A protest everyone should care about — Dutch government: ‘Not all farmers can continue’; Dutch farmers: ‘We Stay’

Ad Baltus milks 130 cows on roughly 170 acres in North Holland, where the government announced a new nitrogen (emissions) policy in June that has farmers rising up in protest.

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, July 22, 2022

SCHERMERHORN, Netherlands — “The honest message is not all farmers can continue their business.” These brutal words were part of the Dutch government’s announcement in June to cut in half the emissions of nitrous oxide and ammonia in a detailed farm nitrogen map of the Netherlands. They’ve given provincial authorities one year to figure out how they will meet their aggressive provincial targets by 2027 as depicted in mapped zones.

This means both livestock numbers and use of fertilizers will be slashed, with the most drastic reductions of 70 to 90% on farms that are close to nature areas, especially those deemed part of Natura 2000, the legally protected habitats across EU member nations.

Ad Baltus is just one of the 40,000 Dutch farmers protesting the plan since mid-June with tractor formations, blockades and other activities in The Hague (capitol) and in towns and rural lands beyond. 

They are concerned for their futures, for their farms, families, communities and country. 

Baltus and his tractor have been to countless protests throughout the country, accompanied by his faithful dog Knoester. Sharing aerial photos of a formation he helped organize in his own neighborhood, he explains the hashtag in Dutch means #WeStay.

“We are letting our government know we are not going anywhere.”

A tractor-formation spelling out Dutch farmers’ message to The Hague: ‘NH #WijBlijven!’ It means “We Stay. We are not going anywhere,” says Ad Baltus, a dairy farmer who co-organized the June protest near his farm in Schermerhorn before the group traveled to Stroe the next day where an estimated 30,000 farmers protested the Dutch government’s nitrogen policy. 

Baltus farms 70 hectares (170 acres) in the North Holland village of Schermerhorn with his wife and 7-year-old daughter, milking 130 dairy cows. In summers the cows graze, and he also grows corn and collects both fresh grass and dry hay from fields.

“On our farm, we have to reduce the amount of nitrogen or sell cows. That’s a possibility. Or we have to do something with technology to reduce the nitrogen. We have been given only five years from now,” Baltus explains in a Farmshine phone interview Wednesday.

His farm is among the ‘luckier’ ones, in a zone to reduce 10 to 15%. 

No future for some

“It depends where they are situated, whether farms are near to nature terrain. Some must reduce between 50 and 70%, and some have to reduce 90%,” Baltus confirms. “In a zone between 70 and 90%, there is no possibility to have an income from your farm. That has a big impact in our farming industry.”

The calculation of nitrogen emissions is made “from what the cows produce inside the stable, and what is being produced when manure is spread over fields and then (from that calculation) is what farms have to reduce,” he says. The use of chemical fertilizers is also part of the calculation.

This is in addition to what the EU is trying to impose in the European Green Deal and Farm to Fork agenda that includes many other manure regulations.

Furthermore, every farm in the Netherlands must have a permit and every farm animal on that farm must be accounted for on that permit, including the horses.

The Dutch government backed up the nitrogen policy with an additional 24.3 billion euro ($25 billion USD) for the transition. 

One Dutch news source says the environmental planning agency is recommending payment of 130% of the land and asset value of farmers who stop farming, while other sources point out the base valuation will plummet where the ability to earn income on the assets is now virtually eliminated.

Expecting 30% to sell

By the government’s own estimates, 30% of farmers are expected to sell out or cease livestock and dairy operations, but others see a greater loss coming. Farmers who retire by selling to the government do make space for other farms in their zones to continue with slightly smaller reductions.

For perspective, the Netherlands encompasses a land base a bit larger than the state of Maryland, with 54% of this land reported as agricultural land. There are more than 17 million people with around 40,000 farmers, 3.8 million total cattle, including 1.5 million dairy cows, 11.4 million pigs, 850,000 sheep, 480,000 dairy goats and just about 100 million chickens.

In touting the plan, officials point to the country’s dense population of livestock and its ability to produce more food than is needed within its borders, suggesting that farm exits are not a food security concern. The Netherlands ranks second in the world in agricultural exports worth 94.5 billion euro ($96.8 billion USD) in 2019.

Dutch farmers, however, see this as short-sighted at a time when the Russian invasion of Ukraine and other global disruptions are putting pressure on global food supplies. They are vowing to continue their protests. 

Bale art in the Netherlands has a message also. Displays like this are a ‘public-friendly’ way to protest the nitrogen policy without undue impact on the public. The red handkerchief has become the sign of support.

After weeks of tractor parades obstructing traffic and supermarket food deliveries, Baltus reports ‘public-friendly’ methods are being used to keep the farmers’ concerns visible. For example, wrapped round bales are painted with sad and angry faces with the red handkerchief, the sign of solidarity for the farmer resistance.

He shares a local newscast where another dairy farmer, Sophie Ruiter, 29, from Grootschermer explains the drastic consequences for her farm — that only 60 of her 200 cows could remain.

Turned upside down

“We think it’s really crazy that we are being punished, but a company like Tata (Steel) is given all the time to meet the targets. For us, it means that we have no future,” she says, speaking to the newscaster from behind the wheel of a mobile platform while her friend Robin Groot, holding a bag of Dutch flags, hangs them upside down on lamp posts along a provincial roadway.

Groot describes this as a “public-friendly action. We want to show that all those nitrogen measures have turned the Netherlands upside down.”

“The inverted flag used to be used in shipping as a distress signal, and we now also do that as farmers, because something is really going on,” adds Ruiter.

Removing farms doesn’t solve the problem of pollution, as other industrial complexes produce nitrous and other emissions, and those industries are not being targeted the same way. At the root is concern that “green nitrogen will be replaced by grey nitrogen,” another farmer explains during a tractor formation near a business park where unfair treatment of farmers vs. other industries was highlighted.

Solutions vs. sell-outs

Farm groups say that even though an intermediary has been named for “negotiations,” there are no real negotiations occurring. They say the rapid timeline and high level of reductions signal the government’s unwillingness to look at other solutions, that they just want to cut livestock numbers and buy farms.

“They believe that farms near nature are harming it, but we don’t see it,” says Baltus, sharing comparative photos and discussion.

What kind of nature?

“In Holland there is no nature like in Alaska or Siberia. All of the nature we have is nature that is made by people. The question we ask is what kind of nature do you want? Nature as it was in Holland from 10 years ago, or 100 years ago or 1000 years ago? They don’t give a good explanation for what they want,” he relates. 

“In some areas, they want plants and animals that never lived here – not even 10,000 years ago,” he reports. “In Holland, there are nature areas where they got rid of the topsoil to create a kind of nature (or semi-natural ungrazed grassland).”

The NGOs (non-governmental organizations) want to create it with their goal that is very different from the nature that exists, he explains.

Grasslands without grazing?

“The nature near my farm is a nature where cows and grasslands have been for 500 years, and now they say ‘no cows are needed in that area?’ We don’t understand that. Cows and farmers make that terrain, and it is because of farmers and cows that the nature is in there.”

Emissions have been discussed for 10 years. In fact, when milk quotas were lifted and dairy herds grew modestly, phosphate limits were used in 2016 to force herd reductions (see chart). Dairy cow numbers have been relatively stable over the past decade, and on the downswing since 2017. At the same time Dutch agriculture is progressive in technology and farming practices. Many farmers have already made investments in their management of nitrogen.

“We reduced in the past 40 years already 70%, but every time, the government wants more. We have a goal, and they always want more. It is never enough,” Baltus observes.

Like other Dutch farmers, he is proud of the environmental record and productivity of his country’s farms, and the substantial economic benefits they generate for their communities.

A different road

“The farmers are on a different road from the government. On the farmer side, we are thinking solutions, but on the government side, they don’t want to do anything with that. We think in the long run we can reduce more than what’s ahead now, but we need technical solutions, and there are companies in Holland developing technology to separate urine from feces so the nitrogen can be managed even better,” he explains.

A few farms are piloting such innovations, “but it is 2 to 3 years from being ready for practices,” he adds. “We need more time, and the amount of the reduction is much too high, but the government is not taking the innovation as a solution. They want to reduce livestock.”

For its part, the Dutch government maintains it has been “forced” to take this action as court rulings — brought on by activist NGOs — cite the country’s pledges on emissions, and those rulings now block infrastructure and construction projects with no future reductions to offset the emissions these projects would generate. The offsets now come first.

This train has been on the track for a while now, with many countries (as well as cities, corporations and investors) on board.

Cutting nitrogen emissions in half by 2030 is on the targets of at least 30 UN member nations with policy bubbling up in other EU nations. In keeping with the 2019 intergovernmental adoption of a UN resolution on Sustainable Nitrogen Management (Columbo Declaration), such legally binding pledges are now part of UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that also affect a nation’s ESG (Environment, Social, Governance) score. 

Meanwhile, farmers fear Holland will be the next test-country. They point to what is happening in the first test — Sri Lanka, a small nation off the coast of India that set itself up to be global nitrogen management leader with policies ending use of chemical fertilizers and other measures to meet targets and achieve its high 98.1 ESG score.

This high score mattered little when the reality hit the people in crop failures, farm economic collapse, new levels of food insecurity, which along with economic policies have thrown the country into its worst economic crisis in decades. In recent weeks, Sri Lanken citizens stormed the capitol, the current president fled, and the country is in chaos.

Holland’s plan, according to government documents, is described by officials to bring order and clarity about “whether and how farmers can continue with their business. The (nitrogen) minister sees three options for farmers: become (more) sustainable, relocate or stop.”

This reasoning fuels tensions with farmers who say they are being told to achieve what is unattainable in a short time with few options and no future for their children. In the case of retiring farmers without a next generation, the pathway is clearer, even as the larger concerns remain.

Asked if this feels like a ‘land grab’, if it’s more about land than nitrogen, Baltus was fair-minded and clear.

“Is this about getting the land? Possibly. But we need evidence for that. Thinking in theories or plots is difficult for me as a farmer. Yes, they need land for housing and building, and they want to do nature areas. When the government comes to a farmer, it is like a farmer buying a piece of land from another farmer, you negotiate, but the government is doing it now in a way to get it for a cheaper price,” he relates.

“Yes, the government wants to buy farms to reduce livestock,” he adds. “That is why farmers are angry. The government wants to spend about 25 billion euro to buy-out farmers, while the farmers are asking them to spend 5 billion euro to reduce the same amount of nitrogen with the technology that is coming.’”

Baltus is quick to point out that when farming stops, others are also affected.

“The whole rural area depends on all the farmers, and when there is 20, 30 or 50% of farmers stopping farming, this has an effect on the dairy industry, the feeding industry, all of the rural people who do work on farms, electrician, plumber, contractor… the whole system has big effects.”

Sun sets on a mid-July tractor formation as Dutch farmers continue to protest the nitrogen policy announced in mid-June, two weeks before the parliament’s 6-week summer recess began. 

Public generally supportive

In general, Baltus sees the public as supportive of the farmers, but he observes a “thin line” of weariness.

“When we protest and people have trouble with that, by waiting in traffic or there is no food distribution, it is difficult to hold the support of the population,” he explains. “We see that the protest is now softening a bit with ‘public-friendly’ actions. But I don’t think protests will stop until the government hears the farmers. If the government doesn’t hear the farmers, then the protests will go on, and not always in a friendly way.”

He sees this issue attracting voters to a relatively new political party, the BoerBurgerBeweging (Farmers and Citizens Movement), which has some representation in parliament.

Expressing little hope for negotiation at this point, farmers say their hope may be a future election landslide depending on how this problem turns out, especially in light of the government’s statements that it has not ruled out the possibility of “expropriating land (forcibly) from farmers who don’t comply.”

Dutch farmers have already complied with many environmental regulations and changes. Farmers want to continue to do more on environmental issues, Baltus affirms: “We have done that for hundreds of years.

My father 50 years ago fed cows differently than I do now, but we need time for changing more, and we need some support to change. Selling out doesn’t help us. It’s the wrong way for the money to flow. We say spend that money for innovation – for more effect with less money.”

Cows on this North Holland dairy farm graze in the summer, with fresh grass and dry hay collected from fields for feeding in the barn. Dutch farms face a new policy requiring 10 to 90% reductions in nitrogen compound emissions as the government prepares to buy farms and assets.

Worldwide problem

“I think the problem in Holland with the farmers and the government, you will see this worldwide,” he suggests. “Just see what is happening in Sri Lanka right now, and in India last year there were big farmer protests.”

He observes farmers in Germany, Belgium, Poland and Italy are protesting in solidarity, with signs “no farmers, no food”, and banners reading “Stop the Great Reset.

“It is a worldwide problem that we think food is something that is growing in the supermarket. The government, they take it for (granted), but it is a lot of work to make food, and farmers are at the end of the rope when it comes to getting a price for their product. Farming is not so profitable at the moment, but at the same time,” says Baltus, identifying with farmers around the world:

“Many consumers cannot pay more for their food. Between the farmer and the consumer, there are many steps for money to stay in. The very big problem we forget is we live on planet earth with billions of people more than 50 years ago, and every mouth has to have food. We can’t feed everyone with just biological farming or by losing farms.”

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Our farmers are the thin green line between us and a ‘Holodomor’ – Let’s not forget it!

Bale art in Holland has a message. Displays like this are a ‘public-friendly’ way to protest the nitrogen (emissions) policy, and the red handkerchief has become the sign of support for farmer resistance.

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, July 22, 2022

The pain is necessary. The transition is unavoidable. The climate pledges are urgent. Race to zero. Net Zero Economy. Sustainable Nitrogen Management. Climate Champions, and on and on. 

These are just some of the pages and phrases at the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) website where resolutions are adopted, targets are pledged, sustainable development goals (SDGs) are constructed and updated, and Environment, Social, Governance (ESG) scoring is discussed for countries, cities, corporations, lenders, investors, institutions, states, provinces, networks, alliances, even individuals.

Dairy farmers are being asked to provide more and more of their business operations data, field agronomy, feed and energy purchases, inputs, output, upstream, downstream — a virtual farm blueprint.

While it is important that farmers have a baseline to know where they are and gauge where they are going, it is also critical that such details do not provide a centralizing entity the ability to map them into zones where requirements are passed down by milk buyers, government agencies, industry programs, or lenders deciding farmers in Zone A will be held to one standard while farmers in Zone B are held to another. 

Meanwhile, even the most aggressive standard is so trivial in the big picture that it is offset virtually overnight by unrestrained pollution in countries like China where no one is minding the store.

Sound familiar? Look at The Netherlands.

Activist NGOs have struck deals with everyone from the billionaire globalists, activist politicians, industry organizations, corporations and investors to create the world they envision and have invested in for a future return.

They use marketing platforms, global PR firms, thought-leadership networks, pre-competitive alliances, pseudo-foundations and even align with government agencies to flesh out the details and drive the bus.

As producers and consumers, it feels like we are along for the ride.

For example, Changing Markets Foundation, an offshoot of World Wildlife Fund, partners with NGOs to “leverage market forces to drive rapid and self-reinforcing change towards a more sustainable economy.”

It was formed to accelerate this transition.

Just this week Changing Markets published a study taking aim at dairy – warning investors to take a more active role in improving the dairy and meat sector’s “climate impact” by asking these companies, the processors, to disclose their emissions and investments and cut methane and other pollutants.

In other words, the NGOs, through a ‘marketing’ foundation, prods investors to push your milk buyers, lenders and vendors to obtain and track for them your information.

These NGOs and foundations are driving this bus a little too fast, and it needs to slow down. They take countries (like Holland) to court to hold up infrastructure projects, using their own pledged targets against them and forcing a faster timetable to gain the offsets needed for the stalled projects.

They publish self-fulfilling studies, surveys and warnings prodding investors to reach back into the dairy and meat sector and take a more active role in getting more reporting of downstream methane emissions (your farm).

They warn dairy and meat processors that if they don’t get this information and cough it up, investor confidence will be harmed and their assets could be stranded, resulting in large economic losses.

They salivate with anticipation, waiting for land purchase packages that they, as NGOs, can poorly manage as contractors alongside the purchasing government entities.

Let this sink in. The investor class is being deemed the farmer’s new customer – not the consumers whom our farmers are proud to feed and proud to show the truly valuable practices they use in caring for the land, practices that are often not very well monetized – like cover crops, for example.

If a country like the Netherlands with a progressive agriculture industry finds itself in the position that it can’t build or do infrastructure projects without first decreasing nitrogen emissions on the backs of farmers, where do we go from here with the fuzzy math being done on all greenhouse gases in the sidebars of highly-capitalized alternative meat and dairy lookalikes that are lining up — ready to burst on the scene to grab a foothold for investor returns?

The Changing Markets report, in fact, makes the claim that 37% of global GHG comes from food production and attributes most of this to meat and dairy — certainly embellishing the issue in this disingenuous phrasing and fuzzy math.

If farmers can’t be paid for the simplest of constructive practices that produce food for people — while at the same time being restorative to the land, why should billionaires and governments be able to come in and buy their land, plant trees, re-wild to scrub brush or half-hearted grassland status and get an offset?

None of what is happening makes sense unless we step back and recall what we know about the World Economic Forum’s Great Reset, Food Transformation, Net Zero Economy and the realities of so-called ESGs. This has been a process and most of us have only had glimpses of it to connect the dots.

I recall conversations over the years of my journalism career with a most respected ag economics professor, the late Lou Moore at Penn State. He worked with farmers and his peers in former Soviet countries after the breakup of the Soviet Union. He would tell the stories from Ukraine, described to him as handed down through generations of the period of terror and famine known as the Holodomor when the Soviets collectivized the farms of the Ukraine under communism – resulting in the starvation and death of 10 million or more in a transition.

Bottomline: Agenda 2030 has been under construction for some time now, and ‘climate urgency’ is being used today to target farming and food production, not just energy and fuel.

Our industry organizations keep telling us the public, consumers, are driving where this is going, that it is science based, and yet key questions at the farm level still can’t be answered.

At the regional levels, we see authentic models of conservation groups partnering with dairy farms and cooperatives to access grants for meaningful improvements that make financial and environmental sense but may not show up just so on a global NGO’s master sheet. 

There are ideas being generated to give companies of all sizes a way to be ‘climate champions’ by investing in Farm Bill conservation programs that really work. Congressman G.T. Thompson mentioned this recently at a farm meeting.

Let’s do the work that accomplishes what’s real and equitable for our farmers and hold off just yet providing too much detailed information.

We know NGOs and governments have set targets to protect 30% of the earth’s surface as non-working lands by 2030 and 50% by 2050. This boils down in the targets at the U.S. level as well.

Let’s be sure we don’t give away the farm.

The strength and diversity of our farmers is so important. You, our farmers worldwide, are the thin green line between us and a Holodomor.

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For farming to flourish, liberty is essential

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, July 1, 2022

As our nation commemorates Independence Day, we think of America’s agrarian roots and how an agrarian himself, Thomas Jefferson, the primary architect of the language so carefully chosen in our Declaration of Independence, wrote much on the subject of agriculture.

With all that is happening in the world, and in agriculture, now is the time to really ponder our nation’s birth. Liberty has proven for almost 250 years to be more than an ideal worth fighting—even dying—for. It is a condition of life in America that can be misunderstood and taken for granted.

The battle of Gettysburg, the turning in the tide of the Civil War marks this same spot on the calendar. This too is remembered every July 4th weekend with re-enactments on sacred ground where freedom was further fortified for all, lest we forget that our unity stood the test of valor and dignity from both sides—an internal struggle to recommit our nation to the freedom and responsibility of true liberty so that…

As President Abraham Lincoln said: “These dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

From East to West and North to South, the diverse beauty of both the land and people of our United States of America move us to do the work, the caretaking.

Diversity, too, is a key attribute of liberty.

Across the long rural stretches of prairie from the Midwest through the Great Plains—where one can go hours without seeing another vehicle—the bigness of this land and its call of freedom is, itself, liberating.

Whether it is the eastern patchwork of small farms living at the fringes of suburbia with subdivisions often sprinkled between them or the western stretches of uninterrupted farmland—we have a duty to protect America’s agriculture, the quiet essential role of family farms as the backbone of our nation’s liberty.

We can’t allow global business interests and elitists to dictate from afar, to turn our rural networks that need restoring and rebuilding into food deserts.

Thomas Jefferson once said that, “The earth is given as common stock for man to labor and live on.” He also held high the value of agriculture to the nation’s economy, which remains true centuries later in 2022.

“Agriculture is our wisest pursuit because it will, in the end, contribute most to real wealth, good morals and happiness,” Jefferson wrote.

These are not idle words. In today’s times of rapidly advancing technology, many of us lack a full understanding of how advancing technology can coexist with the essential simple goodness of the sustainability we need—that of families farming for generations in the U.S. being able to choose their path instead of having it chosen for them, with new generations staying in farming or leaving to do other important work even as new and beginning farmers are drawn to the land.

Liberty is essential for agriculture to be that beacon. No other profession sustains our communities like agriculture, multiplying earnings throughout local communities.

The billionaires at Davos know this. The global corporations taking over all sustenance, they also know this. Real riches begin with the soil, the land, the work, the families, the food that sustain us.

Ralph Waldo Emerson observed: “The glory of the farmer is that, in the division of labors, it is his part to create. All trade rests, at last, on his activity. He stands close to nature; obtains from the earth the bread, the meat. The food which was not, he causes to be.”

Science, itself, is being misused, along with our faith in doing good, feeding the hungry, caring for the earth and for others, giving God the glory. The challenge is to retain our independence, remember our nation’s birth and what it stands for and never take for granted our agrarian roots, so essential for our future.

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From DMC to FMMOs, from price ‘movers’ to ‘make allowances’: House Ag hearing reviews farm bill dairy provisions

By Sherry Bunting, June 24, 2022

WASHINGTON — It was a lot to wade through, but after two panels and nearly four hours, many cards were on the table, even if the full deck was not counted. 

The U.S. House Agriculture Committee hearing Wednesday, June 22 was a 2022 review of the current farm bill’s dairy provisions. Chairman David Scott (D-Ga.) set the stage with his opening remarks, noting a significant part of the hearing would be devoted to the dairy safety net, namely the Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC), but also to talk about the Federal Milk Marketing Orders (FMMO) to learn if this system is “the best fit for today’s world.

“We want to continue to listen to farmers and navigate the issue for the best approaches to any changes,” he said, setting the next stage for listening sessions.

Those testifying talked about building consensus for FMMO changes, a charge handed down from Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack last December, and again more recently, when he said a consensus agreement by stakeholders on one plan was needed before a national hearing on milk pricing could be held.

On the Class I ‘mover’ change in the last farm bill, USDA AMS Deputy Administrator Dana Coale noted that the change was authorized by Congress after an agreement was reached between NMPF and IDFA to change the ‘higher of’ to a simple average plus 74 cents. This was designed to be revenue neutral, she said, but the pandemic showed how an unforeseen market shock can create price inversions that significantly change this neutrality. (testimony)

Coale noted that “market abnormalities” brought on a situation where Class I was below Class III, which doesn’t typically happen, and this created losses.

“In the 2018 farm bill Congress authorized a change to the Class I price mover. We implemented that in the department in May 2019. This change was a consensus agreement reached between NMPF and IDFA to benefit the entire industry. Implementation in the farm bill was designed to be revenue neutral. However, nobody foresaw a pandemic occurring, and no one could have projected the implications that pandemic would have on (prices), particularly within the dairy sector. What we saw occur from mid-2020 through mid-2021 was a significant change in that revenue neutrality. As you look at the Class I mover before the pandemic and moving out of the pandemic, it is maintaining pretty much a revenue neutral position compared to the prior mover. However, due to the (class) price inversions that occurred, we had some major losses incurred by the dairy sector.”

Dana Coale, Deputy Administrator, USDA AMS Dairy Programs

On the primary dairy safety net, Farm Service Agency Deputy Administrator Scott Marlow went over the Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) and explained the beneficial changes that have been implemented since the 2018 farm bill. (testimony)

He noted that supplemental DMC would have to be made permanent in the next farm bill in order for that additional production history between the 2011-13 figure and the 5 million pound cap to be covered in future years.

“In 2021, DMC payments were triggered for 11 months totaling $1.2 billion paid to producers who enrolled for that year, with an average payment of $60,275 per operation. At 15 cents per cwt at the $9.50 level of coverage, DMC is a very cost-effective risk management tool for dairy producers. Ahead of the 2022 DMC signup, FSA made several improvements. The program was expanded to allow producers to enroll supplemental production (up to the 5 million pound cap). In addition FSA updated the feed cost formula to better reflect the actual cost dairy farmers pay for alfalfa hay. FSA now calculates payments using 100% premium alfalfa hay, rather than 50% of the premium alfalfa hay price and 50% of the conventional alfalfa hay price. This change is retroactive to January 2020 and provided additional payments of $42.8 million for 2020 and 2021. We are very concerned about the margins. It is very important the way DMC focuses on the margin. Farmers are facing inflation of costs beyond the feed that is part of this calculation. This margin based coverage has proven to a model and is something we need to look at for other costs and commodities.”

Scott Marlow, Deputy administrator usda fsa farm programs

Dr. Marin Bozic, Assistant Professor Applied Economics at the University of Minnesota gave some long range trends and observed the factors that are decreasing participation in Federal Milk Marketing Orders. (testimony)

He mentioned that a consideration not to be ignored is the status of vibrancy and competition as seen in transparency and price discovery. When asked about proposals to improve this, Bozic said the proposals need to come forward from the industry, the stakeholders, and that the role of academia is to provide numbers, trends, and analysis of proposals, not to decide and determine these marketing structures.

“Farm gate milk price discovery is challenged by this lack of competition,” he said. “If a corn producer wishes to know how different local elevators would pay for corn, all he needs to do is go online or tune in to his local radio station. Dairy producers used to be able to ‘shop around’ and ask various processors what they would pay for their milk.”

Bozic was quick to point out that, “We should not rush to generalize from such anecdotal evidence, but in my opinion, it would also be prudent not to ignore it.”

“FMMOs start from a set of farmer-friendly ideas… They have somewhat lost luster due to declining sales of beverage milk. In regions other than Northeast and Southeast, fluid milk sales no longer provide strong enough incentives for manufacturers to choose to stay consistently regulated under FMMOs. My estimates are that the share of U.S. milk production in beverage milk products is likely to fall from 18.3% in 2022 to 14.5% by 2032. Do Federal Orders suffice to deliver fair market prices to dairy producers? The critical missing ingredient is vibrant competition for farm milk. Whereas just six or seven years ago, many producers had a choice where to ship their milk, today it is difficult. When some dairy producers have asked for milk price benchmarking information from their educators or consultants, those service providers have in multiple instances faced tacit disapproval or even aggressive legal threats from some dairy processors. Further research and an honest debate on competition in dairy is merited.”

Marin bozic, ph.d., department of applied economics, university of minnesota

Where FMMO changes are concerned, Bozic noted some of the broader issues to come out of the Class I pricing change that was made legislatively in the last farm bill. For example in future reforms, when there is lack of wide public debate on proposals, he said: “It increases odds of a fragile or flawed policy design, and lack of grassroots support for the mechanism in changing markets. FMMOs have a comprehensive protocol for instituting changes through an industry hearing process. The Class I milk price formula can be modified through a hearing process.”

From Bernville, Pennsylvania, representing National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and DFA, Lolly Lesher of Way-Har Farms shared the benefits of the Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program through FSA and other risk management tools through RMA. She said they purchase the coverage at the highest level each year as a safety net for their 240-cow dairy farm. (testimony)

DMC is intended for smaller farms producing up to 5 million pounds of milk annually, but other farms can layer it in with other available tools at the tier one level on the first 5 million pounds or choose to pay the tier two premium to cover more of their milk through that program, but other tools like DRP are also available, Marlow explained.

Turning to the Class I pricing change in the last farm bill, Lesher said the change was an effort to “accommodate a request for improved price risk management for processors, while maintaining revenue neutrality for farmers… but the (pandemic) dramatically undercut the revenue neutrality that formed its foundation.”

“As valuable as the (DMC) program has been, many farmers have not been able to fully benefit because the underlying production history calculation is outdated. It is critical that the (supplemental DMC) production history adjustment be carried over into the 2023 farm bill… The events of the last two years have shined a spotlight on the need for an overall update to the FMMO system. Class I skim milk prices averaged $3.56/cwt lower than they would have under the previous ‘mover’. This undermined orderly marketing and represented net loss to producers of more than $750 million, including over $141 million in the Northeast Order. The current Class I mover saddles dairy farmers with asymmetric risk because it includes an upper limit on how much more Class I skim revenue it can generate… but no lower limit on how much less… those losses become effectively permanent.”

lolly lesher, way-har farm, bernville, pennsylvania, representing nmpf and dfa

According to Lesher’s testimony: “The dairy industry through the National Milk Producers Federation is treating this matter with urgency and is seeking consensus on not only the Class I mover, but also a range of improvements to the FMMO system that we can take to USDA for consideration via a national order hearing.”

Lesher serves on DFA’s policy resolutions committee and she noted that DFA, as a member of NMPF “is actively participating in its process (for FMMO improvements), which involves careful examination of key issues to the dairy sector nationwide… We look forward to working with the broader dairy industry and members of this committee as our efforts advance.”

Representing International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), Mike Durkin, President and CEO of Leprino Foods Company stressed the “extreme urgency” of updating the “make allowances” in the FMMO pricing formulas. These are processor credits deducted from the wholesale value of the four base commodities (cheddar, butter, nonfat dry milk and dry whey) used in FMMO class and component pricing as well as within the advance pricing for fluid milk. (Leprino is the largest maker of mozzarella cheese in the U.S. and the world. Mozzarella cheese is not reported on the USDA AMS price survey used in the FMMO class and component pricing.) (testimony)

Durkin also noted the importance of making the Dairy Forward Pricing Program that expires September 2023 a permanent fixture in the next farm bill for milk. This program allows forward pricing of milk used to make products in Classes II, III and IV so that longer-duration contracts can be used by this milk when also pooled under FMMO regulation without fear of the authority expiring in terms of the FMMO minimum pricing. (Milk that is used to make products in Classes II, III and IV is already not obligated to participate in or be regulated by FMMOs.)

“The costs in the (make allowance) formula dramatically understate today’s cost of manufacturing and have resulted in distortions to the dairy manufacturing sector, which have constrained capacity to process producer milk. Congress can improve the current situation by directing USDA to conduct regular cost of processing studies to enable regular make allowance updates. The need to address this lag is now extremely urgent. While our proposal to authorize USDA to conduct regular cost surveys will eventually provide data to address this in the longer term, steps must be taken now to ensure adequate processing capacity remains. Updating make allowances to reflect current costs will enable producer milk to have a home. Making the (Dairy Forward Pricing Program for Class II, III and IV) permanent could also facilitate additional industry use of this risk management tool for longer durations without concern about the program expiring.”

Mike Durkin, president and ceo, leprino foods, representing idfa

Lesher also thanked House Ag Ranking Member G.T. Thompson for his Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act, seeking to bring the choice of whole and 2% milk back to schools. The bill currently has 94 additional cosponsors from 32 states, including the House Ag Chair David Scott and other members of the Agriculture Committee. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor.

Other key dairy provisions were reported and questions answered, including a witness representing organic dairy farmers. There’s more to report, so stay tuned for additional rumination in Farmshine and here at Agmoos.com

Recorded hearing proceedings available at this link

Written testimony is available at this link


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Rebuilding ‘the dairy barn’ from the ground up

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, June 10, 2022

Grandiose plans centered on a globalist net zero economy were the furthest things from the minds of the more than 100 people who showed up on two southern Lancaster County, Pennsylvania Amish dairy farms and neighboring properties that took a hit from a May 27 EF-1 tornado. A week later, on June 4, the second of two destroyed dairy barns could be seen taking shape — from the ground up.

Many hands make light work. Farmers are quick to help. They are the ultimate ‘community organizers’ when faced with a big task. They ‘just do it’ instead of standing around talking about it.

Farmers don’t have time for nonsense. Working closely with seasons, land and animals, viewing themselves as stewards of God-given resources, farmers are practical. They are the first to show up when disaster strikes. 

They have a passion for their calling to feed a hungry world, and they don’t expect much in return – the ability to earn a fair price, a decent living, and a little respect. 

They show compassion for others, and gratitude in all things.

It is the farmers who show ultimate resiliency every day, in the face of hardship. They don’t waste food. They don’t waste time. They don’t waste money. And they don’t waste resources.

The world could learn a lot from farmers, if those making the big policy decisions truly listened. So many simple truths are ignored, simple positive changes are hard to get done, because they don’t fit the global agenda.

Why? Perhaps because there is an element of control now involved in food production that has changed the dynamic of “community” and changed the conversation between farmers and consumers.

The good news? Just as this dairy barn destroyed by a storm was rebuilt — board by board, nail by nail – through the efforts of a steadfast community, the same can be said about rebuilding the dialog between farmers and consumers, the sense of community, at the grassroots level.

Consumers are not as focused on the buzz terms of sustainability and net zero as the industry and policy makers and anti-animal activists would have us believe. 

The majority of the people in our communities around the world want to feed their families affordably and healthfully. The majority want to know more about farming and food. The majority want to support farmers. The majority love seeing cows. 

The majority still believe in the strength of local communities, of being there for one another in a time of need. The majority trust farmers because they see how they quietly live their faith.

We can all take part in rebuilding this proverbial ‘dairy barn’ — this connection with consumers at the grassroots community level. 

We’ve seen the storm clouds on this horizon for the past several years. The storm is here. The damage is scattered. The foundation has some cracks…

But the rebuilding is underway, and we are seeing it from the ground up, not the top down. We are seeing it in grassroots efforts, like 97 Milk, that engage others, share truths, and open eyes. The best way to shore-up our dairy farming communities in the face of a global agenda is to get after it — board by board, nail by nail. Many hands make light work.

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On Life, Liberty, Land and Pursuit of Happiness

EDITORIAL: Deals with the devil at Davos come down to money invested to control carbon, essential to life

By Sherry Bunting, published in Farmshine Newspaper, June 17, 2022

‘Deals with the Devil at Davos’ published in Farmshine June 10, 2022 may have left some readers’ heads spinning. So, let me boil it down to what I see happening: The ramping up of a pervasive global transformation of life itself being leveraged on the masses by the biggest actors in food, energy, capital and policy.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) is the place where plans are hatched to transform food and energy in the name of sustainable climate and environment. (Great Reset)

This includes goals of setting aside 30% of the earth’s land surface by 2030 for re-wilding and biodiversity – 50% by 2050. 

This includes top-tier elite billionaire investor plans to transform food through plant-based and lab-created meat and dairy lookalikes and blends, with the purpose of replacing livestock, especially cattle.

This includes “sustainability” measures being enacted by the world’s largest global food and agriculture companies as the leverage point to position producers and consumers into the headlocks of their vision, their capital, their control.

The bottom line is that the dairy and beef checkoff programs have joined in by creating alliances and initiatives as partners with these WEF actors, including individuals, corporations and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). This gives the appearance of a bottom-up approach, when in reality it is top-down, and has been gradually bringing more farm-level decisions and practices in line with what the Davos crowd is cooking up.

The vehicle? Measuring, tracking and controlling carbon. 

In other words, controlling energy, food, and land, and with it life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, with a strategy to condition the next generation to accept an alternate reality.

The specifics mentioned in the analysis last week include the involvement of the checkoff programs, through memorandums of understanding with USDA, WWF and others, to position schoolchildren as “agents of change.”

In short, checkoff funds are used at the national level for many things, one key element being dairy transformation to fall in line with the transformation goals of the globalist elites. We can see the business and policy changes that translate to the farm level just beginning amid a void of understanding for the essential role cattle play in true environmental sustainability and the carbon cycle of life itself.

Of all farm and food animals, the life cycle of cattle is tied to the largest land base. Think about that in the context of the land set-aside goals for 2030 and 2050.

Meanwhile, the consumers that the farmers think they are reaching with their checkoff dollars are having their voices stolen by the supply chain actors. On the other end of the spectrum, farmers are also having their voice stolen as their mandatory dollars target the ways they are and may be expected to conform in order to access this narrowing and consolidating supply chain leverage point and the capital to run their farms.

When farmers and consumers talk directly to one another, they find out that they care about the same things and can reach mutual respect and understanding – as long as the WEF’s Klaus Schwab and friends don’t use their position in the supply chain leverage point, the middle, to set the rules of the game.

How are they herding farmers and consumers into headlocks? By transforming the future through their definitions of measuring, tracking and controlling carbon – the essence of life.

These things are happening without voice or vote, and in part, mandatory checkoff funds have been instrumental over the past 12 to 14 years in shaping this transformation through alliances.

Life on earth would not be possible without carbon. It is one of the most important chemical elements because it is the main element in all living things and because it can make so many different compounds and can exist in different forms.

Bottomline: The measuring, tracking, trading and control of carbon means the measuring, tracking, trading and control of life. 

Who will have a voice in life when there is a global consortium laying out the control, access and transformation for the essential element of life – never mind liberty, land (property), and the pursuit of happiness.

Most farmers think they are promoting and educating consumers with checkoff funds. Yes, they are to some degree. However, a significant portion of those funds and/or the direction of funding is tied up in sustainability alliances that ultimately redirect the Davos-hatched transformation agenda right back onto the farm.

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Deals with the devil at Davos; it all comes down to money… and land

WEF panel at Davos on redirecting capital in agriculture. (screen capture)

NEWS / ANALYSIS

By Sherry Bunting, published in Farmshine Newspaper, June 10, 2022

DAVOS — Let’s follow your checkoff money all the way to Davos, where Klaus Schwab and friends, known as the World Economic Forum (WEF), gather annually in Switzerland. This is where globalist elites have been plotting and planning the net zero economy, complete with food transformation maps.

On May 26, your message was delivered and your future was signed up, with your money through your checkoff programs — a plan 14 years in the making under the DMI umbrella of multiple so-called non-profit foundations and alliances.

Some of the same global actors in the WEF food transformation movement are also represented in the various non-profit alliances that were created by your checkoff in the 2008 through 2012 time-period.

At Davos, the May 26 panel on “redirecting capital in agriculture” is where “farmers voices were heard for the first time,” they said.

Don’t worry, the purpose was to get you the money from Davos billionaires to do all the things they will be requiring you to do to be part of the new net zero economy they are creating with the net zero goal DMI has set for you — despite the fact you didn’t vote on it or sign up for it, and experts can’t even agree on what it means or how it will be measured.

But that’s okay, your checkoff created surveys, sustainability platforms and strategic alliance non-profits to bring the largest processors together “pre-competitively” to set the timelines, plan the parameters, and craft your messages.

DMI “thought leaders” often talk about getting ahead of “societal issues” such as animal care and the environment via the Innovation Center — to avoid regulation. That is the basis of the FARM program, for example.

But the reality is the regulatory side has at least some accountability — a process via our democratic republic if we still have one. 

What democratic process was used to determine the rules your farm will live by — as decreed by the corporations buying what you produce, and now also the access to capital you will need to continue?

Consumers have not asked for this, and neither have you. But your checkoff has done it for you and will help you navigate.

DMI issued a press release just a few days before Davos about how the Sustainability Summit they held state-side to help you, the farmer, navigate this new future they have been creating with your checkoff money.

“Never has the opportunity been greater for us to come together and demonstrate our collective impact,” said DMI CEO Barb O’Brien in opening the pre-Davos Summit. “And frankly, never has it been more urgent as we work to meet the growing demands and expectations of both customers and consumers around personal wellness, environmental sustainability and food security.”

These are pretty words.

The press release cites the U.S. Dairy Stewardship Commitment as having 35 companies representing 75% of the milk market signed on. The four pieces DMI is working on were listed in a vague way: 1) utilizing new ‘digital frontiers’ for point-of-purchase ‘strategies’, 2) promoting a new definition of ‘health and wellness’, 3) fulfilling an ‘impact imperative’ they say exists among consumers positioning U.S. Dairy as the leader in addressing societal challenges such as climate change, and 4) targeting ‘inclusive relevance,’ which O’Brien said Gen Z is the driver as the most diverse generation to-date with societal expectations for companies and brands.

Two weeks later, the thought leader representing you in Davos told the gathered elite, the billionaires, the power-centers, that your soil has “perpetual societal value” and should be invested-in and traded as an “asset class,” that farmers are the “eco workforce to be deployed,” and that investors and lenders should “redirect capital” to “de-risk” the investments farmers must make as “climate warriors that are planting the future.”

We missed that memo. Lots of buzz terms here, so let them sink in.

Here’s the reality: Farmers’ voices were NOT heard in Davos. Instead, what was heard was the voices of the WEF billionaires, the WWF supply-chain leveraging model, the string-pullers (thought leaders), and the plan-developers. 

The World Wildlife Fund 2012 “Better Production for a Living Planet” identifies the strategy depicted in this graphic on biodiversity (30×30), water and climate. Instead of trying to change the habits of 7 billion consumers or working directly with 1.5 billion producers worldwide, WWF stated that their research identified a “practical solution” to leverage about 300 to 500 companies that control 70% of food choices. By partnering with dairy and beef checkoff national boards in this “pre-competitive” strategy, WWF has essentially used farmer funds to implement their priorities in lockstep with the World Economic Forum. Image from 2012 WWF Report

We don’t even know all the tentacles behind the pretty words used to describe what you have already been signed up for. Rest assured, DMI will roll them out gradually through the Innovation Center and FARM, and investors, lenders and others will put them in the fine print of farmer access to capital and markets.

It’s more truthful to say the farmers’ voice is being stolen in this process.

Your autonomy, independence and decision-making is being overridden. Your permission is being granted for the WEF Davos billionaires to step right up, help themselves, and determine your options, your future through their investments in a soils asset class — because, climate.

During the WEF panel, it was Erin Fitzgerald who carried “the farmers’ voice” to Davos.

Erin Fitzgerald (USFRA photo)

Fitzgerald is CEO of U.S. Farmers and Ranchers in Action (name changed in 2020 from the previous U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance). She became the USFRA CEO in 2018 after spending the previous 11 years working for DMI as Vice President of Sustainability and several other roles and titles while the FARM program and net zero framework was being developed. She spoke “for farmers and ranchers” in four sessions at the WEF annual meeting in Davos, including one panel about redirecting capital in agriculture, where she talked about soil as an “asset class” and farmers as the “eco workforce.”

During her comments on the Davos panel about “redirecting capital,” she made it clear that your consumer is “no longer the person at the checkout” in the grocery store. She said it’s the pension fund investors looking for low-risk investments. 

Even that is not entirely accurate. The truth is that DMI — in the creation of its many precompetitive alliances — has its sights set on bigger fish: the billionaires at Davos, the venture capitalists, the global corporations investing in climate. 

In fact, this is being driven behind the scenes by Edelman, the global PR firm that receives $16 to $18 million in checkoff funds annually as the contractor for DMI over the past decade of plotting and planning. Edelman is a key player at Davos. GENYOUth was the Edelman brainchild, and outgoing CEO Alexis Glick was originally tapped by Richard Edelman, himself, to lead GENYOUth as a former financial analyst who made Davos a high point of her itinerary.

Back to the WEF panel on May 26 — the messages that have been crafted were touted, along with a narrative about what you will do in the next 30 harvests as the “eco workforce” of the “new global net zero economy.”

Listening to some of the livestreamed sessions, other panels highlighted the future of food, energy and financing to all be rooted in carbon impact.

Some panels noted the fast pace of the WEF global transformation is creating inflation pain, but the globalist elites are not concerned, even saying “that’s a good thing.”

Other panels delved into individual carbon tracking, to measure, record and score what each one of us eats, where we go, how we get there.

Truth be told, consumers are also being signed up for the net zero economy, although most don’t even know it yet. In a free America, I’m not sure we voted on this global-control-fast-track either.

Fitzgerald, whose role is described as “building sustainable food systems of the future,” laid it out for the crowd of investors, corporations, regulators, and government officials.

On the Davos stage, she said she brought the farmers’ message and referred specifically to the DMI board chair as “my chair Marilyn, a farmer from Pennsylvania.” (Marilyn Hershey also sits on the USFRA board.) 

In the ‘redirecting capital’ discussion, another layer of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) model of leveraging the few players in the middle of the food supply chain to move consumers and producers at both ends was very much in play.

This is not surprising. The DMI alliance with WWF also spanned a 12-year period from 2008 to 2020 when all of these non-profit alliances were formed under the DMI umbrella to bring global processors together as a platform for “pre-competitively” determining how all farms will operate in the future.

Your innovation and hard work were mentioned, but no credit was given to where you are, what you already accomplish, as farmers. It is all forward-looking to annually “make progress” over “the next 30 harvests.”

The stage was set for farmers to see capital “redirected” to de-risk certain types of operations and to make the soil you farm an “asset class.”

“We officially have our first solution,” declared the Davos panel moderator, turning to the panelist sitting beside Fitzgerald, saying “that’s your area, let’s do it.” Who was this panelist? None other than David MacLennan, the board chair and CEO of Cargill, and a former member of the Chicago Board of Trade and Board of Options Exchange.

Think about this for a moment. Soil as an asset class dovetails nicely with the 30 x 30 land grab, another WEF / WWF / Great Reset / Build Back Better invention.

Lured by money or financing, the soil you farm — if it becomes a tradable asset class with financing channeled to certain practices begs this question: Whose land does it become and what will be your accountability through the Security and Exchange Commission or the Commodity Futures Trading Commission for disclosures? Farm Bureau is already sounding the alarm on proposed rules about supply chain producers being an open book to the SEC for claims made by companies buying their raw commodities.

More importantly, who will make the decisions on your farm? Fitzgerald asked the audience to “put aside the term ‘farmer’ and think about ‘these people’ as the “eco workforce.’”

Your voice, through your checkoff, just went into the den of thieves to offer your land, your future, your autonomy — as a farmer, rancher, landowner, generational steward of God-given resources in your community — and put it on a silver platter for the Davos global elites under the feel-good message of farmer as climate warrior, an eco workforce planting the future in the net zero economy.

They said your voice was heard, your story was told, and they’ll get you the investment funds for projects. In  “thinking about soils as a perpetual asset to society,” Fitzgerald said investors can do what was done for the renewable energy sector in 2008 to “prop it up and get it moving.”

“This eco workforce has boots on the ground,” she said. “They have every bit of capability, but they’re going to be battling the real effects of disrupted markets and climate change, and they also have unbelievable talent. Our farmers are doing amazing work as climate eco warriors. Are we as business agents of change here at Davos really creating the finance models to de-risk their investment to let them plant the future and be the eco warriors they can be in the fight on climate change?” 

More pretty words that might sound inspiring to some, until we pull back the layers and realize deals are being made with the devil.

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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: 

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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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