NMPF Galvanizes Dairy Response to HPAI as Animal Health Concern Evolves

May 06, 2024

NMPF helped lead the dairy community in responding to rapidly evolving circumstances around the spread of the H5N1 virus among dairy cows while advocating for farmers before the federal government and reassuring consumers about the safety of milk throughout April.

With the National Dairy FARM Program available as a resource for best practices and communications efforts that informed everyone from farmers in NMPF member cooperatives to consumers of national and global media, NMPF expertise was at a premium as the dairy industry, the federal government and dairy buyers navigated a landscape that changed significantly over several weeks, culminating in a Federal Order that took effect April 29 covering testing and interstate movement.

Many efforts revolved around clearly understanding the problems posed by the virus and understanding those problems for what they are, and what they are not.

“Since this virus was first discovered in cows, H5N1 in dairy cattle has been primarily an animal health concern,” said NMPF President and CEO Gregg Doud in a statement released April 24, the day USDA announced testing requirements for lactating cows traveling interstate.

“USDA, FDA and scientific research has established what accumulated science indicated all along: The consumer milk supply is safe. Pasteurization renders the H5N1 virus, like other viruses, inactive, an important reminder to consumers of its value as a basic safeguard for human health. We appreciate that these agencies are sharing this message, which will help alleviate any concerns consumers may have.

“That said, the presence of this virus in dairy herds, as well as dairy farmers’ own commitment to animal and human health, makes USDA’s actions on testing and interstate travel appropriate. Dairy farmers stand ready to take a proactive approach to ensuring that we better understand the spread of the virus, do what we can to limit that spread, and ensure the health of our animals and workers.”

As NMPF Chief Science Officer Jamie Jonker served as a go-to resource for public information in the evolving virus situation, discussing dairy-farmer actions and concerns for National Public Radio, the Washington Post, Science Magazine and other outlets, NMPF members were kept informed in real time via fast-moving member alerts.

NMPF also organized three webinars focused on different aspects of High Pathogen Avian Influenza in dairy cattle relevant to members; convened its Co-op Communicators Committee to share media strategy and make NMPF co-op resources available; and served as a shield for members as they faced often-unanswerable questions in an at-times challenging media spotlight.

In addition, NMPF’s HPAI resources page was the most-viewed page on NMPF’s website in April, drawing more page views than the homepage itself – the first time a page other than nmpf.org was most-viewed for the month since the launch of NMPF’s Covid resources page in 2020.

April ended with the new rules on interstate cow travel and testing, while FDA tests showing the effectiveness of pasteurization in killing the H5N1 virus in milk helped allay consumer concerns. Still, HPAI as a dairy concern shows little sign of abating.

12 Years to a Win: USDA Makes Low-Fat, Skim Flavored Milk a Rule in Schools

May 06, 2024

A dozen years of steady NMPF effort paid off for dairy farmers and the broader industry on April 24, when USDA solidified the ability of schools to offer 1% and fat-free flavored milk in school meals for children of all ages in its final school nutrition standards rule.

The policy win will encourage consumption of the essential nutrients provided by dairy, helping children who consume nutritious dairy products.

“This final rule helps ensure kids will be able to choose a nutritious milk they tend to prefer,” said Gregg Doud, CEO and President of NMPF. “Many children prefer low-fat flavored milk over fat-free, and flavored milk offers the same nutrients as regular milk with a minor amount of added sugar.”

NMPF praised its member cooperatives for their tireless work to decrease the level of added sugar in flavored school milk, which now generally falls below the added sugar maximum established in this final rule. “Not only does flavored milk offer the same nutrients as regular milk, its presence correlates with decreased waste in school cafeterias. I am proud of our industry’s successful commitment to providing a healthy product that kids want,” Doud said.

The final rule will include sodium limits on school meals that will not be more restrictive than the Target 2 limits from the 2012 school meals rule, a compromise NMPF supports. Added sugar maximums will also be placed on flavored yogurt (12 grams per 6 ounces) and flavored milk (10 grams per 8 ounces) beginning with the 2025-26 school year, followed by a weekly menu-wide limit of an average of less than 10 percent of calories per meal from added sugars beginning with the 2027-28 school year.

NMPF also commended the work of Reps. Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson, R-PA, and Joe Courtney, D-CT, who led and secured broad bipartisan backing for legislative efforts over several years that were instrumental to today’s outcome of restoring low-fat flavored milk as a long-term option for schools.

“We are grateful to Representatives Thompson and Courtney for spearheading the successful drive to restore low-fat flavored milk over these last 12 years,” Doud said. “We are thrilled that, working with these members, USDA has put this issue to rest.”

Doud also noted that despite noteworthy progress, the work to ensure adequate milk access in schools isn’t finished yet. NMPF supports the Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act, which would restore whole and 2 percent varieties to school lunch menus. Led by Reps. Thompson and Kim Schrier, D-WA, the legislation overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives in December and awaits Senate approval.

Small Changes in Costs, Prices Move March DMC Margin Above $9.50 Trigger

May 06, 2024

The DMC margin rose by $0.21/cwt from February to March to $9.65/cwt, putting it just above the maximum $9.50/cwt maximum Tier 1 coverage level. The March All-Milk price rose by $0.10/cwt to $20.70/cwt, and the March DMC feed cost calculation dropped by $0.11/cwt, almost entirely on a $7.00/ton lower premium alfalfa hay price.

The DMC Decision Tool on the USDA/FSA website forecasts that the DMC margin will remain above $9.50/cwt for the rest of 2024. The enrollment period for the 2024 Dairy Margin Program ended on Tuesday. For those who are signed up for 2024 coverage, payments will be made for January’s and February’s triggered payments, depending on coverage level.

CWT Renewal Effort Focusing on Future Needs

May 06, 2024

Efforts to rethink and renew the Cooperatives Working Together program in the past month have focused on obtaining information about the breadth of products that are currently manufactured by CWT’s members. More than a dozen organizations provided information about their product mix, data that will be kept private but will help guide future decisions made on CWT’s product mix.

The task force of farmers and cooperative leaders guiding the program’s renewal will examine CWT’s key strategic pillars, including encouraging higher market prices and enhancing U.S. dairy export long-term growth.

The task force, formed earlier this year to consider how the CWT program should evolve in the future, will also assess specific adjustments to the program in the areas of product mix modification, bid process adjustments, and market development support. The task force will continue to meet virtually to refine these concepts and propose detailed proposals to the NMPF Board.

CWT April Committed Product Volume

CWT member cooperatives secured over 60 contracts in April, adding 9.6 million pounds of product to CWT-assisted sales in 2024. In milk equivalent, this is equal to 88.6 million pounds of milk on a milkfat basis. These products will go to customers in Asia, Central America, the Caribbean, Middle East-North Africa, Oceania and South America and will be shipped from April through September 2024.

NMPF ‘Disturbed’ at USDA Final WIC Rule That Decreases Dairy Access

May 06, 2024

USDA released on April 9 its final rule updating the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), maintaining cuts to dairy in WIC food packages first announced in its preliminary rule.

“NMPF is disturbed by the decision to reduce access to the essential nutrients dairy adds to the diet,” said Gregg Doud, NMPF president and CEO in a statement after the announcement.

“Nutrition science demonstrates that dairy products like milk, yogurt and cheese are especially important for women, infants, and children; meanwhile, nearly 90% of Americans don’t meet the number of dairy servings recommended by the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” Doud said. “This rule works against the WIC Program’s goal of ensuring all Americans have consistent and equitable access to healthy, safe, and affordable foods.”

WIC is a vital program ensuring that pregnant women, new mothers, infants, and children have access to key nutrients that may be lacking in their diets. Decreasing the amount of dairy offered decreases the nutrients they are accessing through it.

NMPF supported provisions in the final rule that require states to offer lactose-free milk and expand the selection of product package sizes and opportunities to substitute yogurt and cheese for the milk allotment. However, the rule also authorizes plant-based milk alternatives that meet the nutrient specifications for WIC-eligible soy beverages and have less than 10 grams of added sugars per 8 ounces to be redeemed in the WIC program. This rule also allows plant-based “yogurt” and “cheese” to be redeemed in place of dairy.

This move raises many questions for NMPF, specifically why plant-based milk alternatives would have an added sugar allotment when this rule removes flavored milk as an option.

Following the rule’s release, Sen. Jerry Moran, R-KS, voiced concern with the department’s decision to reduce the WIC maximum monthly milk allowance at a hearing with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Apr. 16. NMPF is grateful for Moran’s advocacy for providing WIC program participants access they need to dairy’s unique nutrition profile.

Members of Congress Press FDA to Enforce Dairy Terms for Better Public Health

May 06, 2024

NMPF helped members of Congress elevate the urgency for the Food and Drug Administration to finally enforce dairy product standards of identity through pointed questions asked when the agency appeared before Congress last month to present its fiscal year 2025 budget request.

Rep. Nick Langworthy, R-NY, raised the issue with FDA Commissioner Robert Califf when he appeared April 11 before the House Oversight and Accountability Committee.

Langworthy emphasized the significant research that has linked numerous health issues in children to the consumption of plant-based dairy imitators in place of real milk. He also pointed to the confusion that exists in the marketplace regarding the nutritional content of these imitation products, which NMPF and numerous public health organizations have conveyed to FDA.

Califf agreed with Langworthy on the importance of consumer understanding of the nutritional differences between dairy products and plant-based imitators. However, he suggested that court rulings have hamstrung the agency’s ability to require the proper use of terms on a product label.

That, however, wasn’t the end of the conversation.

Rep. John Moolenaar, R-MI, picked up where Langworthy left off when Califf appeared April 18 before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture. Moolenaar followed up on Califf’s remarks the week prior, pointing out that court rulings do not prevent FDA from requiring plant-based dairy imitators to use disclaimers such as ‘substitute’ or ‘alternative,’ as NMPF had previously recommended in its 2019 Citizen Petition. Califf once again agreed with the need to ensure consumers are aware of the nutritional differences between products. However, in response to a follow up question from Moolenaar, he did not commit to using disclaimers in the interest of public health.

NMPF is grateful for the continued support from members of Congress in both parties who for years have urged FDA to simply do its job and enforce the law. The agency’s continued inaction underscores the importance of congressional passage of the bipartisan, bicameral DAIRY PRIDE Act that would solve this problem.

NMPF Advocates for Proactive Trade Agenda at USTR Hearing

May 06, 2024

NMPF’s Tony Rice testified at a May 3 Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) hearing on promoting U.S. supply chain resiliency to outline the steps the department should take to support American dairy exporters.

In his remarks, Rice laid out the importance of a proactive trade agenda in fostering resilient supply chains for the U.S. dairy industry:

“Comprehensive trade agreements play a crucial role in ensuring supply chain resiliency, providing a framework for reducing trade barriers and enhancing market access to key partners. These agreements ensure that U.S. dairy products can compete on a level playing field in highly competitive international markets.”

Complementing comments submitted to USTR on April 19, Rice emphasized the need for new trade agreements, which encourage investments in domestic manufacturers rather than in offshore facilities, and drive economic growth that supports dairy farmers, rural workers, and millions of workers along the dairy supply chain.

Rice’s testimony also highlighted specific nontariff barriers that USTR should prioritize addressing to improve supply chain reliability – such as unscientific sanitary and phytosanitary measures and burdensome facility listing requirements – and detailed how a more diversified set of export markets would support the development of more resilient dairy supply chains.

NMPF Secures Dairy Market Access Priorities in House Trade Program Renewal Bill

May 06, 2024

The House of Representatives introduced a bill on April 15 that would renew the Generalized Systems of Preferences (GSP) trade program with new agriculture-specific eligibility criteria. NMPF worked with Congressional offices to secure language giving U.S. dairy producers a fairer opportunity to sell their products in key markets.

Inactive since its expiration at the end of 2020, the GSP trade program eliminates U.S. duties for thousands of products imported to the U.S. from developing countries. U.S. dairy tariff rate quotas are not affected by the GSP program. To be GSP-eligible, countries must adhere to certain human rights and economic conditions. The House’s bill introduces new provisions that would provide a much-needed boost for the U.S. dairy industry, including requirements that beneficiary countries:

  • Provide open and equitable market access to U.S. agriculture exports and
  • Protect the generic use of common food and beverage terms.

Paired with the introduced Safeguarding American Value-Added Exports Act, this bill is positioned to strengthen the United States’ hand in combatting nontariff trade barriers in various export markets, including countering the European Union’s campaign to monopolize common name foods.

NMPF Talks Trade and Collaboration with EU

May 06, 2024

NMPF staff met with European Union government officials and agriculture groups on April 8 as part of the U.S.-EU Collaboration Platform on Agriculture. The forum was launched by Secretary Tom Vilsack and EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski in 2021 to strengthen the relationship between the two industries and discussing best practices to collaboratively address shared challenges.

The meeting kicked off with a series of panel discussions. NMPF executive vice president for trade policy and global affairs Shawna Morris spoke on a panel entitled “The Future of the Livestock Sector: Pressures and Opportunities.” Morris underscored the U.S. dairy sector’s long-standing leadership on animal care through NMPF’s FARM program and ongoing work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, led by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy.

Given the European Union’s tendency to impose burdensome regulations on its trading partners, Morris emphasized the importance of incentive-based policies, as opposed to counter-productive, prescriptive rules, particularly around climate and consumer preferences.

Following the conference, Morris participated in a subsequent discussion with EU Agriculture Ministry officials at an event organized by the U.S. Food and Agriculture Dialogue for Trade at the European Union’s embassy.

NMPF Welcomes Cordova to Staff, Ganley to Joint Economics Team

May 06, 2024

NMPF gained a new employee in April, and its Joint Economics Team with the U.S. Dairy Export Council also gained a new team member from the USDEC side, adding more expertise to the team’s coordinated efforts for dairy.

Jessi-Ryah Cordova joined NMPF as its FARM Program Communications Coordinator on April 22. The 2023 graduate of California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo earned a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Business. During her time at Cal Poly she worked at its Dairy Unit as a Business Assistant, milking cows and managing communication and administrative efforts.

Most recently, Cordova worked as a sales representative for Farmers Business Network connecting with farmers across the U.S. & Canada.

Ganley, Senior Director of Global Trade Analysis for the U.S. Dairy Export Council, is the newest member of the joint NMPF/USDEC economics team. Her role includes analyzing and forecasting global dairy markets to identify opportunities for U.S. dairy exporters and ways to grow demand for dairy products around the world.

Ganley has spent her entire career in dairy, food, and agriculture. Before joining USDEC earlier this year, she held roles with Leprino Foods, PepsiCo Foods, and most recently her consultancy Quarterra. She is based in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

NMPF Outreach Spans Denver to New Delhi in April

May 06, 2024

NMPF staff represented U.S. dairy farmers and their cooperatives at events ranging in location from Denver to New Delhi in April, showing leadership across industry while reaching out to dairy producers in the U.S. and worldwide.

Highlights from among more than six dozen public presentations from NMPF staff before members and dairy stakeholders include Regulatory Affairs Director Miquela Hanselman discussing nutrition, labeling, HPAI, and farm bill updates at the Western Milk Seminar in Denver, CO, on April 23.

In the international arena, trade and economics team leaders Shawna Morris, Executive Vice President for Trade Policy and Global Affairs, and Will Loux, Senior Vice President for Global Economic Affairs, represented U.S. dairy positions in Toronto, representing NMPF and the U.S. Dairy Export Council during April 24-26 meetings of the International Dairy Federation’s (IDF’s) Standing Committee on Dairy Policies and Economics.

Loux became vice-chair of the committee in October, while Morris attended as the lead U.S. representative for IDF.

And Jaime Castaneda, Executive Vice President for Policy Development & Strategy with NMPF and USDEC, was part of a USDA Foreign Ag Service India trade mission, which included policy and business meetings with officials and potential importers from India, Nepal and Sri Lanka, April 22-25. Castaneda also represented U.S. dairy in meetings in Brazil and Italy in April and early May.