Ag Insider

Another dairy farmworker contracts H5N1


H5N1 has been confirmed in a third farmworker. This is the second human case in Michigan and is part of the multistate outbreak in dairy cattle. This individual had minor respiratory issues and was treated with antiviral medication. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises dairy farmworkers to use personal protective equipment as a biosecurity precaution. The virus has been identified in 66 dairy herds in nine states.

Testing identifies H5N1 in one meat sample 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service reports H5N1 has been confirmed in meat tissue from one dairy cow. Tests were conducted on 96 dairy cull cows; 95 cows tested negative. USDA emphasized none of the meat from any of these dairy cattle entered the food supply. Consumers are reminded to cook meat to the proper temperature.

USDA launches pilot program to protect animal ag sector 

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has approved an additional $824 million in emergency funding to respond to H5N1 in the U.S. dairy herd. The money will launch a new voluntary pilot program to give dairy farmers more options to monitor the health of their herds. The money will be used to support additional surveillance and testing. Farmers who enroll in this program and demonstrate their herd is free of the virus will be able to ship their cows without testing individual animals. USDA is now identifying states that will be part of this pilot program.

Stockpiling vaccine 

The U.S. is taking steps to acquire vaccines to protect at-risk poultry and dairy workers. Veterinarians and lab technicians could be eligible for H5N1 vaccines. The move is seen as a way to limit the threat of a pandemic. The CDC said the decision to use vaccines will depend on reports of more cases or the severity or mutations of the virus. Other governments are also considering plans to stockpile vaccines.

House Ag Committee passes farm bill  

In a marathon hearing that started at 11 a.m. and wrapped up after midnight, the House Agriculture Committee passed the farm bill on a 33-21 vote. All 29 Republican members of the committee and four Democrats voted for the farm bill. There was a fair amount of partisanship during the debate over spending priorities and the nutrition title. House Committee on Agriculture Chair Glenn “GT” Thompson defended his work. “I’ve had no alternative solutions for funding submitted from the Democratic side of the aisle other than the $5 billion on the Senate side, so my door is open and I am more than happy to work,” Thompson said. “The only reason the pay-fors have not been bipartisan is because, quite frankly, the Democratic Party hasn’t been at the table. Please come to the table, or we’re not going to see all these great new innovations.”

“Pay-fors” are items that would be used to offset the cost of other farm priorities. In a statement after the vote, Ranking Member David Scott said the bill may have advanced out of the committee, but it will not have the votes needed when it comes to the House floor.

Collin Peterson, farm bill optimism 

Former House Committee on Agriculture Chair Collin Peterson sees a path forward for the farm provisions of the bill. “The way the debate happened did not put anybody into any corners that they couldn’t get out of,” Peterson said. “Most of the divisiveness was over how to pay for this. It was over food stamps. It was over the sideboards on conservation. It was over the Commodity Credit Corporation. Those are things I think can be worked out.”

It will likely be September before this bill advances to the House floor. Peterson, who now leads the Midwest Council on Agriculture, said more work will happen ahead of that vote. “The fact that we got four Democrats that voted for the bill gives us a place to start to build a bipartisan coalition that can get this bill through the floor of the House. There are a lot of Republicans that are going to vote against this on the floor, so we’re going to need 20, 30 Democrats at least to get this bill passed.”

Working out the funding gap 

The House Committee on Agriculture bill suspends Section 5 of the Commodity Credit Corporation Act, limiting the agriculture secretary’s authority to use CCC funds. Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson plans to use those savings to increase reference prices. The Congressional Budget Office has disagreed with the Grand Old Party staff about those budget savings. Minnesota Representative Michelle Fischbach is a member of the Budget Committee, working to ensure the CBO scores are accurate. “There are issues with some of the CBO scores because we need to make sure that we’re paying for everything great that we’ve done in the farm bill, and so we’re working with CBO to make sure that they understand how things need to be scored so we can pay for that bill.”

SD continues to add to its dairy herd 

April milk production totaled 19 billion pounds nationwide. That’s down 0.4% from one year ago. In South Dakota, milk production rose 12.3% with the addition of 23,000 cows. Minnesota milk output was down a fraction of 1% with cow numbers dropping 8,000 head.

Increased profitability for water quality-certified farms 

Farmers in the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program have higher profits than non-certified farms. AgCentric Executive Director Keith Olander attributed the profitability to their management characteristics. “We have over 100 producers that are agricultural water quality-certified that span the state of Minnesota, and they are also part of farm business development,” he said. “We have developed a five-year run of the economics of those producers. They are outperforming their peers on a regular basis.”

Certified farms had an average net cash income of nearly $214,000 compared to $163,000 for non-certified farms. Certified farms also had better debt-to-asset and operating expense ratios.

BWSR grant funds available

The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources is providing $6.4 million to soil and water conservation districts to support soil health projects. The Soil and Water Conservation Districts can request funding through July 2. The money can be used to help landowners implement conservation practices or for outreach and education projects.

First-in-class methane reducing feed Ingredient gets FDA approval

For the first time, the Food and Drug Administration has approved a feed ingredient for dairy cattle that will reduce methane emissions. Elanco Animal Health already has approval for Bovaer in Canada and Mexico. This product suppresses the enzyme in the cow’s rumen that forms methane. One tablespoon of Bovaer per lactating dairy cow per day can reduce methane emissions by 30% per year.

Trivia challenge

National Milk Month, which was the precursor for June Dairy Month, began in 1937. That answers our last trivia question. For this week’s trivia, when is National Ice Cream Day? We will have the answer in our next edition of Dairy Star.

Don Wick is owner/broadcaster for the Red River Farm Network of 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 sons, Tony and Sam, and five grandchildren, Aiden, Piper, Adrienne, Aurora and Sterling.


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