The United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Marketing Service is taking input on the a new COVID-19-related food purchase and distribution program to replace the Farmers to Families Food Box Program. Public comment will be taken through the end of this month. An announcement promoting a listening session said, “While the food box effort served some communities well, it faced challenges in others.” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the administrative costs for the program during the Trump administration were too high. The Farmers to Families Food Box Program has been supportive for dairy prices.

NASDA supports food box effort
    The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture supports the continuation of the Farmers to Families Food Box Program. NASDA called for more flexibility in the items within the food boxes and is seeking changes to increase participation from local farmers and vendors. NASDA represents the commissioners, secretaries and directors of the state departments of agriculture in all 50 states.

COVID-19 relief measure signed into law
    President Joe Biden has signed the nearly $2 trillion American Rescue Plan. Democrats passed the bill in both chambers of Congress without a single Republican vote. This package includes $4 billion to respond to the disruptions in the food supply chain. There is another $4 billion to provide debt relief for farmers of color with 120% of the outstanding federal loans forgiven. The COVID-19 bill also expands last year’s 15% increase in SNAP benefits through the end of September.

American Rescue Plan praised by IDFA
    The enactment of the new COVID-19 relief package is being applauded by the International Dairy Foods Association. “The package allocates $3.6 billion in funding for USDA food purchases and donations, measures to protect essential workers from COVID-19 and other loans to bolster food industry resiliency,” said Michael Dykes, president and CEO of IDFA.

USDEC challenges Canadian tariff rate quotas
    The U.S. Dairy Export Council is urging the Biden administration to take action on the dairy quotas within the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. USDEC President and CEO Krysta Harden said Canada needs to stop manipulating these tariff rate quotas. “Its actions have not only negatively impacted U.S. dairy farmers and manufacturers, but also constrained many Canadian companies from being able to make use these new TRQs to expand their supply options,” Harden said. “USMCA lays out clear requirements on TRQ procedures and we urge the U.S. government to ensure full compliance by Canada with those commitments.” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who previously led USDEC, has emphasized the importance of enforcing trade agreements.

2021 milk production forecast declines slightly
    In USDA’s latest supply/demand report, 2021 milk production was forecast at 227.3 billion pounds. That is down 100 million pounds from the February report. Cow numbers are expected to increase, but that will be offset by slower growth in milk output per cow. The Class III milk price was raised 15 cents from the previous forecast at $16.75 per hundredweight. In 2020, the Class III price averaged $18.16 per cwt.

Record milk output in Wisconsin
    Despite a downturn in cow numbers, Wisconsin’s milk production in 2020 was a record high. Wisconsin dairy farms produced nearly 31 billion pounds of milk, slightly higher than the previous record set in 2019. Milk per cow also rose to an all-time record high of 24,408 pounds.
 
Peterson takes on new farm policy role
    Former House Agriculture Committee Chair Collin Peterson has teamed up with Combest, Sell and Associates. Peterson is not able to lobby until the end of the year but will work in an advisory and consulting basis. Combest Sell clients include the dairy industry.

A.I. business loses a longtime leader
    A global leader in the dairy genetics industry, Tom Lyon, has passed away at the age of 80. Lyon began his career as a public relations manager for Midwest Breeders Cooperative. When Midwest merged with Minnesota Valley Breeders in 1985 to form 21st Century Genetics, Lyon was promoted to general manager. When the company became Cooperative Resources International in 1993, Lyon was named the chief executive officer. Lyon was awarded the National Dairy Shrine’s Guest of Honor and was inducted into the Wisconsin Business Hall of Fame and the National Cooperative Business Hall of Fame.

Dairy market analyst passes
    Leukemia claimed the life of Alan Levitt, 59, March 7. Levitt was the vice president of communications and market analysis for the U.S. Dairy Export Council for 12 years. Previously, Levitt ran his own freelance communications firm, served as editor of Cheese Market News and managing editor for Dairy Foods magazine.

Dairy 2025
    Over the next four years, all Land O’Lakes dairy farmer/owners will complete an intensive on-farm sustainability assessment. The new Dairy 2025 Commitment is described as the cooperative’s next step in its focus on sustainability.

WDE offered a 10-year extension
    Dane County has offered World Dairy Expo a 10-year extension to its contract and compensation for the economic losses resulting from the cancellation of the 2020 show due to COVID-19. “World Dairy Expo is a long-standing partner of Dane County, and this contract extension reflects our commitment to our farmers, our agricultural heritage and this event,” said Dane County executive Joe Parisi. Earlier in the month, WDE announced it was looking for possible alternative sites to hold the show in case Dane County’s health restrictions prevented them from holding the Expo in Madison.

Checkoff expands consumer reach
    The Dairy Checkoff is partnering with the National Football League and Discovery Education for a new initiative. NFL players will share their signature smoothie recipes in a series of videos that will be shared on social media and the DMI Dairy Good channels. A Farming to the Future virtual field trip is being made available to classrooms across the country. Celebrity chef Carla Hall is included in the virtual classroom effort. The goal with these projects is to promote the dairy industry’s sustainability story, the dairy farmers’ commitment to the planet and the unique health and wellness benefits of dairy products.

Trivia challenge
    Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was a research chemist before going into the world of politics. In that role, Thatcher is often credited with having a role in the development of soft serve ice cream. That answers our last trivia question. For this week, who is the last U.S. president to grow up on a farm milking cows? 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.