NMPF Board Meeting Updates Members With Talks From Staff – and Friends

Top policy-makers from Capitol Hill and USDA highlighted the March meeting of the NMPF Board of Directors as the organization’s leaders learned more about implementation of the new Dairy Margin Coverage program and discussed new initiatives in the Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) program and NMPF’s ongoing efforts to address labeling of fake dairy products.

Richard Fordyce, administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency, updated the Board on   farm-bill implementation on March 4, the first day of the two-day conference Fordyce said he was pleased that dairy programs were on a fast track to implementation while warning about some of the technical barriers to putting initiatives in place, including problems with past MPP record-keeping and the need to quickly create a high-quality decision tool to help farmers make the best decisions for their operations.

“FSA has done a good job of delivering customer service, and we’re going to get better at it,” he said. “Get in, understand the program, get farmers to understand it, not have a lot of glitches, that’s our priority and our goal,” he said, reiterating Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s promise the previous week to have DMC signup starting June 17, with the first payments to farmers under the new program starting by July 8.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (at left, speaking with AMPI chairman Steve Schlangen) spoke to the board at its Monday evening dinner. Praising the program, Peterson said “dairy needed the most help in this farm bill, and I’m pleased we were able to deliver.”

“I wanted to make sure that we had a program that worked, and this program should work for everyone,” including larger and smaller producers, he said. “We’re hoping that we have a good sign-up.”

Wide-ranging efforts

The board meeting featured presentations from NMPF staff on a wide range of issues in which the voice for dairy in Washington serves its members:

  • Emily Yeiser-Stepp, senior director of the FARM program, outlined proposed updates to the FARM Animal Care, now in a public comment period, explaining how FARM will remain the leader in dairy-care standards. Nicole Ayache, sustainability director, updated the group on expansion of the FARM environmental stewardship program and FARM’s development of materials to assist members on workforce development issues;
  • NMPF regulatory chief Clay Detlefsen detailed potential impacts for dairy farmers under a new proposed Waters of the U.S. rule, which NMPF has been reviewing to find opportunities to advance improvements. He also updated board members on the latest phase of the fight against various foods misappropriating dairy terms – the NMPF’s citizen petition outlining a course of action for the FDA to take in resolving the issue;
  • Chief economist Peter Vitaliano gave an update on the dairy economy, forecasting a modest price recovery in the second half of the year;
  • Jaime Castaneda, head of policy strategy, and government relations head Paul Bleiberg, , discussed NMPF’s work with USDA on farm-bill implementation and current Capitol Hill challenges, including immigration reform and infrastructure legislation;
  • Shawna Morris, vice president for trade, gave an update on trade talks and turmoil, along with an analysis of the prospects for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement before Congress; and
  • Jamie Jonker, vice president for sustainability and scientific affairs, discussed antibiotic and animal health issues.

“It’s a great honor to lead this staff,” NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern said in his introductory remarks. “As you will hear in these reports, on issue after issue, their depth of knowledge and the dedication they bring is unparalleled here in Washington.”

National Dairy FARM Animal Care Version 4.0 Proposed Standards Available for Comment

The National Dairy Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) Program, the dairy industry’s on-farm quality assurance program, this week released proposed Animal Care Version 4.0 standards for input from industry stakeholders.

Currently, 98 percent of the U.S. milk supply participates in FARM, an initiative developed as part of dairy’s commitment to producing the highest quality milk with integrity. Its Animal Care Program standards are revised every three years to reflect current science and best management practices.

“The FARM Animal Care comment period is an important opportunity for stakeholders to advance our goal of encouraging the highest standards of animal care and herd management,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation. “We are excited to work with industry partners in this next step.”

Standards, rationale, and accountability measures behind the proposal have been reviewed and revised by the FARM Animal Care Technical Writing Group made up of dairy producers, veterinarians, animal scientists and industry personnel. Before being released for comment, the National Milk Producers Federation Animal Health and Well-Being Committee reviewed and provided feedback into the proposed changes.

After the comment period closes on Sunday, March 31st, FARM staff, Technical Writing Group and the NMPF Animal Health and Well-Being Committee will review and consider revisions based upon the comments, then present final proposed standards for approval by the NMPF Board of Directors in June. The FARM Program encourages all those involved in the dairy supply chain to participate. To review proposed standards and provide feedback, please visit https://nationaldairyfarm.com/animal-care-open-comments/.

These draft standards have been proposed for FARM Animal Care Version 4.0. FARM Version 3.0 will remain in effect until December 31, 2019. To learn more, please visit www.nationaldairyfarm.com.

About the National Dairy FARM Program

Open to all U.S. dairy farmers, co-ops and processors, the National Dairy FARM (Farmers Assuring Responsible Management) Program works with dairy farmers, the producer community and industry partners to show customers and consumers that the dairy industry is taking the very best care of cows and the environment, producing safe, wholesome milk and adhering to the highest standards of workforce development. Created by the National Milk Producers Federation in partnership with Dairy Management Inc., FARM helps ensure the success of the entire industry by demonstrating that U.S. dairy farmers are committed to producing the best milk with integrity. FARM is open to all farms, milk processors and cooperatives and program components are guided by their respective advisory groups.

NMPF Supports Wisconsin Effort to Improve Water-Quality Trading

ARLINGTON, Va. – The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) is pleased to see that the state of Wisconsin is considering legislation to improve its water-quality trading, applauding a market-based approach to solving environmental challenges.

Senator Robert Cowles, a Green Bay Republican, earlier this week announced new legislation intended to boost Wisconsin’s three water-quality trading programs, leading to more transactions, better use of public and private dollars and noticeable water quality improvements. The bill provides certainty for Wisconsin’s currently underutilized water quality programs and improves access to them, a necessary step to help farms, industry and wastewater treatment plants to work together toward shared water-quality goals at a lower cost.

“The NMPF has long supported market-based approaches to solving environmental challenges, backing efforts in Maryland to create a water quality trading program and legislation in Pennsylvania to create a competitively-bid clean water procurement program,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation. “The Wisconsin approach is a proactive attempt to tackle crucial environmental issues of great importance to dairy producers.”

The legislation is consistent the Environmental Protection Agency’s recent update of its water quality trading policy that’s designed to promote market-based mechanisms for improving water quality. The updated policy reiterates EPA’s strong support for water-quality trading and other market-based programs to maximize pollution reduction effort.

The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), based in Arlington, VA, develops and carries out policies that advance dairy producers and the cooperatives they own. NMPF’s member cooperatives produce the majority of U.S. milk, making NMPF the voice of dairy producers on Capitol Hill and with government agencies. For more, visit www.nmpf.org.

NMPF “Road Map” Petition to FDA Outlines Next Steps in Dairy-Labeling Rules

ARLINGTON, Va. – The National Milk Producers Federation today filed a citizen petition with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, outlining a labeling solution to the use of dairy terms on non-dairy products as the agency considers public input from a recently concluded comment period.

The petition reinforces current FDA labeling regulations, with some additional clarification, to show how marketplace transparency can be enhanced and consumer harm from confusion over nutritional content can be reduced. It also addresses several specious arguments raised by marketers of vegan foods as part of the ongoing debate on dairy labeling, such as the false idea that creating consistent, clear labeling of non-dairy products would somehow limit the use of dairy terms on products that clearly aren’t marketed as dairy substitutes, such as peanut butter. (The petition may be accessed here.)

“The FDA comment docket gave us the chance to explain why there is a compelling need to resolve this labeling issue to address consumer confusion over nutritional content,” said National Milk Producers Federation Executive Vice President Tom Balmer. “This petition lays out a constructive solution to the false and misleading labeling practices existing in the marketplace today, and provides clear, truthful and understandable labeling options for marketers of plant-based imitation dairy products.”

In its petition, NMPF urges FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb to “Take prompt enforcement action against misbranded non-dairy foods that substitute for and resemble reference standardized dairy food(s) (e.g., milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream, butter), yet are nutritionally inferior to such reference standardized dairy foods.” Under existing FDA rules, such foods are required to use the word “imitation” if they reference a standardized dairy food but do not have the same nutritional value. The petition also points to long-standing rules that provide for using the words “substitute” or “alternative” in conjunction with a dairy term when such products are deemed nutritionally equivalent to the dairy products they reference.

“Marketers of plant-based foods that are designed to resemble standardized dairy foods actually have several labeling options under current FDA regulations, as we point out in this petition,” Balmer said. “The unfortunate reality today is that many of them are playing fast and loose with the labeling rules to mask their nutritional inferiority to real dairy products.”

The NMPF petition notes that any manufacturer not wishing to use modifiers such as “imitation,” “substitute” or “alternative” may simply eschew the use of dairy terms altogether – an approach that’s already common in the rest of the world and practiced by some companies in the U.S. including Chobani, Trader Joe’s and Quaker.

NMPF also addresses First Amendment arguments that have been raised by opponents, via a thorough discussion of relevant case law on commercial speech rights. Beginning with the landmark Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp. v. Public Service Commission and running through more recent decisions such as Zauderer and American Meat Institute vs. USDA, the petition explains how NMPF’s proposed solutions focus on disclosure requirements narrowly tailored to improving labeling transparency and promoting informed consumer choice – and are emphatically not a “ban” on the use of dairy terms by plant-based products.

“Our approach does not advocate for any so-called “bans,” Balmer said. “It simply relies on proper disclosures that allow for appropriate, truthful, non-misleading messaging. In the end, products that are ‘milk-like’ or ‘yogurt-like’ are not actual milk or yogurt – and the nutritional distinctions are critical to informed consumer decision-making. That’s what our petition is all about.”

NOTE: NMPF is holding a teleconference TODAY at 1:30 p.m. (EST) to answer questions on its petition. Interested journalists may join by calling 1-888-537-7715. The participant passcode is 61546962 #

The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), based in Arlington, VA, develops and carries out policies that advance dairy producers and the cooperatives they own. NMPF’s member cooperatives produce the majority of U.S. milk, making NMPF the voice of dairy producers on Capitol Hill and with government agencies. For more, visit www.nmpf.org.

NMPF Thanks Chobani for Standing Up for Labeling Integrity

ARLINGTON, Va. –  In a letter today to Hamdi Ulukaya, chief executive officer of Chobani, National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) President and CEO Jim Mulhern thanked the company for supporting transparency in the use of dairy terms on food-product labels, the subject of a recently ended FDA comment period.

“As you state in your company’s comments, ‘The improper – and illegal – use of dairy terms on plant-based alternatives poses a public health risk, in that this terminology may confuse consumers and cause them to displace the nutrients that would otherwise be provided by dairy foods,’” Mulhern wrote on behalf of NMPF. “We at National Milk share your concerns that consumers are being misled over the nutritional content of dairy versus plant-based products, and we appreciate your willingness, as the No. 1 seller of Greek yogurt in the U.S. and the nation’s second-largest yogurt manufacturer, to use your voice to speak out on this issue.”

Mulhern also noted that Chobani follows FDA rules and eschews the use of dairy terms on its non-dairy products, a contrast with competitors that flout proper practices to the detriment of consumers. “We will always strongly advocate for dairy as the superior consumer choice, but we have no objection to the presence of properly labeled plant-based imitators,” Mulhern wrote. “As Chobani is showing, such products can compete on their own merits without misappropriating dairy terms. We wish your example would be emulated by your competitors, including Danone North America, that currently peddle mislabeled products.”

NMPF will host a teleconference with the media at 1:30 P.M. (EST) on Thursday, Feb. 21, outlining the organization’s recommendations for FDA as it considers revisions to regulations regarding the use of dairy terms on labels for plant-based products. This is a time change from a release issued Friday, made due to the likelihood of a winter storm disrupting government operations on Wednesday and Thursday.

For this on-record briefing, interested journalists may call:

Toll-free number: 1-888-537-7715
Participant Passcode: 61546962 #

The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), based in Arlington, VA, develops and carries out policies that advance dairy producers and the cooperatives they own. NMPF’s member cooperatives produce the majority of U.S. milk, making NMPF the voice of dairy producers on Capitol Hill and with government agencies. For more, visit www.nmpf.org.

NMPF Accepting Applications for 2019 Scholarship Program

NMPF is now accepting applications for its National Dairy Leadership Scholarship Program for academic year 2019-2020. The deadline to apply is Friday, April 5.

Each year, NMPF awards scholarships to outstanding graduate students (enrolled in master’s or Ph.D. programs) who are actively pursuing dairy-related fields of research of direct interest to NMPF member cooperatives and the greater U.S. dairy industry.

Graduate students pursuing research of direct benefit to milk marketing cooperatives and dairy producers are encouraged to apply. (Applicants do not need to be members of NMPF to qualify.)  The top scholarship applicant will be awarded the Hintz Memorial Scholarship, which was created in 2005 in honor of the late Cass-Clay Creamery Board Chairman Murray Hintz, who was instrumental in establishing NMPF’s scholarship program.

Recommended fields of study include but are not limited to: Agriculture Communications and Journalism, Animal Health, Animal and/or Human Nutrition, Bovine Genetics, Dairy Products Processing, Dairy Science, Economics, Environmental Science, Food Science, Food Safety, Herd Management, and Marketing and Price Analysis.

For an application or more information, please visit the NMPF website or call the NMPF office at 703-243-6111.

NMPF Prepares for the 2019 Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments

In the past few months, NMPF and its NCIMS Committee have engaged in discussions about its participation in the 2019 National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments (NCIMS) in St. Louis, Missouri.

The conference is a collaborative process by which the states, industry and federal government come together to determine how to best regulate the production of Grade “A” milk and milk products. NMPF has played a key role in the bi-annual conference since its inception.

On April 3 in Arlington, NMPF and members will meet in person to review any proposals for changes to the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance. Proposals were due Feb. 1 – NMPF submitted four. In past conferences, there have been more than 100 proposals up for deliberation.

The conference will take place in St. Louis from April 26-May 1 at the Hyatt Regency St Louis at the Arch. For more information about this year’s conference or NCIMS in general, visit the NCIMS website. For more information about participating in the conference, contact Clay Detlefsen.

Annual FDA Drug Sales and Residue Reports Find Continued Progress

In what has become an annual affirmation of dairy farmers’ commitment to keeping antibiotic residues out of the milk supply, the 2018 U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) report tracking residue levels continued to show a decline in positive drug test results.

Released in late December, the 2018 National Milk Drug Residue Data Base survey found that only 0.010 percent of all bulk-milk tankers – or 1 in 9,900 loads – showed any sign of animal antibiotic drug residues. On-farm vigilance in following drug withdrawal times has led to a steady decline in detectable antibiotic residues, with 2018’s figure falling from an already low level of 0.028 percent in 2008, a decline of over 65 percent in the last decade. All milk loads are tested for antibiotics. Any tanker that tests positive for a drug residue is rejected before entering a dairy plant and does not enter the market for human consumption.

In December, FDA announced that domestic sales and distribution of all medically important antimicrobials intended for use in food-producing animals decreased by 33 percent between 2016-2017. This reduction in sales volume indicates that ongoing efforts to support antimicrobial stewardship are having a significant impact.

CWT Starts Year Strong with 14.7 Million Pounds of Assisted Sales in January

Cooperatives Working Together (CWT) helped member cooperatives secure 60 contracts, resulting in sales of 11.7 million pounds of American-type cheeses, 707,684 pounds of butter and 2.2 million pounds of whole milk powder. The product is going to 38 customers in Asia, Central America, the Middle East, North Africa, Oceania and South America. The product will be shipped during the months of January through July 2019. These transactions will move overseas the equivalent of 140.6 million pounds of milk on a milkfat basis.

Assisting CWT member cooperatives to gain and maintain world market share through the Export Assistance program in the long-term expands the demand for U.S. dairy products and the U.S. farm milk that produces them. This, in turn, positively impacts all U.S. dairy farmers by strengthening and maintaining the value of dairy products that directly impact their milk price.

The amounts of dairy products and related milk volumes reflect current contracts for delivery, not completed export volumes. CWT will pay export assistance to the bidders only when export and delivery of the product is verified by the required documentation.

All cooperatives and dairy farmers are encouraged to add their support to this important program. Membership forms are available online.

MPP/DMC Forecast: February 2019

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is gradually catching up on releasing data delayed by the partial government shutdown. The monthly margin under the now-expired Margin Protection Program (MPP) for November 2018 was $8.66/cwt., down $0.30 from the October margin. The November all-milk price dropped $0.40 from October, to $17.00/cwt., and the November MPP feed cost calculation was 10 cents lower than the previous month at $8.34/cwt. Under the new Farm Bill signed in December 2018, the program will go forward as the Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program. The USDA MPP Decision Tool currently projects that the margin will remain above the old $8.00/cwt. maximum margin coverage level during December 2018 and for every month during 2019 but will remain all this year below the new maximum DMC margin coverage level of $9.50/cwt. for the first 5 million pounds of a producer’s milk production history under the program, as shown in the chart. Under this current forecast, payments for $9.50 coverage, which would cost $0.15/cwt. for the year, would amount to just over $0.30/cwt. when averaged over the year. No date has been set for USDA to announce the sign-up period for DMC coverage in 2019.

The new Farm Bill also removes the previous restriction that prohibited producers from enrolling milk in both the MPP and the Livestock Gross Margin for Dairy (LGM-Dairy) program during the same month. It further allows farmers previously prevented from enrolling in MPP during 2018 due to this restriction to enroll retroactively in MPP and collect payments for 2018 for the months during which they were prevented from doing so.

USDA’s MPP margin forecasts can be accessed online.

U.S. Dairy Industry Supports Changes to Section 232 Process

ARLINGTON, VA – The U.S. dairy industry today endorsed bipartisan, bicameral legislation to reform a powerful White House trade tool to ensure it is used as intended by Congress to respond to genuine national security threats. Rolling back current retaliatory tariffs and keeping others from forming in the future is the dairy industry’s top trade priority. America currently sends 16 percent of its dairy production overseas, and industry officials see a lot of room for expansion in the future.

The Trade Security Reform Act, sponsored by Reps. Ron Kind (D-WI) and Jackie Walorski (R-IN), and Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Doug Jones (D-AL), aims to change the process by which the Administration imposes Section 232 tariffs. The Portman-Jones and Kind-Walorski bills tighten Section 232 rules to ensure it is only used for true national security purposes while taking into consideration a number of economic and security concerns. To do so, the legislation instructs the Department of Defense to investigate possible threats, and, when a legitimate threat is identified, asks the Department of Commerce to develop recommendations to respond. It also enhances the role Congress plays in the Section 232 process.

Section 232 was created by Congress to combat trade issues that pose a national security threat. In recent years, this process has been used to levy duties on imports of steel and aluminum from Mexico and other countries. In response, Mexico imposed retaliatory tariffs on a range of U.S. goods, including cheese. Those retaliatory tariffs have been a heavy weight on U.S. cheese exports to our largest export market. An economic study released by Informa Agribusiness Consulting estimates lost dairy exports of $1.1 billion over five years unless those tariffs are dropped. To date, the U.S. government has refused to remove the steel and aluminum tariffs and as such, Mexico has maintained its retaliatory tariffs.

“Dairy prices have steadily fallen since Mexico imposed its tariffs, harming farmers,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation. “Exports to our most important market are being threatened, hurting dairy businesses and the thousands of Americans they employ.”

“Agriculture is being hurt by retaliatory tariffs; the bill’s sponsors should be applauded for finding a common-sense process to a complex issue,” said Tom Vilsack, chairman and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council. “It protects one of the president’s tools to combat threats to our national security while allowing for the full consideration of true safety and economic factors at play.”


The U.S. Dairy Export Council is a non-profit, independent membership organization that represents the global trade interests of U.S. dairy producers, proprietary processors and cooperatives, ingredient suppliers and export traders. Its mission is to enhance U.S. global competitiveness and assist the U.S. industry to increase its global dairy ingredient sales and exports of U.S. dairy products. USDEC accomplishes this through programs in market development that build global demand for U.S. dairy products, resolve market access barriers and advance industry trade policy goals. USDEC is supported by staff across the United States and overseas in Mexico, South America, Asia, Middle East and Europe. The U.S. Dairy Export Council prohibits discrimination on the basis of age, disability, national origin, race, color, religion, creed, gender, sexual orientation, political beliefs, marital status, military status, and arrest or conviction record. www.usdec.org.

The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), based in Arlington, Va., develops and carries out policies that advance the well-being of U.S. dairy producers and the cooperatives they collectively own. The members of NMPF’s cooperatives produce the majority of the U.S, milk supply, making NMPF the voice of dairy producers on Capitol Hill and with government agencies. For more on NMPF’s activities, visit www.nmpf.org.