U.S. ‘Dietary Guidelines’ released in wake of continued failures, Checkoff and industry organizations ‘applaud’

More than a decade of research on saturated fat is again ignored: A look at the reality of where we are and how we got here.

On the surface, the broad brush language of the 2020-25 Dietary Guidelines looks and sounds good. But the devil is in the details.

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, January 15, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. – “Make every bite count.” That’s the slogan of the new 2020-25 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), released Tuesday, December 29 by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS).

In the webcast announcement from Washington, the focus was described as helping Americans meet nutritional needs primarily from nutrient-dense ‘forms’ of foods and beverages. However, because of the continued restriction on saturated fat to no more than 10% of calories, some of the most nutrient-dense foods took the biggest hits.

For example, the 2020-25 DGA executive summary describes the Dairy Group as “including fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese and/or lactose-free versions, and fortified soy beverages and yogurt.” 

Even though the 2020-25 Dietary Guidelines exclude important dairy products from the Dairy Food Group and continue to restrict whole milk and full-fat cheese with implications for school meals, the checkoff-funded National Dairy Council says “Dairy organizations applaud.” Screenshot at https://www.myplate.gov/eat-healthy/dairy

At the newly re-launched MyPlate website, exclusions are listed, stating “the Dairy Group does not include foods made from milk that have little calcium and a high fat content, such as cream cheese, sour cream, cream, and butter.”

In fact, the webcast announcement flashed a slide of MyPlate materials showing consumers how to customize favorite meals for so-called ‘nutrient density’. The example was a burrito bowl, before and after applying the DGAs. Two recommended ‘improvements’ were to remove the sour cream and to replace ‘cheese’ with ‘reduced-fat cheese.’

For the first time, the DGAs included recommendations for birth to 2 years of age. The new toddler category is the only age group (up to age 2) where whole milk is recommended.

The 2020-25 DGAs “approve” just three dietary patterns for all stages of lifespan: Heathy U.S., Vegetarian, and Mediterranean. Of the three, two include 3 cups of low-fat or fat-free dairy and one includes 2 to 2.5 cups low-fat and fat-free dairy. Protein recommendations range 2 to 7 ounces. All 3 dietary patterns are heavy on fruits, vegetables and especially grains. 

In short, the DGA Committee, USDA and HHS collectively excluded the entire past decade of research on saturated fat. Throughout the DGA process, many in the nutrition science and medical communities asked the federal government to add another dietary pattern choice that is lower in carbohydrates and higher in protein with a less restrictive saturated fat level — especially given the government’s own numbers shared in the Dec. 29 announcement that, today, 60% of adults have one or more diet-related chronic illnesses, 74% of adults are overweight or obese, and 40% of children are overweight or obese.

USDA and HHS shared these statistics during the announcement of the new 2020-25 Dietary Guidelines. The next slide stated the reason for the worsening obesity and chronic diet-related disease rates is that Americans are not following the Guidelines. And yet, this progression has a marked beginning with the 1980s start of Dietary Guidelines and has accelerated in children during the 10 years since USDA linked rules for school and daycare meals more directly to the Guidelines in 2010.

Ultimately, the 2020-25 DGAs fulfilled what appears to be a predetermined outcome by structuring its specific and limiting questions to set up the research review in a way that builds on previous cycles. This, despite letters signed by over 50 members of Congress, hundreds of doctors, as well as a research review conducted by groups of scientists that included former DGA Committee members — all critical of the DGA process. 

As current research points out, saturated fat is not consumed by itself. It is part of a nutrient-dense package that supplies vitamins and minerals the DGA Committee, itself, recognized their approved dietary patterns lack. Full-fat dairy foods and meats have complex fat profiles, including saturated, mono and polyunsaturated fats, CLAs and omegas.

But USDA and HHS chose to ignore the science, and the dairy and beef checkoff and industry organizations ‘applauded.’

National Dairy Council ‘applauds,’ NCBA ‘thrilled’

Both the checkoff-funded National Dairy Council (NDC) and checkoff-funded self-described Beef Board contractor National Cattleman’s Beef Association (NCBA) were quick to respond with public statements.

An NCBA spokesperson was quoted in several mainstream articles saying beef producers are “thrilled with the new guidelines affirming lean beef in a healthy diet.”

NDC stated in the subject line of its news release to media outlets that “dairy organizations applaud affirmation of dairy’s role in new Dietary Guidelines.”

The NDC news release stated: “Daily inclusion of low-fat and fat-free dairy foods is recommended in all three DGA healthy dietary patterns. Following the guidelines is associated with reduced risk of chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.”

The dairy checkoff news release also identified nutrient deficiencies that are improved by consuming dairy but failed to mention how fat in whole milk, full-fat cheese and other dairy products improves nutrient absorption.

Checkoff-funded NDC’s news release described the DGAs as “based on a sound body of peer-reviewed research.” The news release further identified the guidelines’ continued saturated fat limits at no more than 10% of calories but did not take the opportunity to mention the excluded peer-reviewed research showing saturated fat, milkfat, whole milk and full-fat dairy foods are beneficial for health, vitamin D and other nutrient absorption, all-cause mortality, satiety, carbohydrate metabolism, type 2 diabetes and neutral to beneficial in terms of cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.

They did not take the opportunity to encourage future consideration of the ignored body of research. Even National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) included a fleeting mention of its hopes for future fat flexibility in its own DGA congratulatory news release.

The checkoff-funded NDC news release did reveal its key priority: Sustainability. This topic is not part of the guidelines, but NDC made sustainability a part of their news release about the guidelines, devoting one-fourth of their communication to this point, listing “sustainable food systems” among its “dietary” research priorities, and stating the following:

“While these Guidelines don’t include recommendations for sustainable food systems, the U.S. dairy community has commitments in place to advance environmental sustainability,” the National Dairy Council stated in its DGA-applauding news release. “Earlier (in 2020), the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy announced the 2050 Environmental Stewardship Goals, which include achieving carbon neutrality or better, optimizing water usage and improving water quality.”

(Remember, DMI CEO Tom Gallagher told farm reporters in December that “sustainable nutrition” will be the new phrase. It is clear that the dairy checkoff is on-board the ‘planetary diets’ train).

International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) also issued news releases praising the inclusion of low-fat and fat-free dairy in the DGAs and upholding the guidelines as ‘science-based.’

According to the Nutrition Coalition, and a panel of scientists producing a parallel report showing the nutrient-dense benefits of unprocessed meat and full fat dairy as well as no increased risk of heart disease or diabetes, the 2020-25 DGAs excluded more than a decade of peer-reviewed saturated fat research right from the outset.

The exclusion of a decade or more of scientific evidence sends a clear message from the federal government — the entrenched bureaucracy — that it does not intend to go back and open the process to true scientific evaluation. In this way, the DGAs dovetail right into ‘sustainable nutrition’ and ‘planetary diets’ gradually diluting animal protein consumption as part of the World Economic Forum’s Great Reset for food transformationEAT Lancet style.

So, while dairy checkoff is applauding the DGAs, dairy producers are lamenting the way the guidelines rip key products right out of the dairy food group.

Saturated fat and added sugars combined

A less publicized piece of the DGA combines saturated fat and added sugars. In addition to no more than 10% of each, the new DGAs state no more than 15% of any combination of the two.

The 2020-25 DGAs limit saturated fat and added sugar each to 10% of calories; however, both are combined at 15% of daily calories.

This detail could impact the way schools, daycares and other institutional feeding settings manage the calorie levels of both below that 10% threshold to comply with USDA oversight of the combined 15%.

These two categories could not be more different. Saturated fat provides flavor plus nutritional function as part of nutrient-dense foods, whereas added sugar provides zero nutritional function, only flavor. 

USDA and HHS fail

During the DGA webcast announcement, Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue said: “The new Dietary Guidelines are focused on nutrient dense foods and are based on a robust body of nutritional scientific evidence to make every bite count.”

However, Perdue failed to acknowledge any role for the robust scientific evidence that was completely excluded from consideration in the process, nor did he acknowledge the stacked-against-fat formation of the DGA Committee, especially the subcommittee handling the 2020 dietary fats questions.

Perdue talked about how the guidelines are there to help Americans make healthy choices. He repeatedly used the term “nutrient dense foods” to describe dietary patterns that are notably lacking in nutrient dense foods – so much so that even the DGA Committee admitted in its final live session last summer that the approved dietary patterns leave eaters, especially children and elderly, deficient in key vitamins and minerals.

(Last summer in their final session, members of the DGA Committee said Americans can supplement with vitamin pills, and one noted there are ‘new designer foods’ coming.)

“We are so meticulous and careful about developing the DGAs because we use them to inform food and federal programs,” said Admiral Brett Giroir of HHS during the DGA announcement.

Part of the screening process used by USDA for science that will be included or excluded from Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee consideration is this curious item shown above: “Framed around relevancy to U.S. Federal  Policy”. Committee members in October 2019 asked for more information on this research screening criteria. USDA explained it to them in the public meeting, stating that this bullet item “refers to including only the research that ALIGNS with current federal policy.”

At least Admiral Giroir was honest to remind us that the DGAs are more than ‘guidelines’, the DGAs are, in fact, enforced upon many Americans — especially children, elderly, food insecure families, and military through government oversight of diets at schools, daycares, retirement villages, hospitals, nursing homes, military provisions, and government feeding programs like Women Infants and Children.

“The 2020-25 DGAs put Americans on a path of sustainable independence,” said USDA Food Nutrition Services Deputy Undersecretary Brandon Lipps during the Dec. 29 unveiling.

Lipps was eager to share the new MyPlate website re-launch — complete with a new MyPlate ‘app’ and ‘fun quizzes and challenges.’ He said every American, over their whole lifespan, can now benefit from the DGAs. In addition, the MyPlate ‘app’ will record dietary data for the government to “see how we are doing.”

Congress fails

In the postscript comments of the 2020-25 report, USDA / HHS authorities say they intend to look again at ‘preponderance’ of evidence about stricter sugar and alcohol limits in future DGA cycles but made no mention of looking at ‘preponderance of evidence’ on loosening future saturated fat restrictions.

The ‘preponderance’ threshold was set by Congress in 1990. Then, in 2015, Congress took several steps to beef up the scientific review process for 2020.

During an October 2015 hearing, members of Congress cited CDC data showing the rate of obesity and diabetes in school-aged children had begun to taper down by 9% from 2006 to 2010, but from 2010 to 2014 the rates increased 16%.

2010 was the year Congress passed the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act to tie the most fat-restrictive DGAs to-date more closely to the schools and other government-subsidized feeding. 

USDA, under Tom Vilsack as former President Obama’s Ag Secretary at the time promulgated the implementation rules for schools, outright prohibiting whole and 2% milk as well as 1% flavored milk for the first time — even in the a la carte offerings. These ‘Smart Snacks’ rules today govern all beverages available for purchase at schools, stating whole milk cannot be offered anywhere on school grounds from midnight before the start of the school day until 30 minutes after the end of the school day.

In the October 2015 Congressional hearing, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle grilled then Secretaries Tom Vilsack (agriculture) and Sylvia Burwell (HHS) about the Nutrition Evidence Library (NEL) that is housed at USDA, asking why large important studies on saturated fat funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH) were left out of the 2015-20 DGA consideration.

That 2015 hearing indicates why we are where we are in 2020 because of how each 5-year cycle is structured to only look at certain questions and to build on previous DGA Committee work. This structure automatically excludes some of the best and most current research. On saturated fat in 2020, the DGA Committee only considered new saturated fat evidence on children (of which very little exists) or what met previous cycle parameters.

This, despite Congress appropriating $1 million in tax dollars in 2016 to fund a review of the DGA process by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. That review was particularly harsh in its findings, and the 2020-25 DGA process ignored the Academy’s recommendations.

Opinion, not fact

During the 2015 Congressional hearing, then Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack was asked why 70% of the DGA process did not use studies funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

“The (DGA) process starts with a series of questions that are formulated and then information is accumulated, and it goes through a process of evaluation,” Vilsack replied.

Answering a charge by then Congressman Dan Benishek, a physician from Michigan who was concerned about the 52% of Americans in 2015 that were diabetic, pre-diabetic and carbohydrate intolerant in regard to the fat restrictions, Vilsack replied:

“The review process goes through a series of mechanisms to try to provide an understanding of what the best science is, what the best available science is and what the least biased science is, and it’s a series of things: the Cochrane Collaboration, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the aging for health care equality, data quality, all part of the Data Quality Act (2001 under Clinton Admin). That’s another parameter that we have to work under, Congress has given us direction under the Data Quality Act as to how this is to be managed.”

Unsatisfied with this answer, members of Congress pressed further in that 2015 hearing, stressing that fat recommendations for children have no scientific basis because all the studies included were on middle aged adults, mainly middle-aged men.

https://www.c-span.org/video/standalone/?c4932695/user-clip-excerpt-preponderance-evidence

Vilsack admitted that the DGAs are “opinion” not “scientific fact.” He explained to the members of Congress how “preponderance of evidence” works in the DGA process.

“In some circumstances, you have competing studies, which is why it’s important to understand that this is really about well-informed opinion. I wish there were scientific facts. But the reality is stuff changes. The key here is taking a look at the preponderance, the greater weight of the evidence,” said then Sec. Vilsack in 2015. “If you have one study on one side and you have 15 on another side, the evidence may be on this side with the 15 studies. That’s a challenge. That’s why we do this every five years to give an opportunity for that quality study to be further enhanced so that five years from now maybe there are 15 studies on this side and 15 studies on this side. It’s an evolving process.”

What now?

What we are seeing again in 2020 is what happens when ‘preponderance’ is affected by structures that limit what research is included to be weighed.

Stay involved and engaged. The grassroots efforts are making inroads, even though it may not appear that way.

For their part, the checkoff and commodity organizations ‘applauding’ the latest guidelines would benefit from drinking more whole milk and eating more full-fat cheese and beef to support brain function and grow a spine.

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Preposterous ‘preponderance’

While left hand says it’s busy building ‘mountain’ of evidence, right hand has already moved the nutrition definition goal post

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, Dec. 23, 2020

BROWNSTOWN, Pa. — Preponderance of the evidence. We hear that phrase over and over when it comes to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) and the effort to reverse 40 years of increasingly strict rules on dietary fat affecting children in schools and daycares, the military, seniors in nursing care or retirement villages, food-insecure families relying on government feeding programs like WIC, and countless other insidious prohibitions on healthy choices when it comes to whole milk, butter, full-fat cheese, dairy products like sour cream and cream cheese as well as other animal protein foods containing fat.

But the whole concept of ‘preponderance’ is really preposterous when applying the legal definition.

Let’s review.

Last March at a DMI forum on a Chester County dairy farm, DMI chair Marilyn Hershey and executive vice president Lucas Lentsch described the ‘preponderance of evidence’ standard as “building a mountain of evidence.” They said the National Dairy Council is building that mountain, but it takes time to keep pushing more evidence forward “until we have enough.”

When former Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack gave the 2015-20 Dietary Guidelines his stamp of approval, a Congressional hearing took the USDA and HHS secretaries to task, grilling them on science that was not considered then (nor is it now in the 2020 version of the DGAs). Remember, former Ag Sec. Vilsack promptly became the current top-paid dairy checkoff executive for four years (Jan. 2017 to present) and is now poised (again) as President-Elect Biden’s Ag Secretary pick 2021 forward.

During that 2015 congressional grilling, then Secretary Vilsack said “It’s the preponderance of the evidence that is the standard, and we know stuff is always changing so there has to be a cutoff.”

On whole milk (which he helped remove from schools in 2010), then Secretary Vilsack, when confronted in 2015 with what he called “emerging” science on saturated fat — said “the preponderance of evidence still favors the recommendation for fat-free and low-fat dairy.”

Much of the saturated fat discussion during the 2020 DGA Committee work used the 2015 DGA’s body of science, that was one of the screening criteria. The cutoff bar didn’t move.

In 2015, then Secretary Vilsack explained the ‘science’ of the DGAs this way:

“Well, the process starts with a series of questions that are formulated and then information is accumulated and it goes through a process of evaluation,” he said.

Answering a charge by then Congressman Benishek, a physician from Michigan who was concerned about the 52% of Americans who are diabetic, pre-diabetic and carbohydrate intolerant as regards the fat caps and the exclusion of science available — even in 2015 — on low carb, higher fat diets, then Sec. Vilsack stated in 2015:

“The review process goes through a series of mechanisms to try to provide an understanding of what the best science is, what the best available science is and what the least biased science is, and it’s a series of things: the Cochrane Collaboration, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the aging for health care equality, data quality, all part of the Data Quality Act (2001 under Clinton Admin). That’s another parameter that we have to work under, Congress has given us direction under the Data Quality Act as to how this is to be managed.”

On a further point of contention in 2015, Vilsack stated the following as a definition of how “preponderance” works.

Vilsack said (2015): “In some circumstances, you have competing studies, which is why it’s important to understand that this is really about well-informed opinion. I wish there were scientific facts. But the reality is stuff changes. The key here is taking a look at the preponderance. The greater weight of the evidence. If you have one study on one side and you have 15 on another side, the evidence may be on this side with the 15 studies. That’s a challenge. That’s why we do this every five years to give an opportunity for that quality study to be further enhanced so that five years from now maybe there are 15 studies on this side and 15 studies on this side. It’s an evolving process.”

During a recent dairy checkoff yearend news conference with reporters, DMI CEO Tom Gallagher answered a question about consumer health attitudes and checkoff research targets for 2021. Whole milk was never mentioned in the question, but here is Gallagher’s answer as he, too, cites the “preponderance” criteria:

Gallagher said (2020): “Our research plan (for 2021) is very robust at our centers. The primary research that we focus on is whole milk because we are, number one, the only group to be pushing the research on whole milk and taking it to the scientific community so the scientific community does more research because the Dietary Guidelines will never change until the preponderance – not the best – evidence, but the preponderance of the research is in favor of whole milk. We’re helping to move that needle to that point.”

I looked up the legal definition of this ‘preponderance of the evidence’ phrase, this standard for the DGAs as determined by Congressional statute. It is clear that DMI’s assertion of building a mountain of evidence is not needed to achieve a preponderance, according to the legal definition.

According to the law.com legal dictionary, ‘preponderance of the evidence’ is a lower burden of proof than other evidentiary burdens. It only requires a better than 50% chance that it’s true! 

In fact, the law.com definition states “Preponderance of the evidence is based on what is the more convincing evidence and its probable truth or accuracy NOT on the amount of evidence.” An example is given where one credible witness outweighs a pile of other evidence! It’s not the amount of research, then, it is the more convincing in terms of probable truth.

The word preponderance itself means “quality or fact of being greater in number, quantity, OR importance.” Yes, importance and quality can trump quantity to achieve preponderance!

Mountain-building is a stalling tactic by the left hand of industry and government, while their combined right hand is moving the goal post. (In fact, mountain-building is futile because the USDA structure on Dietary Guidelines has not allowed new evidence to be considered on certain dietary fiction it deems as settled science. There are fancy ‘mechanisms’ that have kept credible science out of the equation in 2015 and again in 2020).

Who are the attorneys advising USDA and dairy checkoff as to the meaning of “preponderance of the evidence?” Could it be Mr. Vilsack, an attorney by trade, going from USDA Secretary to top-paid DMI executive and back again potentially as the next Ag Secretary? 

Clearly, Mr. Vilsack and his colleagues at DMI are fond of citing “preponderance” as a stalling tactic for fat flexibility in the DGAs. But contrary to Gallagher’s point during this yearend news conference, the legal definition of “preponderance of evidence,” really does mean the BEST evidence can trump the MOST evidence.

It’s not about which theory has the most evidence, but which one has the best and most convincing evidence. This definition suggests that you don’t need 15 studies on one side to match 15 studies on the other side. To add flexibility on school milk choice or to reverse the saturated fat caps set at 10% of calories, a mountain of evidence is NOT needed, and a lot of good and convincing evidence keeps getting excluded from the process anyway.

The saturated fat question and the casting aside of research feels like being forced to doggy paddle in an olympic swimming competition.

The problem is agenda and bias. Who is standing up for producers and consumers?

Ahead of the 2015 DGA cycle, scientists and investigative journalists, like Nina Teicholz, exposed the weak scientific basis for Dr. Ancel Keys’ diet-heart hypothesis that these DGAs have been built on for over 40 years. Not to mention the many studies back then that were buried, once Keys became the dietary darling, and not to mention all of the newer studies that show saturated fat is not the health demon it has been made out to be, and in fact is necessary in diets to prevent chronic diet-related illness.

Here’s a look at where nutrition science is going next.

Yes, they have moved the goal post via climate change. And yes, they are telling us that consumers are more concerned about climate change after Covid-19.

Basing DMI’s 2021 plan assertions on a Kearney report (April 2020), Gallagher said: “Covid-19 has made people more hyper-sensitive to things, like the environment. 58% of consumers are more concerned about the environment since Covid, and 50% want companies to respond to climate change with the same level of urgency as responding to the pandemic.”

When asked where consumers ranked health in that particular survey — given a recent report on CNBC business news about corporations trying to get consumer ‘buy-in’ on sustainability benchmarks and finding the only way to achieve it is to link sustainability to health.

You guessed it. Gallagher was ready with the answer.

“Sustainable nutrition is the phrase you’re going to hear going forward. You’re going to see those two things inextricably tied,” he replied during the yearend and look ahead news conference by phone.

We recall in October 2019, Gallagher telegraphed a message during the 53rd World Dairy Expo that the dairy checkoff simply accepts waiting another five years until 2025 (not the current cycle) as the year that the saturated fat caps could be reversed. The 2020 DGA committee was only just partway into the process back in Oct. 2019 with a whole year of work ahead — and already the head of dairy checkoff was being quoted in the Oct. 14, 2019 Hoard’s article broadcasting that the fat issue could likely happen by the NEXT DGA cycle (2025), not this one (2020).

Gallagher further indicated in that Oct. 2019 Hoards article that the “forest” must be “populated with more trees.” (Again this idea that preponderance is based on the amount of studies, not the importance or reliability of the studies and not acknowledging that half the trees in that so-called forest are being ignored by USDA and the DGA committee — screened out of consideration at the outset. Not one of the checkoff or ag commodity group was standing up for producers and consumers on this score at the START of the 2020 DGA cycle, nor the finish).

However, we now know that the new goal post will be entrenched by 2025: ‘Sustainable nutrition’ will be the new phrase, the new goal post, according to Gallagher’s response during the December 2020 news conference.

Make no mistake about this: As much as the sustainability overlords talk about farmers being paid to plant cover crops (most already plant cover crops after corn harvest) or to recover nutrients and methane through other practices and technologies, paying for offsets and dilution of animal foods in diets are two strategies already on deck. We heard a little of this also during the December 2020 news conference as Gallagher and DMI president Barb O’Brien talked about how their partners are getting into ‘competitors’ (fake dairy lookalikes) because when a family of four comes in to eat, one may want a new taste experience, and DMI partners have to provide that ‘new experience’ to keep from losing the entire family.

DMI is working for its corporate partners like Nestle and Starbucks, both giving the DMI Innovation Center’s Net Zero Initiative up to $10 million over multiple years to pilot sustainable technologies and practices on dairy farms.

Gallagher described the situation this way: “Health, taste, price – those things are still important, but as more and more companies are offering things that are competitive, what we’re seeing people saying is ‘Well, I’m going to look at sustainability as a difference maker in who I purchase from and what I purchase,’” he said.

“The days of 10 to 15 years ago — where things like sustainability were believed to be made up by retailers for marketing — are over,” Gallagher added.

“Everyone gets it. We are past that. The beautiful part is the U.S. dairy industry has the best sustainability story in the world to tell, and we’re telling it,” he said.

As promised, a follow up email provided more details on Gallagher’s whole milk research assertion, stating: “Dairy farmers have been funding research led by National Dairy Council on the role of whole milk dairy foods and wellness for over a decade. In fact, around 70 studies have been published, adding to the growing body of evidence indicating that consuming dairy foods, regardless of fat content, as part of healthy eating patterns is not linked with risk of heart disease or type 2 diabetes. The paradigm shift to more fat flexibility in the dairy group is already happening in the real world as demonstrated through the many actions of consumers and thought leaders.”

Three research items were specifically mentioned in the email — all published within the past 6 to 24 months:

1) A Science Brief: Whole and reduced-fat dairy foods and cardiovascular disease. Upon following the link published January 17, 2019, we find it begins as a regurgitation of 2015-20 Dietary Guidelines with all references to dairy qualified as ‘low-fat and fat-free’, but then goes on to discuss: “Emerging research also indicates that saturated fat intake on its own may be a poor metric for identifying healthy foods or diets.” A downloadable PDF summarizes this “emerging” research on dairy fat at: Science Brief: Whole and Reduced-Fat Dairy Foods and CVD | U.S. Dairy

2) Posted in Sept. 2019 is this resource where National Dairy Council’s Dr. Greg Miller talks about “landmark shifts” and states that, “As the research continues to grow, a preponderance of evidence (exists linking milk, cheese and yogurt, regardless of fat level, with lower risk of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. This one is found at: Ask Dr. Dairy: Can Whole Milk-Based Dairy Foods Be Part of Healthy Eating Patterns? | U.S. Dairy

3) The third item posted June 2020 in connection with DMI’s Dietary Guidelines comment talks about dairy consumption lowering risk of high blood pressure and diabetes and cites a study that, “indicates there may be room for fat flexibility in peoples’ dairy group choices to include dairy foods like milk, cheese and yogurt – at a variety of fat levels – as part of healthy eating patterns in the U.S. and worldwide.”

We can see the tight rope being walked, hinging everything on this idea of slowly building a mountain of evidence as though this is the definition of what is needed to fulfill the “preponderance” standard. But as we know from the legal definition, the amount of evidence is not what’s important, but rather what is credible and convincing. The available evidence is already preponderant. Whole milk, at 41% of market share, has grown by leaps and bounds over the past two years, and is now the largest selling product in the milk category because consumers are convinced. In the past two years, they have moved toward choosing health instead of allowing the government to choose for them — at least when they CAN choose.

Thinking on the many topics that were part of the fairy checkoff yearend news conference, some clear themes take us into the new year in terms of the 2021 dairy checkoff plans.

Gallagher, O’Brien and Hershey talked about “moving milk” differently because of Covid, of working in Emergency Action Teams to unify the supply chain with these top priorities in mind: 

1) Feeding food insecure people, 

2) Responding to climate change

3) Developing a deeper and closer relationship with Amazon into e-commerce and milk portability, and 

4) Developing tools and promotions for corporate partners.

On the latter, Gallagher was proud to give the example of DMI’s funding for Domino’s “contactless delivery” in Japan during the early days of Covid. He said this partner (named as Leprino, DFA and Domino’s) would not have been in a position to move so much pizza cheese when the pandemic hit the U.S. had it not been for DMI’s funding of that contactless delivery innovation first in Japan and then used here.

(Contactless delivery is used by almost every restaurant doing takeout today in the Covid era. It simply means ordering and paying online, texting when arriving, and having your food placed in your car. Not rocket science.)

Since 2008, DMI and USDA — through Vilsack-era Memorandums of Understanding — have a hand-in-glove relationship on GENYOUth and Sustainability. DMI works for its partners and has adopted a role for itself as global supply-chain integrator — the prime mover of milk.

Increasingly, there is the sense that the dairy checkoff bus has morphed into a ride for its key partners, while rank-and-file producers keep paying the fare, just hoping for a lift.

Look for more yearend checkoff review in a future edition of Farmshine.

WHOLE Milk gets results too important to ignore!

By Sherry Bunting, Republished from Farmshine, Friday, August 7, 2020

BROWNSTOWN, Pa. —  One school in Pennsylvania had the courage to just do it.

For the 2019-20 school year beginning in September, they conducted a trial that simply offered the choice of whole milk and 2% next to the required fat-free and 1% to middle and high school students daily for breakfast and lunch. They did not promote the trial or call attention to it, just waited to see how students would react and what their responses would be.

The results are too important to ignore!

Within a short time of expanding the milk choices last September, students were choosing whole milk 3 to 1 over low-fat milk.

In January, four months into the trial, they found that allowing students to choose from all varieties of milk fat levels increased overall milk consumption by 65% and reduced milk waste by 95%.

Just before schools closed in March due to the pandemic, students were surveyed to learn what they had to say about their milk consumption behavior. Here’s a sampling: 60% said they had thrown away milk in the past before the trial, but only 31% said they had thrown away milk AFTER the whole milk trial.

Only half the students said they were aware of the restrictions on what type of milk could be offered at school.

Incredibly, the percentage of teens at this school who said they were choosing milk at breakfast before the trial was 67%, after expanding milk choices to include whole milk, 80% were choosing milk at breakfast.

All of this data and more in just seven months at a middle school and high school in Pennsylvania. We are withholding the name of the district and its foodservice director to shield their identity from potential backlash due to the USDA rules on fat content of purchased ala-carte “competing” beverages.

The foodservice director who set up the trial, with the support of the school board, states that students have now tasted the difference. Now that the school is using the intermediate unit as the vendor for packaged pickup meals and can only make 1% milk available, the kids are asking: “Where’s the Whole milk?”

“I am 100% convinced that most parents do not know about all that is going on with the school meals programs,” the Pennsylvania school foodservice director said. She is letting them know about the Dietary Guidelines and school nutrition rules so they can become aware and perhaps be led to be involved.

The official public comment period on the 2020-25 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s Scientific Report has ended. USDA and HHS are using the DGA Report to finalize the next five years of Dietary Guidelines.

To bring the choice of whole milk back to schools, contact your representatives in Congress to cosponsor House Bill 832 Whole Milk for Healthy Kids and Senate Bill 1810 Milk in Lunches for Kids. Also, contact school boards and other governmental and non governmental organizations and ask them to consider adopting resolutions in support of this choice.

Learn more about how to take action at this link. A sample board resolution is on the second page. Schools that adopt resolutions should email 97wholemilk@gmail.com to be added to the list and also let their Congressional delegations in Washington know they support HR 832 and S. 1810. https://www.97milk.com/wp-content/uploads/TakeAction_092820.pdf

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One-sided bias evident as DGAC edges fat ‘caps’ lower, even our toddlers aren’t safe

Over 500 pages, 250,000 reports screened-out, nutrient deficiencies ignored, and now toddler food patterns included

IMG-8568By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, June 19, 2020 edition

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The big news from the final Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) meeting in which they presented their 500-plus page report Wednesday, June 17, is that the current saturated fat caps — at less than 10% of calories — will stand. But at the same time, the saturated fat subcommittee detailed its true recommendations, pegging saturated fat levels to be at 7 to 8% of calories, and these charts are the ones that will likely be forced on schools and daycares and nursing homes and military diets. (More detail on this to come.)

After 7 hours of subcomittee presentations, in an online virtual format, covering all facets of the 2020-25 DGAC ‘expert’ report, it was hard to choose which of the many eyebrow-raising moments was most concerning. In fact, DGAC comments were at times actually humorous, if this was not such a serious matter.

Perhaps it was the moment when the subcommittee handling the saturated fat questions decided to go backwards from 2015. Not only are they edging the saturated fat caps lower in their forward-looking recommendations, they want to bring cholesterol caps back into the mix. That’s right folks, we’re going back to cholesterol caps “because humans have no need for dietary cholesterol,” they declared matter of factly.

That’s the mentality. No need for cholesterol, which is essential for every single cell in the body and especially important in hormone synthesis, not to mention brain function. But, then again, the DGAC never was happy about giving up those cholesterol caps in 2015, especially since the anti-animal agenda of noted DGAC vegetarian leanings have found they need more than saturated fat caps to hang their hats on — especially since the 2020 DGAC included toddler food patterns in their report for the first time.

That discussion was also perplexing. No less than a full hour was spent going through every diet formulation the subcommittee could conjure up in order to get toddler food patterns closer to a “healthy vegetarian diet”, the one of three currently government-approved dietary patterns favored by the DGAC, now being recommended for children UNDER 2 years of age.

Each combination of foods they walked through (because the new way of presenting these patterns is to have actual foods listed to avoid) had them facing a big dilemma. Within the amount of calories a toddler will consume, there was no way to deliver the nutrients they need for life without more animal protein foods. In each case, the toddler patterns did not provide all the essential nutrients needed for brain development, growth, and health.

Iron was just one of them. When it was pointed out by one DGAC member that animal protein delivers absorbable iron — critical for toddlers — unlike a handy-dandy supplement pill, vegan-leaning Linda Van Horn from the saturated fat committee chimed in with a bizarre comment. She said it was not a concern because research she couldn’t put her fingers on at that moment suggests vegetarian adults have the ability to absorb more iron from supplements and other foods, so, she said, “kids of vegetarian parents could have this ‘accelerated absorption’ capability from their parents.”

Inherited vegetarian genetics? Eye-roll.

Another committee member politely suggested that, yes, there is research showing vegetarians absorb more iron from supplements and other food sources “because they are deficient in iron in the first place.”

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DGAC says healthy vegetarian pattern for toddlers is good to go even though it doesn’t meet their needs for essential nutrients for life. No solution was given by DGAC for this problem. Sadly, in fact, children in schools and daycares were referenced as a group that can “adhere” to the diets  due to government p.

Unfazed, the committee ignored any attempt at logic on the many questions of these diets missing quite a few “nutrients of concern.” They simply moved on… next slide.

Throughout the discussions of dietary patterns, saturated fat caps, and such, the “nutrients of concern” not being met in the food patterns — mainly fat soluble vitamins like D and A found naturally and more absorbable in whole milk vs. fat free and low fat dairy, for example — they just kept moving on in their direction away from animal foods, comforted by their cherry-picked research.  It wasn’t just vitamins D and A and iron, but also iodine, choline, B12 (in adults), potassium, and more. Throughout the daylong presentations, this problem with nutrients not being met kept cropping up for each “life stage” the DGAC was addressing. What was new this time was the addition of food patterns for pregnant and lactating women and children from birth to 24 months of age.

In a more detailed look at the report next week, a few ‘good news’ points for dairy as a food category can be shared, but this underlying avoidance of saturated fat put all things dairy squarely in the fat-free and low-fat zone, and the new and stricter recommendations for added sugars and beverage calories were another concern for children and the dairy sector. Yep, you guessed it. Coke and Pepsico will be happy as their high fructose corn syrup mixed with artificial sweetener concoctions will be looked upon favorably vs. nutrient-dense chocolate milk. (More on that next week.)

Other mentally exhausting moments occurred when subcommittees made recommendations based on limited evidence, or conversely, graded evidence as strong when it was based purely on observational studies. When these concerns were brought up, the answer was to point at the work of the 2015 DGAC that considered “so many more studies” and that the DGAC had decided at the outset to “build on the 2015 report” — more or less picking up where they left off — when it came to the question of dietary fats.

That was the ‘magic wand’ applied throughout the day.

In fact, as Nina Teicholz, author of Big Fat Surprise and founder of the Nutrition Coalition, pointed out in her blow-by-blow twitter feed throughout the day, the movement to subtly edge saturated fat caps lower happened on the very day that a major new review was published on saturated fats to the contrary. The authors of that report — unconsidered by the DGAC of course — included the chair and another member of the former 2005 DGAC.

“Their findings are quite opposite of those by the current one-sided 2020 DGAC,” wrote Teicholz.

Another eyebrow-raising moment came when the committee debated how to “harmonize” the food listings on their charts taken from studies where they had different meanings or included different foods.

Dairy was one example. Whole milk bad, fat-free good, and yet ‘milk’ as an entity showed up with so many positive influences in combined research charts (including cardiovascular disease, all cause mortality, obesity, type 2 diabetes, immune status and more). But the committee didn’t know which milk was in the study, and that distinction is important!

Similarly, they lumped red meat and processed meat together on one chart (the negatives), and then on another chart showing positives, they listed ‘lean meat’ but said they didn’t know if that category included lean red meat or just poultry and fish — even though the same chart had separated poultry and fish into their own categories!

It all seemed like nonsense the DGAC should have taken time to figure out before rushing their report to print.

Even though a letter signed by nearly 300 doctors and medical professionals, letters from dietician groups, letters from members of Congress and others had requested a delay, the DGAC was in a hurry to do the June 17 presentation. In fact, when registering to participate in the presentation online, a note was sent back stating that “this is only a draft and it will have a comment period.”

Trouble is, the expert report is now out, and it’s going to be difficult to put that jack back in the box with a 30-day or 60-day comment period after USDA and HHS formalize it — because so much science was excluded from the beginning. A do-over with a new committee is needed.

This committee took time Wednesday to explain the litany of poor reasons why favorable fat studies were excluded from their cadre. The federal staff that screened for each subcommittee went through a total of 270,000 reports and whittled it down to 1500 on all pertinent questions for this DGAC cycle. That is a story in itself because rigorous evidence was ignored in favor of “associated” studies.

Another concerning moment came early in the day’s presentations when committee members talked about promoting federal diet-tracking, biomarkers and monitoring. Americans will love that kind of intrusion. And in the course of the behavioral recommendations they made, the schoolchildren were their go-to for such monitoring. A captive group of guinea pigs!

But perhaps it was the concluding remarks Wednesday evening at 7:30 p.m. as the daylong meeting came to a close that really stood out. Chairwoman Barbara Schneeman, Ph.D. talked about the enormous task the DGAC had completed over the past 15 months. She said the committee would put its report in final form over the next two weeks, present it to USDA and HHS by the end of June and then USDA and HHS would “formulate it” into recommendations that can be posted for public comment by July 15 and they would be a done deal for implementation by the end of 2020 for the next five years.

Schneeman also went on to talk about how the government nutrition programs needed to be working on how to get more Americans “adhering to these diets”, with emphasis on restricting fat, added sugars and salt while still maintaining positive energy balance and meeting nutrient needs even though the DGAC had not even the slightest answer for the dilemma of meeting nutritient targets with these patterns and recommendations, especially for children.

The clincher. Schneeman pointed out how the COVID-19 pandemic shows just how much the current state of chronic dietary-related diseases put certain populations in the most vulnerable position for infectious diseases like Coronavirus.

But that’s okay, the reason we have an obesity and diabetes epidemic as well as other chronic conditions is because, she said “Americans have never followed our dietary guidelines.”

Begging to differ with their federal statistics, the record is clear that per-capita consumption has declined among the foods DGAC set out over the years to have Americans increasingly avoid. These chronic conditions have worsened with each 5-year cycle moving us further in the fat-free and low-fat direction. So much so, that many of us don’t even realize how we are impacted, and especially how our children are impacted. Now, even the toddlers won’t be safe.

Get involved by sending or phoning a comment to YOUR members of Congress and the Secretaries of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) at this link https://www.nutritioncoalition.us/take-action/

Look for more details in part two.

Past articles on this blog about the DGAC process are listed below

Dietary Guidelines Committee must be stopped… 

Call to action: Feds ignore science on saturated fats… 

Dairy advisory committee formed… 

There is a war to win for our farmers and our children… 

Nutrition politics: Kids and cattle caught in crossfire… 

USDA steps up dairy purchases; $437 mil. in new buys

Borden gets nearly half the ‘food box’ dairy total, most of the fluid milk buy

Farmers to Families Food Box

By Sherry Bunting

WASHINGTON, D.C. – USDA announced on May 8 it has awarded $317 million in dairy purchases as part of the new “Food Box” program. These purchases are separate from the flurry of new bid invitations that also appeared on the USDA AMS food procurement website Friday to fulfill the separate ramping up of $120 million in dairy purchases for “normal” distribution in July under “normal” USDA feeding channels.

Friday’s contracts for the Farmers to Families Food Box Program covered a total of $1.2 billion in first-batch purchases. In addition to the $317 million for dairy products, of which roughly half is for fluid milk purchases and half for dairy product boxes, the awards include $258 million in meat product purchases, $461 in fresh fruit and vegetable purchases and $175 million to vendors supplying “combination boxes.”

This first award announcement uses over one-third of the $3 billion set on April 17 by Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue for food box purchases as part of the overall $19.2 billion Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP).

In this unique program, USDA is partnering with national, regional and local suppliers — whose workforces have been significantly impacted by the closure of restaurants, hotels and other food service businesses.

The approved suppliers will package products into family-sized boxes, then transport them to food banks, community and faith-based organizations, and other non-profits serving Americans in need from May 15 through June 30, 2020.

The biggest winner across the board was Borden Dairy Co. with a total government contract of $147 million — all of it designated as fluid milk purchases — with $99 million for the Southeast region, $40.6 million Southwest and $7.3 million Midwest. This represents nearly half of the total $317 million in dairy purchases announced Friday as part of the food box program, and it constitutes the lion’s share of the fluid milk purchases awarded.

Prairie Farms Dairy cooperative based in Illinois was awarded the next largest dairy contract in the food box program at $27.3 million, with 90% of this for the Midwest region and 10% for multi-region distribution outside of the Midwest. The majority (80%) of the contract is identified as dairy products boxes and 20% for fluid milk purchases.

In The Northeast and Midatlantic regions: Schneider Dairy, Pittsburgh, Pa. was third highest dairy purchase award at $4.27 million, of which $4 million is for fluid milk purchases and the balance for dairy product boxes. Turner Dairy Farms, Penn Hills, Pa. was awarded $315,450 to supply dairy product boxes. Marburger Farm Dairy, Evans City, Pa. was awarded $78,000, with roughly 70% in fluid milk purchases and 30% in dairy product boxes. And HP Hood, Lynnfield, Mass. was awarded $11,000 in fluid milk purchases.

In addition, an array of wholesalers, foodservice distributors, aggregators, missions, common markets, farm-to-table organizations etc., were awarded contracts that included dairy product boxes, and to a lesser degree, fluid milk purchases.

For example, Philadelphia’s Common Market was awarded $5.76 million for use in the Midatlantic and Southeast regions, with almost $1 million of this earmarked for dairy product boxes in the Midatlantic region.

In using the balance of the $3 billion in CFAP food box funds, USDA Agricultural Marketing Service reports it may simply extend these contracts using “option” periods instead of the bid-solicitation process that is used for its other food purchases — depending upon the program’s success in this first go-round.

In addition to the “Farmer to Families Food Box” purchases Sec. Perdue announced a new and additional $470 million in “Section 32” food purchases for delivery to normal USDA feeding programs beginning in July – including $120 million in new spending for dairy products.

These supplemental Section 32 purchases use the normal USDA AMS bid procurement process with solicitations opening in the coming weeks for June approval.

“America’s farmers and ranchers have experienced a dislocated supply chain caused by the Coronavirus. USDA is in the unique position to purchase these foods and deliver them to the hungry Americans who need it most,” said Secretary Perdue in the announcement.

USDA AMS Section 32 purchases of domestically produced and processed agricultural products are ongoing, and USDA anticipates spending a total of $4.89 billion this fiscal year. The new fiscal year begins in July, and USDA says fourth quarter purchases will be determined by industry requests, market analysis and food bank needs.

Additional information on the Farmers to Families Food Box Program, including webinars and an FAQs, is available on the AMS website at www.ams.usda.gov/selling-food-to-usda/farmers-to-families-food-box.

Details on how vendors can participate in Section 32 food and dairy purchases are available at https://www.ams.usda.gov/selling-food

Dairy product specifications and quantities for bid solicitations are shown as they are announced at this website: https://www.ams.usda.gov/open-purchase-request/Dairy_Products%2C_Grades_&_Procurement_of

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When freed from institutional food-police, what are consumers choosing?

_DSC0830Bad news meets dairy good news as industry navigates COVID-19 pandemic

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, Friday, March 27, 2020

BROWNSTOWN, Pa. — We will get to the good news, but first, the bad news…

These are tough times for Americans, and dairy farmers are hearing from their cooperatives and industry in such a way as to put a black cloud of doom over 2020.

Farmers are getting letters and phone calls stating milk base penalties will be strictly enforced beginning this week, in the case of Land O’Lakes, MDVA, DFA — for example — which ask for “voluntary milk reductions” and make plans for dumping milk on farms and at plants as “potential plant closures” meet spring flush.

They indicate that the ability of plants to process milk could “worsen,” giving folks the sense that the ability to process all the milk is already bad. And the dairy industry is preparing its farmers for the possibility of no compensation for displaced / dumped milk.

National Milk Producers Federation’s bulletin and press releases this week state they are seeking three things from the federal government — asking to reopen 2020 Dairy Margin Coverage enrollment, to purchase additional dairy products for humanitarian feeding programs, and to compensate them for “milk disposal” they deem to be “a real possibility as logistical challenges on the farm and at manufacturing plants may create severe disruptions.”

In fact, just 11 days into the COVID-19 national emergency declaration, NMPF came out with an estimate that the dairy industry’s losses “may exceed $2.85 billion”. Analyst after analyst is coming out with new forecasts — projecting milk prices paid to farmers could fall well below pre-COVID-19 forecasts and conjuring up images of 2008-09.

While the pessimistic psychology in these letters, phone calls and industry proclamations is peppered with platitudes such as “we’re in this together” and “we’ll rise to the challenge”…  dairy farmers are already rising to the challenge all day every day producing the milk that consumers are turning to in their time of grave health concern.

The psychology in the letters and phone calls received by farmers stands in stark contrast to the good news.

Now for the good news…

A silver lining became obvious last week and is continuing this week. Consumers are reaching for the jug! In fact, they are reaching for so many jugs that some stores are reportedly limiting milk purchases to one gallon per shopper.

They are also reaching for cheese, butter, yogurt and other dairy products as stores and plants scramble to restock.

While the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee is poised to further clamp-down on the allowable percentage of calories from saturated fat (sources say new guidelines might drop to 7% instead of the current 10%!), what are consumers doing?

Consumers are currently free from the government’s flawed and unhealthy “food police” nonsense that the Dietary Guidelines foist upon us by dictating our nation’s institutional feeding and foodservice in schools, daycares, workplaces — even restaurants.

Those dairy farmers attending the dairy checkoff question and answer session in Chester County, Pa. on March 5 heard firsthand from DMI leaders that dairy checkoff foodservice “partners” — like McDonalds – “want to meet the dietary guidelines on saturated fat and calories,” which is why their meals, especially for children, only offer fat free or 1% milk and it’s why the cheeseburger is not on the Happy Meal board. (But you can get a slice of cheese on that kid’s burger if you ask for it, and you can get whole milk in your hot chocolate, they say, if you ask for it.)

In our collective American lives — pre-COVID-19 —  stealth-health according to government rules has been in effect more than we realized.

The point here is this: Supermarkets are where consumers get to choose what they want to feed their families when the menu is theirs to create. And consumers are learning that saturated fat is not to be so-feared, that Whole milk has less fat than they thought, and that Whole milk and dairy products provide more healthy benefits than they ever thought — including immune-building benefits.

Yes, milk education works. As soon as consumers get to choose freely, what are they choosing? They are choosing milk and dairy, and they are choosing whole milk over all other forms — when it is available.

While DMI leaders talk about “consumer insights” and “moving to where the consumers are” and “moving them away from the habit of reaching for the jug to try innovative new products”… what are we seeing when all the stealth-health controls are lifted and people are home choosing what they will feed their families during COVID-19 “social distancing” and “sheltering in place”?

We see them choosing the truly healthy comfort foods. They are choosing whole milk and 2% gallons and half-gallons, butter, full-fat cheeses and red meat for their families.

These items are quite literally “flying off the shelves.” This phrase is used in report after report this week about the demand pattern that is unfolding.

This supply-chain shift is something the dairy industry is wholly unprepared for, as the path charted for dairy processing and promotion has been so heavily linked to flawed dietary guidelines, institutional feeding, foodservice chain partners and new, more expensive, innovative products — that the concept of filling so many jugs with healthy, affordable, delicious milk is a bit off the charted path.

Even USDA Dairy Market News observed in its weekly report on Friday, March 20th what we also reported to you from our sources in Farmshine last week — that the surging demand at the retail level is more than overcoming reductions in sales to schools and foodservice. In fact, USDA DMN reports that retail milk demand is “overtaking inventories” and that retail orders are “heading into new territory.”

Pictures of empty dairy cases populate social media posts. And yes, USDA DMN confirms that Class I milk demand is ranging mostly from “strong” and “surging” in the West and Midwest, to “extraordinary” in the Northeast, to going “haywire” in the Southeast.

Given that the spring flush has begun, the current surge in fluid milk demand means less of this extra milk will go into manufacturing — as long as consumers continue the current level of fluid milk buying and as long as the milk is in the stores for them to buy.

This pattern should help the surplus butter situation, which was revealed again in last week’s February Cold Storage Report. Last year ended with inventories of butter up 18% compared with the end of 2018. The February report showed butter storage was still bursting at the seams.

But earlier this week, at a local grocery store, only a very local brand of butter was available. Zero Land O’Lakes butter could be found in the case.

USDA DMN in its March 20 weekly report stated that cream is widely available, which seemed to contradict the agency’s description of whole milk sales and its notation in the report that butter churns have strong orders from retailers for what they call “print” butter – butter for retail sale, not bulk inventory.

So what do the numbers look like?

It’s more difficult than ever to get timely information from USDA AMS about packaged fluid milk sales, but here’s what virtually every dairy analyst is reporting this week. They cite the Nielson supermarket data showing fluid milk sales were up 32% last week, that sales of whole and 2% are dominating, when available, and that retail sales of other dairy product classes were up double digits.

Milk and dairy products are a centerpiece of “comfort food” and in-home meals. Families are enjoying milk again. Will they keep enjoying it after they return to school and work? Or will they be back in rush zone of packaged carbs instead of cereal and milk, and back in the government’s “stealth-health” or “fake health” zone where fat is restricted and carbs are unlimited?

It will take some time to sort out the buying patterns that linger after the initial surge in dairy demand currently experienced at retail, but here’s some additional positive news to think about.

When consumers are educated and get the opportunity to seriously whet their appetite. When they tune-out the frivolous ‘sustainability’ banter about cows and climate and can ignore the rules about saturated fat… When they focus-in on their families, turn to milk for health, flavor and comfort, and remember or realize for the first time what they were missing… Who knows what they will choose going forward – when they are allowed to choose?

Even when families return to work and school, they may remember coming to dairy for immune-building properties, for comfort, for health.

Nielson has a chart at its public website tracking key consumer behavior thresholds in six quadrants: Reactive health management, pantry preparation, quarantine preparation, restricted living, and living a new normal. It shows their consumer insights on how buying patterns evolve during a health emergency of the scale of COVID-19, and how this peels away some of the frivolous drivel and constraints that influence consumer behavior in ordinary times.

In the sixth phase, “living a new normal,” Nielson describes how “people return to daily routines of work and school, but operate with a renewed cautiousness about health.” It goes on to state that this creates “permanent shifts in the supply chain.”

Citing the use of e-commerce and hygiene practices as examples, this sixth phase of “living a new normal” when returning to daily routines could also apply to food and beverage purchases as consumers returning to true health and comfort during the first five phases may continue to prioritize true health and comfort after those phases have passed.

What do consumers really want? Where are consumers moving when they are free to move?

Without institutional control of daily diets and promotion, we are seeing a glimpse of the answer to that question within the context of COVID-19 pandemic buying patterns. Real whole nutrition, foods that build immunity, awareness of Vitamin D deficiencies in our population affecting immune system response, the role of other elements in milk for immune-building, preference for local food that doesn’t travel so far, and a revitalized awareness of how regional food systems are critical to our food security — these are perspectives that could prevail to influence buying patterns into the foreseeable future.

Uncertainty prevails right now, but hope is alive, and the good news is that milk and dairy have much to offer.

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Congressman to dairy farmers: ‘Government is between you and the consumer’

Dairy Advisory Committee formed, meets with federal, state lawmakers

During a June 3 roundtable discussion between dairy stakeholders and Pennsylvania state and federal lawmakers, Nelson Troutman (right) said Pennsylvania is a fluid milk island with milk and consumers right here, but pressure pushing in from all sides. He said the state is losing its ability to compete as federal dietary rules suppress fluid milk sales while the state’s antiquated milk marketing law incentivizes more milk-swaps along the four borders as fluid milk sales decline. Clockwise from top left are U.S. Congressmen G.T. Thompson (R-15th) and Dan Meuser (R-9th), State Senator David Argall, Lolly Lesher, Mike Eby, Dale Hoffman, Tricia Adams, Nelson Troutman, Bernie Morrissey, State Senator Scott Martin, Karl Sensenig, Bonnie Wenger, Krista Byler, Craig Lutz for Sen. Argall’s office, and Katie Sattazahn. Also present were various legislative staff. Attendees shared USDA data showing that in the past 12 months, Pennsylvania lost more cows (29,000 head) and more production (66 mil. monthly pounds) than any other state in the nation, with the potential see even greater losses in the next 12 months without substantial change.

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, June 14, 2019

HARRISBURG, Pa. — “What I’m hearing here is that the government is between you and the consumer. You would have no problem marketing milk if you could get your message and product to the people,” said U.S. Congressman G.T. Thompson, representing Pennsylvania’s 15th legislative district over a swath of central and northcentral and northwest Pennsylvania.

That summed up the concerns related to school milk, dairy checkoff, fake milk labeling and other issues during a meeting between 11 dairy stakeholders and a dozen state and federal lawmakers and staff in Harrisburg on June 3.

It was a listening session that was followed by a productive work session as the grassroots group will continue to meet and correspond as a Dairy Advisory Committee.

(l-r) Nelson Troutman, Mike Eby, Pa. State Senator David Argall, Bernie Morrissey, Craig Lutz.

Retired agribusinessman Bernie Morrissey and 97 Milk Baleboard initiator Nelson Troutman worked with Pa. State Senator David Argall of Berks and Schuykill counties to set up the meeting.

They pulled together an advisory committee of 11 people, including Troutman and Morrissey, along with Dale Hoffman and his daughter Tricia Adams of Hoffman Farms, Potter County; Mike Eby, a Lancaster County farmer and president of National Dairy Producers Organization; Lolly Lesher of Way-Har Farms, Berks County; Katie Sattazahn of Zahncroft Farms, Womelsdorf; Krista Byler, foodservice director for Union City School District in Crawford and Erie counties, whose husband operates a crop and dairy farm in Spartansburg; Bonnie Wenger of Wen-Crest Farms, doing custom cropping and heifer raising for dairies in Lebanon and Berks counties; and Karl Sensenig of Sensenig Feed Mill, New Holland. 

I was privileged to moderate the discussion, for which an outline was provided in advance.

Congressman Thompson was joined by Congressman Dan Meuser, who represents Pennsylvania’s 9th district covering Carbon, Columbia, Lebanon, Montour and Schuykill counties along with portions of Berks, Luzerne and Northumberland.

In addition to State Senator David Argall, State Senator Scott Martin of Lancaster County attended, as ded legislative aids for Senators Ryan Aument, Elder Vogel, and Mike Folmer with additional interest from State Representatives John Lawrence and David Zimmerman.

Lawmakers said they left the discussion with “more work to do” and an “elevated awareness.” Their message to dairy farmers was: “Keep it up. Keep doing what you’re doing (a nod to the 97 Milk campaign and the planned rally for the Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act on June 18 at the state Capitol). They said raising public awareness is crucial.

“Every few days, the bill gets another cosponsor,” said Rep. Thompson of HR 832 introduced in late January. “It will take public support and momentum to reverse this. It’s a challenging task.”

Even with evidence that bad science led to the federal school lunch milkfat restrictions, Thompson said the House Committee on Education and Labor must take up the bill in order for it to move forward. He noted that current leadership of that committee is the same as in 2010 when The Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act tightened the vice grip on milk fat. (Learn more about the school lunch changes over the past 10 to 20 years here.)

The 2010 legislation with the blessing of former Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack not only prohibited whole milk in the National School Lunch Program, it also reduced total calories, required less than 10% calories from saturated fat and made the milk part of the meal’s nutrient analysis.

With a nod to Krista Byler, Thompson said he understands more is needed beyond HR 832. “We need to eliminate the beverage information from the nutrient standards limitations,” said Thompson.

Discussion followed about the current Childhood Nutrition Reauthorization process currently underway in the Senate and what opportunities might exist for a regulatory change there.

Byler noted that while every child gets a milk, many students throw the milk away and buy sugary drinks that don’t offer milk’s nutrition.

Legislators were surprised to learn that high school students can’t buy whole milk but they can buy Mountain Dew Kickstart at school. This 80-calorie beverage made by PepsiCo — the company that also created a Smart Snacks website for school foodservice directors and received the GENYOUth Vanguard Award last November — is deemed “okay” by the current USDA Dietary Guidelines because it has fewer calories than milk, zero fat and a list of added, not natural, vitamins and minerals. But it also has 20 grams of carbohydrate, 19 grams of sugar in the form of high fructose corn syrup and zero protein, whereas whole milk has 12 grams of natural carbohydrate and 8 grams of protein.

In addition to Mountain Dew Kickstart, students in high schools and middle schools across the U.S. can buy other sweetened drinks like PepsiCo’s Gatorade as well as iced tea coolers. In addition, high schools are also permitted to have coffee bars.

Yet schools are prohibited from offering whole milk (3.25% fat) or reduced-fat (2%) with its high-quality protein and long list of natural nutrients – unless a child has a medical note from a physician.

On the flip side, schools must provide non-dairy substitutes like soy and almond beverage if a parent, not a physician, writes a note. And no notes are needed for students to throw away the milk and grab a sweetened high-carb beverage from PepsiCo.

“My purpose in coming here, after speaking with other foodservice directors across the state, is the changes that were made to allow 1% flavored milk last spring are having disheartening results. Schools have been doing the fat-free flavored milk as a requirement for so long, they don’t all understand the new rule,” Byler explained.

Part of the issue, she said, is they have their cycle menus done far in advance, and the changes to the milk — even if whole milk were suddenly allowed — do not fit into the nutrient analysis of the meal.

Before 2010, the milk was not included in the nutrient analysis of the school lunch or breakfast.

“It’s a breath of fresh air to hear members of Congress talk about this,” said Byler. “This bill (HR 832) is amazing, but it doesn’t have legs to stand on without the regulatory change to exclude milk from the nutrient analysis of the meal. For schools to have this choice, this bill needs to pass, and the milk needs to be a standalone component of the meal, otherwise schools won’t be able to make it work.”

She said the same goes for the Smart Snacks program. An exception to regulations is needed so schools can offer whole milk, just as they can offer PepsiCo’s energy drinks.

At the federal level, Rep. Thompson said the Pennsylvania Congressional delegation is working on getting a companion bill for HR 832 in the U.S. Senate. (This actually did happene a day after this report was filed for press — Senators Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) introduced the Milk In Lunch for Kids (MILK) Act this week. Bill number and text have not yet been posted)

“The biggest thing we need is to generate enough public support,” said Thompson.

The Dairy Advisory Committee urged Pa. State Senators to support a resolution on the federal bills.

On The Dairy Pride Act, Thompson was more optimistic. He believes FDA is giving an indication that the public has been misled by competing alternative beverages that infer by the name “milk” to have the nutritional attributes of milk.

Tricia Adams spoke of the many school tours she conducts at Hoffman Farms in the spring and summer, and what the kids tell them about school milk.

She says the kids are “brutally honest. They tell us, ‘This is the good milk!’ But just to get whole milk for a tour, I have to special order weeks in advance,” she says. “It’s a struggle to get enough of it at one time. It’s just not available.”

 Her father Dale Hoffman observed that farmers are so busy, it’s tough to be involved in these things. He said it is scary how fast Pennsylvania is dropping in cow numbers and production.

“Somewhere, we need to get our foot in the door. This has got to be done if Pennsylvania is going to compete. We have the milk and the consumers right here,” said Hoffman. “We need your help. We hear it’s tough to get done, but it’s time to get whole milk back in the schools.”

Mike Eby said he sold his cows three years ago, but producers selling today “are getting half of what I got.” He said the dairy situation is increasingly difficult for farm families to manage whether they are staying in, or getting out, as the value of their assets shrink along with income.

“Where is our milk going to be coming from when we all go out?” he asked.

Eby describe the power of whole milk. He has been part of an effort to give out whole milk that is standardized to 3.5% fat instead of 3.25% to meet the California standards. 

“We give the milk away at four parades a year,” he said, and the math adds up to over 10,000 individual servings. “We could give more! They love it. People are screaming for that milk.”

Circling back to Rep. Thompson’s point. The problem isn’t the product, the problem is the government getting between the farmer and the consumer when it comes to marketing the high value, nutritious and delicious product they produce.

State issues were also discussed, including needed reforms to the Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Law. Each participant also gave a fast view of the long dairy situation.

“The average dairy farmer we serve is under 150 cows, and our feed mill has 107 years in the business. We’ve seen a lot, but nothing as bad as this,” said Karl Sensenig. “We are greatly concerned about what is the future for the generations to come in our business and on the farms. We have become their bank. The situation is beyond dire, and I’m afraid we haven’t begun to see the true loss of farms. Even if the price gets a little better, many are so far gone that there’s no way out.”

Katie Sattazahn also questioned the future. She is integral to the farm operated by her husband and his brother, and she works off the farm. They upgraded their facility three years ago, never expecting a downturn of this duration and magnitude.

“The biggest thing is, we are supposed to be glad when we have a breakeven year, but that has to change. As dairy farmers, we need to be profitable to put something back into our operations,” she said. “Every dollar we spend is spent locally. Our farms provide open space and benefits for the environment, and the money we spend in our business helps the economy.”

With two young children, Sattazahn says, “If it stays the way it is, why would we encourage them to do this?”

Bonnie Wenger explained the conditions she sees in the community of dairy farmers. She explained to lawmakers the added difficulty of this year’s prevented plantings, a struggle that will get worse this fall in terms of feeding cows.

Byler also talked about the dire situation in her county. “The dairy farms support our communities. They support other businesses and bring in revenues for our school districts,” she said. “What will be left for our small rural communities?”

On the school front, she showed examples of the marketing foodservice directors see, pushing them away from animal protein. This included visuals from Fuel Up To Play 60 and its focus on fat-free and low-fat. She wonders why they can’t just talk about milk, why they have to pound home the fat-free, low-fat with every caption, every sentence, over and over. She has trouble seeing the value in it from the side of the dairy farmer or the school program.

Lawmakers and staff were taking notes, writing in the margins and circling things on the outline provided. By the end of the session, Sen. Argall said, “You’ve created a lot of work for us.”

Congressman Meuser noted this is now an even higher priority for him.

Sen. Martin said this is on the Pennsylvania Assembly’s radar, and he mentioned a package of bills coming that are “just a start.” He mentioned the dairy commission being put together to advise the legislature on dairy. 

They reminded the group to urge others to attend the rally on June 18 at 11:00 a.m. at the Capitol Rotunda in Harrisburg to support the federal dairy bills on whole milk in schools and mislabeling of non-dairy beverages. The media will be there, and this is a chance to get the public involvement that is necessary.

Here is another link to 8 ways you can help. (Swipe to read second page of this pdf).

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Truth and thoughts: A tragedy the government won’t accept

As a mother and a grandmother, Sherry Bunting has followed childhood nutrition legislation and government guidelines for 25 years. She is pictured here recently with Bella, one of her five grandchildren.

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine Cover Commentary, April 26, 2019

I have been following and writing about the nutrition exploits of the National School Lunch Program since 1994. At that time, my children were in school, and I served as an elected director of the Eastern Lancaster County School Board.

Today, I continue the fight because I see the effects. I am a grandmother. I have been on this soapbox whether milk prices are high or low, though some say I’m just conjuring up devisive issue because of low milk prices.

My track record on this issue is 25-years-long-and-solid.

The problem started surfacing in the mid-90s when the low-fat / high-carb nutrition dogma became firmly entrenched, and big food brands were pushing low-fat versions that contained – you guessed it – more sugar and concentrated high fructose corn syrup.

The situation became progressively worse through the 2000’s as the government began tightening its vice-grip — as one foodservice director at the time put it — “forcing us to serve the equivalent of a heart patient’s diet to growing kids.”

Foodservice directors who piloted the USDA software for the nutrient standard menu planning said it would be an obesity disaster in the making. They correctly noted that when fat is removed from diets, carbs and sweetener take its place.

There are three things that give food calories for sustaining life: Fat, carbs and protein. There are two calorie-providing elements that give food its flavor: Sugar and fat.

By excessively reducing fat, the flavor of the meals and the milk is reduced, and children are pushed toward more sugar and less feelings of fullness.

By removing whole milk, real butter, real cheese, real beef, we now have 10-year-olds with ‘hunger pangs during math class.’ Sen. Stabenow recognized this, but she doesn’t grasp why. She sees the solution as more of the same: Just find ways to get more kids enrolled to eat even less of what’s good for them.

The 2010 Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act made “historic changes” alright. Bad ones. It dealt our nation’s dairy farmers and children the final blow. It limited the calories of the total meal, tightened the saturated fat limits, and required only fat-free and 1% milk or fat-free flavored milk be served along with offerings of fruit juice and water. It also increased the carb counts.

What our government leaders and USDA nutrition elite bureaucracy think is progress is actually regression. Sen. Stabenow says ‘don’t go backwards.’ But our children are already going backwards as nutrient dense foods are limited.

I find it amazing that our political leaders can sit in committee examining childhood nutrition programs costing $30 billion in reauthorization and talk about the nutritional crisis our nation is facing that affects our national security and yet claim that the 2010 Act brought “progress”, saying “don’t backtrack”.

In essence, our leaders believe the problem is not enough kids are enrolled in the programs that they have ruined!

Instead of hiring market research firms to find out how to get more participation, change the program. Apply some logic.

The School Lunch and later breakfast programs began when the military in the 1940s saw malnutrition as a national security issue among recruits. At that time, the biggest thing the school lunch program did was to make sure children received whole milk, real butter, real cheese, real beef, real food. And yes, we ate our vegetables, they had real butter or cheese on them!

We sailed along until Dr. Ancel Keys from the University of Minnesota, and his now heavily-challenged hypothesis, became the darling of the American Heart Association. By the 1980s, it was intrenched. Other rigorous science was bullied and buried.

By the 1990s, school lunch rules became more intrusive in reducing fat and increasing carbs.

By the 2000s, schools had to submit their menus for approval or run them through USDA software for percent-of-calories-from-fat analysis. School foodservice directors admitted to serving more dessert to replace the calories lost from nutrient-dense fats and proteins, but they used applesauce, more sugar and high fructose corn syrup — instead of butter and eggs — to make those cakes, cookies and brownies.

In 2010, the government limited the lunch calories, tightened the saturated fat limits, and outright forbade serving 2% or whole milk in schools.

Don’t our leaders see that we keep making a bad situation worse because we can’t admit that it’s time to backtrack?

Now our military says recruits are too obese to serve. We are facing a new national security threat. This is no joke.

When will our nation have a full airing of the science? When will we backtrack from a hypothesis disproven?

Since the 1990s — and even moreso since 2010 — our children are served increasingly less of less, and we have a USDA and a Congress that want to stay on this road and just make sure more of us travel it. In fact, while USDA representatives told Congress last week that they don’t want schools and states to have to be ‘food police’, they admitted they look at ‘competing foods’ to see that kids aren’t leaving the lunch line to eat or drink something else on campus.

Pennsylvania and other states will not allow various FFA groups to put in whole milk vending machines and manage them as a fundraiser, or they must be locked during school hours in order not to “compete” with what government is literally forcing down our children’s throats, or into the trash can.

If the federal government won’t do what’s right, then get out of the way and let our communities decide how to feed our children. Stop ruling from the ivory tower that “looks and listens” but fails to act. Change the Guidelines. Face it. Do it. Now, before it’s too late.

Child nutrition reauthorization sparked in D.C.

Military insights suggest backtracking, but disappointing answers given on school lunch and milk fat

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, April 26, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The last time a childhood nutrition authorization was passed by Congress was in 2010: The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act. A decade later, the Senate Ag Committee held a hearing last Wednesday (April 10) on perspectives in childhood nutrition. 

Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said this is the first step in the reauthorization of the $30 billion in mandatory and discretionary childhood nutrition programs he wants examined and passed this year.

The hearing panels included representatives of federal agencies, state and community food programs, and the national childhood health program.

Most of the discussion centered on ways to streamline programs, increase enrollment that has been declining since 2010, and provide more flexibility.

There were a few eye-opening highlights and some discussion related to milk.

Chairman Roberts said in his opening statement: “One size fits all does not work for all.

Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) stated that, “Whether it’s a mother getting enough calcium to insure healthy bones for her baby, or making sure a 10-year-old isn’t fighting hunger pains in math class, child nutrition is about building a stronger future. It’s also important to our national security.”

Stabenow then revealed how and why the National School Lunch Program began 80 years ago, and what the concerns are today — two decades after the saturated fat limitations were introduced and a decade after the last reauthorization under the leadership of President Obama and Secretary Vilsack, when the screws were further tightened on milk choices and other aspects in 2009-10.

“Interestingly, the National School Lunch program was created in the 1940s because General Lewis Hershey came before Congress to explain that recruits were being rejected due to malnutrition,” said Stabenow. 

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.)

“Today, over 750 retired Generals, and other military leaders, are sounding alarm bells again, this time because young adults are too overweight to serve,” she stated. “With 14% of children as young as 2 showing signs of obesity, we have to address this issue early and everywhere.”

That said, Sen. Stabenow touted the “tremendous progress in the past 20 years in schools and daycares. It is vital to move forward, not backward,” she stated, while in her next breath saying that “obesity in adolescents continues to rise while over 12 million kids do not have enough to eat.”

She touted the need for greater enrollment in the National School Lunch Program so kids can have access to that “better” lunch, breakfast, after school snacks and even supper. She talked about a “veggie van” driving out into communities. She cited the Women Infant and Children (WIC) program as critical to first stages of life.

But when her opening statement was said-and-done, Sen. Stabenow again touted “the progress made in 2010” and said several times “we don’t want to backtrack while streamlining these programs.”

Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.)

Toward the end of the session, Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa.) brought up “the science of milk” and addressed his question specifically to Dr. Olanrewaju Falusi, a pediatrician who is director of the Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C.

It was not surprising that the most important question of the day got the most disappointing and predictable answer. 

After hearing Dr. Falusi present her comments about how early childhood diets are responsible for critical programming of lifelong metabolism, brain development, and educational outcomes, Sen. Casey addressed Dr. Falusi as follows:

“There’s been much discussion in Pennsylvania about the ability of schools to serve whole milk to students. What does ‘the science’ say about the appropriate levels of whole milk consumption?” the Democratic Senator from Pennsylvania asked.


Dr. Olanrewaju Falusi, a pediatrician who is director of the Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C.

Predictably, Dr. Falusi replied: “As a pediatrician, I recommend to my patients that they drink water or low-fat or fat-free milk. We know that milk has many benefits from protein and calcium and Vitamin D. We also know, though, that lower fat and lower sugar in diets are healthier for children.”

Dr. Falusi continued matter-of-factly: “What we would admonish, from the American Academy of Pediatrics, is that the standards for school nutrition programs — including the type of milk served — really be based on the science, and the science is that lower fat and lower sugar are what we should be advocating for children. And we do encourage the USDA to rely on the nutrition experts and to look at a number of studies for those guidelines.”

Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) asked about students turning to competitive foods when the school lunch does not appeal or satisfy. She addressed her concern to USDA Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, Brandon Lipps.

Lipps replied that the government seeks a balance between the school lunch and “competing foods” allowed on campus. He also noted they are “looking to see that kids are not leaving the school lunch line to buy competitive foods elsewhere on campus. But we’re not making the schools or states be the food police.”

Sen. Fischer asked: What are the foodservice professionals telling you? Are kids eating the school lunches?



Brandon Lipps, USDA Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services

Lipps replied that the “schools are very positive on the flexibilities in the final rule… It’s not a major change, just a comfort in long-term planning. Schools have to buy a long way out to plan their menus in the way that we require them to do. So they’re glad to have finality on the flexibility” (for example, they have flexibility to serve 1% flavored milk instead of only fat-free).

In response to the suggestion that the nutrition standards are “no good.” Lipps stated that, “We put in a calorie limit in 2009, and if the kids don’t eat half the food on their plate, and if they are getting half of the maximum calories that we provide them, if that’s happening, then that’s a problem.”

USDA is monitoring this, said Lipps: “As you know, the same is true, particularly with milk and the nutrients that it provides, so we are going to continue to listen and see if further flexibility is needed on that front.” 

Repeatedly, the 2010 Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act was cited for making “historic changes” that led to “greater consumption of fruits, vegetables and whole grains as encouraged by USDA.” But at the same time, panelists repeatedly said fewer eligible families and children use the programs today compared with before 2010, and that obesity and diabetes and hunger are rising in our youth.  

When asked by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) about school waste related to the 2010 changes, USDA Under Secretary Lipp said flexibility in the final rule on whole grains, sodium and 1% low-fat flavored milk went a long way toward changing that.

“I don’t think we have anyone telling us we need a major change in the nutrition meal pattern requirements for the school meal, but they do want flexibility,” said Lipp.

Sen. Ernst also noted the concerns about portion sizes being the same for a first-grader as an eighth-grader. “School foodservice professionals say they want the flexibility to vary it,” she said. “Right now, booster clubs are bringing in food for athletes who are not getting enough. And with mandated portions and mandated nutrition requirements, we are seeing a lot of food waste, what can USDA do?”

Lipp replied that USDA will continue to “look and listen.”

Josh Mathismeier, Director of Nutritional Services for Kansas City public schools and Mike Halligan, CEO of God’s Pantry Food Banks, based in Lexington, Kentucky, said participation would increase if they could take the food to the people instead of forcing the people to congregate to access the food.

Some states have actually hired market research firms to do focus groups with eligible families to learn how to increase their enrollment.

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‘Milk Baleboards’ are a ‘thing’, with a website!

Producers unite to send clear message to policymakers and consumers, website takes it to the next level.

Nelson Troutman (above) is a dairy farmer. He has made 20 Milk Baleboards and offers these DIY Tips with illustrations at the end of this story.

By Sherry Bunting, from Farmshine, Friday, Feb. 22, 2019

RICHLAND, Pa. — Nelson Troutman has been making the ‘Milk Baleboards’ since January. The Berks/Lebanon County dairy farmer came up with the idea after the Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board listening session in December.

“It’s very important that the bales all have the same message: ‘Drink Local Whole MILK — 97% FAT-FREE.’ Don’t try to get funny with it. You could take the ‘local’ off and just focus on the ‘whole milk,’ but mainly to have impact, we want the bales to have the same message,” he said while painting bales in his shop during my visit last Saturday morning to the farm where he and his wife Mary live and which is now rented to a young couple for their dairy herd.

He still farms the land he has lived on his entire life, and he makes the feed for that herd and his son’s herd nearby. (In fact his daughter in law Renee wrote about whole milk recently, with a historical twist!)

Nelson has made 20 Milk Baleboards so far (check out his DIY tips at the end of this story). And he has seen new ones pop up from others following suit.

He has had 10 phone calls from fellow farmers as far away as New York, and has talked to so many more at meetings — out and about. He tells them: “Put a bale out… unless you are satisfied with your milk price.”

Did he think it would take off like it has? “No I didn’t,” he says. But he’s glad to see others joining in and hopes to see it catch on even more.

Retired agribusinessman Bernie Morrissey of Robesonia has been doing all he can to get other agribusinesses to put them out. In addition to Morrissey Insurance having one on their property along Rte 272 north of Ephrata, the Milk Baleboards are popping up along other main routes like 23, 322, and 422, to name a few.

“Our advertising checkoff dollars just didn’t seem to be doing a very good job these past 10 years. They have been promoting fat free and low-fat 1% milk and the fat free yogurt — not much whole milk,” Nelson relates.

“After the listening session with the PMMB, some of us were talking. We thought it was time to do something different, something like letting consumers know whole milk is 97% fat free,” he said further. “We didn’t come up with a plan that day. We were thinking about a billboard, but that was far too expensive. We thought about portable signs.”

Then over the weekend after that December meeting, he looked around. “I thought to myself that I already have the perfect thing: A wrapped hay bale! So, I painted one. I set it in the pasture at our crossroad. We farmers have silos, wagons, barns and sheds we can paint signs on.”

Lots of feedback has come in, and it seemed no one knew whole milk was 97% fat free. Some said “why are we drinking 2% milk, when whole milk tastes so much better?”

Nelson observes that young and older people said they never thought about how much fat or nutrition is in milk. “It seems so sad how people are misled by our checkoff dollars, our doctors and medical people — and our federal dietary guidelines committee.”

He admits that people are easily confused. To be sure, the bales are attracting attention, leading to questions.

While it started out as a way to send a clear and unified message to consumers and especially policymakers, Nelson said the information is so surprising to people that it offers educational opportunities.

That’s why R&J Dairy Consulting invited Nelson and Bernie to a meeting of dairy farmers last Friday to see what could be done to use this teachable moment.

The group decided to purchase a website domain — 97MILK.com, and direct people there to learn more: What is whole milk? How does it compare? What is Real Milk, Local Milk?

The website can help unite these efforts, and bring additional excitement to the project. For example, at the meeting organized by R&J Consulting, their marketing manager Jackie Behr said when she asked peers what questions they have about milk, she ended up with a whole list.

“Let’s use this opportunity to educate consumers and help them make a good choice,” she said. The group decided to start out with key simple answers to frequent questions. Many businesses and people are pulling together in various ways that it is impossible to name them all here. That will come in a future Milk Baleboard update.

Jackie at R&J, with some help from others, got the website 97milk.com up and running within seven days. This includes a facebook page @97Milk, so check it all out!

Want to make a Milk Baleboard? Here are Nelson’s DIY tips:


1) Keep the message the same: Drink Local Whole MILK — 97% FAT FREE (or now that there is a website, omit ‘Drink’ on a Round Bale and put the website 97MILK.com top or bottom.)

2) Get the right paint! Rustoleum Ultra Cover 2X paint and primer.

3) Use the small foam brushes and buy extra. This paint doesn’t wash out, so they can’t be re-used. Foam brushes can be turned for thick or thin letters.

4) Wear gloves, this paint will be with you a while if you don’t.

5) Before painting, sketch out a guide with a pen.

6) 97% is the largest and in making the percent-sign, put the circles parallel to each other and the slanted line in between to keep it straight.

7) Find the middle and that’s where the “I” in Milk goes, then build on that.

8) Letters are placed every 2.5 inches for “Local Whole,” and adjust others accordingly.

9) Spray paint onto foam brush, then apply to bale in strokes from the bottom to the top of each letter.

10) Alternate between colors (Blue/Red or Black/Red).

11) Make the letters broader and thicker for the word MILK, in all capital letters.

12) Follow your guide and use paint to even things out as you go.

13) Paint will dry faster and better, with fewer runs (in winter) if painting in sunshine or with a heater running in the shop.

14) Sit them on a pallet for better visibility on property you have along roads and set back from intersections.