Minnesota Governor Tim Walz announced a $10 million drought relief package to support Minnesota farmers and livestock producers impacted by the severe drought conditions during the 2021 growing season. Much of the state has experienced moderate to extreme drought this year, with portions of the state in exceptional drought. The proposal includes $5 million in rapid response grants to help reimburse farmers for water hauling, wells and irrigation. There’s also $5 million included for the Rural Finance Authority’s Disaster Recovery Loan Program. The drought relief package will be considered in an upcoming special session of the Minnesota Legislature, expected to happen in October.
CCC funds to be used to address drought, supply chain disruptions
The USDA has unveiled a $3 billion plan to address the drought, animal diseases and supply chain issues. Drought recovery, water management and ag market disruption relief efforts will receive $500 million. USDA is proposing $1.5 billion to help schools respond to supply chain disruptions. USDA is using Commodity Credit Corporation funds to pay for these efforts.

Port problems expected to continue into 2022
A coalition of nearly 80 agriculture and food groups is urging the Biden administration to resolve the current port issues. The hurricane damage at the Port of New Orleans has received many of the headlines, but labor shortages have also influenced the business on the West Coast. A record number of ships have been anchored off the coast. Dairy exports typically move out of the ports at Long Beach and Los Angeles.

Vilsack outlines USDA’s focus in climate-smart ag
USDA is investing in pilot projects that promote and monitor the benefits of climate-smart conservation practices. The agency is seeking public input on the design of the new initiative, taking comments through the Federal Register by Nov. 1. “We need to accelerate the development of science-based solutions and continue to develop new tools to pinpoint barriers,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Meeting the commitment of zero emissions by 2050 will not happen based on current technology. The private sector needs to be engaged in solutions.” Vilsack also talked about the many existing farm bill programs that already incentivize farmers to focus on conservation, including crop insurance. In the next three years, the USDA plans to make climate-smart agriculture and forestry a priority in the implementation for all farm bill programs.
 
EPA to release portion of updated WOTUS rule in November
In the last month, the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hosted six listening sessions about the Waters of the United States rule. The agencies are also reviewing more than 32,000 pre-proposal recommendations. EPA Administrator Michael Regan said the plan is to hold dialogues and regional roundtables later this fall and winter. The goal is creating a more durable WOTUS definition that provides certainty. “The agencies won’t be reinstating the Navigable Waters Protection rule or the Clean Water rule. It’s our intent to learn from stakeholder experiences.” The EPA is focused on rulemaking and hope to propose a foundational rule this November. “A second rule building on that foundation should be released next winter.” Regan made the comments at the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture’s annual meeting.

FSA state directors to be named in October, November
When Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack met with the National Farmers Union for its virtual fly-in, he addressed the status of the Farm Service Agency’s state appointments. Vilsack told attendees “Within 30 days we’ll likely be getting more information on the state FSA executive directors. The information may come in two waves, but what’s taken so long is the vetting process.” Appointments will continue to roll out in the next one to two months.

Milk production on the rise
In the 21 major dairy states, August milk production increased 1.1% from one year ago. South Dakota had the biggest increase in production, up more than 16%. That was helped by a 22,000-head increase in the size of the state’s cow herd. Minnesota milk production rose 2.3%.

Dairy consumption rises despite pandemic
In 2020, the average American consumed 655 pounds of milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, butter and other dairy products. That’s an increase of three pounds per person from the previous year. USDA’s Economic Research Service said ice cream consumption increased 6% year-over-year. Yogurt consumption was up 3% and butter was up 2%. Per capita cheese consumption declined a quarter of a pound from 2019 to 2020. Milk consumption was flat.

Gallagher to leave DMI, O’Brien named new CEO
Dairy Management Inc. CEO Tom Gallagher is leaving the dairy checkoff to pursue teaching and other opportunities. Gallagher led the national dairy checkoff for 30 years. The current DMI President and Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy CEO Barbara O’Brien will succeed Gallagher. There will be a time of transition as these changes are made, but it is unclear how long that will be. At World Dairy Expo, Gallagher said the dairy checkoff program can do things to make farmers happy or focus on selling dairy products. “You want support for the program, but support for the program comes if you achieve your mission and not because you do things that people think are good ideas and really aren’t,” said Gallagher. “Stay on the mission; sell the product; build trust.”
NFO leader passes
Former National Farmers Organization President DeVon Woodland has died. Woodland, 92, served as the NFO president in the 1970s and 1980s. In addition to his work on farm policy, Woodland was part of the organization’s emphasis on supply management. During Woodland’s 23 years in leadership, NFO members pooled together large volumes of grain and livestock to gain leverage for better prices.

Former ASA CEO moves to Farmers Edge
The former CEO of the American Soybean Association has been hired by the Farmers Edge dairy cooperative as its strategic ventures manager. Ryan Findlay founded a consulting group last year after being terminated by the ASA.

Trivia challenge
Krysta Harden is the president/CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council. That answers our last trivia question. For this week’s trivia, what dairy breed is known for producing milk with a high concentration of beta carotene? 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.