Dietary Guidelines Committee Reaffirms Dairy as Key to Healthy Diet

August 04, 2020

NMPF said it was pleased that the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s final report released July 15 reaffirms dairy’s crucial role in a nutritious diet but expressed concern that the committee failed to recognize newer, broader science that shows the benefits of dairy foods at all fat levels.

“The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee restated what consumers already know – that regular dairy consumption offers essential nutrition that nourishes people throughout their lives,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF. “Across different types of diets and throughout all stages of life, dairy products provide the nutrients people need to be healthy.”

But Mulhern said it was disappointing that the committee largely reflected long-held assumptions on saturated fat, despite numerous studies that have called traditional anti-fat guidance into question.

“We repeatedly called on the committee to take a fresh look at multiple studies that show beneficial or neutral effects of dairy on chronic disease risk at all fat levels,” Mulhern said. “Unfortunately, the DGAC report does not reflect this newer science.”

The DGAC’s final scientific advisory report, submitted to the secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, notes that Americans overall need more dairy in their diets, with 88 percent of them falling short of recommendations. That figure includes 79 percent of 9-13-year-olds, who rely heavily on the school-lunch program to meet nutritional needs. The report also highlights dairy’s unique place as a provider of key nutrients that otherwise would be under-consumed in American diets.

  • Dairy is recommended for consumption within all three healthy eating patterns featured in the report, with three servings per day recommended in the Healthy U.S. style eating pattern and Healthy Vegetarian Style patterns and two servings per day in the Healthy-Mediterranean pattern;
  • The committee recognized milk as a nutrient-rich beverage that contributes positively to under-consumed nutrients, including potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamins A and D, and others. Dairy was also recognized as a source of iodine, a nutrient of public health concern for pregnant women;
  • Low-fat and nonfat dairy foods are recommended as nutrient-dense building blocks of a healthy diet; and
  • In the committee’s first-ever recommendations for birth through 24 months, yogurt and cheese are recognized as complementary feeding options for infants ages 6-12 months, and dairy foods (milk, cheese and yogurt) are included in healthy eating patterns for toddlers 12-24 months.

The scientific report recommendations will be used to develop the new dietary guidelines which are expected to be released by the end of the year. NMPF will be submitting written comments on the report, which are due August 13, and is leading a call-to-action campaign to thank the panel for its work while sharing farmer concerns. Dairy supporters can join the campaign here.

DMC Monthly Margin Gain Shatters Record on Historic Price Surge

August 04, 2020

The Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program saw by far the biggest margin increase in its history in June, jumping $4.61 per cwt. from May to $9.99 per cwt. The gain was more than double the previous high of $1.84/cwt. set under the DMC’s predecessor, the Margin Protection Program, in 2014.

The stunning turnaround came just two months after the biggest-ever monthly margin decline in April.

The record June increase was due almost entirely to a $4.50 per cwt. increase in the U.S. average all-milk price from May, itself a record one-month increase in the milk price, topping the previous record of $2.60 per cwt. set in April 2004. The June feed-cost formula was down by just eleven cents a hundredweight from May a month earlier.

The DMC Decision Tool hosted on the USDA/FSA website is currently predicting that the margin for July will be up by the second largest monthly increase, and then drift down to close to the $9.50 per cwt. maximum coverage level by the end of the year, as shown below.

The milk price outlook for the second half of 2020 has weakened in recent weeks as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to show a growing second wave of infections that’s expected to set back the recovery of dairy use in food service, along with a potentially prolonged recession and loss of consumer purchasing power. This may result in some DMC payments later the year for farmers who have insured themselves at higher levels of margin coverage.

The DMC information page on NMPF’s website offers educational resources to help farmers better use the program.

Federal Incentives for Dairy Can Enhance Carbon-Reduction Efforts, NMPF’s McCloskey Says

August 04, 2020

Sharing how his own farm is evolving to carbon neutrality and how the dairy sector is aggressively moving to become carbon-neutral by 2050, NMPF Environmental Issues Committee Chairman Mike McCloskey highlighted ways federal incentives can further help dairy toward its net-zero emissions future.

“For some reason, repurposing cow manure does not have the same shine as an array of solar panels or the grandeur of a wind farm on the horizon,” said McCloskey, co-founder and CEO Select Milk Producers and a member of NMPF’s executive committee, in written testimony for a July 23 hearing of the House Committee on Agriculture’s Subcommittee on Commodity Exchanges, Energy, and Credit.

But aligning the incentives needed for dairy to widely adopt anaerobic digesters and other emissions-mitigation technologies deserves greater attention, as it will only enhance the energy transition already encouraged by federal support for better-known clean-energy sources, he said.

“Anaerobic digestion provides clean energy and several other environmental benefits – such as avoided methane emissions, mitigated odor and air pollution, and minimized nutrient loading,” McCloskey said.

The dairy industry has adopted an ambitious goal of becoming a carbon-neutral sector of the economy by 2050 through its Net-Zero Initiative, a partnership among farmers and the entire production chain. As the national organization representing U.S. dairy farmers, NMPF is committed to these sustainability goals, which will be greatly aided by public-policy solutions.

Welltargeted incentives that encourage climate-friendly investments among dairy producers of all sizes would greatly aid the entire dairy industry in its goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, potentially making earlier achievement possible, McCloskey said in his testimony before the committee.

“We have committed in the dairy industry that we are going to go to net zero,” said McCloskey, chairman of the National Milk Producers Federation’s Environmental Issues Committee. “We can get there with your support.”

McCloskey added that dairy’s progress toward net-zero goals could create “thousands and thousands of jobs” and revitalize rural economies as industries spring up around clean technologies.

As the largest organization representing U.S. dairy farmers, NMPF is committed to industrywide net-zero goals, which will be greatly aided by public-policy solutions.

House Ag Appropriations Features Gains for Dairy

August 04, 2020

The House of Representatives’ appropriations bill funding the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration for the next fiscal year, approved July 24, included key advances for dairy, which the National Milk Producers Federation worked to secure.

Among dairy’s gains, the bill:

  • Urges FDA in multiple ways to enforce dairy product standards of identity. Congressman Peter Welch (D-VT), with bipartisan support from 18 of his colleagues, added an amendment on the House floor directing FDA to allocate $5 million to enforce federal rules that reserve dairy-product terms for real dairy products. The committee report also directs FDA to finally start enforcing dairy product standards of identity pursuant to a review process it began two years ago following pressure from NMPF and Congress.
  • Allocates $10 million for the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network, a USDA program aimed at connecting those working in agriculture to stress assistance and support programs.
  • Provides $990 million, a 78 percent boost from the current fiscal year, for ReConnect, the USDA Rural Development program working to provide broadband service to eligible rural areas.
  • Sets aside $6 million for the Dairy Business Innovation Initiatives program, which provides direct technical assistance and grants to dairy businesses to further the development, production, marketing, and distribution of dairy products. While the House Appropriations Committee initially provided $1 million for the program, Congressmen Peter Welch and Bryan Steil (R-WI) secured an additional $5 million with an amendment passed by the entire House of Representatives.
  • Allocates $1 million to the Healthy Fluid Milk Incentives Projects, a program created in the 2018 Farm Bill to create pilot programs to boost milk consumption among SNAP households.

The Senate has yet to begin work on its own appropriations measures.

NMPF Works with Congress to Urge Swift Phase Two Agreement with Japan

August 04, 2020

A bipartisan coalition of 51 members of Congress representing dairy districts from across the country sent a letter July 8 to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue asking them to build upon successes secured in a Phase One agreement with Japan with a Phase Two comprehensive agreement. NMPF worked with Reps. Ron Kind (D-WI), Lloyd Smucker (R-PA), Josh Harder (D-CA), and Roger Marshall (R-KS) to ensure the letter fully explained the remaining trade barriers leaving American dairy farmers at a disadvantage in this key market.

The letter acknowledged the important progress made by the U.S.-Japan Phase One agreement for dairy while urging the U.S. government to move quickly to address any remaining gaps and inequalities in market access, writing that a Phase Two agreement is a “valuable opportunity that cannot be left to linger on the negotiating table.”

“America’s dairy industry is ready to meet Japan’s growing demand for wholesome dairy products. However, in order to fully secure necessary market access, the U.S. must act swiftly to break down the remaining trade barriers that have left our producers at a disadvantage in this important dairy market,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF.

NMPF continues to share this message with trade negotiators and will keep working to secure additional tariff concessions, science-based sanitary and phytosanitary measures and enforceable commitments to protect common cheese names in Japan. The U.S. Phase One agreement with Japan provides vital access improvements to help the U.S. remain competitive in this key market – but more work remains to finalize an optimal final and comprehensive agreement with Japan.

Bipartisan Senate Letter Calls for Strengthened Protections for Common Cheese Names

August 04, 2020

A letter sent last weeky 61 senators to U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer and USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue marks a critical shift in the conversation surrounding U.S. trade policy and an important advancement to protect U.S. exports of common cheese names.

Sens. John Thune (R-SD), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) led this bipartisan letter urging the U.S. government to secure stronger safeguards in U.S. trade negotiations for common food and wine terms.

As the European Union has become increasingly aggressive in restricting export opportunities, U.S. trade policy will need to respond in kind to bolster NMPF’s work combating EU misuse of protections for valid geographical indications to close foreign markets to U.S. cheeses.

The letter requests that USTR and USDA “establish as a core U.S. policy objective in all trade-related discussions the goal of securing concrete market access assurances regarding specific common food names and wine grape varietal designations or traditional terms, including those of importance to cheese, meat, wine, and other food producers across the United States.

“Europe has demonstrated it will not yield in its efforts to erect trade barriers and limit fair competition from high-quality American-made food and wine products, including U.S. cheeses. A comprehensive long-term U.S. trade strategy is required to protect American farmers and food producers,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF.

NMPF played a key role in supporting the work of the Consortium for Common Food Names in leading the effort to support this robust bipartisan message and helped work with CCFN and the U.S. Dairy Export Council to form a coalition representing a diverse range of farm and agricultural industries, garnering support from the North American Meat Institute, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, Wine Institute and American Farm Bureau Federation.

NMPF staff also met with staff on the Senate Committees on Agriculture and Finance, leveraged support from state dairy associations and NMPF members, deployed outreach to the Hill from our government relations and trade policy teams, and distributed a digital fact sheet about this issue to Senate staff.

NMPF Advocates Take Over FDA Standards Docket, Chastises Lack of Enforcement

August 04, 2020

NMPF used the “Food Standards; General Principles and Food Standards Modernization” docket not only to point out FDA’s lack of labeling enforcement and failure to answer industry questions, but also to mobilize advocates for the cause.

The docket, which FDA re-opened from its initial comments in 2005, is part of the agency’s multi-year Nutrition Innovation Strategy effort. FDA requested public comments on 13 guiding principles that will be used to review existing standards of identity — definitions of food set by regulatory agencies that are intended to protect consumers. The FDA will use these principles to review existing standards before revising, revoking, or establishing new ones.

Given some standards of identity are over 75 years old, NMPF supports the review in principle. NMPF’s comments emphasize that the review must be thoughtful, and any changes involve industry input. Still, when the docket closed July 20, nearly 60 percent of the comments filed were directed to the docket through a call-to-action shared with NMPF advocates. The overwhelming interest from the dairy community reinforces the topic’s continued relevance and its dissatisfaction with the status quo.

To further its efforts to spotlight plant-based company abuses of labeling terms, NMPF also signed onto a letter focused on animal agriculture, with organizations including the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and others that have fallen victim to plant-based companies using standardized terms on their labels. That letter pointed out that the principles FDA is exploring stand in sharp contrast to the marketing techniques used by the plant-based companies and that FDA should prioritize enforcement.

FARM Program Hosts Evaluator Conference

August 04, 2020

The FARM program hosted its fifth annual Evaluator Conference July 21-22, offering attendees an opportunity to learn from dairy experts and improve their professional skills, as evaluators as well as communicators, industry representatives, and FARM program liaisons.

The first session began with a Town Hall meeting in which FARM team members shared initiatives, successes, and workstreams with 120 attendees. The program also featured a summary of Animal Care Version 3.0 data findings, and a representative from FARM’s new database managing agency, NewInsights, answered questions about program updates.

The second session started with a Training Development & Producer Engagement Panel​ featuring Dr. Jody Kull, owner of Valley Mobile Veterinary Service in Danville, PA; Courtney Gray, director of the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program and producer communications at the Pennsylvania Beef Council; and Lindsay Ferlito, regional dairy specialist at Cornell University Cooperative Extension in New York. Panelists explained a veterinarian’s role in producer trainings and education as well as how the beef checkoff works with producers.

Discussion then moved to dairy’s relationship with the beef industry, with Lacey Alexander, North American beef welfare lead at Cargill, offering a programmatic update on BQA and an educational presentation on intake concerns at the processing plant.

A second-day session featured NMPF’s communications team of Alan Bjerga and Theresa Sweeney-Murphy delivering media training, followed by Tom Wall, The Dairy Coach, discussing the importance of a positive, on-farm culture. Krysta Harden, executive vice president of global environmental strategy for Dairy Management Inc. presented the Net Zero Initiative/2050 US Dairy Sustainability Goals​ to wrap up the conference.

NMPF to Co-Sponsor AgTalk Town Halls Series with Farmers for Free Trade, Other Ag Groups

August 04, 2020

NMPF has joined with Farmers for Free Trade, a coalition of pro-trade farm organizations, and other leading agricultural groups to launch a new town hall series called AgTalk that seeks to elevate the voice of farmers and agricultural leaders in the important national discussions happening on trade and the resiliency of agricultural supply chains.

The inaugural event was hosted on July 30 by in Iowa by the Iowa Soybean Association. NMPF and the U.S. Dairy Export Council will host a Wisconsin AgTalk event Sept. 1 to discuss expanding trade opportunities for America’s dairy farmers and the harm that international trade barriers have on the domestic farm economy. Events will also be held in Minnesota on Aug. 5th, in Michigan on Aug. 13th and in Pennsylvania on Aug. 27th. Sign-up details for the events can be found at the AgTalk website.

ABI Board Meeting Highlights NMPF’s Staff Work

August 04, 2020

The American Butter Institute’s (ABI) annual conference with the American Dairy Products Institute provide a chance for NMPF staff to detail how the dairy industry has met the challenges of COVID-19 through its efforts on legislation, trade and other industry shifts at the ABI’s Board of Directors meeting July 28.

“In the dairy industry, we work with both sides on a nonpartisan basis to continue to advance our issues,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF. “In a challenging time, we have been able to punch above our weight class and get a lot done in a time where others have not. That is our success.”

Mulhern summarized NMPF’s work to elevate the outcomes for dairy producers in a landscape dominated by responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. He also discussed what the industry can potentially expect after the upcoming presidential election, reaffirmed dairy’s inclusion in the dietary guidelines update and emphasized inclusive legislative work.

NMPF staff also covered trade, communications, and regulatory policy in separate presentations. Shawna Morris, vice president of trade policy spoke about how the global trade landscape affects U.S. dairy producers, while Alan Bjerga, senior vice president of communications, discussed the necessity of new messages in the new circumstances brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

CWT-assisted sales contracts top 16 million pounds of dairy product exports in July

August 04, 2020

CWT assisted member cooperatives in securing 48 contracts to sell 1.7 million pounds of American-type cheeses, 41,888 pounds of butter, 13.1 million pounds of whole milk powder, 1.157 million pounds of anhydrous milkfat (AMF), and 776,027 pounds of cream cheese to customers in Asia, Central and South America, the Middle East, and Oceania. The product will be shipped to customers in 11 countries in those six regions of the world during the months of July 2020 through January 2021.

These contracts bring the 2020 total of CWT-assisted product sales contracts to 22.2 million pounds of cheese, 6.3 million pounds of butter, 31.3 million pounds of whole milk powder, 3.1 million pounds of AMF and 4.4 million pounds of cream cheese. These transactions will move the equivalent of 694.2 million pounds of milk on a milkfat basis overseas.

Exporting dairy products is critical during these challenging times to the viability of dairy farmers and their cooperatives across the country.  Whether or not a cooperative is actively engaged in exporting cheese, butter, anhydrous milkfat, cream cheese, pasteurized process cheese, or whole milk powder, the moving products into world markets is essential. CWT provides a means to move domestic dairy products to overseas markets by helping to overcome U.S. dairy’s trade disadvantages.

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

2020 Scholarship Winners Announced

August 04, 2020

At their June meeting, the NMPF Scholarship Committee selected three graduate students to receive scholarships as part of the 2020 NMPF National Dairy Leadership Scholarship Program. These students are conducting research in areas that will benefit dairy cooperatives and producers. Scholarship were awarded to:

  • Ellen Lai, a PhD candidate in Integrative Genetics and Genomics at the University of California, Davis, whose research focuses on improving production and welfare of Holstein cattle by providing genetic tools to reduce lameness caused by foot warts and sole ulcers.
  • Conor McCabe, a MS candidate in Animal Science at Purdue University, studying tissue mobilization in transition dairy cows.
  • Mateus Peiter, a PhD candidate in Animal Science at the University of Minnesota studying the use of automated technologies to improve animal health and herd management on dairy farms.


NMPF Adds Bernstein, Promotes Rice

August 04, 2020

NMPF made two crucial staff moves in July, adding its first-ever communications director for the National Dairy Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) Program and promoting a key staff member in trade policy.

Leighona Bernstein comes to the FARM team from CropLife International, the global trade association of the plant science industry, to direct FARM communications efforts to both internal and external stakeholders. Key to that mission will be weaving the stories of dairy producers into larger industry narratives, as well as providing timely and important information on FARM’s efforts to ensure best practices across dairy farms nationwide.

“Leighona brings the perfect mix of member-focused communications with external outreach experience,” said Emily Yeiser-Stepp, NMPF’s vice president for FARM and the director of the program. “The FARM Program looks forward to her impact in developing further value for all of our stakeholders.”

Leighona’s focus on agriculture began during her years as a nationally competitive equestrian at Oklahoma State University. After graduation she worked at Oklahoma Today magazine before joining CropLife International. She began at NMPF, which administers the FARM program, on July 13.

Also this month, NMPF promoted Tony Rice, who joined NMPF as its Trade Policy Coordinator in June 2019, to Trade Policy Manager.

Rice comes from a dairy farm family in Pennsylvania. He’s been an integral part of the trade team since joining NMPF, playing a crucial role in a range of trade policy activities from developing more robust trade-data analysis to supporting the creation of materials that inform the dairy industry about trade policy on topics such as geographical indications and the USMCA trade agreement.

“Tony has jumped into our wide swath of activities on trade policy topics with both feet, playing a key role in allowing NMPF take on an even more active role on the key trade issues so important to shaping returns to dairy farmers. He’s efficiently and quite effectively contributed to our work on beneficial trade agreements, trade data analysis and communicating to our members and the wide industry information they need to know about the policy landscape,” said Shawna Morris.

In his new role, he will take on a broader role in managing projects supporting U.S. efforts to boost U.S. dairy exports and improve market access through leveling the playing field.