Ag Briefs: JBS will pay $20M in price-fixing claims

Wisconsin State Farmer
National briefs

DEPERE, WI

Court-mandated sale of former Dean Foods milk plants owned by DFI completed

Capstone Headwaters, a leading middle market investment banking firm, announced completion of the sale by Dairy Farmers of America (“DFA”) of the former Dean Foods Company milk processing plants located in De Pere, Wisconsin and Harvard, Illinois.

The purchaser of both plants is a new partnership between New Dairy Opco (“New Borden”) and Select Milk Producers.

The two plants were required to be sold by order of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in the antitrust enforcement action brought by the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division and the Attorneys General of each of the State of Wisconsin and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

The two plants had been acquired by DFA, the successful bidder in the Section 363 sale in the Dean Foods bankruptcy filed in November 2019.

MADISON, WI

WYLP online sessions set for April 8, May 13

The Wisconsin Youth Livestock Program (WYLP), in connection with the UW Madison Animal & Dairy Sciences Dept., CALS and Division of Extension, will present live Zoom educational programs on April 8 and May 13.

Each session begins at 7 p.m. CDT with a presentation followed by Question & Answer session. You must register at https://go.wisc.edu/r3x8lh to receive connecting information through email. These activities can serve as “county educational requirements”. 

April 8: Use of Technology in Animal & Dairy Sciences using sensors and cameras and May 13: Meat Science Cookery.

For more information contact Bernie O’Rourke at (608) 263-4304 or borourke2@wisc.edu.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN

JBS will pay $20M in price-fixing claims

JBS USA, a subsidiary of JBS S.A., agreed to pay $20 million to settle a consumer class- action lawsuit alleging the company conspired to fix prices for pork from at least 2009 to the present.

Meat+Pountry reported that the settlement, which requires the judge’s approval, does not cover claims made against the company by seven other plaintiffs that did not sign on to the agreement.

The settlement agreement states that JBS will pay $20 million into a settlement fund that will be used to compensate the consumer class and cover litigation fees and expenses, including the cost of notifying class members and administering the settlement.

CHICAGO, IL

Wisconsin farms earn Fund-a-Farmer grants

Two Wisconsin farms were among 56 livestock farmers and ranchers across the country to receive a Fund-a-Farmer grant to boost animal welfare, environmental health and farmer livelihoods. The $130,000 in grants was provided by Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT), a national nonprofit organization that works to ensure that all food-producing animals are raised in a humane and healthy manner. Grants range from $1,000 to $2,500.

According to a news release, Three Brothers Farm LLC in Oconomowoc received a $2,500 grant to install heater, fans, and ventilation in winter laying hen housing for improved air quality and temperature stability throughout the cold months. The farm iw working toward becoming Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW.

Lee Hemp Farm received a $1,700 grant for pasture improvements. The Burlington operation will use the grant monies to install a winter water source for their poultry on pasture.

Since 2012, FACT has cumulatively awarded 257 grants totaling over $590,000 to farmers across 44 states, directly benefiting more than 136,000 animals.

ONALASKA, WI

Dairy Breakfast on for La Crosse County

According to its Facebook page, the La Crosse County Dairy Breakfast committee announced that it will be holding its annual event on June 17 at the Morning Star Dairy.

The farm is owned by John and Barbara Schaller who hosted former Vice President Mike Pence during his visit to Wisconsin last summer to discuss the USMCA trade agreement.

While organizers say there will be changes to the event celebrating June Dairy Month, they still plan to make it an educational event with a full menu of pancakes, eggs, sausage, yogurt, frozen custard, and milk.

COLLEGE STATION, TX

Egg prices on the rise as Easter looms

Craig Coufal, Extension poultry specialist, said the annual price spike is related to higher-than-normal demand as people prepare traditional recipes and dye eggs for Easter egg hunts.

The March report by Egg Industry Center at the University of Iowa showed retail prices for January were relatively the same as a year ago, around $1.46 per dozen. During 2020, prices went down during February before rising to $1.52 per dozen in March and peaking at $2.02 in April.

Coufal expects a similar trend and for prices to fall some after the holiday.

Egg producers are experiencing a different story than consumers due to rising feed costs, he said. Prices for soybeans and corn have risen dramatically over recent months, which increased the cost of egg production. The cost to produce a dozen eggs typically averages around 60 cents per dozen but feed costs have driven that amount past 70 cents per dozen.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA

Judge rules in favor of USDA certification of organic hydroponic producers

A ruling issued March 19 by the U.S. District Court in San Francisco has upheld the legality of USDA certification of organic hydroponic operations.

The Packer reported that the issue of certification of hydroponic operations has been a point of contention since the mid-1990s.

“USDA’s ongoing certification of hydroponic systems that comply with all applicable regulations is firmly planted in (the) Organic Food Production Act,” Richard Seeborg, chief U.S. District Judge, said in the ruling.

Officials from the Coalition for Sustainable Organics, said the ruling preserves historically important supplies of berries, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, mushrooms, leafy greens, herbs, sprouts and microgreens frequently grown using containers or other hydroponic organic systems.”

DES MOINES, IA

National Ag in the Classroom Convo heads to Midwest

Registration is open for the 2021 National Ag in the Classroom Conference set for June 28 - July 1 in Des Moines, Iowa, at the Iowa Event Center/Hilton Des Moines Downtown.

The four-day event themed 'Field of Dreams' will be offered as a hybrid conference with in- person and virtual events.

Registration information can be found at www.agclassroom.org/conference. The early rate for in-person registration is $435. The virtual registration rate is $50.

For more information, please view video at https://youtu.be/yFrH6zJP58M or contact Wisconsin Ag in the Classroom Coordinator Darlene Arneson at darneson@wfbf.com or 608-828-5644.

BOISE, ID

Deadly rabbit disease reported for first time in Idaho

Authorities say a contagious disease that kills rabbits has been detected for the first time in Idaho. Associated Press reported that two dead jackrabbits near the Boise Airport were confirmed to have tested positive for Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease, or RHD.

The disease isn't known to affect humans, livestock or other species of pets, but it is deadly and easily spread among rabbits.

Idaho state veterinarian Dr. Scott Leibsle said domestic rabbit owners need to take steps to protect their colonies, like elevating them off the ground if possible. RHD can survive on clothing or carcasses for months and can also be spread by fleas, flies and mosquitoes.

SIOUX CITY, IA

Ex-Sioux City ag co-op officer gets prison for fraud scheme

A second former officer at a northwest Iowa agriculture cooperative has been sentenced to federal prison for a grain-blending fraud scheme. 

Kenneth Ehrp was sentenced to three months in prison after pleading guilty in November to one count of conspiracy to defraud the government, the Sioux City Journal reported.

Prosecutors accused Ehrp and another officer, Calvin Diehl, of ordering Farmers Cooperative Society workers to layer soybeans over lower-value oats in bins and trucks while claiming the entire load was soybeans. The officers then concealed the practice from customers and USDA inspectors, officials said.

The scheme to overvalue the co-op's grain inventory was conducted to influence a lender's action on a loan, prosecutors said.

The U.S. Grain Standards Act prohibits blending different grains unless the blend is designated as "mixed grain" or an exemption is granted by federal regulators. 

STAPLES, TX

Drought is West’s next big climate disaster

Much of the U.S. West is facing the driest spring in seven years, setting up a climate disaster that could strangle agriculture, fuel deadly wildfires and even hurt power production. Across 11 western states, drought has captured about 75% of the land, and covers more than 44% of the contiguous U.S., the U.S. Drought Monitor said. 

Bloomberg reported that ranchers in parts of Texas starved for water are trucking feed 1,000 miles from Montana, driving up prices there and leaving hay producers completely sold out.

While drought isn’t new to the West...global warming is exacerbating the problem – shrinking snowpack in the Rocky Mountains and extending the fire season on the West Coast. That means ranching and farming may become costlier and less sustainable, with some operations forced to move to wetter regions.

La Nina, a cool patch of water across the equatorial Pacific Ocean that helped push the winter storm track away from California, is partly to blame for this year’s dryness.

The drought is already affecting crops in California, with winter wheat and other grains growing slower than usual, according to the USDA.

WASHINGTON D.C.

Senate passes bill expending PPP application deadline

Thousands of small businesses scrambling to stay afloat as a result of COVID-19 are getting extra time to apply for low-interest loans.

A week after passage in the U.S. House, the Senate on Thursday passed legislation which extends the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) application deadline to May 31, and the overall program until June 30.

The popular Small Business Administration program was scheduled to sunset Wednesday, a timeline that could have prevented some 190,000 small businesses who have pending PPP applications from securing a loan. The White House is likely to shortly sign the bill into law. 

WASHINGTON D.C.

Vilsack says China not meeting trade agreement

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack says China needs to step up purchases of U.S. goods to meet Phase One trade requirements.

During a National Press Club event, Vilsack said that despite China's latest purchases of corn and soybeans, it hasn't stepped up purchases of biofuels, dried distillers grain or dairy. 

Brownfield Ag reported that Vilsack said the overall market share with China has suffered from the trade war. “Prior to the tariffs...we had about 25 percent of their market. Today it's about 15 percent. ...it's incumbent upon us to continue to make the case to continue to press their responsibilities under Phase One.”

MEXICO CITY, Mexico

Mexico leader descries beer, milk production in arid areas

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is railing against the production of beer and milk in areas where there isn't enough water.

López Obrador cancelled plans for a huge brewery on Mexico's northern border last year, and on Sunday he questioned the whole idea of producing beer for export. 

Mexico has the largest beer export sector in the world, with about $4.6 billion worth exported annually, largely to the U.S., according to an Associated Press report.

The president's comments came during a ceremony in northern Mexico marking efforts to restore more water flow to Cuatro Cienegas, a system of marshes and saline pools that support cyanobacteria colonies and other species not found elsewhere. 

Local milk production and the water consumption to grow cattle feed is putting the unique ecosystem at risk. López Obrador criticized milk production around Cuatro Cienegas, saying "Milk is (basically) water".

SIOUX FALLS, S.D.

Bovine tuberculosis found in S.D. cattle herd

Bovine tuberculosis has been confirmed in a South Dakota cattle herd for the first time in four years.

The state's Animal Industry Board says an infected beef cow was first identified in January by meat inspectors at a Minnesota packing plant during routine inspection. Records linked the cow to a herd in Corson County, where additional animals were later found to be infected, said Associated Press.

State veterinarian Dustin Oedekoven says bovine tuberculosis is not currently a threat to food safety or human health because of milk pasteurization and meat inspection programs, the Argus Leader reported.