NMPF Warns FDA: Don’t Repeat Plant-Based Mistakes with Lab-Produced Fake ‘Milk’

July 06, 2023

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must end dairy product mislabeling by manufacturers of synthetic, cell-based “dairy” ingredients that are in violation of federal dairy Standards of Identity to prevent a repeat of the plant-based labeling fiasco that’s created confusion among consumers and regulatory headaches at the agency, the National Milk Producers Federation said in a letter to the agency.

“Bored Cow’s product takes water and adds what we believe to be one unidentified, lab-engineered ‘whey protein’ along with a highly processed concoction of food additives, preservatives, oil, sugar and several added vitamins, and claims to have created ‘animal-free dairy milk.’ It is baseless, preposterous and absurd to call the resulting product ‘milk,’” NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern said in the letter sent to FDA on June 26. “In the interest of public health, the misleading labeling charade must end before it gets out of hand. FDA must act, and must do so now.”

NMPF, which has repeatedly called on FDA to enforce its identity standards for milk as plant-based fakes have proliferated, has been warning the agency that lab-based milk imposters would be next on the horizon without agency action. Even as the agency is wrestling with draft guidance that finally acknowledges consumers’ core concern over plant-based beverages – their false positioning as dairy equivalents in the face of glaring nutritional inferiority – lab-based imitators are following the plant-based playbook and plastering “milk” and other standardized dairy terms on products that in composition bear little resemblance to true dairy.

“As we have seen in the decades-long folly of plant-based beverage labeling, an ounce of prevention is worth oceans of cure,” Mulhern wrote. “We ask the agency to exercise its well-established authority to prevent this company and others that seek to follow from leading consumers down what will become a superhighway of misinformation, absent your willingness to enforce the law.”

Consumers concerned with labeling integrity may visit NMPF’s Call to Action on plant-based labeling here. For an in-depth discussion on lab-based “dairy” and its pitfalls, listen to this podcast here. A copy of NMPF’s full letter regarding Bored Cow, a brand offered by New York City-based Tomorrow Farms, is here.

DMC Margin Drops More than $1 in May to Record Low

July 06, 2023

The May Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) margin dropped by $1.01/cwt from April to $4.83/cwt, the lowest it’s ever been and the first time below $5/cwt during the life of the current program or that of its predecessor, the Margin Protection Program (MPP), triggering payment at both the Tier I and Tier II levels.

The May all-milk price dropped by $1.40/cwt from a month earlier to $19.30/cwt, while the DMC feed cost eased lower by $0.39/cwt in that time, on lower corn and soybean meal prices. The May payment for the maximum Tier 1 coverage at the $9.50/cwt level will be $4.67/cwt. The May payment for the low-cost Tier 2 coverage at the $5.00/cwt level will be $0.17/cwt.

Available forecasts anticipate the margin dipping down closer to $4/cwt during early summer, with a bottom in July, and not rebounding above $9.50/cwt until early in 2024.

NMPF Builds Support for Whole Milk in Schools

July 06, 2023

NMPF built support for the Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act in both chambers of Congress in June, with lawmakers giving increased attention to the need to increase milk options in schools.

The measure would allow schools to serve 2% and whole milk in school breakfast and lunch programs, which aren’t currently allowed. Although versions of the bill have been introduced in previous congressional sessions, the legislation has more support and is advancing further in Congress this session.

The House bipartisan measure, H.R. 1146, was approved by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce in early June, marking the first time the measure has made it through the committee approval process. NMPF worked with bill sponsors House Agriculture Committee Chair Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-PA, and Rep. Kim Schrier, D-WA, a pediatrician, to build bipartisan support for the bill within the House and the committee itself.

NMPF wrote and organized a letter of support for the bill signed by 58 dairy organizations, sending to the committee a strong message of support for the measure. With over 125 cosponsors, the bill providing this “practical solution” has bipartisan support from the committee and the House, with potential House action as soon as this month.

NMPF is also building support for the Senate version of the bill, sponsored by Sens. Marshall, R-KS, and Peter Welch, D-VT and introduced in mid-June. That legislation also has solid bipartisan support but has not yet had a committee vote.

Dietary Guidelines Protocols Need Newer Dairy Science, NMPF Tells Committee

July 06, 2023

NMPF called for newer science on dairy fats, and for no inferences to be made about the health benefits of plant-based milk alternatives based on dairy science, in comments submitted June 30 on draft protocols developed by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory committee.

These protocols will, when final, inform the conduct of systematic reviews and food pattern modeling that will form the science base of the 2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA).

Key points of NMPF’s comments include:

  • Allowing for the inclusion of studies shorter than 12 weeks in duration;
  • Advocating for newer body of science on dairy fat in the committee’s review;
  • Pushing for dairy milk and plant-based milk alternatives not to be grouped together for the same evidence review, strongly cautioning against any inferences made regarding the health impacts associated with milk consumption that would be applied to plant-based milk alternatives; and
  • Spotlighting dairy’s role in health equity, including lactose-free and low-lactose products being a nutrient-dense option.

Once the protocols are set, the committee will examine available information to answer the questions and develop recommendations to be released in its scientific report. USDA and HHS will then use the recommendations to update the current DGAs. The next public meeting is scheduled for Sept. 13.

NMPF-Led Feed Additive Legislation Advances in Senate

July 06, 2023

NMPF efforts to spur approval of animal feed ingredients that can reduce enteric methane emissions in dairy cows took an important step forward June 15 when the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee approved the bipartisan Innovative FEED Act (S. 1842) by a 19-2 vote.

The legislation sponsored by Sens. Roger Marshall, R-KS, Tammy Baldwin, D-WI, Jerry Moran, R-KS, and Michael Bennet, D-CO, would give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to review animal feed additives, which are not drugs, using the Food Additive Petition (FAP) pathway as opposed to the drug pathway. That would make FDA reviews more efficient and help U.S. dairy farmers act quickly and proactively to reduce enteric methane emissions and maintain global competitiveness without compromising animal, human, or environmental safety.

Feed ingredients like Elanco’s Bovaer, or 3-NOP, can reduce enteric methane emissions by as much as 30 percent and, once approved for use, are poised to play a key role in dairy industry sustainability efforts.

The Innovative FEED Act was adopted as an amendment to the larger Animal Drug and Animal Generic Drug User Fee Amendments of 2023 (S. 1844), which subsequently passed the committee unanimously. NMPF worked closely with Sens. Marshall and Baldwin to develop and advance the language and looks forward to working with the bill sponsors and other stakeholders to move this measure across the finish line in final negotiations with the House.

FARM Excellence Awards Nominations Deadline Approaches

July 06, 2023

The National Dairy Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) Program Excellence Awards are back for their third year. The awards recognize farms and evaluators who demonstrate excellence in their engagement with the FARM Program in four categories: Animal Care & Antibiotic Stewardship, Environmental Stewardship, Workforce Development and FARM Evaluator.

Farms or FARM evaluators can self-nominate or be nominated by fellow dairy farmers, members of their communities, extension, cooperative or processor staff, or veterinarians. Nominations are open until 11:59 p.m. PDT on Aug. 1 and should be submitted using the online form on the FARM website.

Nominated farms must have a current FARM Program evaluation in the respective category area and be in good standing with the program. Nominated evaluators must be FARM Program certified in any of the program areas as of last June 1. The awards are judged by a committee of FARM Farmer Advisory Council members and other subject matter experts.

Winners in each category will receive a hotel room and travel for two individuals to attend the Dairy Joint Annual Meeting Nov. 13-15 in Orlando, Florida, where the winners will be celebrated during a luncheon. Visit the FARM Excellence Awards page for more details.

NMPF Advances UK and Asian Tariff-Reduction Projects

July 06, 2023

NMPF’s Tony Rice joined the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection in a trip to the United Kingdom June 11-16 to help promote U.S.-UK dairy trade.

Rice met with U.S. and UK government officials to discuss the United Kingdom’s proposed new dairy health certificate approach and to push for the United Kingdom to unilaterally reduce its World Trade Organization Most Favored Nation (MFN) tariffs for a range of dairy imports.

The trip followed a June 7 letter signed by NMPF and other leading agricultural organizations calling on Congress to support the Undertaking Negotiations on Investment and Trade for Economic Dynamism (UNITED) Act – a bipartisan bill in both chambers that would grant the administration trade promotion authority to specifically negotiate a comprehensive trade agreement with the United Kingdom.

NMPF’s Jaime Castaneda was in Thailand for meetings June 19-23 to advance two MFN dairy tariff reduction projects in Thailand and in neighboring Indonesia. Castaneda also met with Thai officials to discuss the government’s handling of EU demands to restrict common cheese names like “parmesan.”

Castaneda also met with Thai dairy importers to discuss how limited sourcing choice is affecting their businesses and how they could support MFN tariff-reduction efforts to give them more options. Additional meetings with Thailand’s Department of Intellectual Property and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Bangkok focused on common cheese name restrictions. The Thai government plans to resume free trade agreement negotiations with the European Union in September.

NMPF Strengthens Relationship with Japanese Dairy Organization

July 06, 2023

NMPF’s Jaime Castaneda joined a delegation of U.S. dairy farmers and U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) staff who traveled to Japan to sign a “Letter of Friendship” with JA-Zenchu, Japan’s Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives.

The letter, similar to ones NMPF has signed with groups in Latin America, pledges to address the common difficulties that dairy farmers in both countries are facing. Specifically, the two groups promised to collaborate on “dairy-friendly policies at international forums, share information and knowledge on relevant issues and continue to strengthen ties between the two countries for the good of the dairy farmers” represented.

While in Japan, Castaneda and the delegation met with Japanese dairy farmers and agricultural leaders to learn more about the unique issues they are facing and toured Megmilk Snow Brand’s cheese plant.

June CWT-Assisted Dairy Export Sales Total 12.6 Million Pounds

July 06, 2023

CWT member cooperatives secured 51 contracts in March, adding 4.7 million pounds of American-type cheeses, 220,000 pounds of butter, 6.6 million pounds of whole milk powder, 22,000 pounds of anhydrous milkfat and 1.1 million pounds of cream cheese to CWT-assisted sales in 2023. In milk equivalent, this is equal to 105.7 million pounds of milk on a milkfat basis. These products will go to customers in Asia, Oceania, South America, Central America, the Caribbean and Middle East-North Africa, and will be shipped from June through December 2023.

CWT-assisted 2023 dairy product sales contracts year-to-date total 61.7 million pounds of American-type cheese, 815,000 pounds of butter, 24,000 pounds of anhydrous milkfat, 5.2 million pounds of cream cheese and 31.2 million pounds of whole milk powder. This brings the total milk equivalent for the year to 513.4 million pounds 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.