During the G20 Summit in Argentina, President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping has agreed to a 90-day pause for any new trade tariffs, allowing both sides to return to the bargaining table. The White House indicates China has also agreed to purchase a “very substantial” amount of agricultural products.

A long, complicated trade relationship
    Before the current trade war, the United States and China enjoyed a positive trade relationship. China wanted U.S. farm products and Boeing aircraft; the U.S. bought electronics and furniture from China. Trade consultant Dan Pearson, who is a principal with Pearson International Trade Services, does not expect a fast resolution to the current trade dispute. “It is a good time to be patient because I don’t see a quick resolution to these problems,” Pearson said. “One would wish it would happen, but when you look at the resistance on the part of the steel and aluminum producers from giving up those tariffs, I think it looks like we’re in for a long period of a complicated trade relationship.” Pearson previously served as the chairman of the International Trade Commission. The Minnesota native Pearson was on the program for the Minnesota Food and Ag Summit presented by AgriGrowth.

Wolf legislation still faces uphill battle
    The U.S. House passed legislation to remove the gray wolf protection from the Endangered Species Act in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Wyoming. The bill now moves to the Senate floor for a vote. However, House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson, who also co-sponsored the bill, is not optimistic. “It only passed the House 194 to 180, so I don’t think there’s much chance,” Peterson said. “What I’m trying to do is show the Senate there’s support in the House. Maybe that will help get it added into one of these must-pass bills at the end of the year. I’m not giving up because we will not get a bill out of the House when the Democrats are in charge.” With passage, the act reverses a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision blocked in federal court.

Current farm situation differs from 1980s crisis
    Today’s income and cash flow statements look very similar to the 1980s. Agricultural economist David Kohl said the one big difference is land values. “Land constitutes 83 percent of the farm balance sheet. The reason we don’t have a repeat of the 1980s is because land has held its resiliency.” However, the trend of leveraging land to refinance operating loans may be coming to an end. “The key will be when banks or farm credit say no to the refinance and that land comes onto the market.” If too much farmland becomes available, Kohl said land values will decline. Kohl, who is professor emeritus at Virginia Tech, spoke at the National Agricultural Bankers Conference in Omaha.

Agriculture must educate new lawmakers
    Farmers from throughout the state took part in the 100th Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation Annual Meeting. President Kevin Paap said the farm community is being tested. “The No. 1 thing people are talking about is the financial and mental stress and what we can do to fix that.” Paap continues to emphasize how important it is for farmers to be at the table. “We must have nearly 100 new representatives in Congress and a lot of them don’t understand agriculture and yet they have a connection to food. We have to take time so they understand that the farm bill is important, that trade is important; that adding value to animal agriculture is important.”

Job one: Educating new legislators about agriculture
    Minnesota is the only state in the country with a divided legislature; a Republican majority in the Senate and a Democratically-controlled House. Minnesota Farmers Union government relations director Thom Petersen said that should be considered positive news. “We’re going to have to operate in the middle of the political spectrum,” Petersen said. “The other big thing we need to work on is the 39 new members in the House, 34 are Democrats and only five are Republicans. Those 34 Democrats are from heavy suburban areas so finding the agriculture connection with them is very important.”

New House Committee leadership
    Minnesota’s DFL majority has announced the committee structure and chair assignments for the 2019-2020 House biennium. Jeanne Poppe of Austin will Chair the Agriculture and Food Finance and Policy Committee. Rick Hanson South St. Paul will chair the Environment and Natural Resources Committee.
 
Walz transition team provides input
    Minnesota Governor-Elect Tim Walz’s plan is to have his cabinet appointments made by Inauguration Day January 7. Minnesota Corn Growers Association Past President Harold Wolle is part of the Walz advisory board, representing agriculture. “I’ve been in contact with the various ag groups and encouraged to have their members who are qualified apply. Particularly in the agriculture commissioner position, we want someone who is collaborative and works with everyone in the Minnesota agriculture community.” There is apparently strong interest in the agriculture commissioner and other key roles within the Walz administration.
 
Milk production rises
    In the 23 major dairy states, milk production rose 1 percent in October. Minnesota milk output declined a half-percentage point with cow numbers dropping 6,000 head in the past year. South Dakota milk production increased more than 4 percent with the size of the state dairy herd increasing 4,000 head. California milk production was up 3 percent in October. Wisconsin was fractionally lower than last year.

Cooperative insurance option is available
    The open enrollment period is underway for the member-owned health plan in Minnesota called 40 Square Cooperative Solutions. Executive Director Char Vrieze sees a need for this option. “If you’re in the agriculture industry and you don’t have health insurance, it can be detrimental to your operation.” As a cooperative, farmers and agribusiness members have a vote in the programs available through 40 Square. The enrollment period is in place through December 19. “We encourage you to sign up and/or see your local agent to learn about the 40 Square options.”

Trivia challenge
    The Christmas tradition of egg nog began in the 13th century in England. That answers our last trivia question. Where are the traditional types of cheese used in a fondue? 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.