About Agmoos

I am a journalist writing primarily about agriculture for various newspapers over the past 30 years...and before that, I milked cows and tended calves and heifers. I am also a mother and grandmother with three grown children: A teacher, restaurateur and homemaker. Our two sons and one daughter all like to cook and they are food conscious... not paranoid. My "foodographic" Agmoos blog is a place to find stories and photos of the people and places behind the food we eat and for commentary and analysis on food, farm and marketing issues facing producers and consumers.

MILK MARKET MOOS — week ending May 20, 2022

Market Moos is a weekly column in Farmshine by Sherry Bunting

US Apr. milk output off 1%, Georgia surpasses Florida

In its May 18 report, USDA pegged total U.S. milk production at 19.2 billion pounds — down 1% from a year ago. The report tallied just shy of 9.4 million milk cows on U.S. farms reflecting a 98,000-head decrease (-1%) from a year ago, with output per cow unchanged.

Among the 24 monthly-reporting states, output per cow fell 0.1%, and cow numbers were off 78,000 (-1.1%), pushing production 0.9% below year ago in those major states.

USDA’s May 18 GAIN report noted an even larger pull-back in Australia’s 2022 output, forecast to be down more than 4% for the year, and New Zealand’s first quarter milk production is reported to be running 6% below year ago and the lowest level since 2013. 

Milk collection in the European Union is also running behind first quarter 2021 by a smaller degree, down 0.3%, according to an EU milk situation report delivered in Brussels last week. And, milk deliveries are reported to be 4% below year ago in Great Britain for the first quarter of 2022 — 3.3% below year ago in Ireland in March.

Throughout the world, these reports note that farmers are exiting the dairy industry. “The slump in milk production (in Australia) is largely due to farmers continuing to exit the dairy industry through farm sales, and some dairy farms partially or fully transitioning to less labor-intensive beef cattle production,” the GAIN report said.

In the U.S., the national impact of this trend is being buffered by the large production growth in places like Texas and South Dakota offsetting reduced production almost everywhere else.

In addition to the U.S. milking 98,000 fewer cows in April compared with a year ago, dramatic movements of cows out of some regions and into others is occurring. Notable shifts are also occurring within regions. (See chart above)

One region — the Mideast — that had been growing rapidly is now going through a substantial pull-back. The Mideast lost 35,000 cows and 68 million pounds of monthly milk production in April compared with a year ago. That is a collective 3.6% year-over-year decline broken down as -3.4% in No. 6 Michigan, -3.8% in No. 12 Ohio and -4.1% in No. 15 Indiana. Technically, western Pennsylvania is included in the Mideast when we look at the Federal Milk Marketing Order map, and the Keystone state, as a whole, recorded a 2.2% decline in milk production in April.

The Northeast and Midatlantic region lost 15,000 cows and 31 million pounds (-1.3%) of milk production with most of the decline coming from No. 8 Pennsylvania, down 8,000 cows and 2.2% in milk output vs. year ago while No. 5 New York (-0.8%) and No. 19 Vermont (-0.9%) were just under the national average.

In the Southeast region, the big news is Georgia’s milk production outpaced Florida for the first time, moving the relative 24-state newbie into 21st place and Florida to 22nd. Georgia and Florida were dead-even in March.

Georgia’s 12.1% year-over-year milk increase in April eclipsed Florida’s 12.1% year-over-year decline, with Georgia producing 1 million more pounds of milk with 7,000 fewer cows compared to Florida. Georgia producers milked 91,000 cows in April — up 9,000 head from a year ago. Florida producers milked 98,000 cows in April — down 12,000 head from a year ago.

As noted last month, Texas surpassed Idaho in March as the No. 3 milk-producing state. However, even the 4.7% increase in year-over-year April production in Texas (up 63 million pounds) could not overcome the 12.9% decline in No. 9 New Mexico’s production (down 92 million pounds), for a net 1.4% loss of 29 million pounds of milk from the Southwest region.

Regions holding steady-ish — lower by less than the national average — are the Upper Midwest down 10,000 cows and -0.4% in milk output and the Mountain States / High Desert down 3,000 cows and -0.3% in production, with No. 4 Idaho unchanged in both cow numbers and production vs. year ago.

In the Upper Midwest, No. 2 Wisconsin was almost steady as production was down just 0.1% with 1,000 fewer cows in April, while No. 7 Minnesota milked 9,000 fewer cows and made 1.4% less milk than a year ago in April.

The West Coast showed a net-loss of 1% just like the U.S. average: No. 1 California had -0.6% production (but milked 2,000 more cows), and the 2.7% production increase in No. 18 Oregon was not enough to make up for the 5.4% loss in No. 10 Washington State.

The Central U.S. was the only region to see a net gain — owing to a 0.9% increase in No. 11 Iowa and the whopping 16.7% (48 million pound) increase in milk production in No. 17 South Dakota, where cow numbers are up by 25,000 head. South Dakota is nipping at the heels of No. 16 Kansas (-2.2%), despite Kansas overtly seeking dairies to fill expanded processing there according to dairy market podcast advertising messages at the International Dairy Foods Association website. Elsewhere in the Central U.S., in addition to production losses in Kansas, declines were also recorded to the east for No. 23 Illinois (-3.8%) and to the west for No. 13 Colorado (-1.1%).

All of this bears note as farmers face escalating costs and milk futures are hesitatingly recovering the past three weeks of losses but under market conditions that are again creating divergence between Class III and IV that could create producer price differentials (PPDs). When milk is de-pooled from Federal Orders in these circumstances, we see inequitable distribution of losses and of value that can contribute even faster to the way the milk production map is changing.

At the same time, the USDA World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates for May highlighted an expected increase in fat-basis exports as the world is tight on butterfat, but a decline in skim-basis exports, which could change if China resumes its earlier level of milk powder imports. 

On the flip side, the WASDE report forecasts 2022 U.S. dairy imports to run well ahead of previous years’ on both a fat- and skim-solids basis. The WASDE report stated this increase in dairy imports will be boosted by larger than expected importation of products that contain dairy.

WASDE: 2022 imports up

According to the World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) last week, the 2022 All Milk price is forecast to average $25.75, down a nickel from April’s forecast.

The May WASDE raised the 2022 milk production forecast on what it says are higher milk cow inventories more than offsetting slower growth in milk per cow. But it is important to realize the April milk production report this week (as reported above) showed otherwise. It is also important to realize the May WASDE also raised its forecast for 2022 dairy imports on both a fat-basis and skim-solids basis, stating this is mainly because of “higher than expected imports of a number of dairy-containing products.”

On the export side, fat-basis export forecasts are raised from the previous month (butter/cheese), while skim-solids basis export forecasts are lowered (SMP/whey).
Cheese and butter price forecasts are raised from the previous month’s report on strong demand, but non-fat dry milk and whey prices are lowered. The Class III price is unchanged and Class IV is lowered.

Some are suggesting that higher retail prices for butter and cheese and other dairy products are negatively affecting demand and that the food industry can shift from butter to oils. However, recent reports from many sources indicate the global supplies of food oils and butter substitutes are also in reduced supply and rising in price at wholesale and retail levels.

Biden orders Operation Fly Formula via Dept. of Defense

Operation Fly Formula was ordered by President Biden invoking the Defense Production Act on Wed., May 18, sending military planes abroad to bring infant formula home to America’s babies, especially the specialty hypo-allergenic formulas for babies with allergies to milk or special health needs.

Spot out-of-stock undercurrents in baby formula and specialized milk-based meal replacements have been mentioned in this column several times over the past few months, but the situation has worsened. The USDA announced WIC vouchers allowing participants to buy brands other than sanctioned low-bidders.

By Thurs., May 19, the American Academy of Pediatrics had issued a statement telling parents it is safe to switch to whole cow’s milk for babies over 6 months of age that are not on “special” formula, making sure they are consuming other iron-rich foods or talking to their own pediatricians about supplemental iron.

Discussion is rampant through social media about goat milk as a substitute for formula. There’s something to this because goat’s milk is A2A2 in its protein composition, as is sheep’s milk and human milk. There are A2A2 cow’s milk brands available now also.

The FDA also struck a deal to get the Abbott plant back up and going after product recalls and a plant closure related to bacteria tests occurred in February, in part because of a whistleblower’s report.

‘Confusion is real’

Anxiously waiting for the expected FDA decision on label standards of identity for milk and dairy, NMPF reported this recent exchange between FDA Commissioner Robert Califf and U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin at a recent Ag Appropriations Subcommittee hearing. Baldwin chairs the Senate subcommittee that sets spending levels for FDA. Baldwin asked the Commissioner for his thoughts on how plant-based beverages masquerading as dairy products should be labeled. His response noted that when people think about dairy vs. plant-based beverages, they “are not very equipped to deal with what’s the nutritional value” of the products. Yes, the confusion is real.

Milk futures flip higher

Green ink replaced three weeks of red ink this week as milk futures posted gains that exceeded last week’s losses. By Wednesday, May futures had gained 10 cents on Class III and 35 cents on Class IV while the rest of the board ranged 40 to 90 cents higher than the previous week across the board. Thursday’s board was higher yet before easing back Friday.

On the close Fri., May 20, Class III milk futures averaged $22.91 for the next 12 months — up 75 cents from week earlier. Class IV averaged $23.60 for the next 12 months — up $1 from the previous week. Class IV continues to top Class III, with the average divergence widening again to 50 cents.

Dairy products rally higher

Cash spot dairy markets showed strength again this week with all products trading higher, except whey.

Class III products: On Fri., May 20, 40-lb block Cheddar was pegged at $2.38/lb — up 8 cents from a week ago with 3 loads trading. On the other hand, 500-lb barrels lost the 6 cents gained last week, moving back under blocks at $2.35/lb, with 3 loads trading. Dry whey traded at 50 1/4 cents/lb, down 6 pennies from a week ago, with 4 loads trading.

Class IV products: CME spot butter moved 2-cents higher daily through the week in active trade with nearly 30 loads changing hands the last three days of the trading week. By Friday, May 20, spot butter was pegged at $2.85/lb, up 13 1/2 cents from a week ago. Grade A nonfat dry milk also moved higher, pegged at $1.80/lb, up 8 cents from a week ago.

April blend up $1-1.50

The April uniform prices across the 11 Federal Milk Marketing Orders (FMMOs) moved $1 to $1.50 higher, with the Upper Midwest closer to $2 higher than previous month. This is the 6th straight month of gains, reported as follows:

  • FMMO 1 (Northeast) SUP $26.07 PPD +$1.65
  • FMMO 33 (Mideast) SUP $24.91 PPD +$0.49
  • FMMO 32 (Central) SUP $24.65 PPD +$0.23
  • FMMO 30 (Upper Midwest) SUP $24.55 PPD +$0.13
  • FMMO 126 (Southwest) SUP $25.43 PPD +$1.01
  • FMMO 124 (Pacific Northwest) SUP $24.79 PPD +$0.37
  • FMMO 51 (California) SUP $25.08 PPD +$0.66
  • FMMO 131 (Arizona) uniform price $25.52
  • FMMO 5 (Appalachian) uniform price $27.17
  • FMMO 7 (Southeast) uniform price $27.35
  • FMMO 6 (Florida) uniform price $29.13

June Class I ‘mover’ $25.87

The June Class I base price, or ‘mover’, was announced Wed., May 18 at $25.87. This is 42 cents higher than the May Class I ‘mover’ and $7.58 higher than a year ago. This marks the 9th consecutive month of Class I mover gains.

The June 2022 Class I mover is 61 cents higher under the current average-plus formula than it would have been using the previous ‘higher of’ for the second consecutive month after being a loss under the averaging formula for the previous four consecutive months. In 2022, alone, the average-plus Class I mover formula produced no difference in January and was 51 cents below the ‘higher of’ method for February, 79 cents lower for March and 50 cents lower for April before turning 17 cents higher in May and now 61 cents higher for June.
Since implementation in May 2019, the new formula has been negative more months than positive (18 of 38 months) for a net loss in Class I value of over $725 million from May 2019 through June 2022.

Global Symposium: Milky Way Study reinforces why children should be allowed to choose whole milk

Therese O’Sullivan, professor of nutrition and dietetics at Edith Cowan University in western Australia shared results from the Milky Way Study, answering the question: “Should our children be consuming reduced fat or whole fat dairy products?” The short answer, according to the evidence: “Let them choose!” IDF Symposium screen capture

Other countries are taking note, when will the U.S. get it right?

By Sherry Bunting

BRUSSELS — A new double-blind randomized study of children consuming whole fat vs. low fat milk and dairy reinforces the already accumulated evidence that the choice should be allowed, especially for children, according to Professor Therese O’Sullivan in nutrition and dietetics at the Edith Cowan University in western Australia.

“The Milky Way Study suggests healthy children can safely consume whole fat dairy without concern. Future dietary guidelines can and should recommend either whole or reduced fat dairy,” O’Sullivan confirmed as she presented the study’s results during the Nutrition and Health Symposium organized by the International Dairy Federation in Brussels, Belgium last Thursday (May 12).

The virtual event was attended by over 200 nutrition and health professionals from all over the world. They heard from eight experts and two moderators from various regions of the world, focusing on the role dairy plays across life stages. The first five sessions of the daylong event focused on the role of dairy in maternal diets and for children and teens. The last half focused on aging adults.

The Milky Way Study is deemed the first ‘direct dairy intervention’ study, and it supports the already accumulating evidence that children should be able to choose whole fat milk and dairy as there is no scientific or health reason not to let them choose, O’Sullivan indicated.

The study was costly and time intensive as a double-blind randomized intervention in which the whole fat dairy group consumed more milkfat during the study than their normal consumption had been before the study, and the low fat dairy group consumed less.

Continual testing during the study period showed no statistical differences in key health and nutrition biomarkers except the whole fat milk group’s BMI percentile declined during the study period. This is a key result because this is the first “intervention” study to test “causation” in what the already accumulated evidence shows.

The push by dietary guidelines to limit milkfat in countries like the U.S. and Australia was mentioned during panel discussion in relation to the Milky Way Study, supporting studies, and meta-analysis, with experts noting these guidelines need revisited.

“There is no evidence to suggest that moving to low fat dairy helps,” O’Sullivan said, noting there were no significant differences between the whole fat and low fat study groups when it came to the children’s daily caloric intake, blood pressures, blood cholesterol and lipids, cardiometabolic disease — or any other measure.

However, O’Sullivan did observe a slight trend toward a reduction in BMI (body mass index) percentile in the study group consuming whole fat milk and dairy vs. low-fat milk and dairy.

As the primary researcher on the Milky Way Study, O’Sullivan found it interesting that the daily calorie intakes of both groups were equal, even though the group of children consuming whole fat milk and dairy were getting more calories in their dairy servings because the fat was left in.

“This showed us that as the calories came out of milk in the low fat group, the kids replaced those calories with something else,” O’Sullivan reported.

The sodium intakes were also higher in the low-fat milk group, suggesting the “replacement calories” came from snacks.

O’Sullivan noted that another “very interesting finding was that we didn’t see any improvement in blood lipids in the low fat group that we would expect to see based on the theory of saturated fat increasing lipids,” she said.

Bottom line, she noted: “Whole milk and dairy had a neutral or beneficial effect on cardiovascular (biomarkers) with no difference in lipids, and a small decrease in LDL (bad cholesterol) in the whole fat dairy group.”

She also observed that as the calories came out of the milk in the low fat group, the children were coming up in their consumption of other foods that – depending on their choices — could have an impact on lipid profiles.

(This basically supports the tenet that whole fat milk and dairy is satiating, satisfying, and because it is nutrient dense, children may be less likely to keep ‘searching’ for needed nutrition via salty, sweet and high-carb snacks. The Milky Way study supports what many have long said should be changed in dietary guidelines to increase and make more flexible the saturated fat limits and return the choice of whole fat milk and dairy to schools and daycare centers.)

“High fat dairy foods are not detrimentally affecting adults, children or adolescents,” said O’Sullivan in discussing supporting research and meta-analysis. She noted that her three-month Milky Way Study could be repeated for 12 months for more data, but that it is in line with other evidence.

During the panel discussion, nutrition experts talked about some of the issues in vegan / vegetarian dietary patterns, noting that even when given vitamin and mineral supplements, studies show children and teens could not get their levels where they needed to be in many cases, especially true for B12 and calcium, key nutrients found in milk.

One attendee asked why saturated fats are always ‘the bad guys’ in the dietary guidelines, wondering if there was any associated health risk effect in going from the whole fat to the low fat in the first place.

“Similar to other studies, we saw the kids were good at regulating their food intake to appetite and as we take away the fat, they replace it with something else for the calories to be the same,” O’Sullivan replied. “In one group, they ate more tortillas, in another we noticed sodium intakes went up, suggesting they ate more snack foods (when the fat was removed from the milk and dairy).”

She reminded attendees that there are also other types of fats in milk, including Omega 3 fatty acids.

“Kids do not have much Omega 3 in their diets because they are not as likely to be eating oily fish,” said O’Sullivan. “In the low fat group (in the Milky Way Study), when Omega 3 status went low, they were not replacing it.”

This means the whole fat milk group had an advantage in maintaining Omega 3 status also.

O’Sullivan explained that researchers looked at the membranes of the red blood cells and saw the long chain fats were also down, so if they stayed on that (low fat) diet, and did not have increased Omega somewhere else in the diet, “they may have a health impact down the line.”

An attendee from India noted their government is planning to introduce milk into the supplemental feeding programs for children, with milk programs in schools, beginning with elementary schools.

Increasingly, the global focus is on milk in schools, and this means the type of milk recommended by government dietary guidance is so important.

Attendees also wanted to know “How much saturated fat would be recommended daily for children?”

(In the U.S., schools, daycares and other institutional settings are required to keep calories from saturated fat below 10% of total calories of the meal with the milk included, and of the milk as a competing a la carte beverage, with no attention paid to nutrient density.)

O’Sullivan indicated the answer lies in looking more at the food source of the saturated fat and the level of nutrients accompanying it.

“We need food-focused dietary guidelines,” she said, noting the evidence shows it’s important to change the focus from ‘dietary’ saturated fat ‘levels’ to looking at “the whole food matrix, the overall matrix of the food and the nutrients when the saturated fat is contained in that matrix.”

Good nutrition is key for health and wellbeing throughout life and can help us live our lives to the fullest, said Symposium organizers. They noted that dairy products are nutrient-rich and are a source of protein, B vitamins, iodine, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin A, zinc and potassium – making them an excellent choice for nutritional needs at all ages and stages of life. The unique combination of nutrients and bioactive factors, and how they interact with each other in the dairy matrix, combine to produce the overall effect on health.

In fact, during panel discussion, some noted there is so much emphasis now on maternal nutrition and the first 1000 days of life, whereas not enough attention has been paid to children and teens.

“Intervention is required in the three later phases: middle childhood (5-9 years), when infection and malnutrition constrain growth; adolescent growth spurt (10-14 years) and the adolescent phase of growth, brain maturation and consolidation (15-19 years) if a child is to achieve his full potential as an adult – an important but often overlooked area being the diet”, noted Professor Seema Puri from Delhi University, India.

Professor Lisanne Du Plessis from Stellenbosch University, South Africa explained that food-based dietary guidelines are a key way to provide healthy eating guidance in every life stage. 

However, she said, only a few countries such as South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria have guidelines tailored to the specific nutritional needs of children.

In fact, this was a glaring concern in the Australian and U.S. guidelines — given the emphasis on avoiding milkfat leaving children and teens missing out on the key nutrients if they didn’t consume the required low-fat and fat-free products.

Talking about what type of milk children can and should drink seemed like a basic area of discussion that needs intervention.

“Changing to reduced-fat dairy does not result in improvements to markers of adiposity (high body mass index) or cardiometabolic disease risk in healthy children,” O’Sullivan stated.

Contrary to popular belief, she said, “there are no additional health benefits to consuming low-fat or fat-free dairy for children.”

Not only did conclusions from the Milky Way Study back this up, but also comparisons to other supporting evidence were shared.

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BEEF ON DAIRY, Part I: History and market dynamics to know as trend boosts dairy revenue

CAPTION: The USDA All Cattle and Calf Inventory shows declining numbers of beef and dairy cows. Significant is the 3% decline in both the number of dairy replacement heifers and beef replacement heifers as of Jan. 1, 2022 vs. year ago. More dairy farms are incorporating beef on dairy strategies into their business management.

EDITOR’S NOTE: May is Beef Month, and beef is becoming a bigger part of dairy today. In Part I in this series by Farmshine contributor Sherry Bunting — a former qualified live beef cattle grader, market reporter and past editor of the former Livestock Reporter — provides a helpful and experienced perspective on converging market dynamics that are opening doors to revenue for dairy farms.

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, May 13, 2022

EAST EARL, Pa. — The trend among dairy farms to breed a portion of dairy cowherds to beef sires is having a positive impact on revenue in several ways.

First, the bull calves bring more money. Week-old 90- to 120-pound crossbred dairy bull calves bring roughly double the price of a straight dairy calf at the livestock auctions. Last week, auctions in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. sold crossbred calves averaging $300, while straight Holstein bull calves of the same weight averaged $150.

Many farms are also feeding some crossbreds for beef sales direct to consumers — a burgeoning cottage industry that faces some bottlenecks because of limited small butcher capacity in a consolidated beef industry.

Second, dairy replacement heifers and young cows today are worth more – a lot more. According to the May 6 USDA Monthly Comprehensive Dairy report, fresh cows nationwide averaged $1468 in April, compared with $1009 a year ago; bred cows averaged $1417 vs. $1039, and bred heifers $1363 vs. $985. That’s a 37% increase for bred replacements, 45% increase for fresh animals.

A portion of this gain can be attributed, of course, to the rise in milk prices, but one key factor is the beef on dairy trend that has blunted the expansion curve of gender selection for heifers through sexed semen. 

Specifically, there are 3% fewer dairy replacement heifers in the U.S. as of Jan. 1, 2022 compared with a year earlier, and 1% fewer milk cows, according to the January USDA semi-annual All Cattle and Calf Inventory report. The next look we’ll get at these numbers will be July.

Third, milk price gains are supported in the longer term by this restraint on what was previously a runaway train of increasingly available dairy heifers. Fewer replacements blunt the milk production expansion curve capability. 

This is happening not just in the United States, but also in New Zealand and Australia, according to analysts quoted in New Zealand’s Farmers Weekly, predicting continued strength in annual milk price — in part due to the limited expansion capability. As feed prices rise, having two commodities — dairy and beef — offers some ways to look at feeding efficiency, such as feeding milk cow refusals to beef animals. Diversification also helps spread risk.

Changing the equation

Like the dairy cow herd, the beef cow herd is in a cycle of decline. The Jan. 1 Inventory Report showed the number of cattle on feed for beef was up slightly, but beef cow numbers are down 2% and beef replacement heifer numbers are down 3%, just like for dairy. This trend is being exacerbated by further culling due to drought in some major beef regions and big concerns for cow-calf operators about concentrated market power in the beef industry.

Total U.S. cattle numbers (beef and dairy of all ages and types) are 91.9 million head as of Jan. 1, down 2%. Looking at cowherds, there are 30.1 million beef cows and 9.3 million dairy cows as of Jan. 1. The additional beef animals produced via crossbreeding on dairy farms is still just a fraction of a much larger beef industry — even as beef cowherd numbers and calf crop decline.

At the same time — contrary to the marketing strategies of elite plant-based globalists — consumers want beef. They want quality beef. And they are looking to source from local farms and small processors or brands.

Anyone who has shopped for beef at the large chain supermarkets in the past two years has found inconsistent availability and poor selection more often than not. A big part of the salable meat is roasts, and if they aren’t inherently tender, people must know how to cook them. Ground beef still reigns, but even that is a crapshoot if you’re shopping at a big box store.

People who taste good beef, will crave good beef, and more people today are starting to realize beef is good for us and the planet — regardless of what the globalists, climate controllers and food police are trying to force-feed us. 

The demand for off-farm beef sales has grown to the point where custom slaughter facilities are booked several months to a year in advance. This includes farms that want to process their market dairy cows through voluntary culling, for direct sales to consumers, marketing the circle-of-life concept of beef from dairy. This, along with the concerns about market transparency, is why we hear so much about revitalizing or creating regional infrastructure to expand USDA-inspected small processor capacity and state-inspected custom butchers. 

Strategies vary

So, what do ‘beef on dairy’ crossbreeding programs look like? This is something land grant universities are following with research on different breed combinations. Sessions about beef on dairy are well-attended at dairy conferences. The bull studs have been marketing beef sire genetics specifically for dairy, and Holstein USA has a program with the studs using an Angus-Simmental crossbred genetic pool showing how it matches up to Holstein.

How beef on dairy happens varies from farm to farm — 30 to 40 years ago, a dairy farmer would breed first-calving heifers to Angus for a smaller calf. Some also doubled as farmer-feeders with a small feedlot or pasture-growing feeder cattle. Back then, one could afford to feed the purebed Holstein steer to Choice grade with cheap corn. They take longer to finish to a high quality grade, especially when backgrounded on pasture for a few months of frame growth. 

But then came the boxed beef carcass-size discounts prevalent from 1994 through 2014. Feeding a backgrounded Holstein to grade at higher grain prices became inefficient and very costly. Veal sales also came under pressure. These combined trends made Holstein bull calves almost worthless for many years.

Today’s beef industry is increasing its tolerance for larger carcasses, appreciating the ability to sell more beef pounds per animal to spread fixed costs, as well as improve the ‘carbon footprint’. We don’t hear the ‘too big for the box’ mantra justifying horrendous carcass-size discounts anymore — as long as they grade — because consumers are returning to good beef, just like they are returning to butter and whole milk.

From Angus and Simmental to Charolais and Fleckvieh, there are beef on dairy strategies popping up everywhere. The black hide continues to be important in many markets where cattle are eventually sold to feedlots that sell to packers that utilize the Certified Angus Beef or other similar ‘House’ brands. 

Dietary Guidelines created problem

CAB is a USDA-Certified brand that emerged in the 1980s, when the Angus Association decided to do something about the problems USDA created for beef demand when the Department diluted the Choice quality grade to ‘align’ with emerging government Dietary Guidelines.

We are all familiar with what happened to milk, butter and other dairy products since the advent of the anti-fat Dietary Guidelines 40 years ago. It happened in beef too. 

In the late 1970s, USDA ‘widened’ the Choice grade to include the upper third of the ‘Good’ grade and renamed the ‘Good’ grade as ‘Select.’ They said they were responding to consumer demand for lean meat, but the name change and dilution appeared to be more of a stealth approach to herding consumers.

We know today this has backfired, but even back then, there was an almost immediate reaction from the higher value restaurant trade. They were getting ‘Choice’ beef that ranged from ‘old’ Choice to ‘new’ Choice, and that spread in marbling scores (intramuscular fat flecks) is huge. 

The lack of uniformity and the increase in unfavorable eating experiences were a problem. Those flecks of fat are what give the beef flavor and tenderness. Today, we know the intramuscular fat is not much different from olive oil in its healthfulness, but that’s another story.

By 1980, the Angus breeders had implemented their solution with Certified Angus Beef and marketed it to the unhappy restaurant trade and eventually industrywide.

More than ‘marketing’

Not only do cattle have to have a ‘predominantly’ black hide to qualify for the CAB-premium and brand, they must also grade in the top two-thirds of Choice on marbling score.

In effect, the Angus folks developed a brand that increased favorable eating experiences and brought back more uniformity by requiring the beef carrying the CAB brand to conform to the ‘old’ USDA Choice grading standards as they were before the anti-fat food police intervened.

Since they came up with the plan, of course, the black hide was important as the vehicle for their Angus genetics, and genetic work ensued to trace back and determine the traits (expected progeny differences, EPDs) that consistently delivered higher quality, more uniform beef grown efficiently and at a moderate frame size to fit the emerging ‘boxed beef’ trend.

As CAB took off and premiums were paid for qualifying cattle, almost every breed focused on developing lines with black hides and better marbling scores and moderate frame without the excess exterior fat. Similar ‘house brand’ Angus programs use some of the same criteria, but it was CAB that repudiated the USDA Choice grade change by creating their own certification program – something USDA graders implement at the slaughter plant for a fee. 

Because it solved a real quality problem, the fees paid to the graders and the premiums paid for the cattle were absorbed by the market because CAB could differentiate in a watered-down beef industry to a market hungry for those quality and reliability standards. Buyers wanted to know that if it was stamped Choice, it is Choice, the old Choice.

Fast forward to 2020, amid a global pandemic shutdown, supply chain disruptions, consumer concerns about where their food comes from, the growing awareness of the stranglehold four big meat packers have on the entire global beef business, label confusion, plant-based pushing, and the involvement of the Big-4 in future lab-created meats… All of these factors are opening a door that heretofore only a few dairymen pursued.

Today, dairy farms large and small can succeed with beef on dairy strategies.

Selecting what to cross

When selecting sires for beef on dairy to produce feeder calves or fat cattle that are auctioned or sold on a live basis to feedlots or packers, avoiding white on certain parts of the hide is important and a genetic consideration to avoid discounts. This is especially true at today’s rising corn prices because Holsteins are known to need more time on feed to finish, or a hotter diet fed at a younger age. Some Angus and Simmental genetics are designed to diminish occurrence of a white pattern, deemed a tip-off to buyers of cattle for feedlots that are concerned about feed efficiency differences between beef and dairy breeds.

Those crossbreeding with Charolais will find their dairy breeds produce what feedlots view as the desirable ‘smokey’ hide Charolais with muscling that compensates for the angular dairy frame when visually appraised.

But there’s another twist to this tale, in addition to traditional beef breeds, the unique heritage Wagyu is emerging. The genetics of full blood Wagyu are pricey, American Wagyu a bit less so, and F1 Wagyu x Dairy more affordable — relatively speaking.

In fact, in Japan, where the Wagyu breed originated and is a national treasure, the dairy cross is also popular as a more economical version of their most valued signature beef. 

Wagyu have some things in common with dairy breeds, especially Holsteins. They take longer to deposit the intramuscular flecks of fat (marbling), but the Wagyu don’t need a high-energy diet to do so, and the way the flecks are deposited is also compatible with dairy breeds. 

Wagyu beef has its high-quality flavor and tenderness reputation because of the even distribution of these smaller flecks of fat throughout the lean. Holsteins tend to marble this way also, but the Wagyu is the master on this score.

Prized for what’s ‘inside’

This heritage breed first arrived in the U.S. in the 1970s and went through a resurgence in the 1990s for its quality consistency in a time of dilution and wide variance. You might have seen it on a menu as Kobe beef, so named for a specific region in Japan where the most elite black-hided strain of the Wagyu is raised.

As the Wagyu is making its third come-back now in the U.S., the F1 cross (Wagyu x Holstein) is a ‘thing’ and quite popular among dairy producers in other countries, like Australia.

The caveat with Japanese and American Wagyu is they do not have quite the beefy outward appearance of a traditional European beef breed. Their conformation is described by breeders as dairy-like, more angular — wider in the front than rear, owing to a history of pulling carts in Japan. They are smaller framed and slower growing.

This means using Wagyu in a dairy crossbreeding program is successful when producers market the beef directly to consumers or sell the cattle to buyers who understand what they are buying. They won’t see what Wagyu are prized for by looking at them from the outside in an auction setting. The value is visible on the inside in how the flecks of fat are distributed for flavor and tenderness.

CAPTION: Dairy producers like Adam Light at Spotlight Holsteins, Myerstown, Pa., raise dairy on beef crossbred cattle right along with the dairy replacements to a certain age when dietary needs start to differ on a beef vs. dairy track. Adam and his cousin Ben have been building their Lightning Cattle Company raising Wagyu x Holstein beef for direct sales.

Making a go of it

For Adam Light of Spotlight Holsteins, Myerstown, Pennsylvania, dairy on beef using Wagyu genetics is very much a part of the operation. He and his cousin Ben Light, a landscaper, are partners in Lightning Cattle Company.

They started with three Wagyu, two bulls and a heifer, purchased from the Empire State Farm dispersal, bred by the late Donald ‘Doc’ Sherwood near Binghamton, New York four years ago. The Lights collected semen off the bulls and flushed the heifer for embryos.

Not only did they begin incorporating the Wagyu genetics into the dairy-on-beef strategy at the 220-cow robotic dairy farm Adam purchased from Ralph Moyer in 2020, they made semen available to other dairies for first-dibs on purchasing offspring, and leased bulls to beef cow-calf herds.

Adam Light grew up on a diversified crop, poultry and beef farm. Working for nearby dairy farms as a youth, he developed an interest in dairying and began renting a dairy barn on a farm his father had purchased for cropland. When the time came to move the operation forward, the Moyer farm was on the market. Adam sold his smaller registered tiestall herd to another dairyman now renting his former barn, and purchased Moyer’s larger herd, farm, and robotic facility.

Next week, we’ll talk with Adam and his cousin Ben about Lightning Cattle and the beef-on-dairy business… and eventually about his robotic dairy transition.

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NY launches state bills to put whole milk option back in schools, joins PA in tackling federal prohibition

‘Let’s get this done’All urged to contact New York Governor and state legislators to ‘put whole milk back in schools’

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, May 6, 2022

SHARON SPRINGS, N.Y. — It was a rainy, dreary Monday (May 2), but dairy nutrition advocacy was bright and sunny in the feed room at Ridgedale Farm. The Conard family hosted a press conference supporting New York State legislation to bring whole and 2% milk back to schools.

Patterned after the Pennsylvania bill that has already passed the state House and is expected to be voted on in the Senate this month, the New York bill would support schools in their desire to offer more milk options, including whole and 2% milk produced on New York farms. The bill includes provisions for the Commissioner of Education to notify school superintendents about the flexibility as well as for the State Attorney General to file civil suits on behalf of schools if the federal government withholds other-than-milk funding.

While some media outlets continue to point to the superiority of federal regulations, there is a groundswell of state lawmakers saying “enough is enough” when it comes to the children and the farmers being victims of regs based on false narratives that push young people away from the very nutrition they need, and the very nutrients the Dietary Guidelines committee admitted their government-sanctioned dietary patterns are not providing.

The movement to have state legislatures get involved is not – as some would say – ‘political theater.’ No, this is the reality of where ‘we the people’ get a voice in the very sustenance of farms, food, and future generations. 

In Pennsylvania, it began with U.S. Congressman G.T. Thompson (Dist. 15) with H.R. 1861 as well as State Rep. John Lawrence (Dist. 13) with HB 2397. In New York State, it began with Congressman Antonio Delgado (Dist. 19) a prime cosponsor of H.R. 1861 and Assemblyman Chris Tague (Dist. 102) introducing A9990 with 25 cosponsors. Within a week of Tague’s bill, State Senator George Borrello (Dist. 57) sponsored S8999 with cosponsor Peter Oberacker (Dist. 51).

The New York legislation has been referred to each chamber’s Education Committee. Tague and Borrello are Ranking Members of each chamber’s Agriculture Committee.

Tague and Borrello were joined Monday by other supporting lawmakers, government officials, nutrition and education experts, dairy farmers, FFA members, school superintendents, town mayors, school principals, discussing why it is so important and urging a public groundswell to contact all NYS lawmakers and the Governor’s office in support.

“We are going to get whole milk back in schools. We’re dispelling the myths propagated by many over the years,” said Tague.

“I ask every one of you to spread the word — to your friends, to your family, to your neighbors, even your enemies. Ask them to join us. Call, email and text every single member of the New York State legislature. Tell them: ‘Put whole milk back in our schools!” he exclaimed.

“Then call Governor Hochul and tell Kathy we want whole milk back in our schools,” Tague explained that the bill must go through committee, then to the floor, then get voted on, and then it would go to the Governor.

“Government and misinformed people need to stop biting the hand that feeds them,” he added. “We cannot live without good nutritious foods. No farms, no food. How does a young person today make a go at it? Farmers are not only ‘price takers,’ they take everything else that comes at them. There’s never anybody that stands up for them. That ends today. We’re here to stand up for you.”

Senator Borrello reflected on the problem, which he said is “based on false narratives. A long time ago, they convinced us that taking skimmed milk and pouring it on high sugar, no fat, breakfast cereal was somehow a good breakfast choice for kids, and they’ve taken whole milk out of our schools. The result has been more waste, it ends up in the garbage. And what have we told our kids to do? It’s okay to have energy drinks and other things that just aren’t good for your health. We’ve also seen a dramatic rise in obesity rates.”

The data for these dietary patterns just is not there, said Borrello.

“Now we know that having fat in the diet is not only good for kids, it helps with their growth, and the kids that do drink whole milk actually end up with less obesity. The science had changed, but unfortunately, our government has not,” he said. “We should give the children the choice. But most importantly, we should recognize this is a good choice. That’s why this is an important bill. Most people don’t understand, that even whole milk is 97% fat free.”

Borrello observed these current dietary rules have further impact, that they are “the beginning of the push to take us away from products like milk, that want to push us toward things like almond beverage, which is not milk, and other things. That’s the real agenda here. Let’s understand that whole milk is nutritious. It feeds your brain. It feeds your body. It is probably one of the best, most nutritious drinks that you can have. But instead of serving that, they want to push these artificially created products onto our children and tell them that’s okay,” he said.

“We need to give them this (whole milk) choice because it is the right thing to do and because it is also good for agriculture, the most important and largest industry in New York State. People forget that. We are here today from all points of the state standing united to say this is the right time to bring back whole milk into our schools,” Borrello stressed.

Nutrition expert agreed

Toby Amidor, registered dietitian, nutrition expert, food safety consultant, instructor, speaker and author in New York City, drove out from Brooklyn to give her thoughts on the bill and whole milk misconceptions.

She confirmed the 2020-25 Dietary Guidelines for Americans “pinpoint three under-consumed nutrients that are found in milk, that people of all ages, including school age children, adolescent children, even toddlers, they don’t get enough of,” said Amidor.

“Those nutrients are calcium, vitamin D and potassium. Milk is a vehicle that you can get all of this nourishment into children in order to grow and thrive like we want them to. It’s an important thing to give them a choice. Choose (the milk) you want,” she explained.

Amidor was joined by various school system superintendents noting the key concern of student access to nutrition.

“School is where many children get their nourishment. So that’s where you want to give them these choices,” said Amidor. “It’s okay to have the fat in milk… it’s a nourishing drink, the fat increases the palatability of that nourishment – more power to it!”

School officials were blunt

“We have a large food service system and are highly focused on farm-to-school initiatives. Milk is one of those,” said Anita Murphy, Capitol Region Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) superintendent, representing 24 districts and 80,000 schoolchildren across four NYS counties.

“On a personal level, I don’t drink skim milk. If that’s the only thing there, I pass,” said Murphy. “I think that’s what happens with our children. If you walk into our cafeterias, what you will see is kids passing on milk. A lot of these kids eat two meals a day at school, and that’s it. That’s what they get, so if we don’t give them those things that they need and that they want that are good for them, we are making a mistake. We are willing to lend any support you need to get this done.”

Representing 22 school districts and more than 30,000 students, Dr. Gladys Kruse, Questar III BOCES district superintendent concurred. She thanked the lawmakers for their efforts.

“We need more children to drink milk to get the nutrition they need. We know some of our students get two of their meals a day at our schools. When we hear students throwing away their lunch or their milk, or we hear of farmers having to dump the milk they cannot sell, it is time to reevaluate and reconsider the options and the policies. This legislation is a welcome step in expanding the availability and consumption of milk locally and across the state,” said Dr. Kruse.

Thanking Tague for his leadership, Kruse stated the bill would “provide the flexibility to have more milk options available to our students. This includes whole milk and 2% milk produced here and across the state. From our first beverage as a child to a staple in our daily school lunches, milk is fuel of our young people’s growth and development.”

From the Berne-Knox-Westerlo Central School District, superintendent Dr. Tim Mundell talked about partnership and collaboration, calling the day’s event a great example of that.

“The passage of this bill would help us bring local whole milk to our students, viable nutrition and real value,” said Mundell noting the need for flexibility. “Students get two meals a day from us. Many of our students live in very isolated and rural areas and access to nutritional foods, like whole milk… for their health and well-being, it’s scarce, and it’s scary.”

“When we put kids at the center of all of our decisions and all of our advocacy, great things happen, and the decisions are easy. This (should be) a very easy decision,” he said.

Mundell also observed the losses in enrollments and economic opportunity throughout rural regions of the state. He said FFA leadership learning is so important, and when students are able to see agriculture economically thriving, it gets their minds thinking about life and options after high school.

“Passage of this bill will enhance the capacity of all rural areas in New York State to re-engage in economic development. We are on board for collaboration in making this economic activity happen,” he said.

From the dairy farmer perspective, Ray Dykeman of Dykeman and Sons, Fultonville admitted that farmers prefer being in the field or with the cows and doing the work producing nutritious food, but, he stressed that this advocacy is vital for the future.

“This bill is extremely important for the kids in school (and) for the dairy farmers in the area,” said Dykeman with appreciation to the Conard family and their “beautiful cows” as hosts.

He challenged people to compare whole milk’s label to most other beverage options, “if you can even pronounce half of the ingredients that were made in a laboratory. We were using milk products as many as 10,000 years ago. Why not trust the cow, probably one of the most perfect animals in the world?”

Dykeman also thanked the lawmakers for taking on this issue to bring whole milk back to schools at a time when dairy farms are challenged. “This legislation will support our hard working dairy farm family businesses and get more milk into New York schools. This is very encouraging. Agriculture is our number one industry, and milk is our number one commodity.”

Among the panel of speakers, the New York Farm Bureau and the Northeast Dairy Producers Association (NEDPA), based in Geneseo, were represented. Behind the scenes and joined by 30 other farmers in the Ridgedale feed room were grassroots whole milk promoters Duane Spaulding and Ann Diefendorf. They brought the 97 Milk messages and signage used prominently throughout the event.

In fact, Tague thanked the grassroots efforts of farmers, of 97 Milk, and even mentioned Milk Baleboard originator Nelson Troutman in his opening remarks.

For Farm Bureau, Todd Heyn noted their “long advocacy for the return of whole milk to schools, giving districts the ability to provide this healthy and nutritious dairy product to school kids.”

Heyn reported the bill would “provide additional markets for whole milk, a Class I dairy product that earns dairy farmers a higher price.” 

Heyn said this would support New York dairy farmers and raise awareness to find a workable solution at the national level, explaining that Farm Bureau is formally asking USDA to “follow the science around nutrition and revise the school nutrition guidelines for dairy products in the school lunch programs.”

The energy was really high by the time NEDPA executive director Tonya Van Slyke got to the podium. She talked about dairy farmers are part of a global economy but take pride in what they do locally… especially in schools.

While Tague and Borrello held the sign taken from images at 97milk.com touting all the benefits of whole milk, Van Slyke — a mother and dairy farmer — recalled walking intop the school cafeteria and being asked by the director: “’Dairy farmer, how did you let this happen? Why are they taking the healthy fat away from my babies?’ Nutrition helps them have good brain power.”

As she turned to Tague and thanked him and his colleagues, Van Slyke said: “Let’s get this done,” and the room erupted in echoes and applause.

Tague, a former dairy farmer himself, noted he had actually milked a famous cow in the very barn where the event was held Monday. He worked years ago for Wayne Conard and his father Willis. He made a direct appeal to the farmers, encouraging farmers everywhere to get into the game.

“We have a lot of work to do. This press conference today is just the beginning… the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Sometimes as farmers, we are too proud and too busy to let our voices be heard,” he said. “But folks, it ends today. We’ve got to get up and scream it. We’ve got to make them hear us that enough is enough. 

“Let’s leave here today with one thing in mind: Whole Milk back in our schools!”

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Dear Secretary Vilsack, please extend Dietary Guidelines public comment past May 16 and open saturated fat limits for course-correction review!

Screen capture from https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/

‘Preponderance of evidence’ screams for a Dietary Guidelines course-correction to expand flexibility and increase, not reduce, saturated fat limits as well as to examine the nutrient deficiencies of currently approved dietary patterns in all life stages, and to examine the effects of these overly-prescriptive one-size-fits-all patterns on vulnerable populations in government feeding situations such as children obtaining most of their nourishment at school where DGAs rule.

Editorial opinion by Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, May 6, 2022

Recently, USDA and HHS launched the 2025-30 cycle of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA). Trouble is, the first and undeniably most important part of the process that will shape WHAT can be amended and the research-screening process for doing so are the “scientific questions” to be examined.

A paltry 30-day public comment period about these already-prepared questions was announced April 15 and expires May 16, 2022.

By the time you read this, there will be fewer than 10 days to comment. To read the USDA HHS proposed scientific questions, click here and to submit a comment to the docket, click here

In addition to the links above, comments can be mailed to Janet M. de Jesus, MS, RD, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP) Office of the Assistant
Secretary for Health (OASH), HHS; 1101 Wootton Parkway, Suite 420; Rockville, MD 20852. Be sure to reference HHSOASH-2022-0005-0001 on the submission.

Lack of time to comment on the questions is not the only problem with the 2025-30 DGA launch. The commenting instructions state: “HHS and USDA will consider all public comments posted to Regulations.gov in relation to the specified criteria. Comments will be used to prioritize the scientific questions to be examined.”

These instructions do not leave much opening to amend the already-prepared scientific questions.

I encourage others to join me in requesting an extension of this comment period to 90 days and to open the process into a course-correcting complete re-evaluation of saturated fat limits — to drive home the point that the “preponderance of evidence” screams for higher, more flexible, saturated fat limits (especially for children), to review the science on saturated fat consumption at all life stages on not only cardiovascular health, but also weight management and diabetes, cognitive health, and other areas, including how current saturated fat limits affect under-consumption of essential nutrients, how these limits affect school meal patterns where most children receive most of their nourishment most of the year — considering the 2020-25 DGA Committee admitted the three government sanctioned dietary patterns are deficient in key nutrients of concern for all age groups.

Join me in asking USDA and HHS to educate the public about the true impact of the DGAs on our most vulnerable populations (children and the elderly) and to avoid prescriptive one-size-fits-all dietary patterns.

People don’t seem to pay much attention to the DGA process because there has been no full disclosure of the true impacts of these so-called “guidelines.” People say, oh, they’re “just guidelines.” Maybe that’s true for you and I, but what about the children? What about the elderly? They are under the ruthless thumb of USDA HHS DGA implementation in feeding programs for America’s most vulnerable ages and demographics.

The ink is barely dry on the 2020-25 DGAs, leaving many to believe there is plenty of time to comment on the next round — later — when the process is fully underway. After all, USDA reminds us this is a five-step process, and they are “committed” to providing plenty of opportunities to be heard.

Wrong. This first step is in many ways the most important for public comment because it shapes how the other four steps unfold. It shapes what research will be screened in and out of the process. It shapes what areas of the DGAs can be amended and specific criteria for how they can be amended — no matter how earthshaking a dietary revelation.

This first step also shapes how your future comments will be considered. For example, many comments, even research in the screening process, will be ignored as this 2025-30 DGA cycle unfolds when it is deemed to fall outside of the specific criteria set in the scientific questions of step-one — right now — for this 2025-30 cycle.

USDA and HHS have already formulated the 2025-30 “scientific questions,” leaving most of the failed guidelines ‘base’ pretty much moving forward — as-is.

One area the Departments announced will run parallel is on ‘planetary diets.’

The USDA HHS announcement notes that the 2025-30 DGAs won’t incorporate DIRECTLY any ‘climate-related’ dietary recommendations, stating: “Sustainability and the complex relationship between nutrition and climate change is an important, cross-cutting, high priority topic that also requires specific expertise. HHS and USDA will address this topic separate from the Committee’s process to inform work across the Departments.”

That’s about as clear as mud. In this statement, USDA seems to tie nutrition and climate change together with the term “cross-cutting,” and describes the “relationship” as a “high priority topic,” assuring us that USDA and HHS will handle this separately and then “inform.”

After looking through the scientific questions in the areas of systematic review and dietary patterns, below is my citizen’s comment: 

————————–

Dear Secretary Vilsack:

To use the phrase you used repeatedly in a Congressional hearing about the 2015-20 Dietary Guidelines, the ‘preponderance of evidence’ on saturated fat limits for all ages — and for children and adolescents in particular — should be up for a complete re-evaluation in the 2025-30 DGAs.

Study after study show our government-sanctioned dietary patterns are failing our children who receive most of their nourishment at school under the thumb of USDA-HHS Dietary Guidelines. USDA even threatens to financially penalize any school that dares make nutritious, wholesome, satiating, healthful whole milk available — even for students to buy from a vending machine run by an FFA chapter seeking to raise funds for agriculture programs, simply because the calories and percent of calories from saturated fat in that nutrient-dense superior beverage exceed your arbitrary, unscientific DGA limit.

But that’s okay, say the HHS USDA DGA, just have a Mountain Dew Kickstart or a sugar-free Gatorade Zero. PepsiCo thanks you, dear USDA, for caring about the profitability of the Smart Snacks empire they and others have built on your say-so, while children become fatter, sicker and sadder and under-consume key nutrients for health and brain power.

Meanwhile, farmers wonder what on earth they can do to get the nutritious, natural, beautiful, local whole milk product they produce to the children in need of nourishment at school, while doctors bemoan under-consumption of nutrients of concern like calcium, vitamin D and potassium (abundant in milk, better absorbed with the fat).

Even the 2020-25 DGA Committee admitted that all three dietary patterns leave all age groups deficient in key nutrients. That’s okay, just get in line for our vitamin pills, right?

It’s even more concerning to see the diets in reality are even worse than they are on paper, if that’s possible, as students pass-over the obligatory skimmed milk in favor of big-brand junk drinks devoid of nutrition, or they take the skimmed milk and toss it into the trash.

USDA’s own study in 2013 showed that in the first year after the Smart Snacks regulations tied competing beverages to the DGAs — outright prohibiting whole milk and 2% milk from schools — student selection of milk fell 24%, and the amount of milk discarded by students increased by 22%. Other studies since 2012 show milk is among the most frequently discarded items at schools. World Wildlife Fund issued a report saying one way to reduce this waste is to educate schools on the fact that they are not forced to serve milk, they can offer it and educate students not to take the milk if they aren’t going to drink it.

What does that solve? It still leaves children and youth without the nourishment USDA touts in the school lunch program on paper even as the school meal situation has become an increasingly restrictive maze of fat limits and thresholds that schools give up managing it and leave it to the ‘Big Daddy’ institutional foodservice corporations with their pre-packaged, highly-processed deals that come with ‘USDA compliance guarantees.’

Why is the Biden Administration fast-tracking this agenda? There are four bipartisan bills before Congress dealing with school milk and others dealing with childhood nutrition. There are bills about allowing whole milk in schools at the state level in Pennsylvania and New York, with lawmakers in at least two other states watching closely to perhaps do the same.

The Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act to repeal your whole milk prohibition has 93 cosponsors in 32 states. City schools, rural schools, town mayors, boards, teachers, parents, coaches, dieticians, doctors, nurses, farmers — people from all walks of life — and, yes, food and nutrition scientists are increasingly appalled at the school milk and school lunch issues — all under the thumb of the DGAs.

The DGAs are designed in a way that each 5-year cycle builds on the one before it — since 1990! The scientific questions are formulated to keep moving that way instead of looking back and re-evaluating or re-examining nutritional aspects USDA considers ‘settled science.’

In reality, however, there is nothing settled about the DGA ‘science’ on saturated fat. This build-upon process is flawed.

In fact the ‘preponderance of evidence’ would tell us the process should be opened up for a more thorough and reflective review, toward more flexible saturated fat limits — especially to expand overly-restrictive saturated fat limits that are creating concerns for children and youth and, in effect, keep nutrient-dense whole milk and 2% milk, as well as full-fat dairy products out of schools. By these standards, the DGAs actually embrace artificially-created highly processed beverages and foods — even Impossible Burger over Real Beef.

The preponderance of evidence is undeniable. The DGA saturated fat limits are a straight-jacket for schools, imprisoning children into poor nutritional health outcomes that can stay with them the rest of their lives and may affect their abilities to learn. Our future as a nation, the health of our children, the economic standing of our food producers, our nation’s food security, our national security itself are all rooted in these DGAs that are still centered on false narratives about saturated fat that the preponderance of evidence has disproven.

Please extend this comment period to 90 days and expand the input considerations and the process, especially as relates to saturated fat limits for all life stages and evaluate the current patterns for under-consumption of nutrients of concern for all life stages. Simply amending a failed base product is unproductive at best and creates more negative health consequences at worst. We need a DGA course correction, a re-do, rigorous scientific debate, acknowledgment that the science is not settled against fat with the preponderance of evidence moving toward the healthfulness of dietary fat.

Finally, we need a Dietary Guidelines product that serves more broadly as just that — guidelines — not a prescriptive one-size-fits-all straight-jacket that obviously is failing the majority of Americans.

Public discussion about the process is needed in a more open, thoughtful, comprehensive manner before the 2025-30 DGAs get underway.

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A re-positioning of agriculture? Kohl tells farmers: ‘Get focused in an unfocused world’

By Sherry Bunting

EAST EARL, Pa. — While he sees a storm on the horizon via high inflation, rising interest rates, global unrest, Dr. David Kohl is positive on agriculture, believing agriculture is “in position for a re-positioning” and advising farmers to “get focused in an unfocused world.”

He sees the resources provided by farms with dairy, livestock and poultry will become more critical. He sees agriculture as the next big mover, the answer — if farmers are free to be creative, manage their businesses with intensity, and drive the bus. He said transparency is becoming more important for consumers, as well as for farmers.

The Virginia Tech professor emeritus engages audiences in lively discussions of economics and financial management. He also co-owns a dairy farm and creamery in Virginia, so he sees trends on a macro and micro level. He spoke recently at the Univest Bank meeting attended by 300 farmers in southeastern Pennsylvania.

“We’re already doing a good job in agriculture. We just need to be driving the train, rather than letting it run over us. If we have a food and fertilizer shortage, the importance of a safe food and fiber source will have even greater value, and we can market that,” said Kohl.

Sizing up the uncertain times ahead, Kohl urged farmers to get focused, think creatively, be innovative, be right on top of their business numbers, plan and prioritize, set goals, and work with a team of advisors.

U.S. agriculture has strategic advantages. It’s in the lifestyle, the work ethic, the soil. Kohl noted that in China, for example, there is real concern about food in the future because 23% of China’s soils have built-up metal toxicity that is unhealthy for plants and animals.

One of the most critical advantages U.S. farmers have is “return on relationship” – or ROR.

“This is a community that gives back. Too often what we see in the world is people just taking instead of giving back. That’s your advantage. You give back,” he told farmers.

On the geopolitical front, fueled by oil, Kohl observed the U.S. has “played right into the hands of OPEC and Mr. Putin. Think about it, 21 years ago, we had 9-11. The towers went down in New York City, Somerset, Pa. and the Pentagon. We said we’re going to become energy independent in 25 years, and we did it in 10. We became the number-one energy producer in the world,” he said.

The U.S. is now divesting its fossil fuels, talking about going to ‘green energy.’

“This has created a lot of instability, and 8 out of every 10 dollars you spend on your farm is connected in some way to energy,” said Kohl, adding that consumer buying behavior is also connected to energy.

“Now it’s going to be China and India — they’re going to be getting the cheap oil while we’re paying the higher price,” he said. “You’re going to have to think innovatively about what you’re going to do with that.”

The fallout from the Russian invasion of Ukraine is something that is not going away overnight. “It’s going to require a lot of management intensity. We can make it through, but we’re going to have to step-up our game plan,” he said.

Warning of recession on the backside of inflation through “demand destruction,” Kohl said every recession – except for one – was caused by an oil market shock.

When oil prices go up, people start questioning their trips. Consumers start questioning everything they buy. They start cutting back.

“These movies play over and over again because we don’t teach history, and so we’re doomed to repeat the mistakes,” Kohl declared, drawing parallels to the 1970s, when the Soviet Union said it needed wheat.

“Communist countries create these economic bubbles because they’re authoritarian, and then, all of a sudden, those markets disappear, and the American farmer is left hurting,” said Kohl. “The market can be given and taken away, and you have to be careful.”

In the 1970s, land values were spiking, and there was political and military uncertainty. The same thing is going on today, he asserted.  

“We had a very stagnant economy that was inflating, and wages weren’t keeping up with inflation. The same thing is happening now,” he said, noting inflation hit 8.5 on April 12th – the highest since 1981 when this similar pattern of events in the economy were precipitated by high energy costs and geopolitical factors and uncertainties.

What moved the U.S. forward then? The development of computer technology and the information age “brought us forward to years of wealth,” Kohl reflected.

What is going to be the ‘big mover’ this time? “Agriculture is one of the answers,” he said.

In the face of skyrocketing fertilizer price and tight availability (which he said will likely be as bad or worse next spring)… “Never has there been a time when manure was so valuable as it is today,” said Kohl, noting the “very real potential” for this to increase into the future as global impacts increase food insecurity.

“We have the solution right here,” said Kohl. “We can adjust to more manure, to poultry litter, to putting biologicals on the soil. We’re going to have to think outside the box, but we’ve got the resources right here to take care of it.”

On the labor front, Kohl noted that the current shortage of workers has every major company in the U.S. working on automation.

“Where we have people shortages now, we will have job shortages later because companies will automate,” he said.

Rising energy costs further complicate this picture as companies try to get back in the groove of work.

Supply chain disruptions will be dominant for the foreseeable future as 40% of China’s manufacturing is in cities that are locked down right now for the COVID variant, Kohl noted.

This is creating supply chain problems now, and when delayed shipments go out later, ports will be overcrowded again.

On the flip side, as China’s economy slows down because of being shut down, this also slows down oil price advances.

Regulations have also played into the issue. Kohl hears from truckers. They tell him they are retiring in droves due to so many additional regulations put on them by federal and state governments. This is leaving a shortage of truck drivers.

Everything stems back to the COVID pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, the U.S. had charted its longest monthly economic expansion in history, according to Kohl.

“Now, consumer confidence – which had been in the low-70s – is in the high-50s, showing our consumer is losing confidence, and that is what drives 70% of the U.S. economy,” said Kohl.

Another indicator Kohl looks at – and it is tied to interest rates – is the housing market. “That’s starting to crack in certain parts of the country,” he said. “We had wealth moving, cash coming out of New York and New Jersey bringing money to other parts of the country. Eventually, the shell game stops.”

Kohl also looks at the price of copper. “It’s still strong, and China is stockpiling it because they are anticipating an economic slowdown.”

So, what should farmers get ready for?

“Get ready for the economic flip,” said Kohl, “that 12- to 24-month period where your costs went up, but the costs don’t correct as fast as your price does.”

That’s what happens when inflation gives way to recession, so be aware and prepared.

Working lines of credit are getting higher right now, so when federal and state regulators all of a sudden want banks to tighten up on credit, that creates some fallout.

Whether talking about a country, a business, or a home budget, financial liquidity and the ability to generate cash is the pressure point. “Russia and China are having that problem right now,” Kohl observed.

As for Americans, “52% are living paycheck to paycheck with an average cash reserve for 13 days,” he related. “The ability to generate cash is your perseverance. Your perseverance is the thing that is going to be very very critical.”

Kohl offered business strategies to key-in on.

Position for a quick pivot to cash

“Working capital is queen on the chessboard,” said Kohl. Working capital and the ability to pivot quickly to cash and to manage debt service will be increasingly important. Cash earns flexibility.

Do cash flows and overestimate costs

Kohl said cash flows are 80% of a business plan. “You have to think about production, marketing, finance, to know your cost of production. This helps you visualize your operation,” he said, urging farmers to overestimate by a minimum of 25% in today’s inflationary time so there are better odds of good decisions. In times like this, bad decisions can be compounded.

Planning is essential

“Manage the controllables, and manage around the uncontrollables,” said Kohl. “We can’t manage what comes out of D.C., Moscow and Beijing. We can focus on the things that we can control. That’s where patience and perseverance comes in. Spend 5 to 10% of your time on planning. It’s that important.”

Just like the basketball player planning and training to spend 95% of his game time without the ball in his hands, Kohl said: “It’s the things you’re doing when the ball is NOT in your hands that help you to do something important when you get the ball.”

Work with a team of advisers.

He urged farmers to bring together a team of advisors if they don’t already do this. “Get your crop consultant, livestock consultant, lender together. Another set of ears and eyes is very important to keep you focused,” said Kohl. “Technology gets us unfocused. This is an unfocused world. Get focused in an unfocused world.”

Set goals

“Write down your goals,” he added. “This leads to better mental health and improved earnings.”

Prioritize the priorities

Life on the farm and managing the farm business can feel like a constant state of competing priorities. Kohl urged farmers to practice the art of “prioritizing your priorities.”

In other words, avoid overscheduling, and strive to achieve a work/life balance. “The best crop you’ll ever raise will be your children and grandchildren, your interactions with young people,” he said.

Kohl also urged farmers to take care of themselves, to make time each day for prayer or meditation, pay attention to diet and exercise, get enough sleep, and have a support network. 

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NYC Mayor leaves chocolate milk on school menu, ‘for now’

FARMSHINE EDITOR’S NOTE:  There is nothing simple about school milk today. Now there are three federal bills pending. One would legalize the options of whole and 2% flavored and unflavored milk in schools, one would restore just the 1% low-fat flavored milk option in schools, and now a third bill, a new one, would mandate that all schools offer at least one low-fat (1%) flavored milk option. At the state level in Pennsylvania, there’s also a whole milk in schools bill that recently passed the State House in a near-unanimous vote and is being considered by the State Senate as reported last week in Farmshine. Furthermore, a New York State Assemblyman has introduced a bill similar to the PA bill in the NY legislature. This week, however, the spotlight is on New York City schools as Mayor Eric Adams had proposed elimination of all flavored milk options.

Istock Photo (PC Yobro10)

By Sherry Bunting, published in Farmshine, April 22, 2022

NEW YORK CITY — A proposed chocolate milk ban appears to be on hold in New York City schools. The April 17 New York Post reported NYC Mayor Eric Adams has “backed off” on his system-wide chocolate milk ban, while seeking USDA’s blessing to offer non-dairy alternatives.

The article cited a letter from the mayor to USDA, noting Adams will leave the flavored milk option up to the individual NYC schools — “for now.” 

Adams, who publicly follows a ‘mostly vegan’ lifestyle, who launched Vegan-Friday in NYC schools in February, and who sought to ban flavored milk in schools during his previous tenure as Brooklyn borough president, now says he is holding off on the chocolate milk ban and is seeking more input on school food and beverage options, overall.

The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) applauded the news in a press release Tuesday (April 19). 

“The USDA school meal standards and the federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans both support serving low-fat (1%) flavored milk in schools,” the IDFA statement reads. It also pointed out that flavored milk processed for schools today contains 50% less added sugar and fewer calories than 10 years ago, so it meets Mayor Adams’ plan for school beverages to be under 130 calories.

National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) also issued a statement thanking in particular U.S. Representatives Antonio Delgado (D-NY) and Elise Stefanik (R-NY) “for their advocacy in support of continued flexibility for schools to serve children healthy milk and dairy products that benefit their growth and development.”

Mayor Adams’ pause on the flavored milk ban came after nine of New York’s 27 members of the U.S. Congress signed a bipartisan letter in March urging him not to implement the ban. The letter was initiated by U.S. Congressman Antonio Delgado, a New York Democrat who is the prime cosponsor of Pennsylvania Republican Congressman G.T. Thompson’s Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act, H.R. 1861. 

In the letter, the lawmakers noted that two-thirds of current school milk sales nationwide are low-fat (1%) flavored milk. In NYC, all flavored milk is currently fat-free. The lawmakers noted that the proposed flavored milk ban would go against the mayor’s stated goals of improving childhood nutrition and health.

“As members representing both rural and urban communities, we are committed to supporting the dairy farmers, producers and agriculture partners across New York, while also ensuring that children in NYC schools have access to critical, life-enhancing nutrients. Unfortunately, for many NYC families, the meals children receive in schools are their only source of many recommended nutrients,” the bipartisan letter stated.

The letter also pointed out that members of Congress from New York and across the country are supporting expanding — not restricting — the access to milk and flavored milk choices in schools. The letter mentioned the bipartisan Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act (H.R. 1861 with 93 cosponsors from 32 states) and the bipartisan School Milk Nutrition Act (H.R. 4635 with 44 cosponsors from 21 states). 

H.R. 1861 would end the federal prohibition of flavored and unflavored whole and 2% milk in schools. H.R. 4635 would simply restore by statute the option of low-fat 1% flavored milk so it can’t be restricted to fat-free by USDA edict.

“Both (bills) expand flavored milk options in school lunchrooms and have received support from members of the New York Congressional delegation on both sides of the aisle. We strongly urge you to continue offering children the choice of flavored milk each and every day in New York City schools,” NY members of Congress conveyed to Mayor Adams in the letter.

New York Republican Congresswoman Elise Stefanik also introduced the lastest federal school milk bill, H.R. 7070, the Protecting School Milk Choices Act. The ink isn’t even dry on this one, which has three cosponsors from Long Island, western New York State and Iowa. It would require, not simply allow, schools to offer at least one low-fat (1%) flavored milk option.

“A silent crisis is gripping our nation’s schoolchildren. In a typical school year, more than 30 million students of all ages rely on school breakfast and lunch for their daily recommended intake of critical nutrients,” wrote Keith Ayoob in an April 11 New York Daily News editorial. The associate professor emeritus at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx served over 30 years as director of the nutrition clinic for the Children’s Evaluation and Rehabilitation Center. 

“As a clinician working with mostlylow-income, minority families for more than 30 years, I’ve taken thousands of dietary histories on children. I can tell you that for many, a school meal is by far the healthiest meal they will consume on any given day. For some kids, sadly, these are their only meals,” Ayoob stated.

He reported that more than 60% of children and teens are not meeting their needs for calcium, vitamin D and potassium, which are three of four ‘nutrients of concern,’ and that eliminating flavored milk from NYC school meals would cause childhood nutrition to further deteriorate. 

Yes, children should not eat excess added sugar, wrote Ayoob, but “small amounts can be useful… to drive the consumption of nutrient-rich and under-consumed foods.” He cited flavored milk and yogurt as two examples of how to beneficially “spend the few added sugar calories.”

The Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act of 1946 has long upheld milk’s unique nutritional package, allowing substitution only if it is “nutritionally equivalent to fluid milk and meets nutritional standards established by the Secretary, which shall, among other requirements, include fortification of calcium, protein, vitamin A and vitamin D to levels found in cow’s milk for students who cannot consume fluid milk because of a medical or other special dietary need…” 

In addition, there is a section of this law that prohibits restriction of milk sales in schools. It states: “A school that participates in the school lunch program under this Act shall not directly or indirectly restrict the sale or marketing of fluid milk products by the school (or by a person approved by the school) at any time or any place — (i) on the school premises; or (ii) at any school-sponsored event.”

In its press release thanking parents, physicians, dieticians and members of Congress for speaking up, IDFA cited the results of a Morning Consult survey it had commissioned. 

The survey found 90% of New York City voters with children in public schools and 85% of parents nationwide supported offering the option of low-fat (1%) flavored milk in school meals. This means parents don’t want a ban on flavored milk, and they don’t want their children’s flavored milk choices restricted to fat-free.

As reported in the March 11 Farmshine, this survey also found that 58% of NYC parents and 78% of parents nationwide selected as most nutritious the whole milk and reduced-fat (2%) milk options that are currently prohibited in schools by the federal government, whereas only 24% of NYC parents and 18% of parents nationwide selected the low-fat (1%) and fat-free milk options that are currently allowed in schools. 

In fact, when asked what milk they “selected” as “most nutritious for them and their families,” the top pick of parents was whole milk at 34% of NYC parents and 43% nationwide; followed by reduced-fat (2%) milk at 24% and 35%; low-fat (1%) milk at 12% and 11%; and fat-free milk at 12% and 7%.

Among NYC parents, 9% selected ‘other,’ and 9% were unsure or had no opinion. Among parents, nationwide, 3% selected ‘other,’ and 1% were unsure or had no opinion.

Why do parental choices matter? Because children consume two out of three meals a day at school for a majority of the year.

How did we get here?

The Congress under a Democrat majority in 2010 passed the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act that called for aligning government feeding programs, like school lunch, even more closely to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs). 

Then, in 2012, the Obama-Vilsack USDA promulgated rules to outright ban whole and 2% reduced-fat unflavored and flavored milk as well as 1% low-fat flavored milk as “competing beverages” across all schools. USDA documents note that this move was based on information from an industry school wellness program that had touted three-a-day fat-free and low-fat dairy, reporting those schools that had voluntarily restricted the higher fat milk options were doing better in meeting the constraints of the Dietary Guidelines. 

Never mind the fact that the Dietary Guidelines Advisory committees admit their espoused fat-restrictive dietary patterns leave all age groups deficient in key nutrients of concern. 

During the first school year of the USDA whole and 2% milk prohibition (2012-13), which also saw all flavored milk restricted to fat-free status, USDA’s own study showed student selection of milk declined by 24%, and milk waste in schools increased 22% across two categories. That’s a double-whammy.

In 2017, the Trump-Perdue USDA provided regulatory flexibility to schools, allowing them to offer low-fat 1% flavored milk through a waiver process. This flexibility was reversed in 2021 by a court decision noting USDA erred by not providing adequate public comment before providing the new flexibilities on milk, sodium and whole grains. 

With the Coronavirus pandemic emerging in 2020, closing schools and creating supply chain challenges, USDA had implemented emergency flexibilities for school offerings.

Recently, the Biden-Vilsack USDA announced a transitional final rule for the 2022-23 and 2023-24 school years. In this rule, USDA recognized that post-pandemic schools “need more time to prepare” to meet the DGAs on fat (milk), sodium and whole grains. 

According to USDA, the Department is reviewing thousands of stakeholder comments received in March 2022 and expects to release updated child nutrition program standards in July 2022, which would then become effective for the 2024-25 school year and beyond.

USDA also announced on Friday (April 15) the opening of the next 5-year Dietary Guidelines cycle with a brief 30-day public comment period ending May 16 to weigh-in on proposed scientific questions that will guide the entire 2025-30 DGA process. Stay tuned.

-30- 

I am thankful for the folks who push for whole milk choice

And I am thankful, perhaps most of all, for the strong and stubborn big heart of retired agribusinessman and dairy advocate Bernie Morrissey.

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine Editorial, April 15, 2022

Among the dairy bills moving in the Pennsylvania House and Senate, one rising to the top is the Whole Milk for Pennsylvania Schools Act

What appears to be a fast rise has really been the product of a long and exhausting process for those who have worked on and reported on the issue of school milk and school meals over the past 10 to 15 years.

Six years ago, the issue began heating up, and U.S. Congressman G.T. Thompson (R-15th) introduced his Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act for the first time. Two legislative sessions later, that bill, H.R. 1861, still awaits action by the House Committee on Education and Labor, having 93 cosponsors from 32 states as of April 13.

A little over three years ago, a grassroots whole milk education movement was launched by volunteers and donations after Berks County dairy farmer Nelson Troutman painted a round bale, which led to the formation of the Grassroots PA Dairy Advisory Committee and 97 Milk LLC.

The painstaking process of working to pry federal bureacrats’ hands off the allowable school milk offerings for children has been ongoing and exhausting.

Now there is the Pennsylvania State bill, HB 2397 Whole Milk for Pennsylvania Schools, authored by State Representative John Lawrence, introduced with 36 cosponsors on March 17 and passed by the State House on April 13.

The progress would not be happening without volunteers — especially the tireless efforts of Bernie Morrissey. At 85, he doesn’t have to be doing any of this. He has shown that he cares about the future for dairy farmers in Pennsylvania, and as a grandfather and great-grandfather, he cares about school milk choices. He has continually worked to get the word out about the whole milk prohibition issue.

USDA’s own pre- and post-prohibition survey showed the significant decrease in students selecting milk and the increased throwing away of milk served — in just the very first year (2012) of the complete restriction of milk choices to be only fat-free or 1% low-fat. More recent studies show it has only gotten worse.

Dairy farmers have lost a generation of milk drinkers, and Class I fluid milk sales have declined even more dramatically since the federal ban.

In the pages of Farmshine, we’ve brought you the news each step of the way. The Dietary Guidelines debacle has been covered for over 10 years. The Congressional bills have been covered. The findings of investigative science journalist Nina Teicholz have been covered, and so much more.

Since Dec. 2018, Farmshine has covered the emerging story of Nelson’s painted round bale, how it got noticed and how that led to questions from neighbors, how more bales were painted, how Bernie took it to another level making banners and yard signs, paying to print some up and distributing them and asking other agribusiness leaders to do the same, and how folks in other states are making an impact also in the movement to get the message out of the pasture and onto buildings and by roads everywhere they can.

We’ve reported on Bernie’s efforts to do political fundraisers at the grassroots level — giving farmers and agribusiness leaders opportunities to join him in supporting lawmakers who care about these issues.

We’ve reported on the major ‘Bring Whole Milk Back to School’ petition drives (30,000 strong), visits with lawmakers, the progress of the 97 Milk education effort, and so forth.

All along the way, there have been fence-straddling skeptics parsing their words. Just one example came recently after Nelson received the Pennsylvania Dairy Innovator Award during the Dairy Summit in February. That evening, one state official said to me that he “never had a problem” with the whole milk signs, but he was quick to add that he didn’t like the way the painted bales and signs only promoted whole milk, when all milk should be promoted.

Yes, all milk should be promoted, but let’s face facts here. For the past 10 to 15 years, the mandatory dairy checkoff promotion programs have not promoted whole milk. They have repeatedly used the terminology “fat-free and low-fat milk” — in lockstep with USDA bureaucrats. They even promoted the launch of blended products where real milk and plant-based fakes were combined to make what was called a “purely perfect blend.” 

“Three-a-day low-fat and fat-free” has been the mantra. 

Some dairy princesses have even confessed being afraid to tout whole milk, others have pushed the boundaries. Some have picked up the 97 Milk vehicle magnets for their personal vehicles while towing-the-line on the fat-free / low-fat wording in their “official” capacity as princesses. 

Let’s face it, the industry has used farmers’ own mandatorily-paid checkoff funds to drill USDA’s low-fat and fat-free milk message into the minds of consumers.

Someone had to start thinking outside the box if a solution to this issue was ever going to get outside the box.

Volunteers have now taken up the slack to promote whole milk, and they are moving the needle. In fact, the whole milk movement is so successful even Danone’s new fake brand – NextMilk — is trying to capitalize by using whole milk’s signature red and white cartons and placing “whole fat” above the brand name. What does that tell us?

Now, as the Whole Milk in Schools bill gains ground in the state of Pennsylvania, we see some who are trying to pour cold water on the passion and progress by suggesting that the state bill, which uses the PA Preferred framework to assert state’s rights, could lead to retaliation by other states to try harming demand for Pennsylvania-produced milk.

This is intimidation. Bullying. We see the same argument every time efforts are made to close loopholes that keep the state-mandated Pennsylvania over-order premium from getting to Pennsylvania dairy farms as the law intended. We hear that Pennsylvania milk will be discriminated against if co-ops and processors can’t continue dipping into the premium cookie jar. 

Now, it appears the same intimidation angle is being applied to HB 2397, which defines the option of whole milk in schools as pertaining to milk that is paid for with Pennsylvania or local funds and produced by cows milked on Pennsylvania farms. The bill has no choice but to use the PA Preferred framework because it is defining a role for state action on a federal prohibition.

Remember the June 2021 Pa. Senate Majority Policy Committee hearing on ending the federal prohibition of whole milk in schools? At the end of that hearing, State Senators in attendance were interested in doing statewide school milk trials like the one done temporarily at two school districts in Pennsylvania two years ago “under the radar.” (In one trial offering all fat levels of milk, whole milk was preferred by students 3 to 1; student selection of milk increased 52% and the amount of discarded ‘served’ milk declined by 95%!)

Key lawmakers began to show stronger interest in finding a way to give schools this option and have them collect data about student consumption and not get penalized by USDA and the Dept. of Education in the process. HB 2397 does that!

A major reason why interest is surging for this bill is because more people are coming to the realization that this prohibition exists. Prior to the 97 Milk education effort, most parents, citizens, even lawmakers, did not realize whole milk is outright banned in schools, even banned as an a la carte beverage! That goes for 2% reduced fat milk also, by the way. 

HB 2397 is about choice. There is no mandate here. None, whatsoever. Just freedom for students to make a healthful choice that they are presently denied.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has a state’s interest on two critical fronts: 1) Dairy farming is essential to our economy and 2) The health of our children and freedom of choice are of the utmost importance. Students receive two out of three meals at school during a majority of the year.

Shouldn’t states and schools and parents decide milk choices instead of federal bureaucrats? Shouldn’t children get to choose the best milk our farmers produce if that’s what they’ll drink and love and benefit from? Why should they be forced to choose only the industry’s leftover skim?

Bottom line, these are times to be bold and brave.

These bills are for the children and for the farmers.

As a mother and grandmother, and dairy enthusiast, I am thankful for all who are working to move these bills forward. I am thankful for the opportunity to work with so many people who care about this issue. I am thankful for the work of 97 Milk and the Grassroots PA Dairy Advisory Committee. I am thankful for the support of the Pa. Farm Bureau, Pa. Dairymen’s Association, Pa. Farmers Union, and other organizations supporting the Whole Milk in Pennsylvania Schools Act.

I am thankful for the agribusiness leaders making contributions to help farmers and other whole milk education volunteers get the message and milk facts out there. I am thankful for the 30,000 people who signed online and mailed in petitions on this issue two and three years ago. 

I am thankful for Pennsylvania lawmakers who are being bold and leading — bringing their colleagues along in a bipartisan way so that more states can be encouraged to do the same.

I am thankful for all who are standing up for our dairy farmers and our children. 

And I am thankful, perhaps most of all, for the strong and stubborn big heart of retired agribusinessman and dairy advocate Bernie Morrissey. He continually looks for every possible avenue to help dairy farmers be at the table to speak up about the policies that affect their futures. He knows what it means to them, and to children, to someday — hopefully soon — have the choice of whole milk in schools.

 -30-

Constitutionality defended as HB 2397 Whole Milk in PA Schools Act passes House 196-2

Rep. John Lawrence defends constitutionality of HB 2397 before near-unanimous House passage https://s3.us-east-2.amazonaws.com/pagopvideo/825289108.mp4

Dairy bills, including whole milk in schools, pass overwhelmingly in Pa. State House — all eyes to Senate now

By Sherry Bunting, republished from Farmshine, April 15, 2022

HARRISBURG, Pa. —  It was a good day in the Pennsylvania State Capitol Wednesday (Apr. 13) when a series of dairy bills, including the Whole Milk in Pennsylvania Schools Act, were overwhelmingly voted for final passage, now heading to the State Senate for concurrence.

In final passage of HB 2397 (The Whole Milk for Pennsylvania Schools Act), the vote was nearly unanimous 196 to 2. The bill was circulated in February via cosponsors memo to colleagues and was formally introduced March 17 by Reps. John Lawrence and Clint Owlett with 36 cosponsors in March.

Meanwhile, the Senate’s identical version, SB 1181, was introduced by Sen. Michele Brooks (R-Greenville) with 16 cosponsors on March 30, the day the House bill passed the Ag Committee. The Senate version also received unanimous support in the Senate Ag Committee as in the House and the SB 1181 received second consideration and was re-referred to Appropriations Tuesday (April 12) just before spring recess. A vote is expected when the Senate reconvenes in May.

The bill’s author Rep. John Lawrence (R-Chester County) spoke eloquently to defend the constitutionality of HB 2397 before the vote on the House floor. He cited extensive case law and U.S. Supreme Court decisions showing HB 2397 “passes mustard” and does not run afoul of the supremacy clause, the interstate commerce clause, the 10th amendment of the Constitution or the 1946 Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act.

The wording of the enabling Richard B. Russell School Lunch Act clearly puts the federal government in the position of “assisting” states, not overtaking them in providing a nutritious school lunch, said Lawrence.

Lawrence chose to make these remarks, citing many relevant Supreme Court decisions on different aspects, to be sure the record reflected this information even though the bill had overwhelming support from colleagues in the House. He said he did so because of the criticism on constitutional grounds coming from outside of the chamber and wanted the verbal record to reflect this information for the press to hear, because they likely wouldn’t read it all if he submitted it for the journal of record.

Lawrence thoroughly and methodically defended its constitutionality, even though the bill already had broad bipartisan support for near-unanimous passage.

“Some in the press contend that this law will run into problems with the Court on the interstate commerce clause,” said Lawrence. On this point, he cited Court decisions that apply in instances where it is based on economic protectionism, whereas HB 2397 is based on a factor completely unrelated to economic protectionism.

“Does this bill burden out of state milk producers? Pennsylvania is not creating a prohibition on milk produced out of the state. One can argue that the federal government has done that,” he explained. “HB 2397 does not discriminate against out-of-state milk. It is adding options, not limiting them. It is giving Pennsylvania schools assurance that they can spend Pennsylvania or local funds for Pennsylvania whole milk. It is the federal government — not Pennsylvania — that has drawn this whole milk line. And the bill makes provisions that if the federal measures again fully smile upon whole milk, then the statute created by House Bill 2397 will sunset.”

Even if 2397 did discriminate, Lawrence cited decisions of the Court that it is valid if for a purpose that cannot be adequately served by reasonable non-discriminatory alternatives. “In this case we do have a valid factor that is totally unrelated to economic protectionism,” said Lawrence, noting that there are at least four valid factors. They are:

1) The primary intent here is to provide nutrient-rich whole milk to the young minds of Pennsylvania school children.

2) It’s the longstanding intent of this body that maintaining our small herd dairy farms is good for the general welfare of the state, said Lawrence: “Many draw a straight line between milk consumption over the last 10 years and the removal of whole milk from schools. There is evidence to back up this claim. The loss of Pennsylvania dairy farms is not solely economic”

3) Parents should have options when it comes to the care of their children, and nothing is more basic to that, than food. “It is indisputable that many reliable studies from top-tier research institutions show the value of whole milk for children who choose to consume it,” said Lawrence.

4) There is a movement toward sourcing consummables closer to their end use. Milk produced and processed in Pennsylvania and sold to a Pennsylvania school is almost always going to have less environmental impact.

A vote in the State Senate is not expected until May when the Senate reconvenes. Back in June 2021, the Senate Majority Policy Committee held a hearing on the federal prohibition of whole milk in schools. I was honored to be among those testifying. (Click here to view hearing here)

Two additional bills introduced by Rep. Lawrence — HB 223 and 224 — received unanimous final passage votes also on Wednesday and were committed to the Senate for concurrence.

HB 223 provides for the creation of keystone opportunity dairy zones to facilitate the economic development of Pennsylvania’s dairy industry through tax credits and incentives for new and expanded dairy processing.

HB 224 provides additional authority to the Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board to collect and distribute board-established premiums through a milk marketing fund, including other provisions such as auditing.

Also passing the Pa. State House by an overwhelming margin Wednesday were HB 1847, introduced by Rep. Christina Sappey (D-Kennett Square), HB 2456, introduced by Rep. Marci Mustello (R-Butler), and HB 2457, introduced by Rep. Joe Kerwin (R-Schuylkill Haven). HB 1847 would change the name of the Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board to simply the Pennsylvania Milk Board. HB 2456 provides for expansion of penalties in lieu of suspension, and HB 2457 expands PMMB authority to set testing certification fees.

To be continued in Farmshine next week

Rep. John Lawrence supported, thanked for his ideas, action, humility

By Sherry Bunting, republished from FARMSHINE NEWSPAPER, April 8, 2022

NEW HOLLAND, Pa. — Dairy farmers, agribusiness leaders, current and former legislators and friends came out to Yoder’s Restaurant here Monday (April 4) to support Pennsylvania State Representative John Lawrence of Chester County. He was lauded by his peers as a respected and knowledgeable leader on ag and dairy issues, someone who understands what farmers and other small businesses face, someone who continually brings good ideas to the table.

The fundraising gala was attended by around 50 people and raised more than $30,000 for Friends of John Lawrence, according to retired agribusinessman and dairy advocate Bernie Morrissey. He and Berks County dairy farmer Nelson Troutman, known for his painted round bales that launched the whole milk movement, along with other members of the Grassroots PA Dairy Advisory Committee, helped raise some of these funds from individuals in the community.

Efforts to end the federal prohibition of whole milk in schools was very much front-and-center in the luncheon discussion with enthusiasm shared by state and federal lawmakers on the progress of Rep. Lawrence’s bill seeking to deal with the issue at the state level – a powerful model for getting action at the federal level.

“We are all here because of how much we love John Lawrence,” said Kerry Golden, who took a personal day from her work with the House Ag Committee to support a leader she and others respect as much for his knowledge and hard work as for his humility.

Lawrence, himself, could not attend his own gala as he was recovering in the hospital from a medical issue. His father led the group in prayer for John, and local agribusiness leader Don Hoover led the group in prayer for elected leaders at local, state, and national levels.

Rep. Lawrence is the author of three important dairy bills that passed out of the House Ag Committee last week (March 30) — the most popular being the Whole Milk for Pennsylvania Schools Act, H.B. 2397.

“John told me he got the idea for the bill while he was riding on his tractor,” said State House Ag Committee Chairman Dan Moul. Lawrence has said he does some of his best thinking while mowing.

“He sits down with us and goes over his ideas, before putting them into words… he brought us these bills a couple months ago, and last week, we had what I call ‘Dairy Day’ in Pennsylvania and passed them out of our committee with bipartisan support to the House floor,” said Chairman Moul.

In addition to the whole milk bill (H.B. 2397), the other two bills include H.B. 223, which provides for Keystone Dairy Opportunity Zones, where new and existing processors can receive tax credits for processing expansion, and H.B. 224, which provides the Pa. Milk Marketing Board with additional authority to collect and distribute the state-mandated over-order premium.

“Too many times, that premium does not find its way back to farmers,” said Moul. “We are losing way too many dairy farms in Pennsylvania. We have a great industry here, and we need to save it.”

When Moul got to the whole milk bill, specifically, the room erupted in applause.

“While John was on his tractor, he came up with this idea. He finally figured it out. We’ve been wanting to do something on this ever since whole milk was taken out of schools under the Obama administration,” he said.

Congressman G.T. Thompson lauded the PA-Preferred framework of the bill in his remarks as well.

Bottomline, if the entire transaction from farm to school is intra-state, then the federal jurisdiction does not apply because the U.S. Constitution is silent on education and agriculture except where interstate commerce (sales between states) are concerned. That’s the basis of the bill, reported in detail in previous editions of Farmshine.

“When he shared his idea, we knew he was on to something,” said Moul. “The federal government can’t withhold funding from schools if this (whole milk) is intra-state. I give John the credit. He really thought it through. There is a time and place for government… but when it comes to nurturing, raising and what we feed our children, that’s no business of the federal government.”

State House Speaker Bryan Cutler of Lancaster County thanked the event attendees for supporting John, and he described John’s “servant’s heart.”

He said John is someone who wants to get the job done rather than concerning himself with who gets the credit for it.

“Sometimes government is what gets in the way,” said Cutler, noting the federal prohibition of whole milk in schools as a prime example of getting in the way of parents and schools with “their definition” of what’s healthy.

“John is someone who consistently rises to that challenge. I hope you are all as proud of him as I am,” said Speaker Cutler.

“We’re blessed in Pennsylvania,” said Congressman Thompson. “We are coming up on a challenging year, an election year. We need a strong State House and Senate.”

At the federal level, the stakes are equally high. In fact, if Republicans take back the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives this fall, Congressman Thompson, representing the largest geographic district in Pennsylvania and serving as Ranking Member of the House Ag Committee, could make history as the first Ag Committee Chairman from the Keystone State since 1859.

Thompson shared a bit of his vision for the Ag Committee, noting how important agriculture is, everywhere, representing one in every seven jobs in Pennsylvania, for example.

“We have to make sure we are doing the right policies to restore robust rural economies, to create the conditions to rebuild, repopulate, and regrow our rural communities,” said Thompson. “Agriculture is really a bipartisan issue. With inflation at 42-year highs, we are seeing high prices for commodities, but things are not so peachy. It’s the margin that makes the difference.”

He expressed concern about EPA regulations, the return of Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS), and other areas of impact to agriculture where politicians make decisions that don’t often make sense and cost farmers plenty.

“The world needs American farmers to increase yields when we look at what is happening in Ukraine,” said Thompson. “We’ve got to love these people standing up for freedom. They are the breadbasket of Europe with 40 million people but growing food for 400 million. We are hearing the grim news that by fall, we may see massive hunger and famine, starting in the Middle East.”

Thompson reflected on the ‘Arab Spring’ in 2011, when food scarcity played a large role in a series of anti-government protests in the Middle East after international food prices shot up, unemployment rose, and frustration with political systems peaked.

He cited predictions right now that people will flee these countries facing famine and arrive at the U.S. southern border. He said farm productivity in the U.S. will be essential.

“Food security is national security,” said Thompson, thanking ‘the Pennsylvania farm team’ of legislators and agriculturalists. “Everything we rely on is provided by our hard-working farmers, who deserve to earn a good living.”

As prime sponsor of the Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act (H.R. 1861) in the United States Congress, Thompson also lifted up what Rep. Lawrence has done at the state level in Pennsylvania with H.B. 2397.

“It’s brilliant,” said Thompson. “It’s a formula for PA-Preferred. Now we need to see New York, Ohio, California — all the dairy states — lead and model what Rep. Lawrence has started.”

He explained that if other key dairy states would put forward similar legislation for whole milk in schools, it would be powerful in getting Congress to act on his legislation at the federal level and for the federal government to “undo the insult” it dealt to children when removing flavor and health from school milk options over a decade ago.

“Everyone blames Michelle Obama, but it was really the Congress under Speaker Pelosi who demonized milkfat. That 3 to 3.5% milkfat is what their bodies need. We’re standing with the children,” he said.

Thompson sees this as becoming a truly bipartisan issue, including bipartisan support for his bill at the federal level and the bipartisan action on it in the Ag Committees of the State House and State Senate. He said Lawrence’s bill “sets a great precedent and a model to help us go forward.”

As of April 6, 2022, Congressman Thompson’s Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act (H.R. 1861) at the federal level has 93 cosponsors from 32 states but has not yet been taken up by the House Education and Labor Committee.

In the Pennsylvania State Assembly, Rep. Lawrence’s Whole Milk for Pennsylvania Schools Act (H.B. 2397) was passed unanimously out of the House Ag Committee on March 30th and is expected to be voted on by the full House after April 11 when they return to session.

Meanwhile, the State Senate Ag Committee unanimously passed S.B. 1181 on April 5th. This bill was put forward rapidly by Sen. Michele Brooks, representing Northwest Pennsylvania counties, and it precisely mirrors Lawrence’s House Bill. It could be voted on by the full Senate as early as this week.

(Author’s Note: Stay tuned on these whole milk bills and join me in prayers of gratefulness for the efforts of leaders like Rep. John Lawrence and for his healing and continued strength for the important work ahead.)

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