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

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

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, July 22, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

Sound familiar? Look at The Netherlands.

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

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

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

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

It was formed to accelerate this transition.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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School lunch money scare tactics are holding up PA whole milk bill

Cousins Grace and Bella are my youngest granddaughters, pictured here in 2020 obviously enjoying their milk — mustache and all. They both started kindergarten in 2021, where for the next 12 years, their meals at school will not allow their choice of whole milk or even 2% milk — unless state and/or federal lawmakers act. Children consume 2 meals a day, 5 days a week, 75% of the year at school where they are denied the simple choice, even a la carte. A saddening and maddening state of affairs.

As adults, we should be ashamed of ourselves

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, July 8, 2022

I guess it’s true, good dairy bills – for more than a decade now – continue to be introduced in the Pennsylvania legislature, only to pass in the House but then die in the Senate. We’ve seen it with the many bills over the years aimed at amending the Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Law, and now we are seeing it with the Whole Milk in Pennsylvania Schools Act.

HB 2397 was introduced by Representative John Lawrence, and it passed the State House almost unanimously (196 to 2) in April. It then passed the State Senate Agriculture Committee and was re-referred to the State Senate Appropriations Committee, where it sits today digesting the “scare tactics” of its opponents – causing some heartburn for lawmakers thinking USDA could withhold all free and reduced school lunch reimbursements in Pennsylvania.

USDA is the bully waving children’s lunch money like a mighty sword demanding submissive obedience, even suggesting in May that schools lacking appropriate LGBTQ+ policies for “gender affirming” use of locker rooms, rest rooms and sports participation could be denied their free and reduced school lunch reimbursements. USDA has since recanted this notion — saying they meant only to address discrimination associated with the provision of the food. That’s more like it. But that redirection of the Department’s prior statement did not happen until more than 20 states’ Governors and Attorneys General threatened to sue the Biden Administration for using the lunch money of economically disadvantaged children to implement federalized bathroom gender policies.

On whole milk in schools, similar scare tactics are being used to prevent the Pennsylvania state bill from being voted on in the Senate chamber.

Bow thee, oh Pennsylvanians, to King Vilsack and the Dietary Police.

Even a certain farm paper published in Lancaster County has made it their business to take every point of whole milk choice supporters, the evidence, the law, and tear it apart – piece by piece. A head-scratcher, for sure.

I have been digging into the original Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act of 1946 and the subsequent amendments through the 2010 Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act (HHFKA), as well as various memos from USDA to state nutrition program directors when the ‘Smart Snacks’ rules were implemented to govern a la carte beverages in 2012. I have also read through Pennsylvania Department of Education audits of schools, which are all publicly available. I can find no tie between a state law offering a self-select choice of whole milk (paid for with state or local or parental funds) to students as grounds for withholding free and reduced school meal reimbursements from schools. In fact, quite the contrary. 

Even the individual schools that would choose to provide the choice of whole and/or 2% milk to students could not be threatened with loss of their free and reduced lunch subsidy — as long as the meal pattern for the ‘served’ lunch is met; however, more importantly, it is clear that the only audit feature tied specifically to this reimbursement is that the financial eligibility of the recipients is properly qualified.

Here’s the key: Even if a school is deemed out of compliance on meal pattern or does not have a strong enough ‘wellness policy’ on ‘competing foods’ — as would be the case if whole milk was offered as a choice, USDA does not have the authority to yank the free and reduced school meal subsidy on that basis. This authority is linked to eligibility, financial eligibility.

Research into the 2010 HHFKA shows that the loss of this reimbursement is directly tied to how the students/families are qualified as financially eligible. There are extensive details on this in the law, and the auditing schools go through, the paper trail for eligibility, is extensive. This is a separate audit section from the meal pattern performance.

In fact, in passing the 2010 Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act (HHFKA), the U.S. Congress clearly stated — separately — that schools can receive a 6-cents per eligible meal ‘performance increase’ as an incentive to meet the new HHFKA-prescribed meal patterns and in addressing competing foods and beverages in school wellness policies per USDA. This ‘bonus’ is tied to the Food and Nutrition Board of the Academy of Sciences, not the Dietary Guidelines. (A 2018 National Academy of Sciences review was highly critical of the Dietary Guidelines process.)

In setting a 6-cent performance increase per eligible meal in the 2010 HHFKA, Congress also capped the total to be spent for this meal-pattern incentive at $50 million annually nationwide. This is over and above the separate free and reduced meal reimbursement, itself, which dwarfs the performance bonus at $14 billion annually nationwide. 

These are separate portions of the 2010 HHFKA. In Section E of the law, Failure to Comply spells out precisely what is at risk if a school is not in meal pattern compliance — the 6 cents increase per eligible meal, not the reimbursement for qualified free and reduced meals.

As for the ‘Smart Snacks’ rules promulgated by USDA and implemented fully in 2012, which govern the a la carte beverages and snacks that can be “available” on school premises during school hours? It is important to note that USDA’s own memos to state directors in 2014 clarified that the Department will “provide exemptions for certain foods that are nutrient dense, even if they may not meet all of the specific nutrient requirements.”

Whole milk is a nutrient dense food.

However, in playing ‘dictator’ with our children’s health, USDA chose its exemptions and ignored the nutrient density of whole milk. What did they use as an example in a memo to schools? “Peanut butter and other nut butters are exempt from the total fat and saturated fat standards since these foods are also nutrient dense… and we want students to consume more of these foods,” a memo to state directors stated.

Perhaps Impossible Burger is another ‘exemption’ given its calories, fat and sodium far exceed USDA rules, but it was so-impossibly approved by USDA in May 2021 for actual federal meal reimbursement. Impossible Burger is not particularly nutrient dense – but real beef is, and real beef is greatly limited in school meal pattern compliance, along with the ban on whole milk.

Bottomline, the USDA under Secretary Vilsack in 2012 took aim at beverages. In 2018, while working for DMI as one of dairy checkoff’s highest paid executives serving as President and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council, Tom Vilsack was cheered and awarded during the dairy checkoff founded and funded GENYOUth Gala that year for his “success” in “finally” addressing the beverage situation in schools. 

Those were the words of former President Bill Clinton, a vegan, who spoke at length during the Gala about the beverage problem in the obesity crisis and how his friend Tom is the person who finally “got it done.”

What did he get done? He booted out the whole milk and paved the path for all of PepsiCo’s artificially sweetened and partially artificially sweetened beverages in school cafeterias – the Gatorade Zero, Mountain Dew Kickstart, Diet Coolers, Diet Cola’s, flavored waters – with that blend of high fructose corn syrup and sucralose that keeps them under 60 calories (the USDA threshold for an a la carte beverage per the Smart Snacks rules) and of course fat free – but also nutrition free. (PepsiCo got the GENYOUth Gala award the following year)

Sadly, the U.S. Congress also let dairy farmers down in 2010 by including the reference to the Dietary Guidelines in the one and only sentence on school milk in the HHFKA. All other nutritional references for the meal pattern are linked to the Food and Nutrition Board of the Academy of Sciences. 

Here’s what the HHFKA states under Nutrition Requirements for Fluid Milk Section 9(a)(2)(A) is amended to say: “shall offer students a variety of fluid milk. Such milk shall be consistent with the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans.” 

Even that milk sentence is ‘loose,’ and open to interpretation. Is the DGA recommendation of consuming ‘less than 10% calories from saturated fat’ a per-food, per-beverage, or per-meal ordinance or a whole-day allotment? 

We are told over and over that the DGAs are recommendations. Somehow USDA didn’t get that memo and decided to use DGAs to bully milk choices of children.

Never mind how counterproductive this is for children. When removing satiating nutrient dense fat from whole nutrient dense foods, kids compensate and replace this with nutritionally empty carbohydrates. 

Such were the early warnings of school foodservice personnel I interviewed over a decade ago as they piloted the draconian rules  before they were implemented. 

Such is also among the recent findings of the Milky Way controlled study by Australian researchers involving two sets of children — one having their milkfat consumption increased and the other having their milkfat consumption decreased. 

Care to guess which group saw a reduction in Body Mass Index percentile? Or which group had higher blood sodium levels? Or what the differences were in other biomarkers related to cardiovascular and metabolic health? (An article about this study appeared in the May 20 edition of Farmshine. It was the group of children who increased milkfat consumption that saw decreased BMI percentile and it was the group of children who decreased milkfat consumption that saw increased blood sodium levels! All other biomarkers for health were the same between the two groups.)

There are so many tentacles behind the scenes of how this whole school meal and school milk thing really work, that it boggles the mind – so much so that vested interests can come in and scare well-intentioned state lawmakers into thinking if they dare pass this bill and make nutrient dense flavorful whole milk available to schoolchildren as a CHOICE, that somehow the economically disadvantaged children of the Commonwealth could go hungry because USDA will take their lunch money. School foodservice directors are undoubtedly scared as well because the free/reduced reimbursements are a huge part of their budgets.

I’ve got news for the opponents of this bill, the State Senate Appropriations Committee, the Governor and the USDA: Our children are already suffering from hunger pangs in math class, and the absence of nutrient density in their school meals – on your watch right now, today. Do you care? Do the opponents of the whole milk bill spewing their scare tactics care?

The federal prohibition of whole milk in schools is the tip of a mighty iceberg that is failing our children while paving the path to an even less healthful future for America and a less economically healthful status for Pennsylvania dairy farms, the backbone of our state’s ag economy into the future.

We just celebrated our nation’s Independence Day, and yet our children cannot choose whole milk at school — even if their locally elected school boards want to offer it and even if their parents pay for it.

No one supporting this bill believes USDA will reimburse the actual whole milk, itself. Supporters just want the choice to be fully recognized as legal so that as parents, grandparents, farmers, citizens we can get about the business of next finding a way to provide this nutrient dense, satiating, delicious option to the children in our communities who consume two meals a day, five days a week, three-quarters of the year at school.

The issue spills out from the schools into other foodservice meals. It is heartwrenching for this reporter to listen to adults involved in dairy checkoff boast to farmers about how they are getting whole milk and cream into McDonald’s coffee drinks, into foodservice hot chocolate, into all of these trendy adult venues – while our children get a tiny fat-free chocolate milk in their happy meal because this school edict spills over into foodservice chains being bullied to do the same outside of school ‘for the kids’.

As adults, we should be ashamed of ourselves and reflect on our pathetic disregard for our children.

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For farming to flourish, liberty is essential

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, July 1, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

Diversity, too, is a key attribute of liberty.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Sherry Bunting, June 24, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dana Coale, Deputy Administrator, USDA AMS Dairy Programs

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

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

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

Scott Marlow, Deputy administrator usda fsa farm programs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recorded hearing proceedings available at this link

Written testimony is available at this link


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Rebuilding ‘the dairy barn’ from the ground up

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, June 10, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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On Life, Liberty, Land and Pursuit of Happiness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The vehicle? Measuring, tracking and controlling carbon. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NEWS / ANALYSIS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These are pretty words.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Erin Fitzgerald (USFRA photo)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dairyman sees Wagyu as ideal beef cross

No high energy diet, the key with this breed is to take your time,’ says Adam light (left). He and his cousin Ben (right) are partners in Lightning Cattle Company, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania. They raise Wagyu x Holstein crossbred cattle for direct beef sales. They say the full-blooded Wagyu and dairy crossbreds are quite docile. They leave the heifer barn at Adam’s dairy weighing around 500 pounds, come here to Ben’s father’s farm on grass and supplemental forage until 900 pounds, then finish back at Adam’s dairy to final liveweight 1450 to 1500 pounds. This is Part 2 of a Beef on Dairy series. To read the May 13 edition’s PART ONE, CLICK HERE. Photos and story by Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, May 20, 2022.

MYERSTOWN, Pa. — No, they don’t get massages, and they aren’t fed beer as the stories go about the intimate care of the Wagyu in Japan. 

However, at Spotlight Holsteins in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, Wagyu is the beef-on-dairy crossbreeding fit, and the cattle are given the time they need to produce the outstanding beef characteristics the Wagyu are known for — doing so on a lower energy diet.

The whole thing started before 2020, the year Adam Light sold his 100-cow registered Holstein tiestall dairy herd in Jonestown and purchased the 240-cow robotic dairy farm and herd from Ralph Moyer in nearby Myerstown (above).

Today, Adam and his cousin Ben Light, a landscaper, are partners in Lightning Cattle Company.

They started with three Wagyu, two bulls and a heifer, purchased from the September 2018 dispersal through Hosking of the late Donald ‘Doc’ Sherwood’s Empire State herd he had bred over 17 years from imported genetics near Binghamton, New York. Doc Sherwood retired that year, and he and his herd were profiled in Farmshine (here)

Adam and Ben brought their investment home and had Zimmerman Custom Freezing collect the bulls. They also flushed the heifer for embryos.

Not only did they begin using those straws of Wagyu on some of Adam’s dairy cows, they also began making some available to other dairy farmers in return for first-dibs to buy the offspring, and they began leasing bulls to farms with beef cow-calf herds.

Today, they have two full-blooded Wagyu bulls, two full-blooded females, plus 34 crossbred animals in various stages of beef production, and they have sold almost a dozen finished beef.

“The key with this breed is to take your time. They need protein to grow, but on the energy side, they don’t need a whole lot. There’s no high energy diet in this. It’s really quite simple. Whatever the dairy heifers get is what the Wagyu crossbreds get, which is a kind of lower energy feed,” Adam explains.

The calves start in the nursery barn at his dairy, grouped with replacement heifers on automated Urban CalfMom feeders, where milk intakes can be customized. They also receive the same calf starter, calf grower and hay.

When they reach 400 to 500 pounds, the crossbreds are moved to Ben’s father’s crop and poultry farm near Jonestown, which is also home-base for Ben’s landscaping company.

There they become Ben’s responsibility until they reach 900 pounds on pasture with some supplemental forage as needed.

At around 900 pounds, the cattle come back to Adam’s dairy, where they are housed and fed the same mostly forage diet on the same steady growth plane of nutrition as the breeding age and bred heifers. 

They finish at 1450 to 1500 pounds at about 26 months of age and are sold as beef quarters, halves and wholes from pre-orders, with the buyers paying the custom butcher for processing.

Like the Wagyu breed, Holsteins are slower to finish out. The difference is a straight Holstein needs a push with a high-energy diet to reach a higher quality grade, whereas the Wagyu crossbreds do it on lower energy feed.

“You really want to raise them 26 months, that’s longer than for other crossbreds. For us, it’s not a problem because we have the facilities, and we can feed them economically — right with our dairy animals — and have a more valuable beef animal at the end,” Adam explains.

After those initial years of lead time, Lightning Cattle Co. sold nine animals for beef in 2021. They expect to sell 10 in 2022, which should put them even on their original investment and the cost to make embryos to keep their Wagyu seed stock rolling forward, and they project to double the number sold in 2023 based on calves started in 2021.

What they sell is known as American Wagyu beef — mostly F1 Wagyu x Holstein with a few Wagyu x Angus and Wagyu x Jersey. 

Having access to the crossbred calves from the dairy and beef herds that are using their Wagyu genetics helps ensure they can expand beef sales as demand grows, without tying up Adam’s dairy herd to make more crossbreds.

On his own cows, Adam turns to Wagyu after giving a cow two or three chances with Holstein. He’ll modify that decision based on visual appraisal and milk production, with an eye for the number and type of cows he needs and wants dairy replacements out of.

“They settle fast with Wagyu. The difference is evident under a microscope,” Adam reports.

Why Wagyu? Adam recalls his grandfather had some back in the early 2000’s. Half a dozen Wagyu cows and a bull were payment on a debt, which he added to the beef herd on his crop and livestock farm.

“No one really knew what they were back then,” Adam recalls, noting they aren’t beef show animals on-the-hoof. The outstanding meat characteristics are only seen on-the-rail as the flecks of fat are distributed evenly throughout the lean.

Almost 20 years later, Adam did the research. He learned about the breed from Japan, where there are different grades, names and regional identifiers for specific lines, and their tenderness transmissibility.

“The dairy industry was pretty ugly, and we were getting a bill instead of a check for our bull calves. Heifers weren’t worth much either, so we wanted to make a valuable animal to offset when other parts of the dairy industry are ugly,” Adam reflects back to 2018.

Wagyu won’t ring bells for average daily gain or fast finishing. While there are feedlots on the West Coast specifically dedicated to finishing F1 Wagyu dairy crosses, it’s different in the East and Midwest where they are mostly marketed into niche direct sales to consumers and restaurants.

Adam sees the Wagyu as a good fit for his dairy because he can optimize the assets he already has and feed them right with his heifers, instead of raising more heifers than his dairy needs. 

“We’ve had different repeat customers tell us the big thing they noticed is the roasts are so much better, with no dry spots,” Adam relates. “I didn’t think there could be that much difference, but there really is, and it seems the Wagyu x Holstein is a great cross for that.”

Even in Japan, the dairy cross is sought as an economical option of their preferred beef — owing to this compatibility. Holsteins deposit marbling in a manner similar to Wagyu — but the Wagyu genetics put the quality into overdrive.

Selling by halves and quarters is less work than selling by beef cuts. Buyers are getting a range of items with some options to customize how they get their portion processed. They can do a simple cut-and-grind or ask for special order items such as bologna.

Lightning Cattle Co. has been approached by restaurants in the area, but to serve them, Adam and Ben would need to use a USDA-inspected plant, not a state-inspected custom butcher. USDA plants are few and far between and booked well into the future.

“We’ve had no issue selling the meat, and we’ve not done any advertising,” Ben notes. “We figured if we advertised too much, we might not be able to meet the demand. We’re taking it step by step.”

To price the quarters and halves, Adam believes in being fair and reasonable.

“We go off what the steers are selling for at the New Holland auction,” he says. 

They look at the Choice and Prime steer price (not the dairy beef) and add a little to that for the Wagyu influence. The customer pays the liveweight price and the butcher’s fee. 

Adam and Ben help buyers understand what they are getting and their cost per pound of cut-and-wrapped beef by converting it on a dressed basis for an informational estimate. 

“It’s tough to create a market that doesn’t exist, but that’s what we’ve had to do,” Ben adds.

This is another reason the Lights have taken it step by step, giving themselves some growing room by spreading seed stock to other dairy farms for access to more calves.

Last fall (2021), they started their biggest group of crossbred calves that will finish out in 2023, double the number for 2022.

They have begun thinking about setting up a facebook page and had Lightning Cattle Co. T-shirts made, but they are still a bit cautious about advertising to be sure demand doesn’t get too far ahead of cattle coming up through.

The cousins like working with cattle, and they take pride in selling a finished product to others in their community. This also gives them opportunities for conversations with consumers about beef, dairy, and farming in general.

“Some people have heard of Wagyu beef from Japan. Some have heard you could pay $200 for a fancy 12-ounce steak, and some people don’t know much about it at all,” says Ben about the learning curve and the way crossbreeding makes this beef more economically accessible.

“What people really like is the idea of buying beef from farms, and that gets them interested in trying it,” he adds.

That’s the window of opportunity for the quality of the beef to sell itself into the future.

“It has been fun,” Adam admits. “It’s something different, and we don’t know where it will take us.”

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MILK MARKET MOOS — May 18-25, 2022

Market Moos is a weekly column in Farmshine by Sherry Bunting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WASDE: 2022 imports up

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

The May WASDE raised the 2022 milk production forecast on what it says are higher milk cow inventories more than offsetting slower growth in milk per cow. But it is important to realize the April milk production report this week (as reported above) showed otherwise.

Cheese and butter price forecasts are raised from the previous month’s report on strong demand, but non-fat dry milk and whey prices are lowered. The Class III price is unchanged and Class IV is lowered.

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

Biden orders Operation Fly Formula via Dept. of Defense

Operation Fly Formula was ordered by President Biden invoking the Defense Production Act on Wed., May 18, sending military planes abroad to bring infant formula home to America’s babies, especially the specialty hypo-allergenic formulas for babies with allergies to milk or special health needs. Parents currently face 45 to 60% out-of-stock shortages in infant formula and two military cargo plane loads of hypoallergenic specialty formula have arrived from Europe and the UK over the past 7 days.

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

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

Discussion is rampant through social media about goat milk as a substitute for formula. There’s something to this because goat’s milk is A2A2 in its protein composition, as is sheep’s milk and human milk. There are A2A2 cow’s milk brands available now also. Parents are urged not to switch to plant-based beverages that do not have the nutrition of whole milk and to be cautioned that lactose free milks may not have sufficient carbohydrate for electrolyte balance since the lactose IS the carbohydrate in milk.

The FDA also struck a deal to get the Abbott plant back up and going by June 4 after product recalls and a plant closure related to bacteria tests occurred in February, in part because of a whistleblower’s report that was delayed for months by a “mail room disruption” according to FDA.

‘Confusion is real’

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

Milk futures flip higher, Class III and IV diverge

Green ink the past two weeks replaced three weeks of red ink as milk futures posted back to back gains despite some waffling on the Class III side due to a report this week showing record natural cheese inventories. By Wednesday, May 25, the Class III contract average for the next 12 months was 25-cents higher than the previous week and fully steady compared with the end of April at $22.96. The Class IV milk futures went roaring $1 to $1.50, spots $2 higher — tripling the spread between the two. On the close Wed., May 25, Class IV contracts for the next 12 months averaged $24.05 — up $1.03 from a week ago and 60 cents higher than the end of April. Class IV continues to top Class III, with the average divergence now at $1.10. Aug. through Nov. contracts on the CME futures board now diverge by more than the $1.48 threshold that suppresses the Class I mover value under the new averaging formula.

Dairy products rally higher

CME spot cash dairy product markets have reversed course to move higher for two consecutive weeks, capped by a strong rally on Class IV products (butter and nonfat dry milk) driven by a 22% decline in butter inventories. Compared with the end of April, the May 25 daily spot prices for the four commodities used in federal milk order pricing are: Butter up 28 cents at $2.89/lb after 12 consecutive days of gaining more than 2-pennies per day in active trade volume; Nonfat dry milk up 13 cents at $1.84/lb; Cheese steady compared with a month ago at $2.30/lb, Dry whey firming up the 8-cent loss at 50 cents.

April blend up $1-1.50

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

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

June Class I ‘mover’ $25.87

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

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

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

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

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

By Sherry Bunting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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