Dairy farmers struggling through the pandemic

Published: Apr. 15, 2021 at 7:16 AM CDT
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ALTOONA, Wis. (WEAU) - When the Covid-19 pandemic hit about a year ago, most industries, including dairy, were caught off guard. New numbers published in the Dairy Star Milk Break show that only 50% of dairy farmers signed up for price protection under the Dairy Margin Coverage program that was established in the 2018 Farm Bill. That’s because they though prices in 2020 would be strong but that wasn’t the case. But they’ve apparently learned their lesson. For 2021, 74% of dairy farms across the country enrolled in DMC for 2021. That includes almost 48 hundred dairies in Wisconsin. So far this year, with increasing feed prices, payments to dairy farmers have reached more than $93 million or just under $5,000 per farm. In Wisconsin total DMC payments this year have totaled almost $21 million with average payments of nearly 49 hundred dollars per farm.

Two Republican state legislators are offering a different version of a state agribusiness export program from the one introduced by Governor Tony Evers. State Senator Joan Ballweg and Representative Tony Kurtz say their bill has a few more limits than the one offered by the governor. The legislators’ bill would require the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to work with the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection to create and execute an overall export plan by 2026. The bill also calls for state agencies to spend money increasing the value of milk and other dairy products as well as meat products and state crops going into export markets. Those 2 agencies would be required to report on the progress of meeting those goals by the summer of 2024.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee yesterday that the Biden Administration is going to end the popular Farmers to Families Food Box Program. Vilsack said a review of the program showed it had too many administrative costs and inadequate accounting as to where the boxes were delivered. He said they will shut down the program by the first of May but the USDA will continue to distribute produce and dairy products to the hungry across the country. Funding for the program reached about $4 billion last year and it distributed over 157 million boxes of fruits, vegetables, dairy products and cooked meats through food pantries, food banks, churches and other charities. Vilsack said food distribution to the needy will continue under a new program called the Emergency Food Assistance Program.

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