Digest Highlights 2018 Farm Bill: See you in September NMPF tells FDA to enforce dairy standards of identity House recesses with no vote on AG & Legal Workforce Act Pennsylvania producer survey reveals expansion is a low priority Dairy farm, wholesale and retail price forecast DFA invests in MOPRO Greek yogurt Land O'Lakes Inc. names Ford president and CEO PMMB to consider co-op milk procurement costs MMPA donating 150 gallons of milk per day in 2018

Natzke dave
Editor / Progressive Dairy

2018 Farm Bill: See you in September

Congressional agriculture committee leaders met on July 26 to discuss the 2018 Farm Bill, but no formal Conference Committee action to resolve differences in House and Senate versions of the bill is likely until after Labor Day.

On Aug. 1, Senate leadership named nine members to the committee, five Republicans and four Democrats.

Previously, 47 House members (29 Republicans and 18 Democrats) were named to the Conference Committee.

Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) shortened the Senate’s recess to the first week of August. However, House members departed Washington, D.C., on July 27 for their August recess and won’t return until Sept. 4.


The current farm bill expires Sept. 30, 2018.

NMPF tells FDA to enforce dairy standards of identity

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must enforce standards of identity for dairy products to safeguard consumers from making purchases of products whose labels are false and misleading, a National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) official testified at a recent FDA hearing.

The FDA hearing, held July 26, focused on modernizing food standards of identity. In his testimony, Tom Balmer, NMPF’s executive vice president, argued that the agency should first start enforcing the existing standards for dairy foods like milk, cheese and yogurt.

“It seems inconsistent to talk about modernizing standards to improve nutrition and assure accurate information to consumers when FDA has been allowing nutritionally inferior products to use standardized terms like ‘milk’ for so long,” Balmer testified. “Instead of continuing to look the other way, let’s start by enforcing current standards of identity and then talk about potential improvements.”

Over the last 20 years, NMPF and its members have made repeated requests for FDA to take enforcement action on misbranded imitation dairy products, with FDA continually claiming the issue is not an agency priority.

For too long, Balmer said, products such as dairy imitation foods like “almond milk,” “soy cheese” and “rice yogurt” have used dairy terms to associate themselves with the positive traits of milk-based foods.

“This is a marketing gimmick and a clever one,” Balmer said. “Such products not only lack ingredients specified by the standards, they frequently fall short in expected characteristics like mouthfeel, taste and texture, and are nearly always less nutritious.”

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb released a statement before the hearing announcing the agency would prioritize taking a closer look at the standards of identity for dairy products. Both NMPF and FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative released statements commending Gottleib.

House recesses with no vote on AG & Legal Workforce Act

With the House now into its August recess, don’t expect any congressional action on efforts to increase dairy farmer access to a larger immigrant labor supply, according to Bob Gray, with the Northeast Dairy Farmers Cooperatives (NDFC).

The House started its August recess on July 27 and won’t return to session until Sept. 4, Gray wrote in a recent NDFC newsletter. The recess started without action taken on the AG & Legal Workforce Act (H.R. 6417), which was introduced on July 18 by U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia). House Republican leadership could not get a consensus to move the free-standing Ag Guest Worker Bill with the E-Verify provisions forward, Gray said.

The proposal created an Ag Guest Worker Program, which would have set up a new H-2C visa program for current full-time workers in the U.S. who are undocumented. As a stopgap until the H-2C program was established, the proposal would have allowed dairy producers to use H-2A seasonal workers for 10 months of the year.

H.R. 6417 also would have created a mandatory E-Verify program through the implementation of a government database, requiring all employers to submit detailed information on workers they employ, including Social Security numbers.

According to Gray, dairy producers had concerns with the two touchback provisions in the bill, since they believed many undocumented married workers would not come forward for fear of potentially being separated from their families. In addition, there were concerns that previously deported workers who had returned to the U.S. would be subject to deportation again. So, many dairy producers felt current workers would not come forward to undergo background checks in order to qualify for the H-2C visas.

Meanwhile, another attempt to give dairy farmers access to H-2A visa workers was inserted in a fiscal year 2019 Homeland Securities appropriations bill. The amendment, introduced by Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Washington), would expand the H-2A farm worker visa program to include year-round employees on farms. H-2A visas currently apply only to temporary or seasonal workers.

“Dairy farmers have largely not been able to utilize the H-2A visa program because the current version restricts the visas only to the temporary and seasonal labor needs of agricultural employers,” said Jim Mulhern president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF). “The H-2A program simply isn’t an option for a commodity that harvests its product multiple times a day, every day.

According to published reports, the 2019 Homeland Securities appropriations bill also contains $5 billion for a U.S.-Mexico border wall.

Pennsylvania producer survey reveals expansion is a low priority

Pennsylvania’s Center for Dairy Excellence (CDE) released the summary findings of the 2017 Pennsylvania Dairy Study Producer Survey. The confidential producer survey was sent to all Pennsylvania dairy farms in June 2017. Survey respondents totaled 991 farms (880 of which were milking cows at the time of the survey), about 14 percent of Pennsylvania’s 6,570 dairy farms and about 9 percent of Pennsylvania’s milk supply.

“The survey results offering a telling picture into the landscape of our dairy industry,” said Jayne Sebright, executive director with the center. “It speaks to what makes our industry unique here in Pennsylvania and where our farms plan to prioritize in the coming years.”

The average participating farm was milking 87.1 cows, selling 20,435 pounds of milk per cow per year, with a total herd of 100.8 cows and 83.4 heifers. The average primary operator was born in 1964, and 2.6 percent were women. Herds with between 30 and 100 cows comprised 69.4 percent of the farms; 26.3 percent had more than 100 cows; and 4.3 percent of the survey farms had less than 30 cows.

Similar surveys were conducted in 2012 and 2008. Comparing factors important to dairy producers, survey respondents said increasing milk production has become a lower priority, while increasing milk components per cow was a much higher priority. “Improving udder health” was rated slightly lower in 2017 than it was in 2008. The percentage of farms rating “decreasing the cost of production” as very important in 2017 decreased, while “stabilizing milk price volatility” and “maximizing milk price per hundredweight” were higher priorities in 2017 respondents.

The survey asked respondents to share their plans and concerns related to their future in the dairy business. In 2017, about 86 percent of the farms expect to be milking cows in the next five years, while only 53 percent indicated they were confident in their ability to be profitable at their current herd size. The greatest needs identified by respondents were access to milk markets and land availability.

Of those who planned to exit dairy farming, 37 percent said they were retiring, while 24 percent cited financial challenges, and 7 percent said they planned to exit because of issues in finding good help.

Visit the CDE website for a summary of the survey results, along with other findings included in a comprehensive Pennsylvania Dairy Study.

Dairy farm, wholesale and retail price forecast

The USDA Economic Research Service’s monthly food price outlook is out. It includes both a Consumer Price Index (CPI), forecasting trends in prices consumers will pay for food, and a Producer Price Index (PPI), a forecast of the prices received by producers and wholesalers. As of July 25, here’s what’s expected:

• Average farm-level prices received for milk in 2018 will be down 4 to 5 percent from 2017. June 2018 milk prices were up 5.9 percent from May, but 9.5 percent less than June 2017. Farm-level milk prices in 2019 are forecast to be up 3.5 to 4.5 percent from 2018.

• Average prices received by milk wholesalers in 2018 will be down 2 to 3 percent from 2017. June 2018 wholesale milk prices were up 0.6 percent from May, but 1 percent less than June 2017. Wholesale milk prices in 2019 are forecast to be steady to 1 percent higher compared to 2018.

• Retail prices paid by consumers for dairy products in 2018 will be steady to 1 percent lower compared to 2017, but 2019 prices will be up 3 to 4 percent from 2018. June 2018 retail prices were up 0.2 percent from May and up 0.4 percent from June 2017.

DFA invests in MOPRO Greek yogurt

Dairy Farmers of America announced an investment in MOPRO Nutrition (MOPRO), an all-natural, high-protein, low-sugar, whole milk Greek yogurt infused with whey protein combined with probiotics. MOPRO positions itself as a replacement for protein bars, protein shakes and regular Greek yogurt.

MOPRO, based in Birmingham, Michigan, recently completed the 2018 Sprint Accelerator program, which is also sponsored by DFA. The Sprint Accelerator is a 90-day, immersive program that helps accelerate and grow startup businesses.

“As a farmer-owned cooperative, DFA is continuously looking for innovative ways to bring dairy to consumers, and this investment in MOPRO reflects that commitment,” said Monica Massey, senior vice president and chief of staff at DFA. “We think there’s a lot of growth potential with more natural, high-protein products and look forward to working with MOPRO to help make them a household brand.”

Through this relationship, DFA and MOPRO will work together to increase product distribution and build brand awareness.

Land O'Lakes Inc. names Ford president and CEO

The Land O’Lakes, Inc. Board of Directors selected Beth Ford as president and chief executive officer, effective Aug. 1. She succeeds Chris Policinski and becomes the ninth CEO of Land O’Lakes, one of the nation’s largest agricultural cooperatives.

Ford has served in several leadership roles with Land O’Lakes since joining the company in 2011. In December 2017, she was named chief operating officer of Land O’Lakes Businesses, where she oversaw Land O’Lakes’ WinField United, Purina Animal Nutrition and Dairy Foods business units. Prior to that, Ford was head of Land O’Lakes’ Dairy Foods and Purina Animal Nutrition businesses. She also was instrumental in the acquisition of Vermont Creamery in early 2017.

She previously served in executive positions with International Flavors and Fragrances, Mobil Corporation, PepsiCo and Pepsi Bottling Company, and Scholastic.

Ford also sits on the board of directors for the National Milk Producers Federation.

PMMB to consider co-op milk procurement costs

The Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board (PMMB) will hold a hearing on Oct. 3 to receive testimony and exhibits concerning cooperative milk procurement costs and methods to incorporate those costs in minimum resale milk prices. The hearing is set for 9 a.m. in Room 202, Agriculture Building, 2301 North Cameron Street, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Persons (or their attorneys) who wish to present evidence must be registered with the PMMB and indicate a desire to appear at the hearing by noon on Aug. 3. An original and five copies of information and exhibits to be presented at the hearing must be filed by Aug. 7. Copies of the filings will be available on the board’s website.

MMPA donating 150 gallons of milk per day in 2018

For the fourth year in a row, the Michigan Milk Producers Association (MMPA) has made a donation of fresh milk to the state’s food bank network.

MMPA is donating 150 gallons of milk a day – for a yearly total of 54,750 gallons – for 2018. The donation is occurring primarily during the summer months when the need is the greatest. The Food Bank Council of Michigan will ensure Michigan’s seven food banks serving all 83 counties in Michigan will receive this wholesome product.

The milk will be coming from some of the 1,100 farmer members of MMPA. Michigan Dairy, operated by Kroger, is donating the processing and packaging of the milk, saving the food banks over $25,000.

“As a cooperative, MMPA is committed to serving local communities at its core. One way the dairy farmer owners of MMPA can support our neighbors in need is by providing food banks with nutrient-rich milk,” said Ken Nobis, dairy farmer and president of MMPA. “With this donation and through our partnership with the Food Bank Council of Michigan over the last few years, we have now donated a total of 2.6 million servings of milk, reaching communities in every corner of the state.”  end mark

Dave Natzke