Dairy farmers will receive an improved safety net in the new farm bill. The Margin Protection Program will be rebranded as the Dairy Margin Coverage Program. “The coverage levels become even higher, and the premium rate structure becomes more favorable for farmers of all sizes,” said Chris Galen, senior vice president of members services and strategic initiatives, National Milk Producers Federation. “There will be a discount on future premiums if farmers sign-up for the full five years, as well as premiums paid this year. The premiums on catastrophic coverage levels for larger producers are significantly reduced.” The DMC program also expands flexibility for dairy farmers, allowing them to fully participate in the Livestock Gross Margin and Dairy Revenue Protection programs. The benefits of the new program will be retroactive to the beginning of 2019, with sign-up done through USDA.

Good news for dairy farmers and rural communities
    The dairy title in the new farm bill is being called a victory for small dairy farms. The new Dairy Margin Coverage expands margin protection coverage up to $9.50 per hundredweight on a farm’s first five million pounds of production. There is more flexibility in the program with reduced premium costs. Associated Milk Producers Incorporated chairman Steve Schlangen, who was part of the farm bill event, said this program is good news for dairy farmers and rural communities. “For producers with five million pounds of production and under, their banker will know that if they take care of their operation that they’ll be alright because they’ve got this coverage that will protect them.” Schlangen said the dairy industry was unified in its approach to this farm bill. It was a completely different situation five years ago. “There was so much division between the National Milk Producers (Federation) and the International Dairy Foods Association and when that happens, it is hard for Congress to come to an agreement on anything. This year, the dairy industry was united and I think that’s why we ended up getting what we got.” Schlangen acknowledged Minnesota Congressman Collin Peterson for his work on the dairy title.

Pfaff leads DATCP
    Brad Pfaff, who grew up in La Crosse County, is the new Wisconsin Secretary of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. Pfaff has served as the executive director of the Wisconsin Farm Service Agency and USDA Deputy Administrator of Farm Programs during the Obama Administration. Pfaff also served on the staff of Congressman Ron Kind.

Pfaff decision praised
    Brad Pfaff’s appointment as DATCP Secretary has been widely praised. Wisconsin Farm Bureau President Jim Holte said Pfaff “is no stranger to the Wisconsin agricultural community (and) his rural roots give him a solid foundation.” Wisconsin Farmers Union President Darin Von Ruden said his organization has worked closely with Pfaff during his time at FSA and on the staff of Representative Kind “and we look forward to continuing to work with him in his new role as DATCP Secretary.”

Milwaukee environmental official to oversee DNR
    The new leader for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is Preston Cole, who is a Milwaukee city official. Cole has pledged to rely on science to make decisions within the DNR.

Another interest rate bump
    As expected, the Federal Reserve has boosted short-term interest rates for the fourth time in 2018. The benchmark rate now ranges from 2.25 to 2.5 percent. The Fed also released a statement, indicating a more gradual approach to interest rate increase in 2019.

Runoff risk advisory forecast to gain enhancements
    Wisconsin’s Runoff Risk Advisory Forecast program will see changes in 2019. The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture said the enhancements will provide farmers a more detailed review of runoff issues before spreading manure. This tool considers soil moisture, weather, crop cover, snow cover and slop. The National Weather Service will update the weather information three times per day. The update should be in place by February 1.

WI blue cheese plant sold
    Wisconsin-based Emmi Roth is acquiring the Great Lakes Cheese plant in Seymour, Wis. This plant makes blue cheese, which is also a specialty for Emmi Roth. This deal is expected to take effect at the end of February.

DFA to purchase Agropur plant
    Dairy Farmers of America is acquiring Agropur’s St. Paul, Minn. facility. This processing plant manufactures a variety of fresh, extended shelf-life and aseptic dairy products for major supermarket chains. This deal is expected to be finalized in early January.

DFA former headquarters sold
    After sitting empty for the past year, the former headquarters of Dairy Farmers of America has been sold to a local investor group. DFA moved its headquarters from an area on the north side of Kansas City, Mo. to Kansas City, Kan. in 2017.

Two animal health businesses become one
    Vets Plus, which is based in Menomonie, has purchased the assets of Merrick’s Inc. The new company is now known as Merrick’s Animal Health. This business manufactures and markets animal health products, including electrolytes and boluses.

WI dairy farmer joins AFBF Promotion and Education Committee
    Andrea Brossard will serve on the American Farm Bureau Federation Promotion and Education Committee for 2019-2021. Brossard is a third-generation dairy farmer in Beaver Dam and currently chairs the Wisconsin Farm Bureau promotion and education committee.

Trivia challenge
    There are numerous theories about the tradition of leaving milk and cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve. It is generally thought the tradition began during the U.S. Great Depression when parents used it as a teaching tool about sharing. That answers our last trivia question. What country leads the world in milk consumption? 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.