Congressional Leaders Ponder Path Forward after Defeat of 2013 Farm BillJuly 10, 2013
The startling House defeat of the 2013 farm bill has further complicated an already murky process of trying, for the second time in 12 months, to pass a new farm bill on Capitol Hill. Leaders in the House are contemplating a new plan this week – involving separating farm programs from the nutrition ones – following the stunning rejection of the farm bill June 20th.
Last week, NMPF joined more than 500 regional and national farm organizations in urging House Speaker John Boehner to bring the farm bill back to the floor for a vote later in July, without trying to split the bill into two components: one containing farm programs, and the other reauthorizing foods stamps and other anti-hunger efforts.
“It is vital for the House to try once again to bring together a broad coalition of lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to provide certainty for farmers, rural America, the environment and our economy in general and pass a five-year farm bill,” the groups said in the letter.
The farm bill failed by a vote of 195-234, in part because the final version of the legislation was amended to include a controversial dairy processor-backed measure offered by Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R.-Va.) and David Scott (D-Ga.). That amendment removed the market stabilization component from the NMPF-supported Dairy Security Act. The defeat of the House bill came just 10 days the Senate overwhelmingly approved its own farm bill, with the full Dairy Security Act included.
In recognition that any possible next step has political complications, NMPF has urged House leaders to consider submitting for a vote the bipartisan bill that passed the House Agriculture Committee last month.
Current farm programs, including the MILC program, will continue through the fiscal year, which ends September 30th. The price support program is authorized through December 31st, after which permanent law will be activated, potentially resulting in much higher support levels for a variety of farm commodities, including milk.
Immigration Reform Advances in CongressJuly 10, 2013
Immigration continues to dominate the dialogue on Capitol Hill, with significant action occurring in both the House and Senate over the past few weeks. On June 26th, the full Senate voted 68-32 to approve, S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. This comprehensive immigration reform measure included the agreement reached between the Agriculture Workforce Coalition, co-founded by NMPF, and the United Farm Workers. NMPF played a pivotal role in securing both the agreement and the support of many senators for this historic legislation. S.744 now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.
In the House of Representatives, the House Judiciary Committee voted along party lines on June 19th to approve H. R. 1773, the Agricultural Guestworker Act. This legislation was a standalone immigration reform measure introduced by Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA). The legislation now awaits further action by the House of Representatives. The House Judiciary Committee has also passed legislation dealing with border security, e-verify, high tech visas, and enforcement.
Looking ahead, the decision on whether or not the full House will act on immigration reform measures will be determined in great part during a meeting of the House Republican Caucus on July 10th. At that meeting, Republican leadership has indicated they will debate the path forward for immigration reform in the House. A number of possibilities remain, including the consideration of piecemeal legislation such as H. R. 1773, or the consideration of a comprehensive reform bill.
Mulhern to Succeed Kozak as NMPF President in 2014July 10, 2013
Jim Mulhern, NMPF chief operating officer since January, will take over as the organization’s chief executive when current President Jerry Kozak retires at the end of this year. The NMPF board made the appointment at its June meeting.
Mulhern has been involved with the dairy industry his entire career. A Wisconsin native, he worked for a Midwestern dairy cooperative before coming to Washington and heading NMPF’s government relations program in the mid-1980s. He was also chief of staff for Wisconsin Senator Herb Kohl. He maintained a close relationship with the dairy industry as a senior manager at two Washington public affairs firms, and then launched his own firm, with NMPF and Dairy Management Inc. among its clients.
NMPF Chairman Randy Mooney said the organization was fortunate to have Mulhern as its leader for the future. “The importance of experience cannot be underestimated in a complex industry like ours,” Mooney said. “Jim’s impressive and extensive track record working on dairy issues made him the ideal choice to be the next President and CEO of NMPF.”
Mulhern expressed appreciation for the chance to lead an organization that has meant much to him over the years. “I look forward to building further on the relationships and successes of the past, but with a clear focus on addressing the challenges to dairy farming’s future,” he said.
Cartoon Character Debuts to Promote REAL® SealJuly 10, 2013
In an ongoing effort to revitalize and build awareness of the dairy industry’s iconic REAL® Seal, NMPF has introduced a cartoon character modeled after the logo.
“The REAL® Seal has been around for nearly 40 years,” said Jim Mulhern, Chief Operating Officer of NMPF. “This character is intended to bring the importance of looking for REAL® dairy products and foods made with REAL® dairy products to life.”
The first order of business is choosing a name for the character, which will be done through an online challenge.
“We want kids to learn how to differentiate real dairy products and foods made with real American dairy products from the vegetable- and nut-based pretenders,” said Mulhern. “To highlight this important distinction, we are launching a campaign to name the character.”
Names may be submitted through the REAL® Seal website: www.realseal.com. All entries must be received by August 31, 2013. The top three names entered will be posted in September on the REAL® Seal Facebook page (www.facebook.com/realsealdairy) and subject to a vote. The name with the most votes will be declared the winner.
CWT Assists Exports, Moves Forward with Contribution IncreaseJuly 10, 2013
In June, Cooperatives Working Together (CWT) received 95 requests from member cooperatives to assist with exports of cheese and butter. After careful analysis of each request, CWT accepted 37 of those requests, based on the level of assistance that was economically justified.
This resulted in members selling 7.72 million pounds of cheese, and 665,796 pounds of 82% milkfat content butter to countries in Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa.
For the first six month of 2013, CWT has assisted 10 member cooperatives in selling 66.9 million pounds of Cheddar, Gouda, and Monterey Jack cheese, as well as 52.4 million pounds of 82% butter, 44,092 pounds of anhydrous milk fat, and 218,258 pounds of whole milk powder. All of the product will be delivered in 2013.
Year-to-date, the milk equivalent on a milkfat basis of CWT-assisted exports was 1.76 billion pounds.
In other CWT news, the CWT Committee voted on June 11th to increase the dairy producer contribution to CWT from 2¢ to 4¢ per hundredweight, effective July 1, 2013. New membership agreements have been sent to CWT’s current members and are also available on the CWT website – www.cwt.coop – under the Membership tab.
Updated FARM Program Animal Care Manual Available to Dairy ProducersJuly 10, 2013
NMPF has released a newly-revised animal care reference manual, containing the guidelines that comprise the core of the National Dairy FARM (Farmers Assuring Responsible Management) Program. The new manual can be found online at www.nationaldairyfarm.com.
The FARM Program was created four years ago to establish a national, voluntary dairy animal care program to bring consistency and uniformity to the practices used on America’s dairy farms. The original reference manual was used to guide animal care practices on farms that have enrolled in the program since 2009; this new manual will now be provided to those both currently enrolled, and those who will become part of the program going forward.
“This new manual reflects the continuous improvement process that is a hallmark of the FARM program,” said Jim Mulhern, Chief Operating Officer of NMPF. “It contains important revisions from the first manual, and it reflects both evolving management practices on the farm, as well as expectations for animal care from the entire dairy value chain.”
A variety of industry stakeholders provided input into the revision process, Mulhern said, and the end result includes findings from the third-party verification process that began in 2011. Among the improvements in the new manual is the overall checklist used to evaluate farms has been streamlined from 77 questions to 48, “simplifying the process for farmers, and more effectively capturing the pertinent information that animal care experts believe is relevant to proper dairy animal care,” Mulhern said.
To order hard copies of the FARM Animal Care Reference Manual or the FARM Quick Reference User Guide, fill out the order form that can be found on the FARM website. The new guidelines will be implemented in the on-farm evaluation process later this summer.
The National Dairy FARM program currently has participant farms producing 70% of the nation’s milk supply, through 52 cooperatives and proprietary processors. More than 8,000 on-farm evaluations have been completed.
New USDA Regulations on School Snack Foods Good News for Dairy SectorJuly 10, 2013
New U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) rules affecting foods sold in schools will ensure that nutrient–rich dairy products will continue to be offered to the nation’s students in a variety of forms and settings.
Last month, the USDA released its “Smart Snacks in Schools” nutrition standards, affecting the calorie, fat, sodium and sugar content of foods that are offered apart from the school lunch line. These “competitive” foods may be offered in vending machines or other a la carte settings. The snack regulations are similar to overall nutritional rules applied last year to school lunches and breakfasts by the adoption of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.
“The nutrients in dairy foods are an important answer to the question of how we can improve the diets and health of young people. The rules released today will ensure that milk, cheese and yogurt are offered beyond the school lunch line in places where they can contribute to healthy eating,” said Jim Mulhern, Chief Operating Officer of NMPF.
Under the new regulations, competitive foods must meet all the rule’s nutrient standards and either have as the first ingredient one of the major food groups, including dairy; or, until June 30, 2016, contain 10 percent of the Daily Value of a nutrient of public health concern (e.g. calcium, potassium, vitamin D or dietary fiber). Dairy foods are a key source of three of these nutrients of concern: calcium, potassium and vitamin D.
The regulation’s nutrient standards affect the following products:
- Low-fat and fat-free unflavored milk, and fat-free flavored milk, can be offered at all grade levels, with 8 ounce portions for elementary schools, and 12 ounces in middle and high school grades;
- Reduced-fat cheeses (including part-skim mozzarella) are exempt from fat standards, but must meet sodium standards of 230mg through June 30, 2016 and then 200 mg after July 1, 2016;
- Yogurt is subject to a sugar limit (35% by weight) that should facilitate dairy consumption;
- Entrees, such as pizza, that are offered in the National School Lunch Program are exempt from the standards when offered in the same or smaller portion size and available on the day the entrée is served and the following day;
- Caloric soft drinks are not allowed, and sports drinks cannot exceed 40 calories (and are only available in high school).
NMPF Continues Efforts to Achieve Balanced Trade Deal with Trans-Pacific Partnership AgreementJuly 10, 2013
As negotiations continue on a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement linking the U.S. with a number of major countries, NMPF is in the process of building support in the House of Representatives for a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR).
The letter stresses the importance of a positive dairy outcome in the TPP talks and is similar to a letter already sent from the Senate to the two federal agencies working on the negotiations. The key requests include:
- Fully opening the Canadian and Japanese dairy markets to U.S. products, given the considerable potential in both countries for significantly higher U.S. dairy exports;
- Meaningful reform in New Zealand to address the harm that its policy of encouraging near-monopolistic market concentration has had on our exporters;
- Enforceable TPP sanitary and phytosanitary provisions that build upon existing international standards in order to uphold strong, science-based U.S. food, animal and plant standards, while reducing the unjustified barriers facing U.S. agricultural exports.
The lead authors of the letter are the eight co-chairs of the House Dairy Farmer Caucus. The letter will be sent later this month to USDA and USTR.
At the same time, the Consortium for Common Food Names (CCFN) is currently working with Central American companies and governments to register opposition to several European Geographic Indications applications for cheese. The U.S. ships a wide variety of cheese to these countries, and NMPF and the CCFN want to ensure that American exporters can continue to do so, in the face of efforts by the European Union to restrict the sales of common cheeses to only those produced in Europe.
NMPF Congratulates 2013 Scholarship WinnersJuly 10, 2013
At its June meeting, the NMPF Scholarship Committee selected three graduate students to receive scholarships as part of the 2013 NMPF National Dairy Leadership Scholarship Program. These students are currently conducting research in areas that will benefit dairy cooperatives and producers.
The 2013 Hintz Memorial Scholarship, given to the top scholarship candidate, was awarded to Kristen Glosson, a M.S. candidate in Animal Science & Nutrition at North Carolina State University. Her research project examines supplementing a pasteurized milk balancer product to two feeding levels of pasteurized whole milk on the health and growth of dairy calves.
A scholarship was also awarded to Clayton Stoffel, M.S. candidate in Dairy Cattle Nutrition at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, for his research on the effects of different fatty acid profiles on milk fat depression in dairy cattle fed diets below 4% fat. Yun Yu, M.S. candidate in Food Science at the Pennsylvania State University, was awarded a scholarship for her research on a novel clean-in-place approach of electrolyzed water for dairy processing equipment.
The scholarship committee was impressed with the quality of applications and thanked all of the students who applied for the 2013 program. All eligible students are encouraged to apply again next year.
Visit the NMPF website to learn more about the scholarship program.