Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue joined former agriculture secretaries Tom Vilsack, John Block and Dan Glickman to rally support of the U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement. U.S. Dairy Export Council CEO Tom Vilsack said it could be a challenge for the U.S. dairy industry if the agreement isn’t ratified. “Our Mexico market is still in good shape. The challenge though is if we don’t get the USMCA through, we’ll still face a very closed dairy market in Canada.” One of the concerns from House Democrats is labor provisions. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said there are enforceability consequences in the USMCA to ensure labor concerns are addressed. “We had the same fear when we renegotiated the sugar agreement with Mexico in 2017, but Mexico has lived up to that. We think the same thing could happen here.”

Clock ticking for USMCA
    The trade agenda is starting to gain traction in Washington D.C. According to the Russell Group President Randy Russell, there is a window of opportunity for Congress to take up the U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement before the end of the year. It may no longer be a matter of if the USMCA is ratified, but when. Russell said there are positive developments in discussions. “The Trump Administration responded back to the Democrat’s request on the House side of what they’re willing to do on key issues such as labor, environment and pharmaceutical issues. I think we’re starting to see differences narrow,” Russell said. “The other side of this is the clock is ticking. It’s hard to see Congress vote on this past the end of the year.”

Milk production edges lower
    August milk production totaled 17.4 billion pounds in the 24 major dairy states. That is down 0.4 percent from 2018. For Wisconsin, milk output declined 0.5 percent. That is the fourth straight month of lower milk production when compared to last year.

Cash accounting challenge
    An IRS decision could prevent some farms from using cash accounting. A coalition of commodity groups, the National Council of Cooperatives and Farm Bureau wants Congress to intervene. Since 2017, the IRS said a farm or ranch, set up as an LLC or S Corp, could lose the right to use cash accounting if less than 65 percent of the ownership is held by active farmers.

New regs proposed for manure storage
    The State of Wisconsin is proposing new standards for manure storage. New dairy farms with at least 500 animal units and farms looking to expand to at least 500 animal units would have to have setbacks of 600 to 2,500 feet, depending on the size of the dairy herd. The Wisconsin Farm Bureau, Wisconsin Dairy Business Association and Wisconsin Dairy Alliance are opposed to the proposal, saying it would reduce Wisconsin’s competitiveness in the dairy industry.

Regional dairy initiative
    UW-Madison will receive more than $454,000 through the federal Dairy Business Innovation Initiatives. UW-Madison will work with Minnesota, South Dakota and Illinois to create the Dairy Business Innovation Alliance. This initiative supports the dairy industry through the development, production, marketing and distribution of dairy products.
Labeling bill
    State Senator Howard Marklein, who is a Republican from Spring Green, has proposed legislation that would prevent plant-based foods and beverages to be labeled as milk or other dairy products. The bill targets the numerous products made from soybeans, almonds, rice and others.

State veterinarian named
    Darlene Konkle has been named the state veterinarian. Konkle has been with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Division of Animal Health since 2005 and served as the acting state veterinarian since June of 2018.
Veterinarian hall of fame inducts Johnson
    The American Association of Bovine Practitioners has inducted a Wisconsin man into the Cattle Production Veterinarian Hall of Fame. Dr. Andy Johnson, Green Bay, is employed by Grande Cheese Company as the herd health and wellness veterinarian. Johnson also does private consulting worldwide on milk quality.
Cow of the Year
    The Wisconsin Purebred Cattle Association has named Milk-n-More Tequila Naomi as the 2019 Wisconsin Cow of the Year. Each year, the association selects a cow to represent her breed with the honor rotated annually among the seven major dairy breeds. This seven-year old Jersey is owned by Ron and Nicolle Wussow of Cecil and will be recognized in a special ceremony at World Dairy Expo.

National FFA Organization hits record membership
    More than 700,000 student members are now part of the National FFA Organization. That is a record for student membership, an increase from the more than 669,900 members recorded in 2018. The top states for student membership include Texas, California, Ohio and Missouri.

NFU honors Baldwin and Pocan
    The National Farmers Union presented the NFU Golden Triangle Award to Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin and Wisconsin Representative Mark Pocan. This award has been presented by the NFU each year since 1988.

WDE app unveiled
    World Dairy Expo has a new free app for those attending the show October 1-5. The app is available from Google Play or the App Store and offers interactive maps and the opportunity to request meetings with trade show exhibitors.

Trivia challenge
    There are more than 61,000 pizzerias in the United States. That answers our last trivia question. What is the largest pizza restaurant chain in the world? 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.