Trade Advocates Turn Up Volume on Supply Chain Challenges

February 02, 2022

Export supply chain challenges persisted as 2022 began, as did NMPF’s work, together with the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC), to spotlight the disruptions faced by dairy exporters to build momentum for government action.

NMPF’s focus on the issue in January continued its two-track approach of pushing for both legislative reform and near-term steps by the administration to complement that.

NMPF co-hosted an Agri-Pulse press event with USDEC on Jan. 31 to assess and discuss solutions to agricultural export supply chain snarls. The hybrid event, held at the National Press Club, featured a panel of industry speakers impacted by the agricultural export supply chain concerns, including USDEC member Leprino Foods, and a government panel of USDA Secretary Vilsack; John Porcari, the Biden Administration’s Supply Chain Ports Envoy; and Ocean Shipping Reform Act lead sponsors Congressmen John Garamendi (D-CA) and Dusty Johnson (R-SD).

“We hope to be able to make sure that people understand this isn’t just an import issue, it’s also an export issue,” Vilsack said at the event.  “And the Department of Agriculture wants to be part of the solution.”

The event, which had more than 1,200 RVSPs from industry professionals, advocates and media outlets, provided the opportunity to refocus attention on how supply chain challenges are affecting exports. NMPF conducted outreach to multiple news outlets to foster robust coverage of those aspects nationwide, gaining attention from Bloomberg News and the Hagstrom Report to the Bakersfield Californian.

The webinar followed a Jan. 27 CEO roundtable discussion hosted by Sec. Vilsack that included two NMPF members – Dairy Farmers of America and California Dairies Inc. –to examine what other steps the Administration could take to mitigate the export supply chain snarls still plaguing dairy and other agricultural exporters.

The events took place as NMPF worked to build support in the Senate for companion legislation to the House of Representatives-passed Ocean Shipping Reform Act. The Senate bill planned for introduction early this month by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Thune (R-SD) reflects many of the key provisions NMPF worked to secure in the House bill. To build on that positive starting point, NMPF is urging some targeted improvements as the legislation proceeds through the Congressional process.

NMPF also built support for a robust bipartisan message to President Biden urging him to take several near-term steps allowed under current law to provide further relief to agricultural exporters. The House letter, led by Reps. Jim Costa (D-CA) and Dusty Johnson (R-SD), garnered 71 signatures. NMPF worked closely with Congressional offices to help craft the letter’s messages.

U.S. Supreme Court Blocks OSHA ETS, Encouraging Dairy

February 02, 2022

The U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 13 blocked the Biden Administration from enforcing a vaccination-or-testing requirement crafted by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration. The court’s decision stayed the OSHA ETS COVID vaccination and testing requirements for employers with 100 or more employees and the Biden Administration abandoned pursuit of the mandate Jan. 26.

The ruling, which was in line with NMPF concerns, means that employers with 100 or more employees do not need to follow the OSHA ETS COVID vaccination and testing requirements.

This means employers can continue to implement COVID safety precautions as they determine for their business, subject to any state or local requirements.

“We are pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision on a stay of the ETS,” said NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern in a statement. “NMPF has long been concerned about the practical application of the OSHA regulation at a time when testing supplies are scarce and food and agriculture supply chains are already disrupted by a lack of worker availability. We have voiced those concerns in meetings and other communications to federal officials over the last several months. The court’s decision will bring relief to dairy employers who strive 24/7 to put nutritious products on consumer plates.”

Parts of the mandate requiring record-keeping and masks had been scheduled to go into effect on Monday, with full requirements going into effect by Feb. 9.

The Supreme Court decision in effect ends the Biden Administration’s attempt to establish a sweeping nationwide vaccine mandate. It also ends a brief but intense storm of activity for NMPF, which was discussing the requirement with federal officials even before it was announced.

The ETS itself was issued last Nov. 4.

Prior to the issuance of that rule in October, NMPF and several other agricultural entities met virtually with the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to express our concern about the unseen rule.  NMPF expressed concern about the availability of COVID tests and suggested that the government use the Defense Production Act (DPA) as was done previously in a number of COVID-related challenges, to ensure an adequate supply of tests.  The government failed to do so in a meaningful way, a mistake given current difficulty in acquiring both rapid home tests and PCR lab tests.  NMPF and the others also suggested suspending the application of the OSHA ETS to essential critical infrastructure workers as defined by DHS-CISA (which NMPF played a critical role in defining) should the rule create workforce problems.

Meanwhile, to prepare for the possibility that the mandate would take effect and be upheld in court, NMPF created a Toolbox on its website explaining ETS basics as litigation exploded. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a nationwide stay on OSHA’s implementation and enforcement of the ETS on Nov. 6. Within days of that action, every Court of Appeals in the country had at least one case before it – 34 in all. On Nov. 16, all the cases were consolidated into one and the litigation was assigned to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The 6th Circuit ultimately ruled with a three-judge panel that the 5th Circuit’s stay needed to be lifted.  Immediately thereafter that decision was appealed to U.S. Supreme Court, which blocked the ETS pending resolution in the 6th Circuit.

On Jan. 26, OSHA revoked the ETS while stating it would pursue a permanent final rule to be released in May. Such a rule would need to be drastically different from the broad unconstitutional rule that OSHA previously issues and even then, it is likely to be challenged in court.  Employers with 100 or more employees may now proceed with addressing COVID-19 in the workplace as they see fit subject only to state and local laws.

In a related matter, the government has asked NMPF at the end of December for assistance in determining the state of food and agriculture entities and their workforces given ongoing complications due to COVID-19 and the recent spike due to the Omicron variant.

December DMC Margin Comes in Just Above Payment Threshold

February 02, 2022

2021 narrowly missed being the first calendar year during which the Dairy Margin Coverage program would have made payments at the maximum $9.50/cwt coverage level during every month. But a milk-price surge prevented that from happening.

The December margin under the program was $9.53/cwt, $0.39/cwt. higher than November’s margin and above the threshold needed to trigger payments at the maximum coverage level. From November to December, the all-milk price gained $1.00/cwt, to $21.80/cwt, while the DMC feed cost gained $0.61/cwt. On a per hundredweight of milk basis, half of the feed-cost increase was from higher soybean meal prices, one-third from higher corn prices, and one-sixth from higher premium alfalfa prices.

Late January dairy and grain futures continued to indicate a very small likelihood for payments during 2022; still, the generally strong milk price outlook has shown volatility in recent weeks, and grain prices have been showing renewed strength.

Signup for the 2022 DMC program is underway and will close on Feb. 18. Last year’s program has paid out nearly $1.2 billion to 18,800 enrolled operations as of Jan. 31. NMPF is urging dairy farmers who haven’t yet joined DMC to do so. NMPF has a page of resources for members who may have questions here.

Gruyere Declared a Common Cheese Name, Thwarting EU

February 02, 2022

After over a year of sustained effort by NMPF and a coalition of other dairy stakeholders, the Federation celebrated a U.S. District Court ruling made public on Jan. 6 that “gruyere” is a common food name in the United States.

This victory was spearheaded by NMPF’s trade policy team, who also staffs the Consortium for Common Food Names (CCFN) and the U.S. Dairy Export Council’s (USDEC) trade policy activities, including USDEC’s work on this case. The team prevailed in securing a decision from Senior Judge T.S. Ellis III that upholds a 2020 U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s ruling that gruyere is a generic term that cannot be trademarked as a term exclusive to French and Swiss producers.

“Not only is this a landmark victory for American dairy farmers and cheese producers who offer gruyere, this win sets a vital precedent in the much larger, ongoing battle over food names in the United States,” said Jaime Castaneda, NMPF Executive Vice President for Policy Development & Strategy and CCFN Executive Director. “The European Union has tried for years to monopolize common names such as gruyere, parmesan, bologna or chateau. This verdict validates that we’re on the right path in our fight on behalf of American food and wine producers to preserve their ability to use long-established generic names.”

The court determined the arguments of the French and Swiss associations were “insufficient and unconvincing” and the defendants presented “overwhelming evidence that cheese purchasers in the United States understand the term GRUYERE to be a generic term which refers to a type of cheese without restriction as to where that cheese is produced.” Despite this, the Swiss and French associations filed their intent to appeal the ruling on January 7. This decision however, positions U.S. dairy farmers and cheese producers well as NMPF prepares to work with CCFN and USDEC to defend this positive ruling and the powerful it sets for other generic dairy names.

Young Cooperators Advisory Council Elects Agri-Mark’s Lavigne Chair

February 02, 2022

The National Young Cooperators (YC) Program Advisory Council elected Valerie Lavigne, a New York dairy farmer and Agri-Mark member, Chairperson for the 2022 program year. In this role, Lavigne will guide the program and represent its interests to the NMPF Board of Directors.

“I am honored to serve as chairperson of the National YC Program and I look forward to leading this program into its 72nd year,” Lavigne said. “The challenges ahead are significant, and I am proud to represent the unique needs of beginning farmers as they seek to establish themselves and grow within the dairy industry.”

In addition to her participation on the YC Advisory Council, Lavigne is part of NMPF’s Dairy Voice Network and serves as an officer for Agri-Mark’s YC Program. Lavigne’s Unc Brock Farm thrives on diversity with a productive mix of turkeys, meat chickens and laying hens, milking goats, horses and a 200-cow dairy herd. The farm also manages two food trucks and a catering business in Schaghticoke, New York.

Wisconsin dairy farmer Dustin Brunn, a Dairy Farmers of America member, was elected Vice Chairperson. The remainder of the 2022 YC Advisory Council includes:

  • Sid and Kristin Huls, Prairie Farms
  • Jaime Mowry and Matt Harrigan, Upstate Niagara Cooperative
  • Spencer Hurlimann, Tillamook County Creamery Association
  • Kameron Paschel, Dairy Farmers of America
  • Kip and Rochelle Siegler, Michigan Milk Producers Association
  • Ben Smith, Maryland and Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association
  • Jason and Tiffany Staehely, Northwest Dairy Association
  • Brittany Thurlow, Southeast Milk Inc.

The 2022 YC Advisory Council convened Jan. 25 for a virtual cheese tasting and 2022 planning meeting. The program will continue to offer free monthly webinars and plans to meet in-person throughout 2022 for its Dairy Policy and Legislative Forum, World Dairy Expo seminar and reception, and Leadership & Development Program.

FARM Workforce Development Updates Resources, Announces Training Dates

February 02, 2022

The FARM Workforce Development Program, which encourages best practices in Human Resources (HR) and safety on U.S. dairy farms, updated its Safety Reference Manual in December to include chapters on ergonomics and noise and hearing protection. A digital version of these chapters is currently available in English, and a Spanish version will be available soon. The chapters include information and checklists anticipating and recognizing the hazards for both safety considerations.

Understanding that HR and safety management look different on every farm, the FARM Workforce Development Program provides resources to support dairy farmers’ continuous improvement. The addition of the two new issue areas meets the growing demand from dairy farmers and managers seeking straightforward, relevant information on workplace safety and health. Dairy producers are encouraged to reference the manual as a resource for a safety management program.

FARM also announced its Workforce Development Evaluator Training dates for 2022, which include both virtual and in-person offerings. These two-day trainings go through the FARM Workforce Development evaluation while integrating a review of key safety and HR topics covered in the questionnaire. If you are interested in attending a training, please email to enroll.

CWT-Assisted Dairy Export Sales Kick 2022 Off with 166 Million Pounds

February 02, 2022

CWT member cooperatives secured 106 contracts in January, kicking 2022 off by adding 15 million pounds of American-type cheeses, 2.0 million pounds of whole milk powder and 1.7 million pounds of cream cheese to CWT-assisted sales in 2022. These products will go customers in Asia, Central America, the Caribbean, Middle East-North Africa and South America, and will be shipped from January 2022 through July 2022.

CWT-assisted 2022 dairy product sales contracts year-to-date total the same as above; 15 million pounds of American-type cheese, 1.7 million pounds of cream cheese and 2.0 million pounds of whole milk powder. This brings the total milk equivalent for the year to 166 million pounds on a milkfat basis. Over the last 12 months, CWT assisted sales are the equivalent of 1.444 billion pounds of milk on a milkfat basis.

Exporting dairy products is critical 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, or whole milk powder, 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.