February DMC Margin Gains Nearly $1/cwt Over January

The February margin under the Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program rose by $0.96/cwt from a month earlier to $9.44/cwt, triggering a payment of $0.06/cwt for coverage at the $9.50/cwt maximum Tier 1 level.

The rise was due to a $0.50/cwt increase in the February U.S. average all-milk price to $20.60/cwt, and a $0.46/cwt drop in the DMC feed cost formula, mostly as a result of lower corn prices.

Futures-based forecasts at the end of March indicated that DMC margins would remain mostly above the $9.50/cwt maximum Tier 1 coverage level during the remainder of the current calendar year, with possible brief dips below this level in late spring.

NMPF Urges DMC Signup as USDA Announces Enrollment

Statement from NMPF President & CEO Gregg Doud:

“Dairy farmers are pleased to finally have the certainty of knowing when the Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program signup is beginning, and NMPF urges every dairy farmer to strongly consider signing up. DMC itself is improved from the previous farm bill, thanks to the permanent incorporation of updated production histories in the program, and recent low producer margins underscore just how critical DMC is for dairy farms of all sizes. We thank Congress for making this important change and are grateful for USDA’s work in rolling out this updated program for farmers.

“NMPF is eager to assist producers in any way they can with this program. We also look forward to working to ensure that farmers receive what they need even more – a new farm bill that provides certainty for the next several years, and not just 2024.”

USDA announced today that the 2024 Dairy Margin Coverage sign-up will open Feb. 28 and run through April 29. For more NMPF resources related to the DMC program and other federally backed risk management programs, visit here.

DMC Margin Drops Below $6 in April

The April Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) margin dropped by $0.25/cwt from a month earlier to $5.84/cwt, the first time the margin fell below $6 since August 2021. The April all-milk price was $20.70/cwt, down $0.40/cwt from March, while the DMC feed price was down for the month by $0.15/cwt, due entirely to a lower soybean meal price. The April payment for maximum Tier 1 coverage at the $9.50/cwt level will be $3.42/cwt. T

Available forecasts continue to indicate that monthly DMC margins will stubbornly remain around $6 into the summer and then slowly rise during the second half of the year, not topping $9.50/cwt until November.

DMC Program Starts 2023 with Sizeable Payments

The Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program made payments for only two of the twelve months last year, but it will pay $1.56/cwt for $9.50/cwt coverage for January. The January margin was $7.94/cwt, $1.82 lower than December’s. A one-month drop of $1.60/cwt in the U.S. average all-milk price, to $23.10/cwt, accounted for most of the margin drop. A monthly rise in the soybean meal price accounted for about two-thirds of the remaining margin fall, but higher corn and premium alfalfa prices contributed lesser amounts as well.

Available forecasts currently indicate that the monthly DMC margins will remain below $9.50/cwt until September and average just below $8/cwt for this entire calendar year. Signing up $9.50/cwt coverage for the first five million pounds is always recommended as a cost-effective risk management strategy. Even last year’s two payments more than covered the annual premium cost for that level of coverage. This year will almost certainly return many times the cost of this very affordable means of managing margin risk.

2022 Ends with No DMC Payments; 2023 May Be Different

The December DMC margin was $9.76/cwt, down $1.13/cwt from the month before but still above the $9.50/cwt threshold for federal payments at the highest insurance level. Much of this decline was contributed by a $0.90/cwt fall in the U.S. average all-milk price, to $24.70/cwt. The DMC December feed cost rose $0.23/cwt from November, on higher corn and soybean meal prices.

The DMC margin fell below the highest coverage level of $9.50/cwt during just two months of 2022, as record high feed costs were generally topped by record high milk prices. This year’s outlook is very different, with the DMC margin currently projected to fall below $9.50/cwt every month until sometime next fall and to average around $8.00/cwt for the year.

DMC Returns to Payments in August

Falling milk prices and rising feed costs pushed margins in August under the federal Dairy Margin Coverage Program to levels that are triggering payments for the first time this year.

The August Dairy Margin Coverage margin was $8.08/cwt, down $1.84/cwt from July’s margin and generating a payment of $1.42/cwt for Tier 1 coverage at $9.50/cwt under DMC, the main federal payment program for dairy producers. The August U.S. average all-milk prices of $24.30/cwt was $1.40/cwt lower than the previous month; meanwhile, the DMC feed cost rose $0.44/cwt from the previous month to $16.22/cwt.

August’s milk-price drop was the third consecutive monthly after a streak of record high U.S. average milk prices that ended in May. Feed costs, meanwhile, reached a second straight monthly record in August. The three cost components of the feed formula have all generally contributed to its steady rise during the past ten months, but the price of corn was the main driver this spring, while soybean meal and premium alfalfa hay prices have taken over this lead role during the past two months.

Available forecasts currently indicate that small margin coverage payments may be generated for $9.50/cwt coverage during the remaining months of 2022. 17,776 dairy operations are currently enrolled in the Dairy Margin Coverage program. The decline in margins to payment-trigger levels, unexpected earlier in the year, underscores the affordability and value of DMC. The August payment alone would cover about three-quarters of the single-year annual premium for $9.50 Tier I coverage for an enrolled operation.

Milk Price and DMC Margin Outlooks Pull Back from Recent Records

The average milk price in the United States dropped by $0.40/cwt in June from May’s all-time record level to $26.90/cwt. The Dairy Margin Coverage margin also fell by $0. 59/cwt from May to June, driven by a June feed cost that rose $0.19/cwt from the month before.

The milk price outlook for the remainder of 2022 has weakened in recent weeks, as dairy product price inflation has taken a toll on both retail and food service consumption. Since June 1, the futures-based average milk price forecast for the months of June through December has dropped by more than $2/cwt. Despite this, the futures do not currently indicate the DMC margins will drop below $11/cwt anytime during the remaining months of 2022. The DMC Decision Tool on the USDA/FSA website, on the other hand, is currently showing a much lower price forecast and a higher feed cost outlook, with margins falling slightly below $9.50/cwt during most of the months of July through November.