Minnesota Milk Producers Association Executive Director Lucas Sjostrom is pleased with the pace of enrollment in the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. At the beginning of the sign-up, more clarification was needed on dairy beef, but Sjostrom said that has been clarified. “After those first few days in the program, I haven’t received any calls. I take that as people are pretty pleased with how things are going,” said Sjostrom. In its third week of sign-up, the United States Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency processed 1,012 dairy applications and more than $27 million for Minnesota dairy farmers. Based on previous government programs, Sjostrom expects up to 2,500 total dairy applicants in the state for the program.

Senate to consider more COVID-19 aid
    In May, the House approved their version of a phase four economic stimulus package called the HEROES Act. Later this month, the U.S. Senate will be putting together their plan. Combest, Sell and Associates managing partner Tom Sell said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell plans to take things slow when crafting the legislation. “Farmers are staring down the barrel of another ugly year again. I think that question will be answered in this new COVID-19 relief package,” Sell  said. This bill may also address long term policy challenges. “The fact that we’ve had to do the MFP and the WHIP+ program shows the fact that our current farm bill in terms of safety net resources aren’t getting the job done,” Sell  said.

New COVID-19 relief negotiations to pick up in July
    Agricultural lobbyist Jim Callan said discussions about a new COVID-19 relief package will likely pick up in July. “I think many in Congress, particularly Senate Republicans, want to see the impacts of the previous COVID-19-related relief package take effect, because a lot of money was already put into the U.S. economy,” Callan said. Callan said there is bipartisan support to have more money for agriculture, but how that manifests itself right now is unknown.

Peterson said lawmakers prepping for future ag emergencies
    According to House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, lawmakers are putting together a plan to use Commodity Credit Corporation funding for future challenges in agriculture, not just the COVID-19 pandemic. “I’m not sure if we’ll ever have another COVID-19 situation, but the USDA needs to be ready to face any emergencies that come up,” said Peterson. “I’ll be working with the Trump administration and other lawmakers to look at putting emergency things on the shelf and ready to go.” Peterson said there could be a hearing on the subject this summer.

FAPRI projects declining farm income
    A new forecast from the University of Missouri Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute calls for a 15% decline in net cash farm income this year. That is despite record government payments of $33 billion. Large stocks of corn, soybeans and wheat will pressure commodity markets. COVID-19 related foodservice slowdowns and packing plant closures will negatively influence cattle and hog prices for the year. Restaurant and school closures have also pushed down milk and dairy demand. FAPRI said markets will continue to evolve under the threat of a re-emergence of coronavirus, supply chain disruptions are resolved and the economy begins to reopen.

Milk prices stage a recovery
    In late April, Class III milk prices were down 50% to $10 to $11 per hundredweight. AgResource Company President Dan Basse said that market is now in the low $20 range. Despite this rally, Basse is concerned about the record spread between the June and October milk futures. “June-October milk is now at a $7.50 premium. I can’t find anything like that in history. In fact, the biggest premium we can find is a little over $1,” Basse said. Foodservice is coming back online, but Basse said that is happening very slowly. Demand is not expected to reach pre-coronavirus levels for many months.

Dairy Margin Coverage sign-up begins in fall
    The Dairy Margin Coverage program sign-up for 2021 will begin Oct. 12 and run through Dec. 11. The FSA is encouraging dairy producers to sign up for the program. So far this year, the DMC has already triggered payments for two months for producers who signed up for 2020 coverage.

Fed holds interest rates
    After its two-day policy meeting, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said the central bank plans to keep interest rates near zero through 2022. The decision was made to provide stability for an economy hurt by COVID-19 and business shutdowns. Fed officials projected the U.S. economy will contract between 9% and 10% this year.

U.S. dairy groups express frustration on Canada’s tariff rate quotas
    The U.S. Dairy Export Council and National Milk Producers Federation are criticizing Canada’s allocation of tariff rate quotas under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. The dairy industry said the allocations undermine the intent of the USMCA’s dairy provisions. They are urging the U.S. Trade Representative to immediately raise the issue with Canada and insist that the country adheres to the letter of commitments under the USMCA and to its spirit as well. The USMCA goes into effect July 1.

DOJ launches antitrust investigation
    The Justice Department is investigating the major beef packers for possible antitrust violations. Civil subpoenas have been issued to JBS, Tyson Foods, Cargill and National Beef Packing. Earlier this year, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the agriculture department would extend its oversight into price disparities between live cattle and box beef.

Borden Dairy has new owner
    New Dairy Opco LLC is the apparent top bidder in the bankruptcy auction of Borden Dairy assets. This company is led by former Dean Foods CEO/Chairman Gregg Engles. Faced with a heavy debt load, Borden Dairy filed for bankruptcy protection in January. Borden Dairy is based in Dallas and has 12 milk processing plants across the country.

Trivia challenge
    White Castle was the first hamburger fast food chain, launching in 1921. That answers our last trivia question. For this week, what was the first pizza fast food chain began in the United States? We will 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.