State Department now allowing South African farm workers into the U.S.

(Nati Harnik | AP)
Published: Feb. 3, 2021 at 7:07 AM CST
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - As expected, the Biden Administration is reviewing many of the programs put in place by the Trump Administration—and that includes the Phase One Trade Agreement we have with China. Administration officials are also quick to point out this is not an indication that the U.S. would pull out of the deal since Biden officials say we are working from a position of strength regarding the deal. China still has 11 more months to reach the $200 billion in purchases called for in the deal while other actions called for have already been undertaken by the Chinese.

Farmers across the country who complained loud and long over the travel ban that wouldn’t allow temporary South African farm workers into this country have been heard. The State Department is now saying they will allow those H-2A guest workers to enter the U.S. because they are essential to our economy and our food security system. Last year about 5,000 workers came from South Africa to help farmers as the early planting season gets started in February in Southern states.

We have a lot of milk in this country and that’s a major reason dairy prices are suffering. Last year production was up about 2% while demand, especially from the food service industry, was down. The increased production came from a big expansion in the national dairy herd the second half of the year. From June through December farmers added 93,000 cows. In December we had more cows milking than in any year since 1995. Production per cow also set a record as average production during December was over 2,000 pounds per animal for the first time ever. The biggest production gains were in the West and Midwest.

Wisconsin’s sheep and lamb flock grew last year. The latest inventory shows 86,000 head in the state—up 5,000 head from a year ago. The breakdown shows 69,000 head of breeding females, 3,000 rams and 14,000 replacements. Wool production was also up last year by 5,000 pounds to 345 thousand but the price per pound fell from 55 cents in 2019 to 50 cents last year. Nationally the sheep flocks now totals almost 5.2 million head—down about 1% from a year ago. As in the cattle inventory, Texas leads the nation in sheep production with a flock of 740,000 head. California, Colorado, Wyoming and Utah round out the top 5.

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