The Dairy Pride Act has been introduced in Congress, calling on the FDA to stop the mislabeling of non-dairy beverages as milk. Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin is one of the co-sponsors of the bill. National Milk Producers Federation Senior Vice President of Communications Alan Bjerga said the timing of this bill comes as the FDA is going through a leadership change. “I think it is an effective way to show the agency that there is sentiment out there for the FDA to take a stronger stand against these purveyors of fake milk,” Bjerga said.

DMC payments triggered
    USDA reports Dairy Margin Coverage payments were triggered in January. The details of this program, which replaces the Margin Protection Program, have not been announced. January income over feed cost margins totaled $7.99 per hundredweight, which will result in a payment to participating dairy farmers. Signup for the Dairy Margin Coverage program will begin in mid-June.

Small things add up
    There is an abundance of data available through the Farm Business Management program. What management practices separate the top third of farmers compared to the bottom third? AgCentric director Keith Olander says there is no magic bullet. “It is the little things; a lot of little things add up,” said Olander. “How do we cut five percent here, add two percent there? To be able to do that with diligence and not be scared to look at your operation to determine if there is something I should or should not be doing.” AgCentric Farm Business Management will release the 2018 farm financials in April. Surveys have determined the farm business management program has an average value of $12,000 per year for its farmer-students.

Indemnity payments for livestock losses
    Minnesota Farm Service Agency State Executive Director Joe Martin said the hardest hit area from the recent heavy snow is southeastern Minnesota, but the northern and west central parts of the state are also being impacted. Martin said animal losses are most critical to report to your county FSA office. “We do have the Livestock Indemnity Program. If you lose animals, we need you to report that within 30 days. We can compensate you for 75 percent of the market value for those lost animals. For structure losses, call your insurance provider first and then call the FSA. We do have some loan options available, if needed,” Martin said.

Legislature addresses snow damage
    The Minnesota Senate has unanimously approved a zero interest disaster loan program for farmers. The Rural Finance Authority’s Disaster Loan Recovery Program is being expanded to help farmers whose buildings were damaged by heavy snow. A similar bill is being heard in the House.

More milk
    January milk production in the 23 major dairy states totaled 17.5 billion pounds, up 1.3 percent from the previous year. In Minnesota, dairy cow numbers declined 5,000 head, but milk production increased 1.6 percent. South Dakota’s dairy herd rose by 4,000 head and milk output increased more than 6 percent. Wisconsin milk production increased nearly 3 percent.

USMCA may soon head to Congress
    President Donald Trump indicates he will soon send the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement to Congress. “We’ll be submitting [it] to Congress very shortly and that’s a great deal for the United States,” Trump said. Once Congress receives the trade agreement, it starts a 90-day window for lawmakers to approve or reject it. Ten years ago when the U.S. was negotiating a trade deal with Colombia, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi won a rule change that turned off that 90-day clock. That is a possibility again with the new divided Congress.

United States, EU differ over trade
    During meetings in Washington, D.C., European Union trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said any trade deal with the United States will not include agriculture. That seems to be a non-starter for the United States, who wants more agricultural access to the European market.

USDA to address staffing shortage
    USDA is in the process of implementing the new farm bill, but there is a shortage of local FSA employees to help farmers. USDA Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation Bill Northey told National Farmers Union members the Agriculture Department is working to address the staffing shortage at the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Risk Management Agency and Farm Service Agency. “Our ceiling is the same place we had three years ago. We want to get back to that,” Northey said. “We’re in the process of hiring. We have about 400 hires coming in the next 30 to 60 days for NRCS and FSA. We’ve also streamlined our hiring process to speed that up a bit.”

USDA narrows list for ERS-NIFA relocation
    As USDA considers the relocation of the Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture out of the Beltway, the list of cities still under consideration has been cut from 136 to 67. Three sites in Minnesota are still being evaluated including Falcon Heights, Minneapolis and Shakopee.

Alfalfa research projects funded
    The U.S. Alfalfa Farmer Research Initiative has awarded its latest round of funding. The projects approved include a look at plant population and stem counts which is being conducted at the University of Minnesota. The alfalfa checkoff program that funds this research began in 2017.

Milk Cooler Grants awarded
    The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has awarded more than $50,000 in grant funds to 30 schools and early education programs to increase the availability of milk. The first round of Milk Cooler Grants was awarded under the Agricultural Growth Research and Innovation Program. A second round of funding is available through April 4. The schools use the grants to add milk coolers to their nutrition programs.
Fritsches inducted into MLBA Hall of Fame
    The Minnesota Livestock Breeders Association Hall of Fame has four new inductees. The honorees include New Ulm Guernsey breeders Paul and Melanie Fritsche. Pierz cattle producer Dar Giess and Minnesota State Fair livestock manager Mark Goodrich were also honored. Dairy and livestock farmer Walter Schultz of Lester Prairie, who passed away in 2003, was also inducted posthumously.

MFU hires lobbyist
    Stu Lourey is the new Government Relations Director for the Minnesota Farmers Union. Lourey was raised on a farm near Kerrick, Minn. and is a MFU member. Lourey replaces former director Thom Petersen, who is serving as Minnesota’s Agriculture Commissioner.

Trivia challenge
    Gruyere is the Swiss cheese known as a good melting cheese and used in fondue. That answers our last trivia question. What was USDA Under Secretary Bill Northey’s job before moving to the Agriculture Department? 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.