NMPF lists post-election priorities

posted Dec. 3, 2016 6:25 p.m. (CDT)
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by / Lee Mielke

A lower All-Milk price slid the latest milk-feed price ratio lower, reversing four months of gain. The October ratio is 2.37, down from 2.47 in September but compared to 2.3 in October 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest Ag Prices report. The index is based on the current milk price in relationship to feed prices for a dairy ration of 51 percent corn, 8 percent soybeans and 41 percent alfalfa hay; in other words, one pound of milk today purchases 2.37 pounds of dairy feed containing that blend.

Cash cheese prices start December mixed. Block Cheddar dipped to $1.76 per pound Wednesday but rallied and closed Dec. 2 at $1.81, still a nickel lower on the week but 29.25 cents above a year ago. The barrels closed at $1.6150, down 7.5 cents on the week, 13 cents above a year ago and 19.5 cents below the blocks. Eleven cars of block were sold on the week and 25 of barrel.

A big story last week involved the U.S. Marshals Service. Under order by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, more than 4 million pounds of product produced by Valley Milk Products LLC of Strasburg, Va., was seized. The company is owned by the Maryland and Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association in Reston, Va. The seized products included dry nonfat milk powder and buttermilk powder packaged in 40- and 50-pound bags for further manufacturing, worth nearly $4 million, according to an FDA press release.

“The U.S. Department of Justice filed the complaint, on behalf of the FDA, in the U.S. District Court for the Virginia Western District, alleging that the seized products are adulterated under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. During an FDA inspection of Valley Milk from July to September, FDA investigators observed poor sanitary practices and reviewed company records, which showed positive results for Salmonella in the plant’s internal environmental and finished product samples. FDA investigators observed residues on internal parts of the processing equipment after it had been cleaned by the company and water dripping from the ceiling onto food manufacturing equipment.”

“The FDA urged Valley Milk to conduct a voluntary recall of the implicated products,” said Melinda Plaisier, FDA associate commissioner for regulatory affairs. “The firm refused to recall and, as a result, we have had to intervene and seize this adulterated food to prevent it from reaching consumers who could be exposed to Salmonella from these products.”

Valley Milk Products responded, stating in a press release that they are “working with the FDA to resolve any concerns related to milk powder recently placed under hold by the government. Multiple tests conducted by third parties on the milk powder have been negative for the presence of Salmonella. There are no reported illnesses related to this issue, and consumers and customers are not being asked to take any additional action. Out of an abundance of caution, we have not produced any dry milk powder at Valley Milk since the FDA initiated its inspection in late July.”

In politics, National Milk President and CEO Jim Mulhern, in his latest “CEO Corner” addressed the election of Donald Trump. He stated that “it’s already clear that the Trump administration will usher in a new approach in Washington to some of the issues of interest to dairy farmers” and listed some of the Federation’s priorities for 2017, including the strengthening of the safety net for dairy farmers, by identifying changes that will “make the Margin Protection Program more reliable and effective.

“We are also discussing with key Congressional leaders our desire to adopt changes in the near term, instead of waiting for the current farm bill to expire in 2018. Rural areas delivered many votes for the new president, and it’s clear that a sense of economic unease and uncertainty was a driver of that voter turnout,” Mulhern said.

Immigration is another issue, Mulhern discussed, stating: “We are now reaching out to the Trump team to discuss dairy’s unique labor challenges. Specifically, dairy farm employers need the certainty of access to their current workforce, as well as to a future supply of farm workers on a year-round basis.”

Trade is an important issue as well, according to Mulhern, who wrote: “While momentum behind the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership has stalled for the time being, the need for U.S. dairy access to foreign markets has not. NMPF will continue to highlight how dairy exports are economically important to farmers and dairy processors, as well as to thousands of other workers in rural America.”

Tax policy reform and environmental issues, along with nutrition and the school lunch program, were all included in Federation priorities.

Lee Mielke can be reached at lkmielke@juno.com.

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