Here is the news affecting dairies as we enter April 2024.

Lee karen
Managing Editor / Progressive Dairy

USDA confirms avian influenza in Michigan dairy herd

USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) has now also confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in a Michigan dairy herd that had recently received cows from Texas.

Presumptive positive test results have also been received for additional herds in New Mexico, Idaho and Texas.

This comes days after the USDA, FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) first confirmed the detection of avian influenza in two dairy herds in Texas and two dairy herds in Kansas.

The NVSL also confirmed that the strain of the virus found in Michigan is very similar to the strain confirmed in Texas and Kansas that appears to have been introduced by wild birds. However, spread of the symptoms among the Michigan herd indicates that avian influenza transmission between cattle cannot be ruled out.


This continues to be monitored and, in the meantime, the USDA is advising veterinarians and producers to practice good biosecurity, test animals before necessary movements, minimize animal movements and isolate sick cattle from the herd.

The FDA strongly encourages pasteurizing milk from cows showing symptoms of illness before it may be fed to calves.

Federal and state agencies are continuing to conduct additional testing to assess whether another unrelated illness may be underlying any symptoms.

There continues to be no concern about the safety of the commercial milk supply because only milk from healthy animals is sent for processing and products are pasteurized before entering the market.

Milk loss resulting from symptomatic cattle to date is too limited to have a major impact on supply and therefore the price of milk or other dairy products.

U.S. farmers expect to plant less corn and more soybean acres

Producers surveyed across the U.S. intend to plant 90 million acres of corn in 2024, down 5% from last year, according to the Prospective Plantings report released by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

Planted acreage intentions for corn are down or unchanged in 38 of the 48 estimating states. Acreage decreases of 300,000 acres or more from last year are expected in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, South Dakota and Texas. If realized, the planted area of corn in Arizona and Oregon will be the largest on record.

Soybean growers intend to plant 86.5 million acres in 2024, up 3% from last year. Record-high acreage is expected in Kentucky and New York.

The Prospective Plantings report provides the first official, survey-based estimates of U.S. farmers’ 2024 planting intentions. NASS’s acreage estimates are based on surveys conducted during the first two weeks of March from a sample of nearly 72,000 farm operators across the nation. Other key findings in the report are:

  • Producers intend to harvest 51.6 million acres of all hay in 2024, down 2% from 2023. Record-low all hay harvested area is expected in Delaware and a record high is expected in Florida.
  • All wheat planted area for 2024 is estimated at 47.5 million acres, down 4% for comparable states from 2023.
  • All cotton planted area for 2024 is expected to total 10.7 million acres, 4% above last year.

NASS also released the quarterly Grain Stocks report to provide estimates of on-farm and off-farm stocks as of March 1. Key findings in that report include:

  • Corn stocks totaled 8.35 billion bushels, up 13% from the same time last year.
  • Soybeans stored totaled 1.85 billion bushels, up 9% from March 1, 2023.
  • All wheat stored totaled 1.09 billion bushels, up 16% from a year ago.

Munch: How the collapse of Baltimore’s Key Bridge will impact agriculture

Following the collapse of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge on March 26, American Farm Bureau Federation economist Daniel Munch analyzed the effect of the Port of Baltimore being physically cut off from the outside world would have on agriculture.

The Port of Baltimore ranks 17th in terms of cargo throughput in the U.S., primarily shipping coal, containers and automobiles. It is responsible for moving 0.3% of U.S. ag exports and 2.1% of imports, meaning its impact on overall U.S. ag trade is quite minor.

“Despite its limited role, its significance in providing access to international markets for businesses, including farmers, should not be minimized,” Munch said. “Industries reliant on the port, such as sugar refineries and ag equipment manufacturers, appear to face more imminent challenges, while longer-term supply chain disruptions may lead to increased prices and logistical hurdles for farmers awaiting inputs.”

April FSA interest rates go back up

After taking a short dip in March, interest rates on loans through the USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) return to the same rates seen in February. As we begin April 2024, interest rates for operating and ownership loans (compared to March) are as follows:

  • Farm operating loans (direct): 5.125%, up from 4.875%
  • Farm ownership loans (direct): 5.375%, up from 5.25%
  • Farm ownership loans (direct, joint financing): 3.375%, up from 3.25%
  • Farm ownership loans (down payment): 1.5%, unchanged
  • Emergency Loan (amount of actual loss): 3.75%, unchanged

The FSA also offers guaranteed loans through commercial lenders at rates set by those lenders. For more information, producers can contact their local USDA Service Center.

Cooperative/processor updates

  • Jay Bryant, CEO of Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association (MDVA), announced he will retire from his position at the end of this year, concluding more than 22 years of leading and 37 years of working for the cooperative. Jon Cowell, current CFO of MDVA, has been named as his replacement by MDVA’s board of directors.
  • Hiland Dairy is launching its new freshly produced lactose-free milk. Many lactose-free milk brands rely on ultra-high-temperature (UHT) processing, where Hiland’s lactose-free milk will be produced daily at the dairy processor’s Kansas City facility.
  • Michigan Milk Producers Association (MMPA) announced a collaboration with with Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation Limited (GCMMF) to launch the first Amul-branded fluid milk products in the U.S.