‘Hearts full.’ Whole Milk Donation Drive-through tops 7400 gallons in New Holland

As stores raise prices and limit sales, while farmers are forced to dump milk and see their prices fall to historic lows, many respond with dairy purchases for donation drive-throughs. This example in New Holland provided whole milk from farm to table with love. It was a beautiful blessing to see…

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By Sherry Bunting, preview of Farmshine cover story for May 1, 2020

NEW HOLLAND, Pa. — At a time like this, we all need good news. Brothers Mike and Karl Sensenig of Sensenig’s Feed Mill, New Holland, Pennsylvania started thinking about the concerns of farmers and people in their communities during this Coronavirus pandemic. They couldn’t understand why farmers were having to dump milk with nowhere for it to go, while stores had limits on purchases or empty shelves and higher prices.

So, they did the one thing they could do… They gave.

We wanted to give back to our community — and the shelters and missions and food pantries — while helping support our family farm customers at the same time,” the brothers said.Sensenig-4851The idea started coming together two weeks ago. Many of the feed mill’s dairy farm customers in eastern Lancaster County ship their milk to Clover Farms Dairy, a bottling plant in Reading. The Sensenigs spoke with Brian Ohlinger at Clover and put together a purchase order for a tractor trailer load of over 4000 gallons of whole milk for donation.

That number quickly grew to 5200 gallons as word of the plans for a Whole Milk Donation Drive-Through “From Farm to Table with Love” quickly spread through phone calls and social media.

Mike’s wife Nancy fielded over 150 calls with groups and individuals wanting to pre-order for families in need. The entire company — all of the employees — were involved. They amassed a list of over 25 outreach organizations pre-ordering hundreds of gallons to distribute from New Holland to Lancaster to Reading and Allentown, including notables like Water Street Mission, Blessings of Hope, Crossnet, Crossfire, Petra, Safehouse, Good Samaritan and other ministries, churches, shelters, town and company food banks, fire companies, nursing homes, youth centers — so many organizations.

The Sensenigs saw the need and desire for whole milk growing, and they quickly realized even this would not be enough. So, they worked with Clover to get a second single-axle truck of 1152 gallons.

Cars lined up early on the first day of the Whole Milk Donation Drive-through (Apr. 23), while trucks were loaded with bulk orders for charities. The drive-through lines were opened ahead of schedule, and within the first 30 minutes, they had already served around 100 cars.

If this pace kept up, the Sensenigs feared they would run out. So, they called Clover again, and within two hours, a third truck arrived on the premises with another 1100 to 1200 gallons. 

All told, Sensenig’s Feed Mill had purchased 7,476 gallons of milk for donation so supplies would last through both days of drive-through times.

Two generations of the family — Karl, Mike, and Mike’s sons Kyle and Kurt, along with employees Devin Shirk, Steve Morris, Greg Hill, Curtis Hershey, and Lee Stoltzfus loaded vans, trucks, and cars with fresh gallons of whole milk, while Mike’s wife Nancy and employee Dawn Wright directed cars through the M&T Bank parking lot into two lines on either side of the truck and tent.

Even Karl and Mike’s parents Ken and Sandy drove over to watch.

Sensenig-4914They are quick to point out that this would not have been possible without their employees. “This isn’t just us,” he said. “Everyone was excited to do this and to be involved.” The family’s feed mill is celebrating its 75th year in New Holland.

Also wanting to make an impact, a group of concerned citizens affiliated with M&T Bank joined their neighbors in the parking lot — bringing 150 dozen eggs and 50 fresh-baked loaves of bread from Achenbach’s Bakery, Leola.

Sensenig-4786Kurt Sensenig even donned an inflatable cow costume at the start, before he was called back to the feed mill.

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“We have been overwhelmed by the response since we first started taking pre-orders to gauge how much milk we would need. Then the steady stream of people just driving through was amazing. There is so much emotion,” said Mike.

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“This brings home the reality of how many people are struggling right now. And it shows how many people LOVE WHOLE MILK!” said Karl. “Some who drove through the line had tears in their eyes. It seems like something so little. Then you realize how it helps so much, and it shows us how much we can take for granted.”

He tells of a grandmother who drove through with her two grandchildren she is raising. She tentatively asked if she could have two gallons. “I said, ‘you can have more if you need it,’” Karl reflected. “She wondered if it’s not too much trouble, she would use four gallons. I said, ‘sure!’ What she said next really got to me: ‘Now my grandkids can have milk with their cereal.’”

Cereal is a popular item for food bank distribution, but milk is hard to come by, especially whole milk.

One person drove through, saying they had stopped at their usual store to buy milk, but found no whole milk, so they came to Whole Milk Donation Drive-Through and took home four gallons.

Many veterans in the area came through and were grateful for the whole milk they accepted with smiles. Drive-through crews, in turn, thanked them for their service.

Sensenig-4903The bottom line for the Sensenigs and their employees was to bless others even as they believe they are blessed; to do something positive for their community; to help dairy farmers by connecting dots to get whole milk to missions, food banks and families; to bring smiles to young and old during uncertain times that have changed life as we know it.

“We have many dairy farm families as our customers, and we see the milk they have been forced to dump in the past few weeks due to supply chain disruptions while at the same time stores limiting purchases of milk or having little or no whole milk on the shelves,” said Mike. “Clover gave us a price for just the milk, and they packed the first two orders in boxes for us and provided the refrigerated trucks to stay here two days.”

“It takes teamwork,” said Karl. As part of the loading crew, he and his brother were busy all day in constant motion, unloading skids, opening boxes, loading trucks and trunks, and handing out gallons to appreciative people as they drove through.

“I’ll sleep good tonight,” said Karl.

Mike agreed: “Our minds and bodies are exhausted, but our hearts are full.”

The community of farmers and citizens thank all involved! This scene being repeated in other communities is a beautiful thing to see.

Sensenig-4869Others have stepped up doing similar milk donations. Some businesses have bought 500 gallons to give to employees and food banks; one couple in western Pennsylvania feeling blessed to still be working in agriculture are using their stimulus check to buy 500 gallons of whole milk to donate in a drive-through next week at their school; young farmer clubs and other organizations are working with milk cooperatives and processors to donate and raise funds for dairy donation drive-throughs in other parts of Pennsylvania, New York, the Southeast and elsewhere. Some are set up weekly, with people giving donations as they pick up milk and dairy products that are then used the next week to purchase more for donation.

Meanwhile, many store chains are raising prices and limiting purchases to shoppers for milk and dairy products on their sparsely stocked shelves, claiming a shortage, even as farmers are receiving letters that they must cut production because their product “has no demand,” and they are seeing the price they are paid for their milk fall by more than 35% in just four weeks.

The COVID-19 pandemic is revealing how the centralized supply chain is broken — not making the shift from foodservice to retail. Drive-through donation deals like this one, connect the dots at a more localized level so families get access to the milk and dairy products — especially whole milk — that they need want, while helping outreach organizations distribute to the growing number of families facing unemployment and business closures.

On Friday, April 24th, as the New Holland Whole Milk Donation Drive-Through came to a close, 97 Milk LLC — a grassroots volunteer milk education effort — announced on facebook a fundraising collaboration with Blessings of Hope food pantry mission. The new campaign specifically raises funds to purchase whole milk gallons for the ongoing blessing boxes to families in a 200-mile radius of the Blessings of Hope warehouse in Leola, Pa.

Dozens of dairy-related agribusinesses already sponsor the grassroots farmers’ 97 Milk education effort, which began a little over a year ago with a round bale painted by Berks County, Pa. farmer Nelson Troutman with the words Drink Whole Milk (virtually) 97% Fat Free.  (Whole milk is standardized to 3.25% fat). Such ‘baleboards’ now dot the countryside, along with banners, vehicle signs, a website, facebook page and other social media platforms (97milk.com and @97milk on facebook and instagram; @97milk1 on twitter).

As for the new 97 Milk / Blessings of Hope Whole Milk fundraiser, the response has been immediate. Within the first hour of announcing it on facebook Friday — $4100 had already been raised to keep purchasing whole milk for blessing boxes. Check it out here.

WholeMilkDonationDriveThrough4834Postcript: Karl and Mike Sensenig wish to recognize the mill’s entire team of employees for making the April 23-24 Whole Milk Donation Drive-Through possible: In addition to Karl, Mike, Kurt, Kyle, Scott, Emily and Nancy Sensenig, employees Calvin Buckwalter, Dale Clymer Jr., Ryan Crowther, Raymond Geiter III, Ashley Gesswein, Jared Grosh, Tim Hall, Curtis Hershey, Greg Hill, Dr. Don Jaquette, Joshua Kenderdine, Gerald Martin, Lawrence Martin, Nathan Martin, Steve Morris, Todd Morris, Steven Oberholtzer, Ron Phippen Jr., Devin Shirk, Eugene Shirk, David Stauffer, Allen Steffy, Terry Tshudy, Dwayne Weaver, Elmer Weaver, John Weaver, Logan Weaver, Nelson Weaver, Thomas Weaver and Dawn Wright were all involved. Even the previous generation to run the feed mill — Ken and Sandy Sensenig — came out to watch.

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The Sensenigs and their employees are happy to be part of something that blesses others, to see it multiplied, to see people appreciate whole milk, and to know what their customer dairy farm families produce is in demand. These efforts are uplifting and make a difference.
More links to stories on this and other efforts:

 

Call to action: Grassroots dairy group seeks PA Senate leadership action to move House-passed bills forward

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By Sherry Bunting

HARRISBURG, Pa.  — The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed two dairy bills virtually unanimously last December, but the Senate Ag Committee has failed to act.

On April 7, the Grassroots PA Dairy Advisory Committee sent a LETTER to Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati asking to bring new leadership to the Senate Ag Committee to move these bills forward.

The Grassroots group is now asking fellow dairy farmers and citizens to help by contacting Senate President Pro Tem Scarnati’s office at jscarnati@pasen.gov and/or 717.787.7084. Simply email or leave a message asking for new leadership in the Senate Ag Committee to move H.B. 1223 and 1224 forward for Senate consideration.

“Now, there is an opportunity of a lifetime for you to save our dairy industry from complete failure. With the COVID-19 pandemic, displacement and dumping of local Pennsylvania milk and a 35% milk income loss across our farms in one month and expected to continue for the next three, at least, you have an opportunity to get these bills out of committee and onto the floor,” the letter to Scarnati explained.

“The Pennsylvania dairy industry is at risk to losing it all — given our small and numerous herd size — the heart of rural PA. Rural Pennsylvanians are counting on this industry to survive COVID-19,” the letter continues. “Now is your time to act.”

“These two bills were overwhelmingly passed by the House, so why is the Senate Ag Committee stalling? For five months they have ignored these bills,” said Nelson Troutman, a Berks County farmer. “Pennsylvania dairy farmers put their income right back into their communities, but they get no help from the Senate on these issues that are critical for our farms to stay in business.”

“How does this happen? How can the House pass two dairy bills 196-0 and 194-2 while the Senate keeps them in a drawer? It doesn’t make sense. We can’t continue down this road,” said Potter County dairy farmer Dale Hoffman.

His daughter Tricia Adams and her brothers are all partners in the farm with a third generation now involved also. Like other dairies, Hoffman Farms is economically important in their community while providing wholesome nutritious milk and hosting farm tours for nearby schools.

“People in our community ask me all the time, what can I do to help? They want to know the milk they are buying is as local as possible, and they want to know they are supporting the farms in their community who provide it,” said Adams. “There is a point when we have to stand behind something and take action. Is it too much to ask that the premiums be returned to farmers as intended? Is it too much to ask for the Senate to consider these bills that the House passed in a bipartisan way?”

The two bills — H.B. 1223 and 1224 — were introduced early last year by Rep. John Lawrence (R-13th).

H.B. 1223 passed by a vote of 194-2. According to Rep. Lawrence, this legislation would establish Keystone Opportunity Dairy Zones (KODZ) to incentivize expanded dairy processing facilities in Pennsylvania to expand markets for milk from Pennsylvania farms. It is modeled after the long-standing Keystone Opportunity Zone (KOZ) program. To qualify, applicants would have to use private capital, create new jobs, and use primarily milk from Pennsylvania farms.

H.B. 1224 passed by a House vote of 196-0. According to Rep. Lawrence, the legislation would give the Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board (PMMB) the ability to coordinate the collection and distribution of state-mandated milk premiums with the Department of Revenue, ensuring the premiums reach struggling dairy farmers.

“Pennsylvania’s family dairy farmers are struggling due to historically low prices and foreign competition. Taken together, these bills will positively impact every dairy farmer in Pennsylvania,” Rep. Lawrence observes. “I appreciate the bipartisan support these bills received in committee and on the House floor.”

According to Rep. Lawrence’s press release, both bills also received support from family dairy farmers across the state, the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, the Pennsylvania Association of Milk Dealers, the Pennsylvania Association of Dairy Cooperatives, and the Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board.

“We are at a crossroads in Pennsylvania, where agriculture is our number one driver of our state’s economy, and dairy is the linchpin. We are losing farms every day, hundreds of them every year, and with them, we stand to lose other businesses, jobs and the economic vitality of our rural communities,” said Karl Sensenig of Sensenig’s Feed Mill, New Holland.

“Our farm families are being pressured from all sides by five years of economic stress and market losses as rapid consolidation accelerates production in other regions. Now the coronavirus pandemic is revealing how the system is starting to collapse and how easily these state-mandated premiums disappear in the system between the consumer and the farm,” said Mike Eby, a Lancaster County farmer and chairman of National Dairy Producers Organization. “These bills are following the same pattern we saw in three previous sessions where other transparency bills were passed by the House only to die in the Senate without consideration. What is Senate Ag Committee Chairman Elder Vogel afraid of?”

“The current pandemic shows how important it is for our state to have strong farms and vital processing for our citizens to be food secure. We see our farms being forced to dump milk, losing access to markets, and at the same time scarce supplies of milk and dairy products at stores and limits on purchasing,” notes Krista Byler, a farmer in Crawford County. “These bills help connect some of those dots between farms and consumers.”

For Katie Sattazahn, a dairy producer in Womelsdorf, these bills “offer hope as the dairy situation in Pennsylvania is deteriorating. We have the land, climate and young producers who have grown up on the farm, pursued degrees, and come back with knowledge, passion and talents to move family farms forward, but wonder if they’ll have the opportunity,” said Sattazahn.

Over the past decade, Rep. John Lawrence has introduced other bills aimed at improving PMMB over-order premium transparency. Previous bills also passed the House but were ignored by the Senate Ag Committee.

Now, this pattern continues as H.B. 1223 and 1224 languish without consideration by the Senate Ag Committee under the leadership of Chairman Elder Vogel Jr., representing Pennsylvania’s 47th district.

“This has gone on for too long,” said retired agribusinessman Bernie Morrissey of Robesonia. “Our farmers have been patient. They have been involved in working on these issues for more than 10 years. Our consumers pay a higher price for milk that includes these premiums that the law requires be paid to farmers. It’s time for the Senate to act on this legislation that helps make sure these funds get to our Pennsylvania farms.

“It’s time for Senate President Joe Scarnati to bring a leadership change to the Pennsylvania Senate Ag Committee,” Morrissey added.

The Grassroots PA Dairy Advisory Committee is chaired by Morrissey and is comprised of dairy producers and related agribusiness representatives from diverse regions of the state.

Their letter was also sent to Senate Ag Committee Chairman Elder Vogel and all members of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee on Tuesday, April 7, 2020.

To support action and leadership on these bills, farmers and citizens of Pennsylvania are asked to contact PA Senate President Scarnati at jscarnati@pasen.gov and 717.787.7084. Simply email or leave a message asking for new leadership in the Senate Ag Committee to move H.B. 1223 and 1224 forward in the Senate.

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From USDA to checkoff, no one in farmer’s corner

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, April 17, 2020

BROWNSTOWN, Pa.– From the fortress of the USDA to the ivory towers of the dietary command to the branches of the checkoff government-speech machine and the centralized, globalized food system ‘partners’ in between — No one is in the farmer’s corner. Not even the people paid by the farmers to be in their corner.

This much is crystal clear by now in the collapsing markets and stark realities laid bare by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The curtains have been opened.

And the usual players do what they do.

They pat themselves on the back, converse about their insights from within their echo-chamber, and lecture those who would dare call attention to the sight before us or deviate from the script.

Over the last week, dairy checkoff newsletters have bragged about what they are doing for dairy demand amid the deepening crisis; how DMI is “adjusting to move more dairy.”

Yep, the bulk butter and bulk cheese and bulk powder plants in growth areas are moving more dairy — right into the already bursting at the seams cold storage inventory warehouses.

Few if any reports from states with these large plants indicate any milk dumping whatsoever.

Butter inventories were already 25% higher than year ago heading into the COVID-19 pandemic and cheese inventory was already growing too.

Reports indicate such fully functioning cheese and whey or powder plants are running full tilt, while a shopper has to store-hop through three or more establishments to find a package of butter, walk into Walmart and see rows of empty cheese racks, try to walk out of a Walmart or Sam’s Club with two gallons of milk and be forced to give one back.

Other supermarkets aren’t much better, except for the smaller family-owned markets. Pictures and texts continue to pour in, while our leaders assure us that the purchasing limits are really lifted.

Go to Kroger’s website (a DMI partner) and see their explanation of why they’ve raised the price of milk. It’s because there is a shortage, they say, while farms all around them are forced to dump milk. Just six weeks ago, a Kroger executive I spoke with said, ‘no we can’t raise the price of milk — it was $1.25/gal pre-COVID (not in PA of course but elsewhere).

I was making the point that we have loss-led and commoditized this deal long enough. Please respect the milk. “No,” I was told, “raise the price? How is that going to sell more milk?”

What is Kroger doing today (and Walmart and other heavy hitters for that matter)? NOW, they are raising the price, even canceling some orders without much to spare, as they are being asked to stop limiting sales.

Meanwhile farmers are forced to dump milk.

As the commodities crash with barrel cheese at around $1/lb and butter headed there too, are the food system heavy-hitters holding back to buy that higher-priced inventory on the cheap just to turn it around and charge more?

We are getting to see how the system works — how the losses and consolidation of a decade or more are threatening our farms and food security. But leaders and policymakers are still convinced this system is the best, and thanks to new stricter rules coming on animal proteins and fat, it’s about to get better, more diluted, and void.

Take the DMI update in the ADA Northeast newsletter from April 6, how proud they are of the “seven ways checkoff is working for you during COVID-19” and how they are “adjusting to move more dairy”, how GENYOUth is “keeping the meals flowing to students”, while in reality the real school chefs and lunch ladies — even bus drivers — are out on the front lines figuring it out for real on their own every day; how proud they are that the National Dairy Council “sorted through milk myths.”

Now that last one is a doozie. Here’s one of the seven ways checkoff is working for you: “National Dairy Council is among the expert organizations to debunk claims that milk can help ward off coronavirus.”

Remember the news about milk and it’s immune-building properties? Even Hoards Dairyman noted milk was “flying off the shelves” as consumers sought the health benefits and comfort of milk.

Remember how DMI tells us “you can’t educate people to drink what you want them to drink?” How “we want to move people away from the habit of reaching for the jug and toward the new innovative products?”

It wasn’t even a week after fluid milk sales skyrocketed 40% that the National Dairy Council helped debunk some of that immune-building “myth” in Reuters story.

And yes, rest assured, DMI is talking to “your (their) partners” to get them to “move more dairy”.

So here’s the clincher. Watching the President’s daily COVID-19 press conference Wednesday evening (April 15), it really hit home, bringing together so much of what I have seen and heard over the past few weeks and the months and years before that.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue was part of President Trump’s daily presser Wednesday, and I was hopeful when he went to the microphone that he would talk about impact to food and agriculture during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He told Americans that “Our food system is strong, resilient and safe,” despite the bare shelves and limits on purchases that people are seeing in supermarkets.

“In the United States, we have plenty of food for all of our citizens,” Perdue said. “I want to be clear, the bare store shelves that you may see in ‘some’ cities in the country are a demand issue, not a supply issue.” (Huh? At least he didn’t phrase it the way Pennsylvania’s Ag Secretary does, saying in a PDA public service announcement to radio and television stations that store limits, bare shelves and dumped milk are a ‘hoarding issue”, and saying in a dairy industry conference call: “this is what happens when people hoard food.”

No Mr. Secretaries, this is not hoarding and it’s not a ‘demand’ issue, it’s a centralized, consolidated, globalized food industry structure issue.

Back to Sec. Perdue’s moment before the American people… Perdue said simply that there has been a large shift from people eating in restaurants and fast food businesses, and now eating at home, which has spiked in the last few weeks and placed a high demand on grocery stores.

“Our supply chain is sophisticated, efficient, integrated and synchronized, and it’s taken us a few days to relocate the misalignment between institutional settings and grocery settings.” Perdue said.

Bingo. The accelerated creation of this machine over the past decade has been designed by government policy from the flawed dietary guidelines, to the government speech farmers are forced to pay for, to the mergers and acquisitions and antitrust behaviors, to the globalization and centralized decision-making, to the erosion of local/regional milksheds and foodsheds.

Yes, Mr. Secretary, that sophisticated, efficient, integrated, synchronized food supply chain has moved our country closer to cow islands and food deserts and fracturing of regional food security.

Some of the best minds in agriculture economics are seeing it. Consumers are waking up to the realization of what that means when the chips are down. They are watching their communities’ farmers dump milk, depopulate poultry flocks, send milk herds to slaughter.

This pandemic has peeled back the band-aid covering gaping wounds inflicted for years, and now when it is open and bleeding for all to see, the Secretary reassures the nation that this big beautiful bountiful ag food system simply needs to “relocate a misalignment.”

Tammy Goldammer, a cattle rancher friend of mine in Missouri put it bluntly in a social media post after listening. Here are some of her words:

“Production Ag People?

Did you happen to listen to US Ag. Sec. Perdue’s comments today at the Rona Update press conference? Were you reassured about your occupation of raising the highest quality protein sources to feed the world?

Did you find it interesting that there was no mention about “producers” and what is going on with what they raise to feed people?
1. There was no mention of the killing of millions of ready to harvest chickens and turkeys…to leave them to compost.
2. There was no mention of the dumping orders for milk and the orders to let cows go dry and to sell the dairy cow herds.
3. There was no mention of the shuttering of ethanol plants and the resulting depletion (no supply) of by-products utilized in the livestock feeding industries.
4. There was no mention of the Mercantile Exchanges and the crashing commodity prices for livestock, dairy and grain futures.
5. There was no mention of the bankruptcies and insolvencies of feeders who grow the nation and the world’s protein sources.
6. There was no mention of the sucking sound to the south of the beef cattle industry.
7. There was a mention there are a few “slaughter” plant closures due to Covid-19 being detected in some employees.
8. There was a mention that our nation’s food supply is abundant and there should be no fear about food availability.
Do you all like math? Mr. Perdue? Your commentary today to assure the American public was absolutely “void” of speaking to the producers/people who produce what you stated is in good shape and rest assured there are no shortages.
To say I was “stunned” at your “void” on the big picture, well, let’s say I was totally bewildered.”

But never fear oh sophisticated, efficient, integrated and synchronized food system, President Trump followed the Perdue comments with news that there is $15 billion in tariff money left in Sec. Perdue’s charge to help farmers who were targeted and he gave the Secretary the go ahead to use it.

Later this evening, word came that the government will begin buying milk and meat. Yes, as mentioned by Pennsylvania’s own Secretary in his PSA ‘stop hoarding food’… ‘food banks need the food’… ‘we have a system…’

Yes, the integrated centralized system is the proper channel while communities take care of their own with whatever resources they can muster. Good people in communities like mine right here in Lancaster County, Pa. are buying milk, giving it to the needy or seeking processors (for pay) to process milk headed to manure pits so it can be donated, only to bump up against that integrated system.

Kudos to those businesses in the community who are buying milk to give to the needy or stepping up to allow their smaller processing plants get milk ready for food banks before it is wasted.

The efficient, sophisticated, integrated, synchronized food system is not. But it will when the price is low enough and the government starts buying.

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Call to action: Feds ignore science on saturated fats, poised to tighten restrictions in 2020-25 guidelines

Where is our dairy industry? No time to waste!

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By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, April 3, 2020

 WASHINGTON, D.C. — While Congress, USDA and HHS are all consumed by the health concerns of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee is moving forward full-steam-ahead with what looks like more restrictions on saturated fats to be announced in May. Meanwhile, dairy leadership organizations sit on the sidelines, just letting it happen.

According to the Nutrition Coalition, and this reporter’s own following of the DGA Committee process, the process has been flawed from beginning and has reached a critical juncture. There is an urgent need for the public to pay attention and get involved.

Many had hoped the Committee would review and include the sound science and revelations about the flaws in the saturated fat limits in the current dietary guidelines to remove those restrictions or improve them in the 2020-25 guidelines. But the opposite is occurring.

As reported previously in Farmshine, some of the very best and most rigorous science on saturated fats and in relation to dairy fats vs. cardiovascular disease have been excluded from the review process from the very beginning.

Unfortunately, the process that began in 2019 is poised to move Americans even further down the wrong road with even more restrictive fat rules that will govern and inform all institutional feeding and which heavily influence the foodservice industry. Even worse, farmer checkoff funds are forced, by USDA, to help promote these unhealthy guidelines.

While National Milk Producers Federation, International Dairy Foods Association, Dairy Management Inc., and other industry organizations are silent, the Nutrition Coalition, founded by Nina Teicholz, author of The Big Fat Surprise, is sounding the alarm.

“We need your help to ensure that the federal government not continue to ignore large, government-funded rigorous clinical trials — the “gold standard” of evidence — that could reverse decades of misguided nutrition policy on the subject of saturated fats,” writes Teicholz in a recent communication.

She’s right. From the beginning, the DGA Committee was formed, and the research pre-screened by USDA, in such a way that many of the best studies and minds have been excluded.

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Part of the screening process used by USDA for science that will be included or excluded from Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee consideration is this curious item shown above: “Framed around relevancy to U.S. Federal  Policy”. Committee members in October asked for more information on this research screening criteria. USDA explained it to them and those watching that this refers to including only the research that “aligns with current federal policy.”

Interestingly, one of the criteria for screening the research the Committee can consider is that it must “align with current federal policy.”

This dooms the entire process to a slanted view that is entrenched in the flawed bureacracy right from the start!

During the recent meeting of the DGA Committee in March — the last such meeting before release of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) in May or June 2020 — the Committee failed to consider any of this evidence on saturated fat.

Instead, the committee announced it had found the link between saturated-fats consumption and cardiovascular disease to be “strong,” for both children and adults.

In fact, the committee recently proposed lowering the caps on saturated fat even further, from the current 10% of calories down to 7%!

“These conclusions ignore the entire last decade of science, during which a growing number of scientists have concluded that the caps on saturated fats are not supported by the science,” Teicholz points out.

She cites the work of a group of leading scientists who have reviewed the research on saturated-fats and released a consensus statement.

“Scientists are concluding that the most rigorous and current science fails to support a continuation of caps on saturated fats,” writes Teicholz. “So, why is the current DGA Committee — yet again — simply rubber-stamping the status quo and ignoring the science?”

The Nutrition Coalition is working fervently to expose the flaws in the process the DGA Committee is using under the USDA Food Nutrition Services umbrella. This in turn is what is used by USDA and HHS to govern what Americans eat.

These are not just “guidelines”, these are edicts to which everything from school lunches to military provisions are tied.

In fact, even farmers are tied to these guidelines as the dairy checkoff program leaders maintain they cannot promote whole milk because they are governed by USDA to stick to the guidelines, forcing farmers to mandatorily fund this completely flawed and unscientific “government speech.”

Americans deserve a recommendation on dietary saturated fat that is based on the most current and rigorous science available, and the Nutrition Coalition is issuing a call to action for Americans to join them in calling on the 2020 DGA Committee to critically review the most up-to-date evidence and modify its position on saturated fats accordingly.

“When we refer to “rigorous science,” we mean the data from well-controlled, randomized, clinical trials—the type of evidence that can demonstrate cause and effect,” writes Teicholz. “These trials were conducted on some 75,000 people addressing the question: do saturated fats cause heart disease? The results are that fats have no effect on cardiovascular or total mortality. This evidence has never been directly reviewed by any DGA committee.

“Ignoring evidence in order to preserve the status-quo is not acceptable,” she continues. “It’s not good policy, and it has not been good for the health of the American people. With the next iteration of the guidelines, your help is more crucial than ever to ensure that the USDA critically review the most up-to-date evidence and modify the government’s position on saturated fats to reflect the science accurately.”

Meanwhile, the dairy industry leaders continue to drag their collective feet.

As reported in Farmshine over the past few years, the call to action and support for healthy recommendations that consider the science on saturated fats and the goodness of whole milk, for example, has been largely pursued by grassroots efforts while industry organizations either fall in lockstep with the guidelines or stay neutral on the sidelines.

Once again, it will be up to the grassroots to get involved, for the public to be aware and get involved, for the Congress to be contacted, informed and involved.

How many times have we heard industry leaders shrug their shoulders and say “it all hinges on the Dietary Guidelines”?

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When presented at the October DGA meeting with the first 12,000 names on the “Bring the choice of Whole Milk Back to Schools” petition (now numbering close to 30,000 online and by mail), Brandon Lipps, USDA Deputy Under Secretary of Food Nutrition Services, gave this response: “We have to see the science start coming together and be sure to bring everyone in… into the process.” Now it appears the Dietary Guidelines that control food at school, daycare, work settings, military, and many other foodservice and institutional feeding settings will be even MORE restrictive allowing even LESS of the healthy fat we — especially our children — need. The fat we eat is not the fat we get! Why is USDA moving us further in the wrong direction and excluding the science on this?! Act now. There are links in this article to speak out. Sign the Whole Milk in Schools petition also!

If there is even a chance that our children can have whole milk and healthy meals at school, that farmers can use their mandatory checkoff to promote the true healthfulness of whole milk and full-fat dairy foods, this biased process of DGA Committee guidelines has got to be challenged in a big way.

Here’s how you can help.

Contact your Senators and Representatives in Congress with a simple message. Ask them to please ensure that USDA is not ignoring the science on saturated fats.

Below is a message that the Nutrition Coalition suggests, which you or your organization can adapt and share with others in communicating with members of Congress:

Please urge the agencies in charge of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), the USDA and HHS, to stop ignoring large clinical trials-the “gold standard” of evidence – that could reverse decades of misguided caps on saturated fats.

Shockingly, none of this evidence has ever been reviewed by any expert committee overseeing the science for the Guidelines. In fact, the current committee is pushing to lower the caps even further.

This is extremely alarming given that a growing number of prominent nutrition scientists have concluded the evidence shows that saturated fats have no effect on cardiovascular or total mortality. In fact, a recent panel of leading scientists reviewed the data and in a groundbreaking consensus statement, soon to be published in a medical journal, found that the science fails to support a continuation limits on saturated fats.

The current DGA committee appears to be one-sided and biased on this issue.

Please urge the USDA to stop ignoring the science and give serious consideration to lifting the caps on saturated fat for the upcoming 2020 DGA.

An easy way to do this online is available at this “take action” link https://www.nutritioncoalition.us/take-action

Or find the name and contact information for your Senators and Representative at this link and contact them that way https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members

Also, comment at the Federal Register docket for the DGA Committee by May 15, 2020. The sooner, the better, because the committee is expected to make its recommendations in May. Submit a comment to the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee here https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=FNS-2019-0001

Also take this opportunity to sign this petition to “Bring the Choice of Whole Milk Back to Schools” at https://www.change.org/p/bring-whole-milk-back-to-schools

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Regional milk and dairy food security in jeopardy

Widespread milk dumping continues, small regional co-ops face extinction

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By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, April 10, 2020

BROWNSTOWN, Pa. — As the dairy supply chain disruptions worsened this third week of COVID-19 pandemic stay-home orders in most states, large milk cooperatives continued rotating their milk dumping between members. For example, Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) — the nation’s largest cooperative — reports 12 to 15% less milk is needed under current conditions and wants to see the supply of milk they handle drop by 10% in the next several months to match the reduced demand for milk as processing and distribution capabilities have made seismic shifts amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In this situation, small milk cooperatives and independent producers are finding themselves particularly vulnerable as a flurry of contract terminations fill voicemail and email, not to mention social media timelines.

This, from a family in Corry, Pennsylvania on their facebook page Monday (April 6): “Today we got it. The thing you know is possible but you just do not think it will be you. Not your farm. After all you have survived things for generations, it just cannot be you. But today it was.Today we got our letter, Rothenbühler Cheese Chalet canceled our contract. Today it all crashed down. Hope disappeared, and all our dreams vanished. We will be dumping our milk until we can figure it out how for 200-plus cows in the middle of a pandemic. No auctions, no sale barns, no options. It is heartbreaking to watch generations of work and dedication become meaningless. Wasted.”

The next day came the update that their 27-member cooperative in Northwest Pennsylvania has a few weeks to solve an abrupt concern, after previously being given three hours on a Friday afternoon — paperwork details that aren’t technically part of their milk contract that became effective March 1 with the Middlefield, Ohio cheese plant.

Farmers Union Milk Producers Association, based in Stoneboro, Pennsylvania, learned Tuesday (April 7) they have a few more weeks to address this paperwork request that had resulted in a contract termination email Friday (April 3) at 5:00 p.m. The cooperative has had a decades-long relationship with the Middlefield, Ohio cheese plant, but learned Friday at 2:00 p.m. that certain paperwork not detailed in their contract was required by 5 p.m.  that day to avoid termination.

“That’s three hours and not possible,” notes Lisa Royek. Her husband Walter is the current president of the cooperative.

Over the weekend, the co-op board went to work, received some legal advice, and asked the company for an opportunity to discuss the situation. Eventually, the company agreed to give Farmers Union until April 17 to meet this new request.

Even though it’s not in their current contract — signed last December and effective March 1 — Royek notes that, “We value this relationship and want to act in good faith in the hopes that the cheese plant will do the same.”

Despite this two week reprieve, some of the co-op’s members expressed concern Wednesday about milk sampling irregularities — leaving a few in jeopardy of their milk being excluded from pickup this week — and there were other questions about whether milk would be received from some of the member farms once it got to the plant.

But Farmers Union co-op is moving forward, doing what needs to be done, hoping to save their milk market with the plant they’ve done business with for as long as Royek can remember.

For producers in other small co-ops of northwest Pennsylvania and southwest and central New York, similar hurdles are being met.

Members of one small cooperative reported Wednesday that the cheese plant in Friendship, New York will no longer need their milk, indicating that Walmart had canceled orders.

While New York shippers for the Dean Foods bottling plant in Sharpsville, Pennsylvania often have their milk sent to the Friendship, N.Y. cheese plant, it is unclear whether a similar distribution status exists for the Middlefield, Ohio cheese plant in the Farmers Union cooperative situation.

The Dean Foods Sharpsville, Pa. bottling plant is one of 44 plants — nationwide — being purchased by DFA. Dean Foods receives a large share of its milk from DFA and this market accounts for a large share of the milk DFA ships. The 44-plant sale was approved by the court on Friday (April 3), pending final details before transition of assets after another hearing set for April 27.

Members of small co-ops shipping to the Middlefield, Ohio or Friendship, New York cheese plants were contacted for this report and did not know if their milk had ever been used to supply the Dean plant in Sharpsville or if these cheese plants ever supplied Class I markets in the Mideast Milk Marketing Order. Just the same, we called the plants and the Mideast Market Administrator to find out the pool status of these plants, and any recourse these producers might have. Our calls were not returned by either the plants or the Mideast Market Administrator.

Producers who are part of the small co-op cut off by the Saputo-owned Friendship, N.Y. plant, said the reason they were given was cancellation of orders by Walmart, Dollar General and others. Their members began dumping milk Wednesday (April 8) because there was no where for the milk to go.

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Just one of many photos submitted April 8-11 showing a continued shortage of real butter at Walmart stores in Pennsylvania, New York and Ohio, except for small quantities of unsalted or “lite”, and plenty of imitations and margarine.

On the very same day, no less than 20 texts, emails, and messages came in from people throughout Pennsylvania, New York and Ohio reporting that their Walmart stores were low on milk and had zero butter, sour cream or shredded cheese. Walmart and Sam’s Club shoppers also reported being limited to one or two gallons of milk with limits on other dairy products as well. (These reports persisted with documentation of empty Walmart butter shelves and limited or absent sour cream and shredded cheese, along with either no milk or very little milk, especially whole milk at Walmarts in Pennsylvania, New York and Ohio as recently as April 8-11.)

It is unclear what role Walmart’s Midwest supply chain via Prairie Farms, Great Lakes and Foremost — play in the Mideast Milk Marketing Order supply chain disruptions that are leaving small regional co-ops facing complete termination while at the same time the Walmart stores in the region show a stark lack of dairy products and depleted milk supplies for shoppers.

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Walmart stores throughout the region, like this one in Kittanning, Pennsylvania on April 7, continue plowing through milk supplies rapidly. Meanwhile farms in the region continue to be forced to dump their milk or face the complete loss of their milk contracts. They are told it is because of a drop in dairy demand due to schools and restaurants closing and exports stalling. They are also told that retailers — like Walmart — are not increasing their orders, and are canceling some orders, despite the surge in consumer demand for real milk and dairy products.

The Dean Foods Sharpsville plant in western Pennsylvania is part of the USDA Mideast Milk Marketing Order that regulates Class I fluid milk in the western half of Pennsylvania, all of Ohio, all of Michigan, three-quarters of Indiana, most of West Virginia, and the northernmost part of Kentucky.

Pennsylvania also has a state-regulated milk marketing system. For the past three years, Walmart has been an approved ‘milk dealer/handler’ — not just a retailer in the Pennsylvania system, where the Milk Marketing Board (PMMB) sets minimum retail and wholesale prices for beverage milk that include an over-order premium intended by law for dairy farmers.

The state’s accounting system through PMMB only follows the over-order premium back to the farm level when the retail milk meets three specific criteria: produced, processed and sold in Pennsylvania. However, consumers pay this premium on all milk they buy in Pennsylvania — no matter what state it was produced in or processed, and no matter which side of the state border the wholesale warehouse transaction occurs.

These are all complicating factors of milk’s classified pricing system and large chunks of consolidating, centralized milk supply chain.

The Northeast Milk Marketing Order is having its share of problems also, and the Walmart stores in the Northeast are equally lacking in dairy products.

Reports surfaced this week from Central New York dairy producers that a small co-op downstate has been abruptly terminated by their milk processor in Menands, N.Y. until further notice.

In addition, Jefferson Bulk, a small upstate New York cooperative, had been able to market every drop of their milk since losing their contract with Kraft Cheese effective  January 1.

Jefferson Bulk’s marketing options in the region are now non-existent or very difficult to achieve amid the COVID-19 pandemic foodservice contract losses and as retailers — especially Walmart — are not providing enough milk, butter and other dairy products in their stores to keep up with surging consumer retail demand to feed their families at home.

As a national footprint cooperative with regional councils, the nation’s largest cooperative — DFA — answered questions last week about their assessment of the situation in the Northeast in comparison to the West in an email response to Farmshine Wednesday: “Like the coronavirus, this situation is not limited to one area of the country and is changing daily. At this time, we have requested that less than 10% of our members dispose of milk, as an absolute last resort. Primarily, disposal is happening in areas where a plant has reduced its schedule or has even shutdown, which forces us to try and quickly find a new home for our members’ milk.”

The explanation went on to say that, “There are times when there is no economical location to deliver milk, so in some regions, where there is no viable market for milk right now, we’ve had to ask some farms to dispose of raw milk, as a last resort.”

DFA also indicates that payments for the milk “will vary by region, as the marketing of milk is a very localized activity, DFA has provisions in place to compensate members for the milk that’s being disposed. Ultimately, an individual does not bear the cost of the disposal themselves, when they’re member of a cooperative, like DFA.”

Meanwhile, the widespread shortage of butter in supermarkets, especially Walmart stores, is going on three weeks now, so we turned to Land O’Lakes customer service for our inquiry due to the sheer number of consumer reports about these shortages of butter and limits on butter purchases.

Land O’Lakes is also a national footprint dairy cooperative with its famous butter brand and a significant butter/powder production plant in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

Land O’Lakes has a base program that penalizes its farmer-members if they produce more than their base milk production amount. This program is being strictly enforced in the Northeast since early March. Some Land O’Lakes members in the Northeast also reported being forced to dump their milk last week. One farm was able to find another processor to take the milk strictly to make products for food banks.

By contrast, no base penalties have been reported by Land O’Lakes members in Minnesota, and dairy leaders in Minnesota report no milk has been dumped in their state, where Land O’Lakes is headquartered.

In fact, Farmshine could only verify one milk dumping occurrence west of the Mississippi in states where milk production has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years.

We asked Land O’Lakes customer service: Why are we seeing widespread butter shortages even though farmers are being penalized and forced to dump milk and even though USDA’s March 1 Cold Storage report pegged U.S. butter inventories to be 25% above year ago?

The answer we received in writing was this:

“We’re so sorry that you’re having difficulty finding our butter,” a Land O’Lakes customer service representative responded in a message. “Our whole co-op is working hard to make sure that your favorite products continue to be well-stocked, despite the business challenges posed by the COVID-19 outbreak. While our online product locator is helpful in finding stores that have recently sold our products, we know that supplies at the store shelf may vary over the next few weeks/months. We appreciate your patience and support during this trying time and wish the best to you and your family.”

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Dollar stores and pharmacies like this Rite Aid in Crawford County, Pa. April 10. Not only are dairy farms being forced to dump milk, small co-ops in the region face termination as milk suppliers.

Sudden impact. Dairy producers urged to document, communicate, re-evaluate, ‘manage what you control’

By Sherry Bunting

“It has been the suddenness of the impact. We’re going to have some losses, but our goal is to come out on the positive side at the other end of this. It’s going to take government, agribusiness, agri-lenders, and producers — all working together — to go through this situation,” said Dr. David Kohl, Virginia Tech professor emeritus, during a new PDPW Dairy Signal webcast Wednesday.

The Dairy Signal webcasts — insights for informed decisions — livestreamed Tuesday through Thursday Noon to 1:00 p.m. CDT and archived for viewing later. Check it out here.

What indicators is the world renown ag economics and finance expert watching?

  • Consumer sentiment index – Will it start coming back up toward fall? Will service industries — universities, sports complexes, etc. — begin coming back in the picture?
  • Value of the dollar – in relation to other countries.
  • Unemployment – How long it stays low, not how low it goes.
  • Weather in North and South America – input costs
  • Ethanol plants – Will oil price reduction war between Russia and Saudi Arabia drive them out? Energy resilience makes us strong.

He also urged producers to embrace these things:

  • Work together.
  • Keep detailed loss records.
  • Avoid knee-jerk reactions.
  • Use resources available to assist you.
  • Communicate with your lender.
  • Re-evaluate your goals: Where do you want to be in three years? What do you want your business to look like? How are current conditions changing what that might look like for you?
  • Manage what you control in business and in life — manage around the things you cannot control — tune out the noise.
  • Take time out and enjoy the simple things.

“Every producer should really get onto documenting everything. If you’re dumping milk, or your processor says we can’t handle the milk, you get those weights. You get those values. You document those losses,” said Kohl. “Having those good records is going to be very critical. Don’t let it slip through the cracks.”

According to PDPW executive director Shelly Mayer, who moderated the webcast, many questions came in on this topic of how to document milk dumped directly on the farm and not picked up by a handler.

Even though milk marketers have the responsibility for Federal Order measures and testing if the dumped milk is priced and pooled on the Order, measure and document your loss anyway. Even staff at USDA Dairy Programs told Farmshine recently that it is wise to measure and pull an agitated sample to do component and quality testing, especially when pulling the plug to dispose of the milk on your own farm without being picked up by a handler. If this wasn’t done for milk already dumped, be sure to record the next similar time frame of measurement, pull the next milk’s sample and get the previous milk’s data to come up with an average for your records.

“I like to err on more information being the better,” said Kohl. “Document everything that you can.”

In the PDPW webcast discussion, both Kohl and Jason Karszes, Cornell ag business management, agreed that getting a clear answer from the processor on what their “process” will be for documenting and covering dumped milk is a fair question to ask and expect an answer for. In the meantime, measure whatever you can measure about what you dumped, and get whatever records you can from the handler or processor so you can also document these losses.

This information will be important down the road so that lenders and producers and the agribusiness community — working together — can build the case for what is needed and be eligible for potential assistance at a later date, said Kohl.

“It is interesting as we go through this to see how we (as a people) are reacting and handling it,” Kohl observed, noting that the local creamery he is involved with in Virginia has seen the home-delivery waiting list quickly grow to 175. He also heard from a ‘cow-share’ producer that demand for his local un-processed milk has grown to where he could add 70 cows right now from new demand.

This observation about consumer behavior ties in with a more long-term webcast question:

“What will our world look like after we as a people walk through this?”

Speaking candidly, Kohl sees a move away from globalization to “selective globalization,” where we will see more industry move back into not just the U.S., but into North America, and where concentration and bigness will be challenged by consumers and politicians, bringing shock effects.

This is a good time for dairy operations to re-evaluate their goals, said Kohl. As producers make decisions about the future, he advised new considerations will be: assess consumer sentiment, available labor, management capacity, available milk market, and how these global-national-regional-local supply chain shifts might affect these factors.

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Proposed Milk Crisis Plan would tie farm aid to production cuts, issue forgivable loans to processors, lift federal fat limits on school and WIC milk, funnel dairy inventory to needy

NMPF and IDFA jointly propose ‘Milk Crisis Plan’ for USDA. American Dairy Coalition and Minnesota Milk Producers have alternate proposal.

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This photo posted on facebook April 2 by Colleen Larson of south Florida was reposted many times by others across social media platforms this week — one of many examples from New York to Florida and Wisconsin and Texas — where dairy farmers were forced to dump significant amounts of milk as COVID-19 pandemic restrictions disrupt supply chains as the industry shifts from foodservice to retail packaged goods. Meanwhile, stores are not well stocked, some are choosing to limit purchases instead of increasing orders, and food banks are receiving more requests as over 15 million people are newly out of work. Against this backdrop of upheaval, a Milk Crisis Plans was proposed by National Milk Producers Federation and International Dairy Foods Association this week, and an alternate plan was also put forward by Minnesota Milk Producers and American Dairy Coalition.       Photo by Travis Larson

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, April 10, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In the face of potential dairy industry collapse in what many are calling a “mixed up supply chain” and “upside down market” due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on every aspect of American life, the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) came together to propose a “Milk Crisis Plan for USDA,” released Tuesday, April 7.

It is a top to bottom overhaul of dairy production, processing and government feeding programs, including a price program for producers to cut 10% of their production over the next six months as well as removing all restrictions from school lunch programs and the WIC program to allow consumer choice of milk, cheese, yogurt, etc. – including all fat percentages of milk!

Specifically, one element of the plan asks USDA to stop requiring 1% low-fat or fat-free milk for persons over two years of age in government feeding programs – including the WIC program and school meals (provided in or out of school) — even asking USDA to allow servings over 8 ounces per meal for schoolchildren. This means schools could offer whole milk (3.25% fat) and 2% milk at least for calendar year 2020, if the proposal is adopted by USDA.

These industry organizations representing dairy cooperatives and processors cite “collapse of the foodservice industry, export disruptions and massive economic insecurity” as the demand factors that are now colliding with a “seasonally rising milk supply creating a massive gap.”

Their proposal estimates milk supply exceeding demand by “at least 10% — a gap that could widen as supply increases to its seasonal peak and as ‘shelter in place’ conditions endure.”

The dairy industry is navigating a major upheaval as the supply chain tries to adjust to plunging foodservice and institutional sales at the same time that retail demand surges at grocery stores.

NMPF and IDFA state that this is leading to a lack of orders for finished goods, several processing plants cutting or stopping operations and in general leading to “cancelled milk orders.”

In addition to the significant and continuing dumping of milk in the U.S. — something that has also begun this week in Canada – reports are coming in about processors terminating or potentially terminating small co-op contracts; processors and cooperatives seeking voluntary supply reductions from their producers; and some even looking for ways to encourage producers to consider quitting dairy altogether.

Indicative of the collapsing dairy market is this projection in the NMPF-IDFA proposal stating that second quarter Class III futures averaged $13.14 Monday while Class IV were in the $11s. Using the Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) formula, NMPF projects a milk margin over feed cost getting close to that $5 catastrophic margin, estimated at $5.80 for the second quarter of 2020 and $6.76 for the third quarter according to Monday’s futures prices for milk. The highest insurable DMC margin is $9.50.

The industry organizations also point out that, “There is financial stress across the supply chain, and with more than 10 million Americans already losing jobs, food banks are seeing significant increases in demand, a trend that will likely only intensify in the weeks ahead.”

The NMPF-IDFA proposal aggregates many different tools with the objectives of providing aid to dairy producers, easing financial liquidity risks across the supply chain, stabilizing the dairy commodity markets and filling food banks with dairy products and removing restrictions that would limit the availability of dairy products in USDA feeding programs.

As for the aid to dairy producers? NMPF-IDFA want to “tie producer aid to limits in their production.”

The NMPF-IDFA proposal regarding dairy producers asks USDA to “offset the steep decline in farm milk prices and encourage producers to reduce excess supply” which they say is the result of “demand disappearance.”

Specifically, the proposal seeks to pay producers $3 per hundredweight (extra) on 90% of their milk production IF they cut production by 10% below their March 2020 baseline over the next six months of April through September 2020. Payments during any of those months would be suspended if the average of Class III and IV prices in that month exceeds $16/cwt.

An alternate plan put forward by the Minnesota Milk Producers Association (MMPA) and supported by the American Dairy Coalition would provide aid to dairy farmers differently as a more immediate lump sum payment of $3 per hundredweight on 100% of each operation’s March 2020 baseline for three months (April-June), irrespective of market prices, and paid in April. MMPA’s Dairy CORE plan calls for reassess of conditions in June to see if another round is needed for the next three months (July-Sept). ADC and MMPA contend this approach would be more fair to all regions of the U.S., including seasonal grazing dairies.

American Dairy Coalition noted in a statement Wednesday that direct payments should not be conditioned on arbitrary, top-down, one-size-fits-all production cutbacks. The organization believes that if producers receive a needed large, one-time direct payment, milk handlers and processors would then be in a better position to implement their own marginal incentives to “right-size” their own milk supplies.

The NMPF-IDFA Milk Crisis Plan also calls for a Temporary Milk Disposal Reimbursement to compensate handlers for milk that must be disposed of because of supply chain disruptions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. This would provide coverage of milk at the USDA Class IV (or lowest value class) price for three months – April through June 2020.

NMPF and IDFA want USDA AMS Milk Marketing Orders to administer these programs through their audit functions.

Their proposal also seeks recourse loan programs to expand the availability of “working capital” for dairy processors. This proposed program would allow firms to carry heavier-than-normal inventories and reduce systemic financial risk associated with those heavy inventories they would carry. In addition to specialty cheese products that are often inventoried longer anyway for aging, the proposal wants this to apply to as many other products as possible, namely basic commodities.

Also in the proposal for processors is the request for forgivable loan programs similar to the ones for small (non-ag) businesses in the CARES program being administered currently through the Small Business Administration. To qualify, processors would have to continue to purchase milk from dairy producers and maintain their employee staffing.

The NMPF-IDFA proposal also requests the immediate purchase of substantial volumes of dairy products for feeding programs and the aforementioned end to mandates on low fat levels of milk in feeding programs.

In addition, the proposal asks USDA to allow producers to retroactively sign up for 2020 Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) with no premium discount for the latecomers.

Other aspects of the proposal deal with how to “maximize the buying power of SNAP (food stamps) recipients” at a time when the nation face double-digit unemployment and reliance on SNAP is expected to increase. At the same time supporting that with continued purchasing of butter, cheese, fresh milk and powdered milk to the tune of $525.5 million.

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