NMPF Board of Directors Approves Comprehensive Farm Bill Recommendations

NMPF’s Board of Directors approved June 7 a suite of farm bill policy priorities covering the commodities, conservation, trade, and nutrition titles, working to enhance federal support for producers and expand access to nutritious dairy products for consumers at home and abroad.

With the current farm bill set to expire Sept. 30, Congress is working to enact a new bipartisan five-year farm bill.  NMPF’s recommendations will aid in enacting an on-time farm bill that provides dairy producers the certainty they need as they manage their risks and resources while seeking market opportunities at home and abroad.

“The farm bill is crucial both to dairy farmers seeking to effectively manage their risk and to the consumers who benefit from the nutritious products dairy farmers work every to provide,” said Randy Mooney, chairman of NMPF’s board and a dairy farmer outside Rogersville, MO. “We stand ready to work with lawmakers as they craft this complex, extremely important legislation that touches everyone.”

In the Commodities title:

NMPF seeks to build on its successes in the last farm bill to strengthen the dairy safety net and provide producers with access to a range of risk management tools.  NMPF’s board voted to support continuing the Dairy Margin Coverage safety net while updating the program’s production history calculation.  The board also voted to prioritize improving the Livestock Gross Margin-Dairy and Dairy-Revenue Protection programs should new funding become available.

The board also voted to seek farm bill language to direct USDA to conduct mandatory plant cost studies every two years to provide better data to inform future make allowance reviews. This would complement the near-term make allowance update NMPF is pursuing through its Federal Milk Marketing Order initiative via the USDA hearing process announced last week. Similarly, the board also voted to pursue restoring the previous “higher of” Class I mover in the most expeditious manner possible, either administratively via the FMMO process or legislatively through the farm bill, in which the mover was last changed in 2018.

In the Conservation title:

NMPF is advocating for policies that better position the dairy industry to meet its voluntary, producer-led goal of becoming greenhouse gas neutral or better by 2050. NMPF’s board voted to support maintaining robust funding for voluntary conservation programs, such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program that supports dairy farmers in their ongoing land and water resource management efforts, with additional emphasis on feed and manure management both of which are major areas of opportunity in sustainability. The board also voted to seek relief from program payment limitations that prevent the family farmers that produce most of the nation’s milk supply from fully using these programs.

In the Trade title:

NMPF will support policies recognizing the growing importance of trade for U.S. dairy, with exports accounting for one-sixth milk of all U.S. milk production, a share expected to grow. NMPF’s board voted to support enhancing funding for trade promotion programs like the Market Access Program and the Foreign Market Development program, which promote American-made dairy and agriculture products that compete with heavily subsidized foreign products and return well over $20 in export revenue for every dollar invested.

The NMPF board also voted to seek language to protect common food names, as embodied in the bipartisan, bicameral SAVE Act that would establish an official list of common food and beverage names and direct USDA and the U.S. Trade Representative to prioritize this issue in international trade negotiations.

In the Nutrition title:

NMPF will support policies that reflect dairy’s role as an excellent source of 13 essential nutrients, some of which are under-consumed, according to the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is vital to linking the food we produce as farmers to families across the country facing difficult circumstances.  NMPF’s board voted to support the enhancement of federal nutrition programs to provide nutritious dairy products to beneficiaries.  NMPF also supports the bipartisan Dairy Nutrition Incentives Program introduced in the Senate to encourage SNAP participants to choose healthful dairy products at the grocery store.


CDI’s Vanderham, NMPF’s Bjerga discuss California flooding


NMPF Board of Directors member Cory Vanderham of California Dairies, Inc., and NMPF Senior Vice President of Communications Alan Bjerga talk about the challenges of California dairy producers and the need for long-term policy solutions on RFD-TV. While record snowpack is replenishing water supplies battered by multi-year drought, it also is bringing chaos to producers who are facing extreme weather conditions that require immediate reaction. For more details on how Vanderham has handled this year’s deluge, check out NMPF’s recent Dairy Defined podcast.

Beef or dairy, consumers care about calf care

By Beverly Hampton Pfifer, Director, FARM Animal Care.Beverly Hampton Phifer Headshot

Increasingly, dairy herds are being built with beef in mind. While that changes supply chains, it doesn’t change the need for quality calf care.

To that end, there’s a paradigm shift taking place on U.S. dairy farms. The National Association of Animal Breeders (NAAB) reports that since 2016, U.S. dairy semen sales dropped by 5.3 million units to settle at 17.1 million units. On the flip side, beef semen sales climbed from 2016’s 2.5 million units to reach 8.7 million units in 2021. That’s a 6.2 million-unit shift in a six-year window.

Due to the beef sector’s use of natural insemination and the fact that national dairy herd numbers have remained relatively steady over the past decade, it’s largely assumed that up to 5 million dairy-influenced animals are now entering the beef supply chain annually, though publicly available data related to beef processing by breed is limited.

That’s just the start of the shift in the dairy-beef narrative. A growing number of farm and ranch operations are being used solely for rearing of these crossbred animals, in addition to off-site calf rearing for dairy replacement heifers, creating an entirely new sector of animal production.

Over the years, we have learned that where there is supply chain traceability, dairy and beef customers expect risk mitigation through quality assurance programs. And while the National Dairy Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) Program framework is structured for farms with lactating dairy animals, the program recognizes the role of this new calf-rearing sector within the greater dairy and beef supply — and the need for the same quality assurance. Ensuring exceptional management and care of calves — regardless of their genetics — is critical to the future of the U.S. dairy industry.

Establishing a framework that’s useful to farmers and ranchers while providing assurances to both dairy and beef supply chains isn’t easy. The Calf Care & Quality Assurance Program (CCQA) is a joint effort led by the FARM Program and National Beef Quality Assurance Program with support from the Dairy Calf and Heifer Association and Veal Quality Assurance. With input from a technical task force of calf producers, veterinarians, and academics, CCQA maintains a unified set of standards, provides training resources for employees, and through an audit tool coming later this year, also provides quality assurance to the dairy and beef supply chain.

CCQA largely formalizes the existing standard of care for calves already occurring on farms and ranches across the United States. This ranges from calf health priorities to animal handling and stockmanship best practices to management and care practices. For dairy farms already participating in the FARM program, the CCQA caretaker course provides continuing education for calf care and earns the farms a CCQA/FARM equivalency certification. Employee training and continuing education are key components of quality animal care. Some best practices from each of the main CCQA categories are:

  • Calf Health: Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship

Veterinarians are key assets on successful calf-rearing operations. In addition to helping establish and maintain a health management plan and advising medical cases, veterinarians can serve as a training resource and assist in determining gaps in management or protocol drift.

  • Animal handling, stockmanship, and training

Handling and facility design should prioritize low stress handling techniques. This is not only important for reducing calf stress, but it can also improve safety for staff. A zero-tolerance policy for unacceptable handling must be in place, and best practice for all management practices should be reinforced through training of those with animal care responsibilities.

  • Management and care

It is recommended that calves be provided with a high-quality colostrum measuring 10% of the calf’s body weight within six hours of birth. Additionally, calves fed 20% of their birth weight, or at least eight quarts of milk daily, are shown to have high levels of gain and increased immune system function. Young calves should be provided access to fresh drinking water and palatable grain.

Calf housing should be designed to protect animals from weather conditions. This includes a sufficient quantity of dry bedding, ventilation, and lighting with consideration given to allowing calves to have the opportunity for visual contact with other calves.

For the complete list of CCQA standards and priorities, check out the CCQA Reference Manual. Dairy farms and calf raising facilities curious about program participation, CCQA caretaker training, protocol templates, or other resources should visit the FARM Program Resource Library or the CCQA website.

This column originally appeared in Hoard’s Dairyman Intel on March 6, 2023.

NMPF Lauds Bipartisan Ag Climate Measures in Appropriations Package

The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) today commended Congress for including the Growing Climate Solutions Act and the SUSTAINS Act in its final fiscal year 2023 budget package. These measures will help dairy farmers seek additional sustainability opportunities as they work to fulfill the dairy sector’s voluntary, producer-led goal of becoming greenhouse gas neutral or better by 2050.

“Environmental markets and conservation programs have the potential to meaningfully assist dairy producers as they work to meet their 2050 environmental stewardship goals,” said NMPF president and CEO Jim Mulhern. “The Growing Climate Solutions Act and the SUSTAINS Act will strengthen these important tools.”

The Growing Climate Solutions Act, authored by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-MI, and Senator Mike Braun, R-IN, passed the Senate last June on a bipartisan vote of 92-8. The legislation would enable USDA to register technical service providers that help farmers implement stewardship practices that can generate credits on environmental markets. In turn, producers will be better positioned to participate in these important markets. Reps. Abigail Spanberger, D-VA, and Don Bacon, R-NE, have introduced companion legislation in the House.

The SUSTAINS Act, authored by House Agriculture Committee Chairman-elect Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson, R-PA, passed the House Agriculture Committee in May on a bipartisan voice vote. The measure would allow private sector funds to supplement existing funding for farm bill conservation programs, which are continuously oversubscribed. The bill is an innovative approach to boosting funding for USDA conservation programs, which provide important technical assistance to dairy farmers for a variety of stewardship practices.

In addition to the sponsors of both bills, committee leaders Rep. David Scott, D-GA, and Sen. John Boozman, R-AR, also played important roles in finalizing the bipartisan package.

“We commend the leaders of the Agriculture Committees – Senators Debbie Stabenow and John Boozman and Reps. David Scott and GT Thompson – for working together to fashion this bipartisan agreement on agricultural climate legislation,” Mulhern said. “We look forward to working with them and their colleagues to build on this progress in the new year.”

Live, from the Dairy Bar, it’s NMPF!


NMPF Senior Vice President of Communications Alan Bjerga gives an impromptu tour of the Dairy Bar and the Joint Annual Meeting in Denver. From delicious products to critical information, the Dairy Bar has it all — and the meeting itself resulted in gains for dairy producers, as detailed in this interview with RFD-TV.

NMPF’s Bjerga on Annual Meeting, Dairy’s Challenges


NMPF Senior Vice President of Communications Alan Bjerga talks about some of the challenges dairy farmers face, and how they’re facing it together, in an interview with the National Association of Farm Broadcasters. As NMPF members gather in Denver this week for the organization’s annual meeting, milk-pricing modernization, sustainability and stewardship, and international trade are all taking the spotlight.

NMPF’s Bjerga on Dairy’s Commitment to Conservation


NMPF Senior Vice President of Communications Alan Bjerga discusses on RFD-TV how a meeting with key lawmakers in Pennsylvania highlighted dairy’s conservation stewardship as Farm Bill discussions begin. Clint Burkholder, owner of Burk-Lea Farms in Chambersburg, PA, and a member of the Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association, last Friday hosted several members of Congress, including Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-PA and top Republican on the House Agriculture Committee, as well as other area dairy farmers for a farm tour and roundtable discussion on the importance of agricultural conservation.

Dairy Unites Around National Dairy Month


National Dairy Month each June means a chance to celebrate all that U.S. dairy does to nourish consumers around the world and highlight the industry’s success, advancements and efforts to build a better future. RFD-TV’s Janet Atkison hosts a round-table discussion with DMI’s Jessica Learman, NMPF’s Alan Bjerga and Galen Smith, owner of Coldspring Farms in Deming, WA.

NMPF’s Jonker Discusses Net Zero Goals

This week is Earth Week, and the U.S. dairy industry is celebrating by highlighting the sustainability efforts of dairy farmers. Jamie Jonker, National Milk Producers Federation Chief Science Officer and Vice President of Sustainability and Scientific Affairs, says the biggest goal for dairy farmers was developed a few years ago to be greenhouse gas neutral, or better, by 2050. Jonker spoke with the National Association of Farm Broadcasters.

NMPF’s Bjerga on Ukraine’s Agricultural Challenges


NMPF Senior Vice President of Communications Alan Bjerga discusses efforts to assist farmers in Ukraine and some of the challenges faced by the sector in an interview with WEKZ, Janesville, Wisconsin. Livestock producers face special challenges with feed and fuel, while farmers also are struggling with access to transportation.

Dairy Priorities Included in 2022 Funding Package

NMPF helped secure important financial support for numerous priorities in the final government spending bill for Fiscal Year 2022, which President Biden signed into law in March. Key dairy provisions include:

  • $6 billion for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and $440 million for commodity assistance programs, including $332 million for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program and $81 million for TEFAP administration. Additionally, the measure provides $3 million for the Healthy Fluid Milk Incentives Projects authorized in the 2018 Farm Bill to create pilot programs to increase milk consumption among SNAP households. This represents an increase of $2 million over FY 2021.
  • $486 million for the ReConnect program, the USDA Rural Development program working to provide broadband service to eligible rural areas.
  • $25 million for the Dairy Business Innovation Initiatives program, which provides direct technical assistance and grants to dairy businesses to further the development, production, marketing, and distribution of dairy products. This is an increase of $1 million over Fiscal Year 2021.
  • $10 million for the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network, a USDA program aimed at connecting those working in agriculture to stress assistance and support programs.
  • $1 million for FDA to seek solutions on regulating ingredient claims on animal feed additives as foods, not drugs. NMPF led efforts in Congress to secure this important component of dairy’s sustainability efforts and policy agenda that will provide a jumping-off point for additional work.

NMPF will continue building bipartisan support for dairy programs and issues to help ensure the needs of dairy farmers and the cooperatives they own across the country are heard and met.

NMPF’s Bjerga on Rising Input-Cost Impacts

NMPF Senior Vice President for Communications Alan Bjerga discusses the impact of higher input costs for dairy farmers on RFD-TV. Responses to higher prices vary widely depending on individual farm factors, such as whether a farm produces its own feed or has to buy it. Meanwhile, the outlook for near-record prices is raising hope among farmers, but is tempered by higher costs and greater global uncertainty.