The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement Dispute Settlement Panel has ruled Canada is unfairly restricting access to its market for U.S. dairy products. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the United States will now be able to sell more dairy products to Canada. “We’re going to focus on enforcing trade agreements, so that people can begin having trust when an agreement is reached, and these agreements will be implemented as negotiated,” Vilsack said. This case is the first of any kind brought before the USMCA Dispute Settlement Panel.

Formula adjustments in Supplemental DMC 
The United States Department of Agriculture Supplemental Dairy Margin Coverage is new in 2022. It allows dairy farmers that increased production since the 2011-13 filings to update their production history. The formula for alfalfa in the average feed cost calculation has also been adjusted. “It used to be 50% premium alfalfa, and now they’re accounting for 100% premium alfalfa to be more reflective of dairy expenses,” said Danny Munch, associate economist with the American Farm Bureau Federation. “That adjustment will really allow farmers to take advantage of higher payment levels if the change in alfalfa price links to a higher a coverage level that they chose.” Signup for the program continues through Feb. 18. 

Biden offers upbeat supply chain assessment
In a meeting with his supply chain task force, President Joe Biden said a historic amount of goods are moving through the ports. “After working with our administration, the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have nearly cut in half the number of those great big containers you see sitting on a dock for more than eight days,” Biden said. “The number of containers moving through our ports is higher than ever.” The ports at Los Angeles and Long Beach handle 40% of the imports into America. Since mid-October, the dwell time for containers at the Port of Long Beach dropped from 12 days to five days. In that same time period, the dwell time for containers in LA has gone from nine days to four days. Action is being taken to increase the number of truck drivers to move the freight. “We’re cutting the red tape so companies can set up registered apprenticeships with truck drivers in two days instead of two months,” Biden said. Vilsack and his counterparts from Commerce, Labor, Transportation and the National Economic Council also participated in the task force meeting.

Build Back Better plan criticized
As we move into the new year, Senate Ranking Member John Boozman is offering a hopeful tone. “I’m excited about the new year,” Boozman said. “Hopefully, we can put ‘Build Back Broke’ aside and get back to the normal way of doing things with Democrats and Republicans on the ag committee working together.” West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin shut down negotiations on the $2 trillion budget reconciliation bill more than a week ago, but the White House and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer promise to revisit this plan. In an interview, Boozman described the Build Back Better proposal as “massive” and “very inflationary.” Boozman said that bill would have a significant impact on agriculture. “They’re talking about spending about $90 billion in agriculture that directly changes the farm bill, something we’ve said we’d never do,” he said. “It’s $90 billion worth of spending that had no input from anyone but the White House and a few Democrats in Congress.” Boozman said his office has worked closely with Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow’s staff in the past but now is at odds over Build Back Better.

30×30 progress report issued
The White House has released a progress report on the Biden administration’s 30×30 conservation proposal, conserving 30% of U.S. land and water by the year 2030. The report cites the expansion of corn and soybean production in the Upper Midwest and Northern Plains. It says that shift is due to changes in the climate. The report also says soil in the Midwest is eroding and degrading faster because of an increase in humidity and rainfall. Vilsack is a co-chair of the 30×30 interagency working group.
 
House Ag Committee to start farm bill review in 2022
Ranking Member Glenn “GT” Thompson said the House Ag Committee will focus on the farm bill in 2022. In the new year, Vilsack is expected to make an appearance before the committee for an update. “The bulk of our priorities need to be dedicated with what we learn in these farm bill oversight hearings,” Thompson said. “I also hear feedback from agriculture that we need timely disaster relief and support for the farm safety net. Then, reliable broadband and supply chain resiliency.”

Court rules on use of common cheese name 
A federal judicial ruling has concluded gruyere is a generic style of cheese and is not limited to a type of cheese made in France or Switzerland. “Not only is this a landmark victory for American dairy farmers and cheese producers who offer gruyere, this win sets a vital precedent in the much larger, ongoing battle over food names in the United States,” said Jaime Castaneda, executive director for Consortium for Common Food Names. “The European Union has tried for years to monopolize common names such as gruyere, parmesan, bologna or chateau. This verdict validates that we’re on the right path in our fight on behalf of American food and wine producers to preserve their ability to use long-established generic names.” The court said the arguments made by the French and Swiss were “insufficient and unconvincing.” 

Dairy cow numbers increase in SD, MN
Milk production in the 24 major dairy states totaled 17.3 billion pounds in November 2021. That is down a fraction of 1% from one year ago. In Minnesota, milk output increased 2%. The size of Minnesota’s dairy herd grew by 6,000 head over the last year. South Dakota milk production rose nearly 17% and added 22,000 cows to herd.

Cass County Farm Bureau recognized for its law enforcement training program
Minnesota’s Cass County Farm Bureau was recognized for its work training local law enforcement officials about farming. Seth and Rachel Connell said the sheriff’s office or highway patrol in rural areas interact with agriculture on a regular basis. It may be as simple as having cattle that are loose on the highway. “Generally, they didn’t seem to have any idea what to do or even how to identify if it was a cow or a calf or simple things like the breed of the cow,” the Connels said. Cass County organized a daylong training session for law enforcement students from Central Lakes College. “There were roughly 20 students and maybe one or two had any agricultural background,” the Connells said. Cass County Farm Bureau shared the idea at the American Farm Bureau trade show with hopes of replicating it in other areas.

UMN seeking nearly $1B from Legislature
The University of Minnesota will be asking the Legislature for $935 million in funding for the year. That includes $60 million for an agricultural research and education complex. The budget request also includes scholarship funding for the Twin Cities campus and outstate campuses, including Crookston and Morris. The legislative session begins Jan. 31.

Peterson recognized by Pro Farmer
Pro Farmer has presented House Agriculture Committee Chairman Emeritus Collin Peterson with its Agriculture Man of the Year Award. The recognition is based, in part, on Peterson’s role in protecting stepped-up basis and other key tax provisions.

John Deere introduces autonomous tractor  
John Deere’s fully autonomous tractor will be available to farmers later this year. The tractor made its debut at a huge consumer technology show in Las Vegas. Deanna Kovar is the vice president of John Deere’s precision agriculture business and said farmers will be able to monitor the autonomous tractor remotely from their phone, tablet or computer. “These machines don’t get tired, and they don’t call in sick; they get the job done when it needs to be done, allowing farmers to get the most out of their equipment and their land,” Kovar said. Kovar emphasized this new technology is ready for large-scale production. “This isn’t a concept machine; this isn’t a demo; this is a working machine that will be available later this year to farmers,” she said.
 
Trivia challenge 
The dairy cow has four stomach compartments. That answers our last trivia question. For this week’s trivia, what Mexican cheese is white in color, firm in texture and tastes salty? We will have the answer in the next edition of Dairy Star.
Don Wick is owner/broadcaster for the Red River Farm Network, based in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Wick has been recognized as the National Farm Broadcaster of the Year and served as president of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting. Don and his wife, Kolleen, have two adult sons, Tony and Sam, and five grandchildren, Aiden, Piper, Adrienne, Aurora and Sterling.