News for Dairy Co-Ops June 2014

Vol. 72, Number 6

Newsletter Stories

NMPF Board Meets to Review Farm Bill, Animal Care Issues

NMPF’s Board of Directors met last week in Arlington, Virginia, for an update on several key issues of interest to dairy farmers and cooperatives, including the progress being made on implementing the new farm bill’s dairy safety net.

During a special dinner to celebrate the passage of the Farm Bill last Tuesday, NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern presented a plaque to Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan (pictured at left), who as Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee proved instrumental in helping shepherd the passage of the bill.
 
Mulhern reported to the board that the organization’s staff continue to interact with USDA officials developing the specific regulations that will govern the new Margin Protection Program established by the 2014 Farm Bill.  NMPF has been anticipating farmer questions and urging USDA to make the program as easy as possible for farmers to understand and use.  Karla Thieman, Senior advisor to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, reported to the NMPF Board that the agency is on track to release the rules governing initial program enrollment by the end of the summer.  
 
NMPF is developing an online dashboard calculator that will allow farmers to estimate future margins in order to help them make choices about MPP coverage levels.  That calculator will be available once final program details are known.  NMPF will continue to make available information and tools to help cooperatives explain the new MPP to farmers.
 
In other developments, given the continued interest and focus from customers about dairy farm animal care, the NMPF board discussed two updates to the National Dairy FARM program that will be voted on at its next meeting in October.  
 
The first measure is a resolution for consideration by the board that would require all FARM program participant companies to conduct second party evaluations on their direct-ship farms. All farms would also be included in the pool for third party verification.   The resolution is being shared with NMPF’s members (and other co-ops and processors not represented by NMPF) so that each organization can review the resolution and vote on adopting it in October.  
 
The second measure specifies a protocol to address allegations of willful animal mistreatment on farms enrolled in the program. Willful mistreatment is a violation of existing FARM program guidelines; the new protocol establishes procedures to address such violations.   The focus of this process is to ensure a farm’s practices are consistent with the program’s guidelines – not to exclude the farm from future participation in the FARM program. This new process will help enhance the integrity of the FARM program to customers while helping farms regain full FARM program participant status by implementing the steps identified in the animal care improvement plan. 
 
The Board of Directors also seated a new member representing Cooperative Milk Producers Association, Inc.  Jimmy Kerr joins the board, replacing long-time member Bill Blalock, who has retired from the Board.  Kerr has been on CMPA’s board for more than 20 years, serving as Vice President of the coop for the last six.  He, his son Alex and wife Donna milk 200 registered Holstein on 600 acres in Amelia, Virginia.
 

Young Cooperators Come to DC for Capitol Hill Visits

Nearly 60 dairy farmers from dozens of states fanned out on Capitol Hill last week in conjunction with NMPF’s summer board of directors meeting and Young Cooperator grassroots lobbying session.

The dairy producers (including Roxy Helman, Traci Hamstra and Kelly Dugan  (l-r), pictured with Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona) discussed key issues of interest to the dairy setor, including trade policy, GMO food labeling standards, and the need for immigration reform.

NMPF to FDA: Instead of Issuing New Labeling Regs, Enforce Those on Dairy Imposters

In a May 5 letter, NMPF questioned why the FDA is focused on clarifying the use of terms like “dried cane syrup” or “evaporated cane juice” at the same time it allows soy, rice, nut, and hemp products to repeatedly define themselves as milk in violation of FDA’s own long-standing food standards.
 
“It seems rather disingenuous for the Agency to utilize its often-referenced ‘limited resources’ to issue additional labeling guidance, while simultaneously not enforcing existing regulations pertaining to the identity of foods” like imitation dairy products, NMPF wrote. “The Agency has blatantly disregarded the names displayed on the labels of imitation dairy products (e.g., ‘soy milk’, ‘rice yogurt’, etc.) in the current marketplace.  
 
“While the FDA has made its position clear through warning letters to several manufacturers … these actions have been too infrequent to be effective, essentially creating a labeling landscape free of enforcement,” NMPF said.  
 
The letter was the latest in a long series of NMPF attempts to get the FDA to enforce requirements for the labeling of these imposters, many of which are not nutritionally equivalent to real dairy products.  
 
“Manufacturers of these imitation products have misled American consumers for far too long – making a mockery of current labeling regulations – by usurping the ‘dairy halo’ associated with wholesome and nutritious milk and dairy products,” the letter said. 
 

House Members Join Senate in Condemning EU Tactic on Cheese Names

A bipartisan group of more than 175 House members has joined a majority of the U.S. Senate in urging the Obama administration to fight back against European Union efforts to keep U.S. dairy companies from using common cheese names like parmesan and feta both in export markets and in the United States.

In a mid-May letter, the House members urged U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to use transatlantic trade talks to address a variety of export barriers hampering the U.S. dairy industry. Chief among them was the EU’s gratuitous use of “geographical indications” to limit the use of familiar food names in other countries. 
 
The letter followed similar correspondence sent in March by more than 50 senators.  
 
Two co-chairs of the Congressional Dairy Farmer Caucus, Reps. Reid Ribble (R-WI) and Peter Welch (D-VT), spearheaded the House letter, with help from NMPF, the U.S. Dairy Export Council and the International Dairy Foods Association. The letter pointed out that negotiations with the European Union over the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership are an opportunity to address protectionist measures that block U.S. dairy sales to 500 million consumers.
 
“The EU is taking a mechanism that was created to protect consumers against misleading information and instead using it to carve out exclusive market access for its own producers,” the letter said. “This type of barrier to trade and commerce defies the fundamental goals of a trade agreement, and we urge you to work aggressively against the EU’s efforts ….” 
 
NMPF also presented on the importance of the issues the House letter addresses – tariffs, common names and other nontariff barriers confronting U.S. dairy exports to the EU – to U.S. and EU negotiators during the May TTIP stakeholders forum in Arlington, Virginia.

Co-ops, Processors Demands Access to Japanese, Canadian Markets in Trade Deal

If Japan and Canada renege on pledges to open their markets to U.S. dairy products, don’t count on our support for the Trans-Pacific trade pact. That’s the message nearly 40 cooperatives and dairy processing companies – all members of NMPF or the U.S. Dairy Export Council – sent to the Obama administration in early June
 
NMPF and USDEC initiated the united industry message to underscore the need for comprehensive access to Japanese and Canadian markets in any final Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. The message – in the form of letters to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack – came on the heels of Japanese statements that it would not agree to abolish tariffs on key agricultural products, including dairy. The ambitious trade agreement has been under discussion for several years.
 
“Dairy industry support of the TPP is not unconditional,” said NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern. “If access to our products is not assured by Japan and Canada, we will find it difficult to support the final agreement. In addition, we could re-examine our support for fast-track TPP approval in Congress.”  
 
Tom Suber, President of USDEC, added: “…it is critical that Japanese and Canadian participation in TPP be meaningful and comprehensive across all dairy products. It is entirely unacceptable to have such sizable, sophisticated economies refusing to undertake the necessary openness that they agreed to upon entering TPP.”
 
In addition to urging U.S. negotiators to remain focused on opening up the Japanese and Canadian markets, the dairy organizations stressed the importance of addressing the lingering impacts of New Zealand government policies that have advantaged the country’s leading dairy firm at the expense of other dairy exporters. 
 

NMPF to EPA on Waters Regulation: ‘Clear as Muddy Water’

Citing incomplete science and unclear terminology, NMPF has asked the Environmental Protection Agency to delay a decision on its controversial draft regulation expanding the waterways subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act.  

In a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, NMPF’s President and CEO Jim Mulhern said dairy farmers are committed to protecting U.S. waters both voluntarily and under the Clean Water Act. However, Mulhern said, “it is imperative that the EPA go about this effort in the right way, in light of the potential impact of this measure on dairy farmers. It would be a disservice to farmers to rush this proposal through the review process without sufficient scientific support or time to better understand the complexities of the issue.”

 
The regulation expands the waterways covered under the 1972 Clean Water Act to nearly all those connected to U.S. navigable waters. NMPF noted that EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers have not completed the report providing the scientific underpinning for the regulation and that many of its key concepts – including ‘‘riparian area,’’ ‘‘floodplain,’’ ‘‘tributary,’’ and ‘‘significant nexus’ – are either undefined or subject to interpretation by government regulators. “These terms are as clear as muddy water, and, therefore, will create confusion for dairy producers,” NMPF said.  
 
It added: “Given the scope and complexities of the proposed rule and its supporting documents, NMPF requests an extension of the comment period, either to 90 days beyond the current deadline, or 90 days beyond EPA’s release of the final connectivity report” providing scientific basis for the regulation.” 
 

CWT Helps with another 14.2 Million Pounds of Dairy Exports

Cooperatives Working Together helped member cooperatives sell another 14.2 million pounds of dairy products overseas in May. The voluntary, farmer-funded program will provide assistance on 53 overseas sales from seven different cooperatives: Dairy Farmers of America, Foremost Farms, Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Association, Michigan Milk Producers Association, Northwest Dairy Association (Darigold), Tillamook County Creamery Association and Upstate-O-AT-KA. The products included 7.1 million pounds of American-type cheese, 4.2 million pounds of butter, and 3 million pounds of whole milk powder. All will be delivered before the end of the year.

 
This brings the year-to-date total to over 111 million pounds of dairy product export sales assisted by CWT, the equivalent of 1.618 billion pounds of milk on a milkfat basis. 
 

New Faces of Farming to be Selected

The U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance® is looking for four new national spokesmen and women to help put a human face on agriculture. Those selected will make public appearances, talk to the media and be featured in print ads on behalf of USFRA.  For the past 18 months, dairyman Will Gilmer of Alabama (R) has been one of the four national Faces of Farming and Ranching.
 
Eight finalists will be selected in September to participate in a public vote process and undergo a formal USFRA judging process. The winners will be announced October 24, in conjunction with Food Day. 
 
The four new Faces of Farming and Ranching will serve for a year. They will receive a $10,000 stipend to help cover costs at home while they are at USFRA events and a $5,000 donation to a charity of their choice. They also will receive professional media and speaker training.  
 
USFRA is an alliance of more than 80 agriculture organizations committed to engaging with consumers who have questions about how today’s food is grown and raised. 
 
Applications for the next round will be collected through mid-July. Those interested should contact NMPF Senior Vice President for Communications Chris Galen at cgalen@nmpf.org. In addition to filling out a form, applicants must submit a short video about their farm. 
 

CEO’S CORNER


Jim Mulhern
NMPF President & CEO
Associate Member Focus: 

PLACEHOLDER