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President Biden OKs measure to avert nationwide rail strike

December 2, 2022

WASHINGTON — Following House passage earlier this week, the Senate on Thursday approved a resolution to avert a nationwide rail strike. President Biden signed the measure today.

Dairy, food and ag industry stakeholders earlier this week had urged Congress to take action to avert the strike between major freight railroads and 12 labor unions, noting stoppage of rail service for any duration would be “extremely damaging” to U.S. families and the economy. Organizations including the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), Consumer Brands Association, FMI-The Food Marketing Institute, American Farm Bureau and others sent a letter to Congress earlier this week noting stoppage of rail service could cost $2 billion per day.

Biden also had called on congressional leadership to pass legislation to force a tentative rail labor agreement.

The move has been met with some resistance, as Congress is overriding ratification procedures and the views of those who voted against the agreement.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack issued a statement this week noting that while he takes seriously overriding the ratification procedures, the economic impact of a shutdown would hurt U.S. agriculture as well as millions of other working people and families. Following passage of the measure, he thanked Congress but added, “Our work doesn’t stop here. This administration will continue to make progress on fostering economic growth and strengthening supply chains, and supporting workers who deserve protections in the workplace.”

Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF, earlier this week said a rail strike would bring “chaos” to agricultural supply chains.

“For the sake of dairy farmers who depend on rail to transport the supplies they need to maintain their operations, we’re pleased that the dispute has found resolution and that supply chains that have been strained for more than two years won’t be facing an additional, potentially back-breaking burden,” Mulhern told Cheese Market News today.

Michael Dykes, president and CEO of IDFA, says that based on industry estimates, as much as 10% of finished dairy products are moving by rail, including butter, powders and cheese. Moreover, most bulk commodities move by rail, and there is not sufficient trucking equipment, drivers or transportation infrastructure to shift all rail traffic to the roadways, which would cause further congestion on highways, at weigh stations, borders, and create other bottlenecks, he says.

“Thank you to our members for continuing to engage and advocate on this issue. Working together with other members and organizations within the food and agricultural community, we made our voices heard, and Congress stepped in to prevent a crippling rail strike,” Dykes says. “IDFA will continue to monitor the situation closely and remain engaged in the interest of the U.S. dairy industry.”

CMN


California Dairies Inc. enters deal to acquire DairyAmerica

December 2, 2022

VISALIA, Calif. — California Dairies Inc. (CDI), the largest dairy farmer-owned cooperative in California, this week announced it has agreed to acquire DairyAmerica, effective Jan. 1, 2023.

DairyAmerica, a globally recognized supplier of quality and sustainable dairy ingredients, is a federated cooperative currently co-owned by CDI, Agri-Mark Inc. and O-AT-KA Milk Products. As part of the acquisition, CDI will purchase the ownership rights currently held by Agri-Mark and O-AT-KA, making DairyAmerica a wholly owned subsidiary of CDI.

“This investment in Dairy America provides the opportunity for CDI to unlock significant synergies and represents another step towards improving efficiencies in providing world markets with high-quality dairy ingredients,” said Brad Anderson, president and CEO, CDI.

Under the new structure, Dairy America will continue to market milk powders produced by Agri-Mark and O-AT-KA Milk Products. These marketing agreements will allow for the continued multi-origin and sustainable supply benefits currently enjoyed by DairyAmerica, officials say.

“We continue to support the DairyAmerica vision,” says William Schreiber, CEO, O-AT-KA Milk Products.

“We are pleased to be a part of this transition and have seen the benefits of DairyAmerica’s transformation under its new leadership the past two years,” adds David Lynn, interim CEO, Agri-Mark Inc.

DairyAmerica will remain under the leadership of Patti Smith, CEO, and the DairyAmerica office will remain in Fresno, California.

“As we continue to transform our business, this investment by CDI provides the framework to focus on our people and processes while strengthening our global competitiveness,” Smith says.

CMN


Stakeholders testify on merger between Kroger and Albertsons

December 2, 2022

WASHINGTON — The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust and Consumer Rights on Tuesday held a hearing titled “Examining the Competitive Impact of the Proposed Kroger-Albertsons Transaction.”

The subcommittee’s chairwoman, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., highlighted in her opening remarks how the proposed merger of the two largest grocery chains in the country may reduce competition and hurt consumers.

“Over the last decade, the grocery industry has become increasingly consolidated, with the top four chains making up more than two-thirds of all grocery sales. A lack of competition in the industry means higher prices and lower quality,” Klobuchar said in her remarks. “If these two stores are operated by the same owner, there’s no incentive to compete for customers and prices ... So that’s why you’ve heard concern across the country about this transaction.”

Witnesses at this week’s hearing included Vivek Sankaran, president and CEO of Albertsons Cos. Inc.; Rodney McMullen, chairman and CEO, The Kroger Co.; Sumit Sharma, senior researcher, technology competition, Consumer Reports; Andrew Sweeting, professor and chair of the Department of Economics at University of Maryland; and Michael Needler Jr., CEO, Fresh Encounter Inc.

McMullen and Sankaran both discussed the benefits of the Kroger-Albertsons merger and how it would add competition to retail giants like Walmart, Costco and Amazon/Whole Foods.

“Through this merger, we will invest in lower prices and give customers more choices,” McMullen said. “With
Albertsons, we will be able to compete more effectively with retailers who — today — are the primary grocery provider for 61% of U.S. consumers: Walmart, Target, Ahold, Whole Foods and Aldi.”

McMullen also noted that as part of the merger, Kroger made an additional commitment to invest $500 million to lower prices and $1.3 billion to improve the customer experience. It also committed $1 billion to continue raising associate wages and benefits, including quality and affordable health care, continuing education, wellbeing and financial literacy programs.

The CEOs added that the merger would be beneficial to workers by providing union jobs not available at their competitors.

“We have a proven track record of taking care of our employees, offering benefits and competitive wages, in addition to offering many employees pensions — a benefit they would not receive from our non-union competitors,”

Sankaran testified. “The combined company will be the largest private-sector union retailer in the country, as we compete with non-union companies like Amazon and Walmart.”

Other witnesses, however, were more skeptical of the benefits of combining the two grocery chains and urged increased oversight should the merger go forward.

Michael Needler, who testified on behalf of the National Grocers Association, laid out how independent grocers like himself can struggle to compete with “power buyers” that have more leverage to dictate terms with suppliers.

“The massive grocery chains with buyer power force suppliers to discriminate against independent grocers on price, terms and product availability,” he explained. “For years, I have seen the dominant grocery chains receive exclusive access to certain products and product packaging and charge retail prices far below the wholesale prices I can get from suppliers.”

Needler added that the National Grocers Association is agnostic on this transaction. However, he stressed it is important for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the committee to examine whether the transaction will give the combined Kroger-Albertsons anticompetitive buyer power, as well as how the merger would impact local communities and what store divestitures might be required as conditions for the merger.

A major reason independent retailers face an unfair playing field, he noted, is the FTC’s failure to enforce the Robinson-Patman Act, which prohibits anticompetitive economic discrimination against independent businesses.

“It’s too late after the independent grocers leave. Prevention through antitrust enforcement is the only way to stop this erosion,” Needler said. “The Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice need to dust off tools like the Robinson-Patman Act to protect the free market, independent businesses, the food supply chain and America’s consumers.”

Looking at various scenarios and past mergers from an economics perspective, Sweeting testified that additional resources could help put antitrust agencies in a stronger position when deciding what enforcement decisions to take and what type of divestiture package to require for the merger.

In the Kroger-Albertsons case, he said, “an appropriate divestiture may not only involve divesting a large number of stores where the merger might reduce local competition, but also distribution centers, trademarks and manufacturing plants for private label products, and a set of digital assets, possibly including data.”

Testifying on behalf of Consumer Reports, Sharma provided an analysis suggesting that:

• The transaction will result in significant lessening of competition as Kroger and Albertsons are the two biggest U.S. supermarkets that compete directly with each other.

• Given reduction in competition, any merger-specific efficiencies will not necessarily be passed on to consumers or enhance Kroger’s ability and incentive to compete in the market.

• Given the outcomes of previous divestitures of local stores, the proposed store divestiture by the parties is unlikely to effectively preserve competition in the relevant market.

Based on this preliminary analysis by Consumer Reports, Sharma said, “we are skeptical that the benefits of the deal claimed by the parties will be realized. The most likely outcome of this merger between the two largest supermarket chains will be to significantly lessen competition and lead to higher prices, fewer choices and worse supermarket and grocery access for consumers in some neighborhoods.”

To read or watch the full testimonies and hearing, visit www.judiciary.senate.gov/meetings/examining-the-competitive-impact-of-the-proposed-kroger-albertsons-transaction.

In related news, yesterday a group of farm and food organizations including National Farmers Union, National Family Farm Coalition and Open Markets Institute sent a letter urging the FTC to block the Kroger-Albertsons merger. The letter claims the deal would significantly worsen an already overly-consolidated food system and hurt small- and medium-sized farmers, suppliers and grocers.

“A combined Kroger-Albertsons will further squeeze its suppliers and workers, diminish food access and drive out independent grocers and food businesses,” the letter says. “This is a time when we need more community control over our food system, not more corporate concentration.”

CMN



Murray’s Cheese gains international honors for Cave Aged collaborations

LONG ISLAND CITY, N.Y. — In its first year participating in the World Cheese Awards held last week in Wales, Murray’s Cheese won medals for all four cheeses it entered. Further accolades came when its Cave Aged Reserve Greensward — a collaboration with the Cellars at Jasper Hill — made it to the final round of 16 cheeses out of more than 4,000 entries from around the world.

“I’ve always had my eye on this contest. It’s a big deal, a big production, and lots of cheeses are entered,” says Peter Jenkelunas, director of affinage, Murray’s Cheese. “We decided to go for it and entered just a few cheeses this year, not the whole line of Cave Aged. The four cheeses that won were all we entered. It was intended to be a learning experience, and it worked out well for us.”

Murray’s Cave Aged Reserve Greensward, a spruce-wrapped round made by Cellars at Jasper Hill in Vermont and washed in cider by Murray’s team of affineurs, was awarded a “Super Gold” and was the only U.S. cheese to land in the top 16 at the contest. Greensward also won Third Place Best in Show earlier this year at the 2022 American Cheese Society competition.

Murray’s describes the cheese as having “a silky, oozing, spoonable paste that combines tastes of mushrooms and brandied cherries with woodsy, sprucy notes.” Greensward, which originally was created for the Michelin Star-rated New York restaurant Eleven Madison Park, currently is available exclusively through Murray’s New York City retail stores, website and several restaurants (though no longer at Eleven Madison Park, which has since switched to a vegan menu).

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United States strengthens ties with partners across Pacific

November 25, 2022

WASHINGTON — U.S. leaders met with their international counterparts during summits held in Southeast Asia over the last past few weeks to strengthen ties and make new commitments on trade, infrastructure, sustainability and other areas.

At the 2022 G20 Summit that concluded last week in Bali, Indonesia, President Joe Biden, Indonesian President Joko Widodo and European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen co-hosted a group of G20 leaders to demonstrate their shared commitment to depend engagement under the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII) to accelerate investment in quality infrastructure in low- and middle-income countries around the world and strengthen the global economy.

PGII investments aim to create lasting positive impacts for partner countries, strengthen the resilience of communities and support inclusive, sustainable development as well as benefit partners’ economic security and global supply chains.

On the margins of the summit, Biden, Widodo and Von der Leyen met with leaders and ministers from Argentina, Canada, France, Germany, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Senegal and the United Kingdom to highlight PGII collaboration and support among like-minded partners globally. The leaders showcased the ways in which PGII partners are coming together to finance transformative infrastructure and to mobilize the private sector as drivers of quality global infrastructure and investment. This came at the end of a week of additional PGII project announcements by Biden, including at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and in a bilateral meeting with G20 host Indonesia.

Also last week, economic leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) met in person for the first time in four years in Bangkok, Thailand. This year’s APEC theme was “Open. Connect. Balance.” and focused on three priorities: to be open to all opportunities, connected in all dimensions and balanced in all aspects, and to advance long-term robust, innovative and inclusive economic growth as well as sustainability objectives in the Asia-Pacific region.

The U.S. Department of State notes that through APEC, the United States seeks to advance a free, fair and open economic policy agenda that benefits U.S. workers, businesses and families. The 21 APEC member economies account for 38% of the global population and approximately 47% of global trade. As of 2021, fellow APEC members were the destination for more than 60% of U.S. goods exports, and seven of the top 10 overall trading partners for the United States are APEC members.

The United States will host the 2023 APEC meetings, and last Friday, Vice President Kamala Harris announced that the APEC Leaders Meeting will be held in San Francisco the week of Nov. 12. Earlier it was announced that the 2023 APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade meeting will be held in Detroit in May, while three APEC Senior Officials’ meetings will be held in Palm Springs, California, in February; Detroit in May; and Seattle in August.

“Our host year will demonstrate the enduring economic commitment of the United States to the Indo-Pacific,” Harris says. “As I have made clear throughout my time in Bangkok: under our administration, the United States is a strong partner for the economies and companies of the Indo-Pacific, and we are working to strengthen our economic relationships throughout the region, including by increasing two-way trade flows and the free flow of capital, which supports millions of American jobs.”

Meanwhile, on Nov. 12 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, ASEAN member states met with the United States for the 10th ASEAN-U.S. Summit and established the ASEAN-U.S. Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. This partnership aims to open new areas of cooperation vital to the future prosperity and security of a combined 1 billion people and follow up on its implementation.

During the annual East Asia Summit in Phom Penh, Biden reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to the Indo-Pacific, with ASEAN at its center. The president reviewed efforts to deliver on his vision for an Indo-Pacific region that is “free and open, connected, prosperous, resilient and secure,” according to a White House readout of the summit.

Biden underscored his commitment to working with allies and partners to strengthen health systems, promote food security, address climate change and accelerate the clean energy transition. He also reviewed progress in developing an Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) that the White House says provides “concrete benefits to all of its 14 members and drives enduring and broad-based economic growth throughout the Indo-Pacific.”

Australia has announced that the first in-person negotiating round for IPEF will take place in Brisbane, Australia, Dec. 10-15. The U.S. dairy industry has supported the IPEF and urged the Biden Administration to use it to ensure more open markets for U.S. dairy producers, as its participants include several top U.S. dairy markets.

The first in-person IPEF ministerial was held in Los Angeles in September. Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Media and Public Affairs Adam Hodge says next month’s first in-person negotiating round will be an important opportunity to identify areas of consensus and continue developing IPEF pillars.

“The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework represents a foundational pillar of the Biden administration’s vision for an open, connected, prosperous, resilient and secure region,” Hodge says. “Along with our 13 partners, we are tackling challenges and opportunities facing the citizens and economies on both sides of the Pacific — including supply chains, clean energy, digital trade and sustainable agriculture, among other important issues.”

CMN


Dairy Sustainability Alliance discusses goals for the future

November 25, 2022

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Dairy industry leaders recently discussed how USDA Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities projects can help secure a climate-smart and profitable future for farmers during the Dairy Sustainability Alliance Fall Meeting.

The alliance, formed through the checkoff-founded Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, consists of companies and organizations across the dairy community and others who want to contribute to dairy’s social responsibility journey. Nearly 300 industry stakeholders, including about 30 farmers, attended the Nov. 15 meeting.

Mike Haddad, who serves as chair of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and chair of Schreiber Foods Inc., opened the meeting with a message of how industry unity and alignment on sustainability goals can help secure a bright future for dairy.

“What we’re truly, ultimately after is trust,” Haddad said in his remarks. “Nobody wants to consume our products just because we tell them, ‘these are so efficiently produced and we can’t believe the yields we got.’ They don’t care about that. What they want to know is that we took care of our animals, our earth and our communities along the way and we can prove it. It takes us all working together to do that.

“One of our Innovation Center guiding principles is that we are better together,” he added. “We will go faster by teaching and learning and challenging each other. As an alliance, we should share freely our best practices so dairy can be seen as a sustainability solution.”

The alliance meeting also provided insights into the USDA Partnership for Climate Smart Commodities grants that total up to $2.8 billion for 70 projects announced in September. The projects that include dairy will provide technical and financial assistance for farmers, support the development of expanded markets and revenue streams, and help the industry make progress toward its collective 2050 Environmental Stewardship Goals at the field and farm levels.

The meeting’s opening panel featured lead partners who previewed their projects and the goals they hope to achieve. The California Dairy Research Foundation, in partnership with 20 other organizations including Dairy Cares, was among the projects selected. Michael Boccadoro, executive director of Dairy Cares, said the project was selected to receive an approximate funding ceiling of $85 million that will be enhanced with an additional $40 million from the state of California. The project will support efforts to build climate-smart dairy markets and provide financial incentives for the state’s farmers to adopt manure management practices that reduce methane emissions and manage nitrogen.

“It’s a tremendous project that is going to build on and leverage the real unique efforts California has initiated in dairy methane reduction,” Boccadoro said at the meeting. “We’ve been working on this since 2016, and we have made tremendous progress reducing over 2 million metric tons of methane in the dairy sector.”

Another project led by Wisconsin-based Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative was selected to receive an approximate funding ceiling of $50 million to expand climate-smart markets and establish dairy and sugar as climate-smart commodities through the implementation of new production practices.

Tim Trotter, CEO of Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative, told attendees the co-op’s commitment to sustainable practices starts with farmer input.

“We are pleased to have a visionary membership who about six years ago decided sustainability is a topic we wanted to address,” Trotter said. “What we looked at was how can we build this from the ground up? We want the farmers to be centric in the conversation and be engaged with the conversation and make the best decisions for them, so we need to check all boxes.”

Lisa Watson, social responsibility officer for the Innovation Center, offered an update on the U.S. Dairy Stewardship Commitment, launched in 2018 to support farmers, cooperatives and processors who voluntarily work across the industry to advance sustainability leadership and transparently report progress. Commitment terms of adoption are reviewed every three to five years for consistency with the latest science, insight and priorities. Commitment adopters represent more than 76% of U.S. milk production.

Watson thanked the companies that are part of the commitment for “raising all boats for U.S. dairy.”

“The commitment helps us earn the trust of stakeholders, achieve aggregate reporting and demonstrate that U.S. dairy is a true global sustainability leader,” Watson said. “The metrics within the commitment are aligned with global standards and protocols that help us gain credibility for our work. Through the commitment, we can say with confidence that U.S. dairy farmers and processors are making a real difference and moving the needle toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.”

Other sessions at the meeting focused on:

• Scientific evidence that shows feed additives carry potential in reducing enteric methane emissions from dairy cattle.

• The checkoff’s work in helping to create a program that integrates agriculture literacy in national high school science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) standards.

• Dairy’s role in helping to nourish 34 million Americans facing food insecurity, including 9 million children, with insights from Feeding America leaders.

• How stakeholders across the dairy value chain are taking decisive action to improve water management in the face of economic and environmental uncertainties.

Following the alliance’s fall meeting, the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy partnered with Field to Market to present the Sustainable Agriculture Summit, which featured more than 700 farmers, suppliers, processors, brands, academia, conservation organizations and the public sector.

The dairy industry was represented in several parts of the summit’s agenda, including a panel discussion moderated by New Mexico producer Tara Vander Dussen, who also is an environmental scientist and co-founder of Elevate Ag. The discussion centered on how Western farmers are advancing sustainability while highlighting challenges they face and the need for industrywide collaboration that can build economically viable pathways.

CMN


October milk production rises 1.4% vs. 2021 in major states

November 25, 2022

WASHINGTON — Milk production in the 24 major milk-producing states in October totaled 18.06 billion pounds, up 1.4% from October 2021, according to data released this week by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). For the entire United States, October milk production was estimated at 18.85 billion pounds, up 1.2% from October 2021. (All figures are rounded. Please see CMN’s Milk Production chart.)

NASS reports September’s revised production for the 24 major states totaled 17.50 billion pounds, an increase of 13 million pounds or 0.1% from last month’s preliminary production estimate.

October production per cow in the 24 major states averaged 2,021 pounds, 18 pounds more than October 2021 and 62 pounds more than September. For the entire United States, production per cow in October is estimated at 2,001 pounds, up 17 pounds from October 2021 and up 61 pounds from September.

NASS reports the number of milk cows on farms in the 24 major states was 8.93 million head in October, up 42,000 head from October 2021 and up 1,000 head from September. In the entire United States, there were an estimated 9.42 million milk cows in October, up 31,000 cows from October 2021 and up 1,000 cows from September.

California led the nation’s milk production in October with 3.43 billion pounds of milk, down 0.5% from October 2021. Wisconsin followed with 2.67 billion pounds of milk produced in October, up 0.6% from October 2021.

CMN


U.S. spot butter price declines from $3 level as buying slows

November 4, 2022

By Alyssa Mitchell

MADISON, Wis. — After a prolonged stretch of $3-plus spot butter prices at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), butter dipped below $3 per pound this week, plummeting 53 cents from Oct. 28-Nov. 2 before gaining back 16.25 cents to settle at $2.7725 today.

Dairy market analysts say the drop isn’t a total shock given U.S. butter’s premium to global prices, international competition and waning seasonal demand.

“Seasonally, the market is getting ready to turn the corner from its major demand period to inventory building mode,” says Phil Plourd, president of Ever.Ag Insights, Madison, Wisconsin. “Cream markets are starting to sag a little. That can always create a little downward pressure as we move into year-end. But it’s more dramatic when the starting point is over $3 per pound. We doubt anyone is excited to build stocks at that price point.”

Mike McCully, owner of The McCully Group LLC, South Bend, Indiana, says the order period for butter is mostly complete as orders had been pulled forward by some buyers back in the summer.

“The calendar was going to run out on the butter market at some point, and we reached that point this week as holiday orders got completed,” he says. “Butter manufacturers had no interest in building inventory at $3-plus, so the market went into freefall as buyers pulled back.”

McCully says he anticipates there will be some “fill-in buying on the way down, some in the low $2.60s” for butter, but more declines are expected.

“My forecast has been for $2.50 butter in December with prices eventually settling into a $2.20-$2.30 range in the first quarter of 2023,” he says.

Plourd says the butter trade story is going to be a “big deal” in the months ahead.

“Given how expensive U.S. butter has been, we expect to see imports of anhydrous milkfat accelerate while U.S. exports trend lower,” he says. “That should translate to more domestic butter production in early 2023, opening the door to more robust stocks building. That’s a reason to think prices won’t be as high next year.”

Sara Dorland, managing partner at Ceres Dairy Risk Management LLC, Seattle, says a strong U.S. dollar that continues to get stronger and the highest butter price in the world will work against U.S. exports and encourage imports. However, the recent price correction and drop in futures have helped make U.S. butter more competitive. In addition, reports from Europe indicate that butterfat is still snug globally, she says.

“That could help keep U.S. butter moving — especially within North America,” Dorland says. “There is a growing demand for butterfat — in cheese and other products like butter, cream, etc. With U.S. milk production unchanged to last year, that means that butter output could struggle to keep up with growing demand. Add to that Canada’s butterfat demand, and availability may trump exchange rates eventually.”

Meanwhile, dairy market participants have been grappling with a longtime inverted spread between CME Cheddar block and barrel prices that just recently corrected.

“The correction that started last week likely reflects the end of the burger and sandwich season and some moderation of exports as buyers slow purchases to manage a potential demand slowdown headed into next year,” Dorland says.

McCully notes there were multiple reasons for the inverted block/barrel spread, but supplies of barrels have increased in recent weeks.

“Looking ahead, a narrow spread is expected, with blocks over barrels,” he says, noting the inverted spread caused financial pain for block cheese plants, so the return to a more normal spread is welcome.

And while seasonal demand may be waning for butter, McCully says cheese demand usually hangs on until early January when orders are filled for the Super Bowl.

“Consumer demand will be closely watched after the holidays given increasing financial stress on households,” he says. “For the balance of the fourth quarter, my forecast has been for cheese prices near $2, give or take 5 to 10 cents. Demand should be good enough to keep prices above $1.90 into January, but then decline in the first quarter of 2023 into the $1.80s.”

Plourd says he would be surprised if things move in a straight line lower to a well-defined bottom, noting there are too many moving pieces, and seasonal forces aren’t totally exhausted.

“In our estimation, exports are the big wild card,” he says. “If shipments slow, we could see things take a more decided turn for the downside, with prices going lower and staying there longer. It’s hard to know what’s coming there. We’ve seen tremendous export volumes lately, but the global price landscape has changed in a way that makes the U.S. less competitive. Not uncompetitive, to be sure. But less competitive.”

CMN


Workshop offers insight into opportunities for dairy exports

November 4, 2022

By Rena Archwamety

SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. — Speakers from government and industry organizations and businesses that provide export services shared their insights on opportunities for Wisconsin dairy product exporters this week during a workshop held at the Hilton Garden Inn in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association (WCMA) hosted Thursday’s hybrid event, which also was presented online and was funded in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Initiative for Agricultural Exports (WIAE). This funding also will support new export services through WCMA, including free, one-on-one export consultations for Wisconsin dairy processors beginning this month, and an online library of export resources and forms that will be available in February.

Leading off the discussion was Megan Sheets, senior director of strategic development for the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC), explaining how using real-time data and actionable insights can help exporters understand current demand and shape what dairy exports will look like in the future.

Combining custom research with other industry, government and syndicated data, as well as in-depth observations from subscriptions and USDEC’s 10 international offices, “we are able to find those consistencies and what are the global trends driving dairy consumption,” Sheets explained.

As U.S. suppliers have been exporting dairy products at record levels, Sheets noted that the market is experiencing a shift in overall demand dynamics, from supply-driven to demand-driven.

“We look at our competitors, not only on a regional basis, but looking at a corporate level and what strategies are being implemented,” she said. “Several of our competitors are implementing a demand-driven approach that affects what they research, product innovation, market investment and how they’re creating market differentiation. The shift from supply- to demand-driven will continue.”

Among the trends in consumer demand USDEC looks at in different global markets are taste and enjoyment, nutrition and wellness, and sustainability.

Currently taste is the No. 1 purchase driver of cheese in every market, and USDEC has commissioned custom research to uncover specific sensory attributes that consumers consider in “good tasting cheese.” For example, in Korea, a fresh, white, milky cheese with a soft texture is preferred, while in Saudi Arabia, consumers will eat more processed cheese sold in a jar or can.

Health and wellness are large trends domestically, while internationally, the focus is more on nutrition, Sheets says.

“Consumers manage stress with nutrition. There’s a growing demand and interest in proteins, which are not just about one benefit but overall,” she said, outlining how consumers choose protein for a vast amount of reasons from weight management to muscle, bone and joint health, providing advantages for products like yogurt, skim milk powder and milk protein concentrate. In some markets, “protein” is almost synonymous with “healthy.”

In addition to looking at consumer demand for taste and nutrition, USDEC also is looking at ways to engage consumers in U.S. dairy through technology and promoting sustainability.

“USDEC initiatives involve accelerating consumer engagement with technology to bring dairy’s story to consumers,” Sheets said. “They can download an app and see benefits of different U.S. cheeses, tips and different pairings. We look at these for solutions long-term, to bring the message of U.S. dairy, sustainability and innovations to consumers across the globe.”

The workshop also included a panel of presenters from organizations that can help dairy processors, particularly those in Wisconsin, who are interested in starting or expanding exports.

Lisa Stout, economic development consultant at the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP), serves on the DATCP international agribusiness team, assisting with food and ingredient sales to areas such as Asia, Canada and the Middle East. She noted in her presentation that Wisconsin ranks fifth in the United States for dairy and dairy product exports, and first in the export of specialty cheese. She also explained that through new WIAE funding allocated by the Wisconsin legislature, the state now has $5 million that can be used for export promotion from 2022-2026.

Among WIAE activities planned are 2023 trade shows in the Middle East and Asia, an outbound trade mission to the United Kingdom next spring, inbound buyer missions as well as grant and scholarship opportunities for Wisconsin agribusinesses.

Liaison Manager Paul Weiss presented on services available from the Food Export Association of the Midwest, a private nonprofit trade association which partners with DATCP and helps direct interested exporters to available resources. He explained some of the resources from the Food Export Association, such as export education webinars and programs, opportunities to meet one-on-one with qualified buyers, assistance with market promotion, a branded program to assist in international marketing expenses and trade shows.

“The bottom line, whether you’re a small or large dairy producer, is just to be aware of the opportunities that are out there,” he told workshop participants. “There literally is a world of opportunity for exports. You don’t have to take on this endeavor by yourself. Just know that you have people on your side and programs. Don’t be afraid of international export opportunities. There’s so much support out there.”

In addition to learning about programs offering assistance, workshop attendees also heard insights from companies offering export services.

Ryan Wucherer, global director of sales and supply chain for MCT Dairies, leads a team that assists in buying and selling bulk products to and from various international markets. He outlined some key considerations when exporting products and ingredients, such as restricted or banned ingredients, labeling, documents and plant certification requirements and other topics.

“Building relationships internationally can take months and years, and many require multiple visits before getting an order,” he said. “Companies can take three to four years to accept who you are, and a lot of U.S. companies have to understand that, going to shows, meeting people.”

In a question-and-answer session, Wucherer noted that USDEC has done a great job promoting U.S. cheeses and building an international reputation for them. They have worked to get as many U.S. cheeses as possible to participate in international competitions, conducted trade missions and getting products out there for people in other markets to try.

He also addressed questions on the risks and benefits for companies selling directly overseas or working with trading partners such as MCT.

“If you’re selling to a trading company, as a partner, we want to be aligned with you, tell you who the customer is, bring them into your plant and work with the suppliers. We believe we would bring value because we pick it up at the door, shop it, cover insurance and travel to the customer several times a year and attend international food shows,” he explained. “If you have the right partner in a trading company that’s open and works with you, that’s a good way to start doing (export) business. Big companies doing it on their own might have a staff of 25 people doing exports. It comes down to how much value you see and if you want to put a team together.”

Kathy Parins, sales executive for international transportation services provider Hancock International, explained some of the key challenges of getting product physically from one point to another, including arranging quotes, bookings, availability of containers and chassis, pick-up and loading for the final shipment.

“I believe a lot of the solution is with communication and relationships,” she said. “We have to be proactive, reach out, get on the preferred list. We have steamship lines send weekly updates on what they’re looking for, or if they have a vessel in the area. Our role is that we have to have the relationships and communications with those steamship lines and truckers so we can engage with those people.

“It’s not always perfect — sometimes there are extra costs,” she added. “But it’s our job to communicate and let you know what’s going on and try to minimize the number of surprises.”

CMN


Swiss Gruyere named Champion at 2022 World Cheese Awards

November 4, 2022

NEWPORT, South Wales — A Le Gruyère Surchoix entered by Swiss cheesemaker Vorderfultigen and affineur Gourmino won top honor at the World Cheese Awards, organized by the Guild of Fine Food and held earlier this week at the international Convention Center in Newport, Wales.

The champion cheese topped a record-breaking 4,434 entries in this year’s World Cheese Awards and was described as a “Really perfect handcrafted cheese, smooth in your mouth and melting on your tongue” by Super Jury member Christian Zuercher from Mifroma. Runner-up went to a Gorgonzola Dolce DOP made by De’ Magi from Italy.

One U.S. cheese, Greensward from Murray’s Cheese, was among the top 16 cheeses to make the final round of judging. Super Gold awards, given to just one cheese per judging table, were awarded to Greensward as well as Murray’s Cheese’s Hudson Flower, Rogue Creamery’s Bluehorn Blue Cheese and The Farm at Doe Run’s St. Malachi Reserve.

Several other U.S. cheesemakers earned gold, silver and bronze medals.

Beecher’s Handmade Cheese won a silver for Flagsheep and bronze for Flagship Reserve, Apple Walnut Smoked and Promontory.
Belle Chevre won a gold medal for Chevoo Goat Cheese & Olive Oil - Herbs de Provence and a silver for Belle Chèvre Greek Kiss Fresh Chèvre.

Bongards’ Creameries won a bronze for Processed American Swiss Slice on Slice.

Cabot Creamery Cooperative won a bronze for Cabot Lamberton Cheddar Cheese.

Carr Valley Cheese Co. Inc. won silver medals for Reserve Gouda, Glacier Gorgonzola, Smoked Marisa and Glacier Point Blue Spruce Blue, and bronze medals for French Fontina, Glacier Penta Creme and Cave Aged Cardona.

Cellars at Jasper Hill won gold medals for Alpha Tolman, Eligo, Little Hosmer and Moses Sleeper; silvers for Willoughby, Vault 5 Cave Aged, Calderwood for Saxelby Cheesemongers and Cabot Clothbound; and bronze medals for Whitney, Bayley Hazen Blue and Hartwell.

Cowgirl Creamery won a silver for Hop Along and bronze medals for Mt Tam, Red Hawk and Wagon Wheel.

Euphrates won a bronze for Euphrates Feta Cheese.

Firefly Farms won silver medals for Merry Goat Round and Black & Blue and a bronze for Merry Goat Round Spruce Reserve.

Four Fat Fowl won a bronze for CamemBertha.

Haystack Mountain Creamery won a silver for Wall Street Gold and a bronze for Funkmeister.

Heber Valley Artisan Cheese won a gold for Lemon Sage Cheddar and bronze for Mustard Herb Cheddar.

Idyll Farms won silver medals for Spreadable Idyll Pastures and Idyllweiss and bronze medals for Idyll Pastures Spreadable with Honey and Lavender and Honey Lavender Idyll Pastures.

Jacobs and Brichford Farmstead Cheese won a silver for Briana and bronze medals for Everton, JQ and Adair.

Lactalis American Group won a silver for Galbani 6-ounce Fresh Mozzarella Ball and bronze medals for 12-ounce Galbani Marinade Cup, 12-ounce Whole Milk String Cheese, Galbani Mascarpone, 80/10/10 Specialty Blend Shred, 50/50 Blend Shredded Cheese and Whole Milk Premio Shredded Cheese.

Laura Chenel and Marin French Cheese Co. won a gold for Original Fresh Goat Cheese (Chabis); silver for Triple Crème Brie; and bronze medals for Petite Truffle, Golden Gate, Black Truffle Fresh Goat Cheese Log, Orange Blossom Honey Fresh Goat Cheese Log and Thyme & Rosemary Marinated Goat Cheese.

Leelanau Cheese won a silver for Leelanau Raclette and bronze for Leelanau Reserve.

Lioni Latticini Inc. won a bronze medal for Lioni Stracciatella Panna di Latte.

Meadow Creek Dairy won a silver for Grayson.

Murray’s Cheese won super golds for Greensward and Hudson Flower and silvers for Stockinghall and Buttermilk Basque.

Nettle Meadow won a gold for Adironjack and bronze for Briar Summit.

Parish Hill Creamery won a gold for Cornerstone, silver for Suffolk Punch and bronze medals for Jack’s Blue, Kashar, Idyll, Vermont Herdsman and West West Blue.

Perrystead Dairy won bronze medals for Toasted and Treehug.

Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. won silver medals for Point Reyes TomaTruffle, Point Reyes Quinta, Point Reyes Gouda and Point Reyes Toma, and bronze medals for Point Reyes Bay Blue, Point Reyes TomaRashi and Point Reyes TomaProvence.

Rogue Creamery won a super gold for Bluehorn Blue Cheese, silver for Oregon Blue Cheese and bronze medals for Cheese Is Love Cheddar and Crater Lake Blue Cheese.

Sartori Co. won silver medals for Sartori MontAmore Cheddar, Sartori Old World Cheddar and Sartori Reserve Garlic and Herb BellaVitano, and bronze medals for Sartori Reserve Espresso BellaVitano, Sartori Farmhouse Cheddar, Sartori Reserve Merlot BellaVitano and Sartori Limited Edition Pastorale Blend.

Savencia Cheese USA won bronze medals for Supreme 7-ounce and Supreme 2-kilogram

Sierra Nevada Cheese Co. won bronze medals for Farmhouse Organic White Cheddar and Graziers Raw Milk Sharp Cheddar.

Spring Brook Farm Cheese won bronze medals for The Full Vermonty and Tarentaise.

Sweet Grass Dairy won a silver for Thomasville Tomme and bronze medals for Asher Blue, Georgia Gouda, Griffin and Lil Moo Garlic and Chive.

The Farm at Doe Run won a super gold for St. Malachi Reserve, gold medals for St. Malachi and Hummingbird, silvers for Seven Sisters and Batch 37 and bronzes for Aged Seven Sisters, Black Swallowtail and Batch 17.

Tillamook County Creamery Association won bronze medals for Tillamook Smoked Black Pepper White Cheddar, Tillamook Very Veggie Farmstyle Cream Cheese Spread and Tillamook Original Farmstyle Cream Cheese Spread.

Vermont Creamery won gold medals for Vanilla Crème Fraiche, Classic Goat Cheese Log and Bonne Bouche; silver medals for Coupole and Cremont, and a bronze for Bijou.

Von Trapp Farmstead won a gold for Mad River Blue and a bronze for Savage.

Wegmans won silver medals for 1916, Truffle Shuffle and Professor’s Brie and bronze medals for Sweet 16 and Brick Cheese with added Jalapenos.

To view the full results, visit https://worldcheeseawards.com.

CMN


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Today's Cheese Spot Trading
December 2, 2022


Barrels: $1.8975 (NC)
Blocks: $2.1000 (NC)


Click here for more market activity
Cheese Production
U.S. Total Sept.
1.139 bil. lbs.


Milk Production
U.S. Total Oct.
18.850 bil. lbs.

Guest Columnist

Dairy can champion immigration reform as a workforce solution

Rebekah Sweeney, Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association

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