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Dairy Industry Breathes Sigh of Relief on May 1 Deadline
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 05/02/2017

The first of May was not the doomsday that most have feared within the inner circles of Wisconsin's dairy industry. But that doesn't mean the issue of dealing with the state's massive surplus of milk is resolved. On Monday, Governor Scott Walker and State Agriculture Secretary Ben Brancel both issued statements praising state government officials, as well as those in the private sector for their help in placing dozens of dairy farmers that were told they would be losing their contracts after new pricing methods in Canada put an end to ultra-filtered milk imports from the United States.

Walker said dairy processors, producers, the state's agriculture department and the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority all worked tirelessly to help family farms find a home for their displaced milk.

"Last month, Grassland Dairy announced it could no longer accept milk from dozens of Wisconsin farms beginning May 1 due to Canada's trade violations," Walker said. "[But] according to DATCP, 99-percent of the displaced milk has found a home."

The governor added that he hopes the U.S. and Canada can continue its strong trade relationship, but said the nation is 'just plain wrong on this issue.'

With just a few dairy farms still without a place to sell their milk, Brancel said his agency is not giving up on them, either.

"For weeks we have been working against the clock, trying to find a home for milk from dozens of displaced Wisconsin family farms before May 1," Brancel said. "We have plans in place to assist the few farms who have not yet signed a contract."

State and federal officials also expressed their gratitude that most of the effected dairy operations were taken care of by Monday's deadline. La Crosse Congressman Ron Kind sent a letter to President Donald Trump yesterday requesting that the administration provides a comprehensive plan to end Canada's unfair trade practices. He sent similar memos to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and Acting Trade Representative Stephen Vaughn last week.

And groups like the Dairy Business Association and the Wisconsin Farm Bureau know more work needs to be done.

"After a month of intense worry among dozens of dairy farmers, we are thankful and relieved that their milk is being picked up today," said DBA Spokesman Jamie Mara. "Although we have paused to catch our breath, we must not settle back and simply hope for the best going forward. It is critical we maintain an intense focus and pursue solutions that will prevent similar emergencies from happening again."

WFBF President Jim Holte agreed, saying trade is crucial to Wisconsin's agricultural economy.

"Small changes or disruptions can have a large ripple effect that negatively impact farmers, as we have seen demonstrated recently," Holte said. "Global demand for dairy and other agricultural products is crucial to the success of the dairy community. Wisconsin Farm Bureau will continue to work with other agricultural groups and state and federal lawmakers to look for solutions for exports to be encouraged and not dampened."

Meanwhile, the activities of the past month didn't turn out for everyone. There are reports of some farmers who decided that selling their cattle now was the best options, saying it is too difficult to continue farming without the assurance they will always have a place to market their milk. And Randy Hupf, a milk hauler in southern Wisconsin, said Grassland's decision to cut over 50 of its patrons means his business will have to let over half of its drivers go because many of the displaced farms were on his pickup route.

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