Digest Highlights

PMVAP payments being released

Producers waiting on Pandemic Market Volatility Assistance Program (PMVAP) payments should start to see them soon, according to Dana Coale, deputy administrator of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service Dairy Program.

Natzke dave
Editor / Progressive Dairy

Participating in a cross-country trip to communicate with producers on federal dairy programs for which she has administrative oversight, Coale provided a PMVAP update following the annual DairyStrong Conference in Wisconsin, Jan. 20.

Last August, the USDA announced details of the PMVAP, designed to reimburse dairy producers with up to $350 million for unanticipated financial losses created during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the change to the Class I mover price formula and federal food box purchases weighted heavily toward cheese combined to create significant losses for some producers. Under the original timeline, payments were scheduled to be distributed in December.

The good news for affected producers, distribution of some PMVAP payments to cooperatives and other handers is underway. Those co-ops and other handlers must distribute checks to producers within 30 days, and Coale anticipated most if not all funds could be distributed by the end of February.

Coale noted that the process was slowed by complexities of the program, as well as producer payment eligibility due to milk production caps and federal farm program payment limitations.

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The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) issued a summary of what farmers can expect as the USDA distributes funding this winter.

FMMO hearing process explained

While it’s cold outside, discussions regarding the Federal Milk Marketing Order (FMMO) system continue to heat up. With a growing call for changes, Coale is also providing an overview of the FMMO hearing process.

As a veteran of USDA’s dairy programs, Coale prefers to define any potential changes to the FMMO system as “modifications” and not necessarily reaching the level of wholesale reforms implemented two decades ago. While there are issues impacting dairy producers and processors across all FMMOs, there are also regional issues that may impact individual or multiple FMMOs based on geography and market characteristics.

Whether modifying or reforming FMMOs, heat does not necessarily generate speed. Once dairy organizations petition for a hearing, the process will take upward of 12-18 months, with public notices, invitations for input, formal hearings, analysis of input and initial recommendations, comment periods, issuance of a proposed rule and referendums within each FMMO.

Citing comments by U.S. Secretary Tom Vilsack, Coale said modifications to the FMMO system will require a consensus within the dairy industry. She noted that it was up to dairy producer organizations to initiate the FMMO hearing process.

With both a potential FMMO hearing and the upcoming 2023 Farm Bill, “Right now we're at a prime point in time for [producers] to get engaged; you can get involved,” Coale said.

In an effort to find that consensus, the American Dairy Coalition (ADC) is hosting a virtual “Future of Federal Dairy Milk Pricing Forum,” Feb. 15, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. (Central time).

The forum is designed to take input from individual producers and heads of state and national producer associations. Presenters will include:

  • Calvin Covington, retired co-op CEO with FMMO hearing experience, who will discuss what FMMOs do, don’t do, can and can’t do, and how the hearing process works

  • Frank Doll, a dairy producer serving on the American Farm Bureau Federation’s dairy policy committee

  • Mike McCully, a dairy industry consultant, will give a perspective on how changes to the Class I fluid milk pricing impact farm mailbox milk prices.

The panel will be moderated by Progressive Dairy Editor Dave Natzke.

For more information and to register for the free forum, click here.

Emergency measures designed to address North Dakota milk trucking shortages

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring have announced emergency measures designed to ease a shortage of truck drivers delivering milk to schools, businesses and other customers.

According to a press release, the emergency measures come after a major milk distributor in North Dakota went out of business. Published reports indicate owners of Lakeview Dairy in Devils Lake and Red River Dairy in Fargo shut their businesses down, due in part to a lack of certified drivers, putting rural consumers and more than 50 school districts at risk of losing milk deliveries.

The executive order waives hours-of-service requirements for 30 days for truck drivers delivering milk in North Dakota. The order comes after the North Dakota Milk Marketing Board voted to waive enforcement of certain licensing requirements until April 1, which will promote coordination among distributors and allow deliveries of milk to rural areas to continue.

According to published reports, Prairie Farms and Kemps/Cass Clay are working with others to ensure schools receive milk deliveries.

Livestock Forage Disaster Program application period closes Jan. 31

The USDA reminds ranchers and livestock producers that they may be eligible for financial assistance through the  Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP)  for 2021 grazing losses due to a qualifying drought or fire. The deadline to apply for 2021 LFP assistance is Jan. 31.

For the 2021 program year, 901 counties in 26 states and territories have met drought severity levels that trigger LFP eligibility. More than $473.1 million has been paid, to date, to eligible livestock producers. Visit the FSA LFP webpage  for a list of eligible counties and grazing crops.

LFP provides payments to eligible livestock producers and contract growers who also produce forage crops for grazing and suffered losses due to a qualifying drought or fire during the normal grazing period for the county.

To expedite the application process, producers are encouraged to gather and submit records documenting 2021 losses. Supporting documents may include information related to grazing leases, contract grower agreements and more.

Taco Bell unveils dairy-based beverage

Taco Bell is continuing its run of dairy-based beverages. The chain released the Island Berry Freeze that uses a shelf-stable creamer created by dairy checkoff scientists. It is Taco Bell’s third beverage launch featuring the dairy creamer, beginning with the Pineapple Whip Freeze in May of 2020 and the Mountain Dew Baja Blast Colada Freeze last May.

The Island Berry Freeze features a bit of a twist from its predecessors with a creamer infused with a tropical flavor. This freeze, offered in blue raspberry or wild strawberry flavors, is available at participating U.S. Taco Bell restaurants through March 12.

Another popular Taco Bell item – the grilled cheese burrito – is back on the menu. The burrito features a blend of mozzarella, cheddar and pepper jack cheeses in addition to reduced-fat sour cream, seasoned beef, rice, crunchy red strips and chipotle sauce. A layer of cheese is then grilled around the tortilla to offer a special experience for cheese lovers.  end mark

Dave Natzke