Agriculture is in a time of rapid change. Land O’Lakes President and CEO Beth Ford, who was the keynote speaker at the National Agricultural Bankers Conference, said agriculture is facing numerous challenges. “A changing consumer, different investors coming into the sector, consolidation, trade and tariffs; any lens that you’re looking through says what got you here is not going to get you there.” Ford said farmers need to be comfortable working in a disruptive environment because that is the “new normal.” Ford said farmers understand the cyclical nature of agriculture and can thrive in this environment.

Peterson: Ready to take over the reins of House Ag Committee
    In January, Minnesota Congressman Collin Peterson is expected to take over as chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. This is a familiar role for Peterson, who chaired the committee from 2007 to 2011 and is now the ranking member. After the election, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue called the Minnesota congressman and congratulated him. “We talked about the fact that we’re both on the same page and we want this farm bill done sooner rather than later.” According to Peterson, the remaining farm bill issues should not hold up passage.

New priorities for agriculture committee
    A large share of the Democratic members on the House Agriculture Committee represent urban districts. With a change in the control of the House, American Bankers Association senior vice president Ed Elfmann expects to see different policy priorities. “I would envision the committee will probably focus more on nutrition and trade issues, especially if we get a farm bill done.” More than 650 ag bankers were in Omaha for a conference sponsored by the American Bankers Association.

U.S. and China prepared to talk trade
    According to Under Secretary of Agriculture for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney, there’s a good relationship between USDA and the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. “If you start with a level of trust, that’s good. I also think China knows they need the U.S., just as we need and want them,” McKinney said. “What’s at stake here is the president has correctly taken a strong stand, saying China needs to quit stealing our intellectual property and forcing technology transfer. That request has been made very clearly to China.”

A complicated trade relationship
    The United States and China enjoyed a positive trade relationship in recent years. China wanted U.S. dairy products, soybeans and Boeing aircraft; the U.S. bought electronics and furniture from China. Trade consultant Dan Pearson, who is a principal with Pearson International Trade Services, does not expect a fast resolution to the current trade dispute. “It is a good time to be patient because I don’t see a quick resolution to these problems,” Pearson said. “One would wish it would happen, but when you look at the resistance on the part of the steel and aluminum producers from giving up those tariffs, the resistance from many people in the administration to do anything that looks like it would favor China; I think it looks like we’re in for a long period of a complicated trade relationship.”

Agriculture needs long-term answers
    National Farmers Union Senior Vice President of Public Policy Rob Larew said farmers understand the importance of holding trading partners accountable, but the impact of retaliatory tariffs is very real. “While we have a short-term funding program for farmers via the Market Facilitation Program, farmers want to know more about the long-term plan,” Larew said. “The NFU is urging the administration to work with Congress to address this. Farmers want to see fair trade practices and take on the bad actors, but they don’t want to be the ones eliminated.”

Next round of MFP payments on the horizon
    By the first week of December, USDA is expected to announce the next round of Market Facilitation Program payments. “We’ll likely see a second half payment similar to the first half, but we haven’t done that math yet,” said Bill Northey, USDA Undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation. Northey said changes may be made in the trade relief effort, but the formula is still being evaluated.

Federal Order extends to California
    California’s new Federal Milk Marketing Order is now in place. With this new order, more than 80 percent of the total U.S. milk supply is covered by the 11 orders overseen by USDA. USDA Undersecretary Greg Ibach said the new federal order “helps put California’s producers on equal footing with producers across the country.”

Public comment period extended
    The Food and Drug Administration has extended the public comment period on the labeling of plant-based beverages until January 25. The previous deadline was November 27. Jim Mulhern, president/CEO, National Milk Producers Federation, said the extension will provide more time for the dairy industry and health professionals to outline the importance of the labeling issue.

Leopold Award to go to New Holstein dairy farmer
    David Geiser of Gold Star Dairy in New Holstein will receive the Leopold Conservation Award during next month’s Wisconsin Farm Bureau annual meeting. This award recognizes extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation.

OYF finalist hails from Wisconsin
    Andy Fisher of Reedsville is a finalist for the National Outstanding Young Farmer Award. Fisher is involved with Riverside Dairy, a 410-cow dairy operation. The National OYF Awards Congress will be held in the Quad Cities in February.

4-H license plate available
    Wisconsin’s new 4-H license plate is now available through the state department of motor vehicles. In addition to showing support for 4-H on your car or truck, the sale of each license plate will include a financial contribution to the Wisconsin 4-H Foundation.

Trivia challenge
    ‘Tools for Dairy’s Progress’ is the theme for the 2019 World Dairy Expo. That answers our last trivia question. Where did the Christmas tradition of egg nog begin? 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.