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Farming is a uniquely stressful occupation, and farmer mental-health needs tend to be underserved, said Loganville, WI dairy farmer Randy Roecker in the latest Dairy Defined podcast. Roecker, a board member for Foremost Farms USA, is a co-founder of the Farmer Angel Network, a Wisconsin organization that helps support farmers’ mental health needs. “A lot of farmers are very isolated and they don't get off the farm very much. This leads to getting stuck in the same rut over and over again,” he said. “The main thing is to just be there for each other.”
Record milk prices seen in 2022 likely won’t repeat themselves, as production increases and consumers grapple with an economic slowdown, according to members of the NMPF and U.S. Dairy Export Council’s joint economics unit, in a Dairy Defined Podcast released today. But exports are on track to increase, and demand will likely be resilient as dairy remains must-have for buyers.“Consumers around the world still gravitate towards dairy, even when they're experiencing tighter economic situations,” said Will Loux, head of the team Vice President for Global Economic Affairs with NMPF and USDEC. “They ultimately view dairy as an essential item and will continue to consume it.”Loux discusses the global and domestic dairy outlook with NMPF’s Chief Economist, Peter Vitaliano; Economic Research and Analysis Director, Stephen Cain; and the joint economic team's newest member, Economic Policy and Global Analysis Coordinator, Allison Wilton. 
Holiday giving season is under way, and NMPF's National Dairy Leadership Scholarship Program is a worthy beneficiary for anyone who cares about a better industry future, explains Nicole Ayache, who leads the program at NMPF, in the latest Dairy Defined podcast. The scholarship supports graduate students, enrolled in master's or doctoral programs, who are actively pursuing dairy related fields of research that directly benefit milk marketing cooperatives and the U.S. dairy industry at large. To learn more about it or to donate, just go to NMPF’s home page, nmpf.org, and click on the blue bar. “As we look at the last 10 years or so of recipients, all of those recipients have stayed within agriculture,”  said Ayache, who also serves as NMPF’s vice president for environmental stewardship and sustainability and leads the FARM Program's Environmental Stewardship initiative. “In research, academia, allied industry, whatever it might be, those individuals have stayed within agriculture, and the majority within dairy itself. So we do believe that the scholarships we are awarding are really fulfilling our goal, which is to support the future of dairy.”
The International Dairy Federation (IDF) World Dairy Summit brings unique opportunities for U.S. dairy as the host nation for the Chicago event, to be held next Oct. 16-19. The global conference returns to the United States for the first time in three decades, at a moment when rising exports and world-leading sustainability gives the U.S. industry a great story to tell, according to three leaders in organizing next year’s events.“It's a really exciting time for our industry, and we think that there's a tremendous opportunity, a tremendous amount of potential that dairy, globally, has here,” said Shawna Morris, Senior Vice President for Trade at the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC). “Looking at how we tap into that together is what we're focused on doing through the conference.”“Bringing all of these folks to the United States creates an opportunity to get folks into facilities, to get them out to farms, to really show the rest of the global dairy industry what the U.S. dairy industry is all about,” said Nick Gardner, chairman of the U.S. International Dairy Federation, the Senior Vice President for Sustainability and Multilateral Affairs at USDEC, and with Morris the co-chair of next year’s summit.“This is an excellent opportunity for the U.S. dairy industry to highlight its world leading dairy production from the farm through our cooperatives and processors and out to the consumers,” said Jamie Jonker, NMPF’s chief science officer and chair of IDF’s Science Program Coordinating Committee. “It's a way for us to step on the world stage, reintroduce U.S. dairy, its innovation and technology to the global marketplace, and demonstrate how we are world leaders.”Morris, Gardner and Jonker also discuss how the dairy community can get involved with supporting the event, already highlighted by platinum-level sponsor Dairy Management Inc., as planning for it is already in full swing. 
Control of the House of Representatives remains in doubt nearly one week after last Tuesday’s elections. But regardless of who is in charge in 2023, dairy’s priorities will move forward, says Paul Bleiberg, NMPF’s Senior Vice President for Government Relations, in a Dairy Defined podcast. “The basic policy priorities remain the same,” said Bleiberg. “There are some areas where we might have more support from Republicans, some where we might have more support from Democrats, some where we might have more support on regional lines, and it's really a question of strategy. Who's going to be on the Agriculture Committee? Who's going to be on the Appropriations Committee or the Ways and Means committee? Who are the members that we might go to kind of champion different priorities in those or other committees? That sort of is subject to those dynamics, but our priorities will be our priorities.”
NMPF Chairman Randy Mooney, a dairy farmer outside Rogersville, MO, said the spirit of collaboration and facing challenges head on, embodied in the cooperative model, will give dairy strength in the years to come. He spoke on Oct. 25 at NMPF’s annual meeting in Denver. “This is an exciting time in our industry,” Mooney said. “What we do on our farms and in our communities is important, how we do it is important, and it's important that we stay at the forefront of this revolution, never settling for status quo, thinking differently, and seizing the opportunities.”
To celebrate National Cooperative Month (and the centennial of the Capper-Volstead Act that underpins farm cooperatives to this day), Cooperative Hall of Fame Member Rich Stammer, former CEO of Agri-Mark, says the values of cooperatives remain important as new challenges to dairy farmers emerge. “As more and more people moved away from the farm, didn't know anything about farming, co-ops have played a bigger role in informing consumers about dairy and farmers and what they do,” he said. “We have attacks from animal rights groups. Dairy farmers take great care of their animals, but getting that message out to consumers with all the negative things that come down, is an important role of co-ops. We have a program, our FARM program, basically to ensure animals are treated right, to have a measurable way of animal care, and to get that message out to consumers about how well we care for our animals.  “You have more and more challenges on the environmental side of our business. And dairy co-ops have become very involved in sustainability efforts, and again, showing how sustainable dairy farms are and how we take care of our land. We are much more involved in getting messages out to consumers, representing farmers and environmental laws, and there's so many areas,” he said. 
Water is front-of-mind for California dairy farmers, as scarcity is threatening to change the industry structure of the top U.S. dairy-producing state. While successful adjustments to a lower-water future are possible, the state badly needs moisture in the next few months to stave off greater immediate hardship for milk producers and improved government policy to help dairy prosper in the longer term, said Geoff Vanden Heuvel, director of regulatory and economic affairs for the California-based Milk Producers Council. “I put 2,500 to 3,000 miles a month of my truck just driving up and down the Valley going to water meetings, and to see what's been built here is just incredible and marvelous,” said Vanden Heuvel in a Dairy Defined podcast. “We're running the risk of losing that if we don't do some things intelligently.”
While “lab-based” dairy is touted by startups and investors, the very concept that dairy-protein replicas made in vats holds equal value for consumers is suspect, says Dr. John Lucey, professor of food science at the University of Wisconsin, in a Dairy Defined podcast released today.“We have to separate out the fact there's a lot of marketing hype,” Lucey said. “The reality is, to produce these original structures like milk fat or casein, micelles and stuff that are present naturally in milk, is really complicated.”Lucey details the many differences between dairy, a natural animal product, and “animal-free” imitators in composition and sustainability, noting why labeling for such products need to be clearly differentiated. 
The Ocean Shipping Reform Act is now law, but much more is needed to ensure reliable exports of U.S. dairy products to the overseas markets that represent the industry’s future, said Tony Rice, trade policy manager for NMPF and the U.S. Dairy Export Council, in a Dairy Defined podcast released today. “Our international customers demand U.S. dairy products,” said Rice. “Our competitors, mostly the EU and New Zealand, they've shown that they're not going to be able to keep pace in the coming years. So it makes all the more important that these supply chain issues get ironed out, and hopefully sooner rather than later.”Rice explains the complexities of the challenges facing U.S. port traffic, why additional public policy changes are essential, and how NMPF is leading agriculture’s efforts for change. 
With initial hearings under way, dairy’s priorities in the 2023 Farm Bill are taking shape, NMPF Senior Vice President for Government Relations Paul Bleiberg said in an NMPF podcast.“A lot of that stakeholder outreach is going on right now, both publicly in hearings and behind the scenes as well, as we all start to figure out what improvements do we need to see in the next Farm Bill,” Bleiberg said. “It's an important opportunity given that it only does come up every so often.”Bleiberg also discussed upcoming congressional elections and how redistricting could affect dairy’s political clout in the next Congress. 
A commitment to a rural family life motivates work at Unc Brooke Farm, said Val Levine of Schaghticoke, NY, chairwoman of NMPF’s National Young Cooperators organization of younger dairy farmers, Levine said in a Dairy Defined podcast released today. Levine and her husband, members of the Agri-Mark cooperative, operate the 200-cow dairy near Schaghticoke, NY, along with numerous side businesses related to the farm. “We are a family run farm. We do have a few employees, but for the most part, the family does a lot of the work, and we're happy to,” she said. “I'm so happy to be able to raise my three children on the farm with the cows and the other animals, and I wouldn't want it any other way.”Along with the farm, the family raises turkeys, beef, and goats along with a catering business.Lavine also discusses the challenges of being a younger farmer and why she’s leading the YCs, which since 1950 has provided dairy leaders with a better understanding of issues facing farmers and their co-ops. This week, the YC program is hosting its capstone event in Washington, combined with the program's annual fly-in to Capitol Hill.
As its competitors move to constrain – if not roll back – their own dairy production, United States dairy producers are well-positioned to become the preferred supplier to growing international dairy markets, two top dairy economists said in an NMPF podcast.New Zealand and the European Union, the main U.S. competitors on global dairy markets, aren’t as focused on sustainably feeding the world as the United States, said William Loux, vice president of global economic affairs for the U.S. Dairy Export Council.“You see countries like the Netherlands driving programs to reduce dairy cows by 30 percent,” he said. “That's not really necessarily in the spirit of, ‘Hey, there's a globe right now that is demanding dairy products. How do we do that sustainably?’ which I think is the U.S. perspective. So, as we go forward, the US really should be the one to capture this global dairy demand as we increase our exports overall.”Loux is joined in the podcast by Stephen Cain, director of economic research and analysis at NMPF. Cain detailed current trade challenges U.S. producers face, including continued supply chain difficulties involving China. “We're still having some issues getting product out of the West Coast of the United States, but a growing issue that's taken place over the last six weeks has really been the buildup and the backlog into Chinese ports, especially outside Shanghai,” Cain said. “COVID-induced lockdowns throughout the region have grown in number and intensity and the amount of people that are being locked down. That's effectively shut down some of these ports.”
With rising energy costs and a war effort riveting attention in Washington, 2022 is turning out to be an unusually busy year on Capitol Hill – one that holds opportunity for dairy, said Paul Bleiberg, Senior Vice President of Government Relations for the National Milk Producers Federation, in a Dairy Defined podcast.“Election years can sometimes be quiet in a lot of ways. But there's still a lot of sausage making that goes on,” he said. “We are hopeful that we'll see some progress on supply chain legislation, in particular the Ocean Shipping Reform Act that our trade team has worked really hard on, to move forward in a variety of different contexts. And then that farm bill process is just going to get more and more significant as the date gets closer.”Bleiberg also in the podcast discusses the prospects for “climate-smart” agricultural legislation to pass Congress this year and looks at gains for dairy in recent spending legislation. 
Dairy has long been an agricultural leader in efforts to enhance sustainability and combat climate change, said Robert Bonnie, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Under Secretary of Agriculture for Farm Production and Conservation.Even during times when farmers had questions about how climate policy was evolving, “Dairy stayed engaged, and continued to look for ways to, advance opportunities for, for producers,” Bonnie said. “That is notable and really important.”Bonnie in the podcast explains USDA’s Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities initiative that it rolled out last month, as well as how climate-smart agriculture programs may evolve and expand. He also notes that the farmer signup deadline for the Dairy Margin Coverage Program ends March 25, encouraging dairy producers to participate.  “One of the things USDA is really interested in, is making sure we have better data to make that case, to drive a narrative that demonstrates that agriculture can be part of a solution that it already is, that has already done things, and that there's more to do and that agriculture is engaged,” he said. “I think driving that narrative to the broader public is really important.”  
Bottlenecks at U.S. ports and their impact on agricultural exports took center stage at the National Press Club last week, with a webinar sponsored by the National Milk Producers Federation, the U.S. Dairy Export Council, and Agri-Pulse. This week’s podcast features Krysta Harden, president and CEO of USDEC, moderating a panel from the webinar featuring USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack; John Porcari, the Biden Administration’s Supply Chain Ports Envoy; Reps. John Garamendi (D-CA) and Dusty Johnson (R-SD), co-sponsor of a House of Representatives ports bill. Vilsack at the panel announced a new initiative adding access for U.S. agricultural exports at the Port of Oakland. Vilsack also noted the importance of the public understanding that ports backlogs don’t only affect shipments of consumer goods. “We hope to be able to make sure that people understand this isn't just an import issue, it's also an export issue,” Vilsack said at the event.  “And the Department of Agriculture wants to be part of the solution.”
Despite policy challenges, family-run dairies continue to grow and succeed through dedication and faith, California dairy farmer Simon Vander Woude, the chairman of California Dairies Inc., first vice-chair of NMPF and a member of its executive committee, says in an NMPF podcast.“We begin every day acknowledging that what we have is not our own, it's a gift from the Lord, and we have to be good stewards of the gifts that He's blessed us with,” Vander Woude said. “We've been very blessed here.”That stewardship is expressed in many ways, from caring for the environment to seeking new opportunities to serve consumers in the United States and worldwide, he said. Vander Woude, who testified before a congressional subcommittee last year on the need to expand global market access, said that while domestic consumers continue to want dairy products, overseas sales are the key to harnessing dairy’s growing productivity and international demand.  “If 20 to 30 percent of our milk products are going overseas today and our domestic market is pretty stable, it's growing at a smaller pace than what we can grow our milk markets,” said Vander Woude, who also sits on the board of the U.S. Dairy Export Council. “We need to continue to explore trade agreements with countries that will benefit the U.S. dairy industry.”   
Dairy prices for 2022 are projected at an eight-year high, with supply adjustments and booming exports across a wide range of products shoring up farmer balance sheets that have struggled with volatility during the pandemic era, NMPF Chief Economist Peter Vitaliano says.Due to tight supplies “not only is the outlook for milk prices the best in eight years, but that's also the case for the individual dairy products,” Vitaliano said. Peter Vitaliano. “The big question is, with milk prices this good and feed prices not going up as fast as they were last year, how long is that tightness going to continue? And how soon will it be before we see some expansion of milk production again?”Vitaliano, who also writes NMPF’s monthly Dairy Market Report, also encouraged farmers to sign up for the Dairy Margin Coverage program, which has a deadline of Feb. 18 for 2022 assistance. “The futures markets look very good at the moment, but there are many months to go. The history of dairy farmers second-guessing the markets, even based on the futures, is not very good. And again, given how inexpensive coverage is, our recommendation continues to be you should sign up for the program.”
Overwhelming support received last week in the U.S. House of Representatives for badly needed shipping-policy reforms is a crucial step, but far from the only one needed, to ensure reliable exports of U.S. dairy products to growing overseas markets, said Tony Rice, trade policy manager for NMPF and the U.S. Dairy Export Council, in a Dairy Defined podcast.Since the Ocean Shipping Reform Act passed the House last week, “We are focused on keeping up that pressure and ensuring both in Congress and both with the administration that there are fixes out there and the fixes are not just a one-time or one-off, that these are going to be some fundamental reforms that are much needed in this industry to ensure that this situation doesn't happen again,” Rice said. Rice explains the complexities of challenges facing U.S. port traffic, with ships experiencing powerful financial incentives to quickly travel to Asia without carrying farm exports necessary to boost rural incomes and the U.S. economy. Rice also explains why public policy changes are essential, and how NMPF is working for full congressional package of reforms. 
The reconciliation bill being negotiated before Congress would help “climate-smart” agriculture move forward by adapting USDA conservation programs toward approaches that aid dairy in its Net Zero Initiative goal of being carbon neutral or better by 2050, says Paul Bleiberg, NMPF’s Senior Vice President for Government Relations, in a Dairy Defined podcast released today. “The excitement here for us in the agriculture space, in particular for dairy, is the possibility of new funding, increased funding for conservation programs over time, really with an emphasis on those practices, those climate-smart ag practices that can generate and yield meaningful environmental benefits, whether that be sequestering carbon in soil, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, better emphasis on the newer management, feed management, things like that,” Bleiberg said. “We see a tremendous amount of potential.” 
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