The phase one trade deal between the United States and China is now officially in place. All eyes are on the exports to China with the commitment to significantly increase their agricultural purchases from the United States in the next two years. Work continues on other parts of the agreement. China must sign paperwork acknowledging the safety standards for U.S. dairy products. By mid-March, China has agreed to eliminate the cattle age requirements for imports of U.S. beef and beef products.

Could Chinese imports be influenced by coronavirus?
    The phase one trade agreement became effective in mid-February. The Russell Group President Randy Russell said no one anticipated the coronavirus to impact China’s purchases. “There is an Act of God provision in the agreement, which would allow them to postpone some of the purchases if there was a significant flood, drought or some type of situation that’s beyond normal. It doesn’t allow them to get out of the purchases, just temporarily pull back on some of the purchases.” Another important part of the agreement is enforcement. “President Trump sent a signal he’s willing to reduce tariffs as long as China makes significant changes on intellectual property rights, foreign investments and currency manipulations. Whether people agree with it or not, Trump has used tariffs as a means to an end. That’s why we’ve ended up with a strong agreement.”

Canada’s USMCA ratification vote delayed
    The Canadian Parliament may not vote to ratify the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement until April. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hoped to wrap up the trade deal this month, but the issue has been bogged down at the committee level. Trudeau’s Liberal Party lost its majority in the October elections, giving opposition parties the leverage to delay the process.

FCA CEO testifies about farm economy
    The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture took testimony from Farm Credit Administration CEO Glen Smith. Smith told lawmakers the U.S. farm sector continues to face challenges. “High operating costs for labor, farm inputs and other expenses are still putting stress on farm cash flows. Farm subsidy payments help, notably crop insurance and the Market Facilitation Program payments. Those were, in many cases, the difference between net operating loss or profit.” Smith said there are some positives that should help improve the 2020 outlook. “One year ago we had almost no trade agreements in place. This year, we have the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, bilateral trade agreements with Japan, South Korea and the phase one deal with China. It may take patience, but at least the groundwork has been laid for trade normalization and improved farm prices.”

Lawmakers hear progress report on DAIRI program
    In one of the first hearings of the session, the Minnesota House Agriculture and Food Finance and Policy Division got an update on Minnesota’s Dairy Assistance, Investment and Relief Initiative. The DAIRI program was created in the 2019 legislative session to encourage enrollment in the Dairy Margin Coverage program. Lawmakers issued $8 million for the program. According to DAIRI grant supervisor Ashley Bress, 1,550 farms were involved in the first round of DAIRI program payments. Altogether, $3.4 million in payments were issued, with checks ranging from $26 to $5,000. Bress said the second round of program payments are being issued to Minnesota dairy farmers. “One week ago we started to issue payments. We will issue about 180 checks.” Round two payments will total about $4.5 million.

Advocacy groups sue FSA over CAFOs
    The Farm Service Agency is being sued by a handful of advocacy groups in a disagreement over large-scale animal agriculture operations. The lawsuit claims the FSA has delayed and overly redacted Freedom of Information Act requests. The Public Justice Foundation, Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Center for Food Safety and Food & Water Watch are behind this lawsuit. These groups are looking for financial records to determine if tax dollars are benefiting the large-scale farms at the expense of small family-based farms.

Developing a system for sustainability payments
    Sustainability is a buzzword today, but it can be difficult coming to terms with what that means. Bruce Knight, who leads Strategic Conservation Solutions, believes sustainability must evolve as relationships between food companies and farmers, rather than from policy and regulatory forces. Knight is part of the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium. “We’re trying to build a mechanism of voluntary incentive payments from companies and transfer that into carbon payments, water quality payments or water quantity payments.” Knight is a South Dakota farmer who served as the NRCS chief and USDA undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs during the George W. Bush administration.

Land O’Lakes adopts ‘Farmer Owned’ brand
    Land O’Lakes has new packaging for its butter that features its farmer members. The phrase ‘Farmer Owned” will be above the brand on the front of the packaging. Products, like stick butter, will also include photos of Land O’Lakes farmers and co-op members. This is the 100th anniversary for the co-op and Land O’Lakes President and CEO Beth Ford said it is important to connect the men and women who grow the food with those who consume it.

SD dairy farm recognized at cattle industry convention
    Boadwine Farms of Baltic, South Dakota received the Beef Quality Assurance Dairy Award at the 2020 Cattle Industry Convention. Owners Lynn and Trish Boadwine milk more than 2,000 Holstein dairy cows and farm 2,500 acres of rotating feed and forage crops. The Boadwine family exemplifies the BQA program by producing quality milk and beef, along with opening its doors to educate local students, South Dakota State University interns and consumers across the state.

Olson to serve another four years as NFO President
    The National Farmers Organization has reelected Paul Olson as its president. The Wisconsin dairy farmer has been in that role for the past 20 years. Bruce Schultz of Montana was elected vice president of the organization.

VanDerWal takes MSCA post
    Allison VanDerWal has been hired as the new Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association executive director and beef quality assurance coordinator. VanDerWal graduated from the University of Minnesota in May 2019 with a master’s degree in ruminant nutrition. VanDerWal grew up on her family’s feedlot near Sanborn, Minnesota and begins the new role in early April.

Trivia challenge
    Dairy Queen has the menu item called the Blizzard. That answers our last trivia question. For this week, the Borden Dairy Company had a cartoon cow as a mascot. What was the name of that cow?  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.