Archive for the ‘Todays Dairy News’ Category

No April Fools – Animal Rights Activist Defends Dairy

April 1, 2014 — An Idaho woman and self-proclaimed animal rights activist formerly (and vocally) opposed to the agriculture security bill wrote about how dramatically her opinion has changed. The reason?  She learned more about the behavior of Mercy for Animals from the organization itself.

Mercy For Animals released a video filmed on the Bettencourt Dairy, about 25 miles from where Geno resides in Shoshone, Idaho. She immediately wrote to her lawmakers and the dairy to protest the animal abuse and urge the Idaho legislature to vote against Bill S1337.

But then, as she wrote in her letter to the editor, “The real story began to emerge.”

“I heard terrible stories about Mercy for Animals’ filming for days without bringing abuse to authorities or owners,” Geno wrote. “MFA went after Bettencourt’s customers. Then came MFA’s belated release of its video to Idaho authorities. Since that time, the Bettencourt family has been under constant abuse – death threats, boycotts, harassment of its employees’ families and its customers”

Geno said she called MFA and spoke at length to one of its representatives trying to understand its stance.

“I was shocked that, far from simply ending animal abuse, MFA is intent on putting the Bettencourt Dairy out of business without regard to the people employed there, the Bettencourt family or the 35,000 head of dairy cattle,” she wrote.

That’s also what prompted the Idaho Dairymen’s Association to endorse the legislation.

“They do attack the owners,” Bob Naerebout told DairyLine. “Mr. Bettencourt did everything proper. He’s a great animal lover, protects his animals and was offended when people he had hired were abusing the animals – so he took all the appropriate actions.”

He says If Mercy for Animals had stopped and just exposed what they saw as animal abuse without attacking the owner, then the agriculture industry wouldn’t have run this legislation.

“That’s not their agenda, MFA’s goal is to put animal agriculture out of business,” he said. “They do not want food being made from animal products. So, it’s time to expose what their real agenda is, and it’s not animal care.”

The ag security bill was crafted through the Idaho Dairymen’s Association, but the rest of the agriculture industry absorbed it as their bill with the belief that today it’s the dairy industry and animal agriculture as the target. Tomorrow it could be a row crop operation involving GMO’s or other categories.

“This bill was totally absorbed by agriculture as a whole and pushed by agriculture and that’s one of the reasons we were able to be so successful,” Naerebout concluded.

Read Geno’s Letter to the Editor


Drought Driving Up Hay Prices

March 31, 2014 — The drought situation in California is “Pretty Scary,” according to Utah State Ag Economist Dillon Feuz. He’s heard that irrigation companies are telling forage and

Dillon Feuz, Utah State

Dillon Feuz,
Utah State

other row crop growers that they may not have water. That makes it hard to say where hay prices are heading.

“$300 per ton is not out of line,” he said on DairyLine Radio. “If California stays this dry, that could be the impact.”

California is a big enough player that most of the hay that leaves Utah and Nevada is probably going into California, either directly to exports or into the dairy industry to supplant hay that’s leaving the Golden State.

Most of Arizona’s hay is under irrigation from the Colorado River.

“I don’t think they’re going to be as short as California, so there production should still be up,” he said. “But again, California is a big player in the hay market and if you drastically reduce one of the major players then you are going to have a shock that’s going to be felt across the western states.”

While hay producers may be fine with it, it could have an impact on many dairy producers in the west.

“Your benefit is sometimes your neighbors’ loss,” Feuz said. “Certainly they recognize if hay prices get too high and force dairies out of business, then they’ve just lost a major local buyer of their product.”

Cheese/Powder Prices Softening but Dryer Still Bullish

March 28, 2014 –   Buyers are in hand-to-mouth mode,  according to Jerry Dryer, editor of the Dairy and Food Market Analyst. Speaking  in Friday’s DairyLine, Dryer said,  there’s push back as they contemplate the spring flush and the additional milk  that will becoming available. The Class III price is quite a bit higher than the  Class IV price, so that has moved some milk from powder to cheese, from  Mozzarella to Cheddar in the Upper Midwest. Cheese is coming to the market, he  said, in response to the higher prices.

Dryer believes commercial disappearance may be higher than USDA’s latest  data suggests, citing butter as an example. Dryer said USDA did not revise an  inventory number in their calculation and, while Dryer prefers three-month  rolling averages as opposed to monthly numbers, his data suggests January butter  disappearance was up  16.7 percent,  but more significantly, over the most recent three months, it was up 17.9  percent, he said.

American cheese wasn’t real strong  in January, according to Dryer, and was only up about 0.8 percent in the last  three months, but other-than-American cheese, like Mozzarella, Gouda, and some  of the cheese being exported, was strong, up more than 3 percent for the most  recent three months and for January.

“Cheese has continued to move  well,” Dryer said, “And disappearance was probably very good in February and  even in March as these prices haven’t pushed through to retail quite as fast as  they frequently do.”    While USDA data suggests nonfat dry milk disappearance was down in  January, Dryer reiterated that one month doesn’t make a trend. His data has it  up almost 4 percent during January and up 10 percent for the most recent three  months. Furthermore, USDA data doesn’t include skim milk powder, as Dryer’s  does, and “that’s the big mover in exports,” he said.

Dryer sees “relatively high  prices” for the next month or so. “We will come off those record highs on cheese  and powder, although butter appears to be moving higher at this point,” he  concluded,  “But, continued good  strength although not as high as we’ve seen in recent  weeks.”

Farmland – Coming Soon to a Theater Near You

March 27, 2014 —  Over the past few years there have been several documentaries critical of agriculture which may have prompted the producers of conventional food products to fight back with a film of their own. Academy Award®-winning filmmaker James Moll’s new feature length documentary, Farmland, will be released nationally May 1, 2014. The film will be distributed via D&E Entertainment in more than 60 major markets. Numerous national exhibitors will be carrying the film including: Regal Cinemas, Marcus Theatres, Carmike Cinemas, Landmark Theatres and many key independent theaters.

“It’s not about the mechanics or science of producing food, but rather about the high risk, high reward opportunities and the way of life involved in food production, and how it is being passed down from generation to generation,” Chris Galen of the National Milk Producers Federation reported on Thursday’s DairyLine.

The film will have its New York premiere at a private screening on April 17, during the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival. Additionally, Farmland has been selected to be in competition this year at Cleveland International Film Festival on March 28-29, 2014; Atlanta Film Festival on April 6, 2014; Nashville Film Festival on April 19, 2014; and Newport Beach Film Festival in April 2014.

Farmland offers viewers an intimate and firsthand glimpse into the lives of six young farmers and ranchers across the U.S., chronicling their high-risk/high-reward jobs and their passion for a way of life that has been passed down from generation to generation, yet continues to evolve.

“In Farmland, audiences will hear thoughts and opinions about agriculture, but not from me, and not from a narrator,” Moll says about his film. “They’re from the mouths of the farmers and ranchers themselves.”

The documentary features an original score composed by Nathan Wang with the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. The film also includes an original recording of “This Land is Your Land” performed in a first-ever collaboration with platinum rock band Everclear and Grammy® Award-nominated artist Liz Phair.

Visit to locate a theatre near you where Farmland will be screening, as well as additional information about the film and to watch the trailer.

Farmland was produced by Moll’s Allentown Productions, with generous support from the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance®(USFRA®).


What’s Wrong With Pricing Milk at the Farm?

March 26, 2014 — Another Farm Bill has passed without any consideration of a new pricing formula for our American dairy farmers, according to Pro-Ag’s Arden Tewksbury.

Arden Tewksbury, Pro Ag

Arden Tewksbury, Pro Ag

“Oh, I know while the prices paid to dairymen are escalating, and some people will say, ‘See, we don’t need a new pricing formula.’  However, I remember that so many times we have seen milk prices escalate, but a sudden drop of prices always seems to follow,” he said.

“Yes, the people in charge always seem to find a way to have the prices fall,” he continued.  “Maybe this time the prices to dairy farmers will stay reasonable a longer time than usual.
Certainly with the Class I price in Boston reaching $26.90 per cwt. (hundred weight) there is a bright side to look at.

However, the milk supply management program contained in the Farm Bill is not sufficient to prevent a possible escalation of milk production. In addition, there are even some people claiming there is not a milk supply program in the Farm Bill.

“There is an old saying that if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and walks like a duck, then it must be a duck,” he said.  “Whenever a dairy farmer is assigned a milk production base, and when a dairy farmer is penalized for producing over his allowable base, (even if it is the wrong program) then indeed it is a milk supply management program.”

Senator Collins from Maine and Senator Gillibrand from New York are still attempting to have milk hearings in an attempt to give dairy farmers an opportunity to present testimony to price milk in a different method.

“We have always said the time to develop a new pricing formula is when the prices are at a reasonable level (like now), not after they crash,” Tewksbury said.

He believes it’s time to develop a pricing formula that allows dairy farmers a chance to cover their cost of production, plus a reasonable profit.  However, along with a new pricing formula, there must be a milk supply management program that would be implemented only when some dairy farmers over-produced more than the real market can bear.  If exports of dairy products hold up, then that would be great.

“Some people say that our proposed program tells dairy farmers how much milk they can produce. This is positively not true,” he said.   ”A program is only needed when there is overproduction, and only then.  This program would be paid for by dairy farmers, not the American taxpayer.  The milk supply management program contained in the Farm Bill is not the answer, and certainly the milk supply management program that was in the original Dairy Security Act certainly was not the way to go.”

Tewksbury’s organization strongly feel the supply management program contained in the Federal Milk Marketing Improvement Act is the way to go.

“However, it’s time reasonable people sit down and develop a program that is feasible and acceptable,” he said.  “It might not be our plan, but it’s got to be somebody’s!”

Tewksbury invites lawmakers to have a milk hearing that uses a pricing formula that gives credence to the dairy farmers’ cost; plus a supply management program that allows a dairy farmer to produce milk, that acknowledges that dairy farmers who over-produce milk beyond the needs of the market must pay the fiddler.

“We and other people for years have proclaimed that these over-produced dairy products (if they exist) must be given to needy people (and they are out there) throughout the United States,” he concluded.

Pro-Ag can be reached at 570-833-5776.

Current Cheese Prices May Be “Overcooked”

March 25, 2014 – The current record cheese price levels are probably a little misleading, according to FC Stone’s Bill Brooks. Dairy farmers have never seen prices like this

Bill Brooks, FC Stone

Bill Brooks, FC Stone

before, with CME 40 lb. block cheese trading at $2.4325 and 500 lb. barrels at $2.3775.

“We are in a tight market,” Brooks warned on Tuesday’s DairyLine Radio program.  “We haven’t seen a trade for block cheese since February 20th.”

Prices continue to set records because of the world market, weather, feed prices and featured dairy products in store shelves from the last football season and now March madness. But those are going to go away quickly, according to Brooks.

“That’s going to negatively impact our demand and hopefully not make the down-turn potentially worse than what we might anticipate,” he said. Brooks has that feeling that the markets are a bit “overcooked.”  

Even though inventory levels are below a year ago, we’re only three days below the amount of available supply we have in cold storage inventories. However prices are 60 to 70 cents above a year ago. U.S. prices are also 10-30 cents above international prices.

“We’re going to lose that competitive factor that helped us ship a lot of product offshore,” Brooks said. “But the market is always right; we just have to figure out the timing of when it is going to go in the other direction.”

Some producers have put in some risk management positions, like forward contracting with their milk buyer and some are also locking in feed prices. Both have started to work their way higher.

“We are starting to see dairy producers look at that,” he said. “They are being pretty judicious with those positions because they do see this market is continuing to go up.”

It’s more difficult to hit the exact high of the market when trying to sell milk in futures, options or a forward contract. So producers don’t want to miss it by too much and leave money on the table.

Weather, feed costs and feed quality are reasons to layer in protection on margins, according to Brooks. Producers are also looking at a new risk management tool from the new farm bill, and are learning how to implement margin insurance that will protect them against the massive price fluctuations that we seem to have in agriculture.

Kings Co: A Thorn in the Side of High Speed Rail

March 24, 2014 — Farmers in Kings County, California don’t want to be railroaded when it comes to the planning and building of the first high speed rail system in the nation. Just BulletTrainask Joe Machado, a 3rd generation dairy producer who milks 1,100 Holstein cows on 700 acres near Hanford. He says the California High-Speed Rail Authority plans to put tracks about 100 feet from his facility.

“My above ground water that I get from irrigation will be impacted,” he said. “It’s like cutting one of my legs off and telling me I still have crutches to walk on…that’s their whole attitude toward mitigating impacts.”

Officials say by 2029, the system will run from San Francisco to the Los Angeles basin in under three hours at speeds capable of over 200 miles per hour. The system will eventually extend to Sacramento and San Diego, totaling 800 miles with up to 24 stations.

Machado says because of politics, the project is starting in the Central Valley. He believes the plaintiffs in Kings County are “in the right” because officials are not following the directive of the voters.

“That’s their biggest hurdle right now,” he said. “We have judges that are sympathetic to our cause and Kings County is upset that they haven’t resolved our issues.”

Kings County farmers came together as one and didn’t let the issue die. Machado says they have successfully held the project up, saying that he’s not against high speed rail, but he is against the Authority for not following the guidelines set by voters.

“They thought we didn’t have the political power. We’re not a big city, which they thought was the path of least resistance,” Machado said. “Were they ever wrong, because we have been the thorn in the side of high speed rail, and if wasn’t for Kings County they probably would have a shovel in the ground by now somewhere.”

DFA Annual Meeting Very Upbeat

March 21, 2014 – That was the observation of DairyBusiness Communications, Joel Hastings, who reported highlights of Dairy Farmers of America’s (DFA) annual meeting in DFAKansas City on this morning’s DairyLine. That applied to the current dairy economy, he said, as well as DFA’s activities in 2013.

Hastings was among some 1400 DFA members and guests who heard “solid financial results” regarding the nation’s largest dairy cooperative. Hastings reported that 2013 sales totaled some $12.8 billion, up 6% from 2012, and DFA’s adjusted net income also grew and amounted to $61.3 million.

CEO Rick Smith, in his annual report on the activities of the cooperative he oversees, assured his members that DFA is delighted with the high milk prices they are receiving and “getting a breath of fresh air,” as it were to their balance sheets. He said their processing operations will adjust but they are “all about high milk checks for farmers.”

On the sales front, DFA reported that it has created a special new Class I product called Cal-Gold brand milk. It is an ultra high temperature pasteurized milk processed in California and shipped to China for distribution through Wal-Mart stores. Consumers responded to the product very well, according to DFA, and the product has great sales potential in the Chinese market.

Dairy Management Incorporated CEO, Tom Gallagher, reported on some of the partnerships they are developing with dairy processors and he presented an optimistic picture for other new Class I products that offer innovative packaging and new flavors.

When asked about any concerns that were expressed, Hastings said it was certainly acknowledged by producers and industry people there that dairy is a cyclical business and “What goes up must come down but there did not seem to be warnings for any immediate drop,” Hastings concluded, “And it was certainly an upbeat meeting.”


Farmers Call For Immigration Reform

March 20, 2014 — Farmers and ranchers gathered at the National Press Club in downtown Washington, D.C. Tuesday calling for Congress to act on immigration reform. Congress

Dairy producers Mary Kraft of Colorado and Russell Boening from Texas spoke on a personal level of how important it is to have access to an adequate work force of immigrant laborers.  

“We need to have the farmers in mind when we go up to Capitol Hill and talk about the stakes for agriculture,” National Milk’s Chris Galen reported. “All of agriculture is really dependent on getting this issue fixed.”

The issue of immigration reform is nothing new but it appears to have stalled in the House. Congress is not expected to get a lot done in 2014 before the elections, but farmers say immigration reform should be one issue that needs to be addressed.

“The clock is ticking,” Galen said. “There are only so many days left in the legislative calendar.”

The agriculture industry is working on building alliances with other sectors of the economy. NMPF is part of a partnership for a new American economy, largely focused on hi-tech workers to make sure they get visas to work in the U.S.

“We are trying to partner with those folks to talk about how agriculture needs this so called ‘blue card’ for people who work specifically in agriculture in this country,” Galen concluded.

February Milk Production Up 1.4%

March 20, 2014 – The Agriculture Department’s preliminary data show February milk production in the top 23 producing states at 14.9 billion pounds, up 1.4 percent from February 2013. The 50-state total, at 15.9 billion pounds, was up 1.1 percent.    Revisions added 104 million pounds to the original January 23-state estimate, now reported at 16.2 billion pounds, up 1.3 percent from a year ago.    February cow numbers in the 23 states, at 8.51 million head, were down 1,000 head from January but 13,000 head more than a year ago.

Output per cow in the 23 states averaged 1,753 pounds, up 21 pounds from a year ago.

South Dakota was added to the monthly estimating program and Missouri was removed. The inclusion of South Dakota and exclusion of Missouri accounted for 65 of the 104 million pound revision to the 23-state milk production total for January 2014. The remaining 39 million pounds were a result of the normal revision process.