The House Agriculture Committee passed a farm bill on a party-line vote of 26-20. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway began the farm bill markup saying a farm bill extension is not a good idea. The Texas congressman went on to say he tried to work on a bipartisan basis with Ranking Member Collin Peterson to put together this farm bill. “I sincerely regret that ultimately our discussions did not bear fruit with respect to the nutrition title,” Conaway said. “On SNAP, we have some honest disagreements.” Conaway emphasized he wants the spirit of bipartisanship to return to the agriculture committee.

Farm bill flaws
    Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway wants to bring the farm bill to the full House in the first week of May, emphasizing the need to get the bill done on a timely basis. During Wednesday’s hearing, Ranking Member Collin Peterson called it a flawed bill, with most of the criticism centered on the proposed changes to the food stamp program. Peterson also made the case for increased funding in Title I to help offset low commodity prices. “If there is extra money, I’d like to suggest the money be put into the farm bill on a permanent basis to improve the safety net in case we get into a continuing low-price situation,” Peterson said. President Trump has promised support for farmers if U.S. agriculture is hurt by a trade war. Peterson said a long-term program makes more sense than ad-hoc assistance. “This is a self-inflicted wound we don’t need,” he said. “If we get into this situation, we don’t need a one-time bailout.”

Kind wants CSP reinstated
    Wisconsin Congressman Ron Kind wants Congress to reinstate the Conservation Stewardship Program when the farm bill comes to the House floor. Kind said, “lawmakers should not take away the tools that allow our farmers to be at the forefront of land stewardship.”

A familiar dance
    A new farm bill will face many hurdles and an extension remains a possibility. If the legislation goes into 2019, Cook Political Report House Editor David Wasserman said politics could be the reason. “There will be differences between the House and Senate,” he said. “There will be differences regionally. From the last few farm bills, a number of stakeholders have learned to wait it out for the best deal. These factors make the 2018 Farm Bill difficult.” Wasserman sees the current farm bill discussion as a familiar dance. “In the farm bill debates we’ve seen, Republicans have proposals to update SNAP,” he said. “Democrats have resisted. There is some horse trading going on. The parties come together and the leadership of the committees normally save the day. I think we’ll see a lot hashed out with neither party getting everything they want in the coming months or year.”

NMPF welcomes farm bill action
    The National Milk Producers Federation praised the House Agriculture Committee for approving its farm bill draft. This bill includes improvements to the Margin Protection Program. With these changes, the maximum covered margin is raised to $9 per hundredweight and adjusts the minimum amount of milk that can be insured. The House bill also includes other NMPF priorities, dealing with conservation and trade.

March milk production numbers released
    In the 23 major dairy states, milk production was up 1.5 percent in March. Production per cow totaled 2,038 pounds, the highest production per cow for the month of March since this series of reports began in 2003. Wisconsin production was nearly unchanged from a year ago. California milk production increased 2.7 percent.

A year-end loss for Organic Valley
    Organic Valley is reporting its first annual loss in two decades, a decline of $10.6 million. Despite the loss, the co-op had gross sales of over $1 billion. For 2017, Organic Valley had a national pay price average of $32.85 per hundredweight, which compares to a national average of $17.40.

A new identity for WMMB
    The Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board is now known as Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin. The name change is designed to build a stronger connection between dairy farmers and consumers.

UWRF dairy plant renovation approved
    The University of Wisconsin-River Falls has received state approval for the renovation of its dairy pilot plant. The facility has been on campus since 1983. Construction is expected to be wrapped up in early 2019.

New senior leadership selected at USDA
    Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has added three individuals to his senior leadership team. Ken Isley is the new administrator of the Foreign Agricultural Service. Most recently, Isley was a special advisor for the agriculture division at DowDuPont. Former National Corn Growers Association President Martin Barbre, who farms in Illinois, is the new administrator for the Risk Management Agency. Veteran real estate consultant Joel Baxley is leading the Rural Housing Authority.

D.C. public affairs firm adds Vetter
    Former agriculture trade ambassador Darci Vetter has accepted a new job with a public affairs firm in Washington, D.C. Vetter is Edelman’s vice chair for agriculture, food and trade and will manage the D.C. office. In 2017, Vetter was named diplomat in residence at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and left that post this winter. Vetter was deputy agriculture secretary for farm and foreign agricultural services from 2010-14.
UW-Madison wins national competition
    The University of Wisconsin-Madison won the National Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge earlier this month in Visalia, Calif. Team members include Charles Hamilton of Cuba City, Anthony Schmitz of Fond du Lac, Logan Voights of Belmont and Conner Willems of Reedsville. Thirty-two universities and two aggregate teams competed in the contest.
Trivia challenge
    Breanna Holbert is the president of the National FFA. Holbert is a student at California State University and is the first African American female to be elected to the presidency of the National FFA. That answers our last trivia question. For this week, what is the term for a sterile heifer calf born twin to a bull? 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.