Beginning June 17, enrollment begins for the Dairy Margin Coverage program at county Farm Service Agency offices. “While the MPP program got maligned and dairy didn’t fare quite as well in the 2014 program as people would have hoped, this (DMC) is a great program, certainly in the 250-300 cow range,” said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. “I would encourage all dairy producers to pay attention, it will be really good.”
Online tool available
    Dairy farmers wanting to learn more about the Dairy Margin Coverage program and how it fits into their business plan can now evaluate different coverage levels using a web-based tool. The new DMC decision tool assists producers in calculating total premiums costs and administrative fees. This program was developed by the USDA and University of Wisconsin.

MPP repayment options
    Dairy farmers who had coverage under the old Margin Protection Program are eligible to get back some of those premiums. Farm Service Agency Administrator Richard Fordyce said there are a couple options available to dairy farmers. “There’s an ability for them to get a cash repayment from those premiums that they paid in at a level of 50% or if they want to take the dollars that they paid in premiums under the old program and apply them to premiums in the new program, they’ll get 75% value of the dollars paid as a credit for the premium.” Eligible dairy farmers will receive a letter from FSA, outlining their options.

Support for USMCA
    National Milk Producers Federation CEO Jim Mulhern is urging action on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. During a Farmers for Free Trade event, Mulhern said the Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum nullify the benefits of USMCA. “We’ve got to get these retaliatory tariffs lifted to get USMCA passed,” Mulhern said. “We are a very, very productive; very, very efficient industry; we need to find markets for the products we’re producing and that will be our salvation.”

No consensus on USMCA
    During a meeting with Democratic leaders, President Donald Trump urged the lawmakers to ratify the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. After the White House meeting, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer said the trade deal needs more protection for labor and the environment.

US-China trade negotiations at critical point
    Trade talks between the United States and China have taken place in Beijing and Washington, D.C. in recent weeks. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is optimistic a deal could be reached within a month. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is also optimistic about that timeframe. “It’s sooner rather than later for us because you’ve heard the cries about the challenges out there in ag country; it’s real.” Perdue said. “Farmers have a lot of faith and optimism, but, they’re really hurting.” Chinese President Xi Jinping may visit the White House in June and there is speculation that a new trade deal could be signed during the visit.

Dairy Innovation Hub Bill introduced
    A bill has been introduced in the Wisconsin legislature to establish a Dairy Innovation Hub at UW-Madison, UW-Platteville and UW-River Falls. The proposal earmarks nearly $8 million for the project. If approved, each campus would be able to determine how to best use the money. The goal is to improve land and water resources, human health and nutrition, animal health and welfare and farm businesses. The Dairy Innovation Hub concept came out of the Dairy Task Force 2.0 effort.
Labeling debate continues
    The Food and Drug Administration received thousands of public comments about the labeling of plant-based beverages with dairy terms, like soy milk or almond milk. The Plant-Based Foods Association reviewed the public comments and found 76% oppose labeling restrictions. National Milk Producers Federation Senior Vice President Chris Galen said the comment period was to determine if consumers understand the nutritional difference between milk and the plant-based products. In addition to the FDA, bills have been introduced in Congress to prevent the alternative products to be labeled with dairy terminology.

Farm stress survey
    Financial issues, farm/business problems and the fear of losing the farm are just a few factors impacting farmer mental health. That is according to a national poll sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation. The survey said two in five rural adults think stress and mental health have become more of a problem in rural communities in the past five years. Nearly half of the rural adults surveyed are personally experiencing more mental health challenges than one year ago. There is also a stigma attached to mental health and a need to overcome it.

USDA outlines production costs
    Many farmers and ranchers were operating in the red this past year. According to a new USDA report on production costs, fertilizer was the biggest operating cost for Northern Great Plains corn farmers last year totaling nearly $94 per acre. For wheat farmers, fertilizer was also the biggest operating cost at $27 per acre. Seed was the most expensive line item for soybean farmers at nearly $57 per acre. For cow-calf operations, feed was the biggest cost; $514 per cow per year. The feed bill was also the biggest cost for dairy farmers in the Heartland region, at $9.46 per hundredweight.

ABA sees increase in ag lending
    According to the American Bankers Association’s annual farm bank performance report, U.S. farm banks increased agricultural lending by more than 5% in 2018. The farm loans totaled $108 billion. More than 94% of farm banks were profitable last year. Asset quality remained healthy and the number of non-performing loans was at a fraction of 1%.

Hardin moves to DMI
    Former USDA Deputy Secretary Krista Hardin is the new Executive Vice President for Global Environmental Strategy at Dairy Management Incorporated. Hardin will be tasked with leading the dairy checkoff’s environmental sustainability strategy. Hardin previously served as vice president of external affairs and chief sustainability officer for Corteva Agriscience.

Trivia challenge
    Approximately 3 billion pizzas are sold each year in the United States. That answers our last trivia question. What is the most popular day for pizza consumption each year? 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.