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MT Farmers Union uses education, cooperation, legislation to help stabilize food supply MFU launches education based campaigns to help rebuild the food supply chain, bring new industry to north-central Montana Pam Burke community@havredailynews.com In a time when the country has become polarized on issues, Montana Farmers Union is focusing efforts on community-based solutions to issues facing independent farmers and ranchers, workers and consumers. “Farmers Union is the largest agricultural organization representing family farmers and ranchers,” Walt Schweitzer Schweitzer, MFU presi-

dent, said. “There’s a lot of ag organizations out there, but they represent the ag industry not the family farmer and rancher and that’s kind of how we got to where we got,” he added, referring to grocery shortages and elevated prices seen in U.S. stores from late March to August. Montana Farmers Union is based on three principles: education, cooperation and legislation, Schweitzer said. And, while all three components remain important, the organization is seizing the

moment when the general public is aware of problems in the food supply system to work hard on the education portion of their mission. Food security “The COVID pandemic has put a microscope on our food supply chain and it’s clearly broken,” Schweitzer said. “When we had grocery stores that were rationing meat and milk and produce while farmers were dumping milk down the drain and livestock were producers were euthanizing

livestock and vegetable growers were plowing in fields, something is wrong with our system. And y’know it’s a result of 50 years of cheap food policy.” But this policy is not really about cheap food, he added, it’s about control of the flow of food to concentrate profits. Livestock, dairy, grains, and fruits and vegetables produced in most of the country either have moved to a few concentrated locations of extraordinarily high production and shipped out or they are shipped thousands of miles to where they

■ See The food supply chain Page 7

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USDA Issues $1.68B to producers enrolled in CRP Press release WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is issuing $1.68 billion in payments to agricultural producers and landowners for the 21.9 million acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program, which provides annual rental payment for land devoted to conservation purposes. “CRP is one of the many ‘tools’ that USDA offers to producers and private landowners to help best manage sensitive lands,” said Richard Fordyce, administrator of USDA’s Farm Service Agency. “Lands enrolled in this program conserve soil, improve water quality, provide habitat for wildlife, sequester carbon, and benefit agricultural operations.” Through CRP, farmers and ranchers

establish long-term, resource-conserving plant species, such as approved grasses or trees, to control soil erosion, improve water quality, and enhance wildlife habitat on cropland. Farmers and ranchers who participate in CRP help provide numerous benefits to the nation’s environment and economy. Signed into law in 1985, CRP is one of the largest private-lands conservation programs in the U.S. It was originally intended to primarily control soil erosion and potentially stabilize commodity prices by taking marginal lands out of production. The program has evolved over the years, providing many conservation and economic benefits. The program marks its 35-year anniversary this December. Program successes include: • Preventing more than 9 billion tons of

soil from eroding, which is enough soil to fill 600 million dump trucks; • Reducing nitrogen and phosphorous runoff relative to annually tilled cropland by 95 and 85 percent respectively; • Sequestering an annual average of 49 million tons of greenhouse gases, equal to taking 9 million cars off the road; • Creating more than 3 million acres of restored wetlands while protecting more than 175,000 stream miles with riparian forest and grass buffers, which is enough to go around the world 7 times, and • Benefiting bees and other pollinators and increased populations of ducks, pheasants, turkey, bobwhite quail, prairie chickens, grasshopper sparrows, and many other birds. The successes of CRP contribute to

Dairy Margin Coverage program enrollment for 2021 open Press release CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wisc. — The U.S. Department of Agriculture began accepting applications for the Dairy Margin Coverage program Oct. 13 for 2021 enrollment. “This year has been a market roller coaster for the dairy industry, and the Dairy Margin Coverage program is a valuable tool dairy producers can use to manage risk,” USDA Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation Bill Northey said during a roundtable at a dairy in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. “We were excited to roll out this new and improved program through the 2018 Farm Bill, and if you haven’t enrolled in previous years, we highly encourage you to check it out.” Signup runs through Dec. 11. DMC is a voluntary risk management program that offers protection to dairy producers when the difference between the all-milk price and the average feed price (the margin) falls below a certain dollar amount selected by the producer. DMC payments triggered for seven months in 2019 and three months so

far in 2020. More than 23,000 operations enrolled in DMC in 2019, and more than 13,000 in 2020.

Updated dairy decision tool To determine the appropriate level of coverage for a specific dairy operation, producers can utilize the recently updated online dairy decision tool. The decision tool is designed to assist producers with calculating total premium costs and administrative fees associated with participation in DMC. An  informational video  is available, too.   Improvements to the decision tool, made in cooperation with representatives from the University of Minnesota and University of Wisconsin, include historical analysis that illustrates what DMC indemnity payments might have been had the program  been available over the previous two decades.  The

analysis indicates that over the course of time, DMC payments made to producers exceed premiums paid. These decision tool enhancements provide a more comprehensive decision support experience for producers considering DMC.

Additional support for dairy producers In addition to DMC, USDA offers a variety of programs that have helped dairy producers, including insurance, disaster assistance, and conservation programs. Most recently, the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 1 provided $1.75 billion in direct relief to dairy producers who faced price declines and additional marketing costs due to COVID-19 in early 2020. Now, signup is underway for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2, which provides another round of assistance for dairy producers and many other eligible producers.

The food supply chain: Schweitzer: 'It'll take time' n Continued from page 8 him to act this year. The certification curriculum he is working on, he said, will train people to operate and work in a complete meat processing facility from harvest to retail. “There is no other program like that in the United States,” he said. The only program like this is in Alberta, Canada, he said, adding that Miles Community College in Miles City wasn’t interested in expanding their program to include harvest of the animals. The Miles Community College program, he said, consists of required online classes and apprenticeships, but only for the processing after harvest. “I reached out to both Miles Community College and Montana State University in Bozeman to see if they had interest and

they weren’t really interesting in the harvest process,” he said. “It’s not very sexy … but that’s our missing link here in Montana. Right now, if you wanted to get an animal slaughtered you would have to schedule for sometime in the spring or maybe next summer.” The mobile unit Farmers Union is set to purchase is expected to be coming up for sale this month. The role Farmers Union is filling at this stage, Schweitzer said, is not just an initial financial one, but also the leg work to identify further grants and funding sources, define curriculum requirements, develop partnerships and work out permitting and location details until people, businesses and organizations come on board to share the workload.

The pay-off, though, he said, is to bring back a more stable food supply system. “It’ll take time,” he said. “It took corporate America 50 years to break what was a good system, so it’ll take us time to put it back together.

USDA’s Agriculture Innovation Agenda and its goal of reducing the environmental footprint of U.S. agriculture by half by 2050. Earlier this year, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced the departmentwide initiative to align resources, programs, and research to position American agriculture to better meet future global demands.
 CRP participants with contracts effective beginning Oct. 1, 2020, will receive their first annual rental payment in October 2021. For more information on  CRP, people can visit  fsa.usda.gov or contact the local  FSA county  office, the location of which can be found online at https://www. farmers.gov/service-center-locator .   


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The food supply chain: Mobile slaughter unit will also be a classroom n Continued from page 7 helped in part by shortages at the stores at that time — so a little more than two weeks after picking up his beef he called to get more cattle processed — but the packing plant was already booked solid for six months out. “It’s opened a lot of eyes and, hopefully, this is some way to make a good thing out of a bad situation,” he added. “We’ve gotten complacent with this whole big system … and mom and pops went away.” Like Baltrusch, Schweitzer said Montana Farmers Union is hoping to carry forward the momentum gained from the public becoming more aware of food supply safety issues. Montana Farmers Union is hoping on particular new project will help to develop a working solution.

ative structure, where the producers and the buyers cooperate together so everyone benefits.” CHS Inc. was originally formed as a Farmers Union cooperative to supply fuel and fertilizer to farmers, he said, but it has since grown to become its own entity, still cooperatively owned, he said. But the organization is also partnered with farmers unions and businesses in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin to facilitate development of cooperative businesses that include a pork processing plant, rendering plants, Nate Baltrusch the largest pet food canHavre rancher ning facility in North America and a manufacturing plant that builds trailers and a manure spreader. In keeping with efforts to address current food supply chain problems, Montana Farmers Union is looking for partnerships in developing a mobile livestock slaughter plant that will also operate as a classroom to educate students primarily on the meat

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson Black Angus cattle are herded through pens on the Baltrusch ranch north of Havre as the cattle are prepared for shipping in September.

harvesting end of the industry, but also butchering, packaging and marketing the meat, as well, through apprenticeships and partnerships. The mobile unit can harvest four to 20 head of animals per day, depending on staffing, and produce USDA inspected and certified carcasses, half carcasses and quarters to be provided to butcher shops around Montana, so they can sell locally produced meats. Farmers Union would like to house the facility in the Havre area, Schweitzer said. To that end, Schweitzer said Montana Farmers Union secured a $150,000 meat processing grant from Gov. Steve Bullock’s office to purchase the plant and the organization is committed to contribute $300,000 to $400,000 to the project. “We’re going to set it up as a cooperative so producers in the area can belong to the cooperative and supply cattle to it,” he

said. “Butcher shops in the area can belong to the cooperative and get USDA for-sale meat that they can process and put in their retail counter.” Schweitzer added that he is in early contact stages with Montana State University-Northern, MSU’s Northern Agricultural Research Center and other possible partners, and the early stages of developing a curriculum for the program which he envisions as being able to provide students with a one- or two-year certification. Schweitzer said he had been trying to figure out a way Farmers Union could help combat the deficit of meat processing facilities in Montana, but struggled to figure out how to find skilled labor to staff a facility. In December, he added, he started to formulate an idea about a program to train those laborers. The problems brought to light after the pandemic hit inspired

■ See The food supply chain Page 9

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More than $7B paid in second round of USDA Coronavirus Food Assistance Program WASHINGTON — U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced Oct. 26 that, in the first month of the application period, the USDA Farm Service Agency approved more than $7 billion in payments to producers in the second round o f t h e C o ro n av i r u s Fo o d A s s i s ta n c e Program. CFAP 2 provides agricultural producers with financial assistance to help absorb some of the increased marketing costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Since CFAP 2 enrollment began Sept. 21, FSA has approved more than 443,000 applications. The top five states for payments are Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, Illinois and Kansas. USDA has released a data dashboard on application progress and program payments and will release further updates each Monday at 2 p.m. ET. The report can be viewed at http://farmers.gov/cfap . Through CFAP 2, USDA is making available up to $14 billion for agricultural producers who continue to face market disruptions and associated costs because of

It’s opened a lot of eyes and, hopefully, this is some way to make a good thing out of a bad situation.

Melding of cooperation and education “We are involved in ag business, we’re involved in value-added business, as well,” Schweitzer said, “but we do it in a cooper-

www.havredailynews.com

COVID-19. CFAP 2 is a separate program from the first iteration of CFAP (CFAP 1). Farmers and ranchers who participated in CFAP 1 will not be automatically enrolled and must complete a new application for CFAP 2. FSA will accept CFAP 2 applications through Dec. 11. Eligible commodities CFAP 2 supports eligible producers of row crops, livestock, specialty crops, dairy, aquaculture, and many other commodities, including many that were ineligible for C FA P 1 . F S A’ s C FA P 2 E l i g i b l e Commodities Finder makes finding eligible commodities and payment rates simple. People can access this tool and other resources at http://farmers.gov/cfap . Getting help from FSA New customers seeking one-on-one support with the CFAP 2 application process can call 877-508-8364 to speak directly with a USDA employee ready to offer general assistance. This is a recommended first step before a producer engages the team at

the FSA county office at their local USDA Service Center. FSA offers multiple options for producers to apply for CFAP 2. Producers with an eAuthentication account can apply online through the CFAP 2 Application Portal. Also available is a payment calculator and application generator that is an Excel workbook that allows producers to input information specific to their operation to determine estimated payments and populate the application form, which can be printed, signed, and submitted to the local FSA office. Producers can also download the CFAP 2 application and other eligibility forms from http://farmers.gov/cfap . Producers of acreage-based commodities will use acreage and yield information provided by FSA through the annual acreage reporting process. Producers have the option to complete their application by working directly with their local FSA staff or online through the CFAP 2 Application Portal. CFAP 2 is not a loan program, and there is no cost to apply.

More information To find the latest information on CFAP 2, people can visit http://farmers.gov/ CFAP or call 877-508-8364. All USDA Service Centers are open for business, including some that are open to visitors to conduct business in person by appointment only. All Service Center visitors wishing to conduct business with FSA, Natural Resources Conservation Service, or any other Service Center agency should call ahead and schedule an appointment. Service Centers that are open for appointments will pre-screen visitors based on health concerns or recent travel, and visitors must adhere to social distancing guidelines. Visitors are also required to wear a face covering during their appointment. Program delivery staff will be in the office, and they will be working with our producers in the office, by phone, and using online tools. More information can be found at http://farmers.gov/coronavirus .

Tester pushes White House to enforce USMCA, resolve Canada’s grain grading issues immediately Canada has indicated it will use a loophole to continue unfairly downgrading Montana wheat

Following reports that despite the ratification of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement earlier this year, Canada has continued to downgrade American wheat imported into the country, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester urged U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Robert Lighthizer Oct. 26 to immediately reach out to the Canadian trade representatives to resolve the issues and enforce the Agreement. “In theory, USMCA ends the Canadian practice of automatically downgrading all imported wheat to feed wheat, which is the lowest grade and therefore the cheapest to import,” wrote Tester “… As USMCA goes into effect, the State of Montana is hearing that the Canadian government is unwilling to make changes to the (Varietal Registration System) that would bring any real equity to the grain grading system. If Canada continues to refuse to accept U.S. varieties into the VRS, then U.S. grain growers are back at square one, and will be forced to sell their high-quality product as a low-quality import.” Tester continued: “USMCA held such promise, but if we are unable to deliver any real outcomes for Montana farmers from the deal, we are failing folks in production agriculture.  Without robust enforcement, negotiated trade agreements will be unable to bring certainty and mar-

ket stability to American farmers and ranchers.” Tester supported the USMCA and voted for it when it passed the Senate in January. His support was based in large part on the fix to Canada’s unfair wheat grading practices, and he has long argued that, without strict enforcement, the trade agreement cannot provide a substantial benefit to Montana producers. USMCA addressed a critical discrepancy in U.S.-Canada wheat trade by prohibiting either country from discriminating against the other’s grain, ending the Canadian practice of automatically downgrading all imported wheat to feed wheat—the lowest grade and therefore cheapest to import. However, USMCA does not address the inherently discriminatory Canadian Varietal Registration System, or VRS, a list of wheat varieties that may be sold on Canadian markets. Wheat varieties not registered in the VRS must be sold as feed wheat, regardless of USMCA, and the VRS excludes many varieties grown in Northern tier states like Montana. Canada has indicated that it is unwilling to make changes to the VRS, allowing it to continue to unfairly downgrade Montana wheat. “While I continue to hear the administration and my Republican colleagues tout the success of USMCA in press releases, the fact remains that there is still work to do for Montana’s wheat farmers,” Tester said. “That’s why I ask that you immediately work to remedy the grain grading discrepancy, rather than tout USMCA as an untarnished success.” Tester has been an outspoken critic of President Trump's trade war and has pushed to hold the administration accountable by passing legislation to give

Congress a role in imposing tariffs. He has heard about the impact of these tariffs firsthand, holding in-person listening sessions with Montana farmers, ranchers and small business owners about the conse-

quences of the trade war. Tester’s full letter can be found online at https://www.tester.senate.gov/files/ Letters/2020-10-26%20Lighthizer_USTR_ USMCA%20Wheat%20Grading.pdf .


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The food supply chain: Pandemic showed problem with U.S. system n Continued from page 4 are processed in a central location then shipped thousands of miles back to local stores. Schweitzer pointed out that not too long ago Havre had its own meat packing plant, milk and dairy products supplier, bakery and flour mill to supply staples to residents, but over the past five decades, this shift toward centralized food supply under large corporations has virtually eliminated the local food supply businesses. “That’s not food security. That’s not even cheap food. That’s just a bad idea,” he said. Montana Farmers Union has recognized the problem for a long time, Schweitzer said, but it’s not enough that the farmers see, the consumer needs to see it. Toward that end, the organization has put a few concentrated efforts into play. MFU’s Food Security for Us campaign is about providing information resources about current food security problems and how to combat them. The campaign is doing some advertising and a social media push, Schweitzer said, but the focal point is the organization’s website at http://www.foodsecurityforus.com . The website explains the cheap food policy, food security and related topics, and it offers resources for consumers to learn more from outside sources on these topics. It also suggests ways people can support local food producers and legislation the organization says will help. Schweitzer said that consumers should be angry about what has happened to the food supply chain in the U.S., and how it has focused food supply primarily to a few large corporations. For example, more than 80 percent of meat processing is controlled by four corporations which are, he added, primarily foreign-owned by investors in Brazil, China and Mexico. By mid-April, as the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. was ramping up, news outlets were reporting that beef, pork and chicken processing plants across the country were closing due to high numbers of sick employees, who work in close quarters on assembly lines. The loss of production was quickly felt in grocery stores and the shortages were compounded by elevated prices. “(Consumers) are paying attention right now,” Schweitzer said. “When you showed up in the grocery store in March and couldn’t find food that you wanted, you were going ‘Well, what happened?’ And that would not have happened if we had the system that we had 50 years ago.” Havre rancher Nate Baltrusch, who raises both commercial cattle and purebred Angus, said in an interview in early September that he had been thinking in December about figuring out a way to market his own processed and packaged beef. He said he was frustrated by the fact

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson A steak from Baltrush Angus Beef in Havre is displayed before cooking. The store is a new pasture-to-plate-type venture launched this summer in Havre by rancher Nate Baltrusch because, he said, he wanted a way to keep his beef products, from his locally raised cattle, closer to home for people in his community to enjoy.

he, like other cattle producers put so much effort into raising quality beef, but he ships it off and has no control over where it goes in that system, so can’t share it as a local product with his neighbors. “There’s really no more pasture to plate anymore,” he said. Baltrusch was out in the field planting spring wheat, listening to news about meat packing plants having to close down due to

COVID, when he decided right then to pursue his idea, he said. “You don’t realize how fragile (the food supply chain) is until, just like that, in just two or three months those processors shut down and beef prices tripled,” he said. “And us producers were standing there saying ‘there’s beef everywhere and we can’t get it to people.’” He was able to schedule three head of

cattle for processing to be ready at the very end of May or first days of June at Pioneer Meats in Big Timber, a USDA inspected facility. The USDA certified meat could be sold retail from Baltrusch’s new business, Baltrusch Angus Beef, which he started at his place just for his beef. He said got his packaged beef in early June, and it immediately sold well —

■ See The food supply chain Page 8


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The food supply chain: Pandemic showed problem with U.S. system n Continued from page 4 are processed in a central location then shipped thousands of miles back to local stores. Schweitzer pointed out that not too long ago Havre had its own meat packing plant, milk and dairy products supplier, bakery and flour mill to supply staples to residents, but over the past five decades, this shift toward centralized food supply under large corporations has virtually eliminated the local food supply businesses. “That’s not food security. That’s not even cheap food. That’s just a bad idea,” he said. Montana Farmers Union has recognized the problem for a long time, Schweitzer said, but it’s not enough that the farmers see, the consumer needs to see it. Toward that end, the organization has put a few concentrated efforts into play. MFU’s Food Security for Us campaign is about providing information resources about current food security problems and how to combat them. The campaign is doing some advertising and a social media push, Schweitzer said, but the focal point is the organization’s website at http://www.foodsecurityforus.com . The website explains the cheap food policy, food security and related topics, and it offers resources for consumers to learn more from outside sources on these topics. It also suggests ways people can support local food producers and legislation the organization says will help. Schweitzer said that consumers should be angry about what has happened to the food supply chain in the U.S., and how it has focused food supply primarily to a few large corporations. For example, more than 80 percent of meat processing is controlled by four corporations which are, he added, primarily foreign-owned by investors in Brazil, China and Mexico. By mid-April, as the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. was ramping up, news outlets were reporting that beef, pork and chicken processing plants across the country were closing due to high numbers of sick employees, who work in close quarters on assembly lines. The loss of production was quickly felt in grocery stores and the shortages were compounded by elevated prices. “(Consumers) are paying attention right now,” Schweitzer said. “When you showed up in the grocery store in March and couldn’t find food that you wanted, you were going ‘Well, what happened?’ And that would not have happened if we had the system that we had 50 years ago.” Havre rancher Nate Baltrusch, who raises both commercial cattle and purebred Angus, said in an interview in early September that he had been thinking in December about figuring out a way to market his own processed and packaged beef. He said he was frustrated by the fact

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson A steak from Baltrush Angus Beef in Havre is displayed before cooking. The store is a new pasture-to-plate-type venture launched this summer in Havre by rancher Nate Baltrusch because, he said, he wanted a way to keep his beef products, from his locally raised cattle, closer to home for people in his community to enjoy.

he, like other cattle producers put so much effort into raising quality beef, but he ships it off and has no control over where it goes in that system, so can’t share it as a local product with his neighbors. “There’s really no more pasture to plate anymore,” he said. Baltrusch was out in the field planting spring wheat, listening to news about meat packing plants having to close down due to

COVID, when he decided right then to pursue his idea, he said. “You don’t realize how fragile (the food supply chain) is until, just like that, in just two or three months those processors shut down and beef prices tripled,” he said. “And us producers were standing there saying ‘there’s beef everywhere and we can’t get it to people.’” He was able to schedule three head of

cattle for processing to be ready at the very end of May or first days of June at Pioneer Meats in Big Timber, a USDA inspected facility. The USDA certified meat could be sold retail from Baltrusch’s new business, Baltrusch Angus Beef, which he started at his place just for his beef. He said got his packaged beef in early June, and it immediately sold well —

■ See The food supply chain Page 8


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The food supply chain: Mobile slaughter unit will also be a classroom n Continued from page 7 helped in part by shortages at the stores at that time — so a little more than two weeks after picking up his beef he called to get more cattle processed — but the packing plant was already booked solid for six months out. “It’s opened a lot of eyes and, hopefully, this is some way to make a good thing out of a bad situation,” he added. “We’ve gotten complacent with this whole big system … and mom and pops went away.” Like Baltrusch, Schweitzer said Montana Farmers Union is hoping to carry forward the momentum gained from the public becoming more aware of food supply safety issues. Montana Farmers Union is hoping on particular new project will help to develop a working solution.

ative structure, where the producers and the buyers cooperate together so everyone benefits.” CHS Inc. was originally formed as a Farmers Union cooperative to supply fuel and fertilizer to farmers, he said, but it has since grown to become its own entity, still cooperatively owned, he said. But the organization is also partnered with farmers unions and businesses in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin to facilitate development of cooperative businesses that include a pork processing plant, rendering plants, Nate Baltrusch the largest pet food canHavre rancher ning facility in North America and a manufacturing plant that builds trailers and a manure spreader. In keeping with efforts to address current food supply chain problems, Montana Farmers Union is looking for partnerships in developing a mobile livestock slaughter plant that will also operate as a classroom to educate students primarily on the meat

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson Black Angus cattle are herded through pens on the Baltrusch ranch north of Havre as the cattle are prepared for shipping in September.

harvesting end of the industry, but also butchering, packaging and marketing the meat, as well, through apprenticeships and partnerships. The mobile unit can harvest four to 20 head of animals per day, depending on staffing, and produce USDA inspected and certified carcasses, half carcasses and quarters to be provided to butcher shops around Montana, so they can sell locally produced meats. Farmers Union would like to house the facility in the Havre area, Schweitzer said. To that end, Schweitzer said Montana Farmers Union secured a $150,000 meat processing grant from Gov. Steve Bullock’s office to purchase the plant and the organization is committed to contribute $300,000 to $400,000 to the project. “We’re going to set it up as a cooperative so producers in the area can belong to the cooperative and supply cattle to it,” he

said. “Butcher shops in the area can belong to the cooperative and get USDA for-sale meat that they can process and put in their retail counter.” Schweitzer added that he is in early contact stages with Montana State University-Northern, MSU’s Northern Agricultural Research Center and other possible partners, and the early stages of developing a curriculum for the program which he envisions as being able to provide students with a one- or two-year certification. Schweitzer said he had been trying to figure out a way Farmers Union could help combat the deficit of meat processing facilities in Montana, but struggled to figure out how to find skilled labor to staff a facility. In December, he added, he started to formulate an idea about a program to train those laborers. The problems brought to light after the pandemic hit inspired

■ See The food supply chain Page 9

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More than $7B paid in second round of USDA Coronavirus Food Assistance Program WASHINGTON — U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced Oct. 26 that, in the first month of the application period, the USDA Farm Service Agency approved more than $7 billion in payments to producers in the second round o f t h e C o ro n av i r u s Fo o d A s s i s ta n c e Program. CFAP 2 provides agricultural producers with financial assistance to help absorb some of the increased marketing costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Since CFAP 2 enrollment began Sept. 21, FSA has approved more than 443,000 applications. The top five states for payments are Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, Illinois and Kansas. USDA has released a data dashboard on application progress and program payments and will release further updates each Monday at 2 p.m. ET. The report can be viewed at http://farmers.gov/cfap . Through CFAP 2, USDA is making available up to $14 billion for agricultural producers who continue to face market disruptions and associated costs because of

It’s opened a lot of eyes and, hopefully, this is some way to make a good thing out of a bad situation.

Melding of cooperation and education “We are involved in ag business, we’re involved in value-added business, as well,” Schweitzer said, “but we do it in a cooper-

www.havredailynews.com

COVID-19. CFAP 2 is a separate program from the first iteration of CFAP (CFAP 1). Farmers and ranchers who participated in CFAP 1 will not be automatically enrolled and must complete a new application for CFAP 2. FSA will accept CFAP 2 applications through Dec. 11. Eligible commodities CFAP 2 supports eligible producers of row crops, livestock, specialty crops, dairy, aquaculture, and many other commodities, including many that were ineligible for C FA P 1 . F S A’ s C FA P 2 E l i g i b l e Commodities Finder makes finding eligible commodities and payment rates simple. People can access this tool and other resources at http://farmers.gov/cfap . Getting help from FSA New customers seeking one-on-one support with the CFAP 2 application process can call 877-508-8364 to speak directly with a USDA employee ready to offer general assistance. This is a recommended first step before a producer engages the team at

the FSA county office at their local USDA Service Center. FSA offers multiple options for producers to apply for CFAP 2. Producers with an eAuthentication account can apply online through the CFAP 2 Application Portal. Also available is a payment calculator and application generator that is an Excel workbook that allows producers to input information specific to their operation to determine estimated payments and populate the application form, which can be printed, signed, and submitted to the local FSA office. Producers can also download the CFAP 2 application and other eligibility forms from http://farmers.gov/cfap . Producers of acreage-based commodities will use acreage and yield information provided by FSA through the annual acreage reporting process. Producers have the option to complete their application by working directly with their local FSA staff or online through the CFAP 2 Application Portal. CFAP 2 is not a loan program, and there is no cost to apply.

More information To find the latest information on CFAP 2, people can visit http://farmers.gov/ CFAP or call 877-508-8364. All USDA Service Centers are open for business, including some that are open to visitors to conduct business in person by appointment only. All Service Center visitors wishing to conduct business with FSA, Natural Resources Conservation Service, or any other Service Center agency should call ahead and schedule an appointment. Service Centers that are open for appointments will pre-screen visitors based on health concerns or recent travel, and visitors must adhere to social distancing guidelines. Visitors are also required to wear a face covering during their appointment. Program delivery staff will be in the office, and they will be working with our producers in the office, by phone, and using online tools. More information can be found at http://farmers.gov/coronavirus .

Tester pushes White House to enforce USMCA, resolve Canada’s grain grading issues immediately Canada has indicated it will use a loophole to continue unfairly downgrading Montana wheat

Following reports that despite the ratification of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement earlier this year, Canada has continued to downgrade American wheat imported into the country, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester urged U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Robert Lighthizer Oct. 26 to immediately reach out to the Canadian trade representatives to resolve the issues and enforce the Agreement. “In theory, USMCA ends the Canadian practice of automatically downgrading all imported wheat to feed wheat, which is the lowest grade and therefore the cheapest to import,” wrote Tester “… As USMCA goes into effect, the State of Montana is hearing that the Canadian government is unwilling to make changes to the (Varietal Registration System) that would bring any real equity to the grain grading system. If Canada continues to refuse to accept U.S. varieties into the VRS, then U.S. grain growers are back at square one, and will be forced to sell their high-quality product as a low-quality import.” Tester continued: “USMCA held such promise, but if we are unable to deliver any real outcomes for Montana farmers from the deal, we are failing folks in production agriculture.  Without robust enforcement, negotiated trade agreements will be unable to bring certainty and mar-

ket stability to American farmers and ranchers.” Tester supported the USMCA and voted for it when it passed the Senate in January. His support was based in large part on the fix to Canada’s unfair wheat grading practices, and he has long argued that, without strict enforcement, the trade agreement cannot provide a substantial benefit to Montana producers. USMCA addressed a critical discrepancy in U.S.-Canada wheat trade by prohibiting either country from discriminating against the other’s grain, ending the Canadian practice of automatically downgrading all imported wheat to feed wheat—the lowest grade and therefore cheapest to import. However, USMCA does not address the inherently discriminatory Canadian Varietal Registration System, or VRS, a list of wheat varieties that may be sold on Canadian markets. Wheat varieties not registered in the VRS must be sold as feed wheat, regardless of USMCA, and the VRS excludes many varieties grown in Northern tier states like Montana. Canada has indicated that it is unwilling to make changes to the VRS, allowing it to continue to unfairly downgrade Montana wheat. “While I continue to hear the administration and my Republican colleagues tout the success of USMCA in press releases, the fact remains that there is still work to do for Montana’s wheat farmers,” Tester said. “That’s why I ask that you immediately work to remedy the grain grading discrepancy, rather than tout USMCA as an untarnished success.” Tester has been an outspoken critic of President Trump's trade war and has pushed to hold the administration accountable by passing legislation to give

Congress a role in imposing tariffs. He has heard about the impact of these tariffs firsthand, holding in-person listening sessions with Montana farmers, ranchers and small business owners about the conse-

quences of the trade war. Tester’s full letter can be found online at https://www.tester.senate.gov/files/ Letters/2020-10-26%20Lighthizer_USTR_ USMCA%20Wheat%20Grading.pdf .


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MT Farmers Union uses education, cooperation, legislation to help stabilize food supply MFU launches education based campaigns to help rebuild the food supply chain, bring new industry to north-central Montana Pam Burke community@havredailynews.com In a time when the country has become polarized on issues, Montana Farmers Union is focusing efforts on community-based solutions to issues facing independent farmers and ranchers, workers and consumers. “Farmers Union is the largest agricultural organization representing family farmers and ranchers,” Walt Schweitzer Schweitzer, MFU presi-

dent, said. “There’s a lot of ag organizations out there, but they represent the ag industry not the family farmer and rancher and that’s kind of how we got to where we got,” he added, referring to grocery shortages and elevated prices seen in U.S. stores from late March to August. Montana Farmers Union is based on three principles: education, cooperation and legislation, Schweitzer said. And, while all three components remain important, the organization is seizing the

moment when the general public is aware of problems in the food supply system to work hard on the education portion of their mission. Food security “The COVID pandemic has put a microscope on our food supply chain and it’s clearly broken,” Schweitzer said. “When we had grocery stores that were rationing meat and milk and produce while farmers were dumping milk down the drain and livestock were producers were euthanizing

livestock and vegetable growers were plowing in fields, something is wrong with our system. And y’know it’s a result of 50 years of cheap food policy.” But this policy is not really about cheap food, he added, it’s about control of the flow of food to concentrate profits. Livestock, dairy, grains, and fruits and vegetables produced in most of the country either have moved to a few concentrated locations of extraordinarily high production and shipped out or they are shipped thousands of miles to where they

■ See The food supply chain Page 7

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USDA Issues $1.68B to producers enrolled in CRP Press release WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is issuing $1.68 billion in payments to agricultural producers and landowners for the 21.9 million acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program, which provides annual rental payment for land devoted to conservation purposes. “CRP is one of the many ‘tools’ that USDA offers to producers and private landowners to help best manage sensitive lands,” said Richard Fordyce, administrator of USDA’s Farm Service Agency. “Lands enrolled in this program conserve soil, improve water quality, provide habitat for wildlife, sequester carbon, and benefit agricultural operations.” Through CRP, farmers and ranchers

establish long-term, resource-conserving plant species, such as approved grasses or trees, to control soil erosion, improve water quality, and enhance wildlife habitat on cropland. Farmers and ranchers who participate in CRP help provide numerous benefits to the nation’s environment and economy. Signed into law in 1985, CRP is one of the largest private-lands conservation programs in the U.S. It was originally intended to primarily control soil erosion and potentially stabilize commodity prices by taking marginal lands out of production. The program has evolved over the years, providing many conservation and economic benefits. The program marks its 35-year anniversary this December. Program successes include: • Preventing more than 9 billion tons of

soil from eroding, which is enough soil to fill 600 million dump trucks; • Reducing nitrogen and phosphorous runoff relative to annually tilled cropland by 95 and 85 percent respectively; • Sequestering an annual average of 49 million tons of greenhouse gases, equal to taking 9 million cars off the road; • Creating more than 3 million acres of restored wetlands while protecting more than 175,000 stream miles with riparian forest and grass buffers, which is enough to go around the world 7 times, and • Benefiting bees and other pollinators and increased populations of ducks, pheasants, turkey, bobwhite quail, prairie chickens, grasshopper sparrows, and many other birds. The successes of CRP contribute to

Dairy Margin Coverage program enrollment for 2021 open Press release CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wisc. — The U.S. Department of Agriculture began accepting applications for the Dairy Margin Coverage program Oct. 13 for 2021 enrollment. “This year has been a market roller coaster for the dairy industry, and the Dairy Margin Coverage program is a valuable tool dairy producers can use to manage risk,” USDA Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation Bill Northey said during a roundtable at a dairy in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. “We were excited to roll out this new and improved program through the 2018 Farm Bill, and if you haven’t enrolled in previous years, we highly encourage you to check it out.” Signup runs through Dec. 11. DMC is a voluntary risk management program that offers protection to dairy producers when the difference between the all-milk price and the average feed price (the margin) falls below a certain dollar amount selected by the producer. DMC payments triggered for seven months in 2019 and three months so

far in 2020. More than 23,000 operations enrolled in DMC in 2019, and more than 13,000 in 2020.

Updated dairy decision tool To determine the appropriate level of coverage for a specific dairy operation, producers can utilize the recently updated online dairy decision tool. The decision tool is designed to assist producers with calculating total premium costs and administrative fees associated with participation in DMC. An  informational video  is available, too.   Improvements to the decision tool, made in cooperation with representatives from the University of Minnesota and University of Wisconsin, include historical analysis that illustrates what DMC indemnity payments might have been had the program  been available over the previous two decades.  The

analysis indicates that over the course of time, DMC payments made to producers exceed premiums paid. These decision tool enhancements provide a more comprehensive decision support experience for producers considering DMC.

Additional support for dairy producers In addition to DMC, USDA offers a variety of programs that have helped dairy producers, including insurance, disaster assistance, and conservation programs. Most recently, the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 1 provided $1.75 billion in direct relief to dairy producers who faced price declines and additional marketing costs due to COVID-19 in early 2020. Now, signup is underway for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2, which provides another round of assistance for dairy producers and many other eligible producers.

The food supply chain: Schweitzer: 'It'll take time' n Continued from page 8 him to act this year. The certification curriculum he is working on, he said, will train people to operate and work in a complete meat processing facility from harvest to retail. “There is no other program like that in the United States,” he said. The only program like this is in Alberta, Canada, he said, adding that Miles Community College in Miles City wasn’t interested in expanding their program to include harvest of the animals. The Miles Community College program, he said, consists of required online classes and apprenticeships, but only for the processing after harvest. “I reached out to both Miles Community College and Montana State University in Bozeman to see if they had interest and

they weren’t really interesting in the harvest process,” he said. “It’s not very sexy … but that’s our missing link here in Montana. Right now, if you wanted to get an animal slaughtered you would have to schedule for sometime in the spring or maybe next summer.” The mobile unit Farmers Union is set to purchase is expected to be coming up for sale this month. The role Farmers Union is filling at this stage, Schweitzer said, is not just an initial financial one, but also the leg work to identify further grants and funding sources, define curriculum requirements, develop partnerships and work out permitting and location details until people, businesses and organizations come on board to share the workload.

The pay-off, though, he said, is to bring back a more stable food supply system. “It’ll take time,” he said. “It took corporate America 50 years to break what was a good system, so it’ll take us time to put it back together.

USDA’s Agriculture Innovation Agenda and its goal of reducing the environmental footprint of U.S. agriculture by half by 2050. Earlier this year, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced the departmentwide initiative to align resources, programs, and research to position American agriculture to better meet future global demands.
 CRP participants with contracts effective beginning Oct. 1, 2020, will receive their first annual rental payment in October 2021. For more information on  CRP, people can visit  fsa.usda.gov or contact the local  FSA county  office, the location of which can be found online at https://www. farmers.gov/service-center-locator .   


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