2022 milk futures rally continues as butter leads the spot market gains

Updated Market Moos, by Sherry Bunting, a weekly feature in Farmshine

2022 Class III futures avg. $20.10, Class IV $21.10

Milk futures surged to levels not seen since 2014 this week on the heels of previous weeks’ gains, and the Class III milk futures contracts for 2022 now average over $20 with Class IV over $21 as of Dec. 29, 2021.

Class III milk futures first broke into the $20s last week, hitting new contract highs daily since Wed., Dec. 22 on all 2022 contracts. The closeup contracts for Dec. 2021 and Jan. 2022 were flat in pre-Christmas trading, but see-sawed toward gains in post-Christmas trading.

On the milk futures close Wed., Dec. 29, Class III contracts for the next 12 months (Dec. 2021 – Nov. 2022) averaged $20.01, up $1.35 from a month ago, with January through October 2022 contracts all at or above $20.00.

Class IV futures broke the $21 mark for the Feb. 2022 contract last week, and then continued marching higher after Christmas with January through October 2022 contracts all at or above $21. At the close of trade Wed., Dec. 29, the next 12 months (Dec. 2021 through Nov. 2022) averaged $21.05, which is $1.89 higher than a month ago.

Excluding the lower and expiring current month contract, the 12-month average of 2022 futures contracts averaged at $20.10 for Class III and $21.10 for Class IV.

Class IV continues to dominate the board, and the average spread between the two widened to $1.00 this week with December’s contract pegged at a Class IV over III differential of $1.45; January’s $1.29.

Butter’s impressive gains lead the spot-market

Butter is leading the charge as CME spot dairy products moved mostly higher in pre- and post-Christmas trade. Cheese prices had weakened in pre-holiday trade while butter, nonfat dry milk and whey all made solid or impressive gains. In the post-Christmas spot calls, impressive gains were made on both cheese and butter while whey held firm and milk powder weakened.

On Class III dairy product spot markets at the CME Wed., Dec. 29, the 40 lb block Cheddar price was pegged at $1.95/lb — recovering all of the pre-holiday loss and then some. A single load traded at $1.94 and a spot bid to purchase at $1.95 was left on the table by sellers. Barrels have seesawed almost daily but moved decidedly higher on a nickel upswing Wed., Dec. 29, when 500-lb barrel Cheddar was pegged at $1.69/lb and 5 loads changed hands.

Dry whey gained 6 cents last week and held firm at that 75-cent level Dec. 27, 28 and 29, although zero product changed hands.

In the Class IV products, the spot butter market was very active, and the spot price was pegged at $2.43/lb on Wed., Dec. 29, up a whopping 24 cents from the previous Wednesday and 33 cents higher than two weeks ago. On Mon., Dec. 27, a whopping 10 loads of butter traded with the price pegged at $2.30. On Tues., Dec. 28, another big round of 12 loads traded with the price pegged at $2.40/lb. Then on Wed., Dec. 29, another rally resulted in 3 loads trading with the spot price reaching $2.43/lb with sellers on the sidelines holding their offers at $2.45.

Grade A nonfat dry milk had added a penny last week but lost two pennies this week. On Wed., Dec. 29, the NFDM spot price was pegged at $1.6475/lb with 5 loads changing hands.

November milk production fell 0.4% vs. year ago amid increasingly obvious geographic patterns

U.S. milk production was 0.4% lower than a year ago in November, but for the major milk states, the decline was 0.1%.

Cow numbers dropped 10,000 head nationally in the month of November, alone. Almost one-third of them (3000 head) left the count in Pennsylvania between October and November. Compared with a year ago, cow numbers across the U.S. were down 47,000 head.

In Pennsylvania, cow numbers at 472,000 head were down 10,000 vs. year ago with production off 3.5%. Elsewhere in the Northeast milkshed, New York’s production was down 0.2%, but cow numbers were up 2000 head. In Vermont, milk production fell 1.4% while cow numbers were stable compared with a year ago.

(Producers in Pennsylvania and through most of the Northeast and Midatlantic region report continued penalties on overbase milk, continuance of the 12% cuts in Northeast/Midatlantic producer base allotments instituted by the largest national footprint cooperative during the height of the pandemic. This, despite USDA Dairy Market News reports confirming very tight milk and cream supplies in the eastern markets, and increasing evidence of store shortages based on consumers facebooking their photos of empty dairy and milk shelves at prominent regional supermarket chains throughout the Northeast and Midatlantic states. The recent revelation that the iconic Readington Farms in New Jersey — that supplies ShopRites and other stores in the Wakefern Foods retail group throughout New England, New York, Pennsylvania and the Delmarva — will begin procuring milk for these stores from former Dean plants now owned by Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) also sent shockwaves throughout the Northeast last week)

In the Southeast, Florida dropped 6000 cows with production down 3.4% from a year ago. Georgia gained 1000 cows and 1.4% in production.

In the Mideast region, Ohio, Indiana and Michigan collectively lost 14.000 cows and were down 1.6% in milk vs. year ago.

Growth in the Central Plains continued. States that gained both cows and production vs. year ago include South Dakota, up 22,000 head and 16.7% in milk; Minnesota up 6000 cows and 1.9% in milk; Iowa up 6000 cows and 2.7% in milk; Wisconsin up 18,000 cows and 2.2% in milk; and Texas up 17,000 cows and 2.8% in milk.

California produced 1% more milk than a year ago but lost 1000 cows.

January Class I mover $19.71, Class IV pricing factor tops Class III by $1.48 per cwt.

The Class I mover for January 2022 was announced Dec. 22 at $19.71. That’s 54 cents higher than December’s mover and $4.57 higher than January a year ago.

By the hair of its chinny-chin-chin, the January Class I base price is identical under the new formula as it would have been under the old. Based on USDA AMS prices for cheddar, butter, nonfat dry milk and whey in the first two weeks of December, the January 2022 Class IV advance pricing factor was calculated by USDA to be 12.21 while Class III figured at $10.73.

Averaging the two advance pricing factors together and adding 74 cents is how we get to that $19.71 Class advance base price for January 2022 — under the new Class I formula. This is also the price it would be using the previous ‘higher of’ Class I formula because the $1.48 spread between the Class III and Class IV advance pricing factors (74 cents x 2) is the magic number that keeps the new method from calculating a Class I base price that is lower under the new method than it would have been under the old method. Any wider than $1.48, and the difference becomes negative.

Class IV is projected to be higher than Class III throughout 2022, if the current futures markets and market fundamentals hold out. This means the ideas circulating to change the Class I formula to a Class III-plus would be negative over the duration of time that Class IV beats Class III.

In volatile markets, where the dairy industry is vulnerable to market shocks, the use of the ‘higher of’ formula for Class I did help prevent further disparities that lead to de-pooling and negative PPDs, which affect not only producer milk checks but also their risk management.

Secretary Vilsack says bring me consensus, first

Last week during a farm visit in Wisconsin, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack told dairy producers he wants to see the dairy industry come together with a consensus on Federal Milk Marketing Order changes before holding USDA hearings.

Three weeks ago, Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Susan Collins (R-Me) introduced the Dairy Pricing Opportunity Act of 2021, a bipartisan bill in the U.S. Senate that would direct the Secretary of Agriculture to provide notice of, and initiate, national hearings to review Federal milk marketing orders … “which shall include review and consideration of views and proposals of producers and the dairy industry on the Class I skim milk price, including the ‘‘higher of’’ Class I skim milk formula…”

In the past, whenever USDA has initiated administrative hearings to make specific FMMO changes, a consensus was typically sought before such hearings.

On the other hand, if the Senate bill becomes law, a more open process appears to be described that could make national hearings a review of the system, consideration of proposals, and specifically a look at the Class I formula change, which had been made legislatively without hearings, comment or a producer referendum in the 2018 Farm Bill.

Perhaps national FMMO hearings could open a consensus-building process.

PMVAP payments delayed

The Pandemic Market Volatility Assistance Program (PMVAP) payments related to the Class I formula losses from July through December 2020 will be delayed until late January or into February or March, according to Erin Taylor, USDA AMS. She told dairy farmers in a Dairy Industry Call hosted by the Center for Dairy Excellence this week that eligible producers should have been contacted by their milk cooperative or handler by now requesting proof they meet the Adjusted Gross Income limits of USDA payment programs.

USDA is in the process of finalizing agreements with each eligible handler that had any milk pooled on any FMMO during that time period and is providing workbooks with methodology on how the payments should be made to their producers based on how they were paid during the July-Dec 2020 period. Look for more information in the Jan. 7 edition of Farmshine and click here.

Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Update

There are 84 Congressional cosponsors from 30 states (including the prime sponsor, G.T. Thompson of Pennsylvania) who are now supporting the Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act, H.R. 1861. However, for those readers who live in the New England states as well as Maryland, Delaware, South Carolina, West Virginia and several western states, representation is absent.

To-date, there are no cosponsors yet from the following states: Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

This bipartisan bill was introduced in March by Congressmen G.T. Thompson (R-PA) and Antonio Delgado (D-NY), to end the federal prohibition of whole milk in schools. It gained 18 new cosponsors over the past two weeks to reach 84 from 30 states, but needs at least 100 cosponsors representing all 50 states to get moving in committee toward the goal line.

Consider contacting your Representative with thanks or a request to cosponsor this bill that simply allows school children the healthy milk choice they love and will drink. To find your Representative, enter your address at https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members


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