.

Federal order reform proposal submitted to USDA
The National Milk Producers Federation has submitted its proposal to update the Federal Milk Marketing Orders. This proposal goes beyond the changes sought by the International Dairy Foods Association, which is only calling for an update in the make allowances used in pricing milk.

Ending misleading labels
Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Idaho Sen. Jim Risch are leading the charge against plant-based products using dairy labels. The two senators wrote a letter to the Food and Drug Administration, saying, “It’s imperative that the FDA enforce existing standards of identity for dairy in both current and future guidance.”

Farm real estate debt is record high
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, farm sector debt tied to real estate is expected to hit a record high of $375.9 billion in 2023. Farm real estate debt has been increasing since 2009. The average value of farm real estate reached a record $3,800 per acre in 2022, up 12.4% from the previous year.

Supply, demand report released
According to the latest USDA supply and demand report, 2023 milk production was estimated to at 228.6 billion pounds. That’s down 100 million pounds from the most recent forecast. The 2023 all-milk price declined 15 cents to $20.50 per hundredweight.

Strategies for heat stress abatement
As temperatures begin to rise, dairy cows become at risk for heat stress. Purina Animal Nutrition technical support dairy nutritionist Stuart Rymph said heat stress can begin when temperatures hit 72 degrees. Humidity and sun exposure will only increase the problem. “From the nutrition side, reduced feed intake is the thing that we worry about as much or more than anything else,” Rymph said. “We can get to the point where we have lethargic cows that really don’t want to do a whole lot and that would be the most extreme case.” There should be plenty of water available for the cow herd. In the area of nutrition, Rymph encouraged dairy farmers to feed more highly digestible feeds. “That doesn’t mean feeding less forage,” Rymph said. “In my book, it means feeding better forage.”

Climate Smart plans
The Minnesota Farmers Union hosted a Climate Smart Commodities Working Group, sharing information on projects funded through the USDA’s Partnerships for Climate Smart Commodities Grant Program. “People were asking what others knew about these projects and we thought it would be good to get everyone together,” said Ariel Kagen, MFU Climate and Working Lands program director. “Each of us knows a little bit, but together we know a lot.” Another objective of this working group is to make sure these projects are driving value back to family farmers. The group will meet later in the year as more information is available on projects in the state.

Farmers versus foodies
The keynote speaker at the Animal Agriculture Alliance Stakeholders Summit is the author of the book, “Farmers Versus Foodies.” “There seems to be two prevailing sides of the food system,” Ray Starling said. “The aggies and the consumers, there’s this growing chorus of folks that says the food system is broken and has major problems.” Starling said the agriculture industry needs to be watchful of negative influences on agriculture practices and policy. “I think the food system is doing great, but I’m concerned outside forces will try to ‘fix’ the food system,” Starling said. Starling was the chief of staff for former Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and now serves as the general counsel of the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce and president of the North Carolina Chamber Legal Institute.

Trivia challenge
Pending confirmation, Xochital Torres Small is the incoming deputy secretary of agriculture. That answers our last trivia question. For this week’s trivia, when did June officially become dairy month? 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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