The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement passed the U.S. Senate by an overwhelming vote of 89-10 on Jan. 16. The vote came just one day after the United States signed a new trade agreement with China. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the USMCA benefits all sectors of the U.S. economy. “Farmers, growers, cattlemen, manufacturers, small businesses and big businesses. This is a major step for our whole country.” For agriculture, USMCA is estimated to increase U.S. exports by $2 billion. Now, the trade deal heads to President Donald Trump for a signature. Mexico’s legislature approved the trade deal last month and Canada still needs to ratify USMCA. The Canadian parliament isn’t scheduled to return until Jan. 27.

Monitor USMCA implementation
    With the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, Canada’s Class 7 pricing system will be eliminated. U.S. Dairy Export Council President and CEO Tom Vilsack said, “This Class 7 pricing distorted the export market and distorted the pricing of (milk) powder. We will want to keep an eye on implementation to make sure our Canadian friends don’t substitute something that acts like Class 7, but isn’t called Class 7.”  Vilsack is optimistic that 2020 will be a better year for dairy farmers.

Trump touts trade
    For the third consecutive year, President Donald Trump spoke at the American Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting. Trump jumped straight to the point as he approached the podium. “We did it,” he exclaimed. “They all said you’ll never get NAFTA changed or get a deal done with China.” In closing, there was assurance from Trump to the 6,000 Farm Bureau members in attendance that “the best days for farmers and ranchers are yet to come.”

Phase one is done
    The U.S. and China have signed phase one of a trade agreement. President Donald Trump was joined by Chinese Vice Premier Liu He at the White House ceremony on Jan. 15. “Today, we take a momentous step, one that has never been taken before with China, toward future fair and reciprocal trade,” said President Trump in opening remarks. All details are public expect for specific purchase amounts. During the address, Trump verified the phase one agreement includes over $200 billion in Chinese purchases of American goods and services over the next two years. That includes at least $40 billion in food, agricultural and seafood products annually for a total of $80 billion in the next two years. Other amounts specified include $75 billion in manufacturing, $50 billion in energy and $40 to $50 billion in financial services. The president also said he would remove all U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports as soon as the two countries completed phase two of the agreement, adding “I do not expect there to be a phase three.”

Another dairy processor seeks bankruptcy protection
    Borden Dairy Company has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The dairy processor plans to continue with its normal operations during the reorganization process. Borden CEO Tony Sarsam said the company is being impacted by the rising cost of raw milk and the market challenges facing the dairy industry. Borden is the second major U.S. dairy processor to seek bankruptcy protection in recent months, following Dean Foods which filed in November.

Milk output expected to decline
    Milk production forecasts declined for 2019 and 2020. The estimate for 2020 is at 222 billion pounds, down 400 million pounds from last month’s report. The Class III milk price was lowered due to slower demand for cheese, butter and whey. USDA released this forecast in its monthly supply/demand report.

Unique issues to be debated in St. Paul
    In the interim period ahead of the Minnesota legislative session, lobbyist Bruce Kleven has three key issues on his radar. The list includes climate change and agency rulemaking. “We are also watching the movement of captive deer as a result of Chronic Wasting Disease. In late 2019, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources issued an order to stop the movement of deer from farms,” Kleven said. “That’s significant, because that’s the first time I can remember the DNR weighing in to what is considered agricultural production.” Kleven said the other deals with testing deer for neonicotinoids. “Just before hunting season without warning, the DNR asked deer hunters to send in spleens for testing. The concern I have with that is if they find a neonicotinoid in a spleen, what does that mean? Does that mean the DNR will use the same analysis they used on the captive herds and ban the use of seeds, because it’s showing up in the wild deer?”

MN GOP releases 2020 vision
    Minnesota Senate Republicans have announced their agenda for the upcoming legislative session. The so-called Vision 2020 agenda includes more funding for roads and bridges. The agriculture committee is focused on workforce development and tax relief for farmers. The Minnesota legislative session begins Feb. 11.

Walmart moves into the beef business
    The world’s largest retailer is entering the beef business, with Walmart opening a new meat processing facility in Thomasville, Georgia. The 200,000- square-foot operation will employ 350 people and is part of the company’s $90 million commitment to supply Angus beef to 500 stores. In April 2019, Walmart partnered with a Texas-based Angus ranch to create its branded beef program. In 2018, Walmart opened a dairy processing plant in Indiana.

NFU to elect a new president
    There are three candidates seeking the presidency of the National Farmers Union. Those candidates are NFU Senior Vice President for Public Policy and Communications Rob Larew, Kansas Farm Bureau President Donn Teske and Pennsylvania Farmers Union board member Mike Eby. NFU President Roger Johnson, who is the former agriculture commissioner in North Dakota, is retiring in March.

Stranz returns to NFU
    Mike Stranz is the new policy director for the National Farmers Union. Stranz has been part of the farm commodities and risk management subcommittee staff for the House Agriculture Committee.

Trivia challenge
    A gallon of milk weighs 8.6 pounds. That answers our last trivia question. There is a mineral in milk that is essential for healthy bones and teeth. For this week, what is that mineral? 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.