According to the USDA, more than 22,600 dairy farmers are enrolled in the 2019 Dairy Margin Coverage program. That means 78 percent of U.S. dairies with an established production history signed-up. In Minnesota, 2,334 or 82 percent of dairy farmers are enrolled.
 
AFBF recommends changes to federal milk marketing orders
    The American Farm Bureau Federation is seeking changes in the federal milk marketing orders. The recommendations include the elimination of bloc voting by cooperatives for any changes to milk pricing regulations. Farm Bureau also wants more information to be made available through mandatory price reporting. A working group has released these recommendations, which will be part of the policy discussion at the American Farm Bureau annual meeting in January.
 
Inching toward a USMCA vote
    Despite the impeachment inquiry, the House continues to work on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. National Milk Producers Federation senior vice president Chris Galen says it is a slow process, but lawmakers are inching closer to a vote. “We need something to happen in 2020 because who knows what will happen as we get closer to the election,” Galen said. “Given all the other economic uncertainty, including the slowdown in manufacturing and concerns about the global economy, getting the USMCA would be a big shot in the arm for our economy and for agriculture, in particular.” On another trade front, the World Trade Organization has authorized the United States to move forward with tariffs on $7.5 billion worth of European products. That’s the largest retaliation figure ever authorized by the WTO. Galen is pleased EU dairy products are on the retaliatory list.

First Stage of United States-Japan Trade Agreement Announced
    During the United Nations General Assembly in New York, President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced the first stage of the new trade agreement between the United States and Japan. This agreement would level the playing field for U.S. agricultural products against competitors. “Japan will open new markets to approximately $7 billion in American agricultural products,” Trump said. “Japanese tariffs will be significantly lower or eliminated entirely for U.S. beef, pork, wheat, cheese and wine. It’s a huge victory for America’s farmers and ranchers and that’s very important to me.” The first stage of the agreement is expected to be finalized by January 2020.

CoBank reviews dairy situation
    In its quarterly rural economic review, CoBank forecast U.S. milk production to hold steady to decline slightly in the remaining months of this year. Class III milk prices have hit levels that have not been seen since 2014. The increase in block cheese prices is cited as one reason for the stronger milk check. However, CoBank says “the ever-widening block-barrel spread continues to stress barrel cheese processors.”
 
Dairy product report released
    During August, total U.S. cheese production increased nearly 24 million pounds from last year. Nearly all of that increase was in American cheese production. According to USDA’s Dairy Products Report, butter production went up by nearly 3 million pounds; nonfat dry milk increased 3.2 million pounds and skim milk powder rose 3.8 million pounds. Dry whey supplies increased 5.7 million pounds in August.

Focus on pasture repair this fall
    Cold and wet weather conditions prohibited proper development and timely weed control in pastures this past year. Corteva Agriscience field scientist Scott Flynn said when soils stay cool and saturated, the amount of root development is restricted. “That results in weak stands. In the fall of the year with weak stands there is an opportunity to tune up pastures,” Flynn said. “Fertilizer applications in the fall stimulate root growth and tiller development, which builds up the pasture for the coming year.” Flynn notes annual weeds are typically the easiest to gain control of. Fall is an ideal time to tackle thistles, perennial invasive weeds and winter annuals that get in the way of pasture recovery.

New hybrid alfalfa introduced
    Alfalfa supplies were tight going into this growing season. Dairyland Seed forage leader Sara Hendrickson said adverse weather has not provided much relief to the alfalfa shortage. “Because it was such a wet spring, our hay inventories in May were at an all-time low,” Hendrickson said. “Luckily, there were a few guys that were able to get some new seeding in between the rain showers, but it wasn’t enough to compensate for the low hay supplies.” Dairyland Seed introduced the world’s first hybrid alfalfa in 2001. The new fourth generation hybrid alfalfa was launched at World Dairy Expo. Hendrickson said the HybriForce-4400 Alfalfa delivered superior establishment performance, even in spring planting conditions that were wetter than normal.

Meatless burger gets a trial run at McDonald’s
    McDonald’s is the latest quick-serve restaurant chain to test plant-based burgers. Beyond Meat produced a special meatless product for McDonald’s and it is being tested in about 30 Canadian stores. The sandwich is called the PLT, which stands for plant, lettuce and tomato.

McConkey begins new role as MN Rural Mental Health Specialist
    Minnesota’s new rural mental health specialist is on the job. Monica McConkey has worked in the mental health field for the past 25 years, most recently at Prairie St. Johns and with her consulting business, Eyes on the Horizon. “There’s so much emphasis on preventing suicide with our farmers, but I think it is so much more than that,” McConkey said. “It’s helping them not live with so much emotional pain as they deal with stress and the difficult conditions. I just want to be a resource.” McConkey is based at Detroit Lakes and will primarily cover northern Minnesota. The position was funded by the state legislature and is contracted through the AgCentric Farm Business Management program.
 
Trivia challenge
    Pizza Hut is the largest pizza restaurant chain in the world. That answers our last trivia question. The dairy checkoff partners with the NFL in a special project. What is it? 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.