Russell Group President Randy Russell does not expect the new farm bill passed before the current bill expires at the end of September. “There’s not a snowball’s chance that is going to happen,” Russell said. It is more likely action will be taken by the end of the calendar year. Russell said it’s important to consider that when lawmakers negotiate. “The nutrition and climate money that was included in the Inflation Reduction Act was a one-time $20 billion that goes to (the U.S. Department of Agriculture),” he said. “If Congress takes no action, nutrition funding, including SNAP, continues as it currently is. So, if you’re in a negotiation, you need to know what the motivation is behind those you’re negotiating with and who’s holding the cards and who isn’t.”

Animal rights group lobbies Congress
Animal rights activists were on Capitol Hill during the last week of April, asking Congress to prioritize animal welfare in the new farm bill. The platform for this coalition includes a moratorium on new and expanded large livestock feeding operations and a complete ban by 2040. They are also seeking $100 billion for a buyout program to transition animal feeding operations to raising pasture-based livestock, growing specialty crops or organic commodity production.

Education needed
During a House Agriculture subcommittee hearing, Agriculture Committee Chair Glenn “GT” Thompson asked farmers to educate members of Congress about the importance of the farm bill. “We’ve got a significant number, over half of the members of Congress have not been here for a farm bill, and quite frankly, some folks who have been (in Congress for a farm bill vote), it wouldn’t hurt to do a little additional education with some of them,” he said.
NMPF submits federal order proposal
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.

Market lows seen in cheese, butter
According to the monthly dairy report from the NMPF and the Dairy Checkoff, butter and cheese prices have reached their low point for the year. Class III milk prices have declined for four straight months. Feed costs have not followed milk prices lower, which will likely result in Dairy Margin Coverage payments until the fourth quarter.

WFBF weighs in on labeling issue
The Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation has submitted comments to the Food and Drug Administration voicing its opposition to labeling of plant-based beverages with dairy terms. “Plant-based alternatives are not milk yet are marketed utilizing the same terminology in the dairy case,” said Kevin Krentz, WFBF president. WFBF said it supports the consumer’s right to these plant-based products, but mislabeling should not be allowed.

Dairy Day at the Capitol
A Dairy Business Association delegation of 23 farmers and dairy professionals participated in its annual Dairy Day at the Capitol. “It’s so critical for our state’s leaders to hear from farmers on what helps drive success not only for our farms but for the rural communities they support,” said Chad Zuleger, DBA director of government affairs. DBA legislative priorities include funding for road improvements, the farmland preservation program and Wisconsin Initiative for Agricultural Exports.

Lawmakers hope to overturn new H-2A rule
A group of Republican senators has introduced a resolution of disapproval to overturn a U.S. Department of Labor rule dealing with H-2A workers. This rule increases the minimum wages for those working on an H-2A visa.

Workforce issue is ‘a real mess’
Finding labor is one of the biggest headaches for farmers and agribusinesses. National Council of Farmer Cooperatives President and CEO Chuck Conner said efforts are underway to ease the labor shortage by making the foreign guestworker program more assessable. “In the meantime, there’s been new rules put out by the Biden administration that would not be helpful but actually take us backward quite a bit,” Conner said. “This rule was put into effect April 1 and is taking us backward in terms of higher cost and fewer farmers being able to use the H-2A program; labor is a real mess right now.” Lawsuits have been filed in an attempt to shut down the Biden rule.

Climate collaboration
The U.S. Dairy Export Council and NMPF are partnering with similar organizations from Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile, Bolivia and Colombia on climate issues. The collaboration will work with governments and international organizations to promote policies that consider the unique needs of the livestock industry.

EU trade barriers
An annual report from the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office outlines trade barriers from the European Union. In particular, the EU uses geographic indicators to control the use of common terms, such as Parmesan or mozzarella cheese. The U.S. Dairy Export Council and NMPF are asking the trade office to preserve export access for food with these common names.

APHIS outlines its strategic plan
USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has unveiled its new five-year strategic plan. It includes six goals, including the protection of agriculture from plant and animal disease, expanding safe trade, promoting animal welfare and addressing the agency’s workforce challenges. APHIS also focused on trends. That list ranges from threats to security, climate change and advances in science and technology.

Farm numbers decline
According to data from USDA Economic Research Service, the number of U.S. farms has continued to decline since 1982. In 2022, there were 2 million farms, down from 2.2 million in 2007. Farmland acreage also continues to decline with 893 million acres accounted for in 2022, down from 915 million just 10 years earlier.

Bryan returning to Wisconsin
Country singer Luke Bryan is planning another farm tour. The five tour stops are designed to honor the American farmer. The Klondike farm at Brooklyn, Wisconsin, will host the concert Sept. 22. Four other Midwest locations are part of the tour.

Fencl joins DBA/Edge Co-op staff
Andrea Fencl is the new communications specialist for the DBA and Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative. Most recently, Fencl held a similar role for Faith Technologies. Before that, Fencl worked for a Waukesha newspaper.

Trivia challenge
The nutrition title accounts for 76% of mandatory spending in the farm bill. That answers our last trivia question. For this week’s trivia, who serves as USDA’s deputy agriculture secretary? 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.