Progressive Dairyshares the latest news, industry statements and press releases, and educational resources for dairy producers to help deal with the impacts of COVID-19. Email additional news and resources toDave Natzke.

This week’s COVID-19 updates (Click to jump below and see these articles)

Events, changes, cancellations (Click to jump below and see these articles)

Helpful COVID-19 articles by topic (Click to jump below and see these articles)

Links to additional COVID-19 resources (Click to jump below and see these resources)


This week’s COVID-19 updates

COVID-19 update for January 2021

State-by-state COVID-19 vaccination plans listed

Wondering how your state is implementing a COVID-19 vaccination plan and schedule? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers summaries of state vaccination programs here.

Wisconsin launching virtual farm support groups

In a continued effort to expand access to mental health resources, the Wisconsin Farm Center at the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) is launching a series of virtual farmer support groups. The support groups, scheduled to begin in February, are designed to bring farmers and farm couples together so they can share ideas, provide encouragement and support each other.

Support groups will be offered at different dates and times to accommodate farmers’ schedules:

  • Fourth Monday of every month, 8 p.m.
  • First Tuesday of every month, 1 p.m.
  • Third Thursday of every month (for farm couples), 8 p.m.

The support groups are open to farmers and their spouses at no cost, but advance registration is required. The 60-90 minute sessions will be limited to 20 attendees per session, with a couple counting as one attendee.

Social distancing guidance for farmers

North Dakota State University Extension has summarized some of the key points for Upper Midwest farmers to keep in mind as they weather the winter and wait for COVID-19 vaccinations to become widely available. Review social distancing guidelines and find other COVID-19 resources through the Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center (UMASH).

Some CFAP 3 details released

The USDA announced additional direct financial assistance to some agricultural producers through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). Payment eligibility is expanded for additional commodities, with some adjustments to payments to some producers who already applied for the program.

As announced, specialty crop and some livestock producers will receive additional assistance, but no additional aid is directed specifically to dairy producers. Due to the transition to the Biden administration, additional details may be forthcoming.

About $23.7 billion in assistance has already been provided to U.S. agricultural producers through CFAP 1 and CFAP 2. Of that, about $2.975 billion was directed to dairy farmers.

Producers who are now eligible and those who need to modify existing applications due to these updates can contact USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) between Jan. 19-Feb. 26. 

To learn more, visit the USDA’s CFAP website.

Additional program analysis from the American Farm Bureau Federation is available here.

Dairy farmers gain improved access to PPP

Dairy and other farmers have expanded access to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) under changes made in the COVID-19 stimulus package signed into law in late 2020, according to the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF). The new PPP application period is scheduled for Jan. 11-March 31. Producers who previously received PPP loans may be eligible for a second draw, beginning Jan. 13.

Producers who were previously denied PPP loans or whose loan amounts did not consider self-employment compensation may now be eligible for the federal small business support, said Jim Mulhern, NMPF CEO.

Those wanting to apply for a PPP loan should contact lenders directly for more information on when PPP will be open for that specific lender. Eligibility information and more details can be found here

Created in March of 2020, the program’s emphasis on payroll raised inadvertent challenges for many farmers who do not issue structured payroll – namely those operating as sole proprietors, independent contractors or self-employed producers who file a Schedule F with their 1040 income tax form. The program’s loan application required such producers to use their net farm profit amount from their Schedule F tax form as a stand-in for their self-employment compensation when applying for a PPP loan. However, many farmers and ranchers filed a zero or negative net farm profit on their 2019 tax forms, effectually making them ineligible for the small business support.

All farmers and ranchers who file a Schedule F can apply or reapply for a PPP loan under the new rules. In general, agricultural producers and co-ops with 500 or fewer employees, including employees of businesses with which they have an affiliation, are eligible.

Numerous other related resources have arrived in Progressive Dairy’s inbox. Check these links for PPP information:

IDFA offers COVID-19 vaccination assistance

The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), in collaboration with 14 other food and agriculture organizations, sent a letter to President-elect Joe Biden offering assistance with nationwide COVID-19 vaccination efforts. The letter noted many companies across the food supply chain have retained nurses and healthcare professionals to assist with vaccinations when they are available. The letter also asked Biden to designate a federal coronavirus vaccine coordinator in each of the 50 states as well as other U.S. territories to serve as liaisons between the federal government and state and local health officials to ensure an efficient distribution of the vaccine among priority populations. 

Fifth ‘food box’ round seeks diverse cheese offerings

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the USDA will purchase an additional $1.5 billion worth of food for nationwide distribution through the Farmers to Families Food Box Program. In the announcement, the USDA emphasized that other hard, semifirm or semisoft cheese (e.g., blue, brick, colby, Edam, Gorgonzola, Gouda, Gruyere, Monterey Jack, Muenster, Parmesan, provolone and Romano) are acceptable in addition to cheddar and other cheeses specified in the solicitation.

The additional funding for the program was included in the COVID-19 relief package signed into law on Dec. 27, 2020.

In this fifth round of purchases, the USDA will again purchase combination boxes to ensure all involved recipient organizations have access to fresh produce, dairy products, fluid milk and meat products. Seafood products will also be included in this round. Solicitations will be issued to over 240 organizations that have previously received basic ordering agreements (BOA). Contract awards are expected to be made by Jan. 19, with food deliveries beginning shortly after awards are issued and continue through the end of April.

Through Jan. 4, 2021, the USDA had distributed more than 132 million food boxes since the program was launched last April.

COVID-19 update for November 2020

Dairy Max provides school solutions

Dairy Max has launched the Nutrition Now platform to give school nutrition departments expertise and opportunities to increase dairy consumption.

Nutrition Now offers program marketing and funding to help schools implement meal solutions like grab-and-go breakfast, bulk milk, meals in the classroom, smoothies, yogurt parfaits, high school coffee bars, afterschool meals and summer feeding. Eligible schools interested in funding will go through an application process in the fall and spring, aligning with the traditional procurement cycle for school nutrition programs.

Dairy Max is working with Genyouth and other partners to provide emergency grants that support serving dairy through meal delivery and curbside feeding locations. To date, these grants have helped nearly 400 local schools serve more than 440,000 meals daily.

For the in-school and virtual classrooms, Dairy Max provides online curriculum lessons and activities to help schools promote dairy science and share the farm-to-table story. The online resources will also be included with Fuel Up to Play 60 (FUTP 60) kits distributed to schools throughout the region. 

Dairy Max, a regional, checkoff-funded dairy council, represents more than 900 dairy farmers in eight states: Colorado, southwest Kansas, Louisiana, Montana, New Mexico, western Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming. 

California webinar addresses farm stress, mental health

There’s help available for dairy farmers dealing with the stress related to COVID-19, labor and financial challenges. An archived version of a California Dairy Quality Assurance Program (CDQAP) dairy mental health webinar is available, according to Deanne Meyer, livestock waste management specialist with the University of California – Davis.

The CDQAP hosted Dr. Robert Fetsch for a webinar on mental health in 2019. The recorded webinar is recommended for anyone working on dairies or working with dairy producers. Also on the same web page is a link to a list of county mental health contacts and other helpful documents for identifying if and how to support someone experiencing farm-work-related anxiety or depression. 

Multistate initiative focuses on farmer mental wellness

A multistate initiative, led regionally by the University of Illinois and Illinois Extension, is aimed at providing education, resources and support to farmers, agriculture service professionals and mental health care providers to mitigate farm stress and reduce suicide risk in rural communities. 

The initiative is supported by a Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network grant from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Over several years, the $7.2 million award will create and expand project-wide access to financial, stress management and mental health resources for farmers and stakeholders.

The Wisconsin Farm Center at the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) will receive over $400,000 through the initiative to provide education and support to farmers, ag-related businesses, and mental health and healthcare providers. In partnership with the University of Wisconsin – Madison Division of Extension, the farm center will create farmer focus groups, develop mental health provider trainings and support other activities focusing on farmer mental health.

Wisconsin program offers mental health, wellness resources to veterinarians

Also in Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Veterinary Examining Board (VEB) launched the Veterinary Professional Assistance Program (VPAP) and Work-Life Services, a confidential program designed to help licensed veterinarians and certified veterinary technicians manage the physical and mental challenges associated with the profession.

The VPAP is a professional assistance and wellness program for veterinarians and veterinary technicians. The program’s offerings include guidance and assistance with family issues, finding child and adult care, workplace concerns, legal and financial issues, stress, health and wellness, and other issues. Examples of wellness issues include chemical dependence, psychiatric illness, professional burnout and compassion fatigue.

The VEB assumes all costs for the program, which was launched in partnership with Humana. VPAP services are confidential and available to veterinary professionals and their household members 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

To learn more about the VPAP, click here

COVID-19 update for October 2020

PPP loan obligations, business ownership changes addressed

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) recently updated information regarding procedures for companies that have changed ownership since receiving PPP loans.

The SBA has defined three different instances as a change in ownership:

  • At least 20% of the common stock or other ownership interest is sold or transferred in one or more transactions following the date of the loan approval
  • At least 50% of the entity’s assets (measured by fair market value) are sold or transferred in one or more transactions following the date of the loan approval
  • The PPP borrower is merged with or into another entity.

Regardless of any change of ownership, the PPP borrower remains responsible for all obligations under the PPP loan and must comply with all other applicable PPP requirements. Additionally, the PPP borrower remains responsible for obtaining, preparing and retaining all required PPP forms and supporting documentation.

For information on PPP loans and change of ownership, click here.

For additional information on the PPP, click here.

Minnesota offers more farm COVID-19 aid

Minnesota has earmarked $7.7 million plan to support agricultural producers, meat processors and farmers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Funded through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the financial support will help farmers who have experienced market disruptions recover from and purchase equipment and supplies.

About $5.75 million will be distributed as direct payments to turkey and pork producers to compensate for market disruptions and associated costs due to COVID-19.

Other funding includes:

  • $1 million for cost share aid to companies or individuals looking to expand or open a meat processing facility
  • $500,000 for local food systems
  • $250,000 for Farm Business Management Scholarships, offered through the Minnesota colleges and universities system, to help farmers manage their finances
  • $200,000 for farmer and food security support to reimburse the Minnesota Department of Agriculture for grants that provided Minnesota-grown food in school summer meal programs

SBA’s PPP loan forgiveness applications simplified

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), in consultation with the Treasury Department, released a simpler loan forgiveness application for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans of $50,000 or less.

SBA began approving PPP forgiveness applications and remitting forgiveness payments to participating lenders for program borrowers on Oct. 2, 2020.

Click here to view the simpler loan forgiveness application.

Click here to view the instructions for completing the simpler loan forgiveness application.

Click here to view the interim final rule on the simpler forgiveness process for loans of $50,000 or less.

Minnesota: Dairy operation contingency plan forms available

The University of Minnesota Extension Livestock Team has released a set of customizable forms that can be used to create operations contingency plans for individual farms. The contingency forms are meant to provide livestock owners a starting point to outline essential livestock care if they and/or their managers become sick with COVID-19 or another emergency occurs.

The contingency plans are meant to cover short-term, essential care for emergency planning purposes. 

Plans are available for download here. The dairy contingency plan form identifies priorities and outlines standard operating procedures, covering everything from basic animal care tasks and feeding to animal mortality and manure management protocols.

Consumers support of farmers, technology grows due to COVID-19 food challenges

A recent survey found nearly one-third of international consumers have a renewed appreciation for animal agriculture in light of food supply and distribution challenges related to COVID-19. The Feed4Thought survey was conducted by Cargill and included 2,500 adults in the U.S., Vietnam, Brazil and Norway.

"Farmers and ranchers have faced tremendous pressures caused by COVID-19 supply chain disruptions. And those pressures came on top of the multitude of challenges farmers already faced as they worked to feed the world in a safe, responsible and sustainable way," said David Webster, president of Cargill Animal Nutrition & Health. "When consumers experienced bare shelves at grocery stores, they were reminded of the critical role livestock and aquaculture farmers play in global food security."

Cargill found 71% of consumers express concern about the pandemic's disruption of the food system, and that two in three consumers acknowledge an increased pressure on animal farmers to supply safe, affordable protein since COVID-19's onset.

Among other findings:

  • Eighty-four percent of survey respondents indicated they were generally confident in farmers to meet demand and feed growing populations. More than half of consumers indicate they feel positively toward and appreciative of farmers, with one-third saying that their perceptions have improved as compared to pre-pandemic.

  • Beyond the critical role of feeding the world, consumers also see farmers as stewards of the earth's natural resources (47%), animal care experts (42%), technologically savvy (21%) and professional businesspeople (20%).

  • The study suggests respondents believe technology can help farmers address the challenges they face. Of those surveyed, 29% would like to see farmers prioritize technology that improves animal health and well-being, while 28% would like to see technology that improves overall food safety. Nearly a quarter of younger Americans (Generation Z, ages 18 – 23) look to source their food from farms using the latest technology, which is significantly higher than older cohorts, especially baby boomers. 

CentralStar provides semen rebate relief payments

Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan dairy and beef producers recently received $335,251 through the CentralStar COVID-19 semen rebate relief program. The program was launched earlier this year to help ease the financial challenges customers and member-owners were experiencing due to disruptions the pandemic created with supply chain and consumer demands, according to Paul Trierweiler, CentralStar Cooperative board president.

CentralStar’s COVID-19 semen rebate relief program was introduced in June and culminated Aug. 31, 2020, with 4,183 dairy and beef producers receiving benefits. 

CentralStar also implemented precautionary measures to protect the health, safety and well-being of customers, employees and their families. These safeguards allowed CentralStar to provide uninterrupted service for artificial insemination, Dairy Herd Information (DHI) services, diagnostic testing, as well as genetic and reproductive consultation to herds.

Free school meal program flexibilities extended

The USDA is extending flexibilities to allow free meals to continue to be available to all children throughout the entire 2020-21 school year. 

The USDA previously extended child nutrition waivers through December 2020, based upon available funding. The new extension will allow schools and other local program operators to continue to leverage the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the Seamless Summer Option (SSO) to provide no-cost meals to all children, available at over 90,000 sites across the country, through June 30, 2021.

Roughly 7%-8% of all milk produced in the U.S. flows to students in public schools, according to Matt Herrick, senior vice president of communications for the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA). “These flexibilities ensure more children have access to nutritious dairy products at a challenging time for many families,” he said.

These program flexibilities allow schools and local program operators to operate a meal service model that best meets their community’s unique needs, while keeping kids and staff safe. Additional flexibilities are being granted on a state-by-state basis to facilitate a wide range of meal service options and accommodate other operational needs. 

Spanish-language videos help dairy farms prevent COVID-19 spread

Paola Bacigalupo Sanguesa, Michigan State University Extension dairy educator, partnered with Melissa Millerick-May, MSU assistant professor of medicine, to produce Spanish language videos designed to educate Spanish speaking dairy farm workers how to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Video topics include:

  • What is COVID-19?
  • Preventing spread of COVID-19
  • Minimizing spread in shared housing
  • Facemask guidelines
  • What do to if you think you have COVID-19
  • Available resources for COVID-19

The series of six informational videos are posted on the MSU Extension Dairy Team’s YouTube channel and distributed to farm managers across the state.

North-central collaboration addressing farm stress

The USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), through the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN) grant program, awarded nearly $7.2 million to expand stress management and mental health resources for agricultural producers in the north-central U.S. The grant was a portion of $28.7 million that NIFA awarded to four regional entities contributing to the FRSAN.

Funding for the North Central Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Center (NCFRSAC), a 12-state collaborative, will expand programs that provide professional agricultural behavioral health interventions, support farm telephone hotlines and websites, and provide needed training and resources for producers and those in agriculture-related occupations.

The key target audiences for this project include individuals engaged in production agriculture with specific emphasis on producers and farmworkers, farm youth and farm families, and allies and supporters of agricultural producers, specifically agribusiness professionals and healthcare providers.

Collaborators include: Iowa State University Extension, Purdue University Extension, Kansas State University Extension, Michigan State University Extension, University of Minnesota Extension, University of Missouri Extension, University of Nebraska Extension, North Dakota State University Extension, Ohio State University Extension, South Dakota State University Extension, University of Wisconsin Extension, Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (CS-CASH), National AgrAbility and Progressive Agriculture Foundation (PAF).

For a description of programs and activities already underway, click here.

Consumer shopping strategies evolving

Since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, Americans have altered their meal planning and adapted their shopping strategies and behaviors, according to a new study from The Hartman Group.

Among the strategies, consumers are adapting to changing frequency, location and methods of shopping to suit their comfort levels, said Laurie Demeritt, CEO of The Hartman Group, a consumer research and consulting firm. One of the most common tactics is to consolidate trips, though many continue to visit multiple stores on a given outing.

The report finds that while grocery and mass merchandise channels are used most frequently, club, specialty and natural, and online cater-to-consumer channels are being used to stock up and procure specific harder-to-find items and avoiding stores entirely. They are now more likely than ever to stock up at smaller retailers in an attempt to maximize the utility of each shopping trip, even if it means spending a little more.

COVID-19 update for September 2020

DMI teaming up with Subway on GENYouth

Subway sandwich franchises nationwide will generate money for GENYOUth’s Emergency School Meal Delivery Fund and build awareness about the checkoff’s support for youth wellness through Fuel Up to Play 60 (FUTP 60).

Subway, which has 21,000 franchises, and Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) are both NFL partners. When Subway and the NFL were working on their sponsorship agreement, the league encouraged the chain to support FUTP 60 to serve local communities and youth.

Subway will engage with DMI on two nationwide efforts at no additional cost to the checkoff.

First, the chain launched the “Tackle Hunger” endeavor through its Subway Cares customer donation program. The franchises will use these donations for GENYOUth’s fund to provide school meals and feeding efforts from October through Nov. 30. GENYOUth has so far raised $9.92 million in cash and in-kind support for 8,485 schools, but nearly 10,000 more schools have asked for help.

Second, Subway will unveil “60-cent 6-inch Sundays” to students who display their FUPT 60 “Healthy Habits Tracker.” Subway menus – which offer Shamrock Farms milk as a beverage option – will feature milk messages and Fuel Up to Play 60 and Undeniably Dairy logos. The promotion runs early October to Dec. 31, 2020.

Wisconsin Farm Support Program distributes another $8 million

More than 3,300 Wisconsin farmers received $8.4 million in the second round of the state’s Farm Support Program funding. A joint program between the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) and the Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR), the program was designed to assist Wisconsin farmers who faced financial challenges due to COVID-19.

The program utilized $50 million of the state’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) funding. In the first round, $41.6 million was distributed to nearly 12,000 farmers. 

The second round of funding was open to farmers whose gross income from farming in 2019 was between $10,000 and $5 million. Almost 60% of funding recipients reported a gross income from farming of less than $40,000.

ADA North East recaps pandemic activities

When the COVID-19 quarantine began in March, American Dairy Association North East (ADA North East) recognized the important role dairy checkoff could play in keeping milk and dairy products moving through the supply chain to benefit farmers, students and families throughout the six-state region.

“We took the lead from our dairy farmers who rallied to help their neighbors and local communities even when times were challenging for them,” said ADA North East CEO Rick Naczi.

From helping stock grocery store dairy cases, supplying cooler bags to school districts to assist with milk and meal distribution, collaborating with USDA-approved vendors, dairy processors and community organizations to use the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) and more, Naczi shares activities in ”Dairy Checkoff never stopped – what, where and how we promoted dairy during the pandemic.”

ADA North East is the dairy farmer-funded organization representing nearly 10,000 dairy farm families in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and northern Virginia.

USDA approves contracts for round three of Farmers to Families Food Box Program

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the approval of up to $1 billion in contracts for the third round of the USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box Program.

In this round of purchases, USDA announced plans to purchase combination boxes to ensure all recipient organizations have access to fresh produce, dairy products, fluid milk and meat products.

Perdue also announced that the USDA had reached a milestone of having distributed more than 90 million food boxes under rounds one (May 15-June 30) and two (July 1-Sept. 18) of the program in support of American farmers and families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A full list of approved suppliers is posted on the Farmers to Families Food Box Program webpage.  

Ohio law protects ag businesses from COVID-19 lawsuits

A new Ohio law provides certainty that agricultural businesses won’t be bombarded by lawsuits seeking damages for COVID-19, according to Peggy Kirk Hall, associate professor of agricultural and resource law at Ohio State University. Under the law, a person claiming harm from exposure to COVID-19 at an agricultural business must show that the business acted recklessly and with intentional disregard or indifference to the possibility of COVID-19.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed House Bill 606 (H.B. 606) into law on Sept. 14; the law will be effective in 90 days. In its original version, H.B. 606 included only health care immunity provisions. General immunity provisions of interest to farms and other businesses were later added. The general immunity provisions apply only to the period from March 9, 2020, when DeWine declared a state of emergency due to COVID-19, until Sept. 30, 2021.

The new law will prohibit a person from bringing a civil action that seeks damages for injury, death or loss to a person or property allegedly caused by exposure to or transmission of the coronavirus, with one exception.  The civil immunity does not apply if the exposure to or transmission of the coronavirus resulted from a defendant’s “reckless conduct,” “intentional misconduct,” or “willful or wanton misconduct.”  Reckless conduct means disregarding a substantial and unjustifiable risk that conduct or circumstances are likely to cause exposure to or transmission of coronavirus and having “heedless indifference” to the consequences.

Another provision in the new law also prohibits a class action that alleges liability for coronavirus exposure or transmission if the law’s general immunity provisions do not apply.

For more information, read Governor signs Ohio coronavirus immunity bill.

DFA donates refrigeration, milk to food banks

Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) announced an expanded commitment in the fight against hunger, donating refrigeration units to rural and community food banks across the country and pledging to keep them stocked with dairy products for the remainder of the year. The effort, coinciding with “Hunger Action Month” this September, is being financed through its DFA Cares Farmers Feeding Families Fund.

“When we launched the Farmers Feeding Families Fund in April, we started working with rural and community food banks and quickly realized that a lot of these smaller facilities had very limited cold storage, or in some cases, were completely lacking it,” said Jackie Klippenstein, senior vice president of government, industry and community relations. “Access to refrigeration is one of the largest challenges for food banks to keep fresh foods like dairy on hand. Once we saw this was a need, we felt compelled to step up and help provide long-term infrastructure improvements to ensure food banks have refrigeration, so that they can offer dairy products to the hungry families that they serve.”

Through the creation of the Farmers Feeding Families Fund initiated last April, DFA and its 13,000 farm family-owners, along with its dedicated essential workers, have been raising money to help provide support and deliver dairy products to community food banks across the country. To date, the program has raised more than $650,000 and distributed more than $225,000 to rural and community food banks. One of DFA’s partners, Leprino Foods Company, contributed $100,000 to fund.

DFA also has been working with industry leaders and milk processors across the country to coordinate drive-by milk giveaways and product donations directly to food banks. A few highlights include:

  • Providing more than 250,000 gallons of milk at 60-plus drive-by milk giveaways throughout the Northeast
  • Donating $10,000 worth of milk to Rhode Island schools through Guida’s Dairy
  • Working with Kroger to donate more than 90,000 gallons of milk to food banks and health care workers in Kentucky, Ohio and Georgia
  • Partnering with Daisy brand to donate 120,000 pounds of cottage cheese to food banks in Akron and Cleveland over a six-week period
  • Donating 250,000 Kemps Giving Cow shelf-stable milks to food banks in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and Iowa
  • Working with Dairy West to donate 9,775 pounds of cheese curds to Salt Lake City-area food banks
  • Providing more than 12,000 gallons of milk to food banks throughout Southern California

For more information about DFA’s Farmers Feeding Families Fund or to make a donation, go to the DFA website.

UW – Madison dairy cows return to campus

The dairy cows returned to University of Wisconsin – Madison Dairy Cattle Center on Sept. 1, five months after they were removed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Without students on campus to milk cows or conduct research projects, the center was temporarily shuttered on March 27. The dairy herd spent the summer at Emmons Blaine Dairy Cattle Research Center, located at the university’s Arlington Agricultural Research Station.

The dairy cattle center houses 84 milking cows in a tiestall barn. There is a classroom attached to the facility, which allows students to have hands-on access to cows for dairy science, veterinary medicine and Farm and Industry Short Course program training and research.

The dairy cattle center was built in 1956 to replace the original dairy barn built in 1898. It underwent a $3 million renovation in 2013 to update feed storage, milking facilities, ventilation and living conditions for the cattle, as well as an $800,000 renovation of the classroom, laboratory and locker room spaces in 2017.

Penn State researchers to study coronavirus potential to infect livestock

A grant from the USDA will enable Penn State researchers to study the potential for SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, to infect and spread among livestock.

Researchers hope to aid in the development of rapid decision-making strategies to safeguard the agricultural supply chain, the health and security of livestock, the safety of food and the well-being of the farming community.

USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, through its Agricultural and Food Research Initiative, awarded the nearly $1 million grant to a team led by Suresh Kuchipudi, clinical professor of veterinary and biomedical sciences in the college of agricultural sciences.

During the pandemic, the new virus has continued to mutate, and there now are numerous genetic versions of SARS-CoV-2. Cross-host exposures are an important step in the transference of viruses to new hosts.

To investigate the susceptibility of livestock to SARS-CoV-2 and determine if the virus can adapt and spread among agricultural animals, researchers will employ a combination of laboratory and computer research assessments. In addition, researchers will develop diagnostic tests and use them to monitor the presence of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 in livestock animals.

ICE announces another extension to I-9 compliance flexibility

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) extended flexibilities in rules related to Form I-9 compliance that were granted earlier this year due to precautions related to COVID-19. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will further extend this policy until Sept. 19. The extension has limited applications for farmers: The action only applies to workplaces that are operating remotely due to the coronavirus.

On March 19, DHS originally announced that it would exercise prosecutorial discretion to defer the physical presence requirements associated with Form I-9. If there are employees physically present at a work location, no exceptions were implemented.

Employers are required to monitor the DHS and ICE websites for additional updates regarding when the extensions will be terminated, and normal operations will resume.

USDA extends free meals for kids

The USDA will allow summer meal program operators continued flexibility in offering free meals to children through the end of the year, or until program funding runs out.

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is extending a suite of nationwide waivers for the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and Seamless Summer Option (SSO) through the end of 2020, or until available funding runs out. This includes: 

  • Allowing SFSP and SSO meals to be served in all areas and at no cost
  • Permitting meals to be served outside of the typically required group settings and meal times
  • Waiving meal pattern requirements as necessary
  • Allowing parents and guardians to pick up meals for their children

The provisions, implemented due to the COVID-19 pandemic, have been extended until Dec. 31, 2020. The USDA announcement said limited funding prevented the waivers to be extended through the entire 2020-21 school year.

Dairy Defined: Food chain return to ‘normal’ is slow but progressing

The coronavirus crisis is far from over, but the food supply chain has adapted effectively, according to Clay Detlefsen, chief counsel for the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and the private sector chair of the Food and Agricultural Sector Coordinating Council.

Early challenges in acquiring enough personal protective equipment and redesigning workplaces to keep workers safe have been largely met, but the continued circulation of the virus itself makes it challenging for businesses to be completely confident disruptions may be avoided, Detlefsen said in a recent NMPF Dairy Defined podcast. “Progress continues in making sure supplies are manufactured in adequate quantities, as well as in understanding how the virus is spread and how to prevent it.”

The Food and Agricultural Sector Coordinating Council was set up after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks to share information between government agencies and private businesses during crises that affect the U.S. food supply chain. 

COVID-19 update for August 2020

The Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council is focused on bringing together all sectors of the dairy industry – producers, consultants, academia and allied industry professionals – for improved reproductive performance.

ADA North East, New York dairy farmer and local law enforcement distribute milk

American Dairy Association North East (ADA North East) and Madrid, New York, dairy farmer David Fisher of Mapleview Dairy joined more than 40 local law enforcement officers to distribute 2,100 gallons of milk at a milk drive in Canton, New York.

The event was facilitated by the dairy association and local dairy processors, cooperatives and community groups. In addition to the milk from Dairy Farmers of America, families received 20-pound boxes of food, including 225 boxes of dairy products purchased with government-funded grants through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP).

“This milk distribution event relied on countless law enforcement officers and local volunteers like David Fisher to execute so that families have access to milk and food,” said ADA North East CEO Rick Naczi. “Both have strong ties to the community and are dedicated to ensuring the health and safety of their neighbors.”

To date, American Dairy Association North East has facilitated the distribution of more than 700,000 gallons of milk purchased from Clover Farms, Dairy Farmers of America, Harrisburg Dairies, Schneider’s Dairy, Upstate Niagara Cooperative and H.P. Hood through CFAP, Nourish New York and the Dairy Farmers of America milk drives, which began in April.

ADA North East is a regional dairy checkoff-funded organization. It represents nearly 10,000 dairy farm families in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and northern Virginia.

Minnesota grants help boost livestock processing capacity

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) has awarded $208,213 to 46 Minnesota livestock processing plants and producers to help them increase capacity for slaughter, processing and storage in the wake of supply chain disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The MDA Agricultural Growth, Research and Innovation (AGRI) Program’s Rapid Response Mini-Grant for Livestock Processing offered up to $5,000 to applicants to offset the cost of expenses such as adding coolers, refrigeration units, slaughter and processing equipment.

The MDA awarded grants to 21 licensed, custom-exempt processing plants, 11 state equal-to processing plants, six USDA-inspected processing plants and eight livestock producers with storage needs. The grants required matching funds; projects must make immediate impact on the state’s capacity to process or store Minnesota-raised livestock, poultry, milk and eggs.

Other MDA efforts to help deal with capacity issues at Minnesota livestock processing plants included making earlier awards of $345,000 in value-added grants to nine Minnesota meat processors to help them increase capacity, working with existing Equal-To processors to expand capacity, and developing an expedited approval process for plants that want to sell wholesale.

Financial software, COVID-19 support reviewed

Best Accounting Software reviews and rates financial software to help small businesses and other organizations make more informed purchases. The company also analyzed, ranked and listed COVID-19 support available at both a federal and state level for small businesses. The guide is available here.

COVID-19 update for July 2020

USDA announces a third round of ‘food box” program purchases

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the USDA will launch a third round of Farmers to Families Food Box Program purchases with distributions to occur beginning by Sept. 1 with completion by Oct. 31, 2020. Through July 29, more than 50 million food boxes had been invoiced and delivered.

In this third round of purchases, the USDA plans to purchase combination boxes to ensure all recipient organizations have access to fresh produce, dairy products, fluid milk and meat products.

Dairy will maintain a strong presence in the third round of food boxes. The USDA said boxes must contain at a minimum 5 to 6 pounds of at least two dairy items, split between natural cheese or cottage cheese, cream cheese, yogurt, butter or sour cream. In addition, 1 gallon of milk must be included. In total, combined with the other products in the box, meat and dairy must have a combined weight of at least 10 pounds.

The first round of purchases (May 15-June 30) totaled more than $947 million. In the ongoing second round of purchasing and distribution (July 1-Aug. 31), the USDA aims to purchase up to $1.47 billion of food for the program. The third round of purchases will spend the balance of $3 billion authorized for the program.

Click here for more information about the third round of food box purchasing that will be made available on the Farmers to Families Food Box Program website. 

Don’t let coronavirus financial assistance leave you with a tax bill surprise

Between USDA’s Commodity Food Assistance Program (CFAP) payments and the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, it will be critical for farmers to stay up to date on projected year-end numbers to avoid an unpleasant tax surprise, warns Dario Arezzo, a senior tax consultant at Farm Credit East. In a recent Knowledge Exchange article (PPP Expenses + Milk Base Purchase = Unexpected Tax Bill?), Arezzo stresses the importance of situational awareness this tax year.

New York Farm Bureau: About two-thirds of farms, ag businesses negatively impacted by COVID-19

The New York Farm Bureau unveiled the results of a member survey that found 65% of the state’s farms and agribusinesses have been negatively impacted financially by the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 500 state Farm Bureau members participated in the informal survey, conducted in mid-June. About 22% (104) represented dairy farms and businesses.

Participants were asked a dozen wide-ranging questions about the rural economy, health and safety of farm families and their employees, as well as access to necessary personal protective equipment. Respondents also described how they were personally affected. Key findings of the survey included.

  • Forty-three percent of farms have lost sales during the pandemic.
  • More than a third of farms and agribusinesses (37%) are experiencing cash flow issues.
  • Almost half (47%) say they have reduced spending to local vendors and suppliers or will do so in the future.
  • An overwhelming majority of farms (84%) have a plan in place to train and assist their employees to mitigate the spread of the virus.
  • Forty-six percent of respondents say they are concerned about their mental health or that of someone they know.

NMPF updates Coronavirus Dairy Toolbox

The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) has updated its Coronavirus Dairy Toolbox, providing resources covering workforce coronavirus prevention and management, federal financial assistance programs and more.

California OSHA compliance information available

Western United Dairies (WUD) is providing information to help producer members comply with coronavirus-related employee regulations. Among the offerings, WUD hosted a “kitchen table meeting,” featuring attorney Anthony Raimondo.

A multipage checklist to help keep California dairies compliant with COVID-19 related regulations is available to members.

Minnesota COVID-19 funds help farmers restructuring debt

Eligible farmers restructuring their debt can get half of the loan guarantee fees on USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) restructuring loans covered through a new Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) program paid for through federal COVID-19 funding.

The Minnesota Legislature appropriated $175,000 in COVID-19 relief this spring toward a grant program that covers 50% of loan guarantee fees for FSA loans to restructure farmers’ debt. Loan fees are 1.5% of the loan value and average $3,000-$5,000 in total.

Farmers currently in mediation will receive first priority for the program funds. Applications will be accepted now through Dec. 1, 2020.

To be eligible, farmers must have closed on an FSA restructure loan between May 28, 2020, and Dec. 15, 2020, and be in mediation or have recently received a mediation notice. They must be residents of Minnesota who regularly participate in the labor or operation of their farm and have a net worth of $800,000 or less.

For more information about how to apply and the application, visit the Minnesota Rural Finance Authority's Farm Loan Guarantee Fee Grant Program webpage.

BIPOC fund available in Northeast

The Northeast Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) Farmer Relief Fund is accepting applications. The program is designed for those who work in agriculture and have been economically impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. Applications are being accepted through Aug. 10, 2020.

This fund will provide $500 relief payments for up to 200 applicants. Funding is provided by Farm Aid and administered by Pasa Sustainable Agriculture, in collaboration with organizations across the Northeast.

The program is open to BIPOC people working in agriculture in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Washington, D.C.

USDA adds $288 million for dairy in extended, new ‘food box’ contracts

The USDA has approved up to $1.27 billion in extended contracts and up to $202 million in new contracts through the Farmers to Families Food Box Program.

In this second round of purchases, the program will purchase $288 million in a variety of dairy products, $512 million in fresh fruits and vegetables, $233 million in meat products and $444 million in a combination box of fresh produce, dairy or meat products. The purchases will be made between July 1 through Aug. 31, 2020.

The USDA previously announced it would extend contracts of select vendors from the first round of the program for the period, July 1 – Aug. 30, based on a variety of factors such as contractor performance, fund availability and needs.

A full, updated list of current suppliers is available here.

Cal/OSHA conducts COVID-19 compliance visits of dairies

Western United Dairies (WUD) updated members on a report that regional California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) safety personnel had visited a number of dairies in Merced County, California, given the spike in the number of COVD-19 cases in that county.

According to WUD correspondence with Cal/OSHA staff, the visits, conducted over the July 4 holiday weekend, were "compliance assistance" visits only and not part of an enforcement campaign.

“We have not received any reports that citations have been issued to any of our members,” WUD said in an email. “Cal-OSHA had coordinated these ‘compliance assistance’ visits to educate and to ensure producers have hand washing stations available, soap, sanitation in lavatories and, a relatively new requirement, face coverings for all employees. We have also confirmed that official inspections – those associated with potential enforcement – would never occur on the weekends or holidays.”

An OSHA/CDFA compliance checklist is intended to help agriculture and livestock employers implement a plan to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.

MSU releases COVID-19 assessment tool for agriculture

Michigan State University Extension has released a COVID-19 Hazard Assessment and Mitigation Program (CHAMP) e-tool to support the agriculture industry.

Using CHAMP will help the agriculture community identify, develop and implement appropriate coronavirus exposure control strategies tailored to protect workers and the customers. Information and guidance has been adapted and compiled from federal, state and local sources.

Virtual trainings are being offered. Email Melissa Millerick-May for information.

Wisconsin creates Farm Wellness Hotline 

As of July 1, Wisconsin farmers facing increased stress and other challenges can access additional free and confidential counseling resources by contacting the Farm Center at the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP). As part of a new pilot program, the Farm Center can now connect callers to a 24/7 Farmer Wellness Hotline. The hotline can be reached at (888) 901-2558. Licensed mental health professionals contracted by the department will provide immediate, in-the-moment care.

In addition to the hotline, callers can schedule ongoing tele-health counseling sessions or request to meet with a local provider through the Counseling Voucher Program.

In June, the Farm Center launched Rural Realities, a podcast offering advice to farmers and farm service providers about managing stress and anxiety. Click here for more information.

Maryland adds COVID-19 risk checklists

Maryland’s Department of Agriculture (MDA) has developed short, easy-to-understand, practical resources to help farms reduce the risk of COVID-19 in the workplace, according to the Maryland Risk Management Education Blog. The guides provide step-by-step checklists for ensuring that employers have thought about and taken steps to protect their workers’ health and what to do if their workers become sick. All of the guides also include information about resources that are available in languages other than English.

The guides and all of MDA’s COVID-19 resources can be found on MDA's COVID-19 resources webpage.

COVID-19 update for June 30

USDA expanding CFAP payment application options

The USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) will now accept applications for Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) payments through an online portal and is working to enable FSA staff to complete applications submitted by producers from home, according to FSA Administrator Richard Fordyce. CFAP applications will be accepted through Aug. 28, 2020. 

Through the online portal, producers with secure USDA “eAuthentication” login credentials can certify eligible commodities online, digitally sign applications and submit them directly to the local USDA Service Center. Currently, the digital application is only available to sole proprietors or single-member business entities. Producers who do not have an eAuthentication account can learn more and begin the enrollment process here.

FSA is also leveraging commercial document storage and e-signature solutions to enable producers to work with local service center staff to complete their applications from home. Producers can complete and securely transmit digitally signed applications through two commercially available tools: Box and OneSpan. Producers who are interested in digitally signing their applications should notify their local service centers when calling to discuss the CFAP application process. Learn more here.

Other options for producers to complete and submit their CFAP applications include:

  • Download the AD-3114 application form and submit the manually completed form to the local USDA Service Center by mail, electronically or by hand delivery to an office drop box. In some limited cases, the office may be open for in-person business by appointment.
  • Complete the application form using the CFAP Application Generator and Payment Calculator found here. This Excel workbook allows customers to input information specific to their operation to determine estimated payments and populate the application form, which can be printed, and then signed and submitted to their local USDA Service Center.

  • New customers seeking one-on-one support with the CFAP application process can call (877) 508-8364 to speak directly with a USDA employee ready to offer general assistance. 

USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program reaches 20 million milestone

As of June 23, more than 20 million food boxes were distributed through the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program in support of American farmers and families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Check out the video.

USDA granting school meal flexibility

With uncertainty about how U.S. schools will operate this fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the USDA will offer flexibility in how schools deliver food to students. The USDA waivers will give states, schools and childcare providers time to plan for how they will serve children, including allowing for new and innovative feeding options.

The USDA is providing flexibilities around meal patterns, group-setting requirements, meal service times and parent/guardian pickup of meals for kids across the School Breakfast Program (SBP), the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). 

The USDA is also announcing a new flexibility that waives the requirement for high schools to provide students the option to select some of the foods offered in a meal. While this practice, known as “offer versus serve” is encouraged, social distancing or meals-in-the-classroom models would make this regulatory requirement difficult.

Collectively, these waivers reduce barriers to meal service options that support a transition back to normal operations while simultaneously responding to evolving local conditions, according to the USDA press release. For more information, click here.

Farm Credit East hosts PPP loan forgiveness Q&A sessions

For those agricultural producers who received Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funding, Farm Credit East is hosting weekly question and answer sessions to prepare producers to apply for loan forgiveness. In addition, each session provides updates on the most recent guidance from the Small Business Administration (SBA).

Farm Credit East business consultants Erin Pirro and Keith Dickinson host these free informational sessions every Wednesday at 9 a.m. (Eastern time). To participate, click here shortly prior to the start time of the webinar.

OSHA’S COVID-19 record-keeping requirements

COVID-19 is classified as a recordable illness, so employers are responsible to record work-related cases. If you are unsure of OSHA’s record-keeping requirements surrounding COVID-19, review this OSHA memo for more information. It’s difficult to determine whether or not a case is work-related, but this resource does a great job of explaining employers’ obligations.

Recent podcasts

Basse: From ‘just in time’ to ‘just in case’

The COVID-19 pandemic may force the global food supply chain to switch from maintaining inventories based on “just in time” delivery to “just in case” stockpiling, according to Dan Basse, president of AgResources Company. Basse discussed the COVID-19 impact on agriculture with Charleston|Orwig CEO Mark Gale in a recent “Five in 15” webcast.

With his company’s business offices in Chicago, as well as Brazil and Switzerland, Basse gave a brief overview of international conditions in the podcast titled "Fate of the Plate: An Economic Recovery Report.” He said he believes it will take development of a coronavirus vaccine before the world has full confidence in food supply movement.

With more than adequate production, the choke points in the food supply chain are not on the farm, they’ve been in processing and transportation, Basse noted. And while the U.S. has worked through some of those choke points – such as a return to near-normal capacity at livestock slaughter plants – logistical challenges remain worldwide. In addition, with restaurants and other food service outlets opening slowly, most food movement is still funneled through one pipeline: retail grocery stores.

Sectors of the food industry have been impacted differently. Basse identified the dairy industry as one that has moved from being a loser in April to being a winner in June as a result of COVID-19 impacts on food buying and consumption patterns, with strong fluid milk sales record-high cheese prices pushing nearby Class III milk futures prices now above $21 per cwt.

In contrast, loss of bacon sales in the food service sector have hampered recovery in the hog industry.

And, the conditions have created a situation where food inflation is up at the same time farm income is down. As a result, Basse expects 45% to 50% of U.S. farm income to come from the government in 2020.

Charleston|Orwig’s "Five in 15" webcasts are part of the agency’s “Food, Farms & the Future” series and feature conversations with industry leaders on current topics affecting agriculture and food. The 15-minute webcasts are designed to identify five useful tips for ag and food industries to consider implementing in their own farms and businesses. For more information, visit the website.

Cash flow will remain a challenge

While direct government payments and indemnity payments through Dairy-Revenue Protection (Dairy-RP) and Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) programs certainly help, cash flow will remain a challenge for many dairy farmers. Steve Bodart, with Compeer Financial, outlined how producers can conduct a “2020 Financial Checkup” in a Northeast Dairy Management webinar.

Bodart said dairy risk management program indemnity payments face delays due to the timing of feed cost and milk income calculations. Despite higher milk prices, dairy farmers could also see deductions in the form of negative producer price differentials (PPDs) in the months ahead. And, during periods of extreme volatility in milk prices and dairy farm income, the snapshot of working capital and cash flow can change almost daily. He advised looking ahead to 2021 and marketing opportunities.

The Northeast Dairy Management Webinar Series is a six-part presentation series to re-energize businesses and improve performance, even in challenging times.

COVID-19 update for June 2020

Pennsylvania designates portion of CARES funding for dairy, food insecurity

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has directed $40 million in funding through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to support Pennsylvania’s dairy industry and food security programs. Of the total:

  • $15 million will be sent to dairy farmers in the form of direct relief payments. Any dairy farm that experienced financial losses due to discarded or displaced milk during the COVID-19 emergency disaster may apply for assistance. Each farm with a documented loss will receive a minimum of $1,500 and an additional prorated share of the remaining funds, not to exceed the actual amount assessed by the handler. The deadline to apply for the Dairy Indemnity Program is Sept. 30, 2020.

  • $5 million will reimburse dairy farmers who participate in the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System (PASS) program by donating excess dairy products to Pennsylvania’s charitable food system.

  • $15 million will go to the State Food Purchase Program, which provides cash grants to counties for the purchase and distribution of food to low income individuals.

  • $5 million will go to the PASS program to reimburse the agricultural industry for the costs involved in harvesting, processing, packaging and transporting food that they donate to the charitable food system.

A Pennsylvania Center for Dairy Excellence conference call will update producers and others on the Dairy CARES Reimbursement Program. The call will be held on Tuesday, June 30, from 12 to 1 p.m. (Eastern time). Panelists will include: Greg Hostetter, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture; Troye Cooper, Pennsylvania Association of Dairy Cooperatives; Zach Myers, Center for Dairy Excellence; and Paul Bleiberg, vice president, National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF). Others included on the call as resources will be Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board Chair Rob Barley and Mike Hosterman from AgChoice Farm Credit. Dial (978) 990-5000 and enter access code 553371# to participate.

Farm Aid distributing ‘resilience’ funds

Farm Aid announced the distribution of $400,000 to launch a national COVID-19 Farmer Resilience Initiative. The initiative will work with more than 120 local, state and regional organizations across the country to pair immediate farmer relief efforts with longer-term resilience strategies.

Grants, distributed in $500 increments, will help farmers meet household expenses and are paired with resources developed by Farm Aid’s national partners, including the Farmers’ Legal Action Group (FLAG), Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA (RAFI-USA), Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative, Intertribal Agriculture Council and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. 

The Farmer Resilience Initiative is investing in farmer-led solutions to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic; deploying emergency grants to family farmers and ranchers in need; coordinating a national network to create resources for farmers; offering legal, financial and mental health support to farmers under stress through the (800) FARM-AID hotline; and advocating for COVID-19 recovery funds and resources from the federal government.

USDA: Meat-packing facilities operating at more than 95% of capacity

As of mid-June, U.S. meat-packing facilities are reopening and operating at more than 95% of their 2019 capacity, according to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. Since President Donald Trump’s executive order directing the facilities to implement CDC and OSHA guidelines related to COVID-19, beef facilities are operating at 98% of last year’s capacity.

Local Wisconsin livestock auction market to remain closed

After suspending operations at its auction market at Marion, Wisconsin, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Equity Cooperative Livestock Sales Association has decided to permanently close the market.

Operations at the market were suspended in mid-March. In June, Equity’s board of directors and management team reached a joint conclusion to not reopen the market, citing declining livestock volumes and buyer support. Additional services will be added to surrounding Equity facilities to assist producers formerly served by the Marion market.

Equity Livestock Cooperative Sales Association is a federated cooperative headquartered in Baraboo, Wisconsin. Equity operates 12 locations and assists producers with the marketing, managing and financing of their agricultural businesses.

‘Support Local Farmers’ shirt sales raise dairy funds for food banks

Sydney Endres and Mariah Martin of the Madison, Wisconsin, area designed and sold 'Support Local Farmers' shirts in a variety of styles and colors. Proceeds were used to purchase dairy products for donation to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Southern Wisconsin, Wisconsin’s Adopt-A-Dairy-Cow program and Feeding America’s Great American Milk Drive. In total, 640 shirts were sold resulting in over $8,000 worth of milk donations.

Endres grew up on her family’s Jazzy Jerseys dairy farm near Lodi, Wisconsin. She helps on the family farm and works as an area representative and type traits appraiser for the American Jersey Cattle Association. Martin is a former Green County Dairy Queen and now works as a marketing executive for Filament Marketing.

Ball State professor works to distribute 1,500 gallons of milk to local food groups

Professor Josh Gruver, who teaches courses in natural resources and environmental management as an associate professor at Ball State University, is helping distribute 1,500 gallons of milk to local emergency food organizations.

The project is part of his work with Muncie Food Hub Partnership, a multifaceted operation that combines a central facility for producers to store and sell crops with mobile food trucks to deliver fresh, local produce. 

The milk was supplied by Prairie Farms’ facility in Anderson, Indiana.

KanPak fast tracks milk bottling initiative

To aid in hunger relief during the coronavirus crisis, Golden State Foods (GSF) dairy products subsidiary, KanPak U.S., launched a surplus milk bottling initiative for food banks. 

With food bank needs increasing and reports of milk dumping making national news, KanPak corporate Vice President and CEO Larry McGill identified available capacity on an existing bottling line installed in early 2019 at its Kansas facility. An initial production run fast-tracked 150,000 8-ounce bottles of milk; subsequent runs will potentially double that quantity to 30,000 total gallons of milk.

With transportation support from Centralized Freight Management (CFM), GSF's freight management company, about two-thirds of the first production run was shipped to Second Harvest Food Bank's facility in Irvine, California, also the home of GSF's global headquarters. As of early June, both Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County, California, and Kansas Food Bank in Wichita, Kansas, have received or are receiving surplus milk donations from KanPak.

KanPak’s U.S. and China operations process more than 25 million gallons of dairy products each year, applying aseptic processing and packaging technology to extend the shelf life of milk up to nine months without refrigeration.

Dane County doubles Second Harvest food bank funding 

Dane County (Wisconsin) is doubling its funding to Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin to $6 million, extending its COVID-19 food partnership program through the end of October.

Dane County has linked Second Harvest with Dane County dairy and pork producers’ organizations, the Dane County Farmers’ Market and Fairshare CSA Coalition. The partnership is bringing producers and consumers together to improve sales for farmers while resupplying dwindling cupboards of area food banks.

The effort first kicked off in April, when Dane County announced $3 million would go to help Second Harvest acquire food for Dane County food pantries through the end of July. The county initially acquired four cold storage semitrailers to bolster the ability for Second Harvest to store more meat, dairy and fresh produce.

Northeast partnership provides milk through Fill a Glass with Hope

American Dairy Association North East partnered with the 131 Price Chopper/Market 32 stores to provide fresh milk to local food banks through Fill a Glass with Hope during June. In-store signage reminds shoppers to “round up” their change at checkout to support children and families in their community.

Fill a Glass with Hope was initiated by Pennsylvania dairy farmers in 2015 and has provided 14 million servings of fresh milk through Feeding Pennsylvania’s food bank system. The program kicked off in New York last year at Price Chopper. The retailer offered a $10,000 match for a total of more than $32,000 raised.

Price Chopper has 88 stores in New York and Pennsylvania, with the remaining 43 stores in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. The retailer is also promoting the campaign in their store advertisements and running a dairy social media campaign during June.

Jessica Hula of Insight Dairy in Little Falls, New York, serves as a dairy farmer spokesperson for ADA North East for the Price Chopper promotion. American Dairy Association North East (ADA North East) is a dairy-checkoff-funded organization representing more than 10,000 dairy farm families in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and northern Virginia. Since the coronavirus pandemic began in March, ADA North East has helped to deliver more than 250,000 gallons of milk across the six-state region.

Midwest Dairy works with dairy processors to fill food bank needs

Participating in a Midwest Dairy program, Bongards Premium Cheese worked with the North Country Food Bank to provide cheese and butter to help those in need. North Country Food Bank is the sole distributor of surplus quality food and nonfood products in northwest and west-central Minnesota, serving a 21-county area.

Dairy-checkoff-funded Midwest Dairy is donating $500,000 to food banks in the Midwest to purchase dairy products for people who are in need. This program also offers processors an opportunity to keep their supply chains active while navigating dairy demand shifts. Midwest Dairy represents 6,500 dairy farm families across a 10-state region, including Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma. 

Michigan dairy farmers deliver coolers to food pantries

Eighteen local food banks across Michigan have been awarded milk refrigeration units as part of a United Dairy Industry of Michigan (UDIM) pilot grant program. The program provides local food pantries with a cooler to help store milk and dairy foods at proper temperatures.

The one-time grants also provide funds for the food pantry to fill the cooler with milk at the time the cooler is delivered. In addition to the dairy cooler pilot program, UDIM works alongside Michigan’s seven Feeding America food banks throughout the year to help ensure their clients have access to dairy foods.

Vita Plus commits $100,000 to support dairy and livestock producers, food security initiatives

Vita Plus launched its “Serving Customers & Rural Communities Project,” created to help meet the needs of area food security initiatives, while at the same time supporting dairy and livestock producers.

Vita Plus Corporation is an employee-owned feed, nutrition and management expertise company headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin. Through the $100,000 project, local Vita Plus nutrition consultants and facility staff are working with rural food pantries, schools and other food assistance programs by contributing dairy, beef and pork products in communities where Vita Plus employee owners and customers live and work. 

“This is a challenging time for many people,” said Bob Tramburg, Vita Plus president and CEO.  “Our focus is and always has been on serving customers. One way for us to do that is to help put the nutritious foods our customers produce into the hands of those who need them. Our employee owners see this as a great opportunity to make a positive difference in our rural communities, and we hope others will join us in the effort.”  

Dairy Max coordinating Passion for Pints blood drive

The dairy industry is not only giving milk to those in need. It’s also donating blood through Dairy Max’s eighth annual Passion for Pints blood drive. Blood drives for June 2020 are being held in Colorado, New Mexico, western Oklahoma and Texas.

Dairy Max started Passion for Pints in 2013 by partnering with blood centers throughout National Dairy Month in June to help increase local blood donations. Since that time, more than 1,600 Passion for Pints blood drives have taken place, collecting 64,000 units of blood.

Dairy Max is a regional nonprofit dairy council representing more than 900 dairy farmers in eight states: Colorado, southwest Kansas, Louisiana, Montana, New Mexico, western Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming. 

Webinar: COVID-19 crisis has changed producer communications

The COVID-19 crisis has changed the ways producers and lenders communicate and complete financial transactions, and increases the importance of accurate dairy records, break-even costs and use of risk management tools, according to two members of the ag financial community. Sam Miller, managing director, head of agriculture at BMO Harris Bank, and Steve Schwoerer, senior dairy lending specialist with Compeer Financial, were part of a Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin (PDPW) The Dairy Signal podcast on June 2. 

One positive outcome of the COVID-19 crisis has been better producer conversations with employees, vendors, bankers, processors and families.

Issues that will provide dairy recovery opportunities include low feed and fuel costs and low interest rates. Cow culling of low-producing animals has helped improve production and management efficiencies. 

Things to be watching for include dairy domestic and export demand and supply and processor responses, as well as potential inflationary factors and cost controls. Due to market volatility, the cost of risk management strategies has also increased.

Legislative changes could bring flexibility to PPP

Editor's update: President Trump signed the bill into law on June 5.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020 (H.R. 7010), which amends several provisions in the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). During the first week of June, the Senate approved the measure by unanimous consent. 

Many of the changes provide flexibility in length of time for repayment and rehiring, according to American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) economist Veronica Nigh. The changes could make the program more attractive to farmers and ranchers. Through May 30, 2020, $510.2 billion in PPP loans have been approved but only $7.6 billion of those funds, or 1.5%, have been given to agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting operations, Nigh said. 

According to Denise Bode with Michael Best, the bill would:

  • Allow recipients of loan forgiveness under the Paycheck Protection Program to defer payroll taxes
  • Lower current requirement that 75% of a loan be used on payroll to 60%. The remaining 40% can be used for other expenses including paying rent and utilities
  • Extend the amount of time the loan covers from eight weeks (two months) to 24 weeks (six months) or Dec. 31, whichever comes sooner
  • Extend from two years to five years the time allowed to repay any money owed on a loan
  • Extend deadline to rehire workers from June 30 to Dec. 31, 2020

Pennsylvania CDE provides COVID-19 grants

Pennsylvania’s Center for Dairy Excellence (CDE) has grants available to reimburse costs associated with COVID-19 personal protection equipment and social distancing measures.

The following grants are available: 

  • Up to $1,000 for individual dairy farms
  • Up to $2,000 for milk hauling companies
  • Up to $4,000 for commercial dairy processors procuring milk from three or more farms

After submitting an application, individuals will receive an email within one week regarding the approval of the grant request. A reimbursement form will be provided, and receipts for purchases made between March 1 and June 15 must be submitted by June 30. Grant reimbursement requests will be processed within four weeks of receipt.

The grant must be used for personal protection equipment costs or social distancing signage purchased between March 1 and June 15, 2020. Purchases that are eligible for reimbursement through the grant program include:

  • Bilingual training materials on social distancing and hand washing
  • Printing costs associated with posters and other signage related to COVID-19 measures
  • COVID-19 preventative and surveillance tools, such as thermometers
  • Sanitation and cleaning materials, such as hand sanitizer and cleaning products
  • Personal protection equipment, including masks, coveralls, gloves and face shields or costs associated with supplies to make personal protection equipment, such as masks

The grants are available on a first-come, first-serve basis to Pennsylvania dairy processors, milk hauling companies and dairy farms. Applications must be submitted online by June 15, 2020.

COVID-19 update for May 2020

Surveys seek producer, worker and allied industry input on COVID-19 Impact on dairy

A multistate team of researchers have developed a set of surveys to help better understand the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on U.S. dairy farms. 

The surveys are geared toward three dairy personnel categories: producers and managers (click on the “Next” tab at the bottom of the introduction), dairy farm workers (available in English and Spanish) and allied industry professionals, including veterinarians, nutritionists, consultants, sales representatives and others.

Each survey takes about 10 minutes, and all responses are anonymous. The surveys are being used to identify critical areas for outreach activities, with the objective of mitigating potential risks to dairy farmers’ and workers’ health, labor, production and economics.

Results will also be submitted to the USDA help obtain grant funding that will benefit the dairy industry.

The surveys are coordinated by Noelia Silva del Roio and Fernanda Ferreira from the University of California – Davis; Joe Dalton, Mireille Chahine and Mario de Haro Marti with the University of Idaho; Maristela Rovai with South Dakota State University; and John R. Wenz with Washington State University.

Providing milk to those in need: How the dairy industry worked to fill the gaps during COVID-19

Progressive Dairy highlights stories of dairy farmers, companies and organizations across the country stepping in to provide milk and other dairy products to food banks and others in need during the COVID-19 crisis. This list is compiled by our staff and their news sources.

We recognize it is not a complete list of all dairy donations that have occurred in the past few months. To add your story, email information to Progressive Dairy Editor Dave Natzke.

Survey reveals COVID-19 impact on specialty cheese industry

A survey of cheese producers across the Americas found an average decrease of 58% in overall sales due to the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, 71% applied for debt relief or financial assistance to stay afloat, according to results of a recent member survey conducted by the American Cheese Society (ACS).

The survey, “COVID-19 pandemic impact on the American cheese industry: Business operations,” was conducted in May. Results were compiled from nearly 1,000 ACS members including producers, distributors and buyers.

The survey results revealed cheese distribution channels were negatively impacted by the closure of restaurants and other food service markets. About 71% of respondents said they sought debt relief or financial assistance to manage cash flow, 38% either laid off or furloughed employees, and 48% reduced employee hours.

On the positive side, more than 57% of respondents said they had identified new distribution methods for their products, with 51% seeing an increase in overall e-commerce sales.

The 2,300-member ASC is a a 501(c)6 nonprofit association headquartered in Denver, Colorado. It represents artisan, farmstead and specialty cheesemakers across the Americas.

Michigan dairy farmers deliver dairy coolers to food pantries

Eighteen food banks across Michigan received milk refrigeration units as part of a United Dairy Industry of Michigan (UDIM) pilot grant program.

The program provides local food pantries with a cooler to help store milk and dairy foods at proper temperatures. The one-time grants also provide funds for the food pantry to fill the cooler with milk at the time the cooler is delivered.

“As dairy farmers, we want to ensure our milk is available to everyone,” said Corby Werth, Alpena dairy farmer and UDIM president. “My family has used our UDIM Dairy Producer Grant to provide milk to our local food pantry. We have seen firsthand how important these pantries are to local communities and know the milk coolers will make a positive impact for the pantries and their clients.”

In addition to the dairy cooler pilot program, UDIM works alongside Michigan’s seven Feeding America food banks throughout the year to help ensure their clients have access to dairy foods.

Texas offers guidance on milk disposal

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) issued guidance concerning issues affecting dairies during the COVID-19 pandemic, including recommendations for dairies dealing with oversupply and the need to dispose of large quantities of surplus milk.

Concerning surplus milk disposal, TCEQ explains it has a process in place to review case-specific requests related to COVID-19. Significantly, no standard disposal process currently exists for milk producers. For dairies that cannot land apply or otherwise use surplus milk, several methods of disposal are available, including composting, solidify and landfilling, use in animal feed, and treatment and disposal by a third party authorized to accept and treat waste.

With respect to the disposal of raw milk specifically, TCEQ states that it should not be discharged into surface waters unless properly treated to meet Texas surface water quality standards. Further, dairies who land apply surplus milk must do so in a manner that avoids odors and nuisance conditions. TCEQ warns that milk has a higher nutrient content than manure, and therefore, dairies should be cautious in land-applying to avoid exceeding the nutrient needs of the land.

TCEQ emphasized that regulated entities are required to adhere to their permits and TCEQ rules. TCEQ stopped short of issuing a broad COVID-19 enforcement discretion policy like EPA, but on a case-by-case basis it will consider exercising enforcement discretion in certain instances where noncompliance is unavoidable due to COVID-19.

TCEQ makes clear that entities seeking enforcement discretion must demonstrate they were adversely impacted by the virus. Further, enforcement discretion does not relieve a regulated entity of its duty to comply with permit requirements and regulations to the extent possible. Further, regulated entities are expected to maintain adequate records to document all activities related to the noncompliance at issue.

USDA broadens DSA loan program to include COVID-19

The Farm Service Agency (FSA) will allow eligible farmers with USDA farm loans to use the Disaster Set-Aside (DSA) provision due to the financial impacts of COVID-19.

The DSA, normally used in the wake of natural disasters, allows farmers to have their next payment set aside. In some cases, FSA may also set aside a second payment for farmers who have already had one payment set aside because of a prior designated disaster.

FSA direct loan borrowers will receive a letter with the details of the expanded DSA authorities, which includes the possible set-aside of annual operating loans, as well as explanations of the additional loan servicing options that are available.

The set-aside payment’s due date is moved to the final maturity date of the loan or extended up to 12 months in the case of an annual operating loan. Any principal set-aside will continue to accrue interest until it is repaid. This aims to improve the borrower’s cashflow in the current production cycle.

FSA previously announced it was relaxing the loan-making process and adding flexibilities for servicing direct and guaranteed loans to provide credit to producers in need. 

Direct loan applicants and borrowers are encouraged to contact their local FSA county office to discuss loan-making and servicing flexibilities and other needs or concerns. Customers participating in FSA’s guaranteed loan programs are encouraged to contact their lender. Information on these flexibilities and office contact information can be found here

Dairy economists summarize CFAP payments

Three dairy economists have published a paper summarizing the USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) direct producer payment provisions.

Authoring the paper were Mark Stephenson at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, and Chris Wolf and Andrew Novakovic with Cornell University.

Read: USDA’s new direct payments program for dairy farmers.

Michael Best: PPP forgiveness application analyzed

The Small Business Administration (SBA) has released a form application for forgiveness of outstanding loans under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Release of the form also brings some clarity on how SBA is interpreting the program, according to analysis by attorneys with Michael Best.

The application release comes at a time when there are widespread media reports that Congress is considering making changes to the PPP, perhaps including extending the period during which PPP funds may be used and forgiven or making use limitations less restrictive. 

Notwithstanding those reports, the forgiveness application makes clear that spending the PPP funds during the eight-week period following receipt of the loan remains the rule, according to Michael Best.

Borrowers may presumably submit the forgiveness application to their lender as soon as their applicable eight-week covered period has expired. The application does not state when a borrower will hear back from the SBA or the lender. Program participants should continue to work with their bank, legal counsel and accounting experts to ensure compliance with the PPP.

To see a full list of topics and Michael Best analysis, click here.

Are dairy retail sales helping turn the corner?

Dairy sales remain a “powerhouse” in retail grocery stores as the coronavirus impact moves into a third month, according to weekly updates from the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association (IDDBA). While the increase in retail sales can’t fully cover the lost sales in food service, they are helping boost total sales.

In the most recent IDDBA report, which covers weekly sales between March 1-May 3, dairy sales gains have been up double digits over comparable weeks in 2019 for eight weeks running, said Abrielle Backhaus, research coordinator with IDDBA. Year-over-year gains for the week ending May 3 were +28.7% for the overall dairy category, driven by continued strong demand for milk, cheese, butter and creamers. At about 2%, only sales of yogurt fell below the double-digit growth pattern.

Read full article here.

COVID-19 survey seeks dairy, ag worker participants

The Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health (UMASH) Center and University of Minnesota is studying whether farm biosecurity and infection control measures help make agricultural workers and dairy producers uniquely resilient to the health and economic effects of COVID-19.

Organizers of the survey are seeking to help dairy farms find ways to keep workers as safe and healthy as possible from COVID-19, thereby decreasing the economic impact of a sick workforce on production. The information will also be used to create future educational materials for worker safety and occupational health.

The one-time, 16-question survey about biosecurity practices and preparedness during the COVID pandemic can be done by a phone or video interview and will take approximately 10-15 minutes. Responses are requested by June 5.

Participation is voluntary and all answers will remain anonymous. If you are willing to participate or have any questions or concerns, email Sally Yung, internal medicine and pediatrics resident with the University of Minnesota Medical Center, or call (818) 312-2784.

Minnesota proposal extends farm foreclosure moratorium for some

The Minnesota House and Senate passed legislation that halts farm foreclosures for those who elect to take part in creditor mediation. The moratorium would be in effect through December, according to the Land Stewardship Project’s (LSP) Farm Crisis Campaign.

Paul Sobocinski, an LSP organizer who farms near Wabasso in southwestern Minnesota, said the state’s mediation law provides farmers the opportunity to negotiate with lenders during times of crisis.

Minnesota’s Farmer-Lender Mediation Act was passed in 1986. It requires any creditor foreclosing on agricultural debt of $15,000 or more to provide the debtor a legal notice of their right to mediation by a neutral state mediator. If this right is taken up within a 14-day period specified in law, the legislation normally provides for a maximum of 90 days to reach agreement.

The most recent legislation temporarily extends this mediation time frame to 150 days or Dec. 1, 2020, whichever is later, to allow for recovery from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘Food Box’ program contracts announced

The USDA has approved $1.2 billion in contracts to support U.S. farmers and communities in need through the Farmers to Families Food Box Program. The funding includes $317 million specifically for dairy products and another $175 million in combination boxes of fresh produce, dairy or meat products.

Suppliers will package these products into family-sized boxes, then transport them to food banks, community and faith-based organizations, and other nonprofits serving Americans in need from May 15 through June 30, 2020.

Read: USDA approves contracts for ‘Food Box’ program; dairy purchases to top $317 million.

Dairy contracts were awarded in three categories: dairy products, fluid milk and combination (fruit and vegetable, meat and dairy). Among companies identified as having been awarded substantial dairy contracts were:

  • Bongards' Creameries – $480,816
  • Borden Dairy Co. – $146,962,087
  • DeLune Corp – $1,697,588
  • GH Dairy – $2,598,000
  • Golfo Di Napoli Dairy – $1,340,000
  • HP Hood LLC – $11,008
  • Lamers Dairy Inc. – $31,750
  • Marburger Farm Dairy – $78,636
  • Masters Gallery Foods Inc. – $1,753,920
  • Miceli Dairy Products Company – $1,800,000
  • Novick Brothers Corp – $502,737
  • Prairie Farms Dairy – $27,285,000
  • Sassy Cow Creamery LLC – $176,400
  • Schneider Dairy Inc. – $4,270,000
  • Turner Dairy Farms Inc. – $315,450

Find the full list by region here.

U.S. meat-packing facilities reopening

The reduction of meat processing capacity caused by U.S. plant closures and slowdowns created a massive bottleneck in the nation’s meat and livestock supply chain. Nearly two dozen plants that process beef and pork products closed in April due to the COVID-19 outbreak, while many others have had to slow their production as a result of the disease.

On May 8, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said the U.S. meat-packing infrastructure was safely resuming operations following President Donald Trump’s executive order directing slaughter facilities to implement COVID-19 safety precautions.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) put out guidance for plants to implement to help ensure employee safety to reopen plants or to continue to operate those still open. Perdue later issued letters to governors and major meat processing company leaders, establishing the USDA’s expectations regarding maintaining operational status while protecting the health of their employees.

In a related matter, a federal judge in Missouri dismissed a lawsuit accusing meat processor Smithfield Foods Inc. of putting its workers at risk of contracting COVID-19 by not taking adequate steps to prevent transmission of the virus at a plant in Milan, Missouri.

According to a report from CoBank, the temporary reduction of processing capacity will likely have a lasting impact on meat processors, livestock producers, retail stores and consumers.

In Wisconsin, Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection interim secretary, Randy Romanski, asked the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service to make a unique and temporary exception to allow state-inspected meat to be sold or donated across state lines. Romanski said the short-term exception would move additional livestock through slaughter facilities, decrease the number of animals euthanized and increase the amount of meat available to consumers during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Read also: Slowing down, but not stopping: Packer, livestock cooperative talk impacts of COVID-19.

Lawmakers ask for FEMA help on livestock depopulation, disposal

Members of Congress have asked the Trump administration for guidance on how the how the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) can help farmers depopulate and dispose of livestock following the closure of meat-packing plants due to the coronavirus outbreaks and worker safety concerns.

In a letter, the lawmakers requested that expenses related to livestock depopulation and disposal be allowed to be reimbursed under Category B of FEMA’s Public Assistance program.

COVID-19 expected to push farm bankruptcies higher

The number of U.S. farms restructuring debt by filing Chapter 12 bankruptcy rose in the past 12 months, and the number is expected to grow under the economic pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to analysis by American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) chief economist John Newton. There were 627 Chapter 12 filings for the period of April 2019-March 2020, up 118 (23%) from the same period a year earlier.

Further analysis, including a look at regional and dairy state Chapter 12 bankruptcy filings, is available in the May 11 Progressive Dairy Weekly Digest.

Canadian government unveils ag, dairy financial support

The Canadian government announced a financial support package for the agricultural sector, including dairy farmers negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Among provisions of the plan announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, agricultural and foods support will total $252 million, with a proposal for an additional $200 million in borrowing capacity.

Targeted support to farmers, ranchers, agricultural producers and food processors includes:

  • Creating a $77.5 million Emergency Processing Fund to help food producers access more personal protective equipment, adapt to health protocols, automate or modernize their facilities and respond to emerging pressures from COVID-19 so they can better supply Canadians with food during this period

  • Launching national AgriRecovery initiatives of up to $125 million to help producers faced with additional costs incurred by COVID-19 – this includes set-asides for cattle and hog management programs to manage livestock backed up on farms due to the temporary closure of food processing plants. AgriRecovery funding is normally cost shared between federal, provincial and territorial governments, but this program will allow the federal government to directly provide its share of the funding to producers, regardless of whether provinces and territories are able to contribute.

  • Increasing the Canadian Dairy Commission’s borrowing limit by $200 million to support costs associated with the temporary storage of cheese and butter to avoid food waste – pending parliamentary approval, modifications would be made to increase the CDC borrowing capacity from $300 million to $500 million. This change would apply from the current operating year, which ends July 31, 2020. This will enhance the CDC’s capacity to purchase and store butter and cheese from processors under a contractual commitment that they will repurchase the cheese at the same price at a later date, when it can be marketed.

  • Launching a $50 million Surplus Food Purchase Program designed to help redistribute existing and unsold inventories to local food organizations who are serving vulnerable Canadians

  • Working with provinces and territories to increase interim payments from 50% to 75% through AgriStability, a federal, provincial and territorial program that supports producers who face significant revenue declines – the enrollment deadline for the 2020 AgriStability program has been extended to July 3, 2020.

Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC) welcomed the key elements of the package, while expressing concerns funding levels are short of overall needs.

“Never have we seen such fluctuation in demand for milk from one week to another, and despite the best efforts to manage production to align with consumer needs, bottlenecks resulted in milk having to be disposed at the farm, something no dairy farmer wants to see,” said Pierre Lampron, president of Dairy Farmers of Canada.

The situation was compounded by a dramatic decrease in business in the hotels, restaurants and institutions sector (HRI sector), which resulted in a reduced requirement for dairy.

Dairy Farmers of Canada also welcomed the announcement of a surplus food purchase program to further support those in need.

“Solidarity with our communities is a value that is near and dear to dairy farmers, which is why we have committed more than 10 million dollars in dairy products to food banks across the county to support Canadians in need,” said Lampron.

Reminder: FSA offers farm loans

The USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) reminded producers that FSA offers direct or guaranteed farm ownership and operating loans to ag producers who may not find success obtaining loans from their traditional financial institutions because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The USDA offers a variety of loans to meet different production needs. Direct loans are made to applicants by the FSA. Guaranteed loans are made by lending institutions who arrange for the FSA to guarantee the loan. The FSA can guarantee up to 95% of the loss of principal and interest on a loan. The FSA guarantee allows lenders to make agricultural credit available to producers who do not meet the lender’s normal underwriting criteria.

Farm ownership loan funds may be used to purchase or enlarge a farm or ranch, purchase easements or rights of way needed in the farm’s operation, build or improve buildings such as a dwelling or barn, promote soil and water conservation and development, and pay closing costs.

Farm operating loan funds may be used to purchase livestock, poultry, farm equipment, fertilizer and other materials necessary to operate a farm. Operating loan funds can also be used for family living expenses; refinancing debts under certain conditions; paying salaries for hired farm laborers; installing or improving water systems for home, livestock or irrigation use; and other similar improvements.

Repayment terms for direct operating loans are scheduled from one to seven years. Financing for direct farm ownership loans cannot exceed 40 years. Interest rates for direct loans are set periodically according to the government’s cost of borrowing. Guaranteed loan terms and interest rates are set by the lender.

For more information, contact your local FSA office. 

Recent podcasts

Consumer behavior, workplace safety

The Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin (PDPW) Dairy Signal podcast, May 6, features David Kohl, co-owner of a creamery and professor emeritus of agricultural finance and small business management at Virginia Tech. He suggests consumer behavior will likely evolve into four types as the COVID-19 pandemic plays out. Kohl also offers ideas for financial management strategies in light of changing markets. Also on the podcast, Charles Palmer, Partner and subpractice leader on workplace safety and health with Michael Best & Friedrich LLP, discusses regulations and best practices for dairy farmers to deal with the potential of employees affected by COVID-19.

USDA program update

In a recent Dairy Stream podcast from the Dairy Business Association and Edge cooperative, USDA’s Greg Ibach, undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs, provides updates on agency efforts to assist farmers, maintain supply chains and aid consumers through the COVID-19 crisis, and what farmers can expect going forward. The USDA is evaluating adjusting payment caps for direct producer aid, but that would require congressional approval.

Agricultural law issues and the COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has sent shockwaves through the agricultural production system and raised unique legal issues for input suppliers, crop and livestock producers, and processors. The director of the National Agricultural Law Center, Harrison Pittman, along with University of Illinois agricultural lawyers A. Bryan Endres and Jonathan Coppess, will explore the pandemic’s impact on the legal enforceability of agricultural contracts, protections afforded under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act and the Packers and Stockyards Act, regulatory compliance issues with potential large-scale euthanasia of livestock, state-level meat inspection laws, application of the Defense Production Act in the agricultural context and a new generation of farm foreclosure moratorium laws.

China policy and its impact on U.S. exports

Over the past two years, policy actions have had major impacts on trade in agricultural products between the U.S. and China. In addition, shifts in the consumption patterns are changing the demand for agricultural products by Chinese consumers. University of Illinois ag economist Nick Paulson is joined by Wendong Zhang, assistant professor in agricultural economics at Iowa State University, to discussion of these issues and how they impact the outlook for U.S. agricultural exports.

USDA adding $120 million to ‘Section 32’ dairy purchases

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced plans, May 4, to purchase an additional $470 million worth of food – including another $120 million of dairy products – for distribution to communities nationwide. The “Section 32” food purchases will begin in June for July delivery and are in addition to purchases previously announced.

Dairy makes up the largest component of the list of agricultural products covered by the announcement, which includes a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy and seafood products. Along with bid solicitations, details on how vendors may participate are available on the USDA Ag Marketing Service website

The latest announcement brings total announced USDA food purchases for the remainder of fiscal year 2020 to about $4.89 billion. It includes about $3 billion for the Farmers to Families Food Box Program, authorized under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), $850 million under the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) and $573.6 million through the Food Purchase and Distribution Program (FPDP).

DHS issues COVID-19 temporary policy for ‘List B’ employment documents

With many areas remaining under stay-at-home orders due to COVID-19, some states have not renewed driver’s licenses, identification cards or other documents required for federal employment eligibility authorization.

Considering these circumstances, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is issuing a temporary policy regarding expired “List B” identity documents used to complete Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification.

Effective May 1, identity documents found in List B set to expire on or after March 1, 2020, and not otherwise extended by the issuing authority, may be treated the same as if the employee presented a valid receipt for an acceptable document for Form I-9 purposes.

Within 90 days after the temporary policy expires, the employee will be required to present a valid unexpired document to replace the expired document presented when they were initially hired.

Check the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services I-9 website for more information on the temporary policy and instructions on filing forms with List B documents.

Track your PPP dollars

Farm business owners who received Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds should be sure to manage those funds to maximize their impact and increase the likelihood they’ll qualify for the applicable loan forgiveness, warns Brittany Whitmire, dairy extension associate with North Carolina State University. She cites recommendations from Donald Frank of CLA Wealth Advisors:

  • Use a simple Excel spreadsheet to track your qualifying expenses. This will allow you to see your progress in real time and project where you will be at the end of the eight-week period. Think of an eight-week projected cash flow forecast; this discipline should give you similar visibility. To substantiate the amounts listed in the spreadsheet, gather and organize your backup documentation.

  • Employ good third-party documentation. For example, support payroll costs using an outside payroll provider report coupled with a bank statement reflecting the funds coming out of your account.

  • Capture electronic transactions and use them as appropriate documentation but treat them as you would their paper counterparts. You’ll need to have the same level of detail you’d find in a paper invoice.

  • Consider setting up a separate bank account to track the funds. Be aware of additional bank fees, as these accounts will be short-term in nature.

  • Gather and organize your information. Each lender will likely want you to provide the documentation in a slightly different format, but it will be much easier to adapt if you’ve already collected your data.

  • Track expenses in the general ledger. If you are using a cloud-based accounting system, such as QuickBooks Online (QBO) or Intacct, set up an additional class (QBO) or dimension (Intacct) to record your expenses. The general ledger tracking will be a good summary, but you will still need to include the details.

For further details on tracking expenses, read Whitmire’s full article.

‘Meals to You’ to serve 5 million meals a week to rural children 

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced a major expansion of Meals to You, a program to feed low-income kids in rural areas. The initiative will now serve nearly 5 million meals per week to rural children impacted by COVID-19-related school closures – five times its original goal. 

The program is an innovative partnership with the Baylor University Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty, McLane Global and PepsiCo. It delivers meals to students eligible for free and reduced-price meals in a limited number of rural schools closed due to COVID-19. Meals to You boxes contain 20 nutritious meals – 10 breakfasts and 10 lunches – to cover the meals children would normally receive at school over two school weeks.

Meals to You has already shipped nearly 3.5 million meals to the homes of children in 12 states: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. In the last few weeks, 23 additional states and Puerto Rico have requested to participate in Meals to You, so the partnership is now quickly ramping up to serve five million meals per week to help meet growing demand.

Darigold’s Plagerman: Dairy price struggles will worsen before they get better

Lags in timing for milk payments have kept many dairy farmers from feeling the worst effects of the coronavirus crisis’s effects on their revenues – but that will soon change, warns Leroy Plagerman, a dairy farmer in Whatcom County, in the northwest corner of Washington. One of the biggest challenges dairies face is “just the challenge of the uncertainty, and not knowing how long this is going to last, and where we end up on the other side,” said Plagerman, who also is a director of the Northwest Dairy Association, in an NMPF podcast.

Stephenson, Umhoefer ‘look to the other side’ of coronavirus crisis in dairy

There’s no disputing the dairy farmer income destruction as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. There is, however, some good news emerging for producers and the dairy supply chain, according to presenters on a Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin Dairy Signal podcast, May 5.

Listen to the podcast  or read a summary article.

COVID-19 updates for April 2020

President Trump orders meat plants opened

President Donald Trump issued an executive order, April 28, designating meat processing plants as "critical infrastructure" and directing the USDA to ensure U.S. meat and poultry processors continue operations uninterrupted to the maximum extent possible.

Under the executive order and the authority of the Defense Production Act, the USDA will work with meat processing to affirm they will operate in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) employee safety guidance, and then work with state and local officials to ensure that these plants are allowed to operate. Both the CDC and OSHA issued interim guidance on COVID-19 for meat and poultry processing workers and employers.

Meat processing plants have become a hot spot for COVID-19 outbreaks. Data reported by the National Farmers Union indicated more than 4,000 workers at 85 plants had tested positive for COVID-19, at least 20 of whom have died.

It’s estimated at least 22 meat plants had at least temporary closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Michael Nepveux, economist with the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), U.S. pork processing capacity has been reduced by as much as 20%, and beef processing capacity has been reduced by as much as 10%. Those estimates do not factor in reductions in capacity due to slowing throughput and reduced line speeds at these facilities.

Nepveux said plant closures ranged from a few days to indefinite. In some cases, the closures were due to coronavirus outbreaks among workers at the plants. In other cases, it was due a struggle to keep workers coming into the plant who are afraid of getting sick.

While some plants had reopened doors, the closures or production slowdowns limited livestock producer marketing capabilities.

While the USDA reports an estimated daily slaughter number, a more official federally inspected slaughter number is reported on a two-week time lag. Based on latest weekly estimates, Nepveux said cattle slaughter declined by 32% from its March high and 27% from the same week in 2019. 

USDA establishes center to assist producers affected by meat processing plant closures

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is establishing a National Incident Coordination Center to provide direct support to producers whose animals cannot move to market as a result of processing plant closures due to COVID-19. The center, along with state veterinarians and other officials, will assist to help identify potential alternative markets if a producer is unable to move animals, and if necessary, advise and assist on depopulation and disposal methods.

FAQs: Farmers to Families Food Box Program

The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), in conjunction with the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and the Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement (OPPE), published frequently asked questions for nonprofit organizations seeking to receive food through the Farmers to Families Food Box Program.

Recent podcasts

Are dairy prices near bottom?  Catastrophically low milk prices may decline further in May and June, making all-hands-on-deck efforts to find solutions for all dairy producers necessary, says Peter Vitaliano, chief economist for the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF). “These times are obviously very, very critical for U.S. dairy farmers,” Vitaliano says in a new NMPF podcast. “We are trying to turn over every stone and look over every rock for ideas that we might be able to find, including very creative ideas, basically to direct some relief to dairy farmers.”

After COVID-19: Expanding overseas markets key to dairy. Even as U.S. dairy struggles to meet the immediate challenges of the coronavirus, its work on expanding overseas markets continues “not with an eye on what’s going to happen necessarily in the next week, but what needs to happen over the next year or two” to help the industry recover, said Shawna Morris, vice president for trade at the NMPF. 

Despite the disruptions, trade officials need to keep long-range goals of open commerce that will be essential to returning dairy to prosperity in mind, she said in an NMPF podcast. “We’re working with our government and others to outline the dairy industry’s priorities for upcoming trade agreements, notably with the UK and Kenya for instance, as well as ongoing work – issues and policy barriers that had existed prior to COVID-19 and are still in place that we’re working with our government allies and with other counterparts in other countries to try to help address,” she said.

Cornell PRO-DAIRY COVID-19 series. Cornell’s PRO-DAIRY program continues its podcast series related to COVID-19 topics and dairy farm management. Recent additions to the series include:

#6: Milk supply chain, price and policy challenges. Chris Wolf and Andrew Novakovic discuss the current challenges in the milk supply chain. They also discuss the declining milk price outlook and policy issues.

#7: Spring 2020 – contingency planning. Joe Lawrence, forage management specialist, discusses field crop management strategies during the COVID-19 pandemic.

#8: Strategies for reducing milk flow safely and feeding milk to cows. This episode describes how to safely reduce milk your cow's milk production without sacrificing future milk production. It also describes considerations for feeding milk to cows.

CFAP ‘food box’ distribution timeline outlined

The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) summarized a webinar detailing the USDA’s “food box” distribution program, part of the new Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), including a proposed timeline for implementation.

Under the Purchase & Distribution Program, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) will oversee the purchase and distribution of agricultural products to those in need. The USDA will partner with regional and local distributors to purchase an estimated $100 million per month in fresh fruits and vegetables, $100 million per month in a variety of dairy products and $100 million per month in meat products to provide boxes of food products to food banks and other nonprofit organizations.

The USDA will accept proposals until May 1, with bids awarded on May 8. Food box delivery will be conducted over four periods: May 15-June 30, July 1-Aug. 31, Sept. 1-Oct. 1 and Nov. 1-Dec. 31.

Contractors selected for the program are responsible for the purchase of the agricultural products, the assembly of commodity boxes and all supply chain activities necessary to ensure boxes are distributed to identified nonprofit organizations that can receive, store and distribute food items for those in need.

All food products must be 100% U.S. origin. A broad array of food items will be included. Among dairy products prioritized under the program are fresh fluid milk, instant and ultra-high temperature (UHT) milk, natural and processed cheese, yogurt and butter. Other traits that will determine priority, include product variety, shelf-life, value and packaging size. Products can be retail or food service items based on the need and ability of the nonprofit to handle.

In addition to the new program, the USDA continues to solicit bids for dairy products to be distributed through traditional “Section 32” program, and announced solicitations for process cheese, butter and cheddar cheese shreds. Closing dates for those bids was April 27.

Lawmakers seek elimination of CFAP payment caps

More than 125 members of the U.S. House of Representatives have called for the elimination of payment limits for specialty crop, livestock and dairy producers under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). Read: USDA announces Coronavirus Food Assistance Program; no to DMC and supply management.

In a letter to President Donald Trump, the lawmakers said the current cap of $125,000 per commodity and $250,000 per individual or entity payment would severely restrict the program’s effectiveness for many family-owned farms and ranches.

While some farmers and ranchers produce multiple commodities, and therefore will be eligible for up to the $250,000 total payment limit per individual or entity, many cattle, pork and dairy operations are solely invested in livestock, they said. The current payment caps are too restrictive to meaningfully address the financial losses many producers are facing.

IDFA seeks recourse loan program

To help address a “working capital crisis” among dairy processors faced with growing financial challenges due to disruptions in the supply chain, the IDFA is advocating for establishment of a USDA recourse loan program. Sixty dairy companies and organizations have signed on to the effort. As described in a letter to the USDA, the program would expand availability of working capital for processors to carry additional inventories, finance receivables and provide funding for preserving ongoing operations during the current COVID-19 crisis. 

As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, the food service industry has collapsed creating an estimated 10% destruction in dairy product demand. This has resulted in a major upheaval in the dairy industry as processors, marketers and merchants curtail or ceasing operations.  To keep dairy processors solvent, the recourse loan program would allow dairy processors to secure credit against their inventory. Commodity and specialty dairy products would be eligible for use as collateral. The program would last two years to ensure it can get processors through the crisis, and loan amounts would cover extended terms of up to 120 days on a rolling basis.

Ag, antitrust coalition urges stimulus fund restrictions

A coalition of 68 farmer, environmental and antitrust groups sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, urging the U.S. Department of the Treasury to ensure that pandemic relief funds do not lead to further consolidation of the food and agriculture industry. The letter urges Secretary Mnuchin to invest stimulus funds into farming systems that lift up farmers and rural communities while providing opportunities for diverse, sustainable agriculture systems to thrive.

Pennsylvania OKs land applications of excess milk

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has issued emergency guidance for the discharge of excess milk on land. The temporary permission, effective until June 1, relaxes policies that limit the application of milk to cropland and pastures.

The DEP guidance provides a review of both policy and practical considerations for the land application of milk. 

Additional information, including a milk-manure nutrient calculator, is available on Penn State Extension’s Pennsylvania Nutrient Management Program website.

Maximum application rates of manure-milk mixtures are based on the percentage of each component, with a maximum application range from 4,500 gallons per acre for milk that is not mixed with manure, to 9,000 gallons per acre for a mixture that is 90% manure and 10% milk. The rates may need to be adjusted in conjunction with the farm’s nutrient or manure management plan to assure nutrient overapplication does not occur.

Farms must follow plans that provide application rates and setback restrictions from streams, lakes, ponds and water wells. Keeping records of milk and manure volumes associated with application, as well as the dates of application, is required by the state.

Dairy MAX, Dallas Cowboys fund Genyouth

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Dairy Max, in partnership with the Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints and Denver Broncos and Fuel Up to Play 60, will contribute $250,000 to the COVID-19 Emergency School Nutrition Fund to support local schools with the purchase of resources needed for meal distribution and delivery.

The COVID-19 Emergency School Nutrition Fund will be executed as part of Fuel Up To Play 60 program, which promotes student health and wellness through nutrition education, access to nutrient-rich foods and increased physical activity opportunities. Each school can receive up to $3,000 in grant funds, administered by Genyouth.

Minnesota aiding meat sector

The recent closures of some meat processing plants around the region due to COVID-19 is disrupting traditional animal markets and the meat supply chain. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is working to limit this disruption for producers of smaller herds or flocks by matching them with slaughter facilities and identifying other marketing opportunities. Email Jim Ostlie or Courtney VanderMey.

The MDA is working with existing "equal to" processors (plants under continuous inspection that are able to produce and process meat and poultry products for wholesale within the state) to expand capacity. MDA is also developing an expedited approval process granting eligible plants a 90-day provisional grant of inspection.

The MDA is also awarding over $345,000 in grants to nine Minnesota meat processors for facility improvements, such as increasing freezer space and adding new equipment for slaughter and processing capacity. 

A new mini-grant program, to be launched by April 30, will provide funds for processors and producers of meat, poultry, eggs and milk, and to livestock producers who need storage capacity for processed products until existing markets return or new markets are developed.

USDA Rural Development offers SBA update

The USDA has provided additional agency guidance covering access to COVID-19 relief programs administered through the Small Business Administration. In a joint announcement released on April 24, USDA’s Undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation Bill Northey and Deputy Undersecretary for Rural Development Bette Brand, provided additional information for both the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Advance Loan (EIDL) program.

The guidance addresses current borrowers and stakeholders utilizing numerous other USDA Rural Development loan programs. A comprehensive and continuously updated resource of all USDA Rural Development’s efforts to provide assistance related to COVID-19 is available here. The USDA Farm Service Agency’s Farm Loan flexibilities related to COVID-19 are available here.

NMPF: Act fast on PPP, EIDL programs

Congress’s move to replenish two coronavirus-related assistance programs that are available to dairy businesses may help keep some dairies afloat – but application windows may close fast, said Claudia Larson, government relations director at the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF).

Congress’s latest $484 billion coronavirus aid package replenishes two new small business loan programs – the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program – that were overwhelmed by demand when first offered, Larson said in a new NMPF podcast.

Applications, which have been on hold for additional funding, will reopen soon. Dairies seeking assistance “should do it relatively quickly,” Larson says. “It’s been projected that these funds are going to run out within 36 hours after they’re released.”

NMPF also has more information about the programs on its newly updated Coronavirus Dairy Toolbox, proving key resources about how the coronavirus is affecting the U.S dairy sector, along with informational materials created to help the dairy community response to the pandemic.

Are you ready for second round of PPP?

The initial round of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a program designed to help small businesses, including farms, keep employees on the payroll, quickly ran out of money. However, the Senate approved additional funding for the program on April 24, and the House could take up the measure by April 23. The proposal provides $310 billion in additional lending authority for the PPP, administered by the Small Business Administration.

Farmers should be prepared to apply for funds, advises Brittany Whitmire, dairy extension associate with North Carolina State University.

Under the program, loan amounts can be two-and-a-half times the borrower’s average monthly payroll cost for the prior 12 months or calendar year 2019, not to exceed $10 million. Loans, which can be issued through June 30, 2020, will carry a 1% interest rate with a two-year repayment period. Loan payments are deferred for the first six months of the loan. The six months start when the loan is disbursed. However, interest will accrue on PPP loans during the six-month deferment.

If additional funding is granted, it’s likely business requests for aid will be large. Whitmire urges dairy producers to compile the necessary information in event the application process is reopened. That includes:

The date your business started, business mailing address, annual revenue, payroll reports detailing the defined 12 months compensation, quarterly or annual payroll tax filings, documentation verifying the number of employees on payroll for the defined period, annual filings (W2s and W3, etc.), severance agreements and payments, payment for health care benefits, payment of any retirement benefit (i.e., employer match for 401[k], or SEP IRA, etc.) including statements or contribution reports, Form 1099-MISC, and income and expense documentation of a sole proprietor.

For borrowers that do not have any such documentation, other supporting documentation must be provided, such as bank records, sufficient to demonstrate the qualifying payroll amount. Find more information here.

Wisconsin: Dairy Innovation Hub will take your COVID-19 questions

Wisconsin’s new Dairy Innovation Hub has created an online resource that gives farmers, dairy processors and the general public a direct line to University of Wisconsin (UW) experts with questions related to COVID-19. The online form allows users to ask UW – Madison, UW – Platteville and UW – River Falls COVID-19 questions. Once submitted, questions are routed to representatives at each campus, answers are compiled, and a response is sent back to the requestor. In some cases, questions are elevated to individual conversations by phone or video conference. In addition to the online form, resources from numerous industry, university and state agency partners have been compiled on the COVID-19 resource page.

Farm Credit East: Payroll provisions of COVID-19 relief measures

The many implications of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) may leave farm business owners wondering if or how they qualify. Farm Credit East explores paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave provisions of the FFCRA.

Papa Murphy’s announces partnership with No Kid Hungry

Pizza chain Papa Murphy’s is teaming up with No Kid Hungry during the COVID-19 pandemic to feed kids in need, particularly the many vulnerable children across the country that are losing the meals they depend on during school closures. From April 20 to May 20, Papa Murphy’s will donate $1 for every cheese or pepperoni Mini Murph Make ’n’ Bake Pizza Kit sold online to the No Kid Hungry organization. The funds raised through partnership will go toward providing emergency grants immediately to help schools and community groups feed kids during the COVID-19 outbreak and beyond.

Minnesota: Lender mediation extended

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is reminding Minnesota farmers and ag lending institutions that the state Legislature extended the length of mediation available for farmers in the Farmer-Lender Mediation Program from 90 to 150 days. Minnesota farmers that are in debt can renegotiate, restructure or resolve farm debt through mandatory farmer-lender mediation. Mandatory mediation means that creditors cannot start a proceeding to collect a debt against agricultural property until an offer of mediation has been extended and, if the farmer so chooses, completed. Contact the MDA’s Farm Advocate Program or the University of Minnesota Extension.

COVID-19 and dairy: Podcasts

Dairy farms care for employees. Like other owners of essential businesses, dairy farmers are taking extra precautions during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure their employees are healthy and safe. Dairy Stream host Mike Austin talks with Wisconsin dairy farmer Amy Penterman and dairy consultant Elsie Gonzalez about on-farm communication, safety and resources to help navigate this unusual situation. This podcast is co-produced by the Dairy Business Association and Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperatives.

Wisconsin podcast series deals with farm stress. To provide relevant information and resources on topics related to farm stress, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) has created a new audio podcast series called “Rural Realities.” The pre-recorded podcasts run between 20-30 minutes in length and feature a different host for each episode. Podcasts are produced by Bill Baker, who also hosts the syndicated radio program, ‘"Dairy Radio Now." Dates, topics and speakers are:

  • June 22 – Breaking the Stigma of Farmer Mental Health, Renee Sutkay, Journey Mental Health
  • June 29 – Your Brain on Stress, John Shutske, University of Wisconsin – Division of Extension
  • July 6 – Navigating Change When the World has Changed, Dianne Vielhuber, author and pastor
  • July 13 – Discuss the 'Undiscussabull,' Elaine Froese, farm transition specialist
  • July 20 – Farm Financials: When to Reach Out for Help, Paul Dietmann, Compeer Financial

COVID-19 and the ag economy. John Newton, American Farm Bureau Federation chief economist, discusses the financial impact of COVID-19 on agricultural commodity producers in a Farm Credit East Knowledge Exchange webinar series. He discusses financial aid from government assistance programs but warns about farm loan delinquencies and farm bankruptcies. Newton also discusses China’s purchases under Phase I of the U.S.-China trade agreement and other policy developments impacting agriculture.

Bozic: Need for risk management. Lessons learned from COVID-19 show the importance of using dairy risk management tools when planning for unanticipated events, warns Marin Bozic, University of Minnesota dairy economist. In a recent “Dairy Market Outlook and Risk Management Strategies” webinar, Bozic describes the dairy market roller coaster that started with the coronavirus-related closure of businesses in the food service industry and riding out through the dairy product price rally. The video webinar was hosted by Northwest Farm Credit Services.

Wolf: Mange risk to maintain access to outside capital. Dairy farmers face many different forms of business risks, including factors that stress production, herd health, human resources, marketing and finances. Chris Wolf, professor and dairy economist at Cornell University, discusses “Practical Risk Management Applications for Commercial Dairy Farms” in a Northeast Dairy Management webinar series. One of the most critical considerations when managing dairy risk is the ability of a dairy business to access outside capital, Wolf said. For dairies facing thresholds for solvency or liquidity, it’s especially important to monitor financial measures that contribute to business resilience.

Northeast Dairy Management webinar series. Additional podcasts in the Northeast Dairy Management webinar series follow. Advance registration is required.

  • June 10 – Evolutions and Revolutions: A New Normal, by Phil Plourd, Blimling and Associates 
  • June 17 – Good times, Bad Times: Lean and Flexibility, by Cheryl Jones, University of Kentucky
  • June 24 – 2020 Financial Check-Up, by Steve Bodart, Compeer Financial
  • July 1 – Managing Employees in Challenging Times (Because They're Always Challenging Times, by Tom Wall, The Dairy Coach
  • July 8 – Adapting Management to Changing Labor Regulations and COVID-19, featuring Rich Stup, Cornell Ag Workforce Development (moderator) and panelists: Kim Skellie, El-Vi Farms LLC; Mike McMahon, E-Z Acres LLC; and Crystal Grimaldi, Ideal Dairy Farms.

The latest UW – Madison Extension webinar, "Managing the Surplus: Strategies for Reducing Milk Production,” is archived. It looks at multiple issues related to reducing milk production. 

Breaking down USDA’s efforts for dairy during COVID-19. Federal help for dairy farmers reeling from the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic is on the way but it’s complicated. Dairy Stream host Mike Austin talks with Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative’s Aaron Stauffacher, associate director of government affairs, and Tim Trotter, executive director, about the USDA’s assistance programs.

Mulhern discusses CFAP, long-term impacts. In a Professional Dairy Producers (PDPW) podcast, NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern discusses what is known (and what isn’t) in the USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). Lots of questions remain, since the proposal must still go through the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). He’s joined by Dr. David Kohl, discussing the potential of long-term effects on consumer behavior, exports and more.

What the rebound from COVID-19 might look like for dairy farmers. Katie Burgess, director of risk management at Blimling and Associates, walks Dairy Stream host Mike Austin through the dynamics of lost dairy markets, the forecast for May and June milk checks, what might lie ahead for exports and market risk tools for farmers.

COVID-19 impact to U.S. dairy markets. Sara Dorland, managing partner at Ceres Dairy Risk Management, discusses the current status of the U.S dairy market and what to expect in the coming months. Free webinar is posted on the Compeer Financial website but requires registration to view.

Efforts by DMI to support dairy during COVID-19. The collapse of the food service market due to the COVID-19 pandemic is challenging the dairy community like never before. Tom Gallagher, CEO of Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), discusses DMI’s efforts to support processors, get dairy products to people who need food during the crisis, and to prepare to further capitalize on overseas markets when trade bounces back.

Understanding dairy processors, supply chain during COVID-19. Farmers and dairy processors are navigating unprecedented challenges due to COVID-19. John Umhoefer, executive director of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, explains the impact on the supply chain, including milk disposal and the need of federal support.

University of Wisconsin – Madison: Dairy policy and supply chain disruptions. In a three-part podcast, Pete Kappelman, senior vice president of member and government relations for Land O'Lakes Inc., discusses the impact of the switch from dairy demand from food service to retail and offers a preview of potential federal policy. Renee Koenig, extension human development and relationships educator, discusses stress management, and Adam Brock, with the Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin, discusses challenges faced by the dairy market supply chain.

Webinar: COVID-19 impact on consumer behavior. Hosted by the Dairy Business Association and Dairy Edge, Jen Walsh, of the checkoff-funded Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin, examines sales data from Wisconsin, providing a glimpse of consumer buying habits in light of restaurant closures, school cancellations and stay-at-home mandates. After an initial surge, retail sales remain above year-ago levels but have come off of highs and have slowed and stabilized.


This is by no means a complete list, but here’s some of the larger dairy meetings and gatherings canceled or rescheduled as “virtual” due to COVID-19:

The 2021 Georgia Dairy Conference will be held Jan. 18-20, in Savannah, Georgia. Due to COVID-19, event organizers are navigating the decisions for the event day by day. Health and safety protocols are posted here.

• The Dairy Business Association’s Dairy Strong conference is being held virtually, Jan. 19-21, 2021.

• The National Mastitis Council (NMC) will hold its annual meeting virtually, replacing the event previously scheduled for Jan. 25-28, 2021, in Dallas. 

• Due to ongoing uncertainty related to the coronavirus pandemic and anticipated strict limitations on in-person events, the 2021 Northeast Operations Managers Conference will be conducted online, spread out over four weeks, Jan. 28-Feb. 18, 2021.

• The 2021 World Ag Expo, originally scheduled for February 2021, is cancelled. Join an email list to get updates on the 2022 World Ag Expo, scheduled for Feb. 8-10, 2022.

• The 2021 Pennsylvania Dairy Summit will be held virtually on Feb. 8-11, 2021.

• Organizers for the Western Dairy Management Conference (WDMC) announced that their meeting would be moved to Nov. 1-4, 2021. The conference, which is held every other year in Reno, Nevada, was originally scheduled to be held March 1-4, 2021.

• The Central Plains Dairy Association (CPDA) board and staff continue to plan for the 2021 Central Plains Dairy Expo (CPDE) to be an in-person event. The event is scheduled for March 24-25, 2021, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

• The National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments (NCIMS) has been postponed, according to the National Milk Producers Federation. Normally held every two years, the next conference was scheduled for April 2021. Anticipated rescheduling is set for Sept. 10-15, 2021.

• Wisconsin’s annual Alice in Dairyland finals, previously set to be held in May 2021, have been canceled. The next finals will be held May 19-21, 2022. Alice in Dairyland is a marketing position within the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. Current Alice in Dairyland, Julia Nunes, will continue in her role until July 15, 2022.

Helpful COVID-19 articles by topic

Links to additional COVID-19 resources


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Description of COVID-19 and its symptoms, as well as regular updates on number and location of COVID-19 cases and other news. Guidance covers travel and tips to keep workplaces, homes, businesses and schools safe.

Cornell: Webinars and podcasts

Cornell University offers a limited podcast series on topics related to COVID-19 and dairy. Hosted by PRO-DAIRY’s Rob Lynch, DVM, dairy herd health and management specialist, and Kathy Barrett, dairy educator, the podcasts feature interviews of key dairy industry professionals. Check the PRO-DAIRY podcast webpage for the latest podcasts.

Dairyland Initiative: A Guide for dairy operations to combat COVID-19

The focus of the guidelines is on reducing the risk for the virus to arrive on the farm and to limit its spread once it is present on the farm.

Farm Credit East COVID-19 Resource Hub

FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative

Finimpact financial resources

Finimpact is a private firm linking small businesses to network of pre-screened and approved lenders, including government programs. Financial tools and other business management resources are available.

Georgia Milk Producers

International Dairy Foods Association

Comprehensive website covering topics important to dairy processing companies, employees and customers. Highlights include latest updates on regulations affecting the dairy industry, guidance to employers and articles on food safety, transportation and trucking.

Iowa State University

Wide range of resources, including information on mental health and stress management, on-farm disposal or use of surplus milk, workforce contingency planning, reducing milk production and more.

I-29 Moo University COVID-19 Resources

Access to resources covering North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota.

Livestock Marketing Association

The LMA provides state-by-state updates on guidance affecting livestock market and auction facilities.

Michael Best

Members of the Michael Best legal team provide a daily COVID-19 Alert on topics impacting contractors and small businesses.

Michigan State University

National Association of State Ag Departments

National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety

Farming is always challenging, and never more so than now, especially for parents with children living and/or working on the farm. To help parents manage through unprecedented times, the National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety offers resources on topics ranging from appropriate farm tasks for children to fun, virtual adventures. Established in 1997, the Children’s Center is located in the National Farm Medicine Center, part of Marshfield Clinic Research Institute, Marshfield, Wisconsin.

National Milk Producers Federation

Comprehensive website covering wide range of news and resources specifically for dairy producers, families, employees and support staff, with regular updates. Highlights include articles, posters, videos and webinars covering COVID-19 prevention and management. Many resources available in English and Spanish.

Protecting yourself and your farm employees from COVID-19

Employee management, farm operation management and other considerations to help producers protect themselves, their families and employees from COVID-19, Michigan State University

Pennsylvania Center for Dairy Excellence

Comprehensive website covering wide range of resources specifically for dairy producers. Highlights include articles and fact sheets for dairy farm families and employees covering COVID-19 prevention and control, stress and wellness resources, financial, crisis and contingency planning.

Safety for Producers During COVID-19.

Iowa State University offers a brief list of steps to keep your farm family and employees safe.

Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety Center (UMASH)


Updated news and resources regarding USDA actions in response to COVID-19.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

Guidance on COVID-19 topics falling under DHS regulatory oversight of “essential industries/critical infrastructure,” including agriculture.

Q&A: Emergency use of milk as a fertilizer 

Rick Koelsch, University of Nebraska livestock environmental engineer, discusses using surplus milk as a crop fertilizer as a short-term option for gaining some value from milk.

Using milk as a feed source during times of milk dumping

Kim Clark, Nebraska Extension dairy educator, discusses feeding milk to dairy animals and factors to consider when using milk as a feed ingredient, rather than dumping surplus milk into a manure pit or lagoon.

U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA)

Frequently asked questions regarding COVID-19 and human and food safety, as well as regulations.

U.S. House of Representatives

U.S. Small Business Administration

University of California-Davis

The UC-Davis Western Center for Agricultural Health and Safety’s website has a number of COVID-19 related resources for employers and employees, in both English and Spanish. Audio/video resources are available, as well as a number of download/print items. 

University of Minnesota Extension/Minnesota Department of Agriculture

Link here to find resources and people to help deal with mental and financial stress.

Video in Spanish.

A nine-minute YouTube video in Spanish discusses recommended COVID-19 safety measures for dairy farms. It features Dr. Maristela Rovai, South Dakota State University Extension dairy specialist, Mireille Chahine, University of Idaho Extension dairy specialist, Mario De Haro, University of Idaho Extension educator, and Leyby Guifarro, South Dakota State University research student.

Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation   end mark

Dave Natzke