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Weekly Digest: Dean Foods still exploring business options

Progressive Dairyman Editor Dave Natzke Published on 08 May 2019
Michigan virtual tour

Digest Highlights

Dean Foods still exploring business options

Dean Foods reported $1.8 billion in net sales for the first quarter of 2019, down from $1.98 billion during the same quarter a year earlier. Company officials reported a net loss of $62 million during a quarterly call with investors.

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Ralph Scozzafava, chief executive officer of Dean Foods, said the company was continuing to explore strategic business alternatives. Dean officials had previously announced the company would consider staying its current course, selling off assets, forming joint ventures, selling the business or a combination of any those. (Read: Dean Foods considering business options.)

DMC, livestock disaster program training scheduled for Farm Service Agency staff

USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) is conducting training for county and state USDA officials regarding the Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program and other disaster assistance programs approved in the 2018 Farm Bill. The training will be held May 20-23 in Reno, Nevada.

The national dairy and livestock disaster assistance program training will cover policies, procedures, business processes and automation procedures for the DMC program, as well as the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees and Farm-raised Fish (ELAP), Livestock Forage Program (LFP) and Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP). Between four and seven representatives from each state will participate.

Dairy farmer sign-up for the 2019 DMC program is set to begin June 17 at local USDA FSA offices.

Imitators turning back to ‘butter’ on label

Marketers of plant-based imitations pose an increasing challenge for consumer understanding by misappropriating the term “butter” on labels, according to the head of the American Butter Institute (ABI).

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Speaking at the ABI’s annual gathering in Chicago, Executive Director Tom Balmer said plant-based butter imitations have been marketed under a federal standard of identity as margarine or under the nonstandardized term “vegetable oil spread” for generations. Now, however, in the face of declining margarine and spread sales, companies are seeking to capitalize on butter’s resurgent popularity by using the term “butter” and applying it to products, even though those products do not meet butter’s federal standard of identity.

That makes it crucial for the FDA to step in before those products make federal standards of identity for established terms such as “butter” and “margarine” meaningless, Balmer said.

“Just because consumers are rejecting plant-based margarines and spreads, companies can’t turn around and violate federal law by slapping the term ‘butter’ on a product label and pretend it’s worthy of a dairy term,” he said. “A falsely labeled product is a misbranded product, and misbranded products don’t belong on grocery shelves. The proliferation of these products is eroding the integrity of the marketplace, and the FDA needs to stop it before its own rules become meaningless.”

Balmer also noted butter’s many strengths that position itself well to compete with plant-based imposters. Butter is a “cleaner” product than its imitators – salted butter, for example, contains two ingredients (salt and cream), while Wayfare’s “Dairy-Free” product, to cite one example, has at least 10 ingredients. “Butter is popular precisely because it has qualities imitators can’t match,” Balmer said. “Imposters don’t deserve a label that’s destined to disappoint consumers who expect the high quality of the real thing.”

Proposal would create Pennsylvania Dairy Future Commission

The Pennsylvania Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee advanced legislation (SB 585) to establish the Pennsylvania Dairy Future Commission.

Sponsored by state Sen. Jake Corman, the commission would review and make recommendations designed to promote and strengthen Pennsylvania’s dairy industry. Areas to be considered would include dairy processing, production and marketing. Additionally, the commission would assess the effects statutes, regulations and local governments have on the dairy industry.

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Under the proposal, commission membership would include the chairs and minority chairs of the state’s Senate and House agriculture and rural affairs committees; secretaries of departments of agriculture, transportation, environmental protection, economic development and revenue; representatives from the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, Center for Dairy Excellence, the Milk Marketing Board, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania State University; and other appointees.

The commission would be required to report its findings and recommendations no more than one year after the enactment of the legislation.

FarmFirst Dairy Co-op issues disaster benefits

Thirty-three FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative members in Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin will receive disaster claim payments for milk losses as a result of the snowstorm that swept through the Upper Midwest, Feb. 23-24. The storm resulted in collapsed barn roofs, cow deaths and milk having to be dumped due to impassable roads.

The payments – made through the co-op’s disaster benefits program – will total more than $23,000, with more payments anticipated for additional claims.

In April 2018, 19 FarmFirst members received nearly $30,000 in payments as a result of a snowstorm that started in South Dakota and moved through Wisconsin.

FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative was established in 2013. Headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin, it represents farms in Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Michigan, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana through policy bargaining, dairy marketing services, laboratory testing opportunities and industry promotion.

Wisconsin farm groups seek Dairy Innovation Hub

Five Wisconsin farm groups urged state lawmakers to support a state proposal (Senate Bill 186) that will increase investment in scientists and supporting facilities at the state’s agricultural colleges. The Dairy Business Association, Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, Wisconsin Farm Bureau, Wisconsin Farmers Union and Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin said the proposal is vital to ensuring a robust future for the state’s dairy community while maintaining UW’s prominence in dairy research around the world.

If approved, the bill would create a Dairy Innovation Hub in the University of Wisconsin (UW) System, making a $7.9 million annual investment to be used at the UW – Madison, UW – Platteville and UW – River Falls. The bill calls for adding researchers to focus on land and water use, human health and nutrition, animal health and welfare, and farm businesses and rural communities.

DMI names Harden as VP of global environmental strategy

Krysta Harden, former USDA deputy secretary, has been named executive vice president of global environmental strategy of Dairy Management Inc. (DMI). Harden will report to Barb O’Brien, president of DMI and the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy.

In her new role, Harden will be tasked with driving the dairy checkoff’s environmental sustainability strategy. She will also provide executive leadership on the Innovation Center’s Environmental Stewardship Committee.

Harden most recently served as chief sustainability officer for Corteva Agriscience, an agriculture division of DowDuPont. Before joining DuPont, Harden spent nearly three years as USDA deputy secretary under former U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack, who is now president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council.

CDI’s Mikhalevsky to retire at the end of 2019

Andrei Mikhalevsky, president and chief executive officer of California Dairies Inc. (CDI), announced his intention to retire effective Dec. 31, 2019.

Mikhalevsky has led CDI since January 2012. The CDI board of directors has initiated a search to identify candidates for his successor.

CDI, co-owned by more than 300 dairy producers who ship 15 billion pounds of milk annually, is the largest member-owned milk marketing and processing cooperative in California, producing 40 percent of the state’s milk. CDI manufactures and markets butter, fluid milk products and milk powders.

Wisconsin: Bovine TB investigation ongoing

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) is continuing to track the first case of bovine tuberculosis (TB) in over 20 years. (Read: Bovine TB confirmed in Wisconsin dairy herd.)

Confirmed last October, the Dane County herd continues to be the only TB-affected herd in Wisconsin and is following a test-and-remove protocol to eradicate the disease.

According to a DATCP update, the TB-affected herd and all locations where animals from the dairy are raised are under quarantine, and animals can only move directly to slaughter, rendering or a restricted feedlot. DATCP, in collaboration with the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service-Veterinary Services (USDA APHIS VS), will continue testing the herd approximately every other month into 2020, and the herd will remain under quarantine until testing protocols are completed that show the disease is eliminated from the herd. Once the quarantine is removed, DATCP will test the herd annually for five years to ensure there is no disease recurrence.

DATCP’s Division of Animal Health and USDA’s APHIS VS staff continue to conduct trace investigations of sales from the affected herd. There are currently 26 Wisconsin premises that have some type of animal movement restriction due to exposure from the affected farm. The investigations identify animals that were in contact with the TB-affected herd.

Several other states with bovine TB-infected herds are conducting similar trace investigations. Texas recently confirmed bovine TB associated with a large calf grower of over 70,000 animals. Trace investigations for animals from or commingled with animals from that infected herd have extended into a dozen states.

Michigan dairy farmers taking students of virtual tours

Starting this spring, Michigan students who have never had a chance to see the inner workings of a dairy farm will get the chance to do so – all without having to leave their classroom.

With an internet-connected computer, webcam and microphone, students wil take a virtual farm trip to a Michigan dairy farm, where they’ll see cows, tour barns and milking parlors, and learn directly from real dairy farmers how milk and dairy foods get from the farm to their schools.

Using live video conferencing technology provided through the United Dairy Industry of Michigan (UDIM), students will be able to interact and have real conversations with dairy farmers while the farmer is working on their dairy.

UDIM is the umbrella organization for the Dairy Council of Michigan and the American Dairy Association of Michigan.

“These new trips help students learn more about dairy production: how cows are raised, how they grow, how they are milked and what it takes to get dairy foods to their table,” said Melissa Gerharter, UDIM youth wellness executive director. “Classrooms participating in the program will enjoy a memorable, engaging and fun learning experience that will bring students closer to a dairy than ever before.”

The first trip, to be held June 4, for pre-school students through second grade, will help students learn the basics of a dairy with special emphasis on calves and the life cycle of a dairy cow. Additional trips are being planned for the fall to include all age groups.  end mark

PHOTO: Through the technology of virtual tours, students no longer have to leave their classroom to tour a Michigan dairy farm. Photo courtesy of United Dairy Industry of Michigan.  

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