Dean Foods has received approval from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas, granting access for up to $475 million to continue day to day operations. Dean Foods President and CEO Eric Beringause praised the action of the court, saying it will allow the company to continue to operate as normal, paying employee wages and payments to suppliers, as it moves through the bankruptcy process. Dean Foods filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after losing 80% of its stock value in the past year. Dairy Farmers of America is reportedly in advanced discussions with Dean Foods about the purchase of Dean Foods’ assets.

DMI responds to bankruptcy announcement
    Responding to the Dean Foods bankruptcy filing, Dairy Management Inc. released a statement about the state of the dairy industry. “The U.S. dairy community remains a strong and diverse sector, achieving consistent growth in per capita consumption for 25 years in retail category worth over $100 billion. In fact, domestic dairy sales are up 2.5% as of August 2019. Cheese and butter are at all-time consumption highs.” With plant-based beverages gaining traction in the marketplace, DMI emphasized fluid milk continues to be a staple in 94% of U.S. households. DMI said the U.S. dairy industry will continue to successfully navigate the current economic environment.

USDA adjust milk production upward
    In the latest supply demand report, USDA revised milk production upward. For 2019, milk production is forecast at 218.6 billion pounds. That is up 400 million pounds from the October report. The 2020 forecast increased 800 million pounds to 222.4 billion pounds. The increase was due to the likelihood of bigger gains in milk production per cow and an increase in cow numbers. A stronger cheese market bumped the price forecast for Class III milk.

Stronger milk prices provide hedging opportunities
    November Class III Milk futures moved above $20 per hundredweight. Kluis Commodities market analyst Jacob Burks sees that $20-plus price as a psychological level for dairy producers. “This has been too little, too late for some of these dairies,” Burks said. “There have been tough times in the dairy market.” Burks said it is good to see some black ink for dairy producers, with hedging opportunities through 2020.

USMCA vote before the end of 2019
    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants to see the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement by the end of this year. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and a House Democratic working group are working out the details. Labor standards in Mexico are one of the current hurdles. The AFL-CIO claims the new USMCA deal does not meet the needs of working people and lawmakers should not rush to pass the trade agreement.

Labor challenges discussed at NMPF meeting
    At the National Milk Producers Federation annual meeting in New Orleans, dairy farmers were challenged to take a proactive role in farm policy. NMPF Milk Chairman Randy Mooney, who farms in Missouri, addressed the immigration issue. “Immigration is not a large farm issue; it’s not a small farm issue; it’s a dairy farm issue,” Mooney said. “I had the worst year on my farm last year that I ever had. It wasn’t necessarily about economics. I had a labor problem and economics don’t make a bit of difference if you don’t have anybody to do the work.” Mooney advocated for an immigration bill that is moving through Congress. In addition to the NMPF, this meeting included the National Dairy Promotion and Research Board and the United Dairy Industry Association.

Romanski moves up
    Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers has appointed Randy Romanski as the interim state agriculture secretary. Romanski had been serving as the deputy secretary. This move came after the Senate rejected Brad Pfaff’s nomination to lead DATCP. Evers said the Senate action against Pfaff was amoral.

Pfaff is hired by administration department
    Former Wisconsin Department of Agriculture Secretary-Designee Brad Pfaff has been hired by the Department of Administration as its new business and rural development director. Pfaff served at the helm of the DATCP since January, but was not confirmed by the Wisconsin State Senate.

Siting rule stalls
    Wisconsin’s proposed livestock siting rule changes are on hold. The timeline for the so-called scope statement will likely expire before a final draft rule can be prepared by Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection staff and passed by the state legislature. The deadline for that work is Feb. 4, which would require an extraordinary amount of administrative work to meet that timeline.

NTSB report released on Pagel plane crash
    The National Transportation Safety Board said the likely cause of the small plane crash that killed Wisconsin dairy leader John Pagel was an undetermined in-flight loss of control. Pagel, his son-in-law, Steve Witcpalek, and pilot, Nathan Saari, died Feb. 22, 2018 when the plane went down in rural Indiana. Pagel was president of the Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative and active in the Dairy Business Association and Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

Dairy reproduction awards
    The Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council has honored dairy farms for reproduction management strategies. Platinum recognition went to Holmesville Dairy of Argyle, Schilling Farms of Darlington and Wenzel Hilltop Dairy of Hilbert.

Hall of fame honors
    The National Association of Farm Broadcasting inducted the 2019 class to its National Farm Broadcaster Hall of Fame. The honorees are Max Armstrong of ‘This Week in Agribusiness’ and Farm Journal and Tom Steever of Brownfield.

Wisconsin 4-H wins NAILE dairy bowl
    Wisconsin 4-H won the North American International Livestock Exposition dairy bowl competition. The team members are Grace Haase, Courtney Glenna, Katherine Elwood and Courtney Stream.

Trivia challenge
    A gallon of milk weighs 8.6 pounds. That answers our last trivia question. For this week, how much butterfat is required in U.S. butter products? 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.