NMPF Leads Dairy in FMMO Discussion



NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern called for dairy farmers from all regions to work together for improvements to the Federal Milk Marketing Order system in his remarks at NMPF’s annual meeting in Las Vegas as shown on RFD-TV. Positive changes for dairy producers is possible through NMPF leadership because of the nature of the organization as an industry leader, said NMPF Senior Vice President of Communications, Alan Bjerga.

Chairman Mooney Highlights Dairy’s Value at Annual Meeting


NMPF Chairman Randy Mooney discusses how dairy proved its worth to U.S. consumers during the COVID-19 pandemic at the organization’s annual meeting in Las Vegas, NV. Also, NMPF Senior Vice President of Communications Alan Bjerga discusses some of the meeting’s key agenda items, including the industry’s sustainability commitments and the need to explore milk-pricing reform.

Vaccine Information, Winter Emergency Resources Offered Online

NMPF released Feb. 9 a dairy farmer’s guide to the COVID-19 vaccine rollout and expanded its natural disaster resource page to include information for preparing for and dealing with winter weather emergencies on a dairy farm, part of its commitment to providing timely and relevant information to its members.

Vaccinating essential workers, including the dairy workforce, is important because of their role in maintaining critical infrastructure operations and their increased risk of getting and spreading COVID-19. NMPF’s guide to the COVID-19 vaccine rollout compiles state-by-state vaccine information, tools for communicating with employees, and answers to frequently-asked-questions about the vaccine.

Later that month, widespread freezing temperatures and power outages from Winter Storm Uri prompted NMPF to update its natural disaster page with winter weather emergency resources for dairy farmers. The page includes information from trusted sources on preparing for emergencies and power outages, workforce safety and animal care during extreme winter weather.

Because emergencies and disasters can occur at any time and without warning regardless of where a farm is located, NMPF urges all dairy producers to consider developing or updating comprehensive Emergency Action Plans on their farms.

Trade Agreement Partners Colombia, Panama Weigh Dairy Import Restrictions

NMPF, working in concert with USDEC, provided early warning to U.S. trade officials in February regarding brewing safeguard tariff and regulatory threats in two key U.S. Free Trade Agreement partners’ markets: Panama and Colombia. In discussions with USTR and USDA officials in February, NMPF and USDEC underscored the importance of preserving commitments made by each country through the free trade agreements in place with the U.S. for nearly a decade.

Sparked by growing protectionist sentiment among domestic dairy interests, the Colombian and Panamanian governments are faced with calls to apply tariff safeguards on imported cheese and milk powder from the U.S. In the case of Panama, government official have used safeguard tariffs on certain cheese and yogurt products since imports have reached levels that automatically trigger the permissible safeguards under the FTA. In the case of Colombia, local dairy producers are campaigning for safeguard tariffs to be levied on U.S. milk powder imports, a move that would upend U.S. access to its 10th-largest export market. Additionally, each government is considering labeling and other regulatory changes aimed at making U.S. dairy imports more difficult.

As both countries consider protectionist measures, NMPF will continue to work with USDEC and the U.S. government to preserve access to these markets.

Questionable Shipping Practices Prompt NMPF Action with Maritime Commission

NMPF staff, working together with the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC), joined several agriculture organizations last month to press the Federal Maritime Commission to help address severe shipping-related challenges plaguing dairy and other U.S. agricultural sectors.

A shift in U.S. consumer preferences for stay-at-home goods has led to a surge in imports from Asia, driving up container demand around the Pacific Rim. Meanwhile, several agricultural exporters, including U.S. dairy, are struggling with cancelled shipments, exorbitant detention and demurrage charges, and broken contracts as shipping companies are moving containers and vessels quickly back to Asia. Freight costs are netting 20 to 30 times more from Asia to the U.S. than vice versa and carriers are restricting availability of containers to rural points of origin in the interior U.S., preferring coastal drop-off and pickup.

In multiple meetings with maritime commissioners in February, NMPF and other organizations representing agricultural exporters stressed the urgent need to step-up regulatory compliance on detention and demurrage guidelines issued last year and to explore ways to address the container shortage issues. Alongside these organizations, NMPF is pursuing congressional outreach to encourage tougher FMC enforcement while working with other sectors to evaluate the need for changes to legislation to better equip the FMC to deal with such issues.

Dairy Leadership Crucial in U.S., Global Climate Debate

The recent below-zero temperatures in Texas and a blast of late-winter snowstorms aren’t the only signals that climate conversations are destined to become more prominent in agriculture. The Biden Administration is showing its desire to participate actively in global decision-making, rejoining the Paris Climate Accord and making climate an early focus of executive orders. Congress is expected to tackle climate-change legislation this session. And newly confirmed Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has pledged to make climate change – and climate-friendly incentives for farmers – central to his agenda in his leadership return at USDA.

And that’s just in the United States. Globally, climate concerns and food-production discussions are merging, with sustainability increasingly moving from buzzword to marketplace demand, to potentially a requirement to participate in the global food system.

The United Nations is convening a Food Systems Summit in September in which agriculture and sustainability will be the central discussion, and we are working shoulder-to-shoulder with our colleagues at Dairy Management, Inc. and the U.S. Dairy Export Council to make sure U.S. dairy’s leadership is recognized and to partner with other organizations in underscoring the nutritional value of our products as well as the sustainability advances already achieved. But the UN conversation could easily turn negative for dairy, given the role that anti-animal agriculture voices are playing in driving it.

Real movement domestically – and real threats globally – make it imperative that dairy be active as important choices are made. Fortunately, the dairy community, through the hard work of farmers and support for their efforts throughout the entire supply chain, has a proactive, positive story to tell. The Summit offers an opportunity we must seize to tell our story, which is essential in this new era.

We in dairy know just how effective we are in sustainably managing our operations. The U.S. dairy industry is responsible for less than two percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. Much of that is methane, a relatively short-lived gas that has an impact many scientists say is likely overstated. Meanwhile, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, North American dairy – which is dominated by U.S. production – is the only dairy region in the world where absolute emissions decreased from 2005 to 2015, by a total of 5 percent. That occurred even as milk production increased over that same period.

Dairy is already part of agriculture’s climate solution, but U.S. dairy is going even further. Our Net Zero Initiative will make domestic dairy production carbon-neutral by 2050 and is accompanied by quantifiable, verifiable goals that will guide the industry to that destination.

We are also playing a leading role in seeking the public-policy solutions and incentives necessary to make plans reality. Last week we announced our membership in the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance, a coalition of organizations across food, agriculture and the environment that collectively seek voluntary, incentives-based and market- and science-driven approaches to tackle climate policy and build resilient rural communities. Through leading by example in agriculture and building consensus among its constituents, U.S. dairy farmers can meet ambitious goals that will improve our prosperity as well as the planet’s health, with benefits for all.

But before we paint an outlook that’s too rosy, an important note: For all our leadership within the U.S., numerous vocal advocates in the world are in a different place.

While we seek solutions, others, many of whom have an interest in agriculture but live outside it, are calling for certain farmers not to be part of a “solution.” Instead, such farmers would be swept up (and perhaps swept aside) by “revolution,” one they envision would create a sector with less (if any) livestock, fewer farm inputs, and a bias against technological innovation. As U.S. dairy relies more on global markets, and as global actions on climate-change increasingly affect how the U.S. does business, these realities become ever-more-important to address.

As always, the solution is to never shrink from the challenge. The common goal of improving the planet requires neither surrendering to a misguided agenda nor ignoring the problem. Again: We all know what a positive story dairy can tell and the sizable sustainability investments that the U.S. dairy sector in particular is making. Tangible progress on emissions. Innovative practices that can be widely adopted in all regions, on farms of all sizes, with proper incentives. Ambitious goals backed by data. The reality is the world would be better off if the rest of the global dairy industry became as efficient – in milk production and resource use – as U.S. dairy. But much of the global audience, through misunderstanding or simple self-interest, is skeptical of this message.

This is our task in advocacy. As we’ve seen in recent years, in our response to the coronavirus crisis and to our own economic challenges, we can get things done when we’re united and clear in what we set out to achieve. Dairy can and will be – and in fact, always has been – a positive contributor to sustainability solutions. Our products nourish people around the world, and we care for its resources well. Tumultuous weather will always be with us – but with growing shifts in climate, those challenges are becoming more calamitous. We are rising to the challenge as well, as a domestic and global solution and as an informed voice in all debates. We look forward to the opportunity.

FARM Program’s Yeiser Stepp on Rethinking Dairy Engagement

Emily Yeiser Stepp, NMPF’s vice president for the National Dairy FARM Program, discusses how 2020 changed the way dairy-sector engagement has pivoted into the virtual world. She speaks on RFD-TV.


NMPF Statement on Additional COVID Relief Package

“NMPF is grateful to Congress for working to enact additional COVID-19 stimulus legislation. The pending bill includes critical additional agriculture and nutrition support intended to help farmers, rural communities, and food-insecure households throughout the nation.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government’s strong response has proven invaluable to dairy producers as they keep working, day-in and day-out, to sustainably provide families here at home and abroad with an abundant supply of nutritious dairy products. However, while the availability of a vaccine is cause for hope, difficult months remain ahead.

“NMPF appreciates the additional $3.6 billion Congress would provide to bolster food supply chains and facilitate additional purchases and donations of dairy and other food products to those who need them most. NMPF also supports the legislation’s increased funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which will provide dairy and other nutritious foods to those households and senior citizens who have faced added hardship and unique struggles during this challenging period.

“Finally, the package includes important provisions that strengthen resilience and improve equity in rural America and take critical steps to improve the livelihoods of historically underserved farmers, including debt relief and access to credit. These actions will better position all parts of the country to recover from the stresses of the pandemic and strengthen our communities for years to come.”

Milk-Production Increase Outstripping Supply Gains, NMPF’s Vitaliano Says

Milk production is increasing faster than demand is recovering, making 2021 a challenging year for dairy farmers, said Peter Vitaliano, NMPF’s chief economist, in an NMPF podcast released today.

“On balance, things are improving a little bit” in dairy demand, “but they’re still falling short of the milk production rate of increase,” Vitaliano said. Still, bright spots remain for the medium- and longer-term dairy outlook. Demand for U.S. dairy exports is at record levels, and demand for dairy away from home should increase as the COVID-19 pandemic fades, he said.

The full podcast is here. You can also find this and other NMPF podcasts on Apple Podcasts, SpotifySoundCloud and iHeart Radio. Broadcast outlets may use the MP3 file. Please attribute information to NMPF.


Farmers Gain Improved Access to Small Business Support as PPP Reopens

The National Milk Producers Federation is pleased that farmers who run their operations as sole proprietors, independent contractors, or otherwise self-employed individuals will have newly expanded access as soon as today to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) under changes made in the COVID stimulus package Congress approved last month.

Producers who were denied PPP loans or whose loan amounts did not consider self-employment compensation may now be eligible for the vital federal small business support. Eligibility information and more details can be found here. Those wanting to apply for a PPP loan should contact lenders directly for more information on when PPP will be open for that specific lender.

“NMPF is pleased that many of our dairy farmers will have fewer restrictions and limitations on the PPP support available to them as the program reopens this week,” said Jim Mulhern, NMPF’s president and CEO. “We have been grateful for the support already extended to dairy through PPP, and we deeply appreciate the improved access found in the latest stimulus package.”

Congress created PPP in the CARES Act in March of 2020 to help American small businesses keep employees during the coronavirus pandemic. Still, the program’s emphasis on payroll raised inadvertent yet sizable challenges for many farmers and ranchers who do not issue structured payroll — namely those operating as sole proprietors, independent contractors, or self-employed producers who file a Schedule F with their 1040 income tax form. The program’s loan application required such producers to use their net farm profit amount from their Schedule F tax form as a stand-in for their self-employment compensation when applying for a PPP loan. However, many farmers and ranchers filed a zero or negative net farm profit on their 2019 tax forms, effectually making them ineligible for the small business support.

NMPF worked successfully to advance legislation to help producers gain better access to PPP COVID relief, working closely with members of Congress leading on the issue. In June, Senators John Thune (R-SD) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Representatives Ron Kind (D-WI), GT Thompson (R-PA), Anthony Brindisi (D-NY), and John Joyce (R-PA) introduced the Paycheck Protection for Producers Act (S. 3918 and H.R. 7175). The bipartisan legislation allows farmers and ranchers who file a Schedule F to use their gross income, capped at $100,000, when applying for a PPP loan. The bill also permits producers who received a PPP loan based on their net farm profit to reapply with their gross income figure, with lenders allowed to offer the difference should the new loan amount be larger than the original amount.

The coronavirus relief measure enacted in December incorporated key provisions from the Paycheck Protection for Producers Act, securing for these farmers and ranchers increased access to the low-interest, forgivable loans.

All farmers and ranchers who file a Schedule F can apply or reapply for a PPP loan under the new rules once the program reopens. In general, agricultural producers and co-ops with 500 or fewer employees, including employees of businesses with which they have an affiliation, are eligible. Alternative size standards may qualify larger businesses, and interested larger borrowers are encouraged to explore options with lenders and/or their accountants. The Small Business Administration announced PPP would reopen in multiple stages beginning this week.

2021 Promises Better Days Ahead, Thanks to the Successes of 2020

A new year brings new hope, and there are plenty of reasons for hope in dairy as 2021 begins.

The arrival of COVID-19 vaccines promises an eventual return to more-normal patterns of life — and less volatility in markets — at some point this year.

A new Congress and administration will provide opportunities to address important concerns – and dairy, with its proud tradition of bipartisanship, is uniquely positioned to seize those opportunities even in a divided government.

And dairy’s 2020 track record of accomplishment – led by the advocacy of the cooperative community from the beginning of the coronavirus crisis last March to the latest federal assistance package signed into law in late December – provides a formidable foundation to build from as we stay true to our mission of serving our members during the challenging, though in the end brighter, year ahead.

About those accomplishments. There hasn’t been much time to pause and reflect on how profoundly dairy rose to the occasion in 2020 — not in a 24/7, 365-day-a-year industry that never stops producing products and serving consumers. This crisis has evolved too quickly, and the needs have been too ever-changing and acute, for anyone to truly rest. But the gains that our members, and everyone in dairy, have made through tireless advocacy have been substantial. The COVID stimulus bill approved in December alone included:

  • $400 million for a new NMPF-backed Dairy Donation Program open to all producers to help dairy stakeholders and non-profits work together to provide dairy products to food-insecure households and minimize food waste.
  • Provisions enabling USDA to provide additional compensation to producers who earlier were unable to receive the full support they needed under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, which had payment limitations that didn’t fully address the extent of the damages incurred on many dairy farms.
  • Supplemental Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) payments for farms whose DMC production history has increased since 2014, up to 5 million pounds. The provision is a boon for smaller operations and increases farm bill baseline spending for all dairy farmers through 2023, the life of the current law.
  • Improvements that will make the Paycheck Protection Program work better for sole proprietor, independent contractor, and self-employed dairy farmers by allowing them to use their 2019 gross income to determine their PPP loan amounts.

And of course, dairy farmers will be eligible for support in the $11 billion agricultural disaster assistance package, of which at least $1.5 billion is already being targeted to additional product purchases for distribution to food insecure individuals, included in the legislation Congress has passed.

It’s important to note that the stimulus bill was only the most recent in a string of policy successes that together have generated well over $5 billion in assistance to dairy producers and helped stabilize markets. It’s also important to remember that each success builds upon earlier ones.

For example, the progress on payment limits built on the earlier victory of getting dairy farmers more equitable treatment in payments made under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program than they had received in earlier programs, like the trade-mitigation payments. Now, CFAP itself has been improved upon. And the supplemental DMC payments will set the stage to remedy a niggling flaw in the DMC’s coverage, that of an out-of-date production history that does not reflect farmers’ current situations. But the DMC was itself a major improvement on the old Margin Protection Program. And now participation in DMC will be even more fruitful for many producers.

Such gains only come from credibility, persistence, tireless effort and the patient building of relationships with key officials on Capitol Hill and in the administration. It’s the kind of work NMPF has prided itself on, day-in and day-out, throughout its existence – and it’s the dedication that shines through during times of critical need, like what we’ve seen in these past few months.

The year’s successes extend beyond legislation as well. Gains in trade policy helped enable a year of progress for U.S. exports, which data indicates may end up being a record year for the total volume of milk solids exported. Our FARM Program continues to lead in industry best practices. Our successful advocacy in regulatory issues has aided our farmers in the eternal struggle against red tape. And we’ve effectively communicated dairy’s story, to farmers and to the world, letting everyone know that this sector is essential, and resilient, and well-positioned to thrive.

The lessons learned in 2020 both prepare us, and brace us, for the days ahead. With normal times not yet here, 2021 certainly won’t be easy. The economy will remain touch-and-go. Partisanship may intensify. Longstanding issues like agricultural labor will remain difficult to resolve, and rising issues such as climate change will pose additional challenges.

But we’re energized by the challenge of serving our members even more effectively. We know we can do it, because we’ve seen the dairy community rise to meet its challenges throughout this past year. And together, we will create better days to come.