Farm Wisconsin Discovery Center debuts

By Jessie Cameron
After more than eight years of planning, fund raising and then, finally, building, the Farm Wisconsin Discovery Center has come to life along Interstate 43 just outside of Manitowoc.
From the beginning, the center’s goal was simple: To help educate the 98 percent of people who do not work on farms to understand where their food comes from.
“So many people do not know what happens on a modern farm,” says Executive Director Lauren Rose Hofland. “They don’t really know where their food comes from or all of the sustainability initiatives farmers engage in. Farmers are now growing more food using less resources.”

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Trotter: Supply management for U.S. dairy? We’ll pass

By Tim Trotter
Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative
Low milk prices. Widespread uncertainty. Vanishing equity.
Dairy farmers have had enough with the prolonged depression in the dairy economy. So much so that some are opening their ears to the clamor for a Canadian-style supply management system.
The willingness of U.S. farmers to even dream of what is being sold as a heavenly solution to the financial turmoil is understandable. For many, their livelihoods and legacies are at stake. But supply management is absolutely the wrong answer for our dairy community.

Hurry up and wait.
In Canada, most days there are waiting lists to become a dairy farmer. If you aren’t the son or daughter of a dairy farmer, good luck getting into the business. Even when a farmer is able to buy in through a government exchange, he or she rarely gets as big of a share as desired.
U.S. agriculture already faces challenges finding labor to run farms today, much less recruiting the next generation to continue. The U.S. Department of Agriculture charts a continued rise in the age of farmers. Between 1992 and 2012, the age rose eight years to 58. The next round of numbers will likely show the same trend. There are also fewer new farmers.
And, oh yeah, the cost of quota for a dairy farm in Canada would start in the tens of thousands of dollars — per cow. Good luck to a young newcomer with limited assets. It is hard to be a new dairy farmer in the United States. It is even harder in Canada. We do not want to head in that direction.

They are from the government and are here to help.
Ask almost any farmer their opinion of government, and you will likely hear that there is already too much of it. Although well intentioned, regulations often do more harm than good and just make life more complicated for farmers. Why would we want another part of our business controlled by the government?
Now, it only makes sense for dairy processors and the farmers who supply them to discuss demand. Cooperatives and private processors are already having those conversations. No farmer can operate in a vacuum. His or her decisions to grow or shift production must be in line with the market for the milk. Those business-to-business conversations should continue, but there is no need for the government to get in the middle. Experience has shown us this does not help.

An eagle and a beaver are different animals.
It is difficult to compare the United States’ dairy economy to Canada’s. The size and scale of each is radically different. Canada has a far smaller population and the domestic market for dairy there is smaller than that of California alone. There is a higher cost of living, high tax burden and elevated government spending. It would be hard to find many fans of any of these.
America is the land of opportunity, where anyone can pursue their dreams. Farmers, by nature, are independent. Why would we want to be beholden to the government to run our farms? We do not want the government to tell us how many cows we have, what we can do with them or who we can sell them to. The beauty of our dairy community is that we are free to farm at the size that works for our family and our goals.

Trade more; do better.
So, then, what do we do to turn things around?
Some dairy groups have been focused on the rebranding and retrofitting of the Margin Protection Program (MPP). It is great if these changes help more dairy farmers. However, our co-op’s lobbying efforts have never been focused on MPP. We believe farmers should have access to more diverse risk management options.
With that in mind, we supported lifting the enrollment cap on Livestock Gross Margin-Dairy and creating the Dairy Revenue Protection program. At the same time, we have tried to empower more farmers to use the financial markets to address risk management. Ultimately, risk management plays a role in profitably farming, but reducing the need for it by creating higher and more stable prices is preferable. There may not be an easy way to do that, but if we’re looking for a fix, history can be our guide.
The last periods of high prices coincided with record growth in exports. Trade alone will not solve all issues with milk price, of course, but it is hard to imagine a recovery that does not have growth in trade at its core. Our co-op has worked with others from agriculture and beyond to safeguard the gains we have made from agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement, while also looking for new opportunities and markets.
We must look at bilateral trade agreements and can start by focusing on potentially large markets like the United Kingdom and Japan. There is also potential in several rapidly growing markets for dairy products.
There is no doubt that times are tough, but farmers are resilient. We must continue to work hard, adopt new technology and think creatively. And dismiss the calls for government control.
Tim Trotter is executive director of Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative, which is based in Green Bay, Wis., and represents farms of all sizes in nine Midwestern states on federal dairy policy.

Dairy group pleased as new farm bill moves forward

GREEN BAY, Wis. — A Wisconsin-based group representing hundreds of Midwestern dairy farmers is applauding the U.S. Senate for passing its version of the farm bill Thursday and maintaining momentum in the push for full reauthorization by a Sept. 30 deadline.
The Senate’s bill will need to be reconciled with the House’s version, which was approved last week, through a conference committee.
“We appreciate the U.S. Senate passing a bipartisan farm bill,” said Brody Stapel, president of the board of directors for Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative, who farms with his family in eastern Wisconsin.
Stapel said Edge will work with members of both the Senate and House to “finish the job.”
Both the House and Senate versions of the bill include provisions designed to help dairy farmers and they reflect Edge’s priorities, Stapel said. For example, the Senate’s bill strengthens the dairy safety net, funds critical market development programs and includes new incentives for dairy products through the SNAP (food stamp) program.
“Not every bill is perfect and there is still room for improvement,” he said. “So, we hope the conference committee’s work is productive and positive.” Edge’s lobbying team has actively worked to ensure that the dairy community’s interests are adequately addressed in the final farm bill, Stapel said. Edge’s members have been directly engaged, as well. As recently as this week, members were on Capitol Hill contacting lawmakers to communicate the dairy community’s top priorities.
“We are proud to bring the voice of milk to Washington and we are encouraged by our progress,” he said. “In the end, we want the best possible outcome for our dairy farmers.”

Wisconsin could get first soybean crushing plant

By Jessie Cameron
Wisconsin may soon have its first soybean crushing facility.
If the $150 million project moves forward in Waupun, construction would start in 2019 and open in 2020. The plant would process up to 100,000 bushels of soybeans a day. Waupun and the Wisconsin Soybean Marketing Board are jointly soliciting the facility’s development.
A 65.5-acre location in Waupun Industrial Park has been selected as the potential site for the project following a feasibility study conducted by Frazier, Barnes & Associates, LLC. The study found Wisconsin could support a soybean crushing industry, citing increase in yields and livestock, said Wisconsin Soybean Marketing Board Executive Director Robert Karls.

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Dairy group warns of tariff dangers

Brody Stapel

GREEN BAY, Wis. — A group representing hundreds of Midwestern dairy farmers issued a statement today regarding the newly imposed tariffs by the United States on steel and aluminum from Canada, the European Union and Mexico. The tariffs, which took effect today, are causing retaliatory levies, including on U.S. cheese and yogurt exports.
“Dairy farmers and processors simply cannot afford a trade war that will choke off access to major partners,” said Brody Stapel, president of the board of directors for Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative, who has a dairy farm in Cedar Grove, Wis. “This is especially true of Mexico, which buys nearly a quarter of all dairy products exported by the United States. That amounted to $1.3 billion last year, enough to support 1,500 dairy farms and 25,000 jobs. The stakes are high.

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Michigan dairy processing expands


An illustration of Foremost Farms’ new dairy processing plant in Michigan.

By Jessie Cameron
Michigan dairy processors are rapidly increasing capacity as two new dairy processing facilities will be built during the next few years while a current site is expanding.
In April, Agropur Inc., a subsidiary of Canadian-based Agropur Cooperative, announced plans to put $21.3 million into its current plant in Wyoming, Mich., by adding new equipment and making modifications to the facilities. Foremost Farms is building a new $59.7 million processing facility in Greenville, while a partnership with Glanbia plc, Dairy Farmers of America and Select Milk Producers Inc. is working together on a plan to bring a new processing facility online in 2020.
Michigan ranks sixth nationally in milk production. The state produces 33 million pounds of milk daily, but currently has processing capacity for just 26 million pounds a day. Increasing milk processing capacity is a must to help Michigan’s dairy industry to keep growing, according to industry and economic leaders.

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ADC: Blizzard-impacted farmers need to take action

In an effort to speed up potential relief efforts for farmers impacted by Wisconsin’s recent Blizzard Evelyn, the Wisconsin-based American Dairy Coalition (ADC) is asking those who sustained damage to contact their Farm Service Agency (FSA) office immediately.
Officials will quantify the damage reports and estimate the losses on a county-by-county basis. The totals will be provided to Gov. Scott Walker to use as the criteria for possible monetary assistance from state and/or federal resources.
“Time is of the essence,” said Laurie Fischer, ADC chief executive officer. “Whether they are facing collapsed structures, lost milk production, high insurance deductibles, animal losses or other situations, farmers need to get their damages on the record with their local FSA office. Just one phone call could have a big impact down the road.”

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Co-ops team up to finance projects

Michigan Milk Producers Association (MMPA) of Novi, Mich. and Foremost Farms USA of Baraboo, Wis., announced they have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU). The MOU incorporates intense focus within the two cooperatives to drive mutual investment to maximize members’ returns on their quality milk.

The MOU formalizes advanced discussions between the two cooperatives to pursue proposed co-investment opportunities which include, but are not limited to, the Middlebury Cheese Company and the recently announced dairy campus in Greenville, Mich. It also incorporates expanding the current strategic alliance the two cooperatives have had in place since 2014 at the MMPA Constantine plant with the reverse osmosis investment.

“This commitment not only includes investments but also creates a marketing partnership that will mutually benefit both organizations. By working cooperatively, we are utilizing each cooperative’s independent strengths,” said MMPA General Manager Joe Diglio. “Through collaborative efforts, we can avoid investing in redundant assets and allow us to fully optimize our members’ capital investments.”

Foremost Farms hopes to open the first phase of its Greenville campus this fall.

“We collectively believe more immediate investment is needed to satisfy the imbalance between milk production and milk solids processing capacity.” said Mike Doyle, President and CEO, Foremost Farms. “We believe this arrangement will help satisfy that need and create value-added processing growth.”

Baldwin: Fairness for our farmers

By Senator Tammy Baldwin
Wisconsin’s dairy industry is a key driver of our state’s agricultural economy and a core part of our rural communities.

Our dairy farmers work every day to ensure that their milk meets high standards for nutritional value and quality. Unfortunately, imitation products have gotten away with using dairy’s good name for their own benefit, taking advantage of the effort our farmers put in with none of the work. Mislabeling of plant-based products as “milk” is unfair and hurts our dairy farmers.

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New research IDs food, ag trust gaps

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – While food companies, federal regulatory agencies and farmers are held responsible for ensuring the health and safety of food, not all are trusted to get the job done, according to new research from The Center for Food Integrity (CFI). The findings illustrate a dangerous trust deficit that breeds increased public skepticism and highlights the need for increased consumer engagement by the food system.

“If you’re held responsible and trusted for ensuring safe and healthy food, you are seen as a credible source,” said Charlie Arnot, CEO of CFI. “However, if you’re held responsible but not trusted, that’s a dangerous disconnect that can’t be ignored.” Continue reading “New research IDs food, ag trust gaps”