A new analysis from Texas A&M University is forecasting a massive decline in farm income. This study projects net cash income for dairy farms will drop 58% this year. Income for beef operations will decline 47%. Agricultural economist Bart Fischer said feed grain and oilseed producers will see net cash income decline 15%. Following the release of this report, National Milk Producers Federation President and CEO Jim Mulhern said COVID-19 is “a grave danger for U.S. dairies,” and the proposed payment cap in the federal disaster package is not adequate.

USDA rejects proposed change to federal orders
    The United States Department of Agriculture has rejected a request for an emergency hearing for a temporary increase in the Class I milk price. Major dairy processors proposed a minimum $15.68 Class I milk price in June, July and August. Agricultural Marketing Service Administrator Bruce Summers said the proposal for a change in federal milk marketing orders was turned down because of the temporary nature of the request and dairy industry interest in alternative solutions to the COVID-19 crisis. Minnesota Milk Producers Association Executive Director Lucas Sjostrom said the proposal would set a precedent that has never been seen in the 80 years of federal milk marketing orders. Rather than creating an artificial price, MMPA supports the one-time direct assistance in the current USDA coronavirus relief package, but with changes to the proposed cap on payments.

United States considers trade retaliation against China
    The United States is investigating the source of the coronavirus and what China did to prevent the spread of the disease. “China is buying billions of dollars worth of our products, farm products and other products, and it is a good deal,” said President Donald Trump. “And then we noticed the virus and it is not acceptable what happened. It came out of China and it is not acceptable.” Trump signed the phase one trade deal with China in January, and it took effect in mid-February.

Trump discusses reopening of packing plants
    President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue spoke with farm leaders and meat company executives in late April. The phone conversation centered on the use of the Defense Production Act to reopen meatpacking plants. Trump referenced that call during remarks made in the Oval Office. “The farmers are very happy, and the ranchers and the companies that we’re talking about. They’re now being treated fairly; they’re thrilled and that whole bottleneck is broken up,” he said. Trump said the United States has ample food supplies, but the pandemic caused a logistical logjam.

Midwest Dairy donates to local food banks
    Midwest Dairy is donating $500,000 to food banks to purchase dairy products for people in need. The donations will be spread across 10 states including Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. Typically, dairy checkoff funds cannot be used to purchase dairy products, but the USDA is allowing Midwest Dairy to use funds to meet the need. The program will also allow local processors to keep their supply chains active while navigating dairy demand shifts.

Dairy farmers adapt to supply chain challenge
    The dairy checkoff is partnering with processors to donate dairy products and meet the needs of local food banks. “We aren’t asking for money from processor partners, but we are asking for help in delivering or storing products for food banks,” said Allen Merrill, South Dakota dairy farmer and chairman of Midwest Dairy. “There’s nothing more disheartening for a dairy producer than seeing a neighbor dump milk when there’s people who can consume the dairy products. We just have to find a way to make that happen.” Merrill said the dairy supply chain continues to be challenged. “Everyone is working diligently to resolve that,” Merrill said. “There is still some milk being dumped, but that’s being greatly reduced, because everyone is trying to find a home for the milk. It’s still being processed for future consumption.”

Lawsuit filed over new WOTUS rule
    Environmental activist groups have filed a federal lawsuit, challenging the new Navigable Waters Protection Rule. This rule updates the Waters of the United States. The lawsuit claims the public was not given enough opportunity to provide feedback. The environmental groups are also saying the new rule does not consider the impact to water quality.

DOJ calls for divestiture
    The Department of Justice will only allow Dairy Farmers of America to acquire Dean Foods milk processing plants if it divests of three of its plants. Those three plants are in De Pere, Wisconsin, Harvard, Illinois, and Franklin, Massachusetts. Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim, from the DOJ’s antitrust division, said this is a difficult time in the dairy industry with Dean Foods and Borden Dairy Company in bankruptcy and COVID-19 resulting in the loss of demand for milk and dairy products. “In the face of these challenges and Dean’s worsening financial condition, the department conducted a fast but comprehensive investigation,” he said.

Mental health does not get the same attention as physical health
    The Minnesota Department of Agriculture organized a webinar for mental health providers and crisis counselors to outline the current situation in agriculture. Minnesota Rural Mental Health Specialist Monica McConkey said farmers were already under extreme stress from ongoing weather and market challenges before the coronavirus pandemic. There is often a stigma within the ag sector regarding mental health challenges. “On any given morning prior to COVID-19, there were farmers meeting for coffee at Cenex in the morning talking about their aches and pains, but probably not talking about meeting with their therapist or taking their antidepressant or anti-anxiety pills. Their emotional struggles are not treated the same as their physical struggles,” McConkey said. The high cost of insurance was also cited as a barrier for farmers seeking mental health services.

Peterson confirmed
    Thom Petersen has been confirmed by the Minnesota State Senate as the state agriculture commissioner. Before joining the Walz administration, Petersen was the government relations director for the Minnesota Farmers Union.

Eberhard leaves IDFA for Capitol Hill job
    Tony Eberhard will serve as the new chief of staff for North Dakota Senator John Hoeven. Eberhard was Hoeven’s deputy chief of staff and legislative director until 2017 and comes with 14 years of Capitol Hill experience. For the past three years, Eberhard has served as the vice president of legislative affairs for the International Dairy Foods Association.

Buschette honored with President’s Award
    Mary Buschette, director of alumni and constituent relations, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, received the President’s Award for Outstanding Service.

Trivia challenge
    The National Cheese Exchange, which is where cheese was bought and sold up until 1997, was located in Green Bay. That answers our last trivia question. For this week, when did the first Dairy Queen restaurant open? We will 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.