The long and the short of it

In all, 11 people testified during the Pennsylvania Senate Majority Policy Committee’s public hearing about the federal prohibition of whole milk in schools. I testified (right) in one of three panels, which also included (l-r) Nelson Troutman, Bernie Morrissey and Jackie Behr.
Below is the shorter, oral version of my full written testimony for the June 16, 2021 public hearing.

By Sherry Bunting

Good morning Honorable Chairman Scavello and Senate Committee. Thank you for inviting me to testify on whole milk choice in schools. My name is Sherry Bunting. As an ag journalist 40 years and former Eastern Lancaster County School Board member 8 years, not to mention as a mother and a nana, I see this from many sides.

From the dairy side, fluid milk sales had their steepest decline over the past decade as seen in the chart (above) with my written statement. There was a decline slowly before that, but you can see the drop off after 2010.

That was the year Congress passed the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.

Two years prior, the national dairy checkoff, which farmers must pay into, signed a memorandum of understanding with USDA to advance the department’s Dietary Guidelines using the checkoff’s Fuel Up to Play 60 program in schools — promoting only fat-free and low-fat dairy.

(Note: This was confirmed in a May 2021 dairy checkoff press conference, stating that “DMI has been focusing on the youth audience ever since making its commitment to USDA on school nutrition in 2008,” and that Gen Z is the generation DMI has been working on since the launch of Fuel Up to Play 60, which was followed by the formation of GENYOUth and the signing of the memorandum of understanding, MOU, with USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack in that 2008-10 time period.)

By 2011, USDA had their data showing schools that voluntarily gave up whole and 2% milk were meeting the Department’s Dietary Guidelines more consistently — on paper — as far as fat content across the ‘served’ meals and the ‘a la carte’ offerings, combined.

With this data, USDA targeted whole and 2% milk, specifically, for mandatory removal from school grounds during school hours by 2012.

In fact, the ‘competing foods’ regulatory language at the time stated that even if you wanted to have a vending machine (with whole milk) as a fundraiser for FFA, it could only be open for two weeks for the fundraiser, maybe three. The rest of the time it had to be closed between the hours of midnight before the start of the school day and 30 minutes after the end of the school day.

This is how we are treating whole milk.

That looked good on paper, but the reality? Since 2008, the rate of overweight and diabetes has climbed fastest among teens and children after a decade of stipulations that you can only have whole milk until you’re 2 years old — and in the poorest demographics, who rely the most on school lunch and breakfast. This fact was acknowledged during a U.S. Senate Ag hearing on Childhood Nutrition in 2019, where senators even referenced a letter from 750 retired Generals sounding the alarm that young adults are too overweight to serve.

This is a federal and state issue, and I might add, a national security issue. Our state has an interest in the outcomes.

An example…

While Pennsylvania school doors are closed to whole milk — a fresh product most likely to be sourced from Pennsylvania farms — their doors are wide open to processed drinks profiting large global beverage and foodservice companies.

What the kids buy after throwing away the skimmed milk does not come close, as you’ve heard, to offering the minerals, vitamins and 8 grams of complete protein in a cup of whole milk. What’s on paper is not being realized by growing bodies, brains and immune systems. Not to mention the milkfat satiates and helps with absorption of some of those nutrients. A wise foodservice director who saw this coming told me in the late 1990s, while I was serving on the School Board, he said: “when too much fat is removed from a child’s diet, sugar craving and intake increase.” Some of the latest data show he was right.

School milk sales are 6 to 8% of total U.S. fluid milk sales. However, this represents, as you’ve heard, the loss of a whole generation of milk drinkers in one decade.

The Northeast Council of Farmer Cooperatives looked at school milk sales from 2013 through 2016 and reported that 288 million fewer half pints of milk were sold in schools during that period. This does not include half-pints that students were served but then discarded.

This situation impacts Pennsylvania’s milk market, farm-level milk price, and future viability — a factor in Pennsylvania losing 1,974 farms; 75,000 cows and 1.8 billion in production since 2009 – rippling through other businesses, ag infrastructure, revenue and jobs. We are, actually now, 8th in milk production in the U.S. If you go back 15 years, we were 4th. As of last year, we were passed by Minnesota.

The fat free / low fat push devalues milkfat as a component of the price paid to farms, making it a cheaper ingredient for other products. Our kids can have whole milk. There is no shortage of milk fat because if there was, producers would be paid a fairer price that reflected its value.

While the flaws in the Dietary Guidelines process would take a whole hearing in itself, Pennsylvania consumers see the benefits of milk fat in study after study and are choosing whole milk for their families. Redner’s Warehouse Markets, for example, reported to me their whole milk sales volumes are up 14.5%. Nationally, whole milk sales surpassed all other categories in 2019 for the first time in decades. So parents are choosing whole milk, and we saw that during Covid, and even before Covid.

Today, children receive one or two meals at school, and there’s a bill actually being considered by Congress to make three meals and a snack universal at school. Then what?

Many parents don’t even know that whole milk choice is prohibited. Even the New York State Senate Agriculture Committee, during a listening session on various issues, had a request brought up to legalize whole milk in schools. Three of the senators expressed their shock. One asked the person testifying — who is both a dairy farmer and an attorney — how could this be true? They thought she was joking.

(In fact, skepticism prompted Politifact to investigate. They confirmed, indeed, Lorraine Lewandrowski’s statement — “Make it legal for a New York state student to have a glass of fresh whole milk, a beautiful food from a beautiful land” — received the completely true rating on Politifact’s Truth-O-Meter because, yes, there is a federal prohibition of whole milk in schools.)

There’s just not enough people understanding that this is happening. Many people think the kids do have the choice, but they don’t.

My petition, that I started in late 2019, has nearly 25,000 signatures online. The links are with my written statement — and 5000 were mailed to me by snail-mail — so over 30,000 total. Nearly half of those are from Pennsylvania, and New York would be second as far as signatures, but we have signatures from every state in the nation.

When I looked through to vet it, to balance it and make sure we didn’t have people from other countries in these numbers, I started to see who was signing, from all walks of life — from farmers, to parents, to teachers, doctors, and on and on. Even state lawmakers, I recognized some names on there. The whole milk choice petition has opened eyes.

Thank you for this hearing, and please help bring the choice of whole milk back to our schools. Our children and dairy farmers are counting on us.

If I could just have a couple more seconds here, this is personal for me, as a grandmother. One of my grandchildren is lactose intolerant, or I should say, that’s how it would seem, but she has no trouble drinking whole milk at home. Her doctor says she may be lactose intolerant because she keeps coming home from school and having stomach problems at the end of the day. She now is not drinking the milk at school, just drinking whole milk at home. She can’t drink the skimmed milk, and there’s really some science behind that.

A professor in North Carolina (Richard C. Theuer, Ph.D.) mentioned this role of milk fat actually slowing the rate of carbohydrate absorption — which is the lactose. (As a member of the National Society for Nutrition and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences at North Carolina State University, Theuer addressed this in at least two public comments on the Dietary Guidelines Federal Register docket, once in 2018 and then again in 2019.)

I’ll end my comment here, sorry I went a little over.

— At the conclusion of my time, Pennsylvania Senate Majority Policy Committee Chairman Mario Scavello said this was a good place for me to end my testimony because “what we’ve heard here today is children are not drinking the skim milk and the low-fat milk. We’ve got to get this corrected, the more I listen to this,” he said. Then, turning to Nelson Troutman on the panel in regard to the 97 Milk education effort, Scavello added: “By the way, I did see that 97 percent bale. Thank you for explaining it because I thought, what is this about? I could see the bales while driving on I-80.”

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From GENYOUth to Gen-Z, dairy checkoff’s strategic integration game revealed

In what was billed as a “National Dairy Month” zoom news conference May 26, Gen Z was the focus as DMI activated its new thing: ‘strategic integration.’ Speaking were clockwise from top left, Scott Wallin, VP Industry Media Relations; Anne Warden, Exec. VP Strategic Integration; Barb O’Brien, DMI President; Jordan Maron (aka Captain Sparklez), popular Minecraft gamer; Nevin Lemos, Gen Z California dairy producer.

Who plays? Who pays? Who wins?

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, May 28, 2021

ROSEMONT, Ill. — Strategic integration. Gen Z Gamers. Point of origin for innovation. Dairy-‘based’ positioning. Virtual authenticity. Over a decade of planning.

My head is spinning after a DMI press conference this week on three new “activations” for June Dairy Month in the digital world of video games, including “Beat the Lag,” a gamer-recipe contest and the integration of Fuel Up to Play 60 into the virtual world of video gaming exercise.

Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) has been on a 12- to 13-year path to streamline, dilute, blend and innovate dairy with a focus squarely on Gen Z since 2008 in the schools, now integrating rapidly into the digital spaces where dairy checkoff leaders say Gen Z is changing the world of marketing for companies globally.

According to DMI, Gen Z is not interested in facts like vitamins and minerals. They want to know how foods and beverages will make them feel.

On the other hand, DMI leaders described Gen Z as “very capable of discovering facts,” of “looking deeper” for “authenticity” and “relatability,” that when communicating with Gen Z “you want to be really factual and transparent and tap into the emotions that they care about.”

(The paradox of virtual authenticity is hard to overlook.)

Taking center stage at DMI’s Undeniably Dairy website (usdairy.com) was the Beat the Lag Gen Z gamer competition in which this photo is the recipe contest centerpiece from which DMI will glean pathways to “launch future dairy innovations.” That tiny sprinkle of cheese makes this a dairy-based snack, says DMI in a special National Dairy Month media conference by zoom on May 26. usdairy.com screenshot

Dairy-based or ‘sprinkled’ is the future, some cheese on a pizza or snack. Butter in a cookie, splash of milk in a smoothie, a bit of cream added to a soda, a half ultrafiltered low-fat milk / half almond beverage blend. A little here, a little there. Don’t confuse or interrupt DMI’s ‘strategic integration’ flow by talking about having a glass of whole milk or a piece of cheese. DMI’s website has a few posts lately talking about how blending is the future of dairy — tailor-made for flexitarian messaging in the confusing and not-quite-factual climate-impact comparisons and discussion.

It’s all about innovation of new products, integrating (and diluting) milk as a component of beverages. Looking deeper, it’s really all about increasing margins for processors beyond the farmgate in the ramped up $100 billion dollar global “functional beverage” space, also known as ‘designer beverages.’

Gen Z has been DMI’s target for over a decade as the gateway, the point of origin for how strategic integration innovation will be accomplished with dairy farmer checkoff funds.

Anne Warden, executive vice president of Strategic Integration for DMI spoke in the zoom press conference May 26, explaining how DMI has been “focusing on the youth audience ever since making its commitment to USDA on school nutrition (in 2008).”

In fact, in a May 25, 2021 blog post by Warden, she talks about the future of dairy in schools, that Gen Z wants flashy packaging, unique combinations and sustainable dispensers.

According to Warden, Gen Z is the generation DMI has been working on since the launch of Fuel Up to Play 60, which was followed by the formation of GENYOUth and the signing of the memorandum of understanding (MOU) with USDA under Secretary Tom Vilsack in that 2008-10 time period.

This is the very same time period in which the option of whole milk as a beverage choice was removed from schools, even in the Smart Snacks rules governing ala carte beverage purchases and vending machines – paving the way for strategic integration. Put some milk in that soda, maybe? (That will make sense in a few minutes).

Last fall, Farmshine reported on the “partnering” DMI did with Gen Z ‘gamers’ in the popular Minecraft game, which included three dairy farms hosting three gamers to see how dairies operate. But the partnership that is now moving into integration warp-speed through three June Dairy Month “activations” has been years in the making.

Warden was hired by DMI in May of 2019 to head the strategic integration. Prior to that date, she spent three years at Edelman with DMI’s strategic integration as her primary project for Edelman. Warden’s resume at Linked-In notes DMI as one of Edelman’s largest and most integrated services clients.

This means ‘strategic integration’ — courtesy of all-knowing Edelman — has been underway at DMI for more than 5 years. Have we ever heard of it before now? No, because this is what the ‘precompetitive’ Innovation Center works on, where future strategies are decided upon via DMI’s ‘industry partners’ and quietly implemented with dairy farmer dollars.

Warden laid out the rationale for the three activations aimed at using Gen Z’s “love of video games to capture their attention and show how dairy products fit well within their gaming occasions during the day.”

DMI president Barb O’Brien stressed the point that DMI is looking at gaming as a platform with the objectives of communication and “research.”

“The work that’s coming through now with new product concepts, make this a consumer research method to understand where Gen Z will place their dollars in considering new products,” O’Brien related. “So it’s fantastic. (Gaming) is a channel, an occasion and a communications vehicle. It’s all about contemporizing how we do the work of the checkoff. It is the new advertising. Television is one-way. This is interactive.”

(Authentic, relatable, interactive content is deemed the key to communicating with Gen Z in a virtual digital world of gaming to bring forth new products. Let that paradox sink in.)

One of three activations discussed was “Beat the Lag.”

Lag is a term used to describe the frustration that happens when a video game’s graphics won’t load fast enough so the gamer has to wait (like the frustration of your computer screen freezing). DMI is taking that concept, partnering with Jordan Maron, known as Captain Sparklez to his 11 million followers to address “human lag.”

Over the past six weeks (ending May 29), DMI has been running a gaming recipe conest through Maron, soliciting “dairy-based” snack, beverage and recipe ideas from his followers, what do they eat to ‘Beat the Lag?’

DMI wants Gen Z to bring the ideas. “We don’t want to tell them what to eat (or drink),” said Warden.

During the press conference Maron noted that he got involved when approached by DMI because he “eats a lot of dairy.”

“One of my favorite foods is pizza,” said Maron. “I’m an especially huge fan of drinks that have added milk or cream in them, like sodas with cream added… They’re delicious. I love them.”

(A splash of milk or cream in a soda is something that had a hey-day three generations ago. Apparently, it’s making a comeback.)

Maron talked about doing some focus group work for DMI on “new product innovations” last fall along with a virtual farm tour.

“Me, and a few people who are followers of mine, got together in a call, and DMI shared their ideas for products they want to roll out down the line,” said Maron. “We took it to my focus group of three people and then turned that into Instagram story slides I was able to share out with a wider range of followers, and they were able to give their feedback as to what products would interest them, that they would buy or eat in the future.”

Maron said he hoped that his focus group gave DMI “some good insight.”

The press conference moderator, Scott Wallin of DMI, promptly steered away from the product innovation revelation and brought the conversation back to the farm tours and sustainability, saying DMI hopes to show Gen Z gamers the dairy story through Captain Sparklez and others.

Wallin introduced Gen Z dairy farmer Nevin Lemos of California. The 24-year-old fourth generation dairyman started his own 400-cow Jersey herd on a rented farm near his family’s dairy at the age of 20. Lemos admitted he doesn’t have much time for gaming over the past 10 years as his time and passion are spent working his dairy business.

Lemos observed that Gen Z is a generation able to “look behind the façade, to look deeper.”

Calling Gen Z a “savvy audience,” Warden said they exist almost entirely in the digital world, moving between multiple devices and media platforms daily, with 90% of Gen-Zers gaming.

They are aware of what companies are doing for good – beyond making money — and will turn away from products that “don’t match their values and their desire for authenticity,” said Warden, emphasizing Gen Z’s interest to know what companies are doing for the environment.

“We’re going to make sure farmers they can relate to (like Lemos) are showing up in their social media feeds to tell that story,” she said.

Gen Z gamer Maron talked about what it was like last fall to do the virtual farm tour with Gen Z dairyman Lemos, seeing how cows live and are fed and having one named after him: Sparklez.

The activation of DMI’s “Beat the Lag” is aimed at more than sustainability, said Warden, it is to “help re-position milk and dairy to meet Gen Z’s wellness needs.

“It’s about balance,” she continued. “Gen Z is less interested in the particulars of vitamins and minerals in their food or beverage. They are more interested in what that food is going to do for their bodies, how it is going to make them feel.”

Warden said DMI’s research shows that, “Some of dairy’s biggest opportunities with Gen Z are positioning as a food that will sustain their energy throughout the day or let them feel relaxed and recharged while doing the things that they love.”

“Beat the Lag” is themed around “dairy-based foods and beverages giving gamers an energy boost or a tasty pick-me-up after a long stretch of gaming,” said Warden. “We’re not going to tell them what to eat, we’re letting Jordan Maron (Captain Sparklez) and Rosanna Pansino, a gamer and culinary influencer, get gamers suggesting the ideas in ways they can relate to.”

Maron talked about ‘gamer fuel up’ youtube videos he did with Pansino, one being pizza pockets (with cheese).

“This is a contest, and when the (Beat the Lag) contest is all wrapped up, we’ll look at the recipes submitted,” he said, indicating that the winners will be shown in stages through the Minecraft game and win gaming prizes.

In addition to pizza pockets, other snack recipe ideas at the usdairy.com website under “Game On” and “Beat the Lag” include a bowl of vegetables and avocados, with the tiniest sprinkling of grated cheese. A demonstration is posted there also for making “Pixel Jam Heart” cookies. 

During the videos, Maron and Pansino talk about the contest suggesting smoothies, dips, protein drinks and things made with yogurt as ideas for creative contest submissions.

DMI’s O’Brien said: “This is today’s new form of advertising. It’s an opportunity to set the record straight on the nutritional side (vs. major advertising in all venues by plant-based dairy alternatives.)”

She said this avenue allows for “the exchange of factual information,” but was quick to point out that those nutrition facts “are not what is driving Gen Z’s choices.”

Bottom line? The virtual digital world of Gen Z gamers is, according to DMI president O’Brien, “the forum for putting forward innovation, for putting forward innovative products that are relevant to today’s lifestyle. We will be leading with products that are designed for gamers, by gamers, we know will have a much bigger appreciation beyond just gamers…

“We’ll see those products at retail. We’ll see those products at traditional foodservice. This is the point of origin for that innovation, and the inspiration,” she stated matter-of-factly.

There’s a lot to digest here, pieces of a dairy transformation agenda funded by farmers through checkoff. It’s important to know what checkoff dollars are doing in the integration phase of a 12 to 13 year plan to join the milk-disruptors with dairy-based innovations, now putting Gen Z gamers virtually in charge of how DMI’s products that are ready to roll down the line, come to market.

Meanwhile, a Hartman Group survey recently showed Gen Z prefers fast food and familiar tastes with a much lower attention paid to local, fresh products than prior generations. It’s no wonder. This generation has been worked over by PepsiCo, Domino’s, Sodexo, General Mills, brought into schools by USDA via the MOU marriage of low-fat / high-carb Dietary Guidelines and low-fat / high-carb promotion through Dairy Checkoff’s ‘school wellness foundation’ GENYOUth.

In this game, the obvious questions are: Who plays? Who pays? And who wins? 

After that trip into virtual authenticity, I need a tall cold glass of real whole milk to relax and recharge.

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‘Got milk, PA? Ag Sec awards $400,000 Farm-to-School, but where’s the milk?

PA Farm Bill Farm-to-School education grants aim to bridge the gap between children and the food system by connecting them to the fresh, healthy food available from Pennsylvania agricultural producers in their community and the surrounding areas. The 39 grants announced April 30th, totaling $400,000 for 2020-21, and they are thin on real dairy even though real dairy is 37% of Pennsylvania’s agricultural economy. Composite image by Sherry Bunting

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, May 14, 2021

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Increasing childhood nutrition and agricultural awareness is the stated purpose of $400,000 in grant awards made recently as part of the Pennsylvania Farm Bill.

On April 30th, Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding announced 39 Farm to School grants of up to $15,000 each “to improve access to healthy, local foods and increase agricultural awareness opportunities for children pre-kindergarten through fifth grade.”

The trouble is, among the 39 projects receiving the total of $400,000, dairy is not mentioned, even though the Secretary recently confirmed when asked by state senators that dairy accounts for 37% of the Commonwealth’s agricultural backbone.

(As reported in Farmshine April 23, the Secretary also evaded Senate questions about legalizing whole milk as a simple choice for children in Pennsylvania schools, citing instead that the Dietary Guidelines maintain three servings of dairy a day and that the industry should focus on all the dairy products in school meals.)

“The children of today are the future of Pennsylvania agriculture,” said Redding in a press release announcing the $400,000 in Farm to School grants that are part of the PA Farm Bill’s 2020-21 budget cycle.

“Reviewing these 39 projects, and their goals to invest in programming that not only improves childhood nutrition but gives them opportunities for first-hand agricultural experiences to grow their knowledge and awareness, I see a bright future for the industry that feeds Pennsylvania,” Redding stated.

According to the Pa. Department of Agriculture statements, this grant program “aims to enrich the connection communities have with fresh, healthy food and local producers by changing food purchasing and education at schools and early childhood education sites.”

Any school district, charter school or private school with pre-kindergarten classes, kindergarten, or elementary through fifth grade was eligible to apply.

This week, Farmshine questioned the Pa. Department of Agriculture about the glaring absence of milk in the list of 39 grants awarded. Most of the grants involved school gardens and were tied to local produce grown in Pennsylvania. Some were projects linking to local poultry and eggs.

Dairy and beef were not mentioned at all. The only (not really) dairy reference in the Department’s press release was a grant to the Dubois Area School District in conjunction with Danone North America.

Before thinking Danone represents dairy in this case, think again.

Dubois is home to Danone’s flagship plant-based dairy-free alternative ‘yogurt’, ‘cheese’ and powdered ‘nutritional’ beverage plant.

In fact, Danone’s 180,000 square foot facility on 24 acres of the former airport in Clearfield County is the largest plant-based dairy-alternative plant in the United States.

At the 2019 ribbon-cutting ceremony for Danone’s multi-million-dollar plant-based expansion, the facility’s director, Chad Stone, highlighted “flexitarian” eating patterns as “people are interested in lessening their impact on the environment through diet.”

This plant-based “environmental” theme is already being pushed into school curricula and school foodservice at the national level (see related article in this edition of Farmshine).

In the Pa. Department of Agriculture’s response to our questions about the Farm to School grants lacking dairy, spokesperson Shannon Powers replied to identify five of the 39 grants as “including a dairy component in their application.”

One of the five she highlighted is the Clearfield County grant of $14,985 to the Dubois Area School District for “experiential learning and curricula” that includes “life on a dairy farm” via a field trip to a dairy farm (Kennis Farm was identified in the application). Powers also identified Danone as “a major dairy producer” but indicated that this grant provides experiential learning and curricula through the Danone facility in Dubois “that produces plant-based foods and beverages.”

Instead of using real local milk to make real yogurt, cheese and nutritional beverage powders, this Danone plant specializes in bringing in almonds, coconuts and cashews to make dairy substitutes as a so-called means of reducing “environmental impact” with new “choices” on grocery shelves.

(It’s hard to imagine how the almonds, cashews and coconuts listed in the Vega Protein, So Delicious and Silk brand yogurt, cheese and powder made at the Dubois plants could be locally-grown in Pennsylvania, a top-10 real dairy milk-producing state that is admittedly in ‘search’ of more dairy processing capability).

As for the other four Farm to School grants the Department identified in an email response as containing a dairy component, they are as follows:

In Erie County, a grant for $15,000 to the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants will do an experiential learning project that includes a dairy field trip.

In Lawrence County, the LCSS Healthy Start Micro Farm Project received $10,000 for a project that includes the purchase of local cheeses and other foods along with a school garden to supply the school kitchen.

In Lackawanna County, a grant of $3,356 to the Bright Future Learning Center was awarded to distribute Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) boxes to preschool children and includes farm field trips. The application noted that fresh local milk would be included in the CSA produce boxes.

In Tioga and Bradford counties, a $15,000 grant was awarded to Stepping Stones Preschool and includes a field trip to a dairy farm to learn about the cheese-making process.

“The PA Farm Bill’s Farm to School grants are awarded to schools and other educational entities to foster early interest in and exposure to agriculture careers and to encourage students to consume fresh, locally-produced foods and develop healthy eating habits,” writes Powers in her Pa. Department of Agriculture response to Farmshine’s questions.

She notes that while dairy is not specifically mentioned in applicants’ proposals, “dairy destinations and themes are included among field trips, and dairy is part of curricula schools develop with grant funds.”

Dairy products are already “virtually always among PA-produced foods served in schools but getting locally-sourced produce into school lunch programs is a greater challenge,” Powers as Pa. Dept. of Agriculture spokesperson stated.

While dairy has been a predominantly ‘local’ product in schools over the years, today, local dairy’s position in Pennsylvania schools is waning. A good example is the removal of the choice of whole milk from schools in 2010 when the federal government tied school lunches more closely to USDA’s flawed Dietary Guidelines.

The most local dairy product available to any school is whole milk. Instead, today, with only fat-free and 1% low-fat milks permitted in schools, and a complex set of rules for meals to mandatorily conform to Dietary Guidelines, large foodservice companies – including PepsiCo – promise ‘guaranteed compliant’ meals and beverages, and schools are moving toward this type of sourcing.

In fact, the beverages students purchase after discarding fat-free and 1% low-fat milk are anything but local or nutritious, but they meet USDA government guidelines because they contain no fat and are formulated with high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweetener combinations to meet calorie thresholds.

According to the Pa. Department of Agriculture, there were 57 applicants for this second round of Farm to School grants. The Farm to School grants were created under the 2019 PA Farm Bill and were funded again in 2020 and proposed for re-funding in the Governor’s 2021-22 budget.

When asked about grant applications that were denied, Powers replied: “Applicants not awarded grants did not meet the criteria or submitted incomplete applications. None of those applications included a dairy element.”

Our questions to the Center for Dairy Excellence, asking if they were aware of any Farm to School grants applications that involved curricula to highlight dairy or connect schools with local dairy, were not immediately answered; however, the Pa. Department of Agriculture in its response was quick to point out its other programs for dairy, as follows:

“The PA Dairy Investment Program in 2019 and Dairy Indemnity Program in 2020 are examples of state funding that has been available exclusively for dairy producers,” writes Powers. “In addition, the PA Farm Bill and Ag research grants include research dollars devoted to developing healthy, economical feed and bedding and controlling disease; conservation dollars to help improve soil and water quality and ensure future productivity; an Agricultural Business Development Center to help connect farmers with funding, grant resources, transition planning and a host of other support that benefits all Pennsylvania producers, including dairy.”

Powers also mentioned “Preferential tax programs like Clean & Green, REAP, Beginning Farmer Tax Credits, and a number of grants from other departments, including the departments of Environmental Protection and Community & Economic Development are available to dairy farmers” and reminds dairy producers seeking financial and planning resources from the state and private partners to “contact the PA Agricultural Business Development Center or the Center for Dairy Excellence, another state-funded entity created specifically to support the needs of PA dairy farmers.”

In a nutshell, the Department of Agriculture views dairy products in schools as already being local and is focusing Farm to School grants on getting other local products, especially produce, into schools. The Department was quick to identify a handful of the 39 Farm to School grants that will include a dairy farm field trip component. One grant the Department highlighted includes experiential learning by visiting a dairy farm and then visiting a plant-based alternative dairy replacement processing facility. And, the Department believes it is providing considerable financial and resource help to dairy farmers to improve their sustainability and to diversify or “transition.”

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DMI’s NZI DS4G eyes climate policies, supply chain partners in net zero fastlane: but who gets the carbon credits?

Author’s Note: This is part two in a multi-part series about DMI’s Net Zero Initiative and Dairy Scale for Good implementation. Part one previously covered some of the 12- to 13-year history as well as the ‘scale’ approach for getting the industry to net zero faster. 

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, April 30, 2021

ROSEMONT, Ill. — The official launch of DMI’s Net Zero Initiative (NZI) in October 2020, and World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) dairy net zero case study published in January 2021 (and corrected in February for a math error that overestimated the industry’s total CO2 equivalent emissions) are two of the mile-markers in farm visits and partnership development since Caleb Harper was hired by checkoff in May 2020 as executive director of Dairy Scale for Good (DS4G).

In those 11 months, Harper reports visiting 100 dairy farms representing over 500,000 cows in 17 states, processing 350 manure samples, and gathering over 8000 ‘data points.’

Earlier this month, Harper, along with Dr. Mike McCloskey, presented a “value proposition” for the dairy industry during a Balchem real science lecture about ‘net zero carbon emissions implementation on the farm.’

McCloskey of Fair Oaks Farm, Fairlife and Select Milk Producers has chaired the DMI Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy’s Sustainability Initiative since inception 12 to 13 years ago.

In short, DS4G pilots are setting up through “sponsorships” from large dairy-buying partners on large farms within their own supply chains. DMI’s former MOU sustainability partner, the WWF, makes the case in its report that “achieving net zero for large farms is possible with the right practices, incentives and policies within five years (by reducing) emissions in enteric fermentation, manure management, feed production and efficiency, and energy generation and use.”

“This value proposition for dairy cuts two ways,” said Harper. Farms of 2500 cows or more can go toward digesters tied to renewable fuel production, while farms 2500 cows and fewer can move toward a digester model that handles food waste, receives tipping fees and generates electricity.

Both models will depend on a combination of government subsidies, low carbon renewable fuel standards, electrification of the U.S., supply chain sponsorship and sale of resulting carbon-credits, according to information presented by Harper and McCloskey.

NZI aligns with climate policies announced and anticipated from the Biden administration, which mirrors what is coming out of the United Nations’ Food Summit, and World Economic Forum (WEF) Great Reset.

WWF has long been tied closely with WEF setting a global agenda and with the World Resources Institute (WRI) that evaluates science-based targets for companies making net zero commitments to “transform” food and agriculture.

“Innovative models are just now starting to bear fruit,” said Harper, citing McCloskey as a forerunner of “building out” the anaerobic digester concept.

For his part, McCloskey said they “counted on incentives” back in 2008 to be able to grow and “be the catalyst.” He talked about a future sustained by marketing the new products created as substitutes for fossil fuels, mined fertilizers and other products, as well as continuing to take in other carbon sources instead of landfills.

“We have the vision to set this all up, to perfect the technology and get it cheaper… so when we’re all doing the same things, incentives won’t be needed,” said McCloskey looking 10 to 20 years down the road when he sees this “surviving on its own.”

Harper described distributive models from the WWF report. One “being born” in California incorporates separate large scale dairies in a cluster – up to 20 or 30 farms within a 20-mile radius — each with its own digester that can “drop compressed methane into a transmission line to a centralized gas cleaning facility.” In this model, dairies either have a manure or land lease contract or an equity position in the operation.

This model, he said, relies on “societal values of green energy.”

Another distributive model being born in Wisconsin is described as a central digester with adjacent gas cleaning and upgrading. In this model, the manure from multiple farms is sent to the centralized digester by pipe or truck.

“These dairy clusters become ‘green’ clusters,” Harper elaborated. “So, it’s not just about the milk. They become a primary source of green energy inside of a state or nation.”

Food waste co-digestion is part of a different DS4G model driven by states adopting regulatory policy to keep organic material out of landfills. Harper said dairy farms can take advantage of such policies by centralizing waste collection for co-digestion.

“As we think about reducing emissions… a big part of that is bringing things grown off farm on farm, destroying their greenhouse gas potential, and taking credit for that ‘sink,’” Harper explained. 

However, in this example, the co-digestion is what gives the dairy its carbon credits, so technology that can handle higher waste-to-manure ratios and state / local regulations allowing farms to handle the off-farm waste are necessary. Such details were not discussed by Harper, and are presumed to be what large scale dairy pilots address.

The WWF case study showed bottom line profit and loss of $500,000 annually for a 3500-cow dairy. Harper believes this is a “conservative” estimate based on electricity production. With the right policies in place, the renewable natural gas value proposition would produce higher returns, according to Harper.

The renewable natural gas market will still be building over the next five to 10 years, he said, so these models also rely on renewable fuel credits and other fixtures they expect to be part of the Biden administration’s climate policies.

Manure handling technologies apart from the digesters were also discussed, which according to the WWF case study, represent one-third of both emissions-reduction and income potential.

Harper is actively engaged in studying the differing chemical profiles of manure between farms, regions, and states — saying he wants to “understand manure” — with and without digester.

Looking at scale, Harper talked about adapting municipal human waste treatment systems for processing manure on large dairies. He highlighted what is called the “omni processor” — a Bill Gates investment to separate small scale municipal waste and create drinking water using a spindle with multiple discs heated to where nonvolatile solids are in the dry matter and the rest are captured as they volatize.

One “off the shelf technology” Harper is focusing on is already in use to produce discharge quality water. It is the membrane system of ultrafiltration (UF) and reverse osmosis (RO) — the same UF RO technology McCloskey pioneered in milk processing to remove water from milk for transport and refine elements for value-added products.

Stressing the large amount of water in dairy manure, Harper said UF RO “is a process designed exactly for de-watering.” Whether this process occurs before or after the digester, he said it is part of “the technology train, so whatever you are tagging onto is working more efficiently, processing less water and more nutrients and refining more things to find value in.”

All of these technologies, according to Harper, can build on each other and tie together with “electrifying” the United States, strengthening low carbon renewable fuel standards, adopting renewable fertilizer standards, and monetizing carbon. 

One unsettled aspect in this regard, however, appears on page 9 of the WWF case study and was not mentioned by McCloskey or Harper in their presentation. 

What happens to farmers when their carbon reductions and removals become part of the supply chain in which they sell their milk, or are sold to companies as part of a milk contract?

The WWF report makes this observation: “There could be significant interest from large dairy buyers in reducing embedded carbon in their products by purchasing value-added carbon ‘insets’ directly from farmers or cooperatives within their supply chains. Were companies to work closely with the dairy industry to advance these initiatives and enable greater GHG reductions, they could potentially use these measures toward meeting their own reduction targets … and incentivize dairies to embrace net zero practices through long-term contracts or other purchase or offtake agreements.”

That’s an aspect of the tens of millions of dollars in dairy pilot partnerships pledged by Nestle, Starbucks and potentially others for their own supply chains through DMI’s NZI DS4G.

WWF explains further in its report that, “Such agreements could provide stability and collateral as dairies consider investing in technology like anaerobic digesters. Some of these companies might even be interested in finding ways to bundle and purchase carbon credits produced on dairy farms where they buy milk.”

Such incentives, contracts and bundling – starting with DS4G pilots — leave dairy farms exactly where in the supply chain?

The WWF report states it this way: “Such purchases would shift the emissions reductions from the farmer to the company. This would result in the dairy essentially selling the credits that would enable its net zero status, as the emissions reductions cannot be double counted. 

“So, if the reductions are sold, the farmer can no longer be considered net-zero. This is a conundrum that is beyond the scope of this paper,” the WWF report admits.

This important detail in the NZI DS4G implementation was not mentioned by Harper or McCloskey.

Meanwhile, these initiatives also rely on climate policy, with former DMI executive Tom Vilsack now having crossed back over into government as U.S. Ag Secretary just 20 months after seeking pilot farm funding and Net Zero target policies when he testified before the Senate Ag Committee in June of 2019 while employed by checkoff as CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council.

President Joe Biden has said USDA is a key department in his administration’s climate action policies.

To be continued

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Empowering dairy farmers: knowledge, tools, ideas shared

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, April 2021

GORDONVILLE, Pa. — Empowerment. One word with power in it.

“I got to thinking about introducing this session and thought everyone knows what empowerment means, right? Give power. But then I looked up the opposite of empowerment,” said Kristine Ranger, a consultant in Michigan working with farms and writing and evaluates grants. She traveled to Gordonville, Pennsylvania  with National Dairy Producers Organization board member Joe Arens to the farm of Mike Eby, NDPO chairman, for the ‘Empowering dairy farmers’ barn meeting Friday, April 23, 2021.

What is the opposite of empowerment?

“Here are the words in the dictionary,” said Ranger. “Disallow, forbid, hinder, inhibit, preclude, prevent and prohibit. Have any of you been experiencing any of that as you try to build a livelihood with your dairy farms?”

Good question.

From there, the daylong barn meeting moved headlong into weighty topics, but stayed focus on the positive concept of encouraging producer involvement in seeking accountability and transparency in the systems that govern dairy.

Although the sunshine and spring planting kept in-person attendance low, the event was livestreamed on visual and audio with producers listening in from all over.

Traveling from Michigan to the Lancaster County, Pennsylvania farm of Mike Eby (center) for an ’empowering’ farmers meeting were Joe Arens (left), NDPO board member and Kristine Ranger, a knowledge consultant working with farms. Ranger worked with Eby to secure a grant for the in-person meeting and multi-media production. In addition to serving as NDPO (National Dairy Producers Organization) chairman, Eby is executive director of Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM), represents the south district on the PA Farmers Union board and is a member of the Grassroots PA Dairy Advisory Committee collaborating with 97 Milk education efforts.

A thought that kept surfacing in this reporter’s mind listening to the panel of speakers was this: The longer something goes uninterrupted, the more vulnerable it is to become corrupted.

In fact, it tied in directly with Arens’ personal account following Gary Genske on the program. Arens urged producers to look at annual reports and ask questions. “That’s what NDPO is all about, to support your efforts to get to the cooperative boards of directors about what they should be doing at the co-op level,” said Arens, a member of the NDPO board for two years.

“Members own the milk. Members have the power, but the whole thing has been tipped upside down,” said Arens.

“We need to do something to change this,” said Arens. “Get in front of your board members… They are talking about expanding plants, not talking about producer price. Their one and only responsibility is that price on the milk check settlement statement.”

“If producers do not hold their co-ops accountable, then silence is your consent,” said Genske, a certified public accountant since 1974 based in California with a dairy in New Mexico.

He kicked things off at the barn meeting, presenting details about the roles and responsibilities of cooperatives, boards and members. He shared his insights into improving dairy farm milk prices.

Genske is a longtime member of the NDPO board. He highlighted the marketing concepts of 100% USA seal for milk and dairy products, returning to the true standards for fat and components in beverage milk that are still used today in California, and moving toward aligning milk production with profitable demand.

Gary Genske was the kickoff panelist, presenting virtually from his office in California.

The Genske Mulder firm does the financial statements for 2500 dairy farms each year and 10,000 farm tax returns annually. He sees the numbers and knows the deal.

Walking attendees through the various aspects of USDA regulation and the Capper Volstead Act, Genske gave producers the tools and encouragement to accept their responsibilities as cooperative members.

In October, he had a successful lawsuit in Kansas City. After requesting documents from the cooperative in which he is a member, and being denied or provided documents that were mostly redacted, he took the issue to court.

After a two-day hearing, the judge ruled in Genske’s favor on his request for documents, as a cooperative member, with a stated purpose.  

In short, Genske said, “We have to put people in the position of taking care of the members… We want to cull cows not dairy farmers.”

Bernie Morrissey, chairman of the Grassroots PA Dairy Advisory Committee talked after lunch about the 97 Milk effort when farmers empowered themselves to market whole milk, since no one else was; and all kinds of prohibiting, hindering, forbidding, preventing and precluding had been going on regarding whole milk availability and promotion.

“This is it,” said Bernie Morrissey. “The dairy farmers made me successful, so this is me giving back.” He talked about the whole milk education effort and the push to legalize whole milk choice in schools. If ever there was an example of the opposite of ’empower’, it would be the treatment of whole milk by industry and government, especially since 2008. The steep decline in fluid milk sales from 2010-2018 is starting to stabilize as consumers and policymakers are getting the message. Each step is hard work.

“It started with Nelson Troutman who painted the first round bale, just like that sign: Drink Whole Milk 97% Fat Free,” said Morrissey pointing to the large banners and holding up the Drink Whole Milk School Lunch Choice Citizens for Immune Boosting Nutrition yard signs.

With a joint effort underway now for a little over two years – working to educate lawmakers and consumers about whole milk, and pushing efforts to legalize whole milk choice in schools — Morrissey said “It’s working. Things are happening.”

With the FMMO map on the screen behind him, Dick Bylsma of NFO talked about the history, purpose and hot FMMO topics of the day. He said the most empowering tool a dairy producer can have is the right to vote on milk order changes, instead of being bloc-voted by the cooperative.

Dick Bylsma of National Farmers Organization (NFO) traveled from Indiana to brief producers on joint efforts between NFO, Farmers Union and Farm Bureau to empower dairy farmers by getting their individual votes back in Federal Order hearings. He traced the history of Federal Milk Marketing Orders, and the genesis of bloc voting at a time in history when there were hundreds of thousands of farmers and communication was slow.

“It’s time to end bloc voting,” said Bylsma, and he laid out some of the efforts underway around that proposition, also highlighting the purpose of the Federal Orders.

These are just some fast highlights from a day of deep learning. More from these speakers and additional speakers on co-op involvement, systems accountability, checkoff reforms and referendums, and other empowering topics — including more from Genske about ending the silence and exercising rights and responsibilities with communication tools that work for cooperative members — will be published in a future edition.

Similar in-person meetings recently encouraged producers in Michigan and northern Indiana, said Ranger.

For dairy producers who are interested in knowing more, want to get involved, but aren’t sure how, NDPO chairman Mike Eby suggests joining in on the NDPO weekly national Tuesday night call at 8:00 p.m. eastern time at 712-775-7035 Pin 330090#. Every dairy producer in America has a standing invitation.

To hear past calls and learn more, click here

To view a video or listen to a recording of the empowerment meeting, click here

Look for more in a future edition of Farmshine.

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From DMI to NZI to DS4G: Harper, McCloskey explain how scale will drive dairy to net zero

Author’s Note: This is part one in a multi-part series about DMI’s Dairy Scale for Good piece of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy’s Net Zero Initiative.

By Sherry Bunting, updated from publication in Farmshine, April 23, 2021

ROSEMONT, Ill. — “Looking at the past 50 years of impressive achievement, everything ladders up to milk efficiency. It’s less land. It’s less manure. It’s less water and less carbon, but it’s all about that milk,” said Caleb Harper, executive director of the Dairy Scale for Good (DS4G) piece of the DMI Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy’s Net-Zero Initiative (NZI).

“For the next 50 years, what if it was all about everything other than the milk. As we continue to advance toward yield of milk… you’ll start to see a rise in the importance of everything else,” said Harper, posing a “value proposition” for the dairy industry.

Harper, along with Dr. Mike McCloskey, of Fair Oaks Farm, Fairlife and Select Milk Producers, talked about NZI and DS4G in an online Balchem ‘real science lecture series’ earlier this month. McCloskey is an officer on the board of National Milk Producers Federation and has chaired the DMI Innovation Center’s Sustainability Initiative since inception.

The future being created, according to Harper and McCloskey, is one of dairy being recognized as an “irreplaceable ecosystem asset — an environmental solution — inside a comprehensive management plan for emissions reduction inside of animal ag livestock.”

Citing the Nestle and Starbucks sponsorships and others coming on near term, Harper said the pilot projects associated with each company will be located in separate supply chains. The sponsorships are being made, he said, because these companies have made big commitments to reducing carbon.

“As checkoff, one of our limitations is the ability to do on-farm work, especially around technology acquisition or measurement, so we need these third-party dollars to come in and be the catalyst to get living laboratories set up,” Harper explained.

Before Harper’s presentation about how the Net Zero Initiative builds-out the ‘everything else’ pieces, McCloskey gave historical context about the birth of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy in 2007.

“The trajectory (since 1940) is just phenomenal when you lay out the statistics,” said McCloskey. “We came together – National Milk, DMI, USDEC – and had a great meeting of the minds (in 2007). We said this natural sustainability progress will continue, but we need to accelerate it and be catalytic in how we can become the organization to drive this at a faster speed to net-zero.”

According to McCloskey, 80% of the nation’s milk is represented at this NZI table, and the dairy industry is the one to “really come out of the gate on this.”

The whole value chain from distributors to processors to retailers and companies that create packaging (are represented), so we have a really good understanding of the entire value chain and can focus on how to eliminate carbon footprint to bring it to net-zero,” he said.

The baseline life-cycle assessments (LCA) were the first steps 10 to 13 years ago to figure out “exactly where” the carbon was coming from, and the April lecture discussion focused field to farm, noting that the processors have a separate working group looking post-farm through consumption.

McCloskey said the LCA categorized carbon in 4 areas:

1) Farming (feed production) practices
2) Manure management
3) Enteric emissions from cows
4) Energy intensity of the operation (including renewables)

“Once we knew where the carbon was coming from, we started initiatives to find processes and technologies to innovate and accelerate the process to net-zero even faster,” said McCloskey, explaining the heavy participation from companies serving on committees and through initiatives these past 13 years.

Then, a year and a half ago, “we committed to the term net-zero,” he said. “That was a big jump.”

This bit of history set the stage for Harper to talk about the part of the Net Zero Initiative he heads up: Dairy Scale for Good (DS4G).

Harper was hired by DMI last May for the DS4G position just weeks after exiting M.I.T.’s Media Lab April 30th, after his OpenAg Initiative there came under scrutiny and was quietly closed.

“Caleb is looking at the four areas and how we can take technologies and processes and innovate them into DS4G,” said McCloskey.

Harper noted that dairy and agriculture are not operating in a vacuum. He said the first “bold commitments” to net-zero time frames between now and 2050 were made by big tech companies like Facebook, Amazon, Google, followed by food brands, companies across the food value chain, and then the agricultural input sector.

Throughout his presentation, Harper referenced the Biden administration policies the work hinges on, using much of the same coordinated language that surfaces via the World Economic Forum Great Reset and United Nations Food Systems Summit and what is called “The Fourth Industrial Revolution” in which technology is already rapidly accelerating.

“We’re seeing a shift in philosophy and it’s being driven by all of these commitments,” said Harper, insisting that, “It’s being driven, of course, by consumers.”

He showed pre-Covid poll statistics from the Hartman group. One in particular noted that 88% of consumers surveyed “would like brands to help them be more environmentally friendly and ethical in their daily lives.”

“Dairy has made the commitment to being an environmental solution,” said Harper, which means becoming carbon neutral or better, optimizing water use while maximizing recycling, and improving water quality by optimizing utilization of manure and nutrients.

Three working groups or initiatives were formed within the field-to-farm Net Zero Initiative: 1) Research, analysis and modeling; 2) Viability study, which is DS4G headed by Harper; and 3) Adoption for collective impact.

The Adoption piece will distill and disseminate across the industry what is learned through research, modeling and Harper’s DS4G work.

It is all about driving consumer choices under this net-zero mantra. Industry consolidation also figures into this equation to “scale the process and drive out the risk,” said Harper.

Many of the numbers in Harper’s presentation were taken directly from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) white paper An Environmental and Economic Path Toward Net Zero Dairy Farm Emission.”

Harper cited environmental pressure and animal activism pressure on the U.S. dairy industry. He said: “This program (Dairy Net-Zero) is being supported by the World Wildlife Fund and others in the environmental space as a path towards a solution on all of these issues.”

Insisting that the Net Zero Initiative and DS4G operate with a “counter-balance” of environment and economics, the examples discussed by Harper included estimates for what producers may expect as returns for various environmental products and services.

Illustrating carbon footprint for a gallon of milk across all sectors from field to consumer, Harper and WWF maintain that the field-to-farm portion represents the largest potential (70%) for reducing CO2 equivalent emissions more than retail, consumption, processing and distribution combined. Harper said he sees this as work and opportunity. McCloskey had noted earlier that the processors have their own working group looking at emissions from farm to consumption.

The WWF white paper lays out the “business case” for the Net Zero Initiative, based on a 3500 cow dairy (a Fair Oaks site with 3000 milking and 500 dry). In fact, Harper’s DS4G work will exclusively pilot and model on dairies of this size.

“This is to make maximum impact on the supply of milk in the short-term,” he said. “If we look at the kind of consolidation going on in the industry, the herd sizes above 1000 cows are a small percentage of the total herd; however, (they account for) 55% of the milk production.”

Harper explained the DS4G concept this way:

“The idea is to use scale to address these (net-zero) issues so we can drive down the risk of adoption, the risk of market-building, the risk of technology… to bring that down to a level and spread it across the industry, across the milk.”

Walking through the technologies and processes that the checkoff-funded DS4G is “thinking about,” Harper indicated that this is “evolving”, and all revenue potential figures are “approximate”.

He mentioned a billion dollars of investment in digesters over the last few years from private equity funds, pension funds, and venture investors, with digesters representing — “rule of thumb” — one-third of the revenue potential of net-zero going forward. The new market opportunities driving that revenue potential, he said, are natural gas prices and the increasing value of the low-carbon renewable fuel credit price. The combination is what is attracting investors, according to Harper.

Harper said he has visited 100 dairy farms in 17 states in his first 11 months as the dairy-checkoff employee heading up DS4G. Of the dairies he has visited with more than 2500 cows, he said not one did not either have a digester or was breaking ground for a digester or in the process of planning a partnership around one.

He also talked about feed additives to address enteric emissions, cropping practices, and manure management technology, including ultrafiltration of manure as part of a “technology train” for the future. To be continued

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(Author’s Notes: The WWF Markets Institute released its dairy white paper Jan. 27, 2021. A mid-February Farmshine report revealed the WWF mathematical error that had inflated the magnitude of CO2 equivalent pounds contributed by all U.S. milk production. WWF on Feb. 25, 2021, corrected this baseline to show the much smaller collective impact of 268 billion pounds CO2 equivalent (not 2.3 trillion pounds). Both Harper and McCloskey serve on the WWF Market Institute’s Thought Leadership Group. Harper also served as a board member of New Harvest 2017-19, a global nonprofit building the field of cellular agriculture, funding startups to make milk, meat and eggs without animals. DMI confirms that dairy checkoff had an MOU with WWF from the inception of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy around 2008 through 2019. McCloskey has chaired the Innovation Center’s Sustainability Initiative since 2008. In 2008-09, two MOU’s were signed between DMI and USDA via former U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack — the Sustainability Initiative and GENYOUth. At the end of the Obama administration, Vilsack was hired by DMI dairy checkoff to serve as president and CEO of USDEC 2016-2021, and earlier this year he became Secretary of Agriculture again after President Joe Biden said Vilsack ‘practically wrote his rural platform and now he can implement it.” McCloskey and Harper also have another connection. According to the Sept. 2019 Chronicles of Higher Education, Caleb Harper’s father, Steve Harper, was a grocery executive. He was senior vice-president of marketing and fresh product development, procurement and merchandising from 1993 to 2010 for the H-E-B supermarket chain based in Texas. According to a 2020 presentation by Sue McCloskey, H-E-B was their first partner in the fluid milk business in the 1990s, followed by Kroger. According to the Houston Chronicle, the McCloskeys also partnered with H-E-B in 1996 to produce Mootopia ultrafiltered milk, an H-E-B brand. This was the pre-cursor to fairlife, the ultrafiltered milk beverage line in which DMI invested checkoff funds through the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy partnering with the McCloskeys, Select, and Coca Cola.)

Market Moos – Apr. 7, 2021

By Sherry Bunting, republished from Farmshine, April 9, 2021

Class III futures gain big,
Cl. IV modest, spread widens

CME Class III and IV milk futures made a strong turnaround last week and continued to rally higher this week — especially on the Class III where $19s returned to the board for May through August and new contract highs were set all the way across the board.

The big gains on Class III vs. smaller gains on Class IV widened the Class III / IV spread that is currently averaged to determine the Class I base price, which affects PPDs and de-pooling.

The spread between the 12-month averages expanded to $1.75 over the next 12 months, with May through September contracts showing the potential for a $2 to $4 spread between Class III and IV.

On Wed., April 7, Class III milk futures for the next 12 months averaged $18.43 — up 32 cents from last week and almost $1.00 higher than two weeks ago. (Additional gains were made through Fri., Apr. 9.)

Class IV milk futures for the next 12 months, on the other hand, averaged $16.68 on Wednesday — up just 8 cents from last week and 75 cents higher than two weeks ago

CME cheese, powder higher,
whey firm, butter melts off early gain

On the spot dairy product markets via the CME this week, cheese had big gains, powder put on a penny, whey stayed firm at last week’s higher levels, and butter advanced early before erasing the advance at midweek to be a fraction of a penny lower than a week ago.

By Wed., April 7, the 40-lb block cheddar price was pegged at $1.80/lb, up 6 cents from a week ago with 4 loads trading; 500-lb barrel cheddar was at $1.58/lb, up a full dime from a week ago with 3 loads changing hands.

Dry whey on the CME spot market remained firm at last week’s advance, pegged at 66 cents/lb again Wed., Apr. 7 with zero loads changing hands.

Butter gained its way to $1.83 by Tuesday before losing almost 2 pennies Wed., April 7 when 9 loads traded, and the CME spot price was pegged at $1.8150/lb — a fraction of a penny lower than the previous Wednesday’s spot butter price.

Nonfat dry milk gained a penny this week. On Wed., April 7, the spot price for Grade A NFDM was pegged at $1.1925/lb with 2 loads changing hands.

March protein question answered

Last week in this column, the March Class and Component prices announced by USDA last Wed., March 31 were reported, and the protein price at $2.6954/lb — down about 30 cents from February — seemed to be a “head-scratcher” given the fact that all end-product prices were higher, and the Class III, IV and II prices also ended up higher.

Reaching out to USDA questioning whether this was correct or a typo, here’s how a USDA source explained the interaction of the fat and skim as a sort of ‘snubber’ or offset for protein vs. fat when butter gains are larger than cheese gains in value in the wholesale market as reflected by by end-product pricing, with fat and skim yields applied. (There’s a story to this phenomena, stay tuned for another edition explaining the how and why this ‘snubber’ came to be.)

Meanwhile, USDA referred me to this formula for the protein price calculation on page 5 of the monthly Class and Components announcement:

Protein Price = ((Cheese Price – 0.2003) x 1.383) + ((((Cheese Price – 0.2003) x 1.572) – Butterfat Price x 0.9) x 1.17).

The USDA source explained in an email as follows:

“The protein price is a function of both the cheese price and the butter price. If you look at page 5 of the report ‘Announcement of Class and Component Prices’ for March 31, 2021, you will find the formula for the protein price. In that formula, you will note the use of both the cheese price, which is the weighted average of both block and barrels, and the butter price. Please note that the use of the butter price has a negative sign, i.e. as the butter price goes up everything else held the same, the protein price goes down. So, while both the cheese price and butter price went up; the increase in the butter price for March compared with the February price was much larger than the (increase for the) cheese price, so the protein price declined.”

The USDA explanation continues:

“The Class III skim milk price is down in March about 60 cents per cwt ($0.0060 per pound) when compared with February, i.e. using the lower protein price of about 30 cents per pound times 3.1 pounds plus a small increase of about 5 cents in the in the other solids price times 5.9 pounds results in the decline of about 60 cents per cwt ($0.0060) for the Class III skim milk price. The Class IV skim milk price in March is about unchanged, up 1 cent per cwt ($0.0001 per pound) as the nonfat dry milk price was up only $0.0005 per pound.

“Both the Class III and Class IV prices are equal to 96.5 pounds of skim milk times the skim milk price for each class plus 3.5 pounds of butter times the same butterfat price. So, with the Class III skim down 60 cents per cwt ($0.0060 per pound) but the butterfat price up $0.28 per pound. The Class III and Class IV prices both increase. The gain in Class IV was $0.99 per cwt while the Class III price was up 40 cents per cwt.”

USDA reports Feb. All Milk price at $17.10, DMC margin $6.22

February’s All Milk price was announced last week at $17.10 and based on an national average butterfat of 4.10%. This was 40 cents lower than the January All Milk price at the same time that feed costs went higher.

The combined result was a Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) margin for February announced this week at $6.22/cwt, the lowest since April and May 2020 when at the height of the Coronavirus pandemic shut down, the DMC margin was calculated at $6.03 and $5.37, respectively.

Letter signed by producers, groups, seeking remedy for failed Cl. I formula makes its way to NMPF / IDFA

On Federal Milk Market Order pricing — namely the failed change in how the base Class I price is formulated — National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) are at the table, according to U.S. House Ag Committee Ranking Member G.T. Thompson.

Sources indicate they are discussing various proposals and approaches. Meanwhile grassroots organizations representing dairy producers are continuing their almost weekly group conference calls and seeking a seat at that table.

Farmshine readers are aware that dairy producers from across the U.S., along with many state dairy associations and the American Dairy Coalition, came together in early March to compose a letter to NMPF and IDFA, addressing the impact of massive depooling in relation to large negative PPDs for dairy farmers across the U.S.

The letter specifically identifies the change in how the Class I base price is calculated, which NMPF and IDFA put forward, Congress passed in the 2018 Farm Bill, and USDA implemented in May 2019. The letter, signed by hundreds of producers and many producer organizations, will be officially sent to NMPF and IDFA by the end of this week (April 9), according to the ADC.

Specifically, the Farm Bill language states that the Class III / IV averaging method + 74 cents – instead of the previous “higher of” method – was to be implemented in 2-year periods. This suggests we are now at the point in time where something can be done to adjust this formula before the next 2-year period of implementation begins.

Meanwhile, dairy economists are being featured in webinars, zoom conferences and other venues to explain and ‘educate’ producers on PPDs, what impacts them, and how other aspects of Federal Milk Marketing Order pricing formulas, rules and provisions all work. All of it has become a hot topic since the new Class I formula implemented May 2019 leaves in its wake over $700 million in NET losses on Class I value, alone over 23 months, and upwards of $3 billion when negative PPDs and depooling are factored in.

While the change assisted in the idea of risk management for milk buyers, it has introduced significant and costly basis risk for milk producers, interfering with producer risk management tools, and has led to staggering net value losses by most dairy producers over 23 months since implementation, also undermining the purpose of the FMMOs with regard to the orderly marketing to assure milk moves to Class I fluid milk use.

Education is good. Solutions are better. Remember, the selling point to Congress for making the Class I formula change from ‘higher of’ to average + 74 cents in the 2018 Farm Bill was that dairy producers would be “held harmless”… Instead, they are being robbed. Stay tuned.

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Transformative words, policies, what will they mean for farms, families?

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, April 9, 2021 (expanded)

Resilience and Equity are the two words of the year when it comes to almost every legislative policy discussion and presidential executive order, and filtering down through the briefings given to members of organizations by those who represent them, walking the halls of Congress.

Great words. Great ideals. But a little thin on definition.

That’s par for the course on many of the terms used in the USDA press release announcing the newly-named programs under USDA from stimulus legislation — Pandemic Assistance for Producers (PAP) — as well as details on the held funds for 2020’s CFAP 2.

It is difficult to make sense of much of the language in the press release because of terms thrown about and not defined. “Cooperative agreements” are mentioned as the way to grant nonprofits (yes, DMI would qualify), funds to help “support producer participation” in the assistance being offered. Broadened assistance for ‘socially-disadvantaged’ producers is mentioned, but no definition is given.

What will be attached in this approach within the context of transforming agriculture and food under the auspices of climate action, given the administration’s 30 x 30 plan, widely referred to as a “land grab”?

The 30 x 30 plan is part of a climate action executive order signed by the President within hours of inauguration. It aims to protect 30% of U.S. lands and oceans by 2030.

Specifically, Section 216 of the executive order states:

Sec. 216.  Conserving Our Nation’s Lands and Waters.  (a)  The Secretary of the Interior, in consultation with the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Commerce, the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, and the heads of other relevant agencies, shall submit a report to the Task Force within 90 days of the date of this order recommending steps that the United States should take, working with State, local, Tribal, and territorial governments, agricultural and forest landowners, fishermen, and other key stakeholders, to achieve the goal of conserving at least 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030.

The Lincoln Sentinel in Nebraska reports that meetings are taking place in April in the western U.S. to explain to landowners what 30 x 30 entails.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, currently the U.S. protects 12% of its land. “To reach the 30 x 30 goal, an additional area twice the size of Texas, more than 440 million acres, will need to be conserved within the next 10 years,” the Lincoln Sentinel reported this week.

A bill in the U.S. House would create new “wilderness” declarations, land that will not be managed or accessed — including a complete ban and removal of all agricultural use from these “conserved” land areas taken to meet the 30 x 30 goal.

A push is happening in Washington to incorporate 30×30 ‘land grab’ principles into the massive infrastructure bill and in the COVID-19 relief stimulus package that was passed.

The slippery slope toward larger and hotter wildfires and against private property and generations-old land use rights has begun. And the Nature Conservancy, already a large land owner / controller, is already looking ahead to the 2023 Farm Bill to include certain conservation provisions in the final product. They also look to the National Defense Authorization Act to include public land designations.

Tom Vilsack — whom President Joe Biden stated upon nomination to the post of Agriculture Secretary — helped develop the Biden rural plan for rural America and now has the job of implementing it, is on record pledging to use every opportunity within existing and new USDA programs to meet transformative sustainability goals.

This is all aligned and consistent with the Great Reset. Farmshine readers may recall several articles over the past year pointing out the ‘land grab’ goals of World Economic Forum’s Great Reset and with the United Nations’ sustainable development goals (SDGs) ahead of this summer’s UN Food System Transformation Summit. The UN documents use the same “resilience” and “equity” buzz words without much definition.

Remember the awkward moment at a Biden town hall meeting in Pennsylvania during the presidential campaign when a potato farmer and Farm Bureau member asked about his positions on environmental regulation, such as the Obama-era Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) implementation.

Then candidate Biden’s telling response described “the transition”:

“We should provide for your ability to make a lot more money, as farmers, by dealing with you being able to put land in land banks and you get paid to do that to provide for more open space, and to provide for the ability of you to be able to be in a position so that we are going to pay you for planting certain crops that in fact absorb carbon from the air,” he said, also referencing manure and setting up industries in communities to pelletize it.

“That’s how you can continue to farm without worrying about if you are polluting and be in a position to make money by what you do in the transition,” then candidate Biden said.

Though Biden stated at that time that his climate policy was not the Green New Deal, the overlaps in language were hard to deny. The Green New Deal included such references to “land banks”, described as government purchasing land from “retiring farmers” and making it available “affordably to new farmers and cooperatives that pledge certain sustainability practices.” (The short way of saying the answer he gave above).

The $2.2 trillion infrastructure plan includes land use and protection provisions as well as the STEP Act to help pay for it. That’s a proposal to raise estate and capital gains taxes to begin taxing asset transfers between generations during the estate-planning ‘gifting’ process and lowering the amount exempted on land and assets of estates transferred before and after death. This could have a big impact on how the next generation in the farm business pays the taxes to continue farming.

As one producer put it in a conversation, the plan is tantamount to selling one-fourth or more of a farm in order to pay the ‘transfer tax.’ (But, of course, the government then has the perfect setup to come in and pay the farmer to land-bank it, and then give it to another entity that contractually agrees to grow what the government wants, or to re-wild it.

Think about this, as we reported in October, most of us don’t even know what’s being planned for our futures. Big tech, big finance, big billionaires, big NGO’s, big food, all the biggest global players are planning the Great Reset (complete with land grab and animal product imitation investments) in which globalization is the key, and climate change and ‘sustainability’ — now cleverly linked to pandemic fears — will turn the lock.

The mandatory farmer-funded dairy and beef checkoffs — and their overseer USDA and sustainability partner World Wildlife Fund (WWF) — have been at this global food system transformation table since at least 2008 when DMI’s Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy was formed and Tom Vilsack was starting his first eight years as Ag Secretary before spending four years as a top-paid dairy checkoff executive and is now again serving as Ag Secretary.

So much of the groundwork for this pattern is consistent with the work of DMI and its sustainability partner WWF toward the Net Zero Initiative, and key WEF Great Reset global companies have joined in with funds for NZI piloting.

Perhaps what brings it home for me is reading what National Milk Producers Federation’s lobbiest Paul Bleiberg includes and omits in his piece for Hoards online Monday, where he talks about how fast things are moving in Washington and how the Biden administration and the 117th Congress are advancing ambitious plans to stimulate the U.S. recovery that, “encompasses key dairy priorities, including agricultural labor reform, climate change, child nutrition, and trade.”

He notes that as Congress and the administration have begun to dive into climate and sustainability, NMPF has outilined a suite of climate policy recommendations. He writes that “primary among (NMPF’s) goals is for Congress to consider modernizing conservation programs and provide new incentives to dairy farmers to build on the significant sustainability work they are already doing.”

For those paying attention to the WEF Great Reset and WWF’s role in food transformation, it is obvious that the anti-fat Dietary Guidelines are a key cog in the food and agriculture transformation wheel.

Bleiberg mentions childhood nutrition as a key dairy priority, but puts all of his emphasis on “urging the Senate Ag Commitee to maintain the flexibility for schools to offer low-fat flavored milk.” No mention is made of expanding flexibility to include the simple choice of whole milk. This, despite citing the DGA Committee’s admission that school-aged children do not meet the recommended intake for dairy.

Giving schoolchildren the opportunity to choose satisfying whole milk would certainly help in this regard, but that choice would interfere with the long-planned food transformation goals of the global elite — the Great Reset.

We all need to be aware of the transformational elements within policy discussion, find out the definitions of terms and nuts and bolts of program changes, be aware of how our youth are being used as change-agents, and be prepared to speak up for farmers, families, and freedom.

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Bipartisan Whole Milk bill introduced in U.S. Congress

U.S. House Ag Committee ranking member G.T. Thompson (R-Pa.) is pictured here at a listening session in the summer of 2019. At that time, he mentioned the work of the Grassroots Pa. Dairy Advisory Committee and 97 Milk as one of the best things happening in dairy. Last week, he reintroduced his bipartisan Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act of 2021, H.R. 1861.

Will third time be charm? Will Penna. and N.Y. consider state legislation?

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, March 19, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congressman Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (Pa.-15th) wasted no time reintroducing the Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act in the 117th congressional session. Although the official text of the bill introduced last Thursday, March 11 is not yet available, Thompson noted in February it would include a few structural improvements over the earlier versions.

Thompson is now the Republican Leader of the House Agriculture Committee, and he cosponsored the bipartisan whole milk bill, H.R. 1861 with Congressman Antonio Delgado (NY-19th), a Democrat.

Essentially, the Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act allows for unflavored and flavored whole milk to be offered in school cafeterias. This choice is currently prohibited under USDA rules of implementation from the 2010 Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act that Congress passed 11 years ago to tie school lunch and other USDA food nutrition services more closely to the low-fat and fat-free stipulations from decades of USDA-HHS Dietary Guidelines. These DGAs continue to ignore the science about milkfat and saturated fat – especially where children are concerned.

“Milk provides nine essential nutrients as well as a great deal of long-term health benefits. Due to the baseless demonization of milk over the years, we’ve lost nearly an entire generation of milk drinkers, and these young people are missing out on the benefits of whole milk,” said Rep. Thompson in a statement last Friday.

“It is my hope the Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act will give children a wide variety of milk options and bolster milk consumption — a win-win for growing children and America’s dairy farmers,” Rep. Thompson stated.

Rep. Delgado added: “The Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act will help young people maintain a healthy diet while supporting our upstate dairy farmers and processors. I am proud to lead this bipartisan effort to provide more choices for healthy and nutritious milk in schools. This legislation is good for young people and good for our dairy producers in today’s tough farm economy.”

The Grassroots PA Dairy Advisory Committee and 97 Milk are hoping the third time is the charm for this legislation. Last month, they met virtually last month with Rep. Thompson, and last fall on school milk and other dairy policy concerns. Congressman Thompson has made the Whole Milk for Healthy Kid Act a high priority over the past four years during the past two legislative sessions. Some members of the Grassroots PA Dairy Advisory Committee and 97 Milk have been working on the school milk issue for a decade or more, and on the issues surrounding the flawed DGAs for even longer. 

Arden Tewksbury of Progressive Agriculture Organization has been working on this issue for many years. In addition to dairy advocacy, the retired dairy farmer is also a decades-long school board director in northern Pennsylvania.

Rep. Thompson indicated last month that he would restructure the proposed legislation for reintroduction this session, with some tweaks that should make it more workable for school foodservice directors.

He explains that in 2010, Congress passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which amended nutrition standards in the School Lunch Program. Among the changes, the law mandated that school lunches and other government-supported feeding programs be tied directly to the DGAs. The USDA at that time promulgated rules requiring flavored milk to be offered only as fat-free, and that unflavored milk could only be fat-free or 1% low-fat milk. 

Schools are audited by USDA for dietary compliance, and their compliance record affects not just their school food reimbursements, but also the educational funds a district receives for federal mandates.

USDA, in 2017, allowed schools to offer 1% low-fat flavored milk. This was a small positive change after statistics showed schools served 232 million fewer half-pints of milk from 2014 to 2016, and school milk was among the most discarded items in school waste studies conducted by USDA and EPA in conjunction with other organizations.

In fact, a Pennsylvania school — working with the Grassroots PA Dairy Advisory Committee and 97 Milk — offered milk at all fat levels to middle and high school students in a 2019-20 school year trial. Their findings showed students chose whole milk 3 to 1 over 1% low-fat milk. During the trial, the school’s milk sales grew by 65% while the volume of discarded milk declined by 95%. This meant more students were choosing to drink milk, and far fewer students were discarding their milk and buying something else.

Tricia Adams, a member of the Grassroots PA Dairy Advisory Committee, sees firsthand the response of children and teens when offered whole milk. “When we have school and community tours at the farm, we offer whole milk. The children call it ‘the good milk!’” said Adams of Hoffman Farms, Potter County, Pa. “We thank Congressman Thompson for his tireless efforts on this issue. As dairy farmers, we work hard to produce high quality, wholesome, nutritious milk, and as parents, we want kids to be able to choose the milk they love so they get the benefits milk has to offer.”

Jackie Behr, of 97 Milk, also sees the support for whole milk through the organization’s social media platforms. “We know how good whole milk is, especially for children,” said Behr. “We see the support in emails, comments and messages from the public. The science shows the benefits of whole milk, and today, more families are choosing whole milk to drink at home. Children should have the right to choose whole milk at school.”

Whole milk choice in schools has been an important signature piece of legislation for Rep. Thompson because of the triple-impact he said he believes it will have on the health of children, the economics of dairy farming and the sustenance of rural communities.

The bill’s predecessor in the 2019-20 legislative session garnered 43 cosponsors in the House.

Starting anew in the 2021-22 congressional session, the bill will need to amass cosponsors in the coming months. A companion bill in the Senate would also be helpful because the school lunch rules come legislatively through the Committee on Education and Labor in the House and through the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Affairs in the Senate.

What’s new this time is that the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat published a feature story Friday about the 2021 Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act, and the School Nutrition Association made this the top story in their weekly newsletter to school foodservice director members this week. That’s good news.

Additional good news came with the official public support voiced by National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA). In a press statement released by Rep. Thompson’s office last Friday, March 12, leaders of both organizations commented.

“The recently updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans reaffirmed dairy’s central role in providing essential nutrients, including those of public health concern. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee found that 79% of 9-13-year-olds don’t meet the recommended intake for dairy,” stated NMPF president and CEO Jim Mulhern. “We commend Representatives Thompson and Delgado for introducing the bipartisan Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act. Whole milk provides a valuable way for children to obtain dairy’s nutritional benefits as part of a healthy eating pattern. This bill will help provide our children the nutrition they need to lead healthy lives.”

On behalf of IDFA, CEO Michael Dykes DVM thanked the representatives for their leadership on this bill “to allow schools more flexibility in offering the wholesome milk varieties that children and teens enjoy at home. Expanding milk options in schools helps ensure students get the 11 essential nutrients daily that only milk provides, including protein, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin A, niacin, vitamin B12, riboflavin, and potassium,” Dykes said.

A petition organized and promoted by Grassroots PA Dairy Advisory Committee and 97 Milk — in direct support of the earlier versions of this legislation to ‘bring whole milk choice back to schools’ — garnered over 30,000 signatures in 2019-20 – over 24,000 electronically online as well as over 6,000 by mail through Farmshine.

In recent weeks, the online petition has picked up new life as it has been mentioned in hearings and informal conversations with state lawmakers — especially in Pennsylvania and New York — and has been mentioned recently by food, nutrition and agriculture advocates on social media.

The whole milk petition effort has also gathered over 5000 letters of support in addition to the 30,000-plus signatures in 2019-20. These letters and submitted comments, online and by mail, came from school boards, town boards, county commissioners, school nurses, doctors, dieticians, professors, veterinarians, teachers, coaches, athletes, school foodservice directors, parents, students, and citizens at large.

The entire bundle of signatures, comments and letters were previously digitized by the Grassroots PA Dairy Advisory Committee and 97 Milk and uploaded at each public comment opportunity during the 2020-25 Dietary Guidelines process. Petition packets were also provided digitally and in hard copy to key members of Congress as well as the USDA Food Nutrition Services Deputy Undersecretary in fall 2019 and spring 2020.

The Grassroots PA Dairy Advisory Committee and 97 Milk plan to revitalize the petition as an effort to amass even more public support for whole milk choice in schools. Interestingly, this is a difficult undertaking given that the majority of Americans do not even realize — and sometimes disbelieve — that their children and grandchildren currently do not have a choice and are forced to consume fat-free or 1% low-fat milk as their only milk options because whole milk cannot even be offered ‘a la carte’.

During a New York State Senate Ag Committee hearing last month, agricultural law attorney and dairy producer Lorraine Lewandrowski asked New York State Senators to consider state-level legislation to make it legal to offer whole milk in schools as a starting point vs. federal jurisdiction. Her request was met with dumbfounded shock that this was even an issue, and some indication that it was worth taking a look at.

This week, retired agribusinessman Bernie Morrissey — chairman of the Grassroots PA Dairy Advisory Committee — met with leaders in the Pennsylvania State Senate. He reports that state legislation to allow whole milk in schools was a top priority in that discussion.

In fact, Nelson Troutman, originator of the Drink Whole Milk 97% Fat Free painted round bales has urged states to get involved on this issue from the beginning.

“We can’t fix everything at the national level, we have to save Pennsylvania,” said Troutman, a Berks County, Pennsylvania dairy farmer.

The 97 Milk education effort that became a grassroots groundswell after Troutman painted his original round bale initially focused on Pennsylvania. However, the online and social media presence of 97milk.com and @97Milk on facebook since February 2019 has become nationwide, even global, in reach and participation.

For two years, Morrissey has garnered agribusiness support for various banners, yard signs and other tangible signs of support for whole milk in schools. Requests have come in from other states. The 97 Milk group also operates solely on donations and offers several options for showing support at their online store, where purchase requests come in from across the country as well. In addition, farm photos and ideas have come into 97 Milk from producers across the Northeast, Southeast, Midwest and West.

In much the same way, the 30,000-plus petition supporting the choice of whole milk in schools has had heavy participation in Pennsylvania and New York. However, signatures, comments and letters have been received at various levels from all 50 states. (A small portion of signatures even came from Canada, Australia, Mexico, England, Japan, India and the continent of Africa. Those, of course, had to be removed from the packets provided to USDA. However, it is telling that the simple concept of children being able to choose whole milk is a global concern.)

Likewise, Tewksbury with Progressive Agriculture Organization has long supported the right of children to choose whole milk at school. Several petition drives by Pro Ag have also amassed the tangible support of citizens, and those petitions were provided to USDA in previous years — delivered physically in boxes.

In February, Thompson stated that there are members of the House Ag Committee who want to elevate this issue of whole milk choice in schools. Thus, now is the time for organizations to come together and issue strong position statements supporting H.R. 1861 Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act and for citizens to contact their elected representatives and senators in the U.S. Congress asking for their support of the House bill and in support of a champion to come forward with a companion bill in the Senate.

The ‘bring whole milk choice back to schools’ online petition still references the earlier H.R. 832 and S. 1810 bills, and will be updated when official links to the reintroduced bill text for H.R.1861 become available.

Stay tuned for updates, and for those who have not previously signed this petition, go to https://www.change.org/p/bring-whole-milk-back-to-schools 

Bernie Morrissey continues working with producers and agribusinesses to print and distribute these yard signs of support for Whole Milk as a school lunch choice. To read more about the sign efforts taking root across PA with calls coming in from other states… click here.

DMI’s WWF connection

This DMI-funded ‘Sustainability’ timeline includes some of the proprietary partnerships and ‘non-profit’ organizations under the DMI umbrella, as well as supply chain and NGO alignments. It has been updated from the one that ran in the May 10, 2020 edition of Farmshine. Compiled by Sherry Bunting

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, February 19, 2021

HARRISBURG, Pa. — A question dairy farmers have long asked their dairy checkoff leaders pertains to the history and details of DMI’s relationship with WWF. That question was finally answered during a “What has dairy checkoff done for you lately?” session at the virtual 2021 Pennsylvania Dairy Summit last week. 

There were many parts to this more than two-hour session where submitted questions were also fielded spanning everything from sustainability, Net Zero Initiative and FARM program to youth wellness, hunger channel coordination, nutrition science and dietary guidelines, to the supply chain and NGO partnerships and social media investments that have built dairy checkoff into today’s business-to-business model that views itself as the ‘gateway’ to trust so that farmers can continue to farm and “grow dairy” as compared with past promotion and education strategies aimed directly to consumers.

Last week, we learned that the partnership between Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF, also known as Worldwide Fund for Nature), goes all the way back 12 to 13 years to DMI’s formation of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. We learned that WWF helped design the Smart Tool collecting farm environmental data through the FARM program. We learned that blended products are the future and that manufacturing plants will become “dual purpose” to create beverages with milk in them vs. milk bottling, per-se. We learned that checkoff invests farmer funds in working with the middle of the supply chain to make new products that are focused on meeting consumer changes in the future.

We learned so much that this is part one of a three-part series. This week, we focus on the Net Zero Initiative and the DMI / WWF connection.

A picture emerged from the discussion of how WWF and DMI have worked together to transform dairy promotion, to set sustainability parameters, to work on the very ‘Smart Tool’ that is now gathering dairy farmer environmental, energy use and emissions data via the FARM program, and placed DMI into the very food transformation committees of the upcoming United Nations food summit sponsored by the World Economic Forum (Great Reset) and – you guessed it – WWF – and how the stage is set to transform the face of the dairy industry, voluntarily of course.

The Farmshine timeline published last summer has been updated in this edition. Originally, our investigations placed the start of this DMI / WWF partnership at 2014 when Innovation Center Sustainability Alliance chairman Mike McCloskey and current Dairy Scale for Good director Caleb Harper became part of the WWF Thought Leadership Group and we could find evidence of WWF working with DMI on the FARM program ‘Smart Tool’.

But no, the truth learned last week from Karen Scanlon, DMI’s vice president of sustainability, answered this reporter’s submitted question about the DMI / WWF relationship. That history goes back to a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by DMI and WWF in 2008-09 when DMI formed the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and Mike McCloskey started his 12 to 13 year tenure as chairman of the Innovation Center’s ‘Sustainability Alliance’ (also known as Global Dairy Platform).

This was the same point in time when MOUs were signed between DMI, USDA (Vilsack) and the NFL to create GENYOUth, and the same point in time when the MOU on sustainability was signed by DMI and USDA (Vilsack).

DMI president Barb O’Brien was quick to interject that WWF-US is “much different” from WWF-International. Dairy producers have heard this line before. However, it is clear from the WWF organizational structure that it has always been global in its goals and aligned on reducing animal-sourced foods along the lines of the EAT Lancet diets and the World Economic Forum Great Reset and United Nations Food Transformation goals.

DMI board chairwoman Marilyn Hershey explained that DMI will be involved in the United Nations Food Transformation Summit to be held this summer. She said DMI has people on some of the Summit’s committees.

“Up until a few years ago, the UN was making decisions without us at the table. We are going into that Summit at a lot of levels — top, middle and bottom — and we have farmers involved, bringing the farmer story,” said Hershey.

The question is, what farmer story will be told? The one that is coming out of the WWF study that exaggerates the dairy industry’s GHG emissions ‘starting point’ while advocating the solution for investment in what is essentially a 3000-cow Fair Oaks model, which many producers in many sizes and geographies can’t replicate?

From the comments made by Scanlon, it was clear that WWF “opened doors” for DMI’s involvement, and, in essence, held their hand into the food transformation movement. This lends to what Paul Ziemnisky, vice president of global innovation partnerships, spoke of in terms of blended beverages and the future being “dual purpose” milk plants, producing the blended beverages that are “relevant.”

Hershey railed against the way animal-rights organization HSUS is causing “internal disruption” in the dairy industry.

“That is their plan,” she said. “We have to be aware that there is a plan to get rid of the checkoff so that the checkoff is not there anymore to serve as the gateway protecting farmers so they can continue to farm. We can’t pit farmer against farmer. There has to be unity.”

And yet, many would put WWF in the same category with HSUS in terms of end-game goals. Even checkoff leaders admit that the “international” WWF is an organization to be wary of, but they somehow believe WWF-US is different, even though they are all part of the same global structure and strategy.

What does it matter if dairy is led by the hand with doors opened by WWF to be part of food transformation that reduces the role of animals, or if this transformation is internally disrupted by concerned producers of all types and sizes as they strive to find their place in that future painted in part by WWF?

The World Wildlife Fund in its 2012 Report “Better Production for a Living Planet” identifies the strategy it has been using to accomplish its priorities for 15 identified commodities, including dairy and beef, related to biodiversity, 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 “supply-chain” leverage strategy, WWF has essentially used producer funds to implement their message and priorities both to consumers through supply chain decisions and to producers through checkoff-funded programs validating farm practices. Image and explanation directly from 2012 WWF Report

The WWF end-game as a partner with the WEF Great Reset and UN Food Summit is to transition American and European diets to more plant-based and lab-created alternatives and blends, while helping developing countries like Africa use the efficient technologies of those transitioning ‘rich’ nations to improve the environmental footprint of their ‘poor nation’ cattle herds. This dovetails with the announcements by Microsoft founder Bill Gates as he released his new book on climate change this week — complete with hair-raisihng interviews talking about rich countries moving to 100% plant-based and cell-cultured diets, while poor countries continue to eat animal-sourced products using U.S. advancements to reduce their GHGs. (see related story).

There was so much to learn about how the dairy checkoff arrived to where it is today in terms of direction and structure. This part of the multi-part series focuses on the relationship with WWF, the Net Zero Initiative and the new WWF “independent” study highlighting how “large dairies can be net zero in five years.” 

Not only is this recently-released study promoted by DMI based entirely on the 3000-cow Fair Oaks model – with a methane digester that includes over 50% co-digestion of other waste products, 70% forage ration fed to cattle, 80% of cow diets grown on-site, and zero heifers on-site – it is also riddled with mathematical inaccuracies that exaggerate the “starting point” for collective greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. dairy farms, making the problem appear to be worse than it really is perhaps in order to make a pre-competitive ‘solution’ seem better than it needs to be. (see related story)

“What has your checkoff done for you lately?” According to the so-named session during the Pa. Dairy Summit, O’Brien stated: “We know who we work for in all of these partnerships is the dairy farmer, to bring your voice forward for growth in the marketplace and protecting your freedom to produce…”

There was emphasis placed on how the Net Zero Initiative (NZI) is central to DMI’s work and its partnerships as the ‘voice of producers for growth.’

“Consumers want to feel good about, and have trust in what they buy,” said Scanlon, explaining how NZI addresses this.

She displayed a slide showing the many investor groups in climate and sustainability efforts that are setting their own goals and expectations throughout their supply chains, as well as countries making legal commitments to be carbon neutral by 2050 or sooner.

“The consumer piece is to meet people where they are,” said Scanlon, adding that the NZI was an 18-month process of stakeholder input with the results announced last April when the new dairy sustainability goals were released. However, we learned in later questioning that this has been in the works for 12 to 13 years since WWF and DMI began their MOU-signed formal relationship at the start of the Innovation Center.

“We are flipping to dairy as a climate solution,” said Scanlon. “The goal is 2050, and these are the ways we can reach them.”

Scanlon stressed that the NZI goals are “aggregate,” meaning they are collective industry goals. She said the processors have their own working group developing their own strategies from farm to consumer, and NZI is the field-to-farm portion through DMI’s Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy.

“We have formed specific work streams related to waste, water use, packaging and greenhouse gas emissions, and we (DMI) have been investing in the reporting tool to track them,” she said.

“This is completely voluntary. It is not immediate. Not everyone will do all the things, and there are pathways for all to contribute with a long runway (to 2050),” she said. “We are meeting consumers where they are and matching environmental benefits with economic benefits to make voluntary adoption happen to avoid regulation.”

She referenced the WWF study as a “viability study” that Dairy Scale for Good, headed by Caleb Harper, can use to track and implement. She called the study a “spreadsheet exercise” that Harper, as director of Dairy Scale for Good, can put out on pilot farms to “prove out through a combination of practices that in the real world, we can see net-zero emissions with improved economic viability.”

Scanlon noted that the “collective impact” of NZI will be driven by “broad voluntary adoption” through four environmental footprints on the farm.

Right now, what is underway through the FARM program “Farm Smart Tool” (developed with WWF), is to “quantify ecosystem services that are being provided by farms and to accelerate new income from providing these ecosystem services,” Scanlon explained.

With this becoming part of the FARM program, voluntary would, by default, become mandatory when member cooperatives and milk processors begin to expect their producers to show improvement on the data currently being collected. Yes, it is voluntary for the milk buyers and cooperatives. But once they sign on with that module in FARM — as it is developed through pilot farms ‘proving out’ the  ‘spreadsheet exercise’ – this would potentially translate as mandatory through the milk buyer or cooperative.

When asked what NZI could mean for those farms with methane digesters, Scanlon said the purpose is to “knock down barriers for farms to invest and for those already invested, so they will potentially see a return.” 

In addition to farms providing for “ecosystem service markets,” the other pathway mentioned is farms meeting low carbon fuel standards.

“NZI is focused on how to take on the barriers that prevent more farms from affording or using more technologies,” said Scanlon, noting many farms with digesters could be “pretty close to net-zero already.”

Bottom line? The DMI / WWF decade-plus partnership is now culminating with data collection that will be used to “help farms understand where they are today on their own journey to net-zero, and where we are today as an industry on that journey,” said Scanlon.

In response to a question on the good work already being done on dairy farms, how it is tracked and counted toward this model, Scanlon said that during 2019 into early 2020, two studies were done. Both concluded that U.S. Dairy and the North American continent decreased their overall carbon footprint by 19% over a 10-year period.

“The tool available through the FARM program is the environmental stewardship module,” Scanlon explained.

Karen Scanlon, DMI vice president of sustainability, acknowledged the 12 to 13 year relationship between DMI and WWF at the very beginning of DMI’s formation of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy working on tools and strategies leading up to the Net Zero Initiative (NZI) launch last fall. She explained NZI’s four focus areas, the outcomes that are planned and the Farm Smart Tool WWF helped design that is already collecting on-farm environmental data via the FARM program. Screenshot during virtual Pa. Dairy Summit session

The Farm Smart Tool in that module is the tool to assess farms for a “snapshot of their emissions and energy intensity, and we are working to make it more clear on the four focus areas. This will evolve and improve over time,” she said.

“What’s important in 2021 is to work with our partners — the cooperatives and processors — to do the inventory of current practices on farms. We would like to catalog what you are doing on your farms today so that we (DMI) can tell that story,” Scanlon stressed.

As has been seen with the FARM program, to-date, ‘the devil is in the details.’ Producers asked whether this will be like the other modules being monitored through cooperatives and third-party auditors.

“Our intention is to support the voluntary and progressive actions of dairy, and we already have major dairy customers asking farms to document how they are sustainable,” Scanlon replied. “We are working globally and nationally to streamline this and to reduce the burden down at the farm level, to have a way to document and have assurance that our tools and metrics and reporting will satisfy what they are looking for.”

Scanlon noted that the FARM program’s on-farm assessment tool (Smart Tool developed with WWF) is how the industry will move toward its 2050 Net Zero Initiative goals.

So, back to WWF. Why is DMI working with WWF?

O’Brien stated: “First, we see (WWF) as two different organizations. There are two operations of WWF — domestic and international. They are two very different organizations in terms of their positioning and tenor toward agriculture and animal agriculture, with a different level of activisim within their own strategies.”

She stressed that the recently-released WWF white paper describing how large dairies can be net zero in five years was “an independent report published by WWF and done with no checkoff funding, but it drew on our modeling and science,” said O’Brien. “We feel it is important for WWF to put that forward. They are viewed by other non-governmental organizations (NGOs), businesses and consumers as being an important voice around climate change.”

While O’Brien stated that, “We (DMI) do not currently have an MOU with WWF, we did have a very positive partnership with WWF going back 5 to 6 years and this was about bringing additional third-party credibility to what we are doing.”

Scanlon gave a more detailed answer – perhaps more detailed than DMI would have desired. She stated that, “WWF was around from the beginning of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy (2008-09). WWF was one of the initial NGOs coming together with dairy around the table for precompetitive planning.”

Scanlon went on to say that, “WWF gave us support and felt there was a lot of value in sitting down with dairy farmers and companies. They contributed to the development of the FARM model, provided third-party credibility and have been a longtime reviewer and supporter of those farms receiving annual innovation awards.

“Through WWF, we (DMI) had access to expertise and doors opened to companies… to use that relationship to better inform them about what dairy is actually doing,” said Scanlon. “The agreement expired at the end of 2019. We have not renewed that agreement. We have continued our conversations and exchange of information, but with no formal relationship with WWF at this time.”

No formal relationship at this time? After a 10-plus-year formal relationship, WWF has helped DMI set the stage for dairy transformation that converges perfectly with the agenda set by big tech, billionaire faux food and climate investors, World Economic Forum’s Great Reset, the back-and-forth USDA / DMI musical chairs of Tom Vilsack and the Green New Deal approach, and the billing that the UN Food Transformation Summit is the focal point of the Great Reset to meet climate goals set in the background by billionaires like Gates and his Breakthrough Ventures colleagues George Soros, Tom Steyer, Michael Bloomberg, Mark Zuckerburg, Jeff Bezos (Amazon) and others as Walmart, Bank of America, MasterCard, PepsiCo, Nestle, Unilever and others file in.

Yes, DMI is at that table, according to staff and leadership. Yes, WWF helped them get to that table and helped develop the very tool to collect, track and catalog on-farm climate and environmental data. But, who is leading whom, and while at that table, with middle-of-the-supply-chain partnerships, who is DMI really working for? 

And while all this planning and scheming is going on at the global level, who is communicating with consumers about some of the realities? Are we really meeting consumers where they are? Or are we knowingly or unknowingly participating in a scheme to move consumers to where these entities want them to be? (See WWF strategy model above).

Look for more DMI umbrella categories covered as this series continues.

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