Ag Insider

Minnesota dairy farm charged with wage theft


Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has announced a civil lawsuit against a Stearns County dairy farm. Evergreen Acres allegedly failed to pay at least $3 million in wages and charged rent for substandard housing. In the lawsuit, the attorney general’s office claims the farm exploited the vulnerability of its employees, which includes unauthorized workers from Mexico.

Ag groups file court brief to support dairy project

Minnesota Farm Bureau, Minnesota Milk Producers Association, Minnesota Pork Producers Association and the Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association have filed a friend of the court brief to support a Winona County dairy farm. The district court upheld a county board decision to deny a permit variance for Daley Farm of Lewiston. This farm wants to expand the size of its dairy herd. Farm Bureau and the three commodity groups contend all farms deserve a fair, unbiased process.

Lawmakers urge USDA to open DMC signup

A group of nine House Republicans, led by Minnesota Congressman Brad Finstad, is asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture to quickly open enrollment for the 2024 Dairy Margin Coverage program. In a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Farm Service Agency Administrator Zach Ducheneaux, the lawmakers said dairy farmers are facing a difficult market environment and need the ability to select their DMC coverage level for this year.

Time to get serious on the farm bill

Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow has outlined her plan to strengthen the safety net in the new farm bill. In the letter to her committee, Stabenow said farm programs must be targeted to active farmers and adjusted to provide more flexibility. Priorities also include providing assistance on a timely basis and addressing the needs of emerging farmers. To get the legislation wrapped up this spring, the Michigan senator said it is time “to get serious.”

Election-year dynamics

Combest, Sell & Associates managing partner Tom Sell believes election-year politics could be good for the farm bill process. “People want to get something done,” Sell said. “That plays well for their constituencies, particularly throughout rural America.” The presidential campaign also fits into that discussion. “There’s been a lot of positive tension around ag policy coming out of this Iowa caucus and that’ll benefit us in the farm bill,” Sell said.


WIC funding sought

The National Milk Producers Federation, International Dairy Foods Association and 10 other companies and trade groups have sent a letter to congressional leaders to show support for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. The letter indicates there has been an unexpected increase in WIC participation and additional funding is necessary. The groups also highlight the nutritional benefits of staples, like dairy products.

Court rules on undercover surveillance by activists

A federal appeals court has reversed a lower court ruling dealing with undercover video surveillance of livestock and poultry farms. Iowa passed this law three years ago, increasing the penalties for animal rights activists who use hidden camera video to document the treatment of animals. A three-judge panel in the St. Louis district ruled this law protects privacy rights and prevents the theft of trade secrets. In a separate decision, the appeals court determined it is illegal to knowingly make false statements on job applications to gain access to the business. That would include animal rights activists lying on their job application with a plan to hurt the farm.

Deer farmers file lawsuit against state of Minnesota

The Minnesota Deer Farmers Association is suing the state over its moratorium on new deer farms. The ban was put in place by the legislature this past year to limit the spread of chronic wasting disease. The lawsuit contends the state cannot directly link CWD in wild white-tailed deer with farm-raised deer or vice-versa. MDFA President Scott Fier said the moratorium is interfering with preventing their constitutional right to run their businesses. “The law is basically a death by a thousand cuts,” Fier said. “They keep implementing new rules and regulations every year until we can hardly do commerce.” With the new regulations, deer farms can only be sold one time and that sale must be to a family member. In a proactive step, Minnesota deer farm operators are breeding animals that are resistant to CWD.

Farm debt on the rise

Ag lending activity has been restrained by smaller loan sizes, according to the latest Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City finance update. A survey of commercial bankers indicates agricultural lending activity slowed at a fast rate over the past year. The number of new loans was higher than a year ago, but the average loan size when adjusted for inflation was the lowest since 2017. The report said farm debt grew during the third quarter.

Dairy farm feedback sought on technology

The University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine is seeking input from the dairy industry regarding the use of precision technology. “We’re trying to understand what dairy farmers are thinking about from a technology standpoint,” said Jim Salfer, Extension educator. “Between the medical community and agriculture, they’re the two areas where technology is moving the fastest.” The survey results will help the University of Minnesota Extension serve the needs of dairy farmers.

AgCountry announces special $125M patronage dividend

AgCountry Farm Credit Services will distribute a record $125 million patronage dividend to its member-owners. The AgCountry board has issued a 1% patronage dividend for the past five years. Due to the success of this past year, the board has declared a special secondary 50 basis point patronage dividend. The first installment will be paid in March with the second tentatively set for mid-year.

Daudt to step down

Former Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt will resign from the Legislature Feb. 11. That’s one day before the 2024 legislative session begins. Daudt led the Republican majority from 2015-19.

EPA official to leave the agency

The assistant administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Water, Radhika Fox, is leaving the agency at the end of February. Fox has had a key role in the oversight of water issues, including the controversial Waters of the United States rule.

Trivia challenge

Domino’s is the No. 1 pizza chain in the United States. That answers our last trivia question. For this week’s trivia, what is the best-selling frozen pizza brand in the U.S.? 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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