NMPF Chairman Mooney Discusses Dairy’s Strength Through Consensus

NMPF Board of Directors Chairman Randy Mooney of Dairy Farmers of America explains the organization’s role as the essential advocate for dairy farmers in Washington and how the organization works with other groups to advance industry prosperity in an interview with RFD-TV. Mooney also talks about what challenges the industry faces and how resilience is the key to future success. The segment also highlights Prairie Farms’ overall win in this year’s NMPF cheese contest.

Overcoming challenges is what we do

By Randy Mooney, Chairman, NMPF Board of Directors

We’ve had a lot of achievements this year, but it’s also been a challenging time.

A year ago, costs on the farm were extremely high, but we had prices that would cover that. This year, costs are still high, but prices are down. That’s a lot of stress on the farm. And we’re also dealing with problems that we’ve dealt with for years.

There are labor problems; you just can’t find anybody to work. Supply chain disruptions are closer to the farm this year. It’s milk trucks getting milk off the farm; it’s feed trucks bringing feed into the farm. It’s getting simple parts that we took for granted we could get anytime we wanted to. There are geopolitical issues and extreme weather events.

We have challenges all the time, but it just seems like we continue to have more. It seems like we’re in the eye of a storm. But as farmers, we always anticipate a moment before the dawn, before things turn, before things get good again.

One of the things I’ve learned is that a lot of the world is envious of what we have.

They’re envious because we have the Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) Program, a self-governing program. We have a government that recognizes what we’re doing with sustainability — it’s not being mandated down from the top.

We’re taking care of our own. Today, we produce more milk using fewer and fewer natural resources. We’re revitalizing rural communities. For every dollar generated in dairy farming, it turns over three to seven times in local communities, generating $750 billion in the United States. That‘s pretty impressive.

We’re nourishing families around the world through milk’s unbeatable nutritional value. I’ve dairy farmed for a long time, through good times and bad times, but there’s never been a time that I haven’t laid my head down on my pillow at night and been proud of what I accomplished on my farm. We’re putting the most nourishing, most nutritious product known to man in that milk tank. And when that truck leaves, I know I’ve done something good.

Our ability to evolve how we work and adapt our resiliency is becoming more and more important. This year, we came together as an industry to unite around issues that helped build that resiliency. NMPF worked with member co-ops, farm bureaus, and state dairy organizations to come to consensus on the most substantial issues. Even going back to 2021, when you talk about Federal Milk Marketing Order modernization, we’ve worked hard to get these things done. Nobody knows what the outcome’s going to be, but you telling your story has made a difference.

Beyond that, we’re going to get a farm bill passed — we’re going have an extension. We’ve been working to implement the next version of FARM, FARM 5.0, that goes into effect in July. We also will work on promoting dairy’s sustainable nutrition. Dairy offers the most complete nutritional package available, and what’s amazing is that as we produce more milk, we’ll continue to use fewer natural resources. That’s the definition of sustainable nutrition.

For years, we’ve talked about sustainability in terms of environmental stewardship and how that translates into financial value for farms. Now, the financial values are there. You take solar panels, wind, methane digesters, and a lot of things happen on a farm that’s generating electricity to run your farms and to run your neighbor’s households. We’re there now. What we need is conservation funding in the farm bill through USDA grants through state and federal programs. There’s real money available to help us continue to do that, and we will.

No imitation food from a nut, a bean, or grain can hold a candle to dairy’s nutritional package. We all know that. That’s why it’s important to keep fighting the fight on plant-based alternative labeling. In the guidance that was issued earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognized and admitted that plant-based alternatives are nutritionally inferior to real dairy.

Dairy protein plays a critical role in feeding people around the world, and it can’t be replaced by alternatives, including plant-based. Consumers have the right to understand how they’re nourishing their families, and we’re going to continue to advocate for the Dairy PRIDE Act to try to get that passed in Congress.

We’re going to continue to fight for more flavored milk in schools and higher fat levels, especially for those children whose main source of nutrition is through the school milk program. Milk is essential to their diets, and we’re not going to give up that fight. We’re all part of an industry that’s doing remarkable things. We are winning.


This has been adapted from Chairman of the NMPF Board of Directors Randy Mooney’s speech at the National Milk Producers Federation annual meeting in Orlando, Fla., on Nov. 14, 2023. This column originally appeared in Hoard’s Dairyman Intel on Nov. 22, 2023.

NMPF’s Bjerga on the Return of the FMMO Hearing

NMPF Executive Vice President of Communications & Industry Relations Alan Bjerga speaks on WEKZ Radio, Janesville, WI, about the resumption of USDA’s Federal Milk Marketing Order hearing in Carmel, IN, next week. The hearing, which was originally expected to last until mid-October, may now slip into 2024. Scheduling issues and unexpected confrontations are pushing back the timeline for the necessary modernization many farmers are hoping can take effect to help their operations thrive, Bjerga said.


NMPF’s Doud Discusses Dairy’s Future

Incoming NMPF President & CEO Gregg Doud explains NMPF’s role in Washington policy formulation and dairy farmer priorities, including a new farm bill, Federal Milk Marketing Order modernization, integrity in plant-based labeling and dietary guidelines that maximize the benefits of dairy, in an interview with RFD-TV. He also emphasized the importance of international trade and global issues to U.S. dairy’s future. “We need to look five, 10 years ahead and see what this industry needs,” he said.

Lights, camera … Bjerga! Live from the Dairy Experience

NMPF Executive Vice President for Communications & Industry Relations Alan Bjerga takes viewers on a tour of the Dairy Experience at this week’s Joint Annual Meeting in Orlando, FL. From information booths to ice cream, this year’s event brought together a diverse dairy community, showing farmer unity and industry pride during a time of transition at NMPF.

Dairy is a staple in spite of inflation

By Allison Wilton, Coordinator, Economic Policy and Global Analysis, NMPF

U.S. dairy consumption has been steadily rising for years, reaching more than 11.5 million metric tons (milk solids equivalent) in 2022. This is up 15% from ten years ago. As one of the highest dairy consuming countries in the world, U.S. per capita consumption of cheese, yogurt, and butter has grown steadily for years. Recent food trends are bringing fun and innovative twists on common dairy products; as examples, butter boards went viral last year as a new “charcuterie” option, and health influencers are raving about the benefits of adding cottage cheese into recipes for higher protein and healthy fats. Ultimately, dairy demand remains resilient even when facing significant headwinds.Dairy’s resiliency is true on a global basis, too. On average, 13% of the global consumer’s protein came from dairy in 2022, a rise compared to 2021 and a significant leap over the past decade. In fact, global dairy protein consumption has grown by nearly 25% over the last decade.

 

Still, despite that resiliency, inflation and economic uncertainty have affected consumers and the dairy industry.

Inflation had mixed effects

In 2022, consumers started to really take notice of rising grocery and food costs. Prices for goods across all categories, not just dairy, were starting to climb more than usual due to several factors, including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and international supply chain disruptions. Inflation reached a peak in summer of 2022, and though it has eased slightly since, prices are still significantly higher compared to three years ago.

 

Source: NMPF-USDEC, IRI, NPD

Grocery and food items were some of the most prevalent and hardest hit areas by inflation, and dairy products were not immune. The price of dairy in food and beverage stores rose by more than 15% in 2022 compared to 2021, the highest jump in prices of all categories. The value of dairy sales grew significantly in 2022. Even so, and although this can partially be attributed to the higher prices, the growth in dairy sales (up 14.7%) outpaced that of non-dairy categories (8.3% greater).

Additionally, though all categories’ volume fell, the volume of dairy products sold fell less than that of non-dairy products. In other words: even though dairy had higher inflation rates, the slide in volume sold was less than the dip of other food and beverage categories. Shoppers were continuing to put dairy products in their cart despite the higher prices. That’s a testament to the dairy’s place as a dietary staple for many around the country and the world.

Dairy demand persists

Consumers prefer dairy products over plant-based alternatives: sales of cheese, frozen products, and other dairy goods dwarf plant-based imitations in stores. As even more alternatives fill shelves, dairy doesn’t lose shelf space. Rather, per capita consumption in several areas have grown, including cheese (up 17% from 2020), yogurt (up 5%), and butter (up 21%). The dairy aisle remains of top value when compared to other aisles within major food and beverage stores and is one of the fastest growing aisles in terms of sales dollars, topping $75 billion in 2022.

Cheese is expected to grow only more popular as time goes on, as is butter and yogurt. The U.S. dairy industry is poised to meet this demand as the industry advances in the coming years. As inflation wanes, consumers may return to trying higher value dairy products, of which there is no shortage. U.S. dairy will continue to be a major part of consumers’ diets and shopping carts.


This column originally appeared in Hoard’s Dairyman Intel on Nov. 9, 2023.

NMPF’s Bjerga on Perceptions of Dairy, Agriculture in Wartime

NMPF Executive Vice President Alan Bjerga discusses how agriculture and food thought leaders perceived dairy during his recent participation in the World Food Prize in Des Moines, IA, detailing some of the misconceptions found on dairy’s sustainability and role in food security. He also discusses the challenges farmers are facing in conflict zones, including recent attacks in Israel and the ongoing war in Ukraine, in an interview with WEKZ Radio.


 

 

USDEC’s Harden discusses USDA Support for Trade


Krysta Harden, president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council, discusses the value of USDA support for U.S. agricultural exports in an interview with RFD-TV from the World Food Prize in Des Moines, IA. The department said Oct. 24 it plans to devote $2.3 billion from the Commodity Credit Corporation to promoting better market opportunities for U.S. agricultural producers and expanding food aid to support communities in need around the world, a move advocated for by NMPF and USDEC.

NMPF’s Jonker brings the IDF World Dairy Summit home

 

NMPF Chief Science Officer Jamie Jonker connects the themes of the World Dairy Summit, which concluded in Chicago on Thursday, to advancing the interests of U.S. dairy farmers. The summit, hosted by the United States for the first time since 1994, had attendees from 55 countries and activities from technical panels to farm tours.