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A roundup of news, reports, and research on agribusiness and related issues.

The Counter has found additional inconsistencies in a list of contractors approved for the agency’s Farmers to Families Food Box Program. It’s a roster that’s been under intense scrutiny in recent days for failing to include well-established distributors capable of handling the project’s scope and scale. 

About two weeks ago, Scott DeJoseph, owner of Premier Catering & Events in Prescott, Arizona, got a strange, short email from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA): He’d won a million-dollar contract to deliver food boxes in his area. 

A proposal from the Scott administration to provide $40 million in economic relief to dairy farms is renewing a long-standing debate about the viability of the dairy industry.

The coronavirus crisis has taken a devastating toll on dairies in Vermont and around the country. Cooperatives are buying milk well below the cost of production and limiting how much farmers can produce, causing some farmers to dump milk. At least five dairies in the state have closed this month. 

But some lawmakers and farming advocates are questioning whether providing direct aid to only one agricultural sector is equitable, and the extent to which the funds would address longer term challenges facing the dairy industry.  

When Dan Reineke was in quarantine waiting for the result of his Covid-19 test, he had his groceries delivered to his home. His local grocery store — Michigan Hometown Foods — doesn’t have an online ordering system, though, so he wrote down a list of what he wanted, snapped a photo with his phone, and sent it as a text message to the store’s manager, Arliss Spillane.

“I was as explicit as I could be,” Reineke says about his list. “I generally tend to buy things without paying attention, so I tried to pay attention for Arliss.”

Reineke, an emergency medical technician who lives in Michigan, North Dakota, quarantined after coming into contact with someone who tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Reineke tested negative, but he felt fortunate that Spillane and her crew were able to bring him groceries. Spillane started a tab for Reineke, because he only pays in cash, and he settled up once he was able to return to the store in person.

Wet and cold weather in 2019 have created a dangerous situation this year for South Dakota farmers who store grain in bins, heightening a risk of entrapment or death that has existed on farms for generations.

The number of reported grain entrapments across the country rose by 27% from 2018 to 2019, and deaths rose by 53% that year.

South Dakota in 2020 has already seen the death of a 27-year-old father of three in Brookings County in February and the entrapment of a farmer who was rescued from a grain bin in Hughes County in March.

Heavy rainfall and brisk harvest conditions throughout 2019 across the 10-state “corn belt” that includes South Dakota led many farmers to harvest grain crops later than usual and produce grain that was immature or damper than normal.

It’s been 13 years since Phil and Julie Henneman lost their adult son, Keith, to suicide. A dairying couple from Boscobel, Wisconsin, the Hennemans (shown here with granddaughter Jaden) had sold their cattle and equipment to Keith and taken off-the-farm jobs.

But Johne’s disease hit the herd, devastating the dairy. Keith held the depth of his discouragement inside, and his sudden death came as a shock to his family. He was 29.

“We think about him every day,” says Julie.

Just as Keith is uppermost in their minds, so is their work for others on his behalf. Determined to prevent further loss of life by suicide, Phil says: “We have to break the stigma surrounding suicide that keeps people from talking about it. We plant hope when we encourage people to speak freely about their thoughts of suicide.”