Covering Ag since 1981. The faces, places, markets and issues of dairy and livestock production. Hard-hitting topics, market updates and inspirational stories from the notebook of a veteran ag journalist. Contributing reporter for Farmshine since 1987; Editor of former Livestock Reporter 1981-1998; Before that I milked cows. @Agmoos on Twitter, @AgmoosInsight on FB #MilkMarketMoos
Fluid milk sales in 2020 were essentially unchanged from 2019, although 2020 had an extra day as a leap year, according to USDA data released this week.
Whole milk sales were the largest category of fluid milk sales in 2020 for the third consecutive year since surpassing 2% milk sales volume for the first time in decades in 2018. Compared with 2019 volumes, whole milk sales in 2020 were up 3.2% at 16.6 billion pounds, according to the annual USDA ERS report released Tuesday, Aug. 31.
At 15.8 billion pounds, 2% milk was the second highest volume category, up 3.5% from 2019. This marked the first year over year increase in 2% milk sales since 2010.
Sales of 1% low-fat milk fell 4.3% in 2020 to 5.8 billion pounds while fat-free sales volume fell 13.4% to 3 billion pounds, less than half of what it was in 2010.
Over the past three years, sales of flavored whole milk had been increasing annually back to levels seen in 2005, but dipped 2% lower than 2019 during 2020 at 765 million pounds.
Some this could be attributed to consumer purchase patterns, but also is a function of what processors and retailers choose to make and offer.
In the flavored milk category other than whole, sales volume was 2.9 billion pounds, down a whopping 33.3% — a combination of virtual schooling, reduced institutional feeding, consumers mixing their own at home, and other potential pandemic-related reasons. In general, the overall trends held in 2020 as consumers continued showing their preference for milk with more fat. Egg nog sales, incidentally, were up a whopping 8.5% on a volume basis.
Some in the industry have said to me that if schoolchildren are provided with the choice of whole milk, there won’t be enough cream for all of the other products the dairy industry makes.
That doesn’t make sense. Taken together, the USDA ERS annual milk sales breakdown showed the continued consumer shifts to higher-fat fluid milk products increased cream usage by 1.3% overall in 2020 vs. 2019.
Despite this shift to more fluid category use of cream, the availability of cream last year dragged down milk prices, pushed butter churns, and contributed to the price divergences.
Producers made more butterfat than the market used, and the industry also imported record levels of butterfat in the March through August 2020 time frame and near record levels for the 12-month year on the whole.
Reports this week (Sept. 1, 2021) indicate this butter inventory built up in 2020, and the current steady production, will control butter prices that have been rising the past few weeks. Butter inventory keeps milk price in check… mate.
The breakdown of all dairy product usage for 2020 will be released by USDA ERS on September 30.
Eligible producers to be paid by agreements with milk handlers, co-ops
By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, August 27, 2021
WASHINGTON, D.C. — According to USDA, milk handlers and cooperatives were contacted Aug. 23-27 about entering into signed agreements to distribute the approximately $350 million in Pandemic Dairy Market Volatility Assistance payments the agency announced on Aug. 19.
The agreements will be to disburse funds to their qualifying producers and provide them with education on a variety of dairy-related topics.
Handlers and cooperatives have until Sept. 10, 2021 to indicate to USDA their intention to participate. USDA will then distribute the payments to participating handlers within 60 days of entering into an agreement. Once payment is received, a handler will have 30 days to distribute monies to qualifying dairy farmers.
These funds will be disbursed to “eligible” dairy farmers through “eligible” Federal Milk Marketing Order (FMMO) independent milk handlers and cooperatives, not through FSA. There will be no signups for this program, and payment rates have not been published.
What is unique about the volatility payments is they will be producer-specific and targeted based on FMMO records and agreements with milk handlers to be the payment conduit.
USDA indicates this program is a “first step” and is aimed at compensating producers for volatility and federal pricing policy changes. The payments will cover 80% of the calculated lost value on Class I fluid milk pounds for July through December 2020.
This language suggests the payments will be limited to producers whose milk was pooled on FMMOs during those six months.
One point of contention with the “volatility assistance” is that the eligible producers will be limited to payments associated with up to 5 million pounds of annual production — even though farms of all sizes incurred these losses due to a combination of pandemic volatility and federal pricing policy changes. The Adjusted Gross Income verification will also be required, like for the prior administration’s CFAP payments.
The actual cumulative net Class I value losses to dairy producers over a longer 27-month period (May 2019 through July 2021) were more than twice the amount of the program, pegged at over $750 million.
During the six months covered by the volatility assistance program – July through December 2020 – the difference between Class III and IV milk prices was $5 to $10 per hundredweight. Further amplifying the impact of this volatility on producer blend prices was the 2018 Farm Bill change (implemented May 2019) to use an averaging method instead of the previous ‘higher of’ Class III or IV skim prices to set the Class I ‘mover.’
This change also led to massive de-pooling and severely negative producer price differentials (PPDs) for most of the past 27 months. Even in some of the positive PPD months, the PPDs were smaller than normal, representing lost value to producers in excess of $3 billion.
In disbursing these volatility assistance payments, milk handlers and cooperatives will be reimbursed for limited administrative and educational costs, according to the USDA brochure.
The education piece stipulates that each participating handler or cooperative “will provide educational materials to all producers by March 1, 2022. The USDA brochure indicates that they may provide the education in the form of mailings, recorded online trainings, live virtual webinars, and/or in-person meetings.”
This education revolves around federal dairy programs, according to USDA. Example topics are Federal Milk Marketing Orders; Dairy Margin Coverage, Dairy Revenue Protection, Dairy Mandatory Price Reporting, Chicago Mercantile Exchange, and Forward Contracting.
USDA will make these education materials available, or the participating handlers and cooperatives may use their own educational materials or training.
Each participating handler will have to verify how many producers were provided with the information and the methods that were used for the education.
The Pandemic Dairy Market Volatility Assistance Program was announced during meetings with farmers and a tour of farms with Senator Patrick Leahy in Vermont last Thursday. Back in June, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack had committed to provide additional pandemic assistance for dairy farmers in an exchange with Sen. Leahy during an Appropriations hearing.
“This (program) is another component of our ongoing effort to get aid to producers who have been left behind and build on our progress towards economic recovery,” said Vilsack. “This targeted assistance is the first step in USDA’s comprehensive approach that will total over $2 billion to help the dairy industry recover from the pandemic and be more resilient to future challenges for generations to come.”
In a press statement this week, NMPF president and CEO Jim Mulhern stated that the $350 million only compensates for some of the damage resulting from the pandemic.
“NMPF asked the department to reimburse dairy farmers for unanticipated losses created during the COVID-19 pandemic by a change to the Class I fluid milk price mover formula that was exacerbated by the government’s pandemic dairy purchases last year,” said Mulhern. “When Congress changed the previous Class I mover, it was never intended to hurt producers. In fact, the new mover was envisioned to be revenue-neutral when it was adopted in the 2018 Farm Bill. However, the government’s COVID-19 response created unprecedented price volatility in milk and dairy-product markets that produced disorderly fluid milk marketing conditions that so far have cost dairy farmers nationwide more than $750 million from what they would have been paid under the previous system.”
NMPF and IDFA suggested and agreed to the Class I pricing change during 2018 Farm Bill negotiations, and no hearings were held before the FMMO method for calculating the ‘mover’ was implemented in May 2019.
Mulhern went on to say that the arbitrary low limits on covered milk production volume mean many family dairy farms will only receive a portion of the losses they incurred on their production last year.
“Disaster aid should not include limits that prevent thousands of dairy farmers from being meaningfully compensated for unintended, extraordinary losses,” Mulhern said, adding that NMPF is “continuing discussions about the current Class I mover to prevent a repeat of this problem.”
For its part, the American Dairy Coalition has been facilitating nationwide discussions with other dairy groups on the dairy pricing, de-pooling, negative PPD losses and risk management impacts since last winter, including a letter signed by hundreds of dairy producers and organizations sent last spring to NMPF and IDFA seeking a seat at the table on solutions for the concerns about the Class I ‘mover’ change and supporting a temporary return to ‘the higher of’ until other methods can be appropriately vetted with a hearing process.
ADC’s nationwide discussions brought attention to this issue and contributed to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and 20 other U.S. Senators sending a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack seeking financial assistance for dairy farmers for these milk price value losses. A dairy situation hearing is anticipated in the Senate Subcommittee on Dairy, Livestock and Poultry that is chaired by Sen. Gillibrand.
— In addition, USDA announced on Aug. 19 an estimated $580 million in Supplemental Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) to allow “modest increases” in the production history of enrolled dairy producers up to the 5 million pound annual production cap for Tier One coverage. Specific details for adjusting DMC production history have not yet been provided.
— Additionally, USDA announced the inclusion of premium alfalfa prices in the calculation of the feed cost portion of the DMC margin.
By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, April 9, 2021 (expanded)
Resilience and Equity are the two words of the year when it comes to almost every legislative policy discussion and presidential executive order, and filtering down through the briefings given to members of organizations by those who represent them, walking the halls of Congress.
Great words. Great ideals. But a little thin on definition.
That’s par for the course on many of the terms used in the USDA press release announcing the newly-named programs under USDA from stimulus legislation — Pandemic Assistance for Producers (PAP) — as well as details on the held funds for 2020’s CFAP 2.
It is difficult to make sense of much of the language in the press release because of terms thrown about and not defined. “Cooperative agreements” are mentioned as the way to grant nonprofits (yes, DMI would qualify), funds to help “support producer participation” in the assistance being offered. Broadened assistance for ‘socially-disadvantaged’ producers is mentioned, but no definition is given.
What will be attached in this approach within the context of transforming agriculture and food under the auspices of climate action, given the administration’s 30 x 30 plan, widely referred to as a “land grab”?
The 30 x 30 plan is part of a climate action executive order signed by the President within hours of inauguration. It aims to protect 30% of U.S. lands and oceans by 2030.
Specifically, Section 216 of the executive order states:
Sec. 216. Conserving Our Nation’s Lands and Waters. (a) The Secretary of the Interior, in consultation with the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Commerce, the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, and the heads of other relevant agencies, shall submit a report to the Task Force within 90 days of the date of this order recommending steps that the United States should take, working with State, local, Tribal, and territorial governments, agricultural and forest landowners, fishermen, and other key stakeholders, to achieve the goal of conserving at least 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030.
The Lincoln Sentinel in Nebraska reports that meetings are taking place in April in the western U.S. to explain to landowners what 30 x 30 entails.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, currently the U.S. protects 12% of its land. “To reach the 30 x 30 goal, an additional area twice the size of Texas, more than 440 million acres, will need to be conserved within the next 10 years,” the Lincoln Sentinel reported this week.
A bill in the U.S. House would create new “wilderness” declarations, land that will not be managed or accessed — including a complete ban and removal of all agricultural use from these “conserved” land areas taken to meet the 30 x 30 goal.
A push is happening in Washington to incorporate 30×30 ‘land grab’ principles into the massive infrastructure bill and in the COVID-19 relief stimulus package that was passed.
The slippery slope toward larger and hotter wildfires and against private property and generations-old land use rights has begun. And the Nature Conservancy, already a large land owner / controller, is already looking ahead to the 2023 Farm Bill to include certain conservation provisions in the final product. They also look to the National Defense Authorization Act to include public land designations.
Tom Vilsack — whom President Joe Biden stated upon nomination to the post of Agriculture Secretary — helped develop the Biden rural plan for rural America and now has the job of implementing it, is on record pledging to use every opportunity within existing and new USDA programs to meet transformative sustainability goals.
This is all aligned and consistent with the Great Reset. Farmshine readers may recall several articles over the past year pointing out the ‘land grab’ goals of World Economic Forum’s Great Reset and with the United Nations’ sustainable development goals (SDGs) ahead of this summer’s UN Food System Transformation Summit. The UN documents use the same “resilience” and “equity” buzz words without much definition.
Remember the awkward moment at a Biden town hall meeting in Pennsylvania during the presidential campaign when a potato farmer and Farm Bureau member asked about his positions on environmental regulation, such as the Obama-era Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) implementation.
Then candidate Biden’s telling response described “the transition”:
“We should provide for your ability to make a lot more money, as farmers, by dealing with you being able to put land in land banks and you get paid to do that to provide for more open space, and to provide for the ability of you to be able to be in a position so that we are going to pay you for planting certain crops that in fact absorb carbon from the air,” he said, also referencing manure and setting up industries in communities to pelletize it.
“That’s how you can continue to farm without worrying about if you are polluting and be in a position to make money by what you do in the transition,” then candidate Biden said.
Though Biden stated at that time that his climate policy was not the Green New Deal, the overlaps in language were hard to deny. The Green New Deal included such references to “land banks”, described as government purchasing land from “retiring farmers” and making it available “affordably to new farmers and cooperatives that pledge certain sustainability practices.” (The short way of saying the answer he gave above).
The $2.2 trillion infrastructure plan includes land use and protection provisions as well as the STEP Act to help pay for it. That’s a proposal to raise estate and capital gains taxes to begin taxing asset transfers between generations during the estate-planning ‘gifting’ process and lowering the amount exempted on land and assets of estates transferred before and after death. This could have a big impact on how the next generation in the farm business pays the taxes to continue farming.
As one producer put it in a conversation, the plan is tantamount to selling one-fourth or more of a farm in order to pay the ‘transfer tax.’ (But, of course, the government then has the perfect setup to come in and pay the farmer to land-bank it, and then give it to another entity that contractually agrees to grow what the government wants, or to re-wild it.
Think about this, as we reported in October, most of us don’t even know what’s being planned for our futures. Big tech, big finance, big billionaires, big NGO’s, big food, all the biggest global players are planning the Great Reset (complete with land grab and animal product imitation investments) in which globalization is the key, and climate change and ‘sustainability’ — now cleverly linked to pandemic fears — will turn the lock.
Perhaps what brings it home for me is reading what National Milk Producers Federation’s lobbiest Paul Bleiberg includes and omits in his piece for Hoards online Monday, where he talks about how fast things are moving in Washington and how the Biden administration and the 117th Congress are advancing ambitious plans to stimulate the U.S. recovery that, “encompasses key dairy priorities, including agricultural labor reform, climate change, child nutrition, and trade.”
He notes that as Congress and the administration have begun to dive into climate and sustainability, NMPF has outilined a suite of climate policy recommendations. He writes that “primary among (NMPF’s) goals is for Congress to consider modernizing conservation programs and provide new incentives to dairy farmers to build on the significant sustainability work they are already doing.”
For those paying attention to the WEF Great Reset and WWF’s role in food transformation, it is obvious that the anti-fat Dietary Guidelines are a key cog in the food and agriculture transformation wheel.
We all need to be aware of the transformational elements within policy discussion, find out the definitions of terms and nuts and bolts of program changes, be aware of how our youth are being used as change-agents, and be prepared to speak up for farmers, families, and freedom.
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.
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.”
At the newly re-launched MyPlate website, exclusions are listed, stating “the Dairy Groupdoes 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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
“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.
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.”
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’sAg 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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.