Dairy markets have taken an ugly turn in recent weeks with cheese and whey prices pushing Class III markets significantly lower. Commodity Risk Management Group President Mike North does not expect this situation to change anytime soon. “It could be bloody into the first half of November,” North said. “From a reporting standpoint, we don’t get anything new other than the National Dairy Product Sales Report every week and if the NDPSR is showing low prices with low volumes, we haven’t changed the mindset.” In October, the new Dairy Revenue Protection insurance product was released. “It is a good tool, but like any tool there should be some time spent on the front end on how to use it.”

Regional economy influenced by dairy sector
    Despite a relatively strong general economy, the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book highlights growing anxiety over trade and tariffs. Nearly all of the 12 Fed districts report moderate economic growth, but the downturn in the farm economy was discussed. The Minneapolis Fed reports a substantial number of dairy operations have exited the business. The benefits of the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement were described as “too small and too far in the future” to provide much help.

Aluminum and steel tariffs influence USMCA benefits
    Any gains realized by the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement could be nullified by retaliatory tariffs tied to the disagreement over steel and aluminum exports. The Farm Foundation commissioned a study by Purdue University that says tariffs from Canada, Mexico and China will overpower any small positive gains from the USMCA.

Cautious optimism
    At the National Milk Producers Federation annual meeting in Phoenix, Chairman Randy Mooney said dairy farmers are hurting financially, but the fundamentals in the dairy industry are still good. Domestic and international demand is strong. “We need some help on trade; we need to get rid of the tariffs and if we could do that, I think we could see prices turn around rather quickly.”

NMPF seeks FDA action on labeling issue
    The National Milk Producers Federation is again urging the FDA to end deceptive labeling. In particular, the dairy industry wants the government to prevent plant-based beverages from using the term ‘milk.’ A new study commissioned by Dairy Management Inc. found consumers do not understand the nutritional differences between dairy milk and beverages made from soybeans, almonds or rice. As an example, 73 percent of the consumers surveyed believe almond-based drinks had as much or more protein per serving as milk. In reality, milk has eight times as much protein.

Cheese and butter sales grow
    Dairy Checkoff success was highlighted during the annual meeting of the United Dairy Industry Association, National Dairy Promotion and Research Board and the National Milk Producers Federation. Despite low prices, total dairy sales increased 2.5 percent this past year. The ongoing growth in the cheese and butter categories were cited as one reason for that success. Regarding exports, major population growth in the Middle East, Africa and Asia were highlighted as potential opportunities. To deal with declines in fluid milk consumption, DMI’s strategy includes innovations around lactose-free milk, flavored milk and packaging.

More consolidation seen in dairy industry
    Nearly half of all U.S. dairy farms have more than 1,000 cows. That’s up nearly 30 percent from ten years ago. A new report from CoBank indicates larger dairy operations have taken advantage of economies of scale to deal with the up-and-down nature of milk prices. The report says this trend to larger dairies may influence the price cycles in the future and lead to longer periods of low prices.

Public comment period extended for Daley Farms project
    Ramsey County District Court Judge Jennifer Frisch denied an injunction request filed by six agriculture groups regarding Daley Farms of Winona County. The Minnesota Milk Producers Association, Minnesota Pork Producers Association, Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association, Minnesota Turkey Growers Association, Chicken and Egg Association of Minnesota, Minnesota Farm Bureau and AgriGrowth argued the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency unlawfully extended the public comment period for the Environmental Assessment Worksheet on the proposed dairy expansion. Public input will now be accepted through November 15.

40 Square Cooperative open enrollment underway
    Legislation was implemented in 2017 to provide greater access and more affordable health insurance to Minnesota farmers. 40 Square Cooperative executive director Char Vrieze said plans are available to Minnesota farmers and the agribusiness sector. “You must actively work in production ag in Minnesota; either file a Form 1055 or Schedule F or if a C Corp, that also applies or if you provide direct services to agriculture.” Open enrollment will continue through December 19. A series of meetings are planned across the region.

Wheeler may lose ‘Acting’ title
    At a White House event, President Donald Trump hinted Andrew Wheeler may be nominated to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. Wheeler has been the acting administrator since July, when former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt resigned.

Public-private partnership extended
    The University of Minnesota and Davis Family Dairies have extended their partnership through 2023. The public-private partnership offers in-depth training for veterinary students in St. Peter, Minn.

Vander Kooi takes leadership role on National Dairy Board
    A Worthington, Minn. dairy farmer has been elected as secretary for the National Dairy Board. Deb Vander Kooi will serve a one year term for the dairy promotion and research board.

Sleepy Eye FFA’er wins national proficiency
    Local FFA members were honored with top proficiency award honors during the National FFA Convention. The Dairy Production-Entrepreneurship proficiency award went home with Isaac Nelson of Sleepy Eye, Minn.

Trivia challenge
    Ninety-four countries were represented in this year’s World Dairy Expo attendance. That answers our last trivia question. For this week, what is the theme for the 2019 World Dairy Expo? 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.