NMPF Helps Move Ag Labor Through House, Senate NextApril 05, 2021
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the bipartisan Farm Workforce Modernization Act (FWMA) March 18th, a milestone completed with the help of NMPF’s recognized leadership that completes a crucial step in enacting agricultural labor reform legislation that addresses dairy’s workforce crisis.
“National Milk and Jim Mulhern, I can’t say enough about their effort and hard work of making sure that part of this solution includes the ability for those employers that provide full-time, year-round employment are now included in the H-2A program,” said Representative Dan Newhouse (R-WA), a lead sponsor of the legislation with House Immigration Subcommittee Chair Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), in a press conference after the bill’s approval. “Dairies, other parts of the industry are truly going to benefit from this, and it wouldn’t have happened without the hard work of the National Milk Producers Federation.”
The measure’s second passage by the House follows its approval in 2019 after Lofgren and Newhouse spent months negotiating among members of Congress and staff, worker advocacy groups, and agricultural stakeholders, including NMPF. The bill included provisions to meet both of dairy’s ag workforce reform needs: protection of current workers and their families and meaningful access to a workable guestworker program. Ag labor negotiations in the Senate after that bill was approved were brought to a screeching halt in March 2020 by the coronavirus pandemic.
Lofgren and Newhouse reintroduced – and re-energized — FWMA in late February 2021. The bill is very similar to the 2019 version, with technical corrections, a COVID-specific change, and calendar year updates. NMPF has been hard at work to reignite bipartisan support for the bill and now hopes to carry the momentum from the March 18th House passage to the Senate to get ag labor reform across the finish line this Congress.
“Today’s bipartisan passage of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (FWMA) in the House of Representatives provides crucial momentum toward addressing dairy’s ongoing workforce crisis, which has only intensified during the COVID pandemic,” said Mulhern in a statement issued on FWMA passage. “Nothing gets done if we cannot move forward. The broad industry and bipartisan support for passing FWMA in the House demonstrates the acute need for ag labor reform this Congress and illustrates that consensus can be achieved.”
Mulhern, who participated in the post-passage press conference with Lofgren and Newhouse, thanked them for their leadership, as well as House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (R-PA) “for providing a roadmap for further improvements to the House measure while supporting the advancement of ag workforce reform efforts toward a solution.”
Congress Provides Additional COVID-19 Stimulus Relief, Support for DairyApril 05, 2021
Last month, Congress passed and President Biden signed into law a sixth coronavirus relief legislative package known as the American Rescue Plan. The measure includes critical additional agriculture and nutrition support intended to help farmers, rural communities, and food-insecure households throughout the nation.
NMPF is working with USDA officials and lawmakers to effectively implement the American Rescue Plan, the latest coronavirus relief legislation signed into law by President Biden on March 12. The measure includes critical agriculture and nutrition support intended to help farmers, rural communities, and food-insecure families nationwide.
NMPF has been grateful for the federal government’s strong response throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been proven invaluable to dairy producers as they work, day-in and day-out, to sustainably provide families domestically and overseas with an abundant supply of nutritious dairy products. However, while the availability of a vaccine is cause for hope that the pandemic may ebb, difficult months remain ahead.
NMPF appreciates the additional $3.6 billion Congress provided to bolster food supply chains and facilitate additional purchases and donations of dairy and other food products to those who need them most. Importantly, the package also increased funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which provide dairy and other nutritious foods to those households and senior citizens who have faced added hardship and unique struggles during this challenging period.
Finally, the package included important provisions to strengthen resilience and improve equity in rural America and take critical steps to improve the livelihoods of historically underserved farmers, including debt relief and access to credit. These actions will better position all parts of the country to recover from the stresses of the pandemic and strengthen our communities for years to come.
In the coming weeks, NMPF will work closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and with Congress on implementation of this new measure to ensure that additional dairy product purchases and donations are balanced and effective in moving nutritious dairy products into the hands of those who are in the greatest need.
DMC Margin Falls Further in FebruaryApril 05, 2021
February’s margin under the Dairy Margin Coverage program dropped $0.92/cwt below January’s to $6.22/cwt. Of that decline, $0.40/cwt was due to a lower milk price, which was $17.10/cwt for the month, while the rest was generated by a higher feed cost calculation, almost all due to a higher price for corn that was slightly offset by a lower soybean meal price. The February payment for $9.50/cwt DMC program coverage is therefore $3.28/cwt.
Current futures prices indicate that the February margin may be the lowest for the year, and that the margins going forward should rise above $9.50/cwt sometime around mid-year.
Lawmakers Support Whole Milk in Schools, With Child Nutrition AheadApril 05, 2021
NMPF thanked Congressmen Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA) and Antonio Delgado (D-NY) for introducing the bipartisan Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act of 2021, which would allow for both unflavored and flavored whole milk to be offered in school cafeterias. Reps. Thompson and Delgado introduced the measure on March 11.
Children’s nutrition is a key public-health concern, with dairy underconsumption a pressing issue. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee that crafted the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans in July found that 79 percent of 9-13-year-olds don’t meet the recommended intake for dairy. The Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act would improve child nutrition by encouraging greater consumption of milk, which delivers three of the four nutrients considered to be a public health concern (calcium, Vitamin D, and potassium).
NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern thanked Thompson and Delgado for introducing the measure, noting “Whole milk provides a valuable way for children to obtain dairy’s nutritional benefits as part of a healthy eating pattern.”
NMPF is preparing for the reauthorization of child nutrition programs, which the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee has announced as a policy priority this year. Among other child nutrition programs are the school breakfast and lunch programs, the summer food program, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
NMPF will continue partnering with other dairy and nutrition stakeholders in its ongoing work with Congress and USDA to ensure everyone in the U.S. has access to healthy, affordable food.
NMPF Shares Climate and Sustainability Priorities with Agriculture CommitteesApril 05, 2021
With Congress poised to take legislative action on climate policy this year, the House and Senate Agriculture Committees have begun their work by holding hearings to examine the important environmental stewardship work already being done by farmers and ranchers, including dairy producers, as well as the potential policy changes that could provide additional incentives to producers to undertake further steps.
NMPF submitted written testimony to the House and Senate Agriculture committees detailing the dairy industry’s proactive sustainability work, focusing on the Net Zero Initiative and a suite of voluntary policy recommendations intended to bring the industry’s efforts to fruition. The comments come as the panels begin hearings examining environmental stewardship work already being done in agriculture as well as incentives that could spur producers to take additional steps, potentially to be included as part of Congressional action on climate policy this year. The House Agriculture Committee held its hearing on February 25, followed by the Senate on March 11.
NMPF noted in its testimony that U.S. dairy farmers have been environmental stewards for decades, tending with great care to their land and water and valuing a proactive approach to sustainability. Greenhouse gas emissions to produce a gallon of milk dropped nearly 20% over the 10 years from 2007 to 2017, and the environmental footprint of a gallon of milk has significantly decreased since 1944, according to research.
NMPF, a member of the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance, shared several recommendations with the agriculture committees, including proposed policy changes under their jurisdictions that would modify USDA conservation programs to help dairy producers better keep pace with scientific and technological advancements and put added emphasis on enteric emissions reduction as well as manure management practices.
NMPF supports the bipartisan, bicameral Growing Climate Solutions Act authored by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Senator Mike Braun as well as Representatives Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) and Don Bacon (R-NE). This measure would help reduce barriers to farmer participation in environmental markets and is likely be reintroduced in the coming weeks.
NMPF also backs the bipartisan, bicameral Farmer-Driven Conservation Outcomes Act authored by House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (R-PA) and former Representative Marcia Fudge (D-OH) as well as Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV). This bill would direct USDA to establish a process for measuring, evaluating, and reporting on conservation program outcomes, giving the Department the tools to quantify the environmental benefits of related activities.
Action Outside Ag
Outside of the Agriculture Committees, NMPF continues to advocate for passage of the bipartisan, bicameral Agriculture Environmental Stewardship Act which would create a 30 percent Investment Tax Credit to cover the upfront capital costs of methane digesters and nutrient recovery systems which can help to reduce methane emissions and enable dairy farmers to use nutrients on and off the farm in a more sustainable manner.
NMPF is also urging the Environmental Protection Agency to activate the RFS Electric Pathway to provide new incentives for dairy farmers to operate methane digesters to produce baseload electricity and is pushing for the Food and Drug Administration to expedite its approval process for feed additives that can reduce enteric methane emissions.
NMPF looks forward to the opportunity to make further progress via bipartisan climate and sustainability legislation.
Comments to Lab-Grown Seafood Docket SubmittedApril 05, 2021
NMPF submitted comments March 8 to the request for information opened by FDA regarding the use of the word “cultured” to label lab-grown seafood products, using it as an opportunity to push FDA to enforce its current dairy standards of identity. The comments touched on three main points including:
- FDA should enforce existing standards before creating new ones;
- FDA should work to coordinate its policies with USDA; and
- “Cultured” should not be used to describe lab-grown foods.
NMPF pointed out that the use of the word “cultured” to describe lab-grown seafood could cause consumer confusion as cultured is a commonly used term to describe dairy products such as yogurt, kefir, cultured butter, and buttermilk. Instead of cultured, NMPF suggested terms that were more suited to describe lab-grown products such as “synthetic,” “lab-grown,” or “cell-based.”
“To be clear, the issue is not that consumers will confuse dairy and seafood,” NMPF states. “They will not. Rather, the problem is that if the word ‘cultured’ becomes understood to refer to foods derived from synthetic processes not found in nature, consumers will think the same word on dairy labels means they have been manufactured similarly or that synthetic seafood products bearing such labeling contain natural cultures that have been in use for centuries – which is clearly not the case.”
Lastly, NMPF reminded FDA that it is bound to follow the Administrative Procedures Act and cannot rewrite a rule through a stated guidance.
U.S. Dairy Industry United in Opposition to Canadian TRQ AdministrationApril 05, 2021
NMPF, the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC), and International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) submitted comments on March 5 to Global Affairs Canada on the administration of Canada’s dairy tariff rate quotas (TRQs).
The comments presented a clear, unified signal to Canadian authorities of the need for dramatic reforms in their current administration and allocation of TRQs. “Canada is failing to meet its trade obligations by manipulating import license procedures and minimizing the ability of U.S. dairy farmers to have full access to the benefits of USMCA. That needs to stop, and we look forward to working with the Biden Administration to ensure it does,” said NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern.
Canada is taking several actions in its administration of TRQs that undermine its USMCA obligations. Not providing fair or equitable procedures in administering the TRQs and reserving large shares of the quota for processors and so-called “further processors” are examples of how America’s dairy farmers and processors are losing out on the hard-fought USMCA benefits for U.S. dairy.
The comments to Global Affairs Canada, which provide recommendations on how Canada can reform its TRQ administration procedures to ensure full utilization of dairy quotas, follow joint NMPF, USDEC and IDFA comments to the Canadian agency in February 2020 and reflect NMPF’s ongoing attention to the issue. Last August, NMPF played a critical role in bicameral, bipartisan letters sent from Congress to the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture urging them to ensure compliance of the dairy TRQs. USTR initiated the ongoing dispute settlement case as a result of these efforts.
NMPF, Congress Urge Maritime Commission to Act on Port, Container RatesApril 05, 2021
NMPF staff lobbied congressional offices in March to raise the issue with the Federal Maritime Commission that certain vessel operating common carriers (VOCCs) reportedly are returning to their original port with empty containers instead of accepting U.S. agriculture and forestry exports. Members of Congress have sent letters to the FMC pressuring them to address the problem, due in part to NMPF advocacy.
Senator John Thune (R-SD), Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and 22 of their colleagues sent a letter on March 2 to the FMC expressing concern and calling on the Commission to quickly resolve this critical issue, which is complicating dairy exports. In the letter, the senators urged appropriate enforcement actions under the Shipping Act be used to end recent practices that are hurting producers and preventing competition in foreign markets. They also recognized how urgent the need is, “especially with record container volumes at the nation’s major ports.”
More than 100 House Members also wrote to the FMC to share their mounting concern over this practice, stating: “Should it be found that VOCCs are predatory or unreasonable in refusing to export American agricultural producers or imposing unreasonable fees, they must be held accountable by the Commission for the harm they are causing our producers.” The signees called on the commission to provide monthly updates as efforts to address the issue move forward.
NMPF will continue to maintain pressure on Congress and the FMC to quickly resolve the ongoing delays and excessive fees.
FARM to Resume On-Farm Evaluations; Adds Animal Care Task Force MembersApril 05, 2021
The National Dairy Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) Program plans to resume program on-farm evaluation activity on Sept 1, while reinstating deadlines nationwide. FARM also approved nominations for new Animal Care Task Force members.
Effective Sept. 1, evaluation and corrective action plan deadlines will be reinstated and all recommendations to forego on-farm activities related to the FARM Program will be rescinded. Also, program cycles are now extended to June 30, 2024, for all program areas (Animal Care 4.0, Environmental Stewardship 2.0 and Workforce Development 1.0). Resources for evaluators can be found on the new Evaluators and Trainer page on the FARM website in addition to events, training information, and FAQs.
Meanwhile, the NMPF Animal Health and Well-Being (AHWB) Committee approved nominations for the FARM Animal Care Task Force members who will serve as FARM Animal Care Version 5.0 discussions commence. Stakeholders across the U.S. dairy industry nominated the new members to fill existing vacancies on the task force, formerly called the Technical Writing Group.
The task force now consists of five farmers of varying operation size and geography, five representatives from co-ops and processors, four veterinarians, four academics, and one representative from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. More information on the task force, its responsibilities, and a full list of members, is here.
FARM conducted its first evaluator training as part of the Workforce Development (WFD) program area on March 10 and 11. The training equips FARM evaluators to conduct WFD Version 1.0 evaluations. A total of 10 evaluators participated in the two-day program administered by ACER Consulting, FARM’s training provider. Another training will be held April 14 and 15. Interested FARM evaluators can register here.
Last Call for 2021 Dairy Leadership Scholarship Program ApplicationsApril 05, 2021
The April 16 deadline for applications for NMPF’s National Dairy Leadership Scholarship Program for the 2021-2022 academic year is quickly approaching.
NMPF awards scholarships each year to outstanding graduate students (enrolled in Master’s or Ph.D. programs) who are actively pursuing dairy-related fields of research of immediate interest to NMPF member cooperatives and the U.S. dairy industry at large.
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 applicant will be awarded the Hintz Memorial Scholarship, 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.
Year in Review Spotlights NMPF’s Work During Challenging YearApril 05, 2021
In keeping with tradition but offering a new twist, NMPF unveiled its 2020 Activities and Accomplishments Report at the organization’s Board of Directors meeting March 10.
Physical copies of the report have historically been distributed to Board members at this event annually, but due to COVID-19 public health concerns that have continued to limit in-person gatherings, including the March Board of Directors meeting, the 2020 report was published online and distributed virtually.
The annual report chronicled the many activities and accomplishments of the past year, including NMPF’s work to secure $16 billion in direct farm aid from Congress, to extend Small Business Administration programs to farm businesses, and to ensure that farm and cooperative employees were recognized as “essential” workers. The organization also made progress on agricultural labor and climate legislation and remained vigilant in encouraging federal efforts to expand dairy exports and enforce existing trade agreements.
At the same time, NMPF defended its members against excessive regulation and promoted dairy as a crucial component of diets in the latest edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Click here to view the full report.
First Quarter 2021 CWT-Assisted Export Sales Top 42 Million Pounds of ProductApril 05, 2021
In the first three months of 2021, CWT assisted member cooperatives in securing 218 contracts to sell 11.8 million pounds of American-type cheeses, 8.8 million pounds of butter, 3.6 million pounds of anhydrous milkfat (AMF), 13.5 million pounds of whole milk powder and 4.4 million pounds of cream cheese. The milk equivalent of these 2021 contracts is 540 million pounds on a milkfat basis. The product is going to over 100 customers in 26 countries around the world. All the product will be delivered in 2021.
The year-to-date totals include March contracts for 3.7 million pounds of cheese, 1.5 million pounds of butter, 1.6 million pounds of AMF, 7 million pounds of whole milk powder and 901,691 pounds of cream cheese.
Assisting CWT member cooperatives gain and maintain world market share through the Export Assistance program expands the demand for U.S. dairy products. 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 submission of the required documentation.
All cooperatives and dairy farmers are encouraged to add their support to this important program. Membership forms are available at http://www.cwt.coop/membership.