The United States and China are scheduled to sign the phase one trade deal on January 15. President Donald Trump said the signing ceremony will take place at the White House with high-level representatives from the Chinese government. Trump plans to go to Beijing to start phase two discussions at a later date.

NCFC: More trade certainty
    National Council of Farmer Cooperatives President Chuck Conner said farmers could see more trade certainty in the year ahead. The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement was passed in the House and will be considered by the Senate early in the New Year. “We look forward to that day and it will be great trade news to U.S. farmers.” Conner said there is also optimism in the phase one trade deal between the United States and China, too.”

Questions remain over China trade deal
    There are many unknowns regarding the phase one trade deal with China. International Food Policy Research Institute Senior Research Fellow Joe Glauber said one concern is if the United States can physically sell $40 to $50 billion in agricultural products to China. “We’re talking about an increase of $16 billion. The question becomes where does the increase come from?” Further complicating the issue, Glauber said the African Swine Fever outbreak will reduce the amount of soybeans that China needs to import. “Some of the increase could come in terms of higher value products.” Glauber is the former chief economist for USDA.

Rolling Stone questions farm payments
    Rolling Stone magazine is known for its stories on music and pop culture, but an agriculture story was the top trending item on its website at the beginning of the year. The story cited the so-called ‘Trump Money,’ saying it is buying silence from farmers by delivering subsidies to President Trump’s base in Rural America. Government farm payments are at a 14-year high, topping the auto industry bailout in 2008 by billions of dollars. Most of those payments are designed to mitigate the losses seen in the trade war with China.

Borden Dairy seeks bankruptcy protection
    Borden Dairy Company has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The dairy processor plans to continue with its normal operations during the reorganization process. Borden CEO Tony Sarsam said the company is being impacted by the rising cost of raw milk and the market challenges facing the dairy industry. Borden is the second major U.S. dairy processor to seek bankruptcy protection in recent months, following Dean Foods which filed in November.

November milk production edges higher
    November U.S. milk production totaled 17.4 billion pounds; up a half percent from a year ago. USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service also revised the October milk production number up 1.4 percent from a year ago to 17.2 billion bounds. The number of milk cows in the nation’s dairy herd totaled 9.33 million head, unchanged from October, but 27,000 head less than one year ago. Average production per cow was up 15 pounds from one year ago.

CWT helps export 1 billion pound milk equivalent
    According to the National Milk Producers Federation, the Cooperatives Working Together program assisted in exporting dairy products equal to nearly one billion pounds of milk this past year. Contracted sales through CWT totaled nearly 49 million pounds of American-type cheese, 123,000 pounds of anhydrous milkfat, 5 million pounds of butter, 6.8 million pounds of cream cheese and over 46 million pounds of whole milk powder. CWT member cooperatives promote exports by partially offsetting administration and operational costs.

Public comments sought for use of UF milk in cheese manufacturing
    The Food and Drug Administration is taking public comment until March 20 on a proposal to allow the use of ultrafiltered fluid milk to manufacture cheese and cheese products. The FDA issued guidance on the use and labeling of UF products in 2017, but reopened the comment period to consider current industry practices.

Developing dairy leaders
    FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative has created a new program to develop new leaders for the dairy industry. The program will involve four one-day classes through the year. This program will concentrate on dairy policy, consumer trends, the impact of cooperatives and face-to-face meetings with dairy processors and cheesemakers.

AgCountry FCS paying record patronage
    AgCountry Farm Credit Services is paying out a record $60 million in cash dividends to eligible member-owners this year. Given the current economic volatility in agriculture, AgCountry President and CEO Marc Knisely also announced a target payment rate for patronage in the future. “The board felt it was really important to put more intentionality to its cash patronage program,” Knisely said. “The intent of the board is to return a 1 percent cash patronage dividend each year; it is something customers can have more confidence in as we go forward and take one more uncertainty off their platter.” Knisely said efforts have been taken to deal with the current farm financial situation. This is the seventh consecutive year AgCountry is paying a cash dividend.

Former CHS CEO passes
    CHS’s first chief executive officer has died. Noel Estenson was named president and CEO of CENEX in 1987. The Climax, Minnesota native spearheaded the 1998 merger between CENEX and Harvest States, creating CHS. Estenson was at the helm of CHS from 1998 to until 2000. He was 80 years old.

Weekend workshops on stress management
    The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection of University of Wisconsin Extension are hosting a series of weekend workshops for farm couples to learn about stress management, family communications and decision making. The workshops are planned later this month in Mineral Point; in Wausau and Appleton in February; in Waupun and Eau Claire in March and Rice Lake in April. The workshops are partially funded by a grant from CHS Community Giving.

WI FFA alumni celebrates 40 years
    The Wisconsin FFA Alumni Association will look back on its 40-year history during its annual convention January 31 to February 2 in Milwaukee. Past FFA Alumni presidents and National FFA Alumni Council members from Wisconsin will be recognized.

Trivia challenge
    The concept of leaving milk and cookies for Santa began in the 1870s after it was referenced in a Christmas story for kids. That answers our last trivia question. For this week, how much does a gallon of milk weigh? 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.