Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is headed to Germany next month for meetings with the other G7 agriculture ministers. And he told members of the North American Agriculture Journalists Monday that he may go to Poland during the trip for discussions related to Ukraine and other trade concerns. 

Vilsack says the Biden administration will continue to warn other countries against restrictions on agricultural exports.

“We need to make sure that people understand that while it may be tempting to try to protect your own supply for your own benefit, it is incredibly disruptive to the market and creates further problems,” Vilsack said.

Dairy industry needs to agree on milk pricing plan, Vilsack says

Many members of the dairy industry want to see changes to the current dairy milk marketing system, but Vilsack says the sector first needs to agree on a plan.

"I think there's probably a growing consensus that change is necessary, but I haven't yet seen a consensus on what that change should look like,” Vilsack told the ag journalists. "And I think, candidly, it's only going to work if there is in fact a consensus.”

Late last year, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., introduced the Dairy Pricing Opportunity Act, which would require USDA to hold hearings on federal milk marketing order reform within six months of the bill’s passage.

More cover crop payments a possibility

There are preliminary discussions within USDA about making a third round of payments for cover crops in 2023. But Marcia Bunger, administrator of the Risk Management Agency, told the ag journalists it’s not clear where the money would come from to fund the payments.

The payments USDA made in 2021 and this year came from pandemic relief funds.

The final data aren’t in for this year’s payments, but Bunger said they should be similar to 2021, when USDA made payments totaling $59.5 million for 12.2 million acres of cover crops.

Boozman: Campaign season won’t affect farm bill hearings

The top Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee, John Boozman, told the ag journalists the panel’s farm bill hearings should continue through the year even as political campaigns heat up. Congressional activity generally winds down in the last half of a campaign year.

“This is not really legislative,” Boozman said of the farm bill hearings. “This is gathering information so that we can legislate.”

The committee holds its first farm bill hearing on Friday in Michigan. A second hearing will follow at some point in Boozman’s home state of Arkansas.

Northeast dairy farmers seek answers from Danone

Organic dairy farmers in the Northeast whose contracts with Danone are due to expire early next year are urging the company to match a $20 million grant from USDA to the Northeast Dairy Business Innovation Center “to follow through on their commitment for financial investment in the region.”

Danone North America announced in August it was terminating contracts with 89 dairy farmers in the region within a year, but subsequently extended those contracts until March 2023 and promised transition payments to producers and “co-investment” in the Northeast.

Ahead of a Danone shareholder meeting today, the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Association said, “Danone must stand up for its farm families that have built the corporate success Danone will be celebrating tomorrow.”

Danone did not respond to a request for comment.

US ag industry meets with WTO director ahead of ministerial

There isn’t much time before the next World Trade Organization ministerial – scheduled for the week of June 13 – and WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala took time during her visit to Washington this week to meet with representatives of the U.S. soybean, wheat, dairy and other ag sectors to hear their priorities, according to a source who asked not to be named.
At the meeting, food security, export restrictions, transparency in subsidies and the WTO appeals process were all candidly discussed, the source said.
The 12th WTO Ministerial – or MC12 – was originally scheduled in November of last year, but was postponed due to the outbreak of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. It is now set for June 12-15 in Geneva.
USA Rice giving up on rail
U.S. rice farmers are starting to give up on railroad transportation and looking for alternatives because trains have just become too unreliable, the USA Rice Federation said Monday, ahead of hearings scheduled for today and tomorrow at the Surface Transportation Board.
“The rice industry has made a concerted push over the last several years for customers to use rail over other methods of transportation given its efficiency, but ongoing issues including rail congestion, labor shortages, marginal equipment, and the lack of box and hopper cars to ship rice and rice byproducts is hampering the industry’s ability to do so and causing shippers to resort to other, less efficient, and costly methods of transportation,” USA Rice said.

Latest Dutch bird flu finding hits country’s “poultry capital”

Dutch poultry exports are being hit hard as new detections of high-path avian influenza continue, including the latest discovery in the city of Barneveld, considered “the poultry capital” of the Netherlands because of its 229 farms in a 6.3-mile radius, USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service says.

The FAS office in The Hague says 36 countries, including some the Netherlands’ largest customers in Hong Kong, Cuba, Vietnam and the Philippines, have banned Dutch poultry since October.

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