FARM Program Events Highlight Opportunities to Share Dairy Sustainability Story

December 01, 2018

National Dairy Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) Program staff spent most of November taking every available opportunity to share stories of the U.S. dairy industry’s work in sustainability.

In November, FARM Program staff participated in the Sustainable Agriculture Summit in Denver. The annual event brings together major food companies, government agencies, academics, conservation groups and farmers to share lessons and develop a coordinated approach to agricultural sustainability. Co-hosted by the Innovation Center for U.S Dairy and Field to Market, the event convened partners from pork, beef, poultry, egg and specialty crop industry associations.

Event speakers highlighted the key role the FARM Program plays in demonstrating dairy’s on-farm sustainability efforts. Angela Anderson, director of customer outreach for the FARM Program, moderated a panel discussion that introduced the program’s newest area, Workforce Development. Nicole Ayache, FARM’s director of sustainability initiatives, highlighted the importance of this new program area in giving dairy farm owners and managers necessary tools to attract and retain a high-quality workforce.

Prior to the summit, FARM Program staff participated in the Dairy Sustainability Alliance fall meeting, hosted by Quail Ridge Dairy, winner of the 2018 Beef Quality Assurance Award in the dairy category. Attendees toured the farm and learned about sustainability at five themed stations. The Animal Care station was co-hosted by Emily Yeiser Stepp, FARM Program senior director, and Jamie Jonker, vice president of sustainability and scientific affairs.

NMPF Applauds USDA Support for More Milk Options in School Meals

December 06, 2018

The National Milk Producers Federation commended Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue for returning low-fat (1%) flavored milk as part of the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs. The final rule implementing regulatory changes needed to add low-fat flavored milk to more school menus and other nutrition programs serving children was announced today by the USDA and will be published later this month in the Federal Register.

“NMPF thanks Secretary Perdue for completing this step that will encourage milk consumption in schools,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the NMPF. “USDA’s own studies have shown that students drank less milk after low-fat chocolate milk was removed from schools. Returning low-fat flavored milk to school menus will help reverse this harmful trend.  Milk has been an integral part of school meals since their beginning, and greater milk consumption equals better nutrition for America’s kids. The new rule is good news for schools, students and American dairy farmers.”

The final rule makes permanent the changes Secretary Purdue implemented last year to streamline the process by which schools can serve low-fat flavored milk. In 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture eliminated low-fat flavored milk as an option in school meal and a la carte programs, after which milk consumption in schools dropped. Students consumed 288 million fewer half-pints of milk from 2012-2015, even as public-school enrollments grew.

The USDA action will allow schools to offer low-fat flavored milk without requiring them to demonstrate either a reduction in student milk consumption or an increase in school milk waste, bureaucratic hoops that had limited their ability to offer low-fat flavored milk in the 2017/18 school year.

NMPF appreciates the bipartisan efforts of numerous members of Congress who advocated for this change, most notably Reps. Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (R-PA) and Joe Courtney (D-CT).


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

CWT-Assisted Member Sales Top 23 Million Pounds of Product in November

December 08, 2018

Cooperatives Working Together (CWT) assisted seven member cooperatives last month in securing 76 sales contracts to export 23 million pounds of American-type cheese, butter and whole milk powder. Sixty contracts will deliver 14.7 million pounds of American-type cheeses to nine countries, nine butter contracts account for 5.3 million pounds of butter headed to four countries, and seven contracts will move 3.3 million pounds of whole milk powder to five countries. The products will go to customers in Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, Central America, Oceania and South America, and will be shipped from November 2018 through May 2019.

Member cooperatives’ sales activities through November bring the year-to-date CWT-assisted export sales to 66.4 million pounds of America-type cheeses, 15.9 million pounds of butter and 38.7 million pounds of whole milk powder. The milk equivalent of these sales is 1.252 billion pounds on a milkfat basis.

Helping CWT member cooperatives gain and maintain world market share through the Export Assistance program positively impacts all U.S. dairy farmers by strengthening and maintaining the value of dairy products that raise milk prices. It does this by expanding the demand for U.S. dairy exports, thereby increasing the total demand for U.S. farm milk.

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 product export and delivery is verified by required documentation.

All cooperatives and all dairy farmers benefit from CWT’s activities and should add their support to this important program next year and beyond. Membership forms for 2019-2021 are available at the CWT website.

MPP Forecast: January 2019

December 09, 2018

The monthly margin under the dairy Margin Protection Program (MPP) for October 2018 was $8.96/cwt., $0.70 higher than the September margin. The MPP margin has improved by $2.24/cwt. over the past three months. The October all-milk price was $17.40/cwt., also $0.70 higher than in September. The October MPP feed cost formula was essentially unchanged from a month before. Very minor changes in the three individual MPP feed cost formula components offset each other between September-October. Over the past five months, the MPP feed cost has fallen by $0.98/cwt.

The USDA online MPP Decision Tool was recently updated to show projections for 2019. Based on the Dec. 7 dairy futures settlement prices, the tool indicates that the MPP margin may remain in the $8.00-$9.00/cwt. range during at least the first half of next year.

USDA’s MPP margin forecasts can be accessed online. NMPF’s Future for Dairy website offers a variety of educational resources to help farmers make better use of the program

Upcoming Trade Talks Hold Potential for Growth

December 12, 2018

Pending trade talks with Japan, the European Union and the United Kingdom – if pursued with the right goals in mind – hold promise for greater for U.S. dairy exports.  The U.S. dairy industry plans to take an active role in crafting agreements, and NMPF is working on providing officials direction to help shape those negotiations to best align with dairy-producer priorities.

The United States and Japan announced in September that they would hold bilateral trade talks, a move that set aside the threat of tariffs on Japanese auto imports as part of an ongoing U.S. assessment of national security issues related to trade in that sector.

The goal for U.S. negotiators is to gain better access to the Japanese market for agriculture goods, including dairy, in which American producers have faced high import tariffs. This is particularly vital as Japan moves ahead with implementation of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (the successor treaty to the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, which the United States didn’t join) this month and its agreement with the EU next year. Collectively, the two treaties will increase access to one of the largest export markets for the three biggest U.S. dairy competitors, making it more important for the United States to swiftly secure terms of trade that exceed those prior agreements and keep U.S. dairy products competitive in Japan.

NMPF’s Jaime Castaneda testified about the proposed U.S.-Japan agreement at the International Trade Commission hearing on Dec. 6, explaining why Japanese market access must increase and why those gains must be greater than those offered under the CPTPP or EU-Japan agreement. NMPF staff will also testify before the U.S. Trade Representative on Dec. 10.

NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern will also testify at a hearing later this month regarding planned talks between the EU and the United States, arguing that agricultural issues deserve a seat at the table in any comprehensive trade agreement, a position the EU disputes. In other negotiations, talks between the United States and the United Kingdom still contain many unknowns, but the dairy industry is poised to keep U.S. farmer interests in front of trade negotiators, pointing out how vital it is that such a deal tackle the full range of constraints U.S. exporters may face in selling to the UK.

USMCA Trade Pact Signed, but Work Remains

December 13, 2018

In an important step toward ending trade disputes that have harmed U.S. dairy exports, President Donald Trump joined Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in signing the U.S. Mexico-Canada Agreement on Nov. 30 in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF, praised the leaders for reaching a deal that preserved the agreement’s duty-free terms for U.S.-Mexico dairy trade; included notable reforms to Canada’s dairy pricing system; created additional dairy-market access; and ushered in beneficial new rules in multiple key agricultural trade areas. Mulhern also noted that work was not yet finished, as Mexican retaliatory tariffs on U.S. cheeses levied in response to U.S. tariffs on Mexican steel still hang over the market, creating a drag on farmers’ prices.

“We appreciate the Trump Administration for continually raising our issues of concern and fighting for a better agreement with Canada,” he said. “We encourage the administration to remo

ve other tariffs that are hampering North American trade, including the steel and aluminum tariffs still imposed on Mexico, and to continue making progress in striking new free trade agreements and resolving ongoing trade conflicts.”

NMPF and the U.S. Dairy Export Council will shortly submit comments to the U.S. International Trade Commission on the USMCA to help the agency analyze the agreement and ensure that dairy producers continue to have a voice in the process. A key focus remains driving home the need to implement the agreement in a manner that keeps with both the letter and the spirit of the deal. ITC will issue its report on the economic merits of the USMCA in early 2019, as part of the Congressionally-mandated Trade Promotion Authority process.

In addition to the headline issues, NMPF worked hard to guard American dairy producers’ interests in the agreement, such as working with negotiators to safeguard existing U.S. cheese sales to Mexico, countering European Union efforts to block the sale of U.S. products.

Looking ahead, NMPF is gearing up for the congressional stage of USMCA approval, working with the Office of the Trade Representative and Agriculture Department to spotlight key implementation areas that need attention and urging the administration to drop its steel and aluminum tariffs in the wake of the USMCA signing.

NMPF Urges Members to Tell FDA to Enforce Dairy Labeling Rules

December 14, 2018

Following the announcement that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is extending the public comment period on the fake-milk labeling issue, NMPF is urging its members to provide feedback to the agency before the Jan. 28 deadline.

Since NMPF released its first four-page document of key messages and data points at its Annual Meeting in October, it has expanded its toolkit of resources, including an instructional video, colorful graphics, a dedicated webpage and a social media marketing campaign – all intended to demonstrate  why the FDA needs to enforce its existing labeling standards. NMPF is asking not just its members, but also consumers, family members and even pediatricians to explain how misbranded dairy imitators mislead consumers and harm public health.

“We’re really revving the engine on this issue,” said NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern. “With less than two months to go before the commenting deadline, we intend to drum up support from our engaged membership and use it to highlight the public health issues at stake.”

Informational materials now available on the NMPF website include:

  • A four-page document that includes instructions for submitting comments and key points
  • An instructional video with screen grabs illustrating the step-by-step process of how to comment on the FDA docket
  • A library of graphics to share in newsletters or on social media

Beverages made of water, emulsifiers and plant ingredients have long used dairy terms to falsely associate themselves with the positive traits of milk-based foods, including milk’s nine essential nutrients. While FDA standards clearly specify that milk is the product of an animal, enforcement of those rules has been neglected for decades. FDA finally took up the standards-of-identity issue earlier this year, holding a hearing in July before putting out an initial request for comments with a deadline of Nov. 27. NMPF successfully requested that the deadline be pushed to the end of January, after which the FDA may consider a new rule governing dairy labeling.

Current labeling practices create false impressions of nutritional and quality equivalence that prompt consumers to make decisions they might not otherwise make with proper labeling.

“U.S. consumers shouldn’t receive false signals about products,” said Mulhern. “This situation requires FDA’s intervention, for the benefit of consumers and transparency in the marketplace. Until then, the dairy producer community has to lead the charge in providing clear, compelling arguments for why action is needed.

Farm Bill Released; Final Vote May Be This Week

December 15, 2018

Congress released on Monday a compromise farm bill for consideration by both chambers this week, potentially concluding a months-long process with progress for dairy producers. 

The National Milk Producers Federation thanked members of Congress, especially the bipartisan leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, for crafting a new farm bill that includes much-needed reforms to help American dairy farmers.

“Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle should be commended for reaching a deal that will benefit U.S. agriculture and ensure safe, affordable food for Americans and the world,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF. “A new law is especially important for dairy, a sector struggling with low prices and disrupted exports. We thank lawmakers for addressing our concerns with measures that will help producers in need.”

NMPF called on the full Congress to pass the bill quickly while thanking its four principal negotiators:  Senator Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) as well as House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN).  While the bill includes a vast array of farm policy changes, improvements benefiting dairy include:

  • Higher coverage levels in a renamed Margin Protection Program (MPP) that address deficiencies in the current program’s feed-cost formula
  • Greater flexibility to allow producers of all sizes to access Tier 1 premium rates
  • Expanded access to additional risk management tools, allowing producers to participate in both MPP and the Livestock Gross Margin insurance program
  • Continued support for land and water conservation programs that assist dairy producers
  • Full funding for Farm Bill trade promotion programs, a crucial concern in an era of markets lost to tariffs
  • Nutrition provisions intended to enhance consumption of fluid milk

The law’s provisions build on improvements enacted in the Bipartisan Budget Act earlier this year, including dairy safety net reforms spearheaded by Senators Stabenow and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), as well as risk management provisions championed by Reps. Conaway and Peterson.