President Donald Trump has lifted the steel and aluminum tariffs on Mexico and Canada. “As you know, for years Canada has been charging us extremely high tariffs, as much as 285 percent or more for agricultural products, which is an absolute barrier to our farmers being able to do business with them.” Trump said, “hopefully Congress will approve the United States Mexico Canada Agreement quickly. And then the great farmers, manufacturers and steel plants will make our economy even more successful than it already is, if that’s possible, which it is possible.”

USDEC, NMPF welcome trade news
    The United States dairy industry has applauded the U.S. decision to drop metal tariffs on Mexico and Canada, paving the way for the passage of the U.S-Mexico-Canada Agreement. With this announcement, retaliatory tariffs on U.S. dairy products, including duties of 25 percent on U.S. cheese exports to Mexico, are gone. U.S. Dairy Export Council President/CEO Tom Vilsack said this news will “build vital momentum” for passing USMCA. National Milk Producers Federation President/CEO Jim Mulhern said dairy farmers needed some good news and this announcement “certainly helps.” Mexico is the largest customer for the U.S. dairy industry with $1.4 billion in sales last year.

USMCA is Next
    Wisconsin Farm Bureau President Jim Holte hopes the elimination of steel and aluminum tariffs will help get the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement ratified in Congress. “Passing the USMCA is what is needed next,” said Holte.

Administration to provide another round of trade aid
    USDA is in the midst of developing a trade assistance program for farmers. “We are assuming it will contain direct payments for commodities,” said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. “Certainly, the President’s concept of buying commodities for humanitarian purposes may also be part of that.” The new trade package is expected to cost between $15 and $20 billion, which is the general calculation of damages to U.S. farmers from the trade dispute with China. “We’ve asked our economist at USDA to be very precise when calculating what we believe to be legally defensible trade damages done to our U.S. producers.” Perdue remains hopeful for the U.S. to reach a trade agreement with China.

New relief package to be more diverse
    Trade assistance details are still being finalized. USDA Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney told reporters the new aid package would be diverse. “Some pieces may come and go, ebb and flow. Some of the programs seen in the last round of payments are being considered and other things, too,” he said. “We want to be robust and we want to make sure farmers get the message while trade is preferred, the administration has their backs given the strife they’ve been through.” McKinney said USDA doesn’t want to do anything to harm potential commercial sales.

DMC enrollment begins in mid-June
    The past five years have been very challenging for dairy farmers. National Milk Producers Federation Senior Vice President of Communications Alan Bjerga says the Dairy Margin Coverage program should be considered. “Signup is starting June 17 and you’ll see payments going out as soon as July,” said Bjerga. “As far as possible solutions in today’s policy environment, the Dairy Margin Coverage program is effective, targeted assistance and we strongly encourage producers to look seriously at the $9.50 coverage level.” Bjerga says dairy farmers who participated in the old Margin Protection Program should also be looking for a refund.

Swine disease impacts demand for dairy ingredients
    The outbreak of African Swine Fever in China has resulted in the loss of an estimated 200 million pigs. According to a new report from Rabobank, this situation is having an impact on the U.S. dairy industry. With fewer pigs, there is less demand for dairy ingredients in feed, such as milk and whey permeate, whey powder and lactose. Rabobank estimates a drop in demand of 54,500 metric tons to 72,500 metric tons. The decline in demand is on top of the rising Chinese tariffs on U.S. dairy products.
A difficult loan renewal season
    After four or five years of low commodity prices, the farm financial situation is in tough shape. Farm Credit Council President and CEO Todd Van Hoose said it was a difficult loan renewal season. “Really for the first time this year, a lot of farmers sat down and couldn’t find a way to pencil out any kind of profit.” Van Hoose remains long-term bullish about agriculture. “We know our job right now is to work with people to get them through this downturn and get them to the other side with success.”

AgriBank reports 1Q financials
    AgriBank reports first quarter net income of just over $137 million, down from $146 million in the same period last year. Loan volume totaled nearly $93 billion, which is comparable to the previous quarter. Credit quality is strong with 98 percent of AgriBank’s loans classified as acceptable. In a news release, AgriBank said the farm sector’s declining working capital is a concern. Trade policy is seen as one of the biggest uncertainties. AgriBank said the new dairy provisions in the farm bill may help, but the dairy market remains very challenged.

More time for input on gray wolf delisting
    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is giving the public another 60 days to comment on the possible delisting of the gray wolf from the endangered species list. The comment period was originally scheduled to end this past week, but the deadline has been extended to July 15.

Holstein Convention is coming to WI
    Appleton, Wis. will host the National Holstein Convention next month. The National Genetics Conference will be held in conjunction with the convention with speakers discussing genomics, inbreeding and precision dairying. Farm tours, educational seminars and junior Holstein events are planned. The theme of the convention is ‘Making Legendary Leaps’ and the convention will take place June 24-17.

A values-based vision at Ben & Jerry’s
    Ben & Jerry’s has created a dairy advisory council that will advance the ice cream company’s values-based vision. The Vermont company said it wants all of its products sourced from dairy farms that promote a dignified livelihood for farmers and farm workers. The vision also include a focus on animal welfare and prevents the usage of GMOs.
New Alice in Dairyland crowned
    Abigail Martin of Milton has been crowned Alice in Dairyland. Martin graduated UW-Madison with a degree in dairy science last year and is currently employed in the communications department at DeLaval.

Trivia challenge
    The Super Bowl is the most popular day for pizza consumption each year. That answers our last trivia question. When did June Dairy Month start? 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.