Digest Highlights

CDI buying Hilmar Cheese Company milk powder facility

Hilmar Cheese Company Inc. entered into an agreement to sell its Turlock, California, milk powder facility to California Dairies Inc. (CDI). The purchase and transfer of plant ownership and associated assets is anticipated to close May 2019.

Natzke dave
Editor / Progressive Dairy

According to the company’s press release, Hilmar Cheese Company will continue operations with no impact to the dairy farm families who contract to sell their milk to the company. Completed in 2015, the milk powder facility manufactures whole milk powder and skim milk powder for the export market.

Hilmar officials previously announced a three-year strategic plan focusing on cheese, whey protein and lactose businesses.

Some lawmakers want dairy terms allowed on plant-based products

In late March, eight House members submitted a letter to the FDA, requesting the agency continue to allow manufacturers and marketers of plant-based dairy alternatives to use dairy terms on product labels. Among those signing the letter were House members from several leading dairy states.

Signing the letter were: U.S. Reps. Earl Blumanauer (D-Oregon), Mark Meadows (R-North Carolina), Gary Palmer (R-Alabama), Kathy Castor (D-Florida), Jamie Raskin (D-Maryland), Doug LaMalfa (R-California), and Julia Brownley and Ted Lieu (both D-California). Among those signing the letter, only California’s LaMalfa is a member of the House Ag Committee.


In the letter, the lawmakers express concern that “needlessly restrictive” interpretation of existing labeling requirements could negatively impact the plant-based food sector and impact consumers’ ability to recognize and choose plant-based alternatives. “To prevent these food products from including names of dairy foods in their labels would only lead to confusion in the marketplace,” they said.

Plant-based group offers FDA comment analysis

The debate over consumers’ understanding of “dairy” terms on alternative product labels continues.

Most recently, the Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA) commissioned a review of public comments submitted to the FDA. The review, conducted by Linkage Research & Consulting, represented 59 percent of the publicly available comments submitted to FDA between September 2018 and January 2019.

According to the results, 76 percent advocated for the continued use of descriptive dairy terms to be permissible for plant-based milks and other dairy alternatives. Of those specifically identifying themselves as consumers, about 87 percent said they are not confused by the differences between plant-based dairy alternatives and products made from cow’s milk, according to PBFA. The report did not identify the percentage of respondents who were self-described as plant-based food advocates.

About 13.5 percent advocated in favor of restricting the use of dairy terms for plant-based alternatives. About half of those comments were submitted by self-described dairy farmers.

The results run counter to separate consumer surveys. A national survey commissioned by the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) indicated 61 percent of consumers believe FDA should restrict nondairy beverage companies from using the term “milk” on their product labels. Read: Weekly Digest: Poll shows consumers want FDA to end misleading ‘milk’ labels.

Another survey, commissioned by the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association (WCMA), Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin and Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative, found substantial confusion between dairy and plant-based products. The survey, conducted by market research firm Ravel, evaluated three plant-based foods that mimic dairy cheese to understand if the packaging and descriptions are confusing. Read: Surveys show plant-based ‘dairy’ label confusion.

PFAS Detection Act introduced

Bipartisan members of Congress have introduced companion bills to address contamination from chemicals containing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The PFAS Detection Act (H.R.1976 in the House and S.950 in the Senate) provides the U.S. Geological Survey with $45 million over a five-year period to develop new advanced technologies to detect PFAS and then to conduct nationwide sampling for PFAS in the environment.

According to proponents of the bill, there are more than 3,000 chemicals containing PFAS, but only around 30 of these substances can be detected using current technology. The data collected by the USGS could help assess the health and environmental impacts of exposure to PFAS chemicals and determine how to address contamination moving forward.

The April 19, 2019, issue of Progressive Dairyman features a cover story on Highland Dairy outside Clovis, New Mexico. The dairy has been unable to sell milk or animals from its 2,000 cows since October 2018, when it was discovered their water wells were contaminated with PFAs from the adjacent Canon Air Force Base. Read: Poisoned wells: New Mexico dairy dumps milk while dealing with toxins in drinking water.

House version of Chapter 12 bankruptcy reform bill introduced

A House version of a bill to make more farms eligible to file for Chapter 12 bankruptcy has been introduced. The bipartisan “Family Farmer Relief Act of 2019” is a companion to a similar bill introduced in the Senate earlier this spring (Read: Proposal raises Chapter 12 liability cap in the Progressive Dairyman Extra enewsletter, posted on April 1, 2019.)

Sponsors in the House version included U.S. Reps. Antonio Delgado (D-New York), Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin), Collin Peterson (D-Minnesota), TJ Cox (D-Califfornia), Kelly Armstrong (R-North Dakota) and Dusty Johnson (R-South Dakota).

The proposal expands the debt cap that can be covered under Chapter 12 bankruptcy from $3.237 million to $10 million. The changes reflect the increase in land values, as well as the growth over time in the average size of U.S. farming operations and are meant to provide farmers additional options to manage the downturn in the farm economy. The legislation is endorsed by the American Farm Bureau Federation and National Farmers Union.

The bill will now be referred to the Judiciary Committee for consideration.

Wisconsin DBA sets legislative priorities

Wisconsin’s largest dairy lobbying organization outlined key state legislative priorities for 2019-20.

“Our priorities reflect a multifaceted approach to supporting the dairy farmers and related businesses that drive billions of dollars of economic impact and thousands of jobs in Wisconsin each year,” said Tom Crave, president of the Dairy Business Association (DBA) and a Wisconsin dairy farmer and cheesemaker.

Among the group’s areas of focus are:

  • addressing the state’s water quality issues.

  • creating a driver’s card for noncitizens to help address the state’s critical labor shortage, including in agriculture, and ensure that drivers are properly trained, insured and accountable.

  • providing opportunities for nutrient-trading to reduce the amount of phosphorus and other nutrients that reach surface and groundwater.

  • funding next-generation dairy research through the creation of a University of Wisconsin-led Dairy Innovation Hub.

  • seeking long-term transportation funding to address deteriorating rural roads.

California exploring opportunities to ‘export’ manure

Dairy Cares and the California Dairy Research Foundation (CDRF) are exploring the potential for the state’s dairy producers to “export” manure off their farms in an effort to balance on-farm nitrogen balance and generate additional income.

While some dairy farms already sell composted manure to neighboring farms, the potential for manure to serve as a soil amendment is still widely untapped, according to the California Milk Producers Council’s recent newsletter. MPC is a long-standing member of Dairy Cares, a coalition of dairy trade groups, cooperatives, processors and allied industry members working together on industry sustainability issues.

Dairy Cares staff have been working with partner organizations, researchers, technology providers and others to dig into potential opportunities. Dairy Cares and CDRF are working to ensure research gaps are identified and to help guide the development of projects with high potential for success. Contact J.P. Cativiela with Dairy Cares at (916) 261-6556.

IDF global dairy animal welfare standards updated

U.S. dairy farmers are familiar with the FARM Program, which establishes best management practices for dairy animal care. Now, the International Dairy Federation (IDF) released an updated version of its global dairy animal welfare standards.

The IDF Guide to Good Animal Welfare in Dairy Production 2.0 identifies five action areas – stockmanship, feed and water, physical environment, husbandry practices and health management – that dairy producers should consider when developing and implementing quality management.  end mark

Dave Natzke