Farmers and ranchers surrounded President Donald Trump at the White House as he signed the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Other industries, U.S. lawmakers and officials from Mexico and Canada were also represented. “They said it was too complicated, too big and it couldn’t be done. We got it done,” Trump said. “We’re finally ending the NAFTA nightmare and signing into law the brand new USMCA.” Trump went on to say the agreement is a breakthrough for American agriculture. “Canada will finally provide greater access for American dairy. It (the USMCA) will grow annual exports to our neighbors by an estimated $315 million.” The Canadian parliament now needs to ratify the agreement.

Dairy industry seeks increased market access
    In recent months, the United States has negotiated trade deals with Japan, China, Mexico and Canada. Speaking at the Dairy Forum in Scottsdale, Arizona, International Dairy Foods Association President and CEO Michael Dykes said more trade agreements are needed. In particular, Dykes cited the countries that were part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. “Our competitors are aggressive in getting trade agreements and we need trade agreements to give us market access and a level playing field so we can compete.”

Seeking trade deal with EU
    While in Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum, President Donald Trump said he would like to finalize a trade deal with the European Union before the 2020 election. With numerous protectionist policies in Europe, Trump admitted it will not be easy to get a deal with the EU.

DOJ investigates potential dairy deal
    The Department of Justice is investigating a possible deal between Dean Foods and Dairy Farmers of America. Dean Foods is seeking bankruptcy protection and there is speculation DFA is interested in a portion of their business. Antitrust officials are considering the impact that deal would have on farmers and retailers.

Starbucks sustainability strategy targets dairy
    To be more sustainable, the Starbucks coffee chain plans to offer more plant-based options. That includes a move away from dairy products. Starbucks claims the dairy industry is a major contributor to its carbon footprint. Dairy Management Inc. responded, saying dairy can be part of the sustainability story. Over the past ten years, DMI said the environmental impact from producing a gallon of milk involves more than 30 percent less water, 21 percent less land and a 20 percent smaller carbon footprint.

EPA replaces the Waters of the United States Rule
    The Environmental Protection Agency replaced the Waters of the United States Rule. The new Navigable Waters Protection Rule clarifies federal and state protected waters. There are four categories of jurisdictional waters under federal protection. Those include territorial and traditional navigable waters, intermittent tributaries, certain lakes and ponds and wetlands adjacent to jurisdictional waters. The new rule outlines the waters not subject to federal control. They include water that is in direct response to rain, groundwater, many ditches, including most farm and roadside ditches, and prior converted cropland. The EPA said all states have their own protections for waters within their borders.

Farm bureau sets 2020 policy priorities
    Delegates to the 101st American Farm Bureau Federation convention finalized policy priorities for the year ahead. AFBF Vice President Scott VanderWal, who farms at Volga, South Dakota, said the decisions made by members address important issues facing the American farmer. “Our members are looking for economic opportunity to succeed. Trade continues to be a major focal point for us to provide a level playing field.” Voting delegates updated labor and immigration policies, emphasizing significant changes to the H-2A program. After a year-long process to review ways to modernize Federal Milk Marketing Orders, AFBF’s delegates also voted to support creation of a flexible, farmer- and industry-led milk management system. “The lack of profitability has been pretty severe and long standing for the dairy industry,” VanderWal said. Other key policy areas include conservation compliance, hemp, rural broadband and climate change research.

Seeking FDA action on labeling
    A bipartisan group of lawmakers has sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration, seeking action on the use of dairy terms for non-dairy products. Under former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, the FDA began a process defining what could be labeled as a dairy product. That included a public comment period, which has wrapped up. The letter asks the FDA to move quickly to address the mislabeling of non-dairy products, like soy or almond milk.

House subcommittee considers DAIRY Pride Act
    A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee took testimony on bills associated with the Food and Drug Administration. The DAIRY Pride Act, which would prevent the labeling of plant-based products with dairy terms. Another bill is called the CURD Act and it creates a formal definition for ‘natural cheese.’ National Milk Producers Federation Executive Vice President Tom Balmer said the FDA is considering regulatory changes for plant-based products, but the process is taking too long. “Unless Congress acts, FDA’s follow-through remains uncertain.”

Legal battle continues over sexed semen technology
    Inguran, which does business under the Sexing Technologies brand, is back in court against ABS Global. Sexing Technologies claims ABS is continuing to infringe on its patents for sexed semen. The two companies have been in a legal fight since 2014. At that time, ABS sued Sexing Technologies for alleged antitrust violations. In 2016, a federal district court ruled in favor of Sexing Technologies, saying ABS violated a confidentiality agreement and infringed on patents. That ruling was upheld in the appeals court in 2019 and the two companies are back in court for another dispute over patents.
 
Edge Co-op elects officer team
    A Hatley, Wisconsin dairy farmer has been elected to the Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative board. Heidi Fischer will serve a three year term. Brody Stapel of Cedar Grove, Wisconsin will serve another term as president. Todd Doornink of Baldwin, Wisconsin is vice president and Mitch Davis of Belle Plaine, Minnesota is the treasurer. Jim Winn of South Wayne will remain as board secretary and Michael Crinion of Estelline, South Dakota is a director.

DBA honors Winn
    Jim Winn of Cottonwood Dairy in South Wayne, Wisconsin was named the Dairy Business Association’s Advocate of the Year. Winn gives back to the dairy industry in many ways, including an annual Day at the Dairy for elementary school students, and leadership in the Lafayette Ag Stewardship Alliance and Edge Dairy Cooperative.
 
Outstanding Young Farmers
    Phillip and Laura Finger of Oconto have received the Wisconsin Outstanding Young Farmer Award. The Fingers operate a 540-cow dairy herd in Marinette County. The competition is for a farmer, or farmers, ages 21 to 40 and took place in Chippewa Falls.

Trivia challenge
    Calcium is the mineral in milk that is critical for healthy bones and teeth. That answers our last trivia question. For this week, what fast food chain has a menu item called the Blizzard? 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.