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USDA issues action plan on proposed changes to FMMOs

June 2, 2023

WASHINGTON — USDA on Thursday released an action plan on proposed amendments to the pricing provisions of all federal milk marketing orders (FMMOs).

The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) last month requested USDA begin a rulemaking proceeding to consider proposals to amend the pricing provisions in all FMMOs. The proposal requests USDA consider amending five provisions related to increasing manufacturing allowances, returning to the “higher of” as the mover for Class I milk prices, updating the milk composition factors, removing barrel cheese from the Class III price formula and updating the Class I price surface. NMPF says the dairy marketplace has changed substantially since the current FMMO pricing system was adopted in 2000, and pricing provisions should be updated to reflect current market conditions.

The proposal has not yet been approved for inclusion in a Notice of Hearing. Before deciding whether a hearing will be held, USDA is providing the opportunity for interested parties to submit additional proposals regarding potential amendments to the current pricing provisions applicable to all FMMOs.

Late last month, the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association (WCMA) provided additional information seeking to increase manufacturing allowances. Those proposals now are considered additional proposals in conjunction with USDA’s request.

All proposals may be viewed at The preferred method of submission for additional proposals is via email at Proposals can also be mailed to: Deputy Administrator, USDA/AMS/Dairy Programs, STOP-0225-Room 2530, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-0225. Proposals must be received by June 14 at 5 p.m. ET. Each pricing-related proposal should be accompanied by a comprehensive explanation on the need for and potential impacts of the proposed change(s), how the proposed change(s) facilitates more orderly marketing, and any other relevant information. An evaluation of the submitted information will assist in determining whether the proposal will be accepted if a hearing is held.

USDA will hold a virtual pre-hearing information session June 16 at 10 a.m. ET to allow proposal submitters to explain their proposal(s). Justification for adoption should not be provided during this session. USDA staff will ask questions of the submitters.

Each submission may have one representative participate per proposal with the individual’s name and contact information provided to USDA at the above email address by June 14. Representatives will be contacted on June 15 with participation instructions.

Additional information will be posted at A link for interested parties to virtually observe the session on June 16 will be available by 9 a.m. ET at the above link.

Based on the information submitted, USDA is considering initiation of a rulemaking proceeding that would include a public hearing to collect evidence regarding proposed changes to pricing provisions effective in all 11 FMMOs.

USDA anticipates a hearing notice may be published in Federal Register in late July 2023, with a tentative hearing start date of Aug. 23, 2023. If issued, a notice of hearing detailing the date, time and location of the hearing, and the proposals under consideration, would be published in the Federal Register. The notice also would detail the deadline for all data requests of the Dairy Program to ensure the requested data is available at the start of the hearing.

For more information, contact Erin Taylor at 202-720-7311 or email


NMPF opposes bill that would remove infant formula tariffs

June 2, 2023

WASHINGTON — U.S. Reps. Adrian Smith, R-Neb., and Don Beyer, D-Va., along with Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Bob Menendez, D-N.J., yesterday introduced the Formula 3.0 Act, legislation to permanently waive tariffs and ease trade barriers on infant formula and infant formula base powder.

“The baby formula crisis put an additional spotlight on the serious supply chain challenges we face,” says Smith, who is chairman of the House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee. “Congress immediately came together in a bipartisan way to waive tariffs on safe, FDA-approved formula, and it alleviated some of the pressures families faced when searching for formula. Now that those tariffs have returned, the availability of formula has become strained once again. That’s why we are working in a bipartisan, bicameral way to permanently lift barriers to safely import formula and give families more options and access to the formula they need.”

The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) says it strongly opposes this legislation, arguing that it would increase U.S. vulnerability to infant formula supply disruptions by increasing U.S. reliance on imported formula and formula inputs.

“This bill would make American families more reliant on foreign companies for their infant formula supply and puts in place new one-way-street trade conditions that would harm dairy farmers, cooperatives and processors,” says Jim Mulhern, president and CEO, NMPF. “Instead of weakening our domestic infant formula sector and putting American jobs at risk, we ask that Congress work with us to reinforce and expand our domestic production capacity.”

NMPF notes that in response to the infant formula crisis that occurred last year following a major recall, it supported the 2022 Formula Act and did not oppose passage of the subsequent 2022 Bulk Infant Formula to Retail Shelves Act, which increased import access at a time of acute need. Both laws expired at the end of 2022 once U.S. production had recovered to pre-crisis levels.

NMPF calls this latest bill a “misguided response” to last year’s shortage, adding that FDA noted in testimony last month to the House Oversight Committee that formula stocking levels now are higher than those seen prior to last year’s temporary crisis.

“American dairy farmers and dairy cooperatives are committed to ensuring a robust, dependable supply of infant formula for American families,” says Randy Mooney, NMPF chairman and a dairy farmer near Rogersville, Missouri. “The United States can absolutely more than meet domestic demand and should in fact be positioning itself as a net exporter of infant formula. The U.S. dairy industry is a proven leader in providing milk powder, whey, lactose and cheese to consumers all around the world — infant formula should be no different.”


Specialty cheese production up for Wisconsin in 2022

June 2, 2023

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin continues to be the nation’s top cheese-producing state, with 25% of the nation’s total cheese production in 2022. At 928.2 million pounds, specialty cheese accounted for 26% of Wisconsin’s total cheese production, an increase of 51.0 million pounds or 6% from 2021, according to a Specialty Cheese report recently published by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

In 2022, 94 of the state’s 118 cheese plants manufactured at least one type of specialty cheese during 2022, the report notes. Wisconsin cheesemakers are known for offering a wide variety of high-quality specialty cheeses, defined as a value-added product that commands a premium price.

The largest single category of specialty cheese produced in Wisconsin last year was Hispanic, with 127.6 million pounds produced by 22 producers in 2022. Feta had the second-highest volume at 109.9 million pounds, followed by Parmesan wheel at 95.4 million pounds.

Hispanic cheeses, Parmesan wheel and Asiago were the top-growing cheeses, all at 14% over 2021 volumes.
To read the full report on Wisconsin specialty cheese production, visit


LaClare Creamery’s fresh goat’s milk makes quality, award-winning cheese

MALONE, Wis. — The secret to LaClare Creamery’s success isn’t all that hard to decipher: The finer the milk that goes in, the better the cheese that comes out.

When consumers think about Wisconsin — a state that takes its milk so seriously, it proudly declares itself “America’s Dairyland” — their first thoughts, unsurprisingly, evoke cows, cows and more cows.

In 2019, however, LaClare successfully broadened the field when its milk — produced exclusively by locally sourced goats — captured the top award in the fluid milk category at the Wisconsin State Fair.

“We wanted to take that same awesome milk and put it in the hands of more consumers with our cheeses,” says Alex Coenen, president, LaClare Creamery. “Our original fresh goat cheese (Chèvre) stands out — there’s not much to hide behind. We start with fresh milk and pair it with the right cheesemaking passion. The milk, we believe, really is key to our difference and why our Chèvre is so fresh.”

LaClare Creamery procures its goat’s milk from its own farm as well as the Quality Dairy Goat Co-op, which has been instrumental in founding many of today’s standards for goat milk quality. The majority of LaClare’s milk comes from less than 10 miles from the plant, and its cheeses are made with 100% local goat’s milk that arrives fresh to be used right away in the cheesemaking process.

That strategy has paid huge dividends for a dairy that originated in the late 1970s as a small hobby farm for Larry and Clara Hedrich (their names combined for “LaClare”). To keep pace with the emerging — and rapidly expanding — domestic cheese market, LaClare eventually joined the Mosaic Meadows family of creameries. Today, LaClare is a nationally distributed maker of both aged and fresh goat cheeses, drawing visitors from across the country to its destination cheese plant, goat farm and visitors’ center in Malone, Wisconsin.

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Dairy Sustainability Alliance meets to discuss future goals

May 26, 2023

ROSEMONT, Ill. — Industry leaders and stakeholders from across the dairy value chain discussed priorities, best practices, challenges, work and opportunities that align U.S. dairy and collectively put the industry on a path to providing sustainable solutions for people and the planet during the recent 2023 Dairy Sustainability Alliance Spring Meeting.

Barbara O’Brien, president and CEO of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), opened the meeting by saying the alliance — a multi-stakeholder group involving more than 180 companies and organizations who want to contribute to dairy’s social responsibility journey — is more important than ever amid escalating challenges related to the environment, inflation and increasing supply chain protocols, standards and reporting requirements.

“The stakes are high, and the challenges, competition and counter narrative only get more intense,” O’Brien said. “I hear and am inspired by the people, commitment and hard work taking place across the industry.”

O’Brien noted that the alliance, in its 15th year, follows principles that contribute to the long-term viability of the U.S. dairy industry, such as knowledge sharing and use of science-based research and tools. The alliance works to identify solutions that reflect the diversity of farmers, products and the industry overall.

O’Brien told the 240 meeting attendees — including 19 dairy farmer representatives — that they are “doing the doing and helping to raise all boats.” She cited the many farmer-led conservation groups that have received climate-smart agriculture grants and the 36 companies representing 75% of milk production that have adopted the U.S. Dairy Stewardship Commitment, all of which signal voluntary action that advances sustainability leadership and transparent reporting of progress.

“While challenges continue, I hope you’re as confident as I am in the future for U.S. dairy, and that’s in large part to the people in this room and your peers across the country,” she said. “Because, ultimately, people and relationships are at the very heart of what we do as we bring great minds together to advance dairy as a category — across environmental, social and economic priorities.”

Following O’Brien, a panel discussion addressed efforts to deliver dairy nutrition that meets emerging and personalized health needs for consumers, today and tomorrow. Katie Brown, executive vice president of scientific and nutrition affairs for National Dairy Council, said assuring food security is vital with more than one in five U.S. adults — 34 million people including 9 million children — facing food insecurity.

Brown said the industry’s partnership with Feeding America, which has a network of 200 food banks, is increasing access to dairy. In 2016, 226 million pounds of dairy moved through Feeding America’s network, but it grew to 664 million pounds in 2021 during the pandemic when food insecurity rates soared. Last year, 506 million pounds were distributed.

“Feeding America knows dairy is a nutritional powerhouse and is important to their clients,” Brown said. “Milk is one of the most requested and least donated items in food banks, and Feeding America has set an ambitious goal that dairy will be 10% of foods distributed throughout its network by 2025. This is the power of partnerships.”

Representatives of ZS — a global management consulting and technology firm — shared research results that revealed which aspects of foods have growing appeal to younger consumers, particularly as it relates to their broadening views of holistic health and well-being. The group examined 37 of the most managed health and wellness conditions and conducted research to determine which areas hold the greatest potential for dairy.

ZS is working with the Innovation Center’s Health and Well-Being Task Force to narrow the areas where dairy can best meet consumers’ changing expectations of food now and in the future. Examples include physical/athletic performance and bone health energy, and alliance attendees discussed opportunities to inform the task force’s work.

A large part of the meeting focused on U.S. dairy’s environmental actions and how that work contributes to addressing climate change, and supporting biodiversity and healthy ecosystems. This includes how dairy practices at the farm and plant level contribute to a circular economy, such as better utilization of the nutrient and biological value of manure and the upcycling of protein-rich whey from cheesemaking.

In another session, Tim Kurt, senior vice president, environmental research, for DMI, shared how the checkoff is partnering to advance several projects that support the industry in reaching its collective 2050 environmental stewardship goals. Kurt provided updates on projects focused on reducing dairy’s greenhouse gas footprint related to feed, enteric methane, manure and energy, including:

• Dairy soil and water regeneration: feed footprint and water quality;

• Greener Cattle Initiative: enteric methane mitigation; and

Ruminant farms systems: whole farm process-based model to enable scenario planning.

“We support pre-competitive research that benefits the entire industry, including the development of practices and technologies and evaluating their impact through modeling work,” Kurt said. “Our scientists seek to improve the understanding of the effectiveness and credibility of the solutions available today and in the future so farmers and the broader industry can feel confident in choosings the ones right for their farm and business.”

When U.S. dairy set its environmental stewardship goals in 2020, the Innovation Center committed to report progress toward them every five years. Karen Scanlon, executive vice president of environmental stewardship for DMI, and Nicole Ayache, chief sustainability officer for National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), outlined the approach for measuring and reporting progress on the goals over the short and long term and how the industry-developed FARM Environmental Stewardship and Processor Stewardship Reporting tools will aggregate data for reporting.

“More and more, companies, farmers and food categories are called upon to report on sustainability-related topics,” Scanlon said. “Consumers, customers, retailers are all calling on dairy — from farms to cooperatives to processors — to report on environmental, social and governance topics. Measuring and reporting matters. Industry reporting enables us to credibly and transparently communicate what we want people to know about how U.S. dairy is fulfilling its social responsibility commitments.”

A panel discussion featuring Ahold Delhaize USA, Hannaford Supermarkets, HP Hood, Dairy Farmers of America, Agri-Mark and NMPF focused on dairy value chain collaboration to advance worker well-being.

Farmworker safety and well-being are priorities addressed through the National Dairy FARM Program’s Workforce Development tool. Assessments help identify areas where additional education, training or resources can support farmers.

“When we talk about the value a dairy farm brings to a community, we have to remember to value the people we depend on every day to care for our cows, to make sure our milk is high-quality, safe and fresh and making sure they are nourishing our communities near and far,” said Maine dairy farmer Jenni Tilton-Flood, an Agri-Mark member. “FARM Workforce Development gives us a lens that isn’t size specific and allows everyone to get a better look at what is going on at our farms. This program builds trust and transparency.”

Pennsylvania dairy farmer, Innovation Center board member and DMI Chair Marilyn Hershey closed the meeting giving credit to alliance members for their collaboration that has led to continued environmental success and improvements. Hershey shared insights from representing U.S. dairy in global meetings, such as one hosted by the Food and Agriculture Organization, an agency of the United Nations.

“It was very eye-opening,” Hershey said. “There have been a lot of conversations happening for decades about farming without farmers being there. Everyone is so pinpoint focused on food, climate change and the production of food. Thankfully collaboration is happening even more, but it needs to go past dairy and into all of agriculture. We need to bring the whole barnyard together. Progress and collaboration are what make U.S. dairy stand out as a leader in the agriculture sector. I hear it over and over that we are a leader in the sustainable food systems space.”


Joseph Farms, Sierra Nevada Cheese top California contest

May 26, 2023

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Joseph Farms received best of show for its Special Reserve Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese, and Sierra Nevada Cheese Co. also received a best of show for its Bella Capra Chevre at the California Commercial Cheese Competition judging took place at the beginning of the month.

Joseph Farms also received a best of California for its Sharp Cheddar and Special Reserve Sharp Cheddar; gold for its Special Reserve Extra Sharp Cheddar, Pepper Jack and Sharp Cheddar; silver for Monterey Jack and Mozzarella; and bronze for its Mild Cheddar and Marbled Jack.

Sierra Nevada Cheese Co. received a best of California for its Creme Fraiche and Gina Marie Farmer Cheese; gold for its Creme Fraiche, Goat Cheddar, Gina Marie Farmer Cheese, Gina Marie Cream Cheese, Bella Capra Chevre and Bella Capra Goat Feta; silver for Creme Kefir, Graziers Raw Milk Sharp Cheddar and Organic Creamy Jack; and bronze for its Bella Capra Semi Soft Smoked Goat Cheese and Cheddar.

Central Coast Creamery received a best of California for its Dream Weaver and Faultline; gold for its Faultline and Dream Weaver; and bronze for its Goat Cheddar and Double Bubal.

Cypress Grove received a best of California for its Humboldt Fog and gold for its Humboldt Fog, Fog Lights, Truffle Tremor, and Meyer Lemon and Honey.

Marin French Cheese Co. received a best of California for its Golden Gate; gold for its Petite Mustard, Petite Truffle, Golden Gate, Petite Ash, Petite Supreme, Petite Breakfast and Petite Camembert; and silver for Triple Creme Brie, Petite Creme and Petite Jalapeno.

Shooting Star Creamery received a best of California for its Aries; gold for its Sagittarius, Aries and Leo; and bronze for its Scorpio.

Stepladder Creamery received a best of California for its Cabrillo Reserve; gold for its Spicy Fromage Blanc, Cabrillo Reserve and Ragged Point; and silver for its Fromage Blanc, Cabrillo, LumberJack and Chevre.

Laura Chenel received a gold for its Black Truffle Marinated Goat Cheese, Thyme & Rosemary Marinated Goat Cheese, Jalapeno Chili Marinated Goat Cheese, Spreadable Goat Cheese, Dill Fresh Goat Cheese (Chabis), Black Truffle Fresh Goat Cheese Log, Cranberry Fresh Goat Cheese Log, Original Fresh Goat Cheese (Chabis) and Garlic & Chive Log; silver for its Creamy Brie, Original Log, Kalamata Olive Fresh Goat Cheese Log, Orange Blossom Honey Fresh Goat Cheese Log, Thyme & Rosemary Fresh Goat Cheese (Chabis) and Mango Habanero Fresh Goat Cheese Log; and bronze for its Fig & Grapefruit Fresh Goat Cheese Log.

Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. received a gold for its Point Reyes Toma, Point Reyes Aged Gouda and Point Reyes Quinta; and silver for its Point Reyes Original Blue and Point Reyes Bay Blue.

Rumiano Cheese California Crafted received a gold for its Dry Jack and Rumiano Organic Pepper Jack and Organic Sharp Cheddar; silver for its Peppato and Smoked Mozzarella; and Bronze for its Scilian Jack.

Nicasio Valley Cheese Co. received a gold for its Foggy Morning with Garlic and Basil, Nicasio Reserve, Formagella, Nicasio Square, San Geronimo and Locarno; and silver for its Foggy Morning, Halleck Creek, Tomino and Loma Alta.

Pennyroyal Farm received a gold for its Boont Corners 2 Month; silver for its Boont Corners Reserve; and bronze for its Bollie’s Mollies, Log Lifter, Fratty Corners, Laychee, Chive Laychee and Fennel-Peppercorn Laychee.

Queso Salazar received a gold for its Oaxaca and Mozzarella.

Cowgirl Creamery received a golf for its Pierce Point and Devil’s Gulch; silver for its Hop Along; and bronze for its Mt. Tam and Wagon Wheel.

Spenker Family Farm received a gold for its Roasted Garlic & Dill Chevre; and a bronze for its Goat with a Pearl.


April production rises 0.5% in 24 major milk-producing states

May 26, 2023

WASHINGTON — Milk production in the 24 major milk-producing states in April totaled 18.38 billion pounds, up 0.5% from April 2022, according to data released last week by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). For the entire United States, April milk production was estimated at 19.21 billion pounds, up 0.3% from April 2022. (All figures are rounded. Please see CMN’s Milk Production chart.)

NASS reports March’s revised production for the 24 major states totaled 18.96 billion pounds, an increase of 16 million pounds or 0.1% from last month’s preliminary production estimate.

April production per cow in the 24 major states averaged 2,055 pounds, 2 pounds more than April 2022 and 62 pounds less than March. For the entire United States, production per cow in April is estimated at 2,037 pounds, 1 pound more than April 2022 and down 61 pounds from March.

NASS reports the number of milk cows on farms in the 24 major states was 8.94 million head in April, up 36,000 head from April 2022 and down 15,000 head from March. In the entire United States, there were an estimated 9.43 million milk cows in April, up 26,000 cows from April 2022 and down 16,000 cows from March.

California led the nation’s milk production in April with 3.55 billion pounds of milk, down 1.9% from April 2022. Wisconsin followed with 2.64 billion pounds of milk produced in April, up 0.1% from April 2022.


USDA’s proposed changes to school milk in national view

May 19, 2023

WASHINGTON — An article published this week in the Wall Street Journal says top USDA officials are fixated on banning chocolate milk from elementary and middle school cafeterias despite widespread opposition from parents, school meal professionals and the federal government’s own Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) report.

The Journal reports that “the issue has divided parents.” However, neither the Journal article nor USDA’s comments in the Journal feature thoughts from parents of school-aged children, notes the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA).

Particularly, Cindy Long, administrator of USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), which oversees federal school meals standards, is quoted in the Journal article saying: “We really do want to encourage children to consume milk and we also recognize the need to reduce added-sugar consumption.” However, IDFA notes Long does not mention that flavored milk served in schools today contains 53% less added sugar per serving than it did 15 years ago.

In a Morning Consult poll of more than 500 parents with children in public schools conducted March 17-19, 90% of parents expressed agreement that nonfat or lowfat flavored milk should remain an option in public school meals in their community, IDFA says. In October 2022, a similar poll found support among parents for lowfat flavored milk to be 84% — meaning support among voting parents with children in public schools continues to increase, IDFA adds.

This week, Dave Smith, executive director of the Pennsylvania Dairymen’s Association, released a statement calling USDA’s proposal to potentially ban flavored milk options in schools “ludicrous.”

“All milk, flavored or not, is a proven powerhouse for our children’s minds, bodies and growth, especially for healthy development. Study after study has shown that chocolate milk is the winner and best drink that’s chalked full of nutrition and hydration benefits,” Smith says.

“So many children only like flavored milks to stay hydrated. So why should we or government tell them they can’t drink nutrient-enriched chocolate or strawberry milk anymore, especially at school? We will push them toward more sugary drinks like soda and empty calories outside of school,” he adds.

Smith notes that over the past decade, the nation’s hard-working dairy farmers have fought to bring back whole fat milk choices to schools without success.

“This latest push to further limit milk options for students will further diminish the supply of natural, delicious nutrients in our schools and for our children’s health,” he says. “School is the major supplier of meals for children facing food insecurity. Many of these children choose to drink flavored milks that are packed with protein and other critical health benefits to carry them through their day and nights at home where milk may not be available. Yet, our government and this administration is attempting to steal this healthy beverage from our youth during the school day that fills the nutrition and hunger gap.”

Meanwhile, IDFA notes that in April, 37 school milk processors representing more than 90% of the school milk volume in the United States jumped ahead of USDA’s proposed guidelines with the Healthy School Milk Commitment, a pledge to offer nutritious school milk options with no more than 10 grams of added sugar per 8-fluid-ounce serving by the 2025-2026 school year.

The average serving of chocolate milk in public schools today is a healthy option for most children, as it offers 13 essential nutrients children need for development, including high-quality protein, calcium, vitamin D and potassium, as well as health benefits including better bone health, better mental health and lower risk for Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, IDFA says. It is unclear if federal officials are moved by the overwhelming support of parents for flavored milk in schools. USDA’s standards for school milk have shifted constantly over the past decade, throwing supply chains into constant uncertainty and creating headaches for schools — which have trouble sourcing foods and beverages for their students that meet the evolving standards — and for school milk processors that must reformulate and repackage milk options each time a change is made by USDA.

IDFA is among several stakeholders that recently sent written comments to FNS on its most recent proposed updates. FNS in February proposed long-term school nutrition standards for, among other things, fluid milk, sodium and added sugars. The deadline to submit comments on the proposal was May 10.

Expanding the amount of nutritious dairy food options provided to children through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the School Breakfast Program (SBP) would improve nutrition for children of all backgrounds, reduce waste in school meal programs and increase participation in the federal child nutrition programs, IDFA says in its comments, noting the 2020-2025 DGAs highlights that between 68% and 76.2% of school-age males and between 77.4% and 94.3% of school-age females fail to meet recommended levels of dairy.

To do this, USDA should expand dairy product options to meet the dietary needs and preferences of children from all backgrounds. Encouraging — rather than restricting — consumption of DGA-compliant, unflavored and flavored milks and yogurts will encourage greater meal consumption, less waste and delivery of 13 essential nutrients, IDFA says. Providing lactose-free milk, as well as other dairy products with low lactose content, will allow more school children, including those with lactose malabsorption or lactose intolerance, to find a dairy option that meets their needs and provides needed nutrition. Permitting dairy at all fat levels — provided current saturated fat limits are met — also will encourage consumption of nutritious, DGA-compliant foods that reduce waste, improve program participation and improve nutrition, IDFA says.

USDA should beware of unintended consequences with respect to further sodium reductions, the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) says in its comments. Due to the function and food safety role sodium plays, there are limits to the ability to reduce sodium in cheese.

“Industry continues to research, innovate, and strive to reduce sodium in cheese, and cheese served in schools meets the current school meals sodium limits,” NMPF says. “However, as the amount of sodium allowed in schools is further reduced in the future, it will be more difficult for cheese to continue to be served.”

Removing cheese from school meals will inadvertently run contrary to the DGA, as it will likely cause a reduction in dairy consumption and may reduce overall student nutrient intake as their favorite entrees and sides no longer will be served, NMPF adds.

Joseph Scimeca, senior vice president of regulatory and scientific affairs at IDFA, notes that school meals are a key source of nutrition for children, and they often are the healthiest meal of a child’s day because they provide a variety of nutritious foods and beverages like dairy, fruits and vegetables.

“IDFA is urging USDA to expand dairy options that appeal to and provide good nutrition to children of all backgrounds when they finalize school meal nutrition standards,” Scimeca says.

Flavored milk should be available in all schools for grades K-12, says the Dairy Institute of California, noting that when flavored milk is not available, kids drink less milk and miss out on the nutrients that milk provides.

National Dairy Council (NDC) says flavored milk has been associated with a number of positive health and nutrition outcomes and is the most common and popular type of milk in schools. Numerous studies show that restricting or eliminating flavored milk reduces milk consumption and its accompanying essential nutrients, increases waste and may reduce average daily participation in meal programs, NDC adds.

The School Nutrition Association (SNA), which represents the nation’s school meal professionals, says USDA’s proposed meal standards may bankrupt schools across the country. In their formal comments to USDA on the proposed standards, SNA says: “With no end in sight to supply chain and labor challenges, most school meal programs nationwide simply lack the capacity to meet these proposed nutrition mandates and exceed transitional standards.”

“What are we trying to prove?” asks Katie Wilson, executive director of the Urban School Food Alliance, which represents 18 of the largest school districts in the country, in comments featured in this week’s Journal article. “We want to take a product that most kids like and that has nine essential nutrients in it and say, ‘You can’t drink this, you have to drink plain?’”

According to the Journal, several school districts saw meal participation decrease when flavored milk was removed from the menu, a phenomenon that has played out to the detriment of child health in municipalities across the country. Jessica Gould, the director of nutrition services for Littleton Public Schools in Colorado, said that her school district’s consumption of milk “significantly decreased” when it experienced problems procuring chocolate milk during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Do we want kids to get the calcium, the protein, the additional nutrients that are part of milk?” she asks in the Journal article. “Because when we were only providing white milk, we did see a significant amount of students didn’t take milk in general.”

Michael Dykes, president and CEO of IDFA, notes the Healthy School Milk Commitment goes above and beyond federal nutrition guidelines, ensuring that all children in grades K-12 continue to have access to the milk they enjoy with fewer calories and less added sugar.

“School meals are incredibly important to the health and welfare of our children, and milk is a central building block in school nutrition programs. Milk is the leading source of calcium, vitamin D and potassium for American children ages 2 to 18, and that is why milk processors continue to step up by providing wholesome, healthy and nutritious white milk and flavored milk options with 13 essential nutrients that students will consume,” Dykes says.


Atalanta Corp. acquires cheese assets from Sonoma Creamery

May 19, 2023

ELIZABETH, N.J. — Atalanta Corp., a specialty food importer, this week announced the acquisition of the cheese assets from California’s Sonoma Creamery, including Sonoma Cheese and Sonoma Jack. These cheeses date back to 1931, crafted by Italian immigrants Celso Viviani and Tom Vella.

Since 1945, with a cheese production facility and retail store on the Sonoma Plaza, Sonoma Creamery’s cheeses have been steeped in the tradition and food and wine culture of California’s Sonoma Valley. The company says its Sonoma Cheese brand is well known for having created the original Pepper Jack cheese.

Atalanta plans to grow Sonoma Cheese beyond the West Coast. Atalanta’s national distribution network, its abundance of warehouses and its talented sales team will help Sonoma cheese grow and thrive.

“We are pleased to announce the acquisition of Sonoma Cheese by our company,” says Tom Gellert. president of Atalanta Corp. “This strategic move will expand our product offerings and strengthen our ability to be a part of every food experience.”

John Crean, CEO of Sonoma Creamery, adds: “We couldn’t be happier that the historic Sonoma fresh cheese products have found a home in Atalanta’s growing and impressive portfolio This strategic divestiture allows Sonoma Creamery
to focus on its growing snack business going forward.

Atalanta says it is excited to invest in opportunities with Sonoma Cheese, including adding strategic sales and marketing resources, expanding distribution and growing other channels like foodservice.

Atalanta plans to feature Sonoma Cheese at its booths at upcoming trade shows including the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association Show and the Summer Fancy Food Show.


Dairy stakeholders praise bill to increase dairy access for SNAP

May 19, 2023

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Roger Marshall, R-Kan., recently introduced the Dairy Nutrition Incentives Program Act, bipartisan legislation to increase access to nutritious dairy products for participants of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and support dairy farmers across the country. The Dairy Nutrition Incentives Program Act would allow SNAP participants to purchase more milk, cheese and yogurt with their benefits, expanding access to affordable and nutritious options.

“Making sure more Americans have better access to nutritious foods like yogurt and cheese while also supporting our dairy farmers is a win-win,” Klobuchar says. “Our bipartisan legislation will help support a healthy diet and make sure families are able to bring home more of the foods they love.”

Marshall adds that milk, cheese and yogurt serve as an excellent source of nutrients for nutritionally insecure populations, and dairy products’ role in a diet can ensure stronger bones and a healthier cardiovascular system in the long term.

“Expanding incentives for dairy purchases in SNAP ensures that vulnerable populations may access nutritious, high cost foods regardless of income,” he says.

The latest federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans report showed that more than 90% of Americans do not consume enough dairy products to meet daily nutrition requirements. The Dairy Nutrition Incentives Program Act would increase access to dairy products by expanding the existing Healthy Fluid Milk Incentives program to include products like cheese and yogurt. Under this plan, SNAP participants would receive a coupon for additional cheese or yogurt when they purchase these items with their groceries.

This legislation is endorsed by the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), Associated Milk Producers Inc. (AMPI), FMI–The Food Industry Association, National Grocers Association, Northeast Dairy Products Association, Dairy Institute of California and Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association.

“In this time of chronic food insecurity, it is critical that we increase access to foods that nourish and promote good health and well-being, particularly for our nation’s most vulnerable people. Dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt are nutritional powerhouses, packing essential nutrients that promote healthy immune function, hydration, cognition, mental health, bone health and lower the risk for Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. IDFA applauds Sens. Klobuchar and Marshall for their leadership on the Dairy Nutrition Incentives Program Act of 2023, which would greatly improve access to these nutritious and healthy products for SNAP participants,” says Michael Dykes, president and CEO, IDFA.

“Dairy foods are critical to providing the nutrients needed for healthy lives, including high-quality protein, calcium, vitamin D and potassium. Unfortunately, nearly 90% of Americans do not meet their dairy intake recommendations,” adds Jim Mulhern, president and CEO, NMPF. “We thank Sens. Klobuchar and Marshall for introducing the Dairy Nutrition Incentives Program Act, which would help encourage SNAP participants to choose healthful dairy products at the grocery store. Ensuring all Americans have access to nutritious food is a key priority for NMPF and our dairy farmer members, and we look forward to continuing to work with the senators on ways to improve nutrition and health across the U.S.”

Steve Schlangen, AMPI chairman of the board and a dairy farmer from Albany, Minnesota, says the Dairy Nutrition Incentives Program Act will increase access to nutritious dairy products among SNAP participants and remind people of the important role dairy plays as part of a healthy lifestyle.


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Today's Cheese Spot Trading
June 2, 2023

Barrels: $1.5125 (+1/4)
Blocks: $1.4300 (-7 1/4)

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Cheese Production
U.S. Total March
1.229 bil. lbs.

Milk Production
U.S. Total April
19.210 bil. lbs.

Guest Columnist

Snacking segment calls, Wisconsin Cheese answers

Suzanne Isige, Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin

Also this week: “Enter the Golden State of Dairy” by Jennifer Giambroni, California Milk Advisory Board, and Dairy will seize generational federal milk order opportunity” by Jim Mulhern, National Milk Producers Federation

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