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Second checks under CFAP 1 delayed by enrollment extensions
By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, Sept. 25, 2020
WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald Trump and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced an expansion of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) on Sept. 17, which means a second round of $14 billion in additional CFAP payments will be made to a new list of eligible commodities, including dairy cow’s milk as a price-trigger calculation and even goat’s milk as a sales-triggered calculation.
Sign up for this second round of assistance – CFAP 2 — runs from Sept. 21 through Dec. 11, 2020.
CFAP 2 payments for dairy calculate to a little over $2.00 per hundredweight on the equivalent of April through August milk marketings. However, the calculation boils down to $1.20/cwt on actual April through August milk marketings, plus another $1.20/cwt on the estimated September through December milk marketings – a 4-month period – using the average daily milk production from the prior 5-month’s actual marketings.
Specifically, the announcement describes the CFAP 2 dairy payments as follows:
Payments for cow milk under CFAP 2 will be equal to the sum of the following:
1) The producer’s total actual milk production from April 1, 2020, to August 31, 2020, multiplied by the payment of $1.20 per hundredweight, and
2) The producer’s estimated milk production from September 1, 2020, to December 31, 2020, based on the daily average production from April 1, 2020, through August 31, 2020, multiplied by 122, multiplied by a payment rate of $1.20 per hundredweight.
This round of farm assistance, known as CFAP 2, follows in addition to CFAP 1.
The CFAP 1 payments were to be made in two stages, with enrolled producers having received most of their eligible payment in their first check. However, the second portion or balance of payments under CFAP 1 won’t be received until after all enrolled producers receive their first checks.
Producers have not yet received their second checks from CFAP 1 because the enrollment period for CFAP 1 was extended through Sept. 11.
Further complicating payment of second checks under CFAP 1 is USDA’s extension of signups for certain counties in Louisiana, Oregon and Texas that were impacted by natural disasters (fires and hurricanes). Producers in those areas have until Oct. 9, 2020 to enroll in CFAP 1.
Once all enrollments in CFAP 1 are completed by Oct. 9, and once all enrolled farms receive their first checks for all eligible commodities under CFAP 1, then the remaining funds from CFAP 1 will be disbursed in the second checks to enrolled producers for eligible commodities, including milk.
CFAP 2, on the other hand, represents a totally separate second source of funding and assistance — and a second enrollment period — to cover market disruptions and additional marketing costs for the nine months period of April through December, whereas CFAP 1 covered mainly the disruptions for the first part of the year. There is some overlap in the time period, but these are two separate enrollments and calculations under CFAP.
To-date, according to USDA, nearly $1.75 billion has been paid to dairy farmers for milk under CFAP 1. The total paid or approved for payment to-date for all commodities under CFAP 1 is $10.2 billion.
Funds for CFAP 1 and 2 are from a combination of the CARES Act and the CCC. USDA used public feedback to make improvements under CFAP 2, according to Secretary Perdue.
CFAP 2 divides commodities into three categories for compensation as 1) Price Trigger Commodities, 2) Flat-rate Crops, and 3) Sales Commodities. Each category has a different method for calculating a payment.
Eligible livestock, including beef cattle and dairy cattle destined for beef, will be based on maximum owned inventory on a date selected by the producer between April 16 and August 31, 2020. USDA FSA personnel report that it’s okay if the date selected by a producer is within the same window as the date selected for CFAP 1 livestock payments as long as the animals in inventory on that date were destined for market as meat animals, not for dairy purposes.
USDA FSA personnel indicate that cull dairy cows are not eligible livestock under CFAP 2, but bull calves and any heifers identified as market animals for beef or veal can be claimed as inventory for market impact payments under CFAP 2.
Corn silage and other forages grown as feed for dairy cattle are also eligible under the corresponding flat rate acreage crops portion of CFAP 2
A complete list of farm commodities covered under CFAP 2 is available at farmers.gov/cfap
As with CFAP 1, there is a payment limitation of $250,000 per person or entity for all commodities combined. Applicants that are corporations, LLCs and partnerships may qualify for additional payment limits when members actively provide personal labor or management to the operation.
In addition, USDA reports that this special payment limitation provision has been expanded to include trusts and estates for both CFAP 1 and 2.
Producers will also have to certify they meet the adjusted gross income limitation of $900,000 unless at least 75% or more of their income is derived from farming, ranching or forestry-related activities. Producers must also be in compliance with Highly Erodible Land and Wetland Conservation provisions to receive payments.
USDA reports that Farm Service Agency staff at local USDA Service Centers will work with producers to file CFAP 2 applications. Producers interested in one-on-one support with the CFAP 2 application can also call 877-508-8364 to speak directly with a USDA employee ready to offer assistance at the call center.
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.
Over 500 pages, 250,000 reports screened-out, nutrient deficiencies ignored, and now toddler food patterns included
By 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.”
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.
“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.
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.
BROWNSTOWN, Pa.– From the fortress of the USDA to the ivory towers of the dietary command to the branches of the checkoff government-speech machine and the centralized, globalized food system ‘partners’ in between — No one is in the farmer’s corner. Not even the people paid by the farmers to be in their corner.
This much is crystal clear by now in the collapsing markets and stark realities laid bare by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The curtains have been opened.
And the usual players do what they do.
They pat themselves on the back, converse about their insights from within their echo-chamber, and lecture those who would dare call attention to the sight before us or deviate from the script.
Over the last week, dairy checkoff newsletters have bragged about what they are doing for dairy demand amid the deepening crisis; how DMI is “adjusting to move more dairy.”
Yep, the bulk butter and bulk cheese and bulk powder plants in growth areas are moving more dairy — right into the already bursting at the seams cold storage inventory warehouses.
Few if any reports from states with these large plants indicate any milk dumping whatsoever.
Butter inventories were already 25% higher than year ago heading into the COVID-19 pandemic and cheese inventory was already growing too.
Reports indicate such fully functioning cheese and whey or powder plants are running full tilt, while a shopper has to store-hop through three or more establishments to find a package of butter, walk into Walmart and see rows of empty cheese racks, try to walk out of a Walmart or Sam’s Club with two gallons of milk and be forced to give one back.
Other supermarkets aren’t much better, except for the smaller family-owned markets. Pictures and texts continue to pour in, while our leaders assure us that the purchasing limits are really lifted.
Go to Kroger’s website (a DMI partner) and see their explanation of why they’ve raised the price of milk. It’s because there is a shortage, they say, while farms all around them are forced to dump milk. Just six weeks ago, a Kroger executive I spoke with said, ‘no we can’t raise the price of milk — it was $1.25/gal pre-COVID (not in PA of course but elsewhere).
I was making the point that we have loss-led and commoditized this deal long enough. Please respect the milk. “No,” I was told, “raise the price? How is that going to sell more milk?”
What is Kroger doing today (and Walmart and other heavy hitters for that matter)? NOW, they are raising the price, even canceling some orders without much to spare, as they are being asked to stop limiting sales.
Meanwhile farmers are forced to dump milk.
As the commodities crash with barrel cheese at around $1/lb and butter headed there too, are the food system heavy-hitters holding back to buy that higher-priced inventory on the cheap just to turn it around and charge more?
We are getting to see how the system works — how the losses and consolidation of a decade or more are threatening our farms and food security. But leaders and policymakers are still convinced this system is the best, and thanks to new stricter rules coming on animal proteins and fat, it’s about to get better, more diluted, and void.
Take the DMI update in the ADA Northeast newsletter from April 6, how proud they are of the “seven ways checkoff is working for you during COVID-19” and how they are “adjusting to move more dairy”, how GENYOUth is “keeping the meals flowing to students”, while in reality the real school chefs and lunch ladies — even bus drivers — are out on the front lines figuring it out for real on their own every day; how proud they are that the National Dairy Council “sorted through milk myths.”
Now that last one is a doozie. Here’s one of the seven ways checkoff is working for you: “National Dairy Council is among the expert organizations to debunk claims that milk can help ward off coronavirus.”
Remember the news about milk and it’s immune-building properties? Even Hoards Dairyman noted milk was “flying off the shelves” as consumers sought the health benefits and comfort of milk.
Remember how DMI tells us “you can’t educate people to drink what you want them to drink?” How “we want to move people away from the habit of reaching for the jug and toward the new innovative products?”
It wasn’t even a week after fluid milk sales skyrocketed 40% that the National Dairy Council helped debunk some of that immune-building “myth” in Reuters story.
And yes, rest assured, DMI is talking to “your (their) partners” to get them to “move more dairy”.
So here’s the clincher. Watching the President’s daily COVID-19 press conference Wednesday evening (April 15), it really hit home, bringing together so much of what I have seen and heard over the past few weeks and the months and years before that.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue was part of President Trump’s daily presser Wednesday, and I was hopeful when he went to the microphone that he would talk about impact to food and agriculture during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He told Americans that “Our food system is strong, resilient and safe,” despite the bare shelves and limits on purchases that people are seeing in supermarkets.
“In the United States, we have plenty of food for all of our citizens,” Perdue said. “I want to be clear, the bare store shelves that you may see in ‘some’ cities in the country are a demand issue, not a supply issue.” (Huh? At least he didn’t phrase it the way Pennsylvania’s Ag Secretary does, saying in a PDA public service announcement to radio and television stations that store limits, bare shelves and dumped milk are a ‘hoarding issue”, and saying in a dairy industry conference call: “this is what happens when people hoard food.”
No Mr. Secretaries, this is not hoarding and it’s not a ‘demand’ issue, it’s a centralized, consolidated, globalized food industry structure issue.
Back to Sec. Perdue’s moment before the American people… Perdue said simply that there has been a large shift from people eating in restaurants and fast food businesses, and now eating at home, which has spiked in the last few weeks and placed a high demand on grocery stores.
“Our supply chain is sophisticated, efficient, integrated and synchronized, and it’s taken us a few days to relocate the misalignment between institutional settings and grocery settings.” Perdue said.
Bingo. The accelerated creation of this machine over the past decade has been designed by government policy from the flawed dietary guidelines, to the government speech farmers are forced to pay for, to the mergers and acquisitions and antitrust behaviors, to the globalization and centralized decision-making, to the erosion of local/regional milksheds and foodsheds.
Yes, Mr. Secretary, that sophisticated, efficient, integrated, synchronized food supply chain has moved our country closer to cow islands and food deserts and fracturing of regional food security.
Some of the best minds in agriculture economics are seeing it. Consumers are waking up to the realization of what that means when the chips are down. They are watching their communities’ farmers dump milk, depopulate poultry flocks, send milk herds to slaughter.
This pandemic has peeled back the band-aid covering gaping wounds inflicted for years, and now when it is open and bleeding for all to see, the Secretary reassures the nation that this big beautiful bountiful ag food system simply needs to “relocate a misalignment.”
Tammy Goldammer, a cattle rancher friend of mine in Missouri put it bluntly in a social media post after listening. Here are some of her words:
“Production Ag People?
Did you happen to listen to US Ag. Sec. Perdue’s comments today at the Rona Update press conference? Were you reassured about your occupation of raising the highest quality protein sources to feed the world?
Did you find it interesting that there was no mention about “producers” and what is going on with what they raise to feed people? 1. There was no mention of the killing of millions of ready to harvest chickens and turkeys…to leave them to compost. 2. There was no mention of the dumping orders for milk and the orders to let cows go dry and to sell the dairy cow herds. 3. There was no mention of the shuttering of ethanol plants and the resulting depletion (no supply) of by-products utilized in the livestock feeding industries. 4. There was no mention of the Mercantile Exchanges and the crashing commodity prices for livestock, dairy and grain futures. 5. There was no mention of the bankruptcies and insolvencies of feeders who grow the nation and the world’s protein sources. 6. There was no mention of the sucking sound to the south of the beef cattle industry. 7. There was a mention there are a few “slaughter” plant closures due to Covid-19 being detected in some employees. 8. There was a mention that our nation’s food supply is abundant and there should be no fear about food availability. Do you all like math? Mr. Perdue? Your commentary today to assure the American public was absolutely “void” of speaking to the producers/people who produce what you stated is in good shape and rest assured there are no shortages. To say I was “stunned” at your “void” on the big picture, well, let’s say I was totally bewildered.”
But never fear oh sophisticated, efficient, integrated and synchronized food system, President Trump followed the Perdue comments with news that there is $15 billion in tariff money left in Sec. Perdue’s charge to help farmers who were targeted and he gave the Secretary the go ahead to use it.
Later this evening, word came that the government will begin buying milk and meat. Yes, as mentioned by Pennsylvania’s own Secretary in his PSA ‘stop hoarding food’… ‘food banks need the food’… ‘we have a system…’
Yes, the integrated centralized system is the proper channel while communities take care of their own with whatever resources they can muster. Good people in communities like mine right here in Lancaster County, Pa. are buying milk, giving it to the needy or seeking processors (for pay) to process milk headed to manure pits so it can be donated, only to bump up against that integrated system.
Kudos to those businesses in the community who are buying milk to give to the needy or stepping up to allow their smaller processing plants get milk ready for food banks before it is wasted.
The efficient, sophisticated, integrated, synchronized food system is not. But it will when the price is low enough and the government starts buying.
By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, Friday, Oct. 4, 2019
MADISON, Wis. – Grabbing the headlines from a town hall meeting with U.S. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue during the opening day of the 53rd World Dairy Expo, here in Madison, Wisconsin, was a comment the Secretary made about the viability of small family farms.
He was asked whether they will survive. To which he answered, “Yes, but they’ll have to adapt.”
In fact, the Secretary said that the capital needs and environmental regulations that impact farms today make it difficult for smaller farms to survive milking 50 to 100 cows.
“What we’ve seen is the number of dairy farms going down, but the number of dairy cows has not,” said Perdue. “Dairy farms are getting larger, and smaller farms are going out.”
But in additional discussion, Perdue said that consumers want local products. He said that marketing local, even without the buzzwords, can be done successfully to bring value to farms.
He noted two things about dairy farms. First, they can’t be sustainable without profitability and second, he described the dairy industry as prone to oversupply.
Picking up on these comments, recently retired northwest Wisconsin dairy producer Karen Schauf said Farm Bureau is looking at the Federal Milk Marketing Orders and how make some adjustments on the milk pricing.
“But what we really need to do is balance supply and demand of dairy products much closer,” she said. “I would ask if you would support a flexible mandatory supply management system to help producers keep that supply and demand in closer relationship.”
Perdue asked if she wanted the short answer or the long answer, stating that when his children want a quick answer, it’s always “no.”
Schauf replied, “Mr. Secretary, I just want you to think about it.” The subject went no further.
At another point in the questioning, a Wisconsin producer observed the disheartening price levels and said last year was a record high level of exports, while prices to farmers were worse than this year and worse than 2017.
He noted that exports hit 17.6% of milk produced, and settled out at 16% last year, which is a record, but his milk price averaged $14.60. He went on to say that, “our exports are off 2% this year, but I’ll probably come close to an average of $17 on my milk price.” He also noted that National Milk Producers Federation recently put out a press release stating 2015-18 as record years in domestic dairy consumption.
“This is all good,” the dairy farmer said, “but in Wisconsin we are losing 2.5 farms per day and I think the call centers are full with distressed farmers calling in, so beyond trade and some of these things you promote at the federal level, what can we be looking at so we never experience another five years like this?”
Perdue thanked the producer for his facts and said it is amazing that things “can be good and yet feel so bad.” He acknowledged that dairy has been under the most stress, and he said that the 2018 Farm Bill did “exactly the right thing” with the new Dairy Margin Coverage. He pointed out that this coverage is specifically in place for smaller dairy farms.
“Milk prices are cyclical, and I think we’ve met that trough, and things will improve for 2020,” said Perdue.
Referencing the 2% milk on the table in front of him, Perdue said: “You pretty much know what happened to milk in our schools, with the whole milk and the accusations about fat in milk. We hope to get some benefit, maybe, from the Dietary Guidelines this year, which drive a lot of this conversation.”
Noting that USDA “is leading” the Dietary Guidelines along with Health and Human Services, the Secretary said: “We have a great panel and they will bring together the best scientific facts about what is healthy, wholesome and nutritious for our young people and our older people and all of us, so we’re looking forward to that.”
On trade, the Secretary was hopeful. He cited the recent trade agreement with Japan, but did not have exact numbers for dairy, just that it will be beneficial for dairy. On China, he was optimistic and said progress is being made, but that it has been important to take this stand because they have been “cheating” and are “toying with us.”
One area he mentioned in regard to trade with China is that U.S. agriculture has become too dependent on “what China will do.” He said the administration is really working on trade with other nations in the Pacific and elsewhere that do not represent such large chunks as to disrupt or distort markets as they come in and out of the game. This has held true for dairy exports from the U.S., which are rising in so many other parts of the world.
On the USMCA, Perdue said the outcome will depend on whether the Speaker of the House brings it to the floor for a vote. “It will pass both caucuses, but it has to come to the floor. We hope to see that happen by the end of the year, that distractions won’t get in the way,” said Perdue.
The town hall meeting covered a wide range of other questions and comments, and often, the answer to the toughest questions was “it’s complicated and we’ll be happy to look into it.”
On the Market Facilitation Program, several had questions about why alfalfa-grass is not included as a crop, just straight alfalfa. Perdue explained that alfalfa is a crop exported to China and that the crops in the eligible crops for MFP payments have to be “specifically enumerated.”
As with other questions, he emphasized the local FSA Committees who implement some of the more subjective pieces of these programs that farmers can appeal to their local committees if they’ve been denied.
In the prevent plant flexibilities for harvesting forage, Perdue said USDA is looking at this as perhaps something to be made permanent – the ability to harvest forage on prevent plant acres in September rather than waiting until Nov. 1.
Paul Bauer from Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery focused his comments on the spread between Cheddar blocks and barrels on the CME and how this is deflating the price paid to dairy farmers – especially in Wisconsin – but also across the U.S. because of how it affects the Class III pricing formula.
“For the last four years, the spread between blocks and barrels has been greater than 12 cents. Historically, the spread has been three cents or less per pound for the prior 50 years,” he said, noting that the spread at the end of the previous week stood at just shy of 35 cents per pound!
“The common thought is that this bounces back to a normal range, but it doesn’t,” said Bauer, noting that last year’s average spread cost dairy farmers 60 cents per hundredweight on their milk price. “Those farmers who ship to barrel plants, such as Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery, were affected by $1.20/cwt on their milk price due to this wide spread.
He noted that last week’s 34 ¾ cent spread between blocks and barrels cost dairy farmers $3.40/cwt, which is 20% of their base price.
Acknowledging that this is a complex issue, Bauer asked the Secretary if USDA will take the first step and admit there is a problem instead of “rolling their eyes because of the complexity.”
“This is unfavorable to our farmers and unfair to our producers,” said Bauer, explaining that all dairy products are priced off the block-barrel on the CME, ultimately.
“It’s important to get it right,” said Bauer, explaining that it is a problem when the industry can build barrel inventory to create this divergence in block / barrel prices on the CME, which in turn suppresses the price they pay to producers for the milk used in a multitude of other “modern” products.
“Barrel production comes from 16 plants (nationwide), and represents 6% of the nation’s dairy supply, and yet has had a 58% of the impact on all producers’ milk checks,” said Bauer. “When the system is out of sync, that negative value affects us all.
“It’s time for USDA to formally take action and for the data to come to light that are influencing the market,” said Bauer.
He explained that the system is there to protect farmers and local buyers but is now being influenced by foreign cooperatives that keep one product – barrels – in oversupply in order to keep milk prices lower for products that are priced off the higher blocks in short supply.
Bauer said the secrecy of buyers and sellers on the CME protects this practice. “It’s time to update the system to keep up with modern times to protect our farmers and our food supply also in terms of quality and safety.”
Secretary Perdue drew laughter when he asked Bauer: “Would you repeat the question?” But he took it in and asked for a written copy of the question to look into it. Perdue said that concerns are often raised about the Federal Milk Marketing Orders.
“They are a fairly complex issue, but we’d be happy to investigate. The government’s role in general is to be the balance between the producer and the consumer and ensure no predatory pricing practices,” said Perdue, “while not interfering with commerce and contracts.”
He gave the example of the fire at the Tyson beef plant in Holcomb, Kansas and the staggering loss to cattle prices since that fire over a month ago that have resulted in packer margins at an unprecedented $600 per head.
“We saw a spike in the delta – the difference between the live cattle price and the boxed beef price at historic highs, and we are investigating that, to make sure there was no pricing collusion,” said Perdue. “I’ve asked those packers to come in and give me their side of the story. That’s the role of USDA.”
Pete Hardin of the Milkweed asked about the cell cultured meat, citing a publicized comment by the Secretary last summer pointing to the value of this science. Hardin asked if any studies have been done on the safety of this technology.
Perdue did not know if any specific studies have been done, and he confessed to trying an Impossible Burger, adding “There’s now one restaurant I no longer attend.”
He stressed that these products cater to people who aren’t eating meat anyway for whatever reason, and he said: “In the end, consumers will be the ones to choose.”
Picking up on this in a separate question about how dairy and livestock farms can remain viable with all of the imitation products competing for consumers, the Secretary observed that, “As farmers we are independent and like to sit behind the farm gate and produce the best, most nutritious food in the world at the lowest cost anywhere in the world, but we’ve never told the story.
“It’s up to every one of us to speak out locally and statewide and federally, nationally in that area and tell the story of what’s happening. No longer can we hide behind the curtain,” said Perdue.
“There’s a growing movement about knowing how you do your job, what’s in the milk, how the animals are treated, and there’s no going back from that. We have to engage with consumers. We have to tell the story loudly and proudly.”
Through futuristic lens: Is it time to end USDA control of dairy promotion?
By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, March 29, 2019
“It’s not that the bad guy came and took it (fluid milk sales), it’s that us, the dairy industry collectively, did not keep growing and innovating and doing what we should do. Instead of getting in a lather about plant-based food companies, let’s do what we are supposed to be doing as an industry. Let’s do marketing. Let’s do innovation. Let’s have dairy-based protein in 3-D printers and whatever comes next. That’s where we need to be.”
These were the words of Tom Gallagher, CEO of Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) to his dairy checkoff board recently as shared here, and in the March 20, 2019 edition of Farmshine from a video of his comments.
A glimpse into what that might mean was revealed at the IDFA (International Dairy Foods Association) convention in January, where DMI’s vice president of global innovation partnerships, Paul Ziemnisky told attendees that 95% of households have milk and buy milk, but that these households engage in “fewer consumption occasions”, according to a recent convention report in Dairy Foods magazine.
To increase ‘consumption occasions’, DMI has been investing checkoff dollars toward innovations in “milk-based” beverage growth, he said.
Through its Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, DMI has invested checkoff dollars in these types of “pre-competitive” innovations in the past — an example being fairlife.
It is interesting that in both Gallagher’s comments to the DMI board and in the presentation by DMI’s Ziemnisky’s to processors, the term dairy-based or milk-based is used.
As we’ve reported previously, the direction of dairy innovation over the past 10 to 20 years has not been lacking in its drive to pull out the components of milk for inclusion in a variety of products — taking milk apart and putting it back together again — in a way that is new and different or in a way that presents milk and dairy as a new product.
Expect to see this type of innovation increase via these investments of dairy checkoff dollars into developing combination beverages that include pieces of milk in entirely new beverages.
This is what is meant by innovation.
At the IDFA convention, DMI gave processors a glimpse into some of the innovations they are working on to address four consumer targets that DMI has identified:
1) A milk- and nut-based combination beverage,
2) A milk with lavender and melatonin to promote sleep,
3) A yo-fir product (kefir plus yogurt) beverage,
4) A milk beverage that provides just a hint of flavor,
5) More concepts in high-protein milk-based beverages,
6) A ‘plosh’ blend of tea, coffee and milk, and
7) An all-natural concept of milk blended with fruit.
As the overall beverage sector is exploding with new beverages of all kinds every year — some winners and some losers — DMI is looking to do more in the re-creation of dairy in the beverage space with new combination beverages that include milk, or components of milk, but are not identified as milk. These beverages will compete with non-dairy beverages, but in a sense, this track would further compress real dairy milk into its age-old commodity posture. Of course, those who are engaged in promotion of real dairy milk can position it as the wholly natural choice in a beverage sector of further processed combinations and concoctions.
Something to watch and be aware of is that PepsiCo – a company the dairy checkoff organizations are forming stronger bonds with — is on the frontier of turning drink dispensing machines into a hybrid of 3-D printing and multi-source create-your-own beverage dispensers. On the CNBC’s early-morning Squawk Box business news a few months ago, this concept was discussed showing a prototype where consumers can create their own unique beverage by pushing buttons for a little of this and a little of that. Millennials look for unique and “personalized” foods and beverages — we are told. And we see this trend in the “craft beer” category, for example.
A caveat to follow in this trend is the importance of labeling by USDA and FDA as the new gene-edited cell-cultured animal-based proteins and genetically-altered vat-grown yeast-produced dairy-based proteins move from the lab to the market in the next 12 to 24 months via partnerships between the billionaire-funded food technology startup companies and the world’s largest agricultural supply-chain companies.
While everyone is watching what happens in the cell-cultured fake-meat category and the partnerships there with Cargill, most of us do not realize how close the dairy versions are to scaling-for-market — since Perfect Day company partnered last fall with ADM (Archer Daniels Midland). That partnership is predicated on ADM providing the facilities and mechanisms to ramp up the production of ‘cow-less’ so-called dairy proteins, and USDA research labs do the gene-altering to provide the seed-source of yeast for the process.
As these other proteins are introduced into the food supply, it is yet unclear how – exactly – they will be identified and differentiated in the marketplace. While the dairy and livestock sectors pushed hard to soften the distinctions of proteins in food from animals that have been fed GMO crops, the downside of USDA’s new Bio-Engineered (BE) food labels is that these fake proteins that are on the horizon may not be labeled or differentiated when they are a part of the final food or beverage product.
On the bio-engineering side of animal-based cell-cultured fake-meat protein production (cell-blobs grown in bioreactors), USDA and FDA are still working out the details of their combined food safety requirements.
But on the bio-engineering side of the yeast that have been genetically-altered to possess bovine DNA snips to exude ‘milk’ protein and perhaps other components (grown to exude dairy protein and components in fermentation vats), there is far less discussion of inspection or oversight.
As for the labeling of both types of bio-engineered protein, there is little discussion of how foods containing them will be labeled.
Just three months ago, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced the new National Bio-Engineered Food Disclosure Standard that will be implemented in January of 2020. It is the result of the July 2016 law passed by Congress that directed USDA to establish one national mandatory standard for disclosing foods that are – or may be – bio-engineered.
USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has developed the List of Bio-Engineered Foods to identify the crops – and foods – that are available in a bio-engineered form throughout the world and for which regulated entities must maintain records that inform whether or not they must make this bio-engineered food disclosure.
Some are voluntarily complying already, as I have seen this BE statement in very small print on small containers of some Kraft ‘cheese’ spreads.
The bottom line in this mandatory BE labeling requirement is that it only pertains to the main ingredient of the further-processed food or beverage and only if there is “detectable” genetically-altered material in that food. This means that the BE labeling may not apply to fake meat or fake dairy. In the case of the fake meat, the bio-engineering is the editing of DNA to grow muscle (boneless beef for example). In the case of fake dairy, the bio-engineering is yeast altered to include specific bovine DNA, but the resulting cow-less ‘dairy’ protein would have no detectable difference, its creators say.
All animal protein checkoff programs have a tough road ahead. If farmers and ranchers continue to fund promotion of the foods and beverages that come from dairy and livestock farms, these fake iterations of the real thing will benefit unless promotion can be targeted to the real thing and consumers see the difference on a label in order to make a choice for the real thing.
This all sounds so futuristic and like science-fiction, but in foods today, this is where we are headed and our checkoff programs should be aware and should be able to stand up for the real thing. They should be allowed to lobby regulators for fair treatment and distinct labeling because the government requires farmers to pay these checkoff deductions to promote their products. Thus, if the government does not provide a clear path to distinguish fake from real, then the fairness of requiring a checkoff should no longer be considered valid.
As for dairy farmer checkoff funds, specifically, the future is here and DMI is already moving down that road to innovate dairy-based or milk-based products that dilute the meaning of dairy and milk in the marketplace – in effect paving the way to new innovations and products in which real dairy-farm-produced milk components can be replaced by fake-dairy components from genetically-altered yeast grown in ADM fermentation vats.
Perhaps checkoff funding should be directed in these difficult and changing times toward true promotion of what is real. We see that starting to happen with the “love what’s real” campaign, launched by the Milk Processors Promotion and Education Program (MilkPEP) and supported by DMI’s Undeniably Dairy social media campaign.
More than ever, the future of our dairy farms will rely upon promotion of what is REAL – moreso than using dairy farmer checkoff funds to find ways to put pieces of milk into other products or into 3-D Printers. Profile those components. Provide the benefits of real dairy components for the manufacturers that are moving into 3-D printing of personalized foods and beverages, but keep the powder dry for a full-out real dairy campaign. If USDA does not allow real dairy farmer checkoff funds to talk about why they are so much better than the fake stuff that ishere and that is coming… then it is time to get the government out of the promotion business and return these funds to dairy farmers so they can voluntarily use them to promote their real products, their true dairy brands.
In a future of murky food sources – farmers must be able to stand up for what they produce. They must be able to promote Real Milk that is unfooled-around-with, that is from the cow they have fed and cared for.
With the food revolution here, dairy promotion will need a marketing revolution to welcome people back to what’s Real — especially as more household decisions are made by people growing up without knowing what Real Whole Milk tastes like.There’s an idea. Real Whole Milk is tastier, healthier, with a truly cleaner label than about anything else that is here or that is coming to compete with it in the beverage sector.
Ditto for Real Yogurt and Real Cheese, etc. in the food sector. Undeniably Dairy – the dairy checkoff program – has a nice ring to it. Love what’s Real has a great message to it. But if dairy farmers can’t use their mandatory funds to take the fake stuff head-on, then it’s time to stop taking mandatory checkoffs and allow farmers to use their money to promote their product – no holds barred.
When the competition is funded by Silicon Valley billionaires, has the backing of major food and agriculture supply-chain companies, is sourcing genetically-altered material from USDA, and does not have government requiring distinctive labeling – then dairy farmers need a level playing field to use their hard earned $350 million plus to put a stake in the ground to promote why Real is better. Checkoff staff often say the competition is doing brand advertising and “we can’t.”
That being the case, perhaps give the money back to the farmers so they can form voluntary promotion groups or voluntarily give the funds to the brand that receives their milk to get in the game of head-to-head advertising instead of, in essence, funding a path to their own substitution and demise.
Dietary Guidelines among the factors plunging us deeper.
By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, Friday, March 15, 2019
Many are confused about what the dairy checkoff organizations can and can’t do. There is nothing in the Order that says the checkoff programs must promote according to the USDA Dietary Guidelines.
So where did this idea come from and how does it look today and what might it look like tomorrow?
To stave off challenges brought by folks questioning the government’s authority to require farmers to fund private speech, USDA defended the checkoff programs as “government speech,” which is a protected form of speech. This was explained in more detail in part 6 of the GENYOUth series in the February 22, 2019 edition of Farmshine.
Here’s why it matters. Government speech on dietary concerns has become increasingly restrictive, and by the looks of the recently-named USDA Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, it could get worse.
With so much control by USDA, how will dairy farmers fully defend their position — even when rigorous science is on their side? They can’t count on government speech because rigorous science is all too often ignored by government bureaucracies and the advisory committees with links to foundations and corporations that have other ideas for that money.
The proof is in the long trend of using mandatory farmer funds to promote the low-fat / fat-free government speech that has become their own undoing, not to mention detrimental to health, especially for our children.
Here’s a glimpse of where we are headed with this dairy-farmer-funded government speech.
Separation of Church and State, for example, seems to apply only when convenient for politicians. Could a religious doctrine of animal rights and vegan diets become even more embedded into the government Dietary Guidelines that dairy farmers are forced to promote?
I was told by more than a few people that Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue is a scientist and would not allow this to happen to his formation of the current committee, but the composition of this Dietary Guidelines Committee takes us further down this wrong road.
In fact, could the U.S. guidelines be on the brink of cowtowing even more toward the Adventist-funded EAT Lancet Global Food Transformation Agenda?
Some scoff, saying not to take this report seriously because it’s not gaining traction.
Unfortunately, they are not paying attention. This track has been laid and the wheels are in motion, and plenty of bargains with the devil have been made behind closed doors.
Our dietary choices are poised to be further corrupted. Just writing about these topics makes my blood boil and causes me to second-guess my own sanity.
But folks, this is real.
We can be proactive, or we can sit with our heads in the sand and be run over. This is happening, and our own leaders don’t want us to see it, hear it or speak of it.
People can criticize the series of articles on this topic all they want, but the truth is that alliances formed — most notably over the past 10 years — are poised to plunge us even further into dietary guidelines, labeling, look-alikes and standards that have the potential to remove even more animal-based dietary choices from Americans — especially our children.
As an ag journalist, I’m appalled.
As a grandmother, watching the effect it is having and will have on our children, I am angry.
What I see coming is a dietary future that will be a mix of fake proteins, grains, legumes, vitamin/pharmaceutical cocktails and high fructose corn syrup fashioned into whatever you want it to be or taste like from your 3-D printer.(Even the venerable Dr. Kohl talked about it at a farmer meeting and how much this “spooks” him out.)
In the beginning, these 3-D printer options may use dairy or meat proteins, but they are set up for not just plant-based proteins, and what some in the industry call “dairy-based” proteins. What does ‘dairy-based’ mean? (more on that later). The 3-D printer technology is the handmaiden of the gene-edited cell cultured fake-meat proteins and the gene-altered yeast sourced by USDA to a company growing them (with the commercial assistance of ADM) in fermentation vats to produce fake-dairy protein without the cow.
His name is Dr. Joan Sabate, and he was placed on the committee in this role instead of Stanford professor John Ioannidis — despite over 1000 letters supporting Ioannidis being sent to Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue by the public that included medical doctors, dieticians, veterinarians and other experts, including specialists in oncology, heart disease and endocrinology (diabetes, etc).
Not only is Sabate Chair of the Nutrition Department at the Seventh Day Adventist institution, Loma Linda University, he also constructed the vegan food pyramid and co-authored a book on Adventist doctrine for global change, called “The Global Influence of the Seventh Day Adventist Church on Diet” where this playbook is well laid out.
It’s pretty clear that Sabate has been given an influential position and has spent his career promoting a religious-dietary-doctrine with undue influence now in a government dietary advisory capacity.
Also, an article co-authored by Sabate in 2011 talked of how the Adventists praised the 2010 dietary guidelines that took the destruction of school lunch under the Obama / Vilsack administration to new lows. That report said the 2010 Guidelines “confirmed” the findings of Sabate’s predecessor at Loma Linda University.
Last Friday, while doing a Rural Route Radio show as a guest of Trent Loos, I learned from him a piece I did not know — that the Wellcome Trust, which wrote the check for the EAT Lancet Commission, is the trust of Henry Wellcome. He passed away in the 1930s, and was the founder of what is today a Big Pharma player.
Remove whole milk, full-fat dairy and red meat from our diets and we’ll all need more drugs for a panacea of ills. Yes, the EAT Lancet report calls for just a little over one ounce of meat per day, the equivalent of one 8-oz cup of milk per day and 1 and ½ eggs per week. See the picture?
Our kids are already drinking fat free or 1% milk in school, eating fake butter, skim processed cheese, non-fat yogurt (if you can call it yogurt) and a host of other real-food-replacements when they should receive the best nature has to offer.
Yes, Edelman is the same PR and Marketing firm that has worked for dairy checkoff for 20 years and increasingly in the past 10 years and was instrumental in the GENYOUth formation (2010), a non-profit with a pretty face that is also tied in with the Clinton Foundation of the same persuasion, and the Obama / Vilsack administration’s heavy hit to school milk and the school lunch program parameters, which also happened in 2010.
This really is one big thing connected, moving gradually to where we are today amid several key converging factors.
Call me “negative” or “unhinged” or whatever name you have for this investigative reporting, that is your choice. Meanwhile, some of our own organizations are tied in, and it is disturbing.
The template is set for a sustainability footprint that is focused on streamlining the food industry with rapid consolidation to get the WWF stamp of approval for the largest and most vertically integrated animal food producers.
Recently, other organizations that challenge these institutions have put farmers on a new HSUS ag-advisory board to try to influence that particular anti-animal organization to get a similar stamp of approval for small farms and regional food supplies.
Meanwhile, the anti-animal heavy-hitters are laughing all the way to the bank as their strategy as kindred NGOs is to divide and conquer — while raking in hundreds of millions of dollars. Their strategy is working because there is division. Not because I’m writing about it, but because none of our organizations and institutions have the backbone to stand up for what’s right.
The mode of operation is to work quietly through alliances and advisory boards and non-profits — to paint a pretty face on these alliances, hoping to come out of the internal fray with a few crumbs for a surviving streamlined industry.
If you dare question these alliances or dig into them, you are attacked.
You must remain politically correct at all costs! Don’t touch the third rail! Shame on anyone who dare question! If you question, dig, report, enlighten (all while said organizations refuse to answer interview questions), then you are “negative”, “unhinged”, “divisive”, “harming farmers” and a journalist who has “an agenda” or is just trying to “sell newspapers.”
Not in the least. I would much rather be spending all of my time writing the positive stories, and I have quite a few lined up! But I can’t discard the concern for the people whose stories I’ve written as I watch one after another sell their cows and/or their farms, and as I’m deeply concerned for the health and well-being of our children.
It’s time for Congress to revisit the law authorizing the dairy checkoff. I don’t say this lightly. The dairy checkoff budget dwarfs all others at $350 million a year. That’s a huge budget of dairy farmer funding under increasingly detrimental USDA control.
Maybe government speech is “protected” under the law, but the law should no longer require dairy farmers to pay for it.
BROWNSTOWN, Pa. — In Part 7 last week, we looked at some of the questions still unanswered by DMI regarding GENYOUth. As noted, a copy of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) created in 2009-10 and signed in 2011 by USDA, National Dairy Council and the NFL has not been provided.
Data requested on the “before” and “after” purchases of dairy by FUTP60 schools has also not been provided.
The question about total funds provided by DMI in addition to what appears on the GENYOUth 990 form has also not been answered. However, the 2016-17 DMI audit reflects amounts that are almost double what appears on the GENYOUth 990s.
And the question about Edelman’s role in the formation of GENYOUth and any knowledge or concern DMI may have about Edelman’s role in the EAT FReSH Initiative was simply not been acknowledged, let alone answered.
This is the concern that is perhaps most vexing, and here is the what the public record tells us.
Richard Edelman sits on the board of GENYOUth and as previously mentioned, he is credited with recruiting GENYOUth CEO Alexis Glick in a marketing publication’s story about her taking this position.
The Edelman firm is listed as a corporate sponsor of GENYOUth, including the board seat held by Richard Edelman, but the firm is not listed as a donor of funds on the GENYOUth IRS 990s, except that Richard Edelman, himself, is on record donating $25,000 in both 2016 and 2017.
Edelman is widely considered the world’s largest and leading public relations and marketing firm with offices worldwide. Based in Chicago, the firm, according to the writings of Richard Edelman himself, has been involved in work for DMI (Dairy Checkoff) for 20 years.
The firm is listed among the 41 corporate sponsors (logos pictured below) of the EAT FReSH Initiative. This Initiative is an extension of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).
And, in Edelman’s own words in a May 2018 blog post, “Edelman has partnered with FReSH to help accelerate transformational change in global food systems.”
As reported in Part 6 of this series, Danone and PepsiCo are just two companies among the 41 corporate sponsors that are Edelman clients, and both companies planned new plant-based non-dairy “look-alike” product launches to coincide with the EAT Lancet Commission and EAT FReSH launch in the first quarter of 2019.
Edelman is best known for its annual Edelman Trust Barometer shared with the world’s leading business CEOs each year at the World Economic Summit in Davos, Switzerland.
Purpose driven marketing is their thing.
DMI will not acknowledge our question about Edelman’s role in the formation of GENYOUth. Our question about the link between Edelman and the marketing of the EAT FReSH Initiative was also not acknowledged.
However, on the secret Dairy Checkoff facebook page, we have received screenshot copies of answers given to farmers who have asked the checkoff staff questions about this. In those one-to-one facebook group replies, DMI staff are stating on the one hand that “Edelman is not involved in EAT Lancet.” On the other hand, stating that, “we should be glad we have someone representing us there.”
So which is it? And who is representing whom?
What we found in the public record is that Edelman is not, technically, on record as “the” marketing firm for EAT Lancet. The situation is far more subtle, and clever, because Edelman “loaned” their Amersterdam office account director, Lara Luten, to the EAT FReSH initiative for at least one year prior to 2019’s EAT FReSH launch.
A “secondment” is defined as the detachment of a person from his or her regular organization for temporary assignment elsewhere.
In the blog post, Richard Edelman asks the firm’s Amsterdam account director on loan to the EAT FReSH Initiative what has been most interesting in her work with FReSH.
Her answer: “The current (2018) preparations for the EAT Stockholm Food Forum and the EAT Lancet Commission Report. But also: Setting a basis for communications for the FReSH team.”
That’s pretty clear, isn’t it?
He asks her what she has learned from this partnership that can be applied to other work, and Luten replies: “Working in a pre-competitive environment on a project (EAT FReSH) that is driving impact by leading the change. I’m also gaining in-depth knowledge about the food system (its topics and stakeholders) that will definitely be useful for other projects.”
So not only was the Edelman firm involved, but their involvement is “leading the change.”
What is the WBCSD? It is described at its website as “ a CEO-led organization of forward-thinking companies that galvanizes the global business community to create a sustainable future for business.” It is made up of the 41 corporations, including the Edelman firm, that have launched the EAT FReSH Initiative.
In her new employment as WBCSD communications manager, Luten now carries on the public relations, social strategies and marketing she began planning, organizing and laying the groundwork for during the time that she was employed by Edelman “on secondment” to this 41-corporation group now launching the EAT FReSH Initiative.
It all fits together with how Edelman does business. This is not in any way a question of ethics. Plenty of marketing agencies work for competing accounts in the world of advertising and public relations. There’s nothing new about that.
There’s also nothing new about this concept of working in “pre-competitive” environments where products and marketing are developed in a way that all corporations involved can utilize in their own new product campaigns.
This is, in fact, a signature way that DMI has also functioned over the past 10 years. In addition to GENYOUth, the Sustainability and Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy began similarly with an MOU between DMI and the USDA, and it also includes the participation of dairy processors in a pre-competitive environment to develop and initiate innovations and sustainability measures. One example to come out of that pre-competitive environment is the innovation of ultrafiltered milk known as fairlife. Another example is the F.A.R.M program.
The goal of these pre-competitive collaborations is to give all corporate participants something they can use in a way that takes away a competitive edge.
What is concerning for dairy producers — who are mandatorily funding DMI — is that this has folded dairy promotion into a broader setting of corporations working in pre-competitive environments to pass back through the supply chain requirements about how things are done on the farm.
Toward that end, Edelman has actually played an even larger role in DMI projects over the past 20 years and especially in the past two years in coming up with the design of the Undeniably Dairy campaign. Again, purpose-driven marketing is an Edelman specialty.
And it seems noble to drive marketing with a social purpose. More companies today engage in purpose-driven social marketing, aiming to win consumers by showing what they are doing to address social concerns, such as the environment. In fact, they create problems to fit the solution they want to market.
In its own way, each corporate member of pre-competitive collaborations then capitalizes by introducing products that solve a real or “created” need in this realm of social purpose.
Here’s where it gets cloudy for dairy farmers. The government mandates that dairy farmers pay 15 cents per hundredweight for education, research and promotion. DMI administrates the use of the national portion of these funds and even sets the direction for regional funds — under the ever-more-micro-managing-oversight of USDA via two key MOU’s (GENYOUth and Innovation and Sustainability Center for U.S. Dairy).
DMI’s association with Edelman over 20 years has increased its alignment with purpose-driven marketing via pre-competitive environments with food supply chain corporations. On its surface, that doesn’t sound so bad.
But here’s another way to look at this trend. As one creative strategist, Zac Martin, stated recently in his opinion piece for an ad agency publication, “purpose” was 2018’s “most dangerous word.”
Martin defines “purpose” in marketing in the context of “brands aligning with and promoting social causes, almost always seemingly out of nowhere.”
This is most definitely the road we are on. We are being told that consumers don’t want to know what you know, they want to know that you care. We are told that consumers make brand choices based on the “why” not the “what.”
Some of this comes from the annual Edelman Trust Barometer and other research where consumers are surveyed about who they trust in their buying decisions.
But what information do consumers actually use when they buy? Price, flavor, freshness, perceived nutrition.
Are we part of the problem? Are these alignments helping or hurting the promotion of actual milk?
Think about this. EAT FReSH is just the newest and most transformational example of how a “why” – climate change and the environment – are being used to sell new food products based on their fulfillment of a created “why”.
What could be more perfect than to use unsubstantiated “science” to make untrue claims about certain food and agriculture impacts and then use that as a selling point for a whole new product answering the “why” that has first been created?
The EAT Foundation even has the new “planetary” diet patterns outlined (1 cup of dairy equivalent a day, a little over 1 ounce of meat/poultry/fish a day, and only 3 ounces of red meat per week, and 1 ½ eggs per week for examples). Within that context, the participating corporations are now coming out — simultaneously — with a whole bevy of new beverages, snacks and staples that do not contain any animal protein. Protein is played down and favors plant protein (incomplete proteins) and refined sugar or high fructose corn syrup is just fine.
They’ve created the “why” (planetary boundaries that they have set) and now they can sell consumers the products (fake meat and fake dairy) that fulfill that social planetary purpose that they themselves have convinced us we need!
Looking at this ‘social purpose’ trend in marketing, Zac Martin states the following: “The fad (of purpose-driven marketing) seems to driven by the likes of Simon Sinek, who notoriously said: ‘People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.’ But Simon is wrong. It’s a claim made without substantiation.”
In fact, Martin observes that purpose-driven marketing to is made up of “feel good” stuff that promotes and aligns with social causes while doing little as a sound marketing strategy.
Undeniably Dairy feels good. Telling our “why” feels good. Do consumers need to understand more about what happens on a dairy farm, why we do what we do? Of course! But this does not substitute for sound marketing of the dairy farmers’ product: Milk.
Martin says this trend amounts to “brand noise” that is “a sign of desperation”.
He defines purpose-driven social marketing as “fabricating an experiment, presenting pseudoscience disguised as research,” and all the while appearing “authentic.” (Think EAT FReSH).
He makes the point that when everyone is zigging, maybe it’s time to zag. I could not have said it better myself.
This series of articles is not meant to question the good intent of good people doing what they believe is good for their industry. Rather, the point is to show the direction dairy promotion dollars have taken since 2009 and some of the guiding principles that are not working.
Going back to part one, the graph showing fluid milk consumption trends could not be more clear. What we are doing is not working — unless the objective is to sell less fresh fluid milk, especially whole milk, that returns the highest value to farmers and keeps dairy farms relevant in communities, especially in the eastern states, while selling more global dairy commodities, at cheaper prices, fueling rapid expansion of more consolidated and integrated dairy structures in the western states.
Dairy Checkoff has been aligning more closely to USDA/HHS Dietary Guidelines when nothing in the Congressional Act establishing the Checkoff states that it must. Dairy Checkoff has been aligning in pre-competitive environments with corporations that turn around and push us right out of the dairy case with non-dairy alternatives that fill a social purpose of their own creation.
Dairy Checkoff has partnered with fast food chains that help sell more cheese, and yet one pre-emptive cheese company is a primary beneficiary, and rapid milk production expansion in certain states follows with that.
Dairy Checkoff has bought-in to the idea that rapid expansion of exports is a primary mission, when that actually lowers the farm-level milk price because the focus of those sales is the lower-value commodity dairy.
Meanwhile, the marketing largely ignores the best selling point we have: Nutrition and Flavor in the domestic market.
Now the pressure is on for Dairy Checkoff promotion to draw more farms into “telling our story.” As noble and wonderful as this may be, what’s the 15 cents doing to actually sell milk, to win back the milk market we’ve been losing in the process?
We have a simple product. It doesn’t have a list of additives to make it look, feel and sort of taste like milk, it IS milk.
We have a nutritious product. Nothing else on the market comes close.
We have a delicious product. But we have to market the tasteless version and train our children to dislike milk by doing so… because somehow we have ended up in a place where the government’s dietary police are in charge, and we either must obey, or we just think we must.
Telling consumers our ‘why’ can be a good thing, but with 15 cents per hundredweight forked over by farmers by government mandate, the question remains, what is being done to truly sell the “what” — the actual milk that comes out of the cow because of all the good things farmers do.
Consumers don’t know squat about milk. That’s being proven over and over again, despite over $300 million a year in mandatory promotion funds deducted from farmer milk checks for promotion.
We’ve been zigging with the ziggers long enough.
Maybe it’s time to zag.
(The graph below shows us what has happened to per capita real fluid milk consumption since 2010 while we increased the amount of zigging, suggesting it is time to zag.)
Delays, diversions and disregard for specific questions keep the investigation rolling.
By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, March 1, 2019
BROWNSTOWN, Pa.– The public record is clear on Dairy Checkoff alliances of the past decade through GENYOUth, and the financial side of the picture is coming into even sharper focus.
Meanwhile, important questions were only partially answered last week while other questions were outright ignored.
This is especially true about the questions concerning the firm doing public relations and marketing for DMI over the past 20 years.
Instead of answering those questions, we saw diversions. We saw DMI chairperson Marilyn Hershey, in her letter on page 17 of Farmshine last week (and at the end of the article at this link, here), give Dairy Checkoff the credit for changing the conversation on milk fat! Hard to believe!
While it is true that Dairy Checkoff has moved a bit in that direction since 2014, the change in the conversation can be attributed to independent science writer Nina Teicholz and her 10 years of exhaustive investigation that led to her book The Big Fat Surprise, which led to the interest of Time magazine on this topic.
As for our unanswered questions? We are still waiting.
Last week, we referenced some of the questions that had been sent to DMI three weeks ago. One being the MOU between USDA, Dairy Checkoff and NFL.
In previous installments of this series, we had mentioned the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by USDA and other government agencies, along with GENYOUth, National Dairy Council (NDC / DMI) and National Football League (NFL), and we included a photo of the original 2011 signing found on a Flickr photo stream link at a USDA blog post that year.
There had been no press release about this development at the time. But that’s water under the bridge.
After examining the public record, we reached out to DMI via chairperson Marilyn Hershey, and her letter, of course, was published on page 17 in the Feb 22 edition of Farmshine and at the end of the report at this link. Instead of answering each of our questions, she chose the option of writing a letter for publication, unedited, in Farmshine.
Most of the questions, however, remain unanswered. While there are vague glimpses here and there of something to hang a hat on, it is the outright silence on some questions that is so telling.
First and foremost, we have not received the requested full copy of the MOU. Our request to DMI was ignored. Our request to USDA has been referred to Public Affairs. And we wait.
Hershey maintained in an email response that the MOU is nonbinding and has nothing to do with how milk is promoted in school. In her letter, she said,“MilkPEP and DMI programs are limited to promoting school milk as governed by the Dietary Guidelines set by USDA.”
As mentioned last week, there is nothing in the Checkoff Order that requires this, just a progression in that direction over the past 10 years, and no sign of the MOU that was in development 10 years ago and officially signed eight years ago.
Another question we asked was: “What role did Edelman (the longtime public relations firm for DMI) play in the creation of GENYOUth as some public articles say Richard Edelman, on the GENYOUth board played a significant role?
This question was completely ignored in both the DMI letter published last week and in any other correspondence with Hershey or DMI staff. It was not even acknowledged. When pressed, it was ignored further.
We also asked: “What role does Edelman continue to play and are you at all concerned that Edelman and other aligned partners in GENYOUth are aligned with the EAT Forum, specifically the FReSH initiative which seeks to accelerate global transformation of the food system to plant-based diets for “healthy people and a healthy planet”?
This question was also completely ignored in both the DMI letter published last week and in any other correspondence with Hershey or DMI staff. It was not acknowledged.
Meanwhile, after these articles were published, the information has come under heavy criticism by DMI staff and board members in discussions with questioning farmers on the private facebook page where farmers can join to ask checkoff-related questions and DMI staff and board members engage in conversation.
There, farmers who ask are told on the one hand that Edelman is “not involved” in the EAT Lancet Commission or EAT FReSH initiative, and on the other hand that it’s “good to have representation on the inside”.
But again, no public statement or answers to these questions are forthcoming. This seems odd given that DMI is funded by dairy farmers through an Act of Congress and the questions are being asked by a dairy farming publication.
When asked if a particular statement made by DMI staff on the private Checkoff facebook page is considered an official public statement answering a question for which we have not yet received an answer, the staff reply by email was that these statements are only for the private facebook participants, not official public statements.
To this point, we have information from the public record, questions for which we have received indirect answers, at best. Many questions that have been completely ignored. And we have a letter of response that contains plenty of diversions.
I find it puzzling that Hershey attempts to position DMI in the letter as the champion of changing the conversation on milk fat, that checkoff would be credited with the Time magazine “Eat Butter” cover in 2014, when that was through the independent work of science writer Nina Teicholz!
I find it puzzling that I was promised a long list of all the whole milk and full-fat dairy research DMI has done for years to change the conversation, but I am still waiting for that list.
These are more diversions. Look over here, not over there.
We’ll look at some of the other unanswered questions next week and see if we can press for more information about the Edelman PR firm regarding the EAT FReSH initiative.
As the public record is clear on some of the Dairy Checkoff alliances of the past decade, and as the financial side of the GENYOUth connection comes into sharper focus with additional documentation that is surfacing, and as specific important questions about the Edelman firm doing public relations and marketing for DMI over the past 20 years are ignored, it’s obvious to me that the digging needs to go further.
By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, Friday, February 15, 2019
It’s like whack-a-mole. So many converging things are happening rapidly related to a ‘herding’ mechanism for the masses in terms of what we will eat in the future.
Where did it all come from? How did we get here? Why is the science so flawed and against us?
What we see unfold via the EAT Lancet Commission and the Green New Deal over the past few weeks — not to mention the currently ongoing FDA and USDA deliberations on dietary guidelines and labeling for fake dairy and fake meat — has been a disaster gradually in the making.
The wheels were set in motion 10 years ago, or more, and Dairy Checkoff was at the table in more ways than one.
Trouble is, until now, no one really knew about the seat at the table, the foundations, pre-competitive environments, memorandums of understanding and so forth.
The connections, directions and alliances were unclear and clothed in happy talk about breakfast carts that put a half-pint of milk on every plate and maybe some fat-free yogurt and skim-processed cheese, excited talk about helping kids move more to lose weight, enthusiasm about putting farmers face-to-face with school children to teach them how they care for cows and environment (we all know that there are plenty of these efforts paid for by voluntary organizations and farmers themselves, FUTP60 can’t claim the ground on this part).
What we did not see, due to lack of transparency, was the deeper layers of direction where dairy farmers have, in a sense, been funding their own demise.
This is not meant to attack people in the checkoff system working with good intention on behalf of dairy farmers or our nation’s young people. This series of articles I have been involved in has been a peeling of an onion that should have been diced on the table to pass the sniff test from the beginning — but it was not.
In part one of the GENYOUth series in January, we showed the steep nosedive in fluid milk sales from 2010 to the present. There is no shortage of experts who now point to the school milk changes as precipitating this decline and in fact costing dairy farmers a whole generation of beverage decision-makers who have and are now graduated into the New World Order on “healthy diets for a healthy planet” — despite the lack of rigorous science to support either in terms of milk and meat production.
There was no transparency in which primary dairy checkoff stakeholders could question the direction as the track was greased for where we are today.
There was no transparency about alliances developed over the past 10 years — never mind the rather small detail of who paid whom for what and how many football players showed up to christen a school’s new breakfast cart. The IRS 990 figures reported in parts three and four of the GENYOUth series pale in comparison to the lack of transparency in Dairy Checkoff’s role as a participant educating and leading a whole generation of consumers, tied by an MOU to tote the government’s diet message.
There are two crossroads in front of us, and our dairy cows are standing in that intersection — mooing loudly for assistance, I might add.
Dairy Checkoff has taken the dairy industry down both roads — diet and sustainability — without transparency to its funding dairy farmers.
Now, today, these two roads are converging at regulatory, legislative, corporate, media and cow-less protein innovation levels.
And the industry is splintering over what to do about it.
This conversation is at least 10 years past-due, and it is why farmers are fragmented, why they can’t come together.
You see, the template for the future is written for some, not all.
It is written to be complicit in dietary goals that are not supported by rigorous science for our human health or our planetary health.
It has been written, in part, with money taken mandatorily under USDA oversight from dairy farmers of all types and sizes to streamline “U.S. Dairy” into the New World Order of food choices that are on the cusp of substantial change with Silicon Valley in the picture with its billionaire-funded cell and yeast cultured startup companies needing this propaganda to launch their cattle-less dairy and beef protein.
The FDA and USDA are poised to decide (and in the case of some labeling have already decided) how and IF consumers are going to be informed about what they are eating in the future.
As the deeper layers of the past 10 years of GENYOUth and Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy are revealed — with their separate memorandums of understanding (MOU’s) signed with USDA during the Obama/Vilsack era, and in ‘pre-competitive’ alliances with the world’s largest food and agriculture supply-chain companies — anyone publicly revealing or questioning the direction of checkoff on this road, is now cast as a character of division, a spoiler of profitability, a misinformed stakeholder reading the writings of a ‘yellow’ journalist.
In fact, DMI has created a secret facebook group for discussion of Dairy Checkoff questions and concerns. Participation is by invitation. Checkoff staff — hired by all dairy farmers through their mandatory checkoff dollars — are the gatekeepers, deciding who can join the group-think.
To understand where this is all leading, the crossover alliances between GENYOUth and the EAT Lancet Commission are known. (See related story here).
Dairy Checkoff is smack dab in the middle and has been for some time. That’s where you want to be if you want to influence a debate. But thus far, the direction of influence is questionable, naive and opaque at best, and has at worst created winners and losers among our nation’s dairy farmers, individually and regionally.
The global agenda unfolding right now has been years in the making. The deeper layers of the work at that table where Dairy Checkoff has had a seat — and its impact on the dairy farmers who collectively funded that seat — has been quietly pursued… until now.
Consumers have been telling us what they want: simple, flavorful, natural, real food. That’s what dairy and livestock producers do best!
But instead of marketing to that desire, instead of bolstering our consumer ranks by feeding that desire, the industry and checkoff have aligned us with government and corporate and special interests who want to shape and restrain those choices for future generations, by using our children as change agents for an agenda that has not been transparent, nor adequately discussed, by its funding stakeholders… until now.
Now, the global agenda has hit play in the public domain, and many of us are trying to find the rewind button.