Here is a brief look at the news affecting dairy producers during the fourth week of October 2023:

Natzke dave
Editor / Progressive Dairy

Digest highlights

Proposal elevates USDA organic dairy programs, data collection

USDA organic dairy programs, production data collection and risk management support would increase under a bill introduced by Sen. Peter Welch (D-Vermont). The Organic Dairy Assistance, Investment and Reporting Yields Act (O DAIRY ACT) seeks to elevate USDA organic dairy programs to those focused on conventional dairy.

The Organic Farmers Association (OFA) has also created a fact sheet providing an overview of the bill.

The bill would mandate improved data collection for organic dairy, including cost of production data for organic milk, feedstuff prices and other production-related costs. It would establish the "Organic All Milk Price Survey" to collect and report data about organic milk prices.


The bill directs the USDA to submit a report to Congress with recommendations for implementing organic dairy safety net programs, and establishes programs and positions to boost organic dairy infrastructure investments, research and innovation, including authorizing funding for on-farm processing.

The bill requires the USDA to publish periodic reports for organic milk, equivalent to data reported for conventionally produced milk. The USDA’s National Ag Statistics Service (NASS) currently conducts biennial “organic” surveys. Latest survey results, collected in 2021, were released in December 2022. Progressive Dairy and Progressive Forage summarized those results in in early 2023.

Read Organic dairies getting fewer and larger in the Jan. 19, 2023, issue of Progressive Dairy.

Read also: Organic forage farms, production lower in 2021

Finally, the bill extends the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees and Farm-raised Fish Program (ELAP) to organic dairy farmers facing losses due to factors like organic feed shortages and increased input costs and requires the USDA to streamline the payment process under this program.

Last May, the USDA launched the Organic Dairy Marketing Assistance Program (ODMAP) to help organic dairy producers mitigate market volatility, higher input and transportation costs, and unstable feed supply and prices.

ODMAP provides financial assistance for a producer’s projected marketing costs in 2023, calculated based on a cost share of marketing costs on the pounds of organic milk marketed for the 2022 calendar year (or a projection of 2023 pounds of organic milk marketed).

Dairy cull cow marketing slowed in September

September U.S. dairy cull cow marketing slowed to a 15-month low, but January-September culling numbers are still the highest nine-month total dating back to the whole-herd buyout year of 1986.

Based on latest USDA estimates released Oct. 19, the number of dairy cull cows marketed through U.S. slaughter plants in September 2023 was estimated at 240,500, down 35,000 from August and 20,000 fewer than September 2022.

September 2022 and 2023 each had 26 non-holiday weekdays and Saturdays. Slaughter averaged 9,300 head per business day this year, down 700 from a year earlier.

The USDA estimated there were 9.37 million dairy cows in U.S. herds in September 2023, down 6,000 from August and putting the September culling rate at about 2.6% of the herd. Based on the monthly data, year-to-date (January-September dairy cull cow slaughter now stands at 2.378 million head, up 101,500 from the same period a year ago.

Heaviest dairy cow culling during September occurred in the Upper Midwest (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin) at 59,500 head. That was followed in the Southwest (Arizona, California, Hawaii and Nevada) at 55,200 head.

Other monthly regional totals were estimated at 34,200 head in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia; 32,200 head in Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas; and 29,200 head in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

Primary data for the USDA’s Livestock Slaughter report is obtained from reports from about 900 federally inspected plants and nearly 1,900 state-inspected or custom-exempt slaughter plants.

August 2023 fluid milk sales move lower

Fluid milk sales were lower in August 2023, although whole and flavored whole milk again provided some positive signs, according to monthly data from the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service:

  • Total sales: Sales of packaged fluid milk products totaled about 3.57 billion pounds, down 1.8% from the same month a year earlier. At 28 billion pounds, year-to-date (YTD) sales of all fluid products were down 1.9%.
  • Conventional products: Monthly sales totaled 3.32 billion pounds, down 2.1% from the same month a year earlier. YTD sales totaled 26.12 billion pounds, down 2% from January-August 2022. August sales of whole milk were up 1.6%, and flavored whole milk sales were up almost 31% from a year earlier.
  • Organic products: August sales totaled 247 million pounds, up 2.5% from a year earlier. At 1.89 billion pounds, YTD sales of all fluid organic products were down 1.1%. Sales of organic whole milk were up from a year earlier and year to date. Organic represented about 6.9% total fluid product sales in August and 6.7% YTD.

The U.S. figures are based on consumption of fluid milk products in Federal Milk Marketing Order (FMMO) areas, which account for approximately 92% of total U.S. fluid milk sales, and adding the other 8% from outside FMMO-regulated areas. Sales outlets include food stores, convenience stores, warehouse stores/wholesale clubs, nonfood stores, schools, the food service industry and home delivery.

FSA: No cash, please

To reduce costs and risks to the USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), the agency no longer accepts cash as an acceptable form of payments of over $100 on many programs.

In a notice to state and county offices, USDA FSA Administrator Zach Ducheneaux said recent Farm Production and Conservation (FPAC) automation innovations have made it possible to accept payments through debit cards or automated clearing house (ACH) debits for most farm and loan programs. Payments over $100 can be made in the form of ACH debit, check, debit card, money order or wire transfer.

Check with your FSA office for details.

Coming up

  • Progressive Dairy will post its November “risk management calendar” later this week, highlighting data and dates impacting the Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC), Dairy Revenue Protection (Dairy-RP) and Livestock Gross Margin for Dairy (LGM-Dairy) programs. Check the Progressive Dairy website on Oct. 25.