Ag Briefs: WI still top cheese producer

Wisconsin State Farmer
National briefs

MADISON, WI

WI still top cheese producer

Wisconsin still leads the pack in cheese production according to the most recent Wisconsin Dairy Products Production report from the USDA that tracks cheese production for Wisconsin and other select states between Jan. 2020 and Jan. 2021.

During this time period, Wisconsin's production of cheddar was up 4%, ranking the state in the top position. Production of mozzarella, however, was down 4.3% - with the decline likely attributed to the slow down of food service purchases during the pandemic.

Production of Italian cheeses also fell 3.5 % in the past year. Overall, Wisconsin's total cheese production was up 0.3%.

WASHINGTON D.C.

CFAP payments could be weeks away

Lawmakers under the Biden Administration froze the disbursement of more than $15 million in Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) payments. Farm Journal reported that USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack told those at the Commodity Class that those payments may be on hold for several more weeks.

Vilsack says the agency is doing an evaluation to determine precisely what the need is out there, how many entities and people within the supply chain need help and assistance. 

There are two rounds of CFAP money in question. The Trump Administration announced a program primarily for contract hog and poultry producers of $2.3 billion left in the first two rounds of CFAP allocations, Farm Journal reported. 

Congress in December passed a third round of CFAP, totaling $13 billion for agriculture including $20 per acre payments for producers of 2020 price trigger crops and flat-rate crops.

MADISON, WI

Prices to trigger DMC payments

The fall of milk prices and climb of feed prices in January were enough to trigger payments to farmers enrolled in the Dairy Margin Coverage program.

According to the Midwest Farm Report,  the margin was $7.14 per cwt, down from $8.78 per cwt in December. That generated a payment of $2.36 per cwt for $9.50 per cwt coverage for January – which, by itself, was already more than enough to repay the full cost of signing up for the program at the maximum coverage level for the entire year.

During a recent podcast, Mark Stephenson, director of Dairy Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin, increases in the margin's feed cost may continue to generate payouts in months to come in 2021.

WARRENSBURG, MO

Man accused of killing Diemel brothers faces theft trial

A northwest Missouri man charged with killing two Wisconsin brothers has been accused of persuading someone to steal a trailer while he was in jail.

Garland Joseph Nelson, of Braymer, will go on trial April 20 or 21 on a charge of stealing a motor vehicle. 

The trial is separate from the capital murder trial he faces next year in the July 2019 deaths of Nicholas and Justin Diemel, of Shawano Co., Wis., according to Associated Press.

Nelson was being held in the Caldwell County jail in the murder case when he coerced someone to retrieve a trailer. Nelson reportedly said he paid $500 for the trailer but police said he never owned it, The St. Joseph News-Press reported.

Nelson is accused of shooting the Diemel brothers when they visited his farm to discuss a $250,000 cattle deal. 

DAVIS, CA

New walnut variety adds options for growers

Researchers at the University of California, Davis have bred a new walnut variety for California growers.

According to AgNet West, after more than 10 years of development, the new UC Wolfskill walnut variety is expected to add earlier harvest options for growers. The variety is very similar to Chandler variety makes up more than half of all walnut acreage,

The new variety, similar to Chandler,will leaf out the later part of March and harvest mid-to later September, 12 to 14 days ahead of Chandler.

RENENS, Switzerland

Swiss co. launches rapid test to identify A2 milk-producing cows

According to its website, Swiss foodtech company SwissDeCode is launching DNAFoil A2 Cow Test, a rapid kit that allows dairy farms and companies to test their cows independently and on the spot, in order to detect the presence of the A1 beta-casein gene and identify A2 milk-producing cows.

The company says the kit provides clear, reliable and easily interpretable results in under 50 minutes.

BEIJING, China

Outbreak of ASF confirmed in China

While China has labored to rebuild its hog herd following the devastating impact of African swine fever, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs in China confirmed outbreaks of African swine fever in the provinces of Sichuan and Hubei, key pork producing areas.

Retuers news service reported that the cases were found in the Aba prefecture in the southwestern province of Sichuan, and the city of Xiangyang in the central province of Hubei.

WASHINGTON D.C.

Foreign ownership of U.S. farmland is growing

Missouri State Sen. Doug Beck wants to stop foreign entities from buying farmland in the state, arguing that the practice presents both national security and food security concerns. 

During a hearing of the Senate Agriculture, Food Production, and Outdoor Resources Committee, Beck said foreign farmland purchases aren’t only dangerous, but are also difficult to track, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 

Nationwide, the numbers hint at growing global interest in U.S. farmland as an investment opportunity. By the end of 2019, foreign entities held an interest in nearly 35.2 million acres of U.S. agricultural land, representing 2.7 percent of all privately held farmland, according to USDA.

That’s about a 60 percent increase from 2009, when foreign entities held an interest in only 22.2 million acres, or 1.7 percent of privately held farmland, according to The Counter.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.

2020 marks increase for hot pepper production in N.M.

For chiles, 2020 wasn’t all bad as New Mexico farmers reported increased production and yield levels for the state’s most famous crop despite pressures related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Numbers released by the U.S. Agriculture Department’s statistics service show 68,000 tons of red and green chile were produced last year. That’s an 8% increase over the previous year. The value of the crop also increased to nearly $52 million, according to an Associated Press report.

New Mexico’s chile peppers have woven their way into the state’s cultural identity over centuries, and their distinct flavor has been adopted by palates around the world.

The state in 2014 even adopted its own trademark and certification program to protect the reputation and integrity of the signature crop.

Researchers at New Mexico State University say soil conditions, warmer temperatures, the right amount of water and a longer growing season result in a unique flavor.

ARLINGTON, VA

Ag officials push for improvements to Food Box program

The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture sent a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to support the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box program and recommend adjustments to improve the program’s effectiveness.

In the letter, recommendations included considering the adverse impact on smaller farms when awarding contracts based on price, enabling vendors to curate boxes based on local preference and availability of food, and encouraging the participation of socially disadvantaged farmers.

NASDA members voted during the NASDA 2021 Winter Policy Conference to advocate for changes to the Farmers to Families Food Box program based on feedback from their relationships with farmers, ranchers, vendors and food box recipients.

LANSING, MI

$105M profits return to GreenStone patrons

This year, GreenStone Farm Credit Service is returning a record breaking $105 million - nearly half of the firm's 2020 profits - to its 27,000 members.

While GreenStone has paid patronage for 16 consecutive years, this $105 million is especially significant given the 2020 turmoil of the pandemic and agricultural markets.

In addition to the Patronage payment to members, GreenStone will also be paying $20,000 in donations through its Member Grown Outreach program, with benefits local organizations and charities. 

WASHINGTON D.C.

States can't extend dicamba spray dates

EPA has moved to block state attempts to extend the dicamba cutoffs listed on the federal labels of XtendiMax, Engenia and Tavium in 2021, Progressive Farmer reported.

The news came to light at a meeting of pesticide regulators taking place virtually this week, the annual conference of the Association of American Pesticide Control Officials (AAPCO).

EPA said it intends to deny an attempt by North Carolina to extend the cutoff dates for dicamba to accommodate late-planted cotton and soybean fields. The state was working to move the federal cutoff of June 20 for soybeans and July 30 for cotton out to July 31 for both crops.

Several states are trying to institute similar dicamba spray extensions via Section 24(c) special local needs labels, which allow states to add additional uses to federal pesticide labels. EPA's denial of the North Carolina extension has come as a surprise to many state regulators, outgoing AAPCO President Leo Reed noted. Although EPA recently cracked down on more restrictive 24(c) labels, the agency still allows more permissive ones.

ST. LOUIS, MO

Research agreement penned for carbon sequestration product

Pluton Biosciences has signed a research agreement with global life sciences company Bayer AG to investigate the development of an all-natural, microbial-based carbon-capture soil amendment for growers, according to a news release.

Collaborating with Bayer’s Climate Change Group, Pluton will use its Micromining Innovation Engine to identify and develop microbes currently found in soil that can store carbon and nitrogen.

Pluton’s proof-of-concept research predicts that such a consortia of microbes, applied in a spray at planting and harvest, can scrub nearly two tons of carbon from the air per acre of farmland per year, while replenishing nutrients in the soil.

WACO, TX

Texas fourth top producing state

Milder weather over the past few years have helped dairy producers increase milk production in the Lone Star State, helping Texas to capture the title of fourth-largest milk-producing state, passing New York, according to Dairy Herd Management.

However, a tiered-pricing program could cause Texas’ new ranking to slip this year. Texas Farm Bureau officials say that processing capacity has not allowed for the growth, and the pricing program will pay dairy farmers at a much lower rate for production over 90% of the milk produced, discouraging production.

Farm Bureau says the program goes into effect only when cooperatives cannot sell all the milk produced.