Ag Briefs: Bill could require animal-drawn vehicles to be registered

Wisconsin State Farmer
National briefs

MADISON, WI

Ag Day at the Capitol set for Jan. 26

After a one-year hiatus, Ag Day at the Capitol is set to resume on Jan. 26 at Monona Terrace in Madison.

The forum attracts farmers from across the state representing dairy groups eager to speak with legislators about issue impacting the ag industry.

This year's topics include water quality initiatives and the shortage of farm laborers. Following legislative briefings, farmers will walk to the capitol to visit with state lawmakers.

To register call 800-261-3276. Registration for the event which includes lunch is $30 prior to Jan. 19 and $60 after.

LA CROSSE, WI

Early registration offers discounts to organic farming convo

Early registration just opened for the country’s largest conference about organic and sustainable agriculture. The 33rd Annual MOSES Organic Farming Conference takes place Feb. 24-26, 2021, in La Crosse, Wis..

The event brings together farmers, researchers, and agriculture professionals to learn the latest organic production practices and build a supportive community of resilient organic, sustainable, and regenerative farms.

Organized by the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES), features more than 60 workshops, 8 full-day classes, a two-floor trade show, organic meals, and round-table discussions plus more opportunities to network. 

Early Bird registration for the full conference is $210 through Jan. 4; on-site price is $300. See mosesorganic.org/conference for registration information, workshop descriptions, and more details.

WASHINGTON D.C.

Bipartisan bill addresses volatile milk pricing

U.S. Senators Gillibrand (D-NY), Leahy (D-VT) and Collins (R-ME) introduced their bipartisan Dairy Pricing Opportunity Act, which would require the U.S. Department of Agriculture to initiate the process of holding Federal Milk Marketing Order (FMMO) hearings within six months allowing producers and industry to consider and review proposals that could change Class I skim milk pricing, Ag Daily reported.

As a result, producers will have a voice in formulating any potential changes in calculating the price of Class I milk. The introduction of this bill would pave the way for critical FMMO reform in not just Class I pricing, but potentially other areas of need. 

“When the dairy pricing system isn’t working for farmers, the economic ramifications are felt across the country,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, chair of the Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy, Poultry, Local Food Systems, and Food Safety and Security. “…our dairy pricing system is inadequate, out of date, and working against producers. The Dairy Pricing Opportunity Act will put the power back in farmers’ hands and bring the industry together to build a system that works for the 21st century dairy farmer. “

SPRINGDALE, AK

Tyson Foods to spend $50M on bonuses at its meat plants

Tyson Foods said Monday that it plans to spend roughly $50 million on year-end bonuses for over 80,000 hourly workers at its meatpacking plants that will give them between $300 and $700 apiece.

Those bonuses are on top of wage increases the company has approved at many of its plants as new contracts were negotiated over the past year. Tyson estimated that it has spent more $500 million on wage increases and other bonuses over the past year for the employees who kept its plants running throughout the coronavirus pandemic. That includes the $200 bonuses it paid to workers who got vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The Springdale, Arkansas-based company said that over the past year the total value of the wages and benefits its hourly workers receive increased to $24 an hour on average, up from an average of $22 an hour. 

WASHINGTON D.C.

Food inflation heats up to highest level

Consumer prices through November are up 6.8% compared with a year ago, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The CPI for urban consumers rose 0.8% in November after rising 0.9% in October.

Price increases were reported with most component indexes, according to the report, with prices for gasoline, shelter, food, used cars and trucks, and new vehicles among the larger contributors to rising prices, Farm Journal reported.

The energy index rose 3.5% in November as the gasoline index increased 6.1% and the other major energy component indexes also rose. The food index increased 0.7% as the index for food at home rose 0.8%, according to the report.

The food at home index increased 0.8 in November, fueled by increases in all six major grocery store food group indexes. November was the third consecutive month that all six increased, according to the report.

All of the six major grocery store food group indexes increased over the period. The index for meats, poultry, fish, and eggs increased 12.8% with the index for beef rising 20.9%, according to the report.

The index for dairy and related products posted the smallest increase, rising 1.6% over the last 12 months.

OMAHA, NE

Kellogg's union rejects deal with 3% raises to extend strike

Kellogg's workers rejected a contract offer Tuesday that would have provided 3% raises, so 1,400 workers at the company's four U.S. cereal plants will remain on strike, Associated Press reported.

The Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union said an overwhelming majority of workers voted down the five-year offer that would have also provided cost of living adjustments in the later years of the deal and preserved the workers' current health care benefits.

The workers have been on strike since Oct. 5 at plants in Battle Creek, Michigan; Omaha, Nebraska; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; and Memphis, Tennessee. They make all of the company's well-known brands of cereal, including Apple Jacks and Frosted Flakes.

Kellogg's said it will now move forward with plans to start hiring permanent replacements for the striking workers. The company has already been using salaried employees and outside workers to keep the plants operating during the strike. 

MILWAUKEE, WI

Milwaukee wants to put goats to work

Milwaukee might soon be welcoming a new team of landscapers — albeit a little gruff and a bit rough around the edges — to help maintain the county’s parks.

After a unanimous vote from Milwaukee’s Parks, Energy and Environment Committee, the county is aiming to use goats to maintain parks by having them eat weeds and invasive species across the county, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

With issues of controlling honeysuckle and buckthorn without using herbicide that could wash into the water surrounding the island, goats were the best option.

'As it turns out, it was cheaper to use the goats than to have people, which are harder and harder to hire right now to do the remediation,' city officials said.

MADISON, WI

Bill could require animal-drawn vehicles to be registered

A freshman lawmaker is sponsoring legislation that would allow local Wisconsin counties to enact an ordinance requiring that animal-drawn vehicles pay a registration fee if they operate on public roadways, Wisconsin Ag Connection reported.

Rep. Alex Dallman of Green Lake says the idea is as much about safety as it is for collecting revenue for maintenance.

As part of the measure, annual registration fees would not exceed $100. Regardless of the amount, half of those funds would go to the town in which the vehicle is customarily kept.

Dallman adds that many communities are having a dilemma in managing the animal-drawn traffic, especially when an accident occurs or when there is damage to the road. By registering vehicles like carriages or buggies, he claims law enforcement agencies would be more efficient in identifying the owners of the vehicles if there were to be an accident.

ROTHSCHILD, WI

Cover crop conference set for Feb. 24

Registration is now open for the Wisconsin Cover Crop Conference on Feb. 24, in Rothschild, Wis. 

Topics include creating new opportunities for in-season manure, managing equipment for planting green, adaptive rye management, incorporating cover crops in vegetable rotations, cover crops as forage, and more. 

The conference is $75, or $100 which includes conference and networking dinner. Deadline to register is Feb. 17. To register visit https://bit.ly/3dED6up

WASHINGTON D.C.

House advances cattle marketing reform bill

By large, bipartisan majorities, the House passed bills last week to introduce more transparency in cattle marketing and to keep in force a law that requires meatpackers to report purchase prices of livestock. The bills now go to the Senate for action.

Representatives passed, by 411-14, HR 5609, which would require the USDA to issue routine reports on the terms of contracts between cattle producers and meatpackers and on the number of head that would be delivered for slaughter in the coming six and 12 months, Successful Farming reported.

The information would help producers know if they are being offered a competitive price for their stock and help them decide when to send their animals to market.

WASHINGTON D.C.

Farmers ask DOJ to investigate spikes in fertilizer prices

Farmers have asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate whether recent spikes in fertilizer prices are attributable to market manipulation by fertilizer companies, according to a letter sent Wednesday, Dec. 8, by the Family Farm Action Alliance.

The group, which has more than 6,000 farmer and rural members, alleges fertilizer companies are setting prices “not based on basic supply and demand, but rather on the price the farmer is paid for their commodity crops.”

Reuters reported that global fertilizer prices have reached record highs this year, in part due to soaring prices for the natural gas used to produce them, and severe storms in the United States that disrupted production.

But the farm group alleges fertilizer firms could also be hiking prices in response to high commodity prices.

Since the 1980s, consolidation in the U.S. fertilizer industry has shrunk the sector from 46 firms to 13. Two companies, Nutrien Ltd and Mosaic Co, control 93% of the North American potash market, according to a 2020 report by the Federal Trade Commission. Other dominant firms include Yara-USA and CF Industries.

"There’s a potential in the way this industry is structured to really exploit farmers," said Dr. Philip Howard, associate professor at Michigan State University and expert on food industry consolidation.

WAYCROSS, GA

24 charged with forcing migrants into `modern-day slavery'

A grand jury indicted 24 people in U.S. District Court on dozens of criminal charges including forced labor, mail fraud, witness tampering and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Authorities say some migrant workers who had been promised up to $12 an hour to work on farms in rural South Georgia were instead ordered to dig up onions with their bare hands and got paid only 20 cents per filled bucket as men with guns kept them in check, according to court records. At least two of them died, and another was raped repeatedly.

Authorities said an investigation that began three years ago broke up a criminal enterprise that earned $200 million by exploiting the H-2A work visa program to bring workers from Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras into the U.S.

The laborers were forced to pay illegal fees for transportation, food and housing, according to the indictment, while their travel and identification documents were withheld, preventing them from leaving and seeking help.