October 31, 2013 — House and Senate lawmakers responsible for writing a new Farm Bill finally met publicly this week to hammer out an agreement on a long list of issues relating to a new bill. Chris Galen, Sr. VP of Communications with the National Milk Producers Federation joined us on Thursday’s DairyLine to discuss.
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October 24, 2013 — Food safety in this country has been the best it’s ever been. That’s according to many in the agriculture industry who are responding to a highly critical report on food animal
You have to go back five years to 2008 when the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future worked with the Pew Commission put together a panel including former secretaries of agriculture and public health experts to provide a critique of livestock agriculture.
“To no ones great surprise they found fault with a lot of what is happening today in conventional food production,” National Milk’s Chris Galen said.
Last week the commission chose the fifth anniversary of the initial release of that report to provide a scathing critique of what has happened, or more appropriately what has not happened since 2008.
National Milk along with many livestock groups representing beef, pork and poultry knew that this fifth anniversary update report was coming out and knew that it was going to be quite caustic in its critique of livestock groups as well as the Food and Drug Administration. So they released their own preemptive report entitled: ‘What the Center for Livable Future Aren’t Telling You about Food Production.’
Galen said the dairy industry needs to share the story of the glass being half full, not half empty.
“Not just from the standpoint of animal health, which was the big focus of the Johns Hopkins report, but also sustainability, reducing the carbon footprint, and the animal care program that we have,” he said.
A positive proof point for the dairy industry is the National Dairy Farm Program, currently in its fourth year, with 70 percent of the nation’s milk supply committed to the program. Another big difference between today and five years ago is social media.
“People back then were just figuring out what Facebook was and what a tweet was and now it is part of our every day vocabulary,” he said. “The nice thing is that dairy farmers and other food producers are also taking up those social media tools and put some balance in this.”
The big concern is this Johns Hopkins study really paints things terribly bad. That we have widespread public health issues, particularly because of the antibiotics used in the livestock industry.
“For dairy, we just don’t see that,” Galen said. “It was such an off base report that it describes a world that is very different than I think most dairy farmers and dairy consumers don’t see on a regular basis.”
What some people don’t understand is that the dairy industry tests every load for antibiotics, and they are only administered to ill animals, which is not what you would understand by reading this latest report from Johns Hopkins.
The bottom line, according to Galen, is there were a lot of half truths regarding statements in the study and that’s where the agriculture industry really needed to set the record straight.
October 17, 2013 — More than 50 state and national dairy and farm organizations have joined together to urge congressional farm bill conferees to adopt the Senate’s Dairy Security Act (DSA), because it offers farmers the most effective safety net for the future. The groups expressed their support in a joint letter sent today to the Senate and House members who will decide the fate of the 2013 farm bill.
On Saturday, the House leadership named 17 Republicans and 12 Democrats to the conference committee that will reconcile the respective House and Senate farm bills passed earlier this year. They are joining seven Democratic Senators and five Republicans.
“As we reach what we all hope is the home stretch in the quest to develop a better economic safety net, dairy farmers from coast to coast are saying loud and clear that the Senate approach is not just the best choice; it’s the most effective choice for farmers,” said Jim Mulhern, Chief Operating Officer of NMPF. “The large number of organizations signing this letter highlights the breadth of support among the dairy farmer community for the Senate version of the farm bill, because it offers producers of all sizes the best safety net.”
The letter to the conferees points out that the “Dairy Security Act is specifically designed to offer dairy farmers help when they desperately need it: when margins between farm milk prices and production costs shrink to dangerous levels. Equally important, the Dairy Security Act is designed to limit taxpayers’ liability through its market stabilization mechanism. This provision will help farm milk prices recover more quickly, while mitigating against prolonged or particularly serious downturns that would otherwise increase government program costs.”
The dairy and farm groups note that current programs have been a costly failure, because they “did nothing to address the underlying cause of the problem: low prices triggered by milk supplies that badly outstripped demand. Without the two-pronged Dairy Security Act, the conditions that created the crisis in 2009 will continue and could easily worsen in the future.”
Noting that individual farmers can decide whether or not to participate in the dairy program, the groups said the “DSA is a voluntary program that protects producers and keeps taxpayer costs in check. Contrary to the gross distortion pedaled by DSA’s opponents during the House debate, the plan doesn’t increase retail milk prices. It is designed merely to keep farm milk prices from staying too low for too long, conditions that put 2,000 dairy farms out of business in 2009.”
Reacting to opposition to the DSA from dairy processors, the dairy farmer groups point out that “processors, wholesalers and retailers receive 70% of the amount consumers pay for dairy products (with farmers receiving only 30%), and they employ their own supply management daily by buying only the amount of milk they want. Without the stabilization mechanism, when there are excess supplies that drive down the price of all milk it is dairy farmers, the cooperatives they own and taxpayers who would suffer.”
“Collapsing farm prices and unchecked milk supplies are a bonanza for dairy processors. Again in 2009, as prices fell precipitously and farmers lost money on every gallon of milk they produced, processors’ earnings soared (“the perfect sunny day,” as one processing industry leader said at the time). No wonder they oppose a system designed to keep milk supplies in better balance with demand and prevent a prolonged collapse in farmers’ margins.”
Mulhern said it is critical that farm bill conferees adopt the Senate dairy provisions in order to protect dairy farmers, provide greater stability to dairy markets and protect taxpayers.
“Without the DSA’s market stabilization program, dairy farmers will continue to suffer periods of unsustainably low prices, even as taxpayers will subsidize processors by keeping milk prices artificially low through margin insurance that blunts the market signals contained in the market stabilization component,” he said.
The leaders of the farm bill conference said Wednesday they are likely to formally begin meeting the last week of October.
The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), based in Arlington, VA, develops and carries out policies that advance the well-being of dairy producers and the cooperatives they own. The members of NMPF’s cooperatives produce the majority of the U.S. milk supply, making NMPF the voice of more than 32,000 dairy producers on Capitol Hill and with government agencies. Visit www.nmpf.org for more information.
September 12, 2013 — For the second time in three years, organizations representing the nation’s dairy farmers and dairy companies jointly urged state lawmakers in Wisconsin to reject efforts
allowing raw milk sales directly to consumers in the nation’s second-largest dairy state.
In a letter sent Tuesday to Wisconsin state senators, the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) said that the risks inherent in raw dairy products are not worth any purported benefits to either consumers or producers of unpasteurized milk products. The two associations urged lawmakers to reject Wisconsin State Senate bill 236, which would allow the state?wide direct sale of raw milk. The measure is the subject of a hearing today in Madison.
“Consumption of raw milk has been opposed by every major health organization in the United States, including the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics. The link between raw milk and foodborne illness has been well?documented in the scientific literature, with evidence spanning nearly 100 years. Raw milk is a key vehicle in the transmission of human pathogens, including E. coli O157:H7, Campylobacter, Listeria monocytogenes, and Salmonella,” the organizations wrote.
Federal law prohibits the interstate sale of raw milk, but allows states individual discretion to regulate raw milk sales within their borders. Several states in recent years have considered legislation expanding the sales of raw milk, even as the product has been repeatedly linked to serious illnesses from coast to coast. At a school event in Wisconsin in 2011, 16 individuals, including fourth-grade students and adults, drank raw milk donated by a parent and later suffered from diarrhea, abdominal cramping, nausea, and vomiting from Campylobacter infections.
IDFA and NMPF wrote that “it is the responsibility of Wisconsin’s leaders to make decisions to protect the health of the public, most especially those who are minors and are unable to make fully informed decisions that could have profound consequences for the rest of their lives.”
The two dairy groups mentioned in the letter that “the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has reported that nearly 75% of raw milk?associated outbreaks have occurred in states where sale of raw milk was legal. Legalizing the state?wide sale of raw milk in Wisconsin increases the risk to public health, opening up the state’s consumers to the inevitable consequence of falling victim to a foodborne illness. No matter how carefully it is produced, raw milk is inherently dangerous. Americans have become ill after consuming raw milk obtained from farms of varying sizes, from cow?share programs, and from licensed, permitted, or certified raw milk producers.”
“Nationally, our dairy industry benefits from a very high degree of consumer confidence – confidence built in large part due to the excellent food safety record of milk and dairy products. In fact, current statistics estimate only 1?2% of reported foodborne outbreaks are attributed to dairy products. However, of those, over 70% have been attributed to raw milk and inappropriately?aged raw milk cheeses. A single case of illness – even one caused by a well-intentioned dairy farmer – that is attributed to raw milk or raw dairy products in Wisconsin would likely have an adverse effect on consumer confidence in and consumption of all healthful, nutrient?rich dairy foods like milk, yogurt, and cheese.”
“While choice is an important value, it should not pre?empt consumers’ well?being. Legalizing the state?wide sale of raw milk is an unnecessary risk to consumer safety. Therefore, we strongly urge you to oppose Senate Bill 236,” the letter said.
The two organizations made a similar plea against liberalizing raw milk sales in 2010, when former Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle was presented with a bill that he ultimately vetoed.
The National Milk Producers Federation, based in Arlington, VA, develops and carries out policies that advance the well being of dairy producers and the cooperatives they own. The members of NMPF’s 30 cooperatives produce the majority of the U.S. milk supply, making NMPF the voice of more than 32,000 dairy producers on Capitol Hill and with government agencies. Visit www.nmpf.org for more information.
The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), Washington, DC, represents the nation’s dairy manufacturing and marketing industries and their suppliers, with a membership of 550 companies representing a $125-billion a year industry. IDFA is composed of three constituent organizations: the Milk Industry Foundation (MIF), the National Cheese Institute (NCI) and the International Ice Cream Association (IICA). IDFA’s 220 dairy processing members run more than 600 plant operations, and range from large multi-national organizations to single-plant companies. Together they represent more than 85% of the milk, cultured products, cheese and frozen desserts produced and marketed in the United States. IDFA can be found online at www.idfa.org.
September 5, 2013 — Congress is going to go back into session next week with a lot to do, especially with the situation in Syria taking center stage right now, but one piece of good news is the push for a complete milk production report. This is something that the dairy industry has been lacking since the sequester. National Milk’s Chris Galen talked about it on Thursday’s DairyLine:
Back in March when the entire federal government had to confront the budget sequester and look for ways to cut spending, one of the victims of that was the monthly milk production report, and USDA had proposed completely eliminating that,” said Galen. “We were very concerned because that monthly data is an important part of the price discovery process in the dairy industry. After that initial announcement back in March, the USDA decided to revisit the situation, and they came up with a way to still put together estimated milk production, which they’ve been issuing now every month.
But one thing that they did eliminate because of the budget cuts was the quarterly production surveys from individual farmers, which really provides a reality check on milk production trends. So the good news is that Last week, the USDA announced that starting in October, which brings us a new fiscal year in the federal government, NASS is going to resume its quarterly producer surveys, and that’s going to result in more data being available in the new fiscal year after the start of next month.
We’re going to have much better data now with dairy cow numbers, milk per cow, production statistics. All of that will once again be available, and that will help augment some of the data that has still been put together by the USDA over the past six months, which they have cobbled together from other sources including federal milk marketing order data, check-off collection data, that sort of thing,” explains Galen. “So, that’s one of the good news items here around the end of the fiscal year. There is still, of course, a big battle brewing in Congress regarding the budgets for the coming fiscal year and the debt ceiling, but at least we’ve got some sliver of good information here recently regarding one thing that will pick up again for the dairy industry starting with October first.
Chris Galen is Senior Vice President of Communications with the National Milk Producers Federation
August 29, 2013 — The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) has diligently been reacquainting consumers with the REAL® Seal concept. One of the facets of the new program is coming up with the name of the animated character associated with Real Seal.
Contest officials are reviewing nearly 100 entries and the top three names will be posted on the REAL® Seal Dairy Facebook page and allow fans to select from the top three finalists.
“This is part of our effort to reacquaint consumers to this and make it more relevant to them,” NMPF’s Chris Galen said.
Some other items on the Facebook page include a number of blog postings and other articles from people who write about food and recipes. “Those are all positive dairy attributes that we want to connect to what the REAL® Seal stands for,” he said. “We’re now seeing a lot more interest in companies considering the use.”
One of the other new aspects of the REAL® Seal program is the “country of origin” indicator, meaning products that display the REAL® Seal have to be made in America from American produced milk.
“For those people who are concerned about where their foods come from…this is an opportunity to provide a voluntary ‘Made in America’ indication, which is what the REAL® Seal stands for as well,” Galen said.
More information about the REAL® Seal campaign is available at www.RealSeal.com or socially at:
“In fact, we are doing so much business we are asking dairy farmers to increase their investment in CWT from two cents a hundredweight to four cents per hundred pounds of milk,” he said on Thursday’s DairyLine.
So far this year, CWT has assisted members in exporting over 80 million pounds of American style cheese (primarily Cheddar cheese) and over 65 million pounds of 82 percent butter. Other exports have included some whole milk powder and anhydrous milkfat.
“I think the key thing here is we are helping our members to establish themselves in the world markets,” Tillison said. “That’s important because the world marketplace is growing at a rate five times faster than the domestic market.”
While nothing appears to be happening in Congress regarding a new Farm Bill, Tillison believes the CWT program is providing a very important service to all dairy farmers by moving this dairy product off shore.
Year-to-date, CWT has assisted members in exporting the equivalent of over 2.2 billion pounds of milk. That’s almost a half-billion pounds more than the projected increase in milk production this year.
“As a result, we are trying to move inventory levels down which will result in higher average prices for dairy farmers throughout the year,” he said.
Increasing the investment will allow CWT to be even more competitive in the marketplace and to reach more markets, according to Tillison.
“The China market has barely been scratched by exports and regardless of what happens in the Farm Bill, it’s important that we grow the demand for dairy farmers’ products. Not only domestically, which is being done through DMI and the Real Seal program that National Milk is promoting, but also through the CWT program, allowing our members to be competitive in world markets. That’s really going to be the key to the future growth of the dairy industry in the United States.”
The global market has been growing for the United States the last several years and will continue to grow. There’s a tremendous demand for protein in the developing world. As every country advances and grows their middle class, there is more demand for more protein for different products such as cheeseburgers and pizza. CWT sees that growing in Asian and the Middle East significantly.
“We hope every dairy farmer will see the value of CWT and join the 70 percent of those that are producing milk in this country that are already making their investment,” Tillison concluded.
Weekly updates on CWT and membership information is available at www.cwt.coop.
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August 15, 2013 — The Real Seal is the only assurance that what you are buying is made with the wholesome goodness of U.S. cow’s milk. It’s the grand-daddy that precedes a lot of other seals, but hasn’t received the attention and marketing support that the organic seal has in the past ten or fifteen years.
The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) hopes to change that by making the Real Seal more visible and accessible this year. In fact, they just received their 50,000th fan on Facebook.
“That’s important because Facebook is the main social media platform we are using to reconnect a new generation of consumers with the Real Seal and what it stands for,” NMPF’s Chris Galen reported.
A lot of progress has been made this summer to build awareness.
“We’re nothing like some of the big consumer brands with their presence on Facebook, but we’re off to a good start,” Galen said. “The good think is that there is a lot of residual good will on the part of consumers toward dairy products in general, and the Real Seal helps explain the value proposition behind why the Real Seal ought to be on the products that people buy.”
Another way to build awareness is the development of a buyer’s guide and mobile app, both available on the RealSeal.com website. The buyer’s guide allows consumers to search by brands or by product categories to find which products they want to patronize that have the Real Seal.
“This is another tool that earlier, when the program was created 30 years ago, we didn’t have the technology to do this – now we do,” Galen reported.
August 8, 2013 — We’ve been talking a lot about the Farm Bill but another big issue that Congress has to tackle before the end of the year is immigration reform. Chris Galen, Sr. VP of Communications with the National Milk Producers Federation joined us on Thursday’s Dairyline to discuss:
“We are still hoping that there will be time to pass a new Farm Bill,” National Milk’s Chris Galen said late last week. “Unfortunately, as the August recess for Congress gets started, there’s been no more visible progress on trying to bring together leaders from the House and the Senate to negotiate a compromise Farm Bill that can get done.”
As Congress heads back to the other 50 states outside of Washington, D.C., Galen urges dairy farmers to let their elected officials know that failure is not an option.
“The August recess offers a number of opportunities for grassroots interaction between members of Congress and their constituents, including farmers, county and state fairs, town hall meetings, various things like that,” he said.
Galen said another way to reach members of Congress is going to National Milk’s website nmpf.org, and click on the “Write to Congress” tab.
“You can click on and send a letter to Senators and Representatives urging them to continue working towards a Farm Bill. Nothing much has happened here the past couple of weeks, but we really need to have things get done here in the coming month.”
Congress won’t return to work until after Labor Day. There is the possibility of another extension, which happened last year, but Galen doesn’t see that as an acceptable option.
“We still think that there’s time enough for them to deal with the nutrition issue, which has been kind of the outstanding concern, at least in the House of Representatives. As I think a lot of people know, they passed a farm-program only bill a few weeks ago without dealing with the nutrition portion of the overall farm bill, so we need to figure out how to get them to move forward here so that we don’t end up having to talk about an extension at the end of the process,” Galen said.
One thing we can all agree on is time is running out. There is the possibility of working on it in the fall and implementing programs retroactively.
“We don’t want to wait at the end of the year to have the same types of conversations that we had at the end of 2012 wondering why they can’t give us a better safety net for dairy farmers and other reforms of overall farm programs,” he concluded.