Here’s a summary of news impacting your dairy as we close out the month of February.

Lee karen
Managing Editor / Progressive Dairy

Federal funding bills expected to carry to next week

Congress is expected to vote on a continuing resolution by midnight on Friday to avert a partial government shutdown this weekend.

The vote will shift shutdown deadlines from March 1 to March 8 for six of the 12 spending bills that fund federal agencies.

Final text for these six bills is expected to be released over the weekend for review. These are for Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration; Energy and Water Development; Military Construction, Veterans Affairs; Transportation, Housing and Urban Development; Interior and Environment; and Commerce, Justice and Science. Leaders are hopeful these bills will be passed into law next week.

Congress’ vote is also expected to delay the remaining bills’ shutdown deadlines until March 22, as they deal with more controversial issues. The remaining bills include Defense; Financial Services and General Government; Homeland Security; Labor, Health and Human Services and Education; Legislative Branch; and State and Foreign Operations.


Dairy export groups represented at WTO Ministerial this week

The 13th World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference will wrap up today in Abu Dhabi. Dairy organizations, including the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC), National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), joined with representatives from across U.S. agriculture to ensure U.S. dairy’s interests were being represented.

The WTO provides a rules-based trading system that brings stability and predictability exports around the world, including U.S. dairy products. The system includes provisions that reduce trade barriers and a dispute settlement mechanism for holding member countries accountable to their obligations, allowing U.S. dairy products to compete globally on a level playing field. The ministerial conference provides a forum for members to deliberate reforms to the WTO framework.

“The U.S. dairy industry and our partners across U.S. agriculture are hopeful this week’s conference charts a path toward concrete, binding commitments in the future, consistent with our recent proposals to the United States Trade Representative and the U.S. Department of Agriculture,” said Becky Rasdall, vice president of trade policy and international affairs for IDFA.

“In particular, we would like ongoing conversations around domestic support to be balanced by commensurate market access discussions, and we would like the U.S. government to work to restore a binding dispute settlement system at the WTO,” she added.

Based on actions at prior ministerials, there is the concern that a small group of countries will attempt to extract concessions on one issue by withholding support on other broadly supported provisions. 

Krysta Harden, president and CEO of USDEC, said, “USDEC commends the U.S. negotiating team for their strong stance to defend U.S. interests, and we encourage them to stand firm against any tradeoffs between agriculture and other sectors.”

IDFA’s Healthy School Milk Commitment recognized by the White House

IDFA’s Healthy School Milk Commitment was officially recognized at a special event organized by the White House to announce new commitments under the Biden administration’s National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition and Health.

The milk commitment is a pledge by 37 school milk processors representing approximately 95% of the school milk volume in the U.S. to provide healthy, nutritious school milk options with no more than 10 grams of added sugar per 8 fluid ounce serving, fully consistent with the latest federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans and ahead of current school meal nutrition guidelines established by the USDA.

The commitment was expanded recently to include the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program, a federally funded program that provides healthy meals and snacks to up to 3.2 million low-income children and teens during the summer months when schools are out of session and access to consistent, daily nutrition is limited.

“On behalf of America’s school milk processors, we are proud to be recognized by the White House and Biden-Harris administration for our industry’s proactive efforts to reduce added sugar in school milk to ensure children continue to enjoy milk’s 13 essential nutrients in a product they love,” said IDFA’s president and CEO, Michael Dykes, DVM.

Initiative launched to help farmers with underutilized renewable technologies

The USDA and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) launched a new initiative to help farmers cut costs and increase income using underutilized renewable technologies including smaller-scale wind projects.

Through the Rural and Agricultural Income & Savings from Renewable Energy (RAISE) initiative, the USDA is setting an initial goal of helping 400 individual farmers deploy smaller-scale wind projects using the USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP)

Additionally, the DOE announced a total of $4 million in related funding, including $2.5 million to support the testing, certification and commercialization of the latest distributed wind technologies including for the agricultural sector, and $1.5 million to support outreach and the identification and development of new business models for farmers to save money and earn income deploying these technologies.

The USDA and DOE is hosting a joint webinar series to provide information to farmers, rural electric cooperatives, farm associations and small-scale, distributed wind providers about the programs and how to use them to develop place-based wind projects. The first webinar in the series will launch a new National Distributed Wind Network and Resource Hub on March 14.

The USDA and DOE is also developing a farmers guide to distributed wind power that will include technical, economic and geospatial analysis regarding distributed wind technologies and applications as well as ways to finance smaller-scale wind projects.

Food & Water Watch files lawsuit to challenge the Clean Water Act

Food & Water Watch filed an opening brief on behalf of the national advocacy group and 12 other organizations in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals this week. The groups are seeking to expand and strengthen factory farm pollution regulation under the Clean Water Act.

The petitioners’ lawsuit asks for the rejection of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) denial of a 2017 petition for rulemaking to revise the agency’s failed regulations and to require it to reconsider key reforms proposed in the 2017 petition that have the potential to expand and strengthen water pollution permitting for large farms.