Archive for News

Antitrust Regulators Probe Planned Dairy Merger

Regulators are looking into a possible merger between Dean Foods and Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) and its potential antitrust implications for the industry, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.

The U.S. Department of Justice has been meeting with retailers and farmers about how the deal would be received, and how it would affect competition in the industry.

“We are investigating Dairy Farmers of America’s potential acquisition of Dean Foods and the potential loss of competition for selling raw milk,” a Justice Department antitrust attorney said.

Dean, which is based in Texas, recently was forced to get protection from bankruptcy after years of struggling, mostly due to Americans drinking less milk. Consumption of milk has declined about 40 percent in the last four years, and production has shifted to smaller plants.

In November, the two entities announced they were looking into making a deal with each other.

Dean is the largest milk processor by sales, selling $4.8 million in 2018. DFA said about one-third of the milk in the U.S. is marketed by them. DFA has a number of milk-bottling plants as well as consumer dairy brands.

Overall dairy consumption in the country is rising because of people are eating more cheese and yogurt, but low milk prices continue to affect revenue, as companies are paid more for raw milk.

Large stores like Walmart and Kroger have also undercut big brands with their own varieties, and built their own bottling plants as well.

A couple of farm groups have expressed concern that the deal would concentrate milk buyers in different parts of the country.

Whether the deal is allowed to go through could affect dozens of Dean plants.

Monica Massey, DFA’s executive vice president, said the deal was subject to regulatory approval.

“When the largest processor of raw milk in the world files for bankruptcy, we have an obligation to do what we can to secure those markets and work to minimize disruption to our members and other farmers,” she said. “If a deal is reached, we will fully cooperate with DOJ officials, as we have done with past transactions.”

Source: pymnts.com

American Guernsey Association announces 2019 All-American winners

The American Guernsey Association has announced the winners of their 2019 All-American contest!

Full results & photos from the open and junior contest can be found on their website.

Highlights from the Open contest

Spring Heifer Calves
All-American
Springhill Undenied-ETV, Springhill, OH

Winter Heifer Calves
Unanimous All-American
Twincounty Whats On Tap-ET, Landree Fraley, PA

Fall Heifer Calves
Unanimous All-American
Springhill Tiller Urban-ETV, Springhill, OH

Summer Yearling Heifers
All-American
Golden J Legend Giddyup, Friendship Farm, NY

Spring Yearling Heifers
All-American
Prairie Moon Free Glee, Leslie Sivesind, IA

Winter Yearling Heifers
All-American
Trotacre Ernie Selena, Grant Daniel Itle, PA

Fall Yearling Heifers
All-American
Springhill Jokes Finale-ETV, Springhill and Valerie & Jim Spreng, OH

Junior Best Three Females
All-American
Springhill – B, Big Prairie, OH

Yearlings in Milk
Unanimous All-American
Thurston Farms Primetime Trixie, Katie T, Livingston, NY

Junior Two-Year-Olds
All-American
Springhill Mentor Joyce, Springhill, OH

Senior Two-Year-Olds
Unanimous All-American
Up The Creek Toby Kadiddle-ET, Karen Anderson Johnson, MN

Junior Three-Year-Olds
Unanimous All-American
H Broke Levi Tayte, Springhill, OH

Senior Three-Year-Olds
All-American
Springhill Kojack Unique-ETV, Springhill, OH

Four-Year-Olds
Unanimous All-American
Valley Gem Atlas Malt-ET, Valley Gem, WI

Five-Year-Olds
All-American
Knapps Top Notch Harlow, Landen Knapp, IA

Aged Cows
All-American
South Lane King James Layla, Landen Knapp, IA

Senior Best Three Females
All-American
Springhill – B, OH

Dam & Daughter
All-American
Knapps Spider Bank On Me-ET & Knapps Copper Bank On It-ET, Landen Knapp, IA

Produce of Dam
All-American
Produce of Dix Lee Tiller Joke – A, Springhill, OH & Kaila, Karli & Kolby Stoltzfus, PA

Exhibitor’s Herd
All-American
Springhill – A, OH

Dairy Defined: Which Farm Voters Hold the Key to 2020? The Ones Milking Cows

In less than a year, someone will take the presidential oath of office, charged with leading America for the following four years. To get there, whomever wins the 2020 election – a competition that starts in earnest with next week’s Iowa caucuses – will need to win over key constituencies, including farmers and rural voters.This isn’t a revelation. So many articles have been written since 2016 taking the temperature of voters in Flyover Country that it may be difficult to find a farmer who hasn’t been interviewed by a coastal media outlet. But looking at the farm vote with a little more depth, it’s worth noting which farmers are best-positioned to hold the keys to the White House. Looking at the electoral map, those farmers may be the ones milking cows.

In 2020, dairy farmers find themselves unusually concentrated in states with large numbers of electoral votes, and in swing states, compared to producers of other agricultural commodities. A presidential candidate who wins the five biggest milk-producing states (California, Wisconsin, New York, Idaho and Texas) would gain 136 electoral votes, more than half the total needed to win the White House. Winning the top five growers of the most-valuable crops — corn and soybeans — in comparison, would only get 52 votes.

The top five cattle states garner 111 electoral votes. Top wheat states hold 28 electoral votes. Other ag products tend to be highly regional or have most of their production in a limited number of states.

Of course, barring an extreme shift in U.S. political coalitions, no candidate is likely to count California, Wisconsin, New York, Idaho and Texas in their win column on Nov. 3, so perhaps dairy’s large-state prominence isn’t relevant. After all, conventional wisdom holds that presidential contests are decided by swing states – the ones that aren’t deeply Democratic or Republican and might make the difference for a candidate.

So, how important is dairy in swing states?

Let’s look at two lists – the top eight U.S. dairy states, and the eight closest states in the 2016 presidential election. Notice anything? Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Minnesota – three states that flipped the White House to President Donald Trump in 2016, and another state that came very close – are all top dairy producers.

Dairy’s swing-state strength is the confluence of the industry’s history and America’s political evolution. Livestock and commodity crops were served by railroad networks that could transport the bounty of Midwest and Plains states to more heavily populated regions. Dairy, being more perishable, developed closer to urban areas. As U.S. politics has become increasingly polarized on urban-rural lines, dairy farmers find themselves living in states where big cities and small towns collide.

Dairy farmers live where the political battlegrounds are. They didn’t ask to be there, but if they’re potential difference-makers, it’s worth knowing what they want. Expanded exports are a start. A workable farm-labor system is needed to maintain productivity. Making sure that fake dairy products are properly labeled would go a long way toward ending consumer deception and warming a dairy farmer’s heart. And maybe a candidate could consider drinking a refreshing glass of whole milk at an event – it’s good for them, in many ways.

The next year will be exciting, and crucial for the direction of America. Dairy farmers will play an important role in this decision. We at NMPF already know how much dairy votes matter. Smart candidates will know that too.

Wisconsin governor helps dairy farmers hurt by Trump

Gov. Tony Evers signed executive orders aimed at helping farmers and rural communities throughout the state who have suffered as a result of Trump’s long-running trade war with China.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers released a plan last week to help farmers facing hardship from Donald Trump’s trade war with China.

Evers specifically pledged to help three key constituencies in the state: farmers, the agricultural industry, and rural communities.

In 2019, Wisconsin lost a record number of dairies, as 818 shut their doors for the last time. Dairies first saw trouble in 2018 when Trump initiated a months-long trade war with China. Due to retaliatory tariffs, U.S. dairy exports to China plunged by more than 50% in 2019, according to CNBC.

Evers, a Democrat who ousted incumbent Republican Gov. Scott Walker in November 2018, said in a statement about the plan that he wanted farmers and those in rural communities to know that “nobody carries the burden alone.”

In an executive order, Evers announced the creation of a Blue Ribbon Commission on Rural Prosperity, which will bolster economic prosperity and promote the state’s agriculture.

In addition to the commission, Evers is calling on the Wisconsin Legislature to meet in a special session at the end of January to consider a series of bills aimed at economically helping rural communities.

Evers is encouraging legislators to pass a package of legislation that would create a Wisconsin Initiative for Dairy Exports; improve mental health support in rural communities; and bolster the ability of Wisconsin farmers to connect to local communities, including universities and hospitals.

“We’re known as America’s Dairyland,” Evers said in the same statement, “but unfortunately, as too many families across our state know firsthand, our state continues to face challenges that we must work quickly to address.”

The Wisconsin Democratic Party praised Evers’ efforts on Friday while calling out the damage caused by Trump’s trade war.

“Thanks to years of GOP inaction and President Trump’s reckless trade war, Wisconsin leads the nation in farm bankruptcies and sees two dairy farms close down every day,” Courtney Beyer, communications director for the party, said in an email. “… Gov. Evers is leading the way to support our state’s farmers and rural communities and protect our identity as America’s Dairyland through his three-prong plan to tackle Wisconsin’s dairy crisis.”

While Wisconsin has been hit hard by Trump’s policies, other states throughout the Midwest have suffered as well. A 2019 analysis by the Center for American Progress Action Fund found a 45% increase in farm bankruptcies across the Midwest since Trump initiated a trade war with China.

On Jan. 15, 2020, Trump signed a trade deal with China, but many of the tariffs remain in place for the time being, according to NPR, and experts are skeptical that the changes will be implemented in time to stave off additional damage to the agriculture industry.

Source: American Independent 

Jersey Canada Announces 2020 National Jersey Judge

Jersey Canada has announced the Judge for the 2020 National Jersey Show at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair! Taking to the ring will be Stephen Borland of Rapid Bay Jersey Farm Inc., located in Ormstown, QC. Stephen last judged at the Royal in 2001. He has had the opportunity to travel around the world judging shows.

Straussdale Holsteins Barn is a total loss after Friday fire

The barn owned by Straussdale Holsteins was still smoking Sunday morning after snowy conditions made for a difficult night fighting a barn fire Friday, just north of Lake Mills.

The heifer barn on the Straussdale Holstein Farm, N7744 Hwy 89, caught fire during the storm that caused slippery conditions all over the area. At about the same time there was a vehicle accident involving a tanker truck on Highway 18 and Hope Lake Road.

Neighbors and family nearby helped clear the barn of animals after the fire started, taking them down the road to the home farm. The farm is owned by Donald and Phyllis Strauss, according to Jefferson County Land Records.

The Lake Mills Fire Department was dispatched to the scene at about 7 p.m., according to the Jefferson County Scanner.

The barn was fully engulfed when firefighters arrived on the scene.

Family members said in a social media post the barn is a total loss but is not their main barn. The barn that was destroyed is estimated to have been built in the 1800s.

Sunday morning family members could be seen tending to the barn, which still appeared to have some hot spots.

Tammy Strauss said in a Facebook post Friday night, the farm and family have a long way to go in the recovery process.
“(We are) so incredibly thankful for all the help and support last night. Please keep prayers coming,” Strauss wrote.

“It will be a long road ahead for Straussdale in the aftermath of this”

She said over the next couple of days the family will focus on clean up, checking on cattle and treating them for any injuries.

“Thank you to the many, many people that came out and braved the weather to help. We were able to save the other buildings.”

Responding were engines from Waterloo and Johnson Creek; tenders from Marshall, Waterloo, Jefferson, Cambridge and Johnson Creek; a squad from Jefferson, fire chiefs from Jefferson and Waterloo; an engine from Fort Atkinson; an ambulance from Waterloo.

Source: The Lake Mills Leader

Minnesota lost more than 300 dairy farms in 2019 for second year in a row

Minnesota’s milk production industry continued to struggle in 2019 as the state lost more than 300 net dairy farms for the second year in a row, according to the latest numbers from the Department of Agriculture.

The number of overall dairy farms dropped from 2,763 in 2019 to 2,448 in 2020, representing an 11% decrease as the shuttering of farms outpaced the addition of new ones.

Lucas Sjostrom, the executive director of the Minnesota Milk Producers Association, called the numbers “sobering” but said they did not come as a surprise.

“One of the things we’re really missing right now is beginning farmers,” Sjostrom said. “Reaching that 11%, that’s farmers net lost. We’re losing that three, four, five percent of farmers that would be starting up and coming in.”

The rest of the country has felt the same pain. Wisconsin suffered through a particularly brutal 2019 year with a 10% loss of dairy farms, and the U.S. as a whole has seen a roughly 30% decline overall in the past decade.

The plight of dairy farming is a complex topic, but the struggles accelerated in the middle of the decade. After record-high milk prices in 2014 drove profits for dairy farms, supply began to heavily outweigh demand and led to a drastic free fall. The tumbling milk prices — coupled with corporate consolidation and a loss of exports to China during a costly trade war — have all contributed to the problem.

Federal and state governments have infused some cash to farmers through subsidies, and a Minnesota rebate program will put more cash in the hands of dairy farmers next month. They are not magic fixes, however.

To rebuild and sustain the industry, Sjostrom suggests farmers need to save on labor costs by becoming more innovative with their approach – including the use of new technology. Robots that milk cows are already prominently featured on some Minnesota farms, part of a growing trend that could help small family farms survive.

One bit of encouraging news: Milk prices have inched up lately and reached their highest levels in five years at the end of 2019.

“There’s a lot of optimism out there, a lot of cautious optimism after what we’ve been through the past four years,” Sjostrom said. “Daily farmers are resilient.”

Source: kare11.com

4-H is more than showing farm animals

Calum MacLaughlin was helping move forage back into reach for the Holsteins at MacLaughlin Farm in Tamworth area during 4-H Farm Fest on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019 in Lennox and Addington County. (Postmedia Network files)

A new year can mean resolutions and resolutions can mean trying something new. If you or someone you know are between the ages of eight to 21 and are looking for some new experiences, why not consider 4-H?

A new year can mean resolutions, and resolutions can mean trying something new. If you or someone you know is between the ages of eight to 21 and is looking for some new experiences, why not consider 4-H?

The club is not just about showing farm animals, although that is something you can do, but not the only thing.

A non-profit, positive youth development organization, 4-H spans 70 countries and all 10 Canadian provinces.

For over a century, 4-H Ontario has been working to build youth as leaders within their communities and assets to the world. With roots in rural Ontario, today 4-H Ontario is open to all youth across the province of all backgrounds. In 4-H, youth and screened and engaged volunteer leaders come together to learn about selected topics through fun, hands-on activities and mentorship.

There are also provincial camps, conferences, competitions, and national and international travel opportunities available to further develop skills in leadership, business, self-confidence and more.

4-H provides youth with a place where they can be involved, accepted, valued and heard while developing valuable leadership and life skills.

Each chapter comprises a minimum of six 4-H members and two trained, screened volunteers who act as club leaders. The club decides on a topic and, through leader instruction, enjoys hands-on learning. Members and volunteers can belong to as many clubs as they wish.

In 2019, Chatham-Kent 4-H had the following clubs: Barn Quilt, Archery, Horse, Field Crop, Plowing, Sheep, Dairy, Beef, Rabbit, Sugarbeet, Bike, Lego, Sporting Chance, Woodworking, Baking, Walk on the Wildside, Veterinary, Poultry, Farm Toy, Canning, Trash to Treasure, Lifeskills, and Maple Syrup.

Regular 4-H is open to everyone ages 10 to 21. If you are between eight and 10, you can join Cloverbuds, an introduction to 4 H.

Chatham Kent 4-H is having its annual rally night on Saturday, Feb. 8, at 6:30 p.m. at the Rudy Brown Gymnasium at the Ridgetown campus of the University of Guelph. Rally night is signup night for 4-H, where you can learn about all the clubs that will be offered for the coming year.

More information can be found by emailing chathamkent4H@gmail.com or by checking out their website at 4-hontario.ca/4h-in-my-area/chatham-kent.aspx.

Source: The Chatham Daily News

Finding balance: The staggering plight of dairy farmers

Finding balance: The staggering plight of dairy farmers

When 4th-generation dairy farmers Dave and Kelly Myszkowski described what they called their mid-farm crisis they said, “Things have changed. Things are changing.”

The Myszkowski’s crisis is similar to what many dairy farmers in the United States have been experiencing for decades – tightening profit margins and need for Federal support.

An alarming number of dairy farmers have lost money nearly every year for decades and many are dependent on taxpayer subsidies to survive – the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2018 paid out more than $15 billion to agriculture and dairy applicants.

According to a USDA Economic Research Service report titled Milk Cost Return, since 2000 there were only two years in which the net value of milk production was not in the negative. For example: Despite an average gross value of $18.53 per hundredweight of milk in 2018, the return for a producer less the costs associated with operating a dairy farm was negative $3.21.

One option in place to support dairy producers is for them to pay for a type of insurance – currently called Dairy Margin Coverage – which serves as a voluntary risk management program [ www.fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/dairy-margin-coverage-program/index ]. The DMC in 2018 replaced the Margin Protection Program, but both have offered protection to dairy producers when the difference between milk price and average feed price falls below a certain dollar amount.

The need for such protections arises from unstable prices for dairy as a product. The Federal government has since the 1930s been attempting to bring stability to the dairy market, but the shift of production to large farms is an indicator that it hasn’t worked. Between 1970 and 2006, the number of farms with dairy cows fell steadily and sharply, from 648,000 operations in 1970 to 75,000 in 2006, or 88 percent, according to the USDA.

As a result of dwindling prospects for milk producers in New York state, since early 2018, the state government has awarded more than $30.7 million to dairy farms, protecting 15,102 acres from becoming underutilized or developed.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in September announced funding – $18.6 million – in support of conservation easement projects on 25 New York dairy farms. The release states: “Dairy farmers continue to face challenges from prolonged low milk prices, increasing the threat of conversion of viable agricultural land to nonfarm development. Through the Farmland Protection Implementation Grant program, dairy farms can diversify their operations or transition their farms to the next generation at more affordable costs, while ensuring the land forever remains used for agricultural purposes.”

Being that approximately 20 percent of the state’s land area – nearly 7 million acres – is farmland, it’s clear why Cuomo calls agriculture a “critical component” of the economy and states that farms “improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers.” Since Cuomo took office in 2011, the state has invested more than $83 million in 117 farmland protection projects statewide.

“They provide fresh and nutritious food and beverages to our communities and are home to some of New York’s most scenic landscapes,” Cuomo stated in the release. “This program will help ensure our farms continue their successful operations for future generations.”

In 2019, two operations in the Mohawk Valley received a combined total of $1,378,661 of funding. Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust received $417,690 to protect 236 acres of Groeslon Farm and the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy received $960,971 to protect 823 acres of Creek Acres Farm. For more information, visit https://agriculture.ny.gov/land-and-water/farmland-protection.

“Dairy is the largest sector of New York State’s agricultural economy and our dairy farmers have faced some daunting challenges in recent years with low milk prices and trade uncertainty,” State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball stated in the release. “These funds help farmers adapt to changes in the marketplace and remain in business, while preserving the land and our farmers’ way of life.”

Following the “success” of Round 1 of the program, New York state is launching a second round of the Farmland Protection Implementation Grant program specifically for dairy. The state will accept applications on a rolling basis for farmland protection grants of up to $2 million from eligible entities, such as land trusts, municipalities, counties, and soil and water conservation districts. There is no application deadline.

Conservation easement projects will be awarded to eligible dairy farms that are:

  • Transitioning to the next ownership of a continuing dairy, but whose operation has been modified to ensure greater financial sustainability;
  • Continuing dairy, but diversifying the overall farm operation; or
  • Converting to a non-dairy farm operation.

All farmland protection project proposals must be submitted electronically through the New York State Grants Gateway. For more information regarding the Grants Gateway, please visit https://grantsgateway.ny.gov. Additional information and the Request for Applications (RFA) can be found on the Department’s website at https://www.agriculture.ny.gov/RFPS.html.

Farmers, often isolated from the world at large but also particularly from politics, tend to not have their voices heard on issues that matter the most to them. So, having allies in office as well as an organization that advocates on their behalf is a cornerstone to their success.

One such ally farmers can depend on is the New York Farm Bureau, which states its mission is to, “Serve and strengthen agriculture.”  As a non-governmental, volunteer organization financed and controlled by member families, its purpose is “solving economic and public policy issues challenging the agricultural industry.”

Established in 1911 in response to income issues experienced by farmers, a Binghamton chamber of commerce and the Lackawanna Railroad worked with the United States Department of Agriculture and the New York State College of Agriculture to establish the NYFB. Its founders understood that by increasing and stabilizing the income of farmers, the same would occur for the economy.

One of the NYFB’s goals is to identify politicians who will advocate on behalf of their constituent farmers. Through its Circle of Friends program, lawmakers are named based on their voting record and other legislative support on agricultural issues.

Assemblyman Robert Smullen, R-Meco, was among five regional lawmakers recently named to the NYFB’s Circle of Friends. The Farm Bureau made the announcement in early January based on Smullen’s support of the industry during the 2019 Legislative Session. In a release, he stated the following in regard to the announcement:

“Agriculture has long been a proud tradition for New Yorkers and a cornerstone of our state’s economy,” Smullen stated. “Agriculture is the largest industry in upstate New York, so I will continue to advocate for policies beneficial to our farmers, particularly the many small farms in the 118th Assembly District. These farms are a staple in our community, and in a state that cannot afford to lose another farm or job, Albany should be doing everything possible to support our farmers instead of continuing to pile on costly regulations and mandates.”

In a recent interview, Smullen provided further detail about his selection as a friend of farmers by stating, “I take my role as a State Legislator very seriously, and am working hard for my constituents. Although I am not a member of the Agriculture Committee yet, I strive to understand those I represent by being involved in the important issues and thank the New York State Farm Bureau for noticing my efforts.”

Smullen also addressed the issues facing dairy producers as well as the integral role agriculture plays in the Mohawk Valley.

“The dairy industry has always been a pillar of the Mohawk Valley economy, and along with other agricultural products has helped make agriculture the number one economic driver across Upstate New York as a whole,” Smullen said. “We not only feed ourselves but help feed the millions of people in the city who can’t produce their own food in dense urban areas. That is a point of pride in a very sophisticated global economy, of which we are an important and fundamental part.”

Smullen noted that it is important that dairy farms stay in operation or transition to a new product instead of going out of business.

“Our dairy farmers provide part of a safe and secure food supply that makes our state and our nation strong,” Smullen said. “It is fundamental to our future, and despite the inevitable technological changes which have always happened, this business remains a renewable source of healthy food that all of our people need. With the number of farmers falling to below one percent of the total population, we have to be very careful about how we regulate the sector at the Federal and State level.”

Smullen concluded that having less than one percent of Americans as actual farmers – down from historical norms – is “contrary to our founding roots.”

“Farming is one of the best ways to live off the land, and every American needs to know of the small business opportunities,” Smullen said. “Programs in schools and colleges that highlight the careers are thus important to the future health of what is a very sophisticated business model these days.”

As a 4th-generation dairy farmer, Dave Myszkowski and his family have experienced the ups and downs of the industry and right now, things are down. According to the Myszkowski’s, when Dave started milking in the 1980s, the price was about the same as when his grandfather milked 20 years prior, and it has hit that point again in recent years. Kelly described the situation regarding the price of milk price as complicated, difficult to explain or understand with “no rhyme or reason.”

After becoming established and experienced, Dave had a herd that was healthy and producing very well for several years. He even had to install a bigger bulk tank to store the milk prior to shipping. The herd size total hovered around 100, of which about 60 were milking. During that time, the farm was shipping more than 5,000 pounds of milk every other day. But, then the situation began to decline and even as a 4th generation dairy farmer with a wealth of experience and knowledge, Dave was at a loss.

As time went on, Dave began noticing increasing health and reproductive problems, decreasing production, and an increase in loss of cows – both through death and loss of productive value. The farm’s production numbers began to drop below industry averages.

“Though the problems were notable, the reasons weren’t evident,” the Myszkowski’s said. “Everyone was puzzled. Frustrated. At wit’s end.”

Despite consulting with nutritionists and veterinarians and making changes based on their recommendations, the situation continued to decline. “This all was taking its toll financially, mentally, and emotionally,” the Myszkowski’s said.

Fortunately, their veterinarian suggested consulting with NY FarmNet, which was established by Cornell Cooperative Extension in the 1980s as a result of the high incidence of suicide among farmers, and the overall socio-economic crisis in the industry. The organization provides a variety of free supportive services, including business assistance, as well as assigning a social worker and business management consultant.

The Myszkowski’s business consultant quickly identified that they were in need of expertise from the Cornell Cooperative Extension itself, which eventually included individuals in their meetings.

“In the meantime, on a whim, he [the business consultant] also asked if Dave had ever checked for stray voltage,” Kelly explained. “Dave sat upright in his chair instantly and said, ‘No. That’s a very good idea,’ as if he instinctively knew that was the problem.”

Kelly said the day testing confirmed the stray voltage, a repair crew responded and corrected the problem.

“Cows are sensitive to as little as .25 volt – we had 3 volts in our barn, and 30 volts in other areas at times,” Kelly said. “Stray voltage essentially is electricity flowing someplace it shouldn’t be outside of the intended electrical circuits. Electricity naturally flows to the best ground. When you’re at the end of the power line, like on a dead-end road, it has nowhere else to go. It can’t pass you and go to the next place.”

For the Myszkowski’s, the stray electricity was following the milk line, and when milk flowed from the cow into the pipeline it was completing the circuit.

“Yet, it wasn’t obvious that they were uncomfortable. So, the vet and the nutritionist never considered stray voltage as an issue,” Kelly said. “Unfortunately, it can take at least a year, possibly two, to recover from something like this – if you even can. The rippling effects are far-reaching. At the all-time low, Dave was milking only 30 cows, and shipping about 1300 pounds of milk. But, expenses don’t just drop proportionately.”

Source: MyLittleFalls

Milking job paid for first house by 19th birthday

Buying your first home has never been tougher. In this On The Ladder series, Stuff talks to Kiwis who’ve made it onto the property ladder and others who, by choice or not, are still renting

Paul Rimu Whakatutu started saving for a house deposit when he was 12, after getting his first job moving lawns “for a little old lady down the road”, in Hawera. 

“I got $40 a week and all $40 went into a high-interest savings account,” said the now 21-year-old welder.

First home owner Paul Whakatutu bought this three-bedroom in Hawera for $200K in 2018.

SIMON O’CONNOR/STUFF

First home owner Paul Whakatutu bought this three-bedroom in Hawera for $200K in 2018.

A year later, Whakatutu’s uncle offered him a milking job. “I was doing mornings and nights there, before and after school. I biked down to his house at 4am and would be done by 6.30pm for dinner.” 

By time he turned 19, Whakatutu had put away just shy of $40K.

The house Whakatutu grew up in was always full of his older brothers and sister, visiting friends and extended family. 

His mum asked what he wanted to do when he left school, and he told her he wanted to have his own house before his 21st birthday. “One night at the dinner table Mum and Dad talked about how hard it was getting to buy.

“I thought if I start saving now, it might not be so hard and they helped me make a budget.”

Whakatutu was paid $70 per milking and saved 80 per cent of his income. He had no expenses because he was still in school and living at home.

Putting in the hours didn’t bother him. “I still had time to play rugby. My uncle gave me training and game days off, and I always had my weekends to myself,” he said. 

Nor did he feel like he missed out on anything in his teen years. “I knew what I wanted and I knew that you’ve got to do a bit of work to get there.”

In Year 12, he did a week’s work experience with DTS, New Zealand’s largest stainless steel provider of dairy equipment.

“It was awesome,” he said. “The crew were so easy to get on with. The boss said if I finished NCEA Level 2, I’d have an apprenticeship.”

When Whakatutu left school he started on about $13 an hour. “I was getting about $450 a week and put half away,” after paying $70 to rent a room in his cousin’s flat.

It wasn’t always possible to save. Surprise expenses like a broken car made for some “rough spots”, but eventually he had enough saved to go house hunting. 

He told agents he was looking for a small first home with a garage and couple of bedrooms. A three-bedroom home with a single garage came onto the market for $200K two months later. 

“It’s a nice little house with a deck, hidden away down a long driveway. It was quiet. I was like ‘ah, this is the one’.”

With his savings and a first home grant from Kiwi Saver, Whakatutu was able to put down double the minimum 20 per cent deposit. 

During the summer, he spends as much time as he can on the sun-drenched deck.

“I like to get the boys around for a BBQ and I’ve got lots of family on the east coast. When they visit, they used to stay at the homestead. I thought if I get a house they can come stay with me and we can have our cuzzy time while the oldies are catching up. 

“We have our own private place away from the adults.”

Whakatutu doesn’t do an awful lot of gardening, preferring to call in for back up: “Every now and then I ring Mum up saying the hedges need doing. The big family team will come in and we’ll all attack it together.”

He also has plans to put in some concrete, and build a second shed to use as a workshop.

The weekly mortgage repayment of $190 is manageable and Whakatutu said it’s thanks to his parents helping him work out the maximum he could afford to pay on his own.

“I didn’t want to have to rely on getting any help,” he said.

Paul's cousins and friends always have a place to stay for the weekend.

SIMON O’CONNOR/STUFF

Paul’s cousins and friends always have a place to stay for the weekend.

Moving to a larger city might be on the cards once more of the mortgage is paid but over the past year, he’s started taking more weekend trips away and going to gigs.

“Now that I’ve achieved what I wanted, I have a little bit extra when I get paid to go and have some fun. I’m just enjoying it now.”

Paul's bedroom.

SIMON O’CONNOR/STUFF

Paul’s bedroom.

Source: Stuff

Dairy industry has concern about constant talk of its impact on climate change

Joaquin Phoenix, backstage at the 77th Golden Globe Awards on Jan. 5. The climate change discussion is not going away and dairy farmers are looking to get out their story out regarding the industry\’s impact on the environment.

The holiday season might be known as the most wonderful time of the year, but shortly after the calendar turns to January, Hollywood enters its awards season.

The Golden Globes, The Screen Actors Guild Awards and finally the Oscars make the early months of the new year the most glamorous time of the year, at least in the eyes of Hollywood. Undoubtedly, some actors use the national attention and the limelight to speak about causes or events they feel are important. This year, the devastating wildfires of Australia have been a popular choice.

In that same vein, so has climate change.

While the actors in question feel they are trying to do good to bring this awareness to the masses, they also are pointing the finger. In particular, some of the finger-pointing is being directed at the dairy and beef industries.

While the claims of actors such as Joaquin Phoenix regarding the role both those agricultural industries have had on climate change are not causing too much concern with local farmers, Missaukee County Farm Bureau President Jodi DeHate said there is always potential these claims could impact policy.

“I think most of my farmers are in the category of they don’t have a reaction if they even paid attention to it,‘ DeHate said. “People, whether it is Ellen (DeGeneres), Joaquin Phoenix or (awards shows like) the Golden Globes, let’s point out the hypocrisy,‘ she said. “They are flying on jets, eating foods from across the globe and wearing dresses or suits only once. But let’s not eat meat or dairy. That seems to be the problem.‘

DeHate said there are always policies that Farm Bureau is working on to help get their message out there. In reality, both the meat and dairy industries are very conscious of their impacts on the environment and have been leading the way in not wasting anything.

Whether it is the beef industry raising cattle on pasture or dairy producers recycling everything for feed such as sugar beet pulp, dry distiller’s grain, cottonseed meal, and canola meal to name a few. Although both industries have been doing these types of things before it was considered hip, DeHate said it is all about the reach of the message and actors have a much longer one when compared to that of either meat or dairy industries.

Regardless if farmers react to what they believe to be nonsense, DeHate said overall it has people in the agricultural industry nervous.

Recently, Starbucks did an environmental assessment and it showed dairy products are the biggest source of carbon dioxide emissions across the coffee giant’s operations and supply chain. As a result of this recent report, the Seattle-based company announced ambitious goals for reducing its carbon footprint and impact on the environment.

By 2030, the cafe chain is targeting 50% reductions in carbon emissions, water withdrawal and waste sent to landfills. Considering in 2018 Starbucks was responsible for emitting 16 million metric tons of greenhouse gases, using 1 billion cubic meters of water and dumping 868 metric kilotons of coffee cups and other waste, that task will be huge.

Starbucks Chief Executive Officer Kevin Johnson has said that will include pushing consumers to choose milk made from almond, coconuts, soy or oats, whose production is environmentally friendlier than dairy. Starbucks also is testing new drinks made with plant-based ingredients and seeking ways to make whipped cream without emitting nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas. Starbucks also aims to lower the cost of dairy alternatives by helping suppliers boost output.

Michigan State University Extension Dairy and Beef Cattle Health and Production Senior Educator Phil Durst will be the first to say he is not an expert when it comes to beef and in particular dairy’s impact on climate change but he believes agriculture does a good job of being good stewards of the environment.

“I think there is a story we haven’t told. We have been more efficient in dairy. It is not a waste of resources,‘ he said.

Whether it is using the waste of other industries like DeHate said or harvesting natural gas from or using manure as fertilizer, the resources farmers use are used wisely.

Durst mentioned comments made by Dairy Management Inc. CEO Tom Gallagher regarding not only the Starbucks announcement last week but also Brightmark Energy in partnership with four Florida dairy farms.

While the focus of Starbucks’ announcement was discussed already, the announcement by Brightmark Energy has a different tone.

In Gallagher’s comments, he said the energy company and the dairy farms announced a project to convert 230,000 tons of manure per year into renewable gas, reducing methane emissions from Central Florida dairy farms. He also questioned why those in the dairy industry have concerns and/or anger regarding the Starbucks’ announcement.

“While this specific company announcement was a surprise, the fact that more and more companies, organizations and governments will make similar announcements in the very near future should come as a surprise to no one,‘ Gallagher wrote. “Some of these companies are well-intentioned even if they are often misguided.‘

He said all of the companies are doing what they believe is in their financial best interest. If a segment of consumers believes that plant-based foods are better for the planet or healthier for them, companies will play to that perception whether the perception is accurate or not, he said.

Like the beef and dairy industries, they are running a business and they will make decisions based on what they think is best for business. In turn, defense and denial are not strategies for success, according to Gallagher.

He said a better option is to help set the direction of environmental policies and regulations.

“We can engage with companies and thought leaders to understand and value what we do. We can work to assure sustainability and profitability go hand-in-hand for farmers,‘ he said.

Source: cadillacnews.com

‘The proposal was definitely one-of-a-kind’

Jamie spray-painted the big question on two Jerseys that he bought Claire for her 18th birthday.

Claire Dunn had just completed her morning milking duties on January 1st, 2020, when her other half, Jamie Huey, surprised her with an ‘udderly’ romantic gesture, writes Catherina Cunnane.

The couple, who have been together for seven years, had planned to head away for the day. “Jamie told me to go on and get changed. He then phoned me and told me to come back outside again.” Claire told this publication.

“I was wearing a hat, so Jamie pulled it over my eyes, took my hand and led me over the yard – I had a small inkling! He told me to wait a few moments and then turn around.”

“And there they were, our two Jerseys that Jamie had bought me for my 18th birthday, that have a lot of sentimental value to us, and him down on one knee, which is something I will never forget!”

The proposal was definitely one-of-a-kind. I had my ring picked, but I didn’t know how or when he was going to pop the question.”

“I was really shocked at how he did it, but at the same time, I am so proud of him!”

Mutal interest

The Donegal natives first met at a young farmer’s disco at Portrush and both have a very strong passion for farming.

Claire assists with the operation of her parent’s suckler and sheep farm, and also works along with Jamie on his home farm.

“Jamie does some contracting, so I do the milking for him – I guess you could say we were just made for each other,” she added.

Wedding

The couple have intentions to incorporate their interest in farming into their wedding. “We have a few agricultural-related ideas up our sleeve, but we have to work around the farming calendar, so we are planning for December this year!” Claire concluded.

Source: That’s Farming

Study Finds Cows Talk, Share Feelings, and are Deserving of Our Compassion

A new study at the University of Sydney has found that cows tell their feelings through moos. Cows have individual vocal identifiers and change pitch to match their emotions. Cows respond to both positive and negative emotions with their own “voice.”

Cows use their voice to keep contact with their herd and express emotions including arousal, excitement and distress. Each animal keeps their moo throughout their life and will moo when waiting for food or when moved from the group.

Alexandra Green, lead author of the study, said she hopes the study improves animal welfare. Commenting on the study, she shared, “Cows are gregarious, social animals. In one sense it isn’t surprising they assert their individual identity throughout their life. This is the first time we have been able to analyse voice to have conclusive evidence of this trait. They have all got very distinct voices. Even without looking at them in the herd, I can tell which one is making a noise just based on her voice. It all relates back to their emotions and what they are feeling at the time.”

Green would record and analyze each cow’s moo to gather data and develop her findings. A professor at the university and Green’s supervisor compared Green’s work to “building a Google translate for cows.”

See more about Alexandra Green’s work in this video:

Farm couple getaway gives dairy families time to refocus

In response to high levels of both personal and financial farm stress, Iowa State University (ISU) Extension and Outreach is giving farmers some time away.

Extension is hosting a Northwest Iowa “Farm Couple Getaway” where farmers can participate in activities to improve farm family communication, farm and family goal-setting, farm transition, or just take weekend away to discuss farm and farm family priorities.

This “getaway” will be held Friday and Saturday, Feb. 21-22 at the Lakeshore Center at Okoboji near Milford. It is one of four getaways scheduled across the state.

The “getaways” run from 12:30 p.m. on the first day to 3:15 p.m. on the second day. There is no cost to attend the program as food, lodging and other expenses are being paid for by sponsors. There is a $50 per couple deposit to hold each reservation, refundable on the second day of the getaway.

Past farm couple getaways have proven to be beneficial to couples, organizers said.

“They are a very productive and delightful time to discuss items of importance to help farms and families be successful,” said Larry Tranel, ISU Extension and Outreach Dairy Field Specialist.

Each getaway will consist of 10 farm couples and ISU Extension facilitators. Registration is on a first come, first serve basis with registrations due two weeks prior to each session.

A registration brochure for the Feb. 21-22 Milford getaway can be found at https://www.extension.iastate.edu/sioux/farm-couple-getaway.

Find more information about the other sites from Jenn Bentley (jbentley@iastate.edu) at the ISU Extension and Outreach Winneshiek County Office at 563-382-2949; Fred Hall (fredhall@iastate.edu) at the ISU Extension and Outreach Sioux County Office at 712-737-4230; and/or Larry Tranel (tranel@iastate.edu) at the ISU Extension and Outreach Dubuque County Office at 563-583-6496.

Source: AGupdate

Cattle futures hit multi-month low amid coronavirus fears

On Friday, US live and feeder cattle futures hit their lowest prices in months amid fears of the coronavirus spreading.

According to reporting from Reuters, the sell-off hit also hit hog futures and crude oil as investors moved into safe-haven assets. 

Developments in the spread of the coronavirus will likely continue to direct cattle futures on Monday, said Rich Nelson, chief strategist for Illinois-based commodities broker Allendale.

Concerns increased as US health officials confirmed a second US case of the coronavirus and France confirmed its first three cases, while Chinese authorities sought to contain an outbreak that has killed at least 41 people in the country and infected about 1,000.

“I don’t know how much pressure we should have seen due to the coronavirus but based on psychology, it fits,” Nelson said.

April live cattle futures reached their lowest price since October 31 before ending up 0.125 cent at 124.300 cents per pound at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. CME March feeder cattle futures dropped 0.850 cent to 139.675 cents per pound and touched their lowest level since November 22.

The USDA, in a monthly report issued after the close of trading, said the nation had 12 million head of cattle on feed for slaughter as of January 1, up 2.3 percent from a year earlier. A Reuters poll of 10 analysts had projected an increase of 2.2 percent.

The USDA said 1.83 million head were placed in feedlots during December, up 3.5 percent from the previous year. Analysts were expecting an increase of 3.4 percent.

The data was “neutral across the board,” Nelson said.

Uncertainty about Chinese demand for US meat continues to hang over the livestock markets.

Beijing pledged to increase imports of US agricultural products in a trade deal signed last week that is meant to reduce tensions after nearly two years of a tit-for-tat tariff war. Traders are unsure about the timing and scale of future Chinese purchases, though.

China needs to further boost meat imports after an outbreak of a fatal pig disease, African swine fever, decimated its herd.

Reuters

Top Dairy Industry News Stories from January 20th to 25th 2020

Feature Article:

Top News Stories:

Neighbors Disturbed After Body Discovered In Manure Pile At Dairy Farm

Deputies are investigating after a man’s body was found in a pile of manure at a dairy farm outside Galt.

Deputies describe the discovery as suspicious. A spokesperson for the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office said a worker at the farm discovered the body when they were moving manure around. The investigation is still very broad at this point.

“We’re not able to tell at this point if it was accidental or if this is a homicide investigation,” said Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office Spokesperson Tess Deterding.

Deterding said the body has been identified is a missing person from another county. There was no visible trauma found on the body.

But the mystery is far from over. People want to know what happened to this man and how did he got there

“There’s certainly that worry or fear, or jump to the conclusion, that this body was possibly dumped there and killed somewhere else,” Deterding said.

Owners of the dairy farm said he was not one of their employees.

Jerry Friend is one of the closest neighbors to this farm. He calls the situation scary.

“I was just thinking ‘Wow, that’s really strange.’ This doesn’t happen,” he said.

Friend said the area has been a popular dumping grounds in the past, but never for a body

“People dump trash on the side of the road. We had a problem with people dumping stuff at the cemetery. You know, full cars and RV’s,” Friend said.

The name of the man found is not being released until the coroner notifies his family.

Source:CBS

Milk prices are so low Wisconsin is losing two dairy farms a day

Cows stand ready to be milked May 31, 2016, at the Lake Breeze Dairy farm in Malone, Wisconsin. The state is in the midst of a dairy crisis that’s caused a loss of one-third of its dairy farms since 2011. (Daniel Acker / Bloomberg)

Gov. Tony Evers on Thursday called the Republican-controlled Legislature into a special session beginning next week to consider an $8.5 million package of bills designed to help rural Wisconsin in the face of a crisis that’s caused a loss of one-third of the state’s dairy farms since 2011.

The Democratic governor told reporters that he was confident the Legislature would move quickly on the plan he unveiled in his State of the State address Wednesday night. He also dismissed criticism from Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos that the proposals show he has ignored rural Wisconsin before now.

“That’s just baloney,” Evers said, noting that many of the ideas had been included in his budget last year but rejected by Republicans. “We need to move forward. Our farmers need us.”

Wisconsin loses an average of two dairy farms a day as farmers suffer under low milk prices.

 

Vos said late Wednesday that the plan shows Evers has “finally turned his attention to rural Wisconsin.”

“He has ignored that part of the state for most of last year since he’s been elected governor,” Vos said. “If he’s a newfound convert that rural Wisconsin has problems, of course we’re going to listen.”

While Vos was wary of the plan, Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said Wednesday night that he was “all ears.”

“We’re all looking for ways to do better when it comes to ag,” Fitzgerald said. “There have been a number of proposals by the Legislature but I’m all ears on what the governor has to offer. It sounds like he’s been working on something comprehensive so absolutely I think the Legislature should take time to see what the special session includes and work on those bills.”

Evers said he expects the Legislature to meet starting Tuesday to take up the bills. Republican leaders have not said if they will do that. Vos and Fitzgerald did not immediately return messages Thursday seeking comment.

Source: Chicago Tribune

Welcomed by Dairy Farmers, revised WOTUS rule expected

Today, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works R.D. James will announce the new “waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) rule. The rule revises an already repealed Obama-era version, reducing federal jurisdiction over wetlands and streams. The revised definitions protects the nation’s navigable waters from pollution and is expected to result in favorable economic growth for the country.

EPA Administrator Wheeler was quoted saying, “After decades of landowners relying on expensive attorneys to determine what water on their land may or may not fall under federal regulations, our new Navigable Waters Protection Rule strikes the proper balance between Washington and the states in managing land and water resources while protecting our nation’s navigable waters, and it does so within the authority Congress provided” (Source: US EPA, Office of Public Engagement).

The previous rule was commonly associated with confusion in regards to the implementation of the Clean Water Act and was known to a lack common sense approach. The revision is expected to alleviate the widespread uncertainty of where federal jurisdiction begins and ends. Sources say the new rule will recognize the difference between federally protected and state protected wetlands, adhering to the statutory limits of the agencies authority, and ensuring protections of U.S. water.

American Dairy Coalition CEO Laurie Fischer, expressed support of the change by stating, “Ultimately, the revision of this rule empowers the states to manage their waters in ways that best safeguard natural resources and local economies. We’re eager to see this step moving forward, increasing common sense factors and alleviating the continuous confusion and legal ramifications the previous version has inflicted.”

About The American Dairy Coalition:

The American Dairy Coalition (ADC) is a farmer-led national lobbying organization of progressive, modern dairy farmers. We focus on federal dairy policy. For more information, contact CEO Laurie Fischer at 920-965-6070.

Female genomic testing now available in the UK from VikingGenetics

VikingGenetics is expanding its range of services with the launch of female genomic testing and corrective mating packages.

The services promise to offer the United Kingdom (UK) dairy producers the benefits which have helped earn Nordic dairy cattle their reputation as both the healthiest and highest producers of fat plus protein in the world.

The genomic testing service will not only provide UK producers with an overall economic index with which to rank the youngstock in their herds. It will also provide genomic figures for over 40 different traits, including unique VikingGenetics indexes, such as hoof health and general health.

The genomic testing service will also help producers make better decisions about which females to rear, to inseminate to sexed semen or breed to beef. It will allow them to see how their cattle rank on the economic index, Nordic Total Merit (NTM).

Alongside genomic testing comes the launch of VikingGenetics’ corrective mating service. Called VikMate, the service will enable producers to quickly and easily identify bulls which complement each animal in their herd. The service will help minimise inbreeding and avoid undesirable recessive genes.

A particular innovation of the mating service is its flexibility. This allows farmers to use a pre-defined genetic index or to customise their own to meet their specific breeding goals. These could be to maximise milk price under their particular payment structure or to focus on issues in need of correction within their herd.

“VikingGenetics has been selling cattle semen in the UK for over 10 years and we are delighted our bulls now feature highly on the UK’s national rankings for all of the major dairy breeds,” says Kenneth Byskov, Senior Project Manager at VikingGenetics. “To us, it is a logical extension that we introduce services which will help our customers make the best use of these genetics within their herds. It is also notable that the breeding programmes in our respective countries have never been more similar.”

Matthew Stott, Director at VikingGenetics UK Ltd, adds: “We are all striving to produce an efficient, sustainable cow with innate good health and resistance to disease which produces high quality milk.”

VikingGenetics is a farmer co-operative spanning Denmark, Sweden and Finland which has had a long-term focus on breeding for health. Driven by a highly regulated veterinary framework and a requirement to minimise the use of medicines, the co-operative leads the way on improving many health and related traits through genetic improvement.

In the Holstein breed, VikingGenetics boasts three of the top 10 daughter fertility improvers in the highly competitive UK and international proven bull ranking. For the Ayrshire/Red and Jersey breeds, the co-operative completely dominates with eight and nine out of 10 respectively in the breed rankings for the UK’s Profitable Lifetime Index (£PLI).

“The UK’s £PLI and NTM have extremely similar formulae,” adds Mr Stott. “Both indexes reward milk quality, fertility, health and efficiency and help raise a herd’s profits through breeding.”

150 dairy cows killed in Ontario barn fire

Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) is investigating after 150 cows were killed in a barn fire in Haldimand County.

Emergency crews were called to a fire on Smithville Rd. around 2:25 p.m. Tuesday.

Firefighters arrived on scene and found a barn fully engulfed in flames.

OPP says all of the dairy cattle that were in the barn died in the blaze.

Smithville Rd. in Canborough was closed between Canborough Rd. and South Chippewa Rd. for roughly eight hours while emergency crews were on scene.

Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the fire but it is not considered suspicious.

The Office of the Ontario Fire Marshal has been notified.

and @HaldEmerg crews on scene for barn fire Smithville Rd. in . Approximately 148 dairy cattle perished. Cause of fire is under investigation. Smithville Rd. is closed between Canborough Rd. and South Chippewa Rd. Please use alternate route.^rl

View image on Twitter
Source: CHCH

Starbucks Taking Aim at Milk Is Latest Blow to Beaten-up Dairy

The latest blow to the downtrodden dairy industry was delivered by none other than Starbucks Corp., with the coffee giant looking to condition customers to use milk alternatives in a bid to reduce its carbon footprint.

While Starbucks accounts for just 0.3% of U.S. milk production, the decision to formally declare an emphasis on non-dairy options may encourage other food-service outlets to follow suit. That could add momentum to the shift toward oat, nut, soy and other alternative beverages for health and environmental reasons. American cow-milk consumption has fallen about 2% each year since the 1970’s, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

It’s a trend that has helped put plenty of American dairy farmers out of business and led to two big U.S. processors — Dean Foods Co. and Borden Dairy Co. — into bankruptcy. Dean is one of Starbucks’ key suppliers, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Marketing group Dairy Management Inc. said that while it shares Starbucks’ commitment to sustainability, the industry’s environmental footprint is small and shrinking due to innovative farm practices and new technologies. “Both plants and animals play a critical role in the health of the people and the planet,” the group said.

Source: Bloomberg

Minnesota Loses Over 800 Dairy Farms in Three Years

The number of licensed dairy farms in Minnesota continues to drop at a steady pace. New data out from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture says 315 dairy farms left the business between January first of 2019 and New Year’s Day of 2020. That’s the second year in a row the state has lost more than 300 dairies. Further back on January first of 2017, Minnesota had 3,258 licensed dairy farms. As of January first of 2020, that number is down to 2,448 licensed dairy farms. That’s a three-year total of 810 dairy operations that are out of business. Margaret Hart, communications director for the MDA, says, “The number of farms going out of business over the last five years has been higher than normal, due in large part to a drop in prices.” It’s worth mentioning that at least some of those businesses have ceased their operations temporarily, which is referred to as “dried off.” For example, 47 dairies that stopped operation between December first, 2019, and January of 2020, are dried off. That means they intend to resume milking within 60 days.

Source: American Ag Network

Canada Working to Ratify USMCA Trade Deal

Canada could be the last of the three North American countries to ratify a new trade deal, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday, indicating that his plan to match the U.S. timetable was set to fail.

Trudeau’s Liberal government said from the start it wanted TO work in tandem with Washington to formally approve the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which was signed last year.

The United States, Mexico and Canada agreed last week to revised terms for the USMCA to replace the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement.

Mexico has already ratified the deal and the U.S. House of Representatives will consider legislation on Thursday to implement the pact, a senior Democrat said.

Canadian legislators, however, are not due back from a winter break until Jan 27. The Liberals lost their majority in an October election and must work more closely with opposition parties to push through legislation.

“We might – because of our parliamentary calendar – be the last parties to ratify, so we’re going to have to try to get to it as quickly as we can,” Trudeau told Toronto’s Citytv channel.

Trudeau said he was reasonably confident his government would find enough votes to approve the treaty.

Eleanore Catenaro, a spokeswoman for Trudeau, said Ottawa still wanted to work with the United States as much as possible on ratification. She declined to say whether Trudeau might call lawmakers back to work ahead of schedule in January.

Canada’s two main opposition parties suggested last week they could move to delay ratification, accusing the Liberal government of botching revisions to the treaty.

Source: Reuters

Devin Nunes’ family files $25 million lawsuit against reporter over Iowa dairy farm article

Family members of U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes have filed a $25 million defamation lawsuit against former Esquire correspondent Ryan Lizza, following his 2018 investigation into their Sibley, Iowa, dairy farm.

Anthony Nunes Jr., and Anthony Nunes III — father and brother, respectively, to the California Republican and Trump ally — along with their NuStar Farms LLC, sued Lizza and Esquire publisher Hearst Magazines last week in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa.

In his article, published Sept. 30, 2018, Lizza reported on his visit to Sibley, in Osceola County, including periods during which people he identified as Nunes family members tailed his car around town in between interviews.

Lizza’s story places NuStar in the context of the Midwestern dairy industry’s reliance on undocumented labor, and cites two anonymous sources with firsthand knowledge in reporting that NuStar had employed undocumented migrants.

The Nunes’ lawsuit dismisses Lizza’s story as a “scandalous hit piece” and a “legion of lies,” written to “retaliate” against Devin Nunes for “exposing corruption” during his tenure as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

“The defendants’ misconduct is egregious,” Nunes attorneys Joseph Feller and Steven Biss wrote in the complaint. “They should never be permitted to attack the reputations and standing of anyone, especially hard-working private individuals.

“They should be punished for their unlawful actions and a very strong message needs to be sent to prevent other so-called ‘journalists’ from acting in a similar way.”

The lawsuit contests Lizza’s description of the Nunes dairy farm’s little-reported move to Iowa, from Tulare, Calif., in 2006, as a “secret,” citing from conservative news sites Breitbart and the Federalist.

 

Nunes’ attorneys also note several times that Lizza in December 2017 was fired from the New Yorker magazine over sexual misconduct allegations, and suggest that he wrote about NuStar to distract from his “negative image and history as a sexual predator.”

Lizza publicly denied the allegation and multiple media outlets that investigated his conduct, including CNN and Politico, concluded there was no reason to bar him from employment, the Fresno Bee reported.

The Nunes’ attorneys and Lizza, now Politico’s chief Washington, D.C., correspondent, did not return emails Tuesday requesting comment.

The $25 million lawsuit from Anthony Nunes Jr. and Anthony Nunes III partially duplicates an earlier lawsuit against Lizza and Hearst Magazines, filed in September 2019 by Devin Nunes himself.

In that case, which remains active in the Northern District of Iowa, the U.S. representative is seeking $75 million on counts of defamation and common law conspiracy.

Devin Nunes has filed multiple lawsuits within the past year against perceived critics, including a $150 million case against McClatchy, owner of his hometown newspaper, the Fresno Bee, and a $250 million case against Twitter parody accounts “Devin Nunes’ cow” and “Devin Nunes’ Mom.”

Source: The Gazzette

UPenn studies climate change through dairy cows

“Dou’s team sees their circular, agro-food system model as a key to providing consumers with a healthy diet.” Pic: Getty/branex

UPenn’s School of Veterinary Medicine (Penn Vet) has been working on a dairy-focused project called ‘The Amazing Cow.’ It documents the types, amounts and variations of dairy cow feed, characterizing important nutritional attributes.

Led by Dr. Zhengxia Dou​, Professor of Agricultural Systems, the project is meant to give dairy producers insights on how food that falls under indigestible, unpalatable, or unsellable biomass (IUUB) can be better implemented on dairy farms.

According to PennVet, dairy farmers, along with beef, poultry and pork farmers, have been evolving techniques to produce milk, meat and eggs as efficiently and sustainably as possible, minimizing agriculture’s climate-contributing footprint.

“Animals are natural bio-processors. By maximizing the use of IUUB, the livestock sector of agriculture actually contributes to this societal issue in a very positive way,”​ Dr. Dou said.

A chunk of these processing byproducts are generated from the production of plant-based dairy alternatives, as well as everyday products like soybean and canola oils, orange juice and ethanol. Feeding these IUUBs to cows keeps them from going to landfills.

It’s estimated that every year, about 80 million tons of byproduct in the US that is generated from food and drink production is consumed by animals.

“Besides empowering farmers to make sustainable, but sensible, animal husbandry decisions, Dou’s team sees their circular, agro-food system model as a key to providing consumers with a healthy diet while reducing the issues some associate solely with livestock production,”​ Penn Vet said.

Dou told DairyReporter that her team has studied several dairy farms in Pennsylvania employing creative feed solutions. One farm receives daily deliveries of apple waste from a nearby processing facility that supplies apple slices for school lunches.

Another gets three truckloads of produce discards and expired bread products delivered every week from area distribution centers. Producers have even started using waste from brewers, which is usually sour mash that results from beer production.

In November, several dairy farmers spoke publicly about using their cows to dispose of excess and rotted pumpkins​ leftover from Halloween.

“Working with area farmers as well as a large fruit and vegetable wholesale centers, we have recognized some practical issues that need to be addressed in order to grow the adoption of this model further – primarily the logistics of transport and costs, and the safe use of the materials on the farm, given their perishable natures,”​ Dr. Dou said.

These issues are the reason Penn Vet is looking for more sustainable solutions. Dou’s team is developing technology to unlock the resources in highly perishable IUUB materials, an initiative that’s consisting of creating a database, conducting research trials and assessing relevant nutritional, environmental and climate impacts.

“Dou’s circular agro-food system model doesn’t just focus on utilizing what goes into an animal, but also what comes out. Improving the practices of recycling manure back to cropland remains a key consideration,” ​Penn Vet said.

“The management impact is twofold: the value of manure nutrients for growing crops, and mitigation of water quality issues from spreading manure.”

Dou said that the US should support these practices, and showing the research to the public and to policymakers is critical to furthering the industry and combating challenges from climate change.

Source: DairyReporter

Milk producers challenge “big dairy”

OPINION  The phrase “big dairy” is often used to depersonalize dairy farmers and imply some large, faceless force foisting an agenda. Consolidation has occurred in agriculture for generations and family farms are expanding. But about three-quarters of U.S. dairy farms have fewer than 100 cows on them, according to the 2017 Census of Agriculture.

The largest farms produce the most milk, but even the biggest ones – 189 dairies with more than 5,000 cows – are too numerous and geographically dispersed to create a monolithic giant, the federation stated. More than 95 percent of all dairy farms, regardless of size, are operated by families.

“Big dairy” also appears to be a misnomer when one takes into account corporations. Land O’Lakes is ranked 212 on the Fortune 500. Dairy Farmers of America would make the list if it were publicly traded. Both are farmer-owned cooperatives. The cooperatives are tiny compared to health care, with four entries among Fortune’s top-10 companies, or oil with four in Fortune’s top-25.

Maybe big dairy is a myth invented by those who want to make farmers seem “big” to advance some contrasting image. Some competitors might want to be viewed as small-company, plant-based upstarts.

Perfect Day is selling tubs of imitation ice cream at $20 per pint. The company received funding from Temasek – a venture-capital arm of the government of Singapore – and Archer-Daniels-Midland, with $64 billion in annual sales. Other plant- and cell-based alternatives are financed by Jeff Bezos, whose net worth is about $115 billion, and Bill Gates, whose net worth is more $100 billion.

The gross receipts of all 40,000 dairy farmers in the United States – an estimated $39.9 billion – represent just two-fifths of Jeff Bezos’ net worth.

Dairy is a significant U.S. industry. The sector as a whole is responsible for about 3 million U.S. jobs and has an overall economic impact of more than $620 billion, including indirect effects, according to research commissioned by the National Milk Producers Federation and other dairy groups. 

The dairy industry is comprised of family farmers, cooperatives and companies of all sizes and types. They believe in the health and nutrition of their products and support them against opponents. Those opponents usually aren’t anywhere near the underdogs they pretend to be.

Source: kamaland

Using Ag to Predict the Super Bowl Winner

The matchup is set for Super Bowl LIV. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs will take on his counterpart Jimmy Garoppolo and the San Francisco 49ers for the National Football League’s ultimate prize on Feb. 2 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Fla. On the field, the game is chalk full of storylines.

For the Chiefs, for example, this Super Bowl appearance marks the team’s first since defeating the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV (4) in January 1970.

And the 49ers will look to capture its first Super Bowl victory since Super Bowl XLVII (47) in February 2013 when the team bested the Baltimore Ravens.

While football analysts will spend the next few weeks dissecting play calls and other in-depth stats, Farms.com does its own game analysis using stats from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Based on this analysis, Farms.com predicts the San Francisco 49ers will be this year’s Super Bowl champions.

Source: USagnet

Evers named 2020 Oregon Dairy Princess Ambassador

Jaime Evers, a current Oregon Tech student, was crowned the 2020 Oregon Dairy Princess Ambassador on Saturday.

Jaime Evers, a student at Oregon Tech in Klamath Falls, was crowned as the 2020 Oregon Dairy Princess Ambassador during a ceremony on Saturday in Salem, according to a news release.

Held at the Salem Convention Center, the 61st annual coronation event was hosted by the Oregon Dairy Women (ODW) on Saturday evening, Jan. 18. Evers, representing Klamath County, was among three candidates representing an entire county in Oregon – Taysha Veeman, representing Marion County, was named an alternate as Oregon Dairy Princess Ambassador.

Evers, 20, is a 2017 graduate of Banks High School, where she was raised in the Tualatin Valley on a dairy farm. She is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Biology-Health Sciences at Oregon, with aspirations to attend chiropractic schools after graduation.

Since 1959, the Oregon Dairy Women’s Dairy Princess Ambassador Program has served as the premier advocate for the Oregon Dairy Industry in collaboration with the Oregon Dairy Farmers Association and the Oregon Dairy Nutrition Council. The ODW award scholarships and provide financial support to 4-H and FFA programs, Agriculture in the Classroom, Ag Fest, Summer Ag Institute, Adopt-a-Farmer, and judging teams.

Her speech during the contest, titled “Telling Our Story: How Farmers Can Help Educate Consumers,” discussed ways that farmers can connect with consumers to promote dairy farming and dairy foods. Evers spent two days in interviews, answering impromptu questions and interacting with three judges before she was selected for the Oregon Dairy Princess Ambassador honor. The title comes with a $3,000 scholarship.

Evers will spend the year informing and educating the public about the dairy industry as a representative of Oregon dairy farmers, particularly in Oregon schools delivering educational presentations about life on dairy farms and the nutritional benefits of consuming dairy products.

Source: Herald and News

Holstein Association USA Updates Junior Transfer Deadline

Starting with the 2020 show season, Holstein Association USA has changed the Junior transfer “received by” deadline to July 15 for both heifers and cows. In order to be eligible to participate in Junior Holstein Shows, the animal must be registered in a youth’s name by July 15.

Changing the transfer deadline to July 15 puts the date more in line with all of the other dairy breed associations. Allowing Juniors an extra month and a half to purchase their show calves provides additional marketing opportunities.

“We are excited with the Junior transfer date change which allows youth more opportunities to purchase show animals later in the summer and the rule is now unified with the Red & White Dairy Cattle Association,” states Kelli Dunklee, youth programs specialist. “It is important to remember that this change only impacts Junior Holstein Shows – 4-H and other youth shows may have different deadlines.”

This is a “received by” deadline – any ownership transfer not received by the Holstein Association USA office on or before July 15 will not be eligible for Junior Holstein Shows. Adding or dropping any owner after the deadline will disqualify an animal for Junior recognition. If there is a question as to whether a Junior ownership transfer has been completed, be sure to contact the Holstein Association USA customer service or visit Holstein USA to check the ownership status and ensure the transfer was received before the deadline.

Holstein Association USA, Inc., provides products and services to dairy producers to enhance genetics and improve profitability–ranging from registry processing to identification programs to consulting services.

The Association, headquartered in Brattleboro, Vt., maintains the records for Registered Holsteins® and represents approximately 30,000 members throughout the United States.

USDA Halts Animal ID Plan

On October 25, 2019, USDA abruptly halted its animal ID plan, and suspended the timeline it presented earlier in the year for the transition from metal ear tags to radio frequency identification (RFID) tags for cattle and bison.  That plan set January 1, 2023 as the date all animals moving interstate, and falling within certain categories, would require individual, official RFID tags. 

Although the Animal Disease Traceability (ADT) implementation plan has been withdrawn, USDA acknowledges the continuing need for a national animal ID plan and encourages the use of electronic identification for animals moving interstate under the current ADT regulations. 

Holstein Association USA urges RFID tags for members that have cattle moving interstate, are merchandising or showing cattle, or have on-farm management systems that utilize RFID technology.

‘You have this burden that you carry’: For dairy farmers struggling to hold on, depression can take hold

When Randy Roecker learned that his neighbor, Leon Statz, had died from suicide, all the feelings from his own struggle with depression roared back.

It was Oct. 8, 2018.

In the parking lot at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, three of Roecker’s friends were discussing what had happened that day to Statz, whose dairy farm was a few miles from town. 

Roecker broke down and cried.

“You guys just don’t know what it’s like dealing with this,” he told them.

Roecker, who is also a dairy farmer, understood the severe depression that Statz experienced when his farm was in trouble. He’d been through it himself. 

“You have this burden that you carry,” he said. “I kept feeling all the time that I was a failure, that I had let everybody down.” 

Dairy farmer Randy Roecker has battled chronic depression brought on by the stresses of farming.

Some parishioners at St. Peter’s, where Statz was a member, knew he was battling depression. But since he was receiving out-patient treatment, they assumed he wasn’t at risk of dying from suicide.  

Statz had suffered from depression for years. He felt deeply responsible for keeping his third-generation farm afloat through hard times – including the dairy crisis triggered after milk prices collapsed in late 2014. 

In his mind, difficulties on the farm would quickly slip from “bad to catastrophic,” said Brenda Statz, his widow and wife of 34 years. 

She and Leon hadn’t lost their farm, but they had struggled some as they transitioned from dairy to beef and grain farming. For Leon, the change represented a huge failure. 

“He would say, ‘I’m a dairyman, not a grain farmer,'” Brenda recalled.

This year alone, about 800 dairy farmers in Wisconsin quit or were forced out of the business, a rate of more than two per day.  Some left in despair, having lost not only their livelihood but the home they grew up in, which their parents or grandparents had built. 

“You feel like you are letting down all the previous generations of your family if you don’t farm anymore,” Roecker said. 

Success can be costly, stressful 

At Roecker’s Rolling Acres, you’d never know anything was amiss. It’s a showcase operation that has hosted many foreign visitors touring Wisconsin dairy farms. 

The 300-cow operation has been in Randy Roecker’s family since the 1930s. He’s an experienced farmer and board member of Dairy Management Inc., the national organization that promotes dairy products through ad campaigns such as “Undeniably Dairy.”

Thirteen years ago the farm underwent a major expansion costing about $3 million. 

It was aimed at keeping the farm up to date, and to bring Randy’s two children, now adults, into the operation as his parents, now in their 80s, ease out. 

“It’s not all gloom and doom in the dairy industry,” Roecker said. “But in order to survive, in any business, you have to grow. If you don’t, you’re falling behind.”

Still, the debt, and the recession that followed the expansion, triggered financial stress that became unbearable. The farm was losing up to $30,000 a month, undermining years of hard work and careful planning for the future.

That’s when Roecker’s depression kicked in. 

“I just felt so alone. There was nobody to help me get through all this stuff,” he said. “It got to the point where I wanted to die every day.”

He couldn’t turn it off at night, either. 

“All of this starts playing with your mind,” Roecker said. “You try to sleep, and it gets worse because it’s all going through your head. You feel like everything’s spiraling out of control.” 

And, that’s exactly what happened.  

One time he found himself in the barn, looking up at some ropes in the hayloft. More than once he had contemplated ending his life by suicide, and it scared him. 

“I never had problems with depression before, but when this hit me, it was bad,” he said. 

Farmers push back against depression

Roecker was hospitalized three times for depression. Over a period of about seven years he battled it with therapy and antidepressant medications which, as a side-effect, can increase suicidal thoughts. 

Some people knew he was struggling but didn’t step up to help. His wife of 32 years, overwhelmed with the stress from the farm, filed for divorce. 

“I felt like all of my friends just dropped me, that no one wanted anything to do with me,” Roecker said. “I felt like I was suffering alone in silence. The awareness of depression is out there, but we still have to shed this stigma of not talking about it.”

With help from a therapist, he gradually started getting his life back in order. Then the 54-year-old farmer heard about Statz’s death.

“It just put me back where I was,” Roecker said. “I told my therapist, that since I have gone through this myself, and there is just nobody out there helping farmers deal with this, I feel like it’s my calling to do something.”

Roecker, Brenda Statz and fellow church member Dale Meyer, a retired police detective, organized “Farm Neighbors Care” events at St. Peter’s church.

At one of those meetings in early December, farmers talked openly about their struggles with stress, depression and financial hardships.

About 40 people, including some who were not St. Peter’s parishioners, met in the church basement for a lunch of turkey sandwiches, soup and cookies served in exchange for a free-will offering.

They chatted about the wet fall harvest and how challenging it had been for farmers to get crops out of the fields. There was a lighthearted, humorous presentation from Ben Bromley, a former Baraboo News Republic columnist.

Then the discussion turned serious, with presentations from farmers, parishioners and public health officials who offered resources for anyone experiencing mental health issues. 

“Leon was a member of this church. He was stressed out, but we felt that we didn’t do what we should have for him,” Meyer said. “And in Randy’s situation, people knew about it, but nobody got around him and said ‘Randy, how can we help?'” 

One of the takeaway messages was that farmers could also help each other because they understood the unique challenges in agriculture, where the weather and global markets, out of a farmer’s control, can turn their world upside down.

“We’ve had low milk prices for five years … you burn through the equity in your farm because you’re borrowing money to keep going,” Roecker said. “I tell my friends in town, ‘You don’t know what it’s like. We have no savings, no benefits.'” 

The handful of meetings this year have drawn farmers from hours away and have been replicated at other churches in Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota.

“I want other farmers to be able to reach out to me,” Roecker said. “I have gotten calls from people in four or five states. The biggest thing is to just listen.”

Help is available for farmers

For some, the notion of friends, neighbors and relatives knowing about their mental health issues is simply too much, even if they would understand. But there are confidential services anyone can turn to for help, and that includes places that understand farmers. 

The Wisconsin Farm Center, part of the state agriculture department, has a staff very familiar with farming. The Madison-based agency offers a wide range of free services including help sorting out farm finances. They offer vouchers that farmers and their families can use to get counseling at clinics across the state. 

“We want farmers to feel like they’re being understood. You’d be surprised at how much just spending an hour with someone can help,” said Angie Sullivan, the Farm Center’s agriculture program manager. 

The agency has a mediation service that can give farmers some relief from creditors. Also, there’s help available for settling family disputes, like when different generations disagree on their farm’s path forward. 

“Let’s talk about some ways you can manage this really difficult time in your life,” Sullivan said. “We can sit at your kitchen table as many times as you need us, to go over your financial picture or your transition plan.”

Some of the agency’s staff are ex-farmers or are still farming. Some have 30 years’ experience in agricultural banking and other areas of agribusiness. 

“What we’re seeing, unfortunately, is many farmers have not been able to pay back their operating loans for the last couple of years. Many are stressed to the limit credit-wise,” Sullivan said. 

The group Farm Aid offers similar assistance. Its (800) FARM-AID crisis line provides services to farm families, and its Farmer Resource Network connects farmers to organizations across the country. 

“In the last two years we have seen a pretty drastic increase in the number of calls, as well as the number of calls that have a crisis component,” said Madeline Lutkewitte, manager of the Farm Aid crisis line based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. 

“We have had a lot of calls from people in dairy farming who just haven’t been able to keep up with their bills and can’t get loans for the remainder of the year and next spring,” she said.

This winter, Wisconsin farm couples can attend workshops in Mineral Point, Wausau, Appleton, Waupun, Eau Claire and Rice Lake, aimed at helping them manage stress associated with financial problems. 

The workshops, sponsored by the state agriculture department and University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension, will include a segment on how to talk with children about problems on the farm, and decision-making when the farm may have to shut down. 

“Our mission is to keep people farming … but sometimes there are no options except to leave, so we want to do whatever we can to help people be prepared for that, and to make it through that time as a couple and a family,” Sullivan said. 

Dairy farmers are especially vulnerable

Leon Statz’s identity was in being a dairy farmer, and it showed in everything he did. 

Year after year, he won awards from his cooperative, Foremost Farms, for producing high-quality milk. His wife, Brenda, displayed those awards at his funeral, thinking Leon would have liked that. 

“His pride was in producing a quality product,” she said.

And he lived for the challenge. 

So when Leon’s depression became so bad that he hadn’t worked in months, he sank in despair.

“His philosophy was, if you weren’t working, you weren’t worth anything,” Brenda said. 

He would try to help out a neighbor on their farm but would be overcome with anxiety that he might do something wrong, that some machinery might break while he was operating it.  

“He would leave me notes and say, ‘I am trying to do the best I can,’” Brenda said.

Since Leon’s death, she has become an advocate for farmer mental health and suicide prevention. 

There aren’t many reliable statistics on farmer suicide rates, but experts say that dairy farmers are especially vulnerable because their lives are inseparable from their work – cows must be milked two or three times a day, 365 days a year. 

“We only went on one vacation, ever, with our kids when they were little,” Brenda said. 

Often, farmers experiencing depression will isolate themselves. They don’t visit with neighbors as much as they used to, or they may spend more time in the barn alone. Some will make their death look like an accident.

Farmers are private people, and if they reach out for help, you had better take it seriously, Brenda said. 

At the Farm Neighbors Care meeting at St. Peter’s church in Loganville, ex-dairy farmer Steven Rynkowski opened up about his story and delivered a heartfelt rendition of the song “Take Heart My Friend.”

For much of his adult life he had experienced episodes of depression. Then, his farm ran into trouble following an expansion that pushed him into financial difficulties.

He overdosed on alcohol and pills, maybe not a suicide attempt, but it sent him to the hospital.

Three years after his overdose, and 30 years after he started dairy farming right out of high school, Rynkowski quit the business. 

“It was very hard on me because farming was my way of life,” he said. 

He’s since helped other farmers face the end of their career

“I don’t wish what I went through on anybody. But because I went through it, I am a different person, a better person. … It’s not going to be an easy road out of it, but there is life after dairy farming,” Rynkowski said. 

He added: “My faith has a lot to do with it. You are a child of God, and you have worth well beyond farming or whatever it is you do for a living.”

If you or anyone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, at (800) 273-8255, for immediate help.

Source: USA Today

What US farmers make of Trump’s trade deal

President Trump has touted his new US-China trade agreement as a boon for America’s farmers, who have suffered under a nearly-two-year tariff standoff with Beijing. But what do they think?

A summary of the new agreement says that Beijing will now “strive” to purchase an additional $5bn (£3.8bn) of US agricultural products over the next two years.

“That will result in greater prosperity for farmers all across the land,” Mr Trump said as he signed the agreement.

But farmers in Wisconsin – the swing state proudly billed as America’s Dairyland – remain uncertain. And as the president seeks re-election, that could matter.

In 2016, Mr Trump clinched the state by a 0.8% margin, becoming the first Republican to do so since Ronald Reagan in 1984.

In Wisconsin, such a razor’s-edge victory is typical.

In three of the five past presidential elections, victory in Wisconsin has been decided by less than one percentage point. In 2000, this margin was made up of 6,000 votes, in 2004 about 13,000.

Farmers make up about 11% of the electorate in Wisconsin, says Charles Franklin, director of the state’s leading poll at Marquette Law School.

The plight of a dairy farm

“They’re a modest bloc,” Mr Franklin says. But even a modest bloc “could be responsible for tipping a one-point election”.

So how are farmers feeling about the future?

Short presentational grey line

‘It’s a slow death’

“Every year you lose a few farms, every year you lose a few farmers who don’t want to keep doing this,” says Will Hsu, president of Hsu Ginseng, a ginseng farm in central Wisconsin’s Marathon County.

Ginseng famers Will and Paul Hsu
Will Hsu’s father, Paul, began ginseng farming in Wisconsin in 1974

The region is reliably Republican – Marathon County went for Trump over Clinton by an 18 point margin in 2016 – and is home to more than 95% of the United States’ ginseng, almost all of which is shipped to China.

In the 1990s there were 1,000 ginseng farmers in Wisconsin, Mr Hsu says, growing more than 2m lbs of ginseng.

“There are only about 180 farmers left,” he says. “It’s death by a thousand cuts.”

It’s hard work. Ginseng takes three to five years to reach maturity and cannot be farmed on the same land twice.

And it’s been made harder by the trade war, Mr Hsu says, which has pushed tariffs up from 8% to 38%, a punishing reality for farmers who rely on Chinese consumers for their survival.

Many farmers are bearing costs themselves – lowering prices to offset the added tax.

It’s not quite devastation, he says, but the pressure on farmers is building.

“It’s a slow death,” he says.

Farm in Omro, Wisconsin

Hsu’s criticism of the president’s trade war has raised eyebrows from some in his community, he says.

“I hear from a lot of farmers who say I’m a little too vocal against Trump’s policies, that I should be supportive of him.”

But even though Hsu might support Trump ideologically, “there’s also the realistic part of me,” he says. And “realistically, it’s hurting everyone and our pocketbooks.”

Short presentational grey line

‘Farmers are always the pawns’

Joel Greeno, 52, grew up on a dairy farm in Monroe County in west Wisconsin. It was “pretty much assumed” he would continue the family tradition, he says.

Wisconsin farmer Joel Greeno
For Joel Greeno, it was “assumed” that he would follow his family into farming

In 1990, he did, buying a 160 acre dairy farm and 48 cows of his own.

But after twenty years of business, staring down economic ruin, he was forced to sell.

“It was just excruciating,” he says.

To Mr Greeno, who now farms vegetables in addition to nightshifts at Wisconsin’s Ocean Spray cranberry factory, Mr Trump’s trade war has added needless stress to an already fragile industry.

For years, Wisconsin has led the US in farm bankruptcies. In 2019, the state lost one in 10 of its dairy farms, marking the biggest decline on record.

Exports of US dairy products to China declined by over 50% in 2019, and the US Dairy Export Council estimated last year that retaliatory tariffs from China could cost US dairy farmers $12.2bn by 2023 if they remain in place.

Cow at tri-fecta farmHolly Honderich

“Tariffs only hurt us,” he says. “There was no thought process whatsoever.”

He continues: “Our labour is stolen, our lives are stolen, our families are broken and it’s all because we have politicians who are absolutely clueless to the reality of farming.”

“Farmers are always the pawns.”

Short presentational grey line

‘Ray of hope’

“We’ve dealt with declining prices before, but it hasn’t lasted this long before,” Katy Schultz says as she walks through the barn at Tri-Fecta farms, the 400-cow dairy farm she owns with her two siblings just outside of Fox Lake.

Katy Schultz

The US-China trade war added “insult to injury” during a difficult period for farmers, she says. “It was already not great times and not great prices.”

“I won’t sugar coat that… We struggled. We struggled with everyone.”

In the weeks before the agreement was signed, people in her community had been talking about the possibilities of a new deal. For some, Mr Trump’s promises gave them a “ray of hope” to hang on through difficult conditions.

Just one door over from 2,000 acres, a neighbour boasts a towering flag pole on the front lawn, adorned with a massive Trump 2020 flag. It’s not unexpected in Dodge County – which went for Trump in 2016 by a 30-point margin.

Ms Schultz doesn’t say who she voted for, disclosing only that her siblings were “divided” at the ballot box.

“I don’t care if they’re Democrat or Republican. I just want to know that they’re rowing in the same boat that I am,” Ms Schultz says. But there are some things the president has done that “you can’t really deny”, like the record-low unemployment rate.

Trump flag
A Trump flag flies outside the president’s rally in Milwaukee

“Is [the deal] the answer to everything? Probably not,” she says. But, “I think there’s some optimism now.”

Source: BBC

Trump thanks farmers for support through China trade war

President Donald Trump thanked farmers Sunday for supporting him through a trade war with China as he promoted a new North American trade agreement and a separate one with China that he said will massively benefit farmers.

“We did it,” Trump said, recalling his campaign promises to improve America’s trading relationships with other countries.

At one point during his address to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s convention, Trump said he has strong support among farmers following his signing last week of a preliminary trade deal with China.

When Trump spoke to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s last year, he urged farmers to continue supporting him even as they suffered financially in the fallout from his trade war with China and a partial shutdown of the federal government.

His follow-up speech Sunday at this year’s convention in Austin, Texas, gave him a chance to make the case to farmers that he kept promises he made as a candidate to improve trade with China and separately with Canada and Mexico.

He thanked farmers for staying “in the fight.”

“You were always with me,” Trump said. “You never even thought of giving up and we got it done.”

The Republican president wants another term in office and is seeking to shore up support among his base, including farmers.

Trump announced he is taking steps to protect the water rights of farmers and ranchers by directing the Army Corps of Engineers to immediately withdraw a new water supply rule and allow states to manage water resources based on their own needs and what the agricultural community wants.

“Water is the lifeblood of agriculture and we will always protect your water supply,” Trump said.

Trump signed a preliminary trade deal with China at the White House last Wednesday that commits Beijing to boosting its imports of U.S. manufacturing, energy and farm goods by $200 billion this year and next. That includes larger purchases of soybeans and other farm goods expected to reach $40 billion a year, the U.S. has said, though critics wonder if China can meet the targets.

In Austin, Trump described the trade agreement with China as “groundbreaking” and said, “We’re going to sell the greatest product you’ve ever seen.”

Also last week, the Senate voted overwhelmingly in favor of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, a successor to the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement. The administration designed the new agreement to return some factory production to the United States, mostly automobiles.

Trump said in Austin that U.S. farmers will also benefit under USMCA, which he said will “massively boost exports” for farmers, ranchers, growers from “North to South” and “from sea to shining sea.”

NAFTA had triggered a surge in trade among the three countries, but Trump and other critics blamed it for U.S. job losses brought about when American factories moved production south of the border to take advantage of low-wage labor in Mexico.

The House passed the U.S.-Mexico-Canada deal in December. Trump said he would sign it after he returns from a trip to Europe this week.

In his remarks to farmers, Trump claimed his administration is doing things no other administration has ever done.

“And what do I get out of it? I get impeached,” he said. “That’s what I get. By these radical-left lunatics, I get impeached. But that’s OK. The farmers are sticking with Trump.”

The president’s trial in the Senate gets underway in earnest on Tuesday.

Source: WFMZ

Australia to push China to match dairy trade concessions made to US

Australian trade negotiators will push China to match dairy trade concessions made to the United States in a landmark trade deal, as Australia’s $4 billion dairy industry looks to ram itself into the world’s largest market.

As part of phase one of its trade deal with the China, the US secured relaxed inspection, licensing and technical regulations on dairy products in what analysts have described as one of the more substantial concessions of the negotiations between the two superpowers.

Officials and members of Chinese state owned media companies visit the A2 Milk factory in Sydney.

Officials and members of Chinese state owned media companies visit the A2 Milk factory in Sydney. James Brickwood

The same regulations have hampered Australian dairy exporters. In June up to $1 billion was wiped from shares in a2 Milk after China announced tougher restrictions on importing baby milk formula in a bid to bolster its local market.

Yun Jiang, co-editor of China Neican and a former federal public servant, said it appeared unlikely the same treatment will be extended to products from other countries given the clauses specifically refer to US regulators and “Australia may be adversely affected by this trade deal”.

The negotiations have become more urgent as the Chinese economy slows to its lowest rate of growth in 29 years and Australian producers like a2 Milk compete with global companies for a share of China’s burgeoning middle class.

Official figures released on Friday showed China’s economy grew by 6.1 per cent in 2019, as the trade war with the United States hit business and consumer demand. The rate still places it well above western economies and remains within the Chinese Communist Party’s target range.

Trump, China sign ‘Phase 1’ of trade deal

President Donald Trump signed a trade agreement Wednesday with China that is expected to boost exports from US farmers and manufacturers and is aimed at lowering tensions in a long-running dispute between the economic powers.

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said Australia “would expect common regulatory standards to operate without favouring the US over other nations”. He said he would also be encouraging other counterparts to make that point to China.

“Australia always encourages trading partners to remove unnecessary non-tariff barriers, and as far as this deal leads to a reduction in administrative barriers, we would welcome it,” he said.

“Australian exporters can or are already meeting these technical standards.”

a2 Milk said on Thursday any improvement in the global trading environment were a positive sign for companies engaged in China.

Industry bodies including Australian Dairy Farmers are expected to lobby the government to ensure that Australian producers do not lose further market share in China to international giants, Nestle, Danone and Mead Johnson.

In November, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg approved a $1.43 billion take over of one of Australia’s largest baby formula producers, Bellamy’s Organic. The Tasmanian company is now a wholly owned subsiduary of Chinese dairy giant China Mengniu.

Source: WAtoday

Whatever happened to A2 milk?

In 2011 the launch of A2 milk was hailed a breakthrough for consumers who suffered an allergic reaction to ordinary milk.

Researchers in New Zealand had found that cows produced milk with two types of beta-casein protein, either A1 or A2.

While the A1 protein triggered digestive problems in some, the A2 type showed a much-reduced effect.

Further research showed that roughly 50% of cows had the genetic make-up to produce A2 milk.

Recognising the marketing opportunity of a non-allergenic milk, the NZ researchers commercialised a DNA test to identify A2 cows and formed the A2 Milk Corporation.

Branded A2 milk arrived on UK supermarket shelves in September 2012 and the product quickly developed a loyal following.

Contracts to supply Robert Wiseman with A2 milk were offered in 2012 and initial demand and growth forecasts translated into a 2.5p/litre premium.

This threw a potential lifeline to producers in the grip of that year’s price crisis and about a dozen converted to producing A2 milk.

Many sold off non-A2 cows, which accounted for half their herds, and bought in replacements at a premium.

Initially it appeared a shrewd move, with UK retail sales in 1,000 outlets passing £1m within 12 months.

Muller then took over Robert Wiseman Dairies and a joint venture between Muller-Wiseman and the A2 Milk Corporation promised greater investment in the UK market.

Under the joint venture, Muller-Wiseman procured, processed and distributed the milk, but the A2 Milk Corporation took over product marketing and sales. This decision proved pivotal.

Daiety cow with an extra ear tag

A dairy cow with an extra A2 ear tag © Rhian Price/Proagrica

While countries such as the US, China and Australia saw solid growth – A2 milk captured 8% of the Australian market – UK customers proved more of a challenge.

Marketing a new premium product on shelves dominated by cheap fresh milk amid burgeoning sales of plant-based alternatives was difficult for the relatively small A2 Milk Corporation.

Sales growth failed to match early rates and last summer the renamed A2 Milk Company announced it was quitting the UK to focus on other markets.

It blamed “category conditions which meant that developing a scalable premium-priced, fresh milk, proposition was increasingly challenging”.

The decision to quit had followed a strategic, global review, an A2 spokeswoman told Farmers Weekly.

With just 600 employees worldwide, it made sense to focus on the fastest-growing markets.

The UK supplier relationships forged had been very important, the spokeswoman said.

“This decision does not preclude us from pursuing markets for liquid milk or other products in the UK in the future,” she said.

Case study

One farmer who converted to A2 milk production in 2012 was Shropshire-based Neale Sadler.

In 2012 the 2.5p/litre premium offered for A2 milk produced at his Bridge Farm near Shrewsbury represented a significant incentive in a turbulent market.

The bonus was paid on all milk produced by bought-in cows for two years, with a 1p/litre premium for milk produced by existing A2 cows in a supplier’s herd.

A £300-a-cow subsidy was included in the deal as an incentive to sign up and to help offset the cost of replacements.

DNA tests revealed that 57% of the farm’s 75 cows did not carry the A2 protein trait and these were sold off.

The herd took time to rebuild, but the initial dip in overall milk production post-conversion was cushioned by the bonus and an increase in yield per cow.

However, beyond the first two years, the bonus was paid only on the proportion of milk which went into the A2-branded product.

With sales failing to match the early growth, that proportion amounted to 20% of Bridge Farm’s milk. The remaining 80% attracted the standard Muller price.

Mr Sadler said he had no regrets about the venture because it was a product he believed in.

His own health had improved, with a persistent eczema problem clearing up after switching to drinking A2 milk.

However, sales outside the UK, particularly in China where the product underpins baby milk powder, have boomed, said Mr Sadler, who has closely followed the A2 Milk Company’s fortunes.

“The decision to quit the UK is down to that huge uptake in Asia and the company has had to refocus on meeting that demand,” he said.

Our market was small by comparison and was a victim of the global success, he added.

Source: Farmers Weekly

Pender farmer who cut off his own leg to save his life is back on two feet

What some might see as a chore, Kurt Kaser sees as a blessing.

“I don’t like to sit around,” Pender farmer Kaser said.

This hard-working farmer is used to making tracks until a nearly fatal mistake stopped him dead in his.

“My leg went in and I knew it was not going to be good,” Kaser said.

One false step into the opening of his grain auger and Kurt knew that he had lost his leg, but he was determined not to lose his life.

“For some reason, I thought of my pocket knife. No hesitation,” Kaser said.

As the auger pulled at his leg, Kurt pulled out his knife and cut through muscle and nerves, freeing himself from the machine.

“Headed to the house on my elbows, dragging myself. About gave up where I was going because I was getting worn out,” Kaser said.

But giving up is something Kurt has ever been known to do. He made it 200 feet army crawling to a phone and called for help.

“When we went down to the hospital to see him first things out of his mouth was ‘Why are you guys not working?’ At that point, I knew it wasn’t going to take him long,” farm hand Tyler Hilkemann said.

“They told me I wouldn’t have a leg in 6-8 months,” said Kaser.

Proving doctors wrong and the ones that know him right, Kurt was on two feet again in half the time they predicted and back to work before anyone could have expected.

“Ever since he got his leg you can’t stop him,” Hilkemann said. “One of these days we might steal it from him, but other than that we aren’t going to be able to stop him and he’ll probably be going until the day he dies.”

Putting one leg in front of the other, it might take him a little longer, but Kurt has tried to get back to his normal work schedule. Even running the auger that almost took his life.

“It just makes you go if he can do it, I can do it,” said Hilkemann.

“You have to have the determination to do it and if you want it bad enough, you can do anything,” Kaser said.

Source: Souixland

Secretary Perdue unsure when third MFP payment will hit mailboxes

As the Trump administration promises the third tranche of its Market Facilitation Program (MFP) payment is coming soon, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue says the administration is “hoping and expecting” that recent and upcoming trade deals will mean further MFP payments won’t be necessary.

In particular, Perdue says he thinks the phase one agreement with China announced last week, which the administration expects will bring as much as $80 billion in purchases over the next two years, will curb the need for supplementing farmers’ income. MFP payments are intended to financially assist farmers and ranchers who have been directly and adversely impacted by foreign retaliatory tariffs imposed because of the trade war with China, and a the third upcoming payment has been estimated at $3.625 billion.

Perdue, who made his comments Monday during a press conference at the annual American Farm Bureau’s conference in Austin, Texas, says he thinks the trade deal with China, as well as other countries, will bring enough fiscal benefit to the agriculture community in 2020. “It may be the summer or fall before we see the full benefit of that $40 to $50 billion. The president has demonstrated his ability to do what it takes to preserve the ag sector in this country,” Perdue says.

The administration will begin immediately begin working with China on phase two of its trade deal, Perdue says, as it also enters into discussions with countries such as India and in the European Union. Last week, the Senate passed the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which is expected to be signed by President Donald Trump this week.

Trump also appeared at the conference Sunday night to speak about the various trade agreements he has made and in the works, arguing that his negotiations earned the U.S. greater respect in China and elsewhere. “We have a formula that I think is working out very well. If it’s not, call me directly and I’ll give Sonny hell,” Trump said Sunday.

Perdue didn’t have a timeline on when the third MFP payment would be coming, other than to say it is assured and imminent.

On labor, Perdue says that he has been pushing the administration to implement a temporary legal guest worker program for farmers who need workers. “That’s what agriculture needs, and that’s what we want. It doesn’t offend people who are anti-immigrant because they don’t want more immigrant citizens here,” he said during closing remarks for the conference.

There had been speculation that the administration might make an announcement about a replacement for the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, which the Obama administration expanded in 2015 to allow the regulation of a broader set of waterways, much to the consternation of the agricultural community. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Army announced in September a repeal of the 2015 rule. The move restored the previous regulatory standards.

While a replacement rule wasn’t announced, Trump did bring up the topic Sunday.

“I terminated one of the most ridiculous regulations of all: the last administration’s disastrous Waters of the United States rule,” Trump says. “As long as I’m President, government will never micromanage

America’s farmers. You’re going to micromanage your own farm, and that’s the way it should be.” Trump also says that he is removing a water supply rule that allowed the federal government to restrict farmers’ access to water.

“I am directing the Corps of Engineers to immediately withdraw the proposed rule and allow states to manage their water resources based on their own needs and based on what their farmers and ranchers want,” Trump says.

Source: Successful Farming

Dairy Supporter, Mentor, James H Armbruster Passes

Jim was born on April 10, 1938, to Andrew and Lydia (Seifert) Armbruster, Mequon, Wis. After his father’s death in 1950, the family grew the farm into a registered dairy operation and began Armbruster Brother’s Farms. Jim credits his brother, Edgar for his success and the family’s survival. Upon graduation in 1963 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Jim worked for mentee Lyle Spencer in Eagle, Wis., selecting premium dairy cattle for Red Brae’s registered Brown Swiss herd. Jim married Mary Lee Zimmerman of Burlington, Wis. in 1970.

Jim was a dedicated and prominent cow man. He judged major dairy cattle shows throughout the US, Latin America, and Europe. A beloved fixture of World Dairy Expo, he was the first recipient of the A.C. “Whitie” Thompson Award, recognizing exemplary showmanship and leadership.

Jim’s lifelong career in Agriculture was highlighted by his service to his alma mater. As Dairy Herdsman for the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Jim was a recognized and awarded coach, teacher, and mentor. He had an impact on scores of students during his tenure and beyond.

After retiring, Jim farmed, raising and assembling dairy heifers for sale and export. He enjoyed travelling to visit his children, cheering on Wisconsin sports, spending time with his dear friend Patricia Rohloff and her family, and taking adventures of all kinds. Friends and family will remember his charisma, humor, and generosity.

Jim is survived by daughter, Heidi; sons, Troy (Jessica) and Chad (Ellen); and grandson, Walter. He leaves behind his brother, Edgar (Phyllis); nephews, Steve, David, and Eric; and nieces, Jill (Chuck Jinkins), Lea Ann (Jeff) Bleck (children, Elise and Brady), and Beth (David) Storms (children Calli and Wyatt). He was preceded in death by his brother, Andrew.

A Funeral Service will be held on Sat., Jan. 25, 2020 at noon at First Presbyterian Church, 5763 County Rd. Q, Waunakee with Pastor Kirk Morledge celebrant. Visitation will be held from 10 a.m. until the time of service at the church. A reception to celebrate Jim’s life will follow at Rex’s Innkeeper, Waunakee. The family thanks the caregivers at UW Health, UW Hospital, and Agrace Hospice for their compassionate care. In lieu of flowers, charitable donations can be made to the organization of your choice in Jim’s name.

Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin Board Appoints Roden

The Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin board of directors appoint dairy farmer Rick Roden, Roden Echo Valley, LLC, to serve as the representative for District 18 covering Sheboygan, Ozaukee, Washington, Waukesha, Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha Counties.

Roden farms with his wife, Melissa, and his parents Bob and Cindy Roden near West Bend. Rick’s sister Jacki owns and operates Roden Barnyard Adventures on the family dairy.

“Rick has been involved with agriculture groups over the years and is very eager to learn more about dairy promotion,” says Jeff Strassburg, Wittenburg dairy farmer and Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin board chair. “His experience and passion for the industry will complement the current board members.”

This appointment comes following the death of Sheboygan Falls dairy farmer and former DFW board member Dean Strauss. Roden will serve District 18 through the remaining term.

There were three candidates interested in the district seat, which will be open for election in 2022.

For more information about Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin sign up for our e-newsletter at www.WisconsinDairy.org/farmernewsletter or connect with the company on Facebook.

About Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin: Funded by Wisconsin dairy farmers, Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin is a non-profit organization that focuses on marketing and promoting Wisconsin’s world-class dairy products. For more information, visit our website at WisconsinDairy.org.

Send this to a friend