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Even as the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) provides USDA officials with exhaustive research and expert analysis at its Federal Milk Marketing Order (FMMO) Modernization hearing in Carmel, IN, the department is paying attention to what farmers have to say as they testify to support NMPF’s plan. That makes farmer participation critical to the hearing’s success, said Stephen Cain, NMPF’s Senior Director or Economic Research and Analysis, in the latest Dairy Defined podcast.  “They want to hear from farmers. This is a federal program that is meant to support farmers and is continued at the behest of farmers,” Cain said. “USDA has really wanted to hear from them, and that's a big piece to make sure that these proposals that are being put forth are the right things to do.”For more information on NMPF’s FMMO efforts and to follow the hearing, click here. 
The Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act may have its best chance yet of passing Congress this year. But the potential return of whole and 2% percent options to school lunch menus is only one piece of the evolution of dairy’s role in federal nutrition policies, as two NMPF experts say in a Dairy Defined podcast released today.“We’re in a pretty exciting spot right now for dairy and nutrition,” said Miquela Hanselman, NMPF’s manager for regulatory affairs. “National Milk is working with other dairy organizations to kind of make sure that we have all of our bases covered.”Hanselman is NMPF’s point person on the upcoming, twice-a-decade revision to the dietary guidelines used in federal nutrition programs, due in 2025. She’s joined in the podcast by Senior Director for Government Relations Claudia Larson, who is advocating for whole milk legislation in Congress. Evolving science – and attitudes – toward the benefits of whole milk in children’s diets is building momentum for expanded milk options in federal programs.“The Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act expands the varieties of healthy milk options schools can choose to serve in meal programs, and we see this as a commons-sense approach for addressing nutrition insecurity among our nation's youth,” she said. “Children and adolescents do not meet their daily dairy intake recommendations, and this is a nutrition problem for our kids because dairy plays an unparalleled role in delivering the vital nutrients they need to grow and thrive.”
hat’s in a name? Quite a lot. In dairy, a name defines a taste and experience. And that’s why European Union attempts to monopolize commonly understood cheese names poses a problem for consumers and cheese companies, as John Umhoefer, executive director of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association in Madison explains in the latest Dairy Defined Podcast. “Our dairy farmers here in Wisconsin and other states, we can't go to Europe and sell a Parmesan cheese. We can't go to Europe and sell a cheese called feta,” he said. “It's infuriating because those names are used worldwide and the cheeses are produced worldwide. But the EU has put up walls.”Umhoefer, joined by NMPF Senior Vice President for Trade Policy Shawna Morris, also discusses recent legal victories and a congressional effort to help U.S. producers stifle EU attempts to use cheese names as a trade barrier 
Dairy’s future will be increasingly global and diverse, as emerging markets increase demand and women take on greater leadership roles in the industry, this year’s chairwoman of the NMPF Young Cooperators program said in a dairy defined podcast.“The U.S. really had a competitive edge, as far as the quality and safety of the products,” said Lorilee Schultz, who milks 60 registered Holsteins and manages more than 200 acres at Mil-R-Mor Farm in Orangeville, IL, said of her time briefly working with the USDA’s Foreign Agriculture Service. The member of Prairie Farms cooperative is very active in community leadership and has a special interest in teaching kids about agriculture, including interactions with more than 200,000 school children through the Adopt-A-Cow program, a free, years-long virtual experience where students care for a calf and interact with a dairy farmer. That investment in dairy’s future will also be critical as new leaders emerge through programs such as NMPF’s YCs, which will be in Washington next week for their annual congressional fly-in, she said. Schultz, 38, said one of her messages to lawmakers will be that “If we want to retain the talented young people that we have in our rural communities, we really need to make sure that we're investing in those communities, making sure we have things like good schools, access to healthcare, quality and affordable childcare.”And for dairy’s next generation of leadership – especially for women, who are currently under- represented in top industry positions – it’s critical to get involved, Schultz said. “It's really important to have our voices heard,” she said. “I just want to encourage everybody to know that they can be involved in leadership and make a difference.”
A record snowpack that’s far from fully melted, combined with last winter’s record rains, may mean it will be some time before Cory Vanderham, owner of Vanderham West Dairy in Corcoran, CA, will get his 4,500 cows all back to his farm.In the meantime, he’s relying on leases in other locations, help from friends, and faith, to get through an ongoing disruption to the dairy industry in the nation’s top milk-producing state that creates new challenges every day. “You don't realize how strong this community is and how strong ag is until things get wild like this,” said Vanderham, a member of NMPF’s Board of Directors and the California Dairies Inc. cooperative, said in a Dairy Defined podcast released today. “And when it got wild, everybody showed up to help.”Vanderham also discusses his on-the-ground observations on what kind of policy changes and investments at all levels of government could improve the state’s water management and infrastructure as farmers look toward a more resilient future in the face of weather extremes. 
With Earth Day placing a spotlight on environmental stewardship, dairy cooperatives are a critical link in ensuring dairy-farmer leadership in meeting ambitious sustainability goals, said Lindsay Reames, executive vice president of sustainability and external relations for Maryland and Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association. “Sustainability does have a number of different meanings, and I think the most important thing that we can do as a dairy co-op is understand what it means on each of our individual farms,” said Reames. “The way we approach sustainability with our member owners is by finding ways where we can add value to their operation and improve the environmental outcomes from their farm. “So, any investments that we make through our partnerships and through our sustainability programs have to align with that farm's business model to bring them real value back to their operation. And we found that a number of new technologies, best management practices not only improve the environmental outputs on that operation, but also improve the overall economic wellbeing of the farm, which is a really important component of sustainability.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) unwillingness to limit dairy terms to true dairy products makes passage of the DAIRY PRIDE Act more necessary than ever, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-WI, said in a Dairy Defined podcast released today.“They're going to continue to allow mislabeled imitation products to be on the market,” Baldwin said. “Wisconsin farmers work so hard to meet the FDA standards of nutrition and quality. They can't put the word ‘milk’ on the side of a carton of milk unless they meet those standards. It is not fair for plant-based products to be able to say they're milk when they don't meet those standards at all.Baldwin, along with Sens. Jim Risch, R-ID; Peter Welch, D-VT, and Susan Collins, R-ME, last week reintroduced the DAIRY PRIDE Act, which would require FDA to enforce its standards of identity and supersede the inadequate draft guidance it offered in February, in which plant-based beverages could call themselves “milk” as long as they clearly state their nutritional differences with real dairy. Baldwin said DAIRY PRIDE could pass Congress this year via one of several vehicles, including the farm bill due this year. “Many of the folks that I'm joining forces with are going to have significant input as we draft a new farm bill, which is something that I expect to get completed this calendar year. So that's certainly one area that we can look towards. We also have funding bills for the Food and Drug Administration, and that would certainly be another opportunity to look at this type of legislation.”DAIRY PRIDE is an acronym for the Defending Against Imitations and Replacements of Yogurt, Milk, and Cheese to Promote Regular Intake of Dairy Everyday Act.FDA’s guidance is open for public comment until April 24. Dairy advocates may learn more about the issue and offer comments here. 
One year after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, dairy cows are critical to keeping Kees Huizenga’s crop and livestock operation running as the war continues to bring hardship and suffering to the country and its agriculture.When the war began, “I went to the people, to the old employees to talk to them and tell them not to panic and that we will all stay, and that we have to keep on running the farm and keep on feeding and milking the cows because they don't care if it's rockets or not. They have to be milked three times a day. And that's what we did. And everybody stayed,” said Huizenga, who is now living in his home country of the Netherlands while managing the 2,000-cow dairy and crop farm he began more than 20 years ago near Cherkasy, Ukraine, about 120 miles southeast of its capital city of Kiev. “The creamery, the processing factory, they never skipped one day in picking up the milk. They never skipped a day in paying. We gave them some milk for free and they processed it for free and they gave these products to refugees and to the army. And a lot of people, a lot of farmers did similar things.”Looking at the next year, the biggest challenge for Ukrainian farmers is “the uncertainty,” he said. “You never know what's going to happen tomorrow, if that rocket might hit your farm. We are still far away from the front line, but I know farmers who've been hit and who've been tortured and killed as well. So, I don't know what the biggest uncertainties are. If there will be enough fertilizer available to grow a good crop. Seeds, are they more or less available. Prices because of these export complexities.”
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,, 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.
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