Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin has organized a bipartisan group of her Senate colleagues and are asking USDA to take immediate action on the implementation of the dairy title of the new farm bill. In the letter to the Agriculture Department, the lawmakers said “the situation for dairy farmers is urgent. Although Dairy Margin Coverage is effective as of January 1, 2019, the government shutdown delayed action on 2018 farm bill implementation for over a month. During that time, dairy farmers continued to face market instability and are struggling to survive the fourth year of sustained low prices.”

Peterson seeks action on dairy title
    House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson said he is concerned about the time frame to implement the new Dairy Margin Coverage program. Listening to farmer feedback, Peterson said the June timeline is too long. Sign-up for the program begins mid-June. “If they wait until June, there could be farmers giving up their ghosts by then, even if the program is retroactive.” Peterson said USDA can’t speed up the implementation, they have to go through a process. Peterson does not want this confusing farmers. “I’m afraid farmers will look at this, not sign up for the highest level and then, they’ll end up spending money and not getting anything out of it.” A letter has been sent to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue urging USDA to prioritize the implementation of the dairy provisions in the new farm bill. More than 70 House Democrats and Republicans signed off on this letter.

New DMC planning tool
    The Farm Service Agency is producing an online decision tool for dairy farmers considering the new Dairy Margin Coverage program. This is part of an awareness campaign that will be launched later this month.

Dairy Task Force 2.0 offers recommendations
    The Wisconsin Dairy Task Force 2.0, created last year by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection and the University of Wisconsin System, has passed nearly 50 recommendations. The wide-ranging list includes the return of Wisconsin’s Beginning Farmer and Farm Asset Owner tax credit, develop an intern program to encourage young people to go into production agriculture, and encourage dairy farmers to seek local office and zoning boards.

Evers to speak at cheese industry conference
    Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers will speak at the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association industry conference April 18 in Madison. Evers is expected to address the current challenges facing the dairy industry and opportunities for the dairy processing sector. Legislative priorities for the dairy industry will also be outlined.

Farm credit leaders address appropriations subcommittee
    The financial challenges in agriculture were highlighted in a recent House subcommittee hearing. Compeer Financial President and CEO Rod Hebrink offered his perspective on the farm economy. “The crop and livestock sectors we serve are best described as ‘struggling,’ impacting farmers of all ages, experience levels and sizes.” Hebrink said economic downturn has been particularly hard on dairy farmers. Farm Credit Services of American President/CEO Mark Jensen also highlighted the tight margins within agriculture. Lawmakers asked the panel of farm credit leaders about a variety of topics, ranging from hemp production to rural development. No action was taken.

Road trip to promote USMCA
     Farmers for Free Trade is planning a 3,500 mile RV tour across 11 states to drum up support for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. This road trip begins in Pennsylvania April 12 and will continue during the two-week congressional recess. Organization co-founder Brian Kuehl said the tour will highlight the importance of U.S. agricultural trade with both countries. “Canada is the largest export destination for U.S. food and ag products, and Mexico is our number three trading partner,” Kuehl said. “We’re really worried about the ability for Congress to pass the USMCA. Farmers are stuck in the middle, urging to get the bill through.” Kuehl goes on to say the whistle-stop tour is designed to include a variety of events and attract a wide scope of people. The Wisconsin stop will be in LaCrosse on April 24.
Dairy groups join USMCA coalition
    The Pass USMCA Coalition has added eight new organizations to its ranks, including the National Milk Producers Federation and U.S. Dairy Export Council. This coalition is urging Congress to support the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

New genetics tool
    Holstein USA has launched a new program called Holstein Marketplace Sires. Bulls available through this program must meet specific criteria for production, health, longevity, pregnancy rate and calving ease. Holstein Marketplace Sires is designed to connect Holstein breeders with these genetics with those dairy farmers looking for more options for semen.

Organic Valley CEO resigns
    George Siemon has stepped down as chief executive officer of Organic Valley. Siemon was one of seven founders of the company that started in 1988. Chief Business Officer Bob Kirchoff has been appointed the interim CEO.
Herrick joins IDFA staff
    Matt Herrick has joined the International Dairy Foods Association as its senior vice president, executive and strategic communications. This is a newly created position. Most recently, Herrick was the communications director for the Rockefeller Foundation. During the Obama Administration, Herrick served as the communications director at USDA and press director for the U.S. Agency for International Development.

PDPW officers elected
    Jay Heeg of Colby was reelected to another term as president of the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin. Katy Schulz of Fox Lake was reelected vice president and Dan Scheider of Freeport, Ill. was reelected secretary. Janet Clark of Eldorado is the new PDPW treasurer.

Trivia challenge
    USDA Undersecretary Bill Northey previously served as Iowa’s agriculture secretary. That answers our last trivia question. What country leads the world in per capita 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.