Archive for the ‘NMPF’ Category

EPA’s Guidance Hits Rough Water

July 10, 2014 — The National Milk Producers Federation has asked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to withdraw recent guidance concerning when farmers must seek Clean Water Act permits for a long list of normal farming activities near wetlands.

NMPF, the voice of more than 32,000 dairy farmers in Washington, D.C., said the EPA’s proposal could have the perverse effect of discouraging water conservation, by changing the long-standing relationship between farmers and the Agriculture Department’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). NMPF said the guidance changes NRCS’s role from that of a conservation partner to an enforcer of the Clean Water Act on EPA’s behalf.

“Our concern is if this EPA guidance were to stand the way it’s been proposed, the NRCS would no longer be a place where dairy farmers and others could go for conservation

Chris Galen, NMPF

Chris Galen, NMPF

advice,” NMPF’s Chris Galen reported on a recent DairyLine Radio program. “NRCS would instead become an enforcer for the EPA and would ultimately set back conservation efforts.”

The EPA guidance, officially called an Interpretive Rule, was issued in March. It says producers are only exempt from needing Clean Water Act permits for more than 50 routine farming practices if they comply with detailed NRCS technical conservation standards. Until now, these standards have been voluntary, and the farming practices exempt from the permit process.

“Until now, NRCS has been the place producers could go for conservation advice, while EPA was charged with ensuring compliance with the Clean Water Act,” said Jamie Jonker, NMPF’s Vice President for Sustainability & Scientific Affairs. “The cooperative relationship with NRCS made it more likely farmers would adopt water conservation practices.

“Unfortunately,” Jonker said, “the interpretive rule moves NRCS into an enforcement role and, in the process, could set back conservation efforts.”

In its comments, NMPF used harvesting hay as an example. Under the Interpretive Rule, farmers harvesting hay may be exempt from needing a CWA permit only if they follow NRCS Conservation Practice Standard No. 511:  four pages of criteria covering timing of the harvest, moisture content of the hay, length of the cut hay, stubble height and much more.

“Many dairy farmers harvest hay without any reference to NRCS standards,” said Jonker.  “Will these farmers now be forced to comply with Standard No. 511? If so, many will simply choose not to work with the NRCS. As a result, there will be less water conservation on farms, not more.”

Jonker noted that NMPF has drawn up a detailed environmental handbook based on NRCS standards but tailored specifically to dairy farmers. “Under the IR, producers who follow the handbook apparently will not qualify for a permit exemption,” Jonker said. “Having invested time and money in producing the handbook, NMPF is now forced to ask if it was worth it to try to do the right thing.”

Additional points in the NMPF comments:

• While EPA argues that meeting the NRCS standards is still voluntary, in practice it is mandatory, since failure to comply may expose farmers to legal liability.
• More than 100 farming practices covered by NRCS standards but not listed the IR are left under a “cloud of suspicion” and further expose farmer to legal liability.
• As a major policy change, the IR should have been issued as a proposed regulation, with public comments in advance of approval, rather than as guidance that is immediately applicable.

“NMPF and its members are committed to protecting U.S. waterways through voluntary efforts and regulatory compliance with the Clean Water Act,” NMPF said. “(But) the IR will have the perverse impact of harming the longstanding trust and cooperative relationship between producers and NRCS.  Consequently, water quality improvements will be adversely impacted.”

Established initially the 1930s, the NRCS provides voluntary help to farmers who want to conserve the resources on their farms.

In May, NMPF urged the Environmental Protection Agency to allow more time to examine a controversial draft regulation expanding the waterways subject to regulation under the federal Clean Water Act. That request was granted on June 10th.

Encouraging News Coming From Mainstream Media

June 26, 2014 — Many people who surf for their news on the internet realize there is a lot of misleading information out there, particularly when it comes to food production issues. But National Milk’s Chris Galen has been encouraged lately by some of the news he’s seen released from various media outlets, like the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and Time magazine.

“They’re sharing information and writing stories that are challenging some of the popular notions that may not have a lot of basis in fact,” he said.

One of the more recent examples is from The Washington Post, which shared five myths about organic food production, including whether it’s really better for humans or healthier for the environment.

“In some cases you can make that case, but it’s not an open and shut case for everything including dairy products,” Galen reported. “So I think that helps open some eyes.”

The Wall Street Journal recently reported on the “gluten free” fad and whether or not it makes a difference in people’s diets and health. Time magazine’s cover had a picture of butter on its most recent issue, challenging the conventional wisdom that saturated fat is really bad for you.

“The issue is where do people get information from?” Galen asked “Is it sourced credibly? Is it promoted by Dr. Oz?” The television personality was recently called on the carpet by the U.S. Senate for promoting things that have no evidence behind him.

Hopefully the pendulum is swinging more towards issues that can be supported by sound science rather than fads that are going to be here today and gone tomorrow. Galen says consumers should do their research and one of the policies NMPF stands by is sharing credible information.

“You’re only as good as the evidence you have and can point to – to support your case,” Galen said. “The good news about food production now is that there is more evidence of what people assume…isn’t necessarily always the case.”

Young Dairy Farmers Lobby on Capitol Hill

June 5, 2014 — About 60 young dairy farmers from across the country met in Washington D.C. last week to lobby on several issues they say won’t go away without being resolved. The group is part of the National Young Cooperator (YC) Program organized by the National Milk Producers Federation.

Even though the Farm Bill is now in our rear view mirror, NMPF says there are plenty of issues Congress should focus on including two trade agreements and immigration reform.

“We also have the issue of GMO labeling and why we don’t want to see mandatory federal laws that require GMO labeling,” NMPF’s Chris Galen said. Instead, NMPF supports a measure that would make the labeling of food containing genetically modified organisms voluntary.

Another important issue is trade policy and getting good deals both with the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Trans Atlantic Partnership (TTIP).

“Those deals are still pending right now and we want to convince our lawmakers that dairy farmers need to have a good outcome in both the Atlantic and Pacific deals,” Galen said.

The issue of immigration reform won’t be resolved anytime soon as there’s a very narrow window between June and the first Tuesday in November.

“Our expectations are fairly low,” Galen said. “It does not look like immigration reform will get done, unfortunately.”

Even if Congress doesn’t take up the issue until after November, Galen says it’s important to have dairy farmers visit Capitol Hill to remind lawmakers that this issue is not going to go away.

“It’s not going to get resolved unless there is federal legislation,” he said. “The same applies to the GMO issue and with the trade policy issues as well.”

NMPF organized the YC Program in 1950 to educate and build leadership ability in young dairy farmers, designed for dairy producers 40 years of age and younger. A YC fly-in was held last week in conjunction with NMPF’s June Board of Directors meeting.

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NMPF Seeks More Time to Examine Regulation of U.S. Waters

June 2, 2014 — s President and CEO, Jim Mulhern, wrote in a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Jo-Ellen Darcy, the Assistant Secretary of the Army. “It would be a disservice to farmers to rush this proposal through the review process without sufficient scientific support or time to better understand the complexities of the issue.”

NMPF, which represents dairy farmers producing most of the nation’s milk supply, asked that the public comment period on the draft regulation be extended at least 90 days.    Unveiled in March, the draft regulation expands the waterways covered under the 1972 Clean Water Act to nearly all those connected to U.S. navigable waters. Opponents, many of whom have urged EPA to withdraw the regulation, argue it would have a devastating impact, particularly on agriculture.

NMPF cited two reasons for requesting more time to consider the regulation:  First, the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers have not completed the report providing the scientific underpinning for the regulation; and second, many of the key concepts discussed in the draft are unclear or subject to interpretation by government regulators.

“In order for dairy farmers to understand, assess and adequately comment on the proposed changes, the science behind the WOTUS proposal must be clear and conclusive,” NMPF wrote.  But the proposal relies on the scientific conclusions of a draft EPA report still under review by the agency’s Science Advisory Board (SAB).

Where the matter of key concepts is concerned, the proposal uses terms such as “neighboring,’’ ‘‘riparian area,’’ ‘‘floodplain,’’ ‘‘tributary,’’ and ‘‘significant nexus.”

“These terms are as clear as muddy water, and, therefore, will create confusion for dairy producers,” Mulhern said.  Additionally, the proposed rule heavily relies on “best professional judgment” in application of these and other terms, potentially creating a great deal of uncertainty both for regulators and those regulated.

“Dairy farmers are committed to protecting U.S. waters both voluntarily and under the Clean Water Act,” said Mulhern in the letter sent Friday.

“Given the scope and complexities of the proposed rule and its supporting documents, NMPF requests an extension of the comment period, either to 90 days beyond the current deadline, or 90 days beyond EPA’s release of the final connectivity report” providing scientific basis for the regulation, the organization said.

Rising Food Prices Affect Consumers and Producers

May 29, 2014 — Food prices are on the rise due to a combination of factors. National Milk’s Chris Galen joins us this week to elaborate on how this may affect dairy producers.


CWT Helps U.S. Compete Globally

May 22, 2014 — One of the big stories in the last couple of years is the ability to export. National Milk’s Chris Galen says one of the big factors in increasing exports is the Cooperatives Working Together (CWT) program. He tells us more in NMPF’s weekly DairyLine segment.


What’s in a Name?

May 15, 2014 — More than 175 House members signed a letter  to U.S. trade negotiators urging them to warn Europeans that America won’t accept naming restrictions of the cheese nmpfthey make. A similar letter from more than 50 senators was sent in March.

“We’re making certain that they are aware of how important it is to get dairy negotiated favorably for America’s dairy industry as part of this massive U.S. – European Union trade agreement,” NMPF’s Chris Galen reported on DairyLine.

The formal name for it is the Trans Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), but Galen says there are issues that have to be negotiated for it to be a full partnership between the U.S. and EU, at least when it comes to dairy policy. The U.S. faces significant tariffs on dairy product exports to Europe. Europe’s tariffs average about three times the level of U.S. tariffs, which has contributed to a $1.3 billion trade deficit in terms of trade in dairy products between the U.S. and EU.

Europeans also want to restrict the use of common food names including many cheeses, which prompted the letter by Congress. EU’s attempts are designed to carve out exclusive market access for its own producers. If U.S. negotiators agree to the EU’s demands, U.S. manufacturers would have to change targeted product names not only for export but for sale in the U.S.

“They are actually contemplating using this trade agreement as a way to restrict the names of cheeses that are sold in our country,” Galen said. “Even if it’s by cheese companies that are using names they’ve used in the country for many, many years.”

The dairy farmer caucus led by Congressman Peter Welch (D-VT) admits this is a concern that U.S. trade negotiators need to resolve as they discuss this trans-Atlantic trade deal.

“It’s extremely dangerous,” Welch said. “The point of our letter is that there would be a significant uproar in Congress if the final trade (agreement) included a provision that would harm our agriculture sector.”

The letter will be sent to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, who has been negotiating the TTIP with the European Union.

FDA Devotes Attention to Sugar Instead of Dairy Names With No Dairy Content

May 8, 2014 — The National Milk Producers Federation has soured on efforts by the Food and Drug Administration to devote attention to regulating the names of certain types of sugar, while at the same time the agency is ignoring the misuse of dairy-specific names in foods with no milk content.

In a letter sent today as part of an FDA request for comments, NMPF questioned why the FDA is focused on clarifying the common or usual name for “dried cane syrup” or “evaporated cane juice” – a type of dried sugar used as a food ingredient – even as it allows soy, rice, nut and hemp products to define themselves as milk, in violation of long-standing food standards.
“Getting a sugar fix is fine and well, as long as the FDA also turns its attention to a problem that has been ignored for more than a decade,” said Beth Briczinski, NMPF Vice President of Dairy Foods & Nutrition.  “Unfortunately, the agency’s lack of effort on misbranded and mislabeled imitation dairy products has left a bitter taste in our mouths.”

In the letter sent Monday to FDA, NMPF wrote that it is not advising FDA “on an appropriate name for what would be obvious to most consumers is a type of sweetener, but rather to question the Agency’s allocation of resources to such an effort.  It seems rather disingenuous for the Agency to utilize its often-referenced ‘limited resources’ to issue additional labeling guidance, while simultaneously not enforcing existing regulations pertaining to the identity of foods” including imitation dairy products, NMPF wrote in the letter.
“The Agency has blatantly disregarded the names displayed on the labels of imitation dairy products (e.g., “soy milk”, “rice yogurt”, etc.) in the current marketplace.  While the FDA has made its position clear through warning letters to several manufacturers…NMPF would argue that these actions have been too infrequent to be effective, essentially creating a labeling landscape free of enforcement.”
Today’s letter from NMPF is the latest in a series of correspondence between the dairy organization and the FDA, dating back to 2000, in which NMPF has urged the agency to enforce existing requirements for the labeling of imitation foods specifying that many milk, yogurt, cheese and ice cream substitutes produced from vegetable or plant materials are not nutritionally equivalent to real dairy products.
“Manufacturers of these imitation products have misled American consumers for far too long – making a mockery of currently labeling regulations – by usurping the ‘dairy halo’ associated with wholesome and nutritious milk and dairy products,” the letter said.

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Vermont Prepares For Mandatory GMO Labeling

May 1, 2014 — Vermont is the first state to require genetically modified food to be labeled as such. What is interesting is that they have made some exceptions to this law, includingnmpf dairy products.

“If a cow has been fed GMO grains, which most of them are in this country, you would not have to label for that,” NMPF’s Chris Galen reported. “You would also not have to label meat or any foods sold at food service type establishments like restaurants.”

Meanwhile, Vermont is gearing up for a legal defense as they expect the mandatory labeling law to be challenged in court. The issue is whether the law violates some provision of the constitution. Those in the dairy industry may recall what happened 20 years ago when Vermont lawmakers tried to label rBST “bovine growth hormone” but was defeated by a court.

The National Milk Producers Federation backs voluntary labeling at the federal level, as opposed to mandatory labels that apply to some foods and settings but not others.

“What we really need to have is a clear definition of what GMO foods are and how you can go about voluntarily labeling them,” Galen said. “We don’t see the need for mandatory labeling like what’s been passed in Vermont or what’s being considered by other states.”

Until some bills are passed in the nation’s capital, we might continue to see bills like Vermont considered or even passed.

Don’t Let Your Taste Buds Fool You

April 17, 2014 — “It’s not real dairy if it’s made from a bean, a seed, a nut, or a weed,” says DairyUS, the animated Real Seal character, in his latest video.

The video is a reminder to consumers that only real dairy products have the same nutrition they have come to know and love and imitation products don’t necessarily have the same nutritional benefits and shouldn’t be able to call themselves milk, cheese or yogurt.

That’s one of the reasons the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) took over the Real Seal program last year, according to Chris Galen. NMPF is using the website to remind consumers that not all products made from imitation sources have the same nutritional content.
Milk includes vitamins A and D, calcium, potassium and a bevy of other nutrients including protein.

“A lot of these imitators are very skimpy on the protein content in particular,” Galen said.

The Real Seal program continues to grow. This year NMPF is setting up a Pinterest page for people to share cooking recipes and health and wellness information.

“That cries out a presence for the dairy’s Real Seal,” Galen reported. “To remind people that when they do go shopping, eat out or share recipes – dairy ingredients should be real ones and display the Real Seal.”

NMPF remains disappointed that the Food & Drug Administration hasn’t done anything to go after imitators who misuse terms like milk, cheese and yogurt.

“That’s why we need to have a proactive campaign, using something like the Real Seal as a designation that reminds people that only products displaying that seal are made from real dairy products,” he concluded.

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