NMPF Sustainability Priorities Gain Traction with Congress, USDA

March 03, 2022

NMPF’s producer-led climate and sustainability leadership is gaining attention from key members of Congress as well as the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

NMPF Board of Directors member and California dairy producer Melvin Medeiros testified before a House Agriculture subcommittee on Feb. 3, touting dairy sustainability gains farmers have already made and outlining a path forward for further progress. Medeiros at the virtual hearing cited research showing that producing a gallon of milk in 2017 required 30% less water, 21% less land, had a 19% smaller carbon footprint, and produced 20% less manure than in 2007. He also cited dairy’s Net Zero Initiative as an example of proactive, producer-led agricultural leadership in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“U.S. dairy farmers are environmental stewards. We tend with great care to our land and water to improve the resources on our farms and ensure future generations can carry on our important work of feeding the nation and the world,” said Medeiros, a member of the Dairy Farmers of America cooperative who serves on NMPF’s Executive Committee, in a hearing of the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture.

“We value a proactive approach to sustainability, which can take many different forms, and we have adapted as agricultural practices and technologies have evolved and improved over time,” said Medeiros, who owns and operates a 1,600-cow dairy in Laton, CA.

Medeiros, also featured in the latest NMPF Farmer Focus, asked lawmakers to support policy improvements that would assist producers in sustainability efforts, with examples including:

  • Enhanced funding for conservation programs with greater emphasis on areas like feed and manure management
  • An investment tax credit to cover the upfront capital costs of digesters to help reduce methane emissions, and
  • Expedited approval of innovative animal feed additives that can significantly diminish enteric emissions.

“NMPF and the dairy producers it represents are grateful to the House Agriculture Committee for inviting Melvin to highlight dairy’s commitment to a more sustainable future,” said Jim Mulhern, President and CEO of NMPF. “But as he noted, improving sustainability will also require improving public policy to aid farmers in their critical stewardship mission. We stand ready to partner with Congress to get the job done.” NMPF worked closely with Medeiros and DFA to help strongly spotlight the dairy industry’s priorities during the hearing.

The week after the hearing, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Feb. 7 announced USDA’s Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities Initiative incorporating several key NMPF recommendations. The new initiative, using $1 billion from the Commodity Credit Corporation, will provide grants to partners through a competitive process to implement pilot projects that incentivize farmers to adopt production practices that ensure their commodities have climate smart properties.

The partnership is emerging after months of NMPF efforts, including joint comments to USDA with Newtrient LLC as the department formulated the initiative. NMPF is pleased the program reflects key dairy priorities, emphasizing manure management as well as feed management to reduce enteric emissions among its targeted climate-smart ag practices. USDA has also highlighted the need to make the program work effectively for producers of all sizes, which is essential for meeting the U.S. dairy sector’s needs.

The first round of program applications will be due on April 8 to fund larger projects, defined as those seeking grant funding ranging from $5 million to $100 million. The second round of applications will be due on May 27 for smaller projects, defined as those seeking grant funding ranging from $250,000 to $4,999,999.

“We applaud Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and his team at USDA for working to fashion the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities initiative in a way that will provide significant opportunities for U.S. dairy producers of all sizes to build on their proactive sustainability work. NMPF looks forward to working with USDA to make this program a success —and a springboard for additional achievements,” Mulhern said.

Surging Milk Price Boosts DMC Margin

March 03, 2022

The January margin under the Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program rose just over $2/cwt to $11.54/cwt, fueled by the third-highest ever jump in the U.S. average all-milk price.

A spectacular $2.40 per hundredweight one-month jump in the U.S. average all-milk price in January overpowered a DMC feed-cost calculation that rose only 39 cents in the same period. The monthly milk price gain has only been surpassed in April 2004, when it rose by $2.60/cwt, and June 2020, when it leaped by $4.50 /cwt as part of a price sharp recovery from the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. That jump returned the price to barely higher than it had been just three months earlier; by contrast, the recent spike capped a series of gains that have pushed the price up by $6.50/cwt over five months.

January’s all-milk price has only been surpassed in five months, all in 2014. Late February dairy and grain futures indicate that feed costs will tend to track milk prices over the next several months to keep the margin from rising much above its January level.

As of February 28, the 2021 DMC program has seen record payments of nearly $1.2 billion to 18,952 enrolled operations, an average of $62,773 per enrolled operation. NMPF urges all dairy farmers who haven’t yet joined DMC to do so. The deadline to sign up for the 2022 DMC program has been extended to March 25. NMPF has a page of resources here for those who may have questions about the program.

1% Flavored Win Means More Work Ahead

March 03, 2022

NMPF celebrated a key win on school milk in February, an important step toward keeping the milk variety in meal programs more permanently.

USDA’s final rule addressing sodium, whole grain, and milk standards for school meal programs, released Feb. 7, protects the option of low-fat flavored milk for the National School Lunch program, the School Breakfast Program, the Special Milk Program, and the Child and Adult Care Food Program through the end of the 2023-24 school year.

Maintaining the low-fat flavored milk option for schools has been a lengthy battle. Since USDA removed the popular option from schools with a 2012 rule, NMPF has led advocacy efforts to reinstate low-fat flavored milk more permanently as an option for schools, including supporting Representatives Joe Courtney (D-CT) and Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA) leadership to advance their bipartisan School Milk Nutrition Act (H.R. 4635).

“Ensuring kids have access to the nutrients they need to grow and thrive is a top priority for dairy,” said NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern at the time of the announcement.  “We thank USDA for the rule’s provision that maintains schools’ ability to serve low-fat, 1% flavored milk. One percent flavored milk is not only fully consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, it is also a nutrient-dense, low-fat healthy option kids will choose to drink.”

Mulhern also thanked Reps. Courtney and Thompson for their long-time leadership on this issue, noting NMPF looks “forward to continuing to work with them, USDA, and others to help ensure everyone has access to nutritious food.”

NMPF plans to do just that, as the Feb. 7 rule provides transitional standards only through the 2023-24 school year. While the rule does offer schools more certainty than they had prior to the rule, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Services intends to implement additional regulations governing school meals beyond the 2023-24 school year to conform meal patterns more closely to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. NMPF will continue to work both with USDA on the longer-term rule and with Congress to codify the allowance of 1% flavored milk in schools, using the new rule to add momentum to NMPF’s efforts to secure the low-fat flavored option permanently.

NMPF Asks EPA to Defer WOTUS Rewrite

March 03, 2022

NMPF filed comments on the proposed definition of Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act on Feb. 7, urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to suspend its rewrite of the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) until the Supreme Court has a chance to consider a critical case under the Clean Water Act and to reconsider its stance on the Navigable Waters Protection Rule. NMPF also encouraged EPA to incorporate the recommendations put forth by the EPA Farm, Ranch, and Rural Communities Committee which included ensuring EPA compliance with the Clean Water Act and Supreme Court precedent limiting federal jurisdiction over bodies of water, developing a clear definition of WOTUS that is easily interpreted by farmers and ranchers, and protecting WOTUS exemptions for common agricultural features.

Along from submitting comments – the fifth set of comments on WOTUS NMPF has offered in the past decade – NMPF signed on to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s comments with several other agriculture organizations. It also released a member alert on the issue and highlighted agriculture’s strong concern for farmers having a critical voice in determining definitions.

The proposed rule “exercises the agencies’ discretionary authority to interpret ’Waters of the United States’ to mean the waters defined by the longstanding 1986 regulations, with amendments to certain parts of those rules to reflect the agencies’ interpretation of the statutory limits on the scope of the ‘waters of the United States’ and informed by Supreme Court case law.” The agencies believe a return to the pre-2015 definition will provide a known and familiar framework for co-regulators and stakeholders. The proposed rule comes after the Navigable Waters Protection Rule was ordered and vacated in the case of Pascua Tribe v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in August 2021.

NMPF has been active in developing several WOTUS rules, meeting with EPA on numerous occasions to emphasize the need for certainty and clarity in water regulations for dairy farmers through a lasting rule that complies with the law.

Pathways to Expand Trade Under Pursuit

March 03, 2022

While movement by the administration to resume comprehensive trade negotiations remains lacking, NMPF continues pursuing multiple pathways and outlining steps to government officials that can be taken to expand market access for U.S. dairy exports.

NMPF president and CEO Jim Mulhern participated in a Feb. 10 agricultural CEO discussion with U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai focused on the sector’s trade priorities and market barriers around the world, including the growing disadvantage U.S. agricultural exporters face in key markets as trade competitors negotiate free trade agreements and the United States doesn’t.

NMPF is continuing to press for the U.S. government to pursue comprehensive trade agreements, particularly with key dairy markets such as those in Southeast Asia and the United Kingdom, given that the administration is more focused currently on pursuing non-FTA trade initiatives. As a result, NMPF’s trade policy team is urging the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) to use additional, alternative avenues to expand trade – addressing tariff and nontariff barriers – that can fill in gaps in trade opportunities until FTAs can be inked.

NMPF and the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) submitted confidential recommendations to USTR earlier on Feb. 8, addressing areas of prime opportunity across a variety of high-priority markets. NMPF urged the administration to use trade tools such as Trade and Investment Framework Agreements and the fledgling Indo-Pacific Economic Framework to address the regulatory and policy challenges identified. NMPF is also encouraging a greater focus on lowering Most Favored Nation tariffs in key markets to put U.S. dairy exporters on a more level playing field.

Work Continues to Fight EU Cheese Name Monopoly Tactics

March 03, 2022

As a part of NMPF’s continued fight to preserve U.S. dairy companies’ rights to use common food names like “parmesan” and “feta,” NMPF highlighted for the U.S. government examples of continued European Union abuse of geographical indicators (GIs) to seize market share in third-country markets. NMPF provided several examples of GI misuse in Jan. 31 comments for USTR’s Annual Special 301 Report on intellectual property issues. The comments pointed to a more detailed filing from the Consortium for Common Food Names (CCFN), the independent, international organization staffed by NMPF’s trade policy team.

The CCFN comments urged the administration to fight the EU’s name monopolization effort by securing “firm and explicit commitments assuring the future use of specific generic food and beverage terms” from U.S. trade partners. This approach has strong bipartisan support in Congress – in letters NMPF and CCFN spearheaded in 2020, over 160 Senators and Representatives called for a proactive approach to common name protections to foster a more equal playing field for American-made products in international markets.

NMPF Campaigning for Quick Senate Action on Ocean Shipping Reform Act

March 03, 2022

NMPF’s work to advance key export supply chain legislation made significant progress with the Senate introduction of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act (OSRA) on Feb. 3, companion legislation to a House-passed measure meant to take strides to alleviate the supply chain crisis that is impeding dairy exports.

The bill introduced by key dairy allies Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Sen. John Thune (R-SD) comes after months of NMPF effort. While there are some differences between the two bills, the trade policy team continues its work with the Senate to strengthen the measure further as it advances through Congress.

NMPF has launched a grassroots campaign to demonstrate the bill’s support among a broad base of constituents. NMPF members, friends and allies can ask their Senators to ensure its passage here.

As part of NMPF’s multi-prong strategy to alleviate the export supply chain congestion, the trade policy team, together with agriculture coalition allies, also met Feb. 4 with the White House National Economic Council to discuss export supply chain concerns and work to identify additional solutions, reiterating its recommendation that the administration consider suspension of “box rules” that limit ag shippers’ ability to mix and match containers and chassis equipment and discussed other potential strategies to alleviate the crisis.

NMPF staff also joined a small group of agricultural organizations in a Feb. 22 meeting with White House Port Envoy John Porcari to further discuss potential changes to the box rules, urge the administration to replicate the Port of Oakland pop-up site designated for staging agricultural exports and explore options to increase data transparency for U.S. exporters.

Member Resources Enhanced with NMPF Web Redesign

March 03, 2022

NMPF unveiled important updates to its website, nmpf.org, designed to offer more complete information to dairy farmers and their cooperatives as well as an easier-to-navigate interface that will bring them more information, faster.

Updates to the website include an improved menu navigation, expansion of key issue areas and a streamlined sign-up for users seeking to stay up to date with the latest news from NMPF under its “Stay Informed” option. Making this information more readily available for members serves NMPF’s mission and makes nmpf.org even more essential to the dairy community, said NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern.

“A better visitor experience and rich resources is a critical part of our service to our member cooperatives and everyone with an interest in dairy,” said Mulhern. “We strive to continue to be the one-stop-shop for information important to the dairy community,” said Mulhern.

NMPF Accepting Applications for 2022 Scholarship Program

March 03, 2022

NMPF is now accepting applications for its National Dairy Leadership Scholarship Program for academic year 2022-2023.

NMPF awards scholarships annually to outstanding graduate students (enrolled in Master’s or Ph.D. programs) who are actively pursuing dairy-related fields of research that are of immediate interest to NMPF member cooperatives and the US dairy industry at large.

Graduate students pursuing research of direct benefit to milk marketing cooperatives and dairy producers are encouraged to submit an application (applicants do not need to be members of NMPF to qualify). Scholarship recipients will be invited to present their research via webinar during the summer of 2022. Top applicants are eligible to be awarded the Hintz Memorial Scholarship, created in 2005 in honor of the late Cass-Clay Creamery Board Chairman Murray Hintz who was instrumental in establishing NMPF’s scholarship program.

Recommended fields of study include but are not limited to Agriculture Communications and Journalism, Animal Health, Animal and/or Human Nutrition, Bovine Genetics, Dairy Products Processing, Dairy Science, Economics, Environmental Science, Food Science, Food Safety, Herd Management, and Marketing and Price Analysis.

Applications must be received no later than April 15. For an application or more information, please visit the NMPF website or email scholarship@nmpf.org.

FARM Animal Care Program Announces Version 5 Survey Results

March 03, 2022

The FARM Program announced the results of its Animal Care Version 5 Development Survey on Feb. 9. The report summarizes stakeholder perspectives on animal care issues of importance and captures ideas and levels of support for potential changes to the industry’s animal care standards.

“We are pleased with the level of engagement and the quality of feedback that we received from dairy farmers, veterinarians and other industry representatives that will help inform the development of FARM Animal Care Version 5,” said Emily Yeiser Stepp, vice president of the FARM Program. “We remain committed to ensuring updates made to the program reflect the needs and goals of the entire dairy supply chain.”

Stakeholders identified care for sick animals, calves, and non-ambulatory cattle as dairy’s greatest priority to maintain focus on for Version 5. The survey also showed general support for making minor modifications and adding clarity to the program while avoiding large overhauls. Most survey respondents, including farmers, showed they would willingly support small changes to better address animal care vulnerabilities. Respondents also were in consensus that standards that aren’t direct measures of good animal welfare practices should be updated to prioritize an outcomes-based approach.

The results of this survey will be used to inform all levels of governance of FARM and will help guide ongoing discussions about the development of Version 5. The National Milk Producers Federation Board of Directors provide final approval on FARM standards, which will come into effect starting July 1, 2024. For more information, visit the Version 5 development page.

FARM ES Launches Pilot Program for Conservation Practice Questionnaire

March 03, 2022

FARM Environmental Stewardship (ES) launched a pilot program Jan. 21 to field-test the Conservation Practice Questionnaire (CPQ). The CPQ will serve as an optional add-on questionnaire to the existing FARM ES Version 2.0 evaluation once finalized. The questionnaire covers dairy farmers’ field and dairy-level conservation practices to capture a more holistic sustainability story.

The goals of the pilot are to test the CPQ with dairies across the country and receive feedback from producers and evaluators. All producer information and feedback will be kept anonymous and used only for the continued development of the CPQ. The pilot will be completed by mid-March 2022. FARM will then refine the questionnaire based on pilot feedback.

Ten FARM ES Participants have so far signed on to pilot the CPQ, including Agri-Mark, Associated Milk Producers Inc., California Dairies Inc., Foremost Farms, Glanbia, Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative, Michigan Milk Producers Association, Northwest Dairy Association, Sartori Cheese and United Dairymen of Arizona.

The final version of the CPQ will be reviewed for approval by the FARM ES Task Force as well as the NMPF Environmental Issues Committee before it is implemented as an optional tool for ES Participants.

If your organization is interested in this pilot program, please reach out to Nicole Ayache at nayache@nmpf.org.

February CWT-Assisted Dairy Export Sales Continue Strong Start to 2022

March 03, 2022

CWT member cooperatives secured 105 contracts in February, adding 14.9 million pounds of American-type cheeses, 12.2 million pounds of whole milk powder and 1.4 million pounds of cream cheese to CWT-assisted sales in 2022. These products will go customers in Asia, Central America, Middle East-North Africa, Oceania and South America, and will be shipped from February through August 2022.

CWT-assisted 2022 dairy product sales contracts year-to-date total 29.9 million pounds of American-type cheese, 3.1 million pounds of cream cheese and 14.1 million pounds of whole milk powder. This brings the total milk equivalent for the year to 402 million pounds on a milkfat basis. Over the last 12 months, CWT assisted sales are the equivalent of 1.483 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.