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Farm bill, funding bills on the docket for lame duck session

Nov. 16, 2018

WASHINGTON — Congress returned to Washington this week and faces a list of priorities to address over the next four weeks, Notably for dairy, the new farm bill and appropriations legislation are expected to be addressed.

News reports say House agriculture leaders met Monday on the farm bill but reportedly emerged without much progress to speak of.

House and Senate Agriculture leaders are hoping to strike a bipartisan deal in time to pass a final farm bill before January, but they are competing for floor time with other big-ticket issues, news reports say.

Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), urged Congress to make passing a new farm bill a top priority in its lame duck session, saying that dairy farmers harmed by low prices would benefit from the certainty and improvements likely to be part of the final law.

“Given the sustained low prices dairy farmers have faced, coupled with uncertainty in agricultural trade policy, it is more important than ever that Congress quickly enact the 2018 Farm Bill before adjourning for the year,” Mulhern says. “Both the House and Senate-passed bills make important reforms to dairy policy, making the Margin Protection Program a more effective safety net for producers and expanding producer access to additional risk management options.”

NMPF, whose member cooperatives produce the majority of milk in the United States, commended House and Senate Agriculture Committee leaders for working to negotiate a final 2018 Farm Bill this year.

“We are grateful for the hard work the bipartisan leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees have put in to get us to this point,” Mulhern says. “We stand ready to work with them and their colleagues in the coming weeks to get the job done.”

Congress also still needs to fund large portions of the government by Dec. 7, when a temporary funding measure expires.
News reports say the debate over a final fiscal 2019 agriculture-FDA spending bill could include a battle over Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s plans to relocate the Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture out of Washington next year.

Dozens of public health, agriculture and research groups are pushing House and Senate appropriators to include a provision in the upcoming spending measure that would delay the move until an independent cost-benefit study is conducted and public hearings are held, news reports say.


Dairy industry requests additional farmers aid as tariffs continue

Nov. 16, 2018

WASHINGTON — Dairy stakeholders are urging USDA to provide additional aid to farmers who are still struggling under the weight of retaliatory tariffs.

USDA is expected to announce the next round of trade aid for farmers negatively impacted by retaliatory tariffs on or around Dec. 3, news reports say. Producers who already applied and qualified for the first $4.7 billion in direct payments will automatically be eligible for the next batch, according to USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA). FSA says the application will remain open until Jan. 15.

The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF ) last month urged Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to consider four separate analyses into trade-related dairy losses that each indicate damages of more than $1 billion when USDA calculates its second round of trade-mitigation payments.

In addition, FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative recently sent a letter to Secretary Perdue on behalf of its dairy farmer members across the Midwest, requesting that the mitigation payments to U.S. dairy farmers more accurately reflect the cost of the retaliatory tariffs placed on U.S. dairy products.

“We appreciate your effort to implement a trade mitigation package to support dairy farmers recognizing the harmful effects these retaliatory tariffs have on farmers,” John Rettler, cooperative president, states in the letter. “However, that mitigation package calculates only $127 million in payments to dairy farmers, or $0.12 per hundredweight on one-half of annual production.”

FarmFirst says recent studies have shown that the cost to U.S. dairy farmers is far greater than what USDA is currently calculating. In fact, the USDA’s World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report released last week showed an estimated loss to dairy farmers of $1.5 billion, FarmFirst says.

“Your dedication to improve market access for America’s farmers is consistent with our desire to derive farm income from the domestic and global marketplace,” the letter says. “Dairy farmers have endured exceptionally low milk prices over the last several years. Specifically, 18 percent lower from 2015 to 2017 compared to the average price farmers received from 2011 to 2014. Farmers were managing through this low point and believed the markets would come around.”

The opportunity for dairy farmers to recover from these low prices was spoiled earlier this spring when the dairy markets reacted after these retaliatory tariffs were imposed, FarmFirst adds.

With the potential of a second payment being made later this year by USDA, FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative is requesting that the calculation be adjusted so that the mitigation plan more accurately represents the financial harm that has been placed on dairy farmers.

“Dairy farmers are independent, strong and savvy when it comes to managing their farms,” Rettler says. “Yet, continued downward market pressure without relief will continue to push several dairy farms out of business, negatively affecting their rural communities and industries that serve them.”


Hearing begins on impact of USMCA; IDFA’s Dykes testifies

Nov. 16, 2018

WASHINGTON — The U.S. International Trade Commission held a two-day hearing this week to investigate the likely impact of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) on the U.S. economy, specific industry sectors and consumers. Michael Dykes, president and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) was among several industry groups and stakeholder representatives providing testimony at the Nov. 15-16 hearing.

In his testimony, Dykes outlined the importance of global trade and new free trade agreements to the U.S. dairy industry. He notes that the United States now benefits from a dairy trade surplus of more than $2 billion, after being a net importer of dairy products only a decade ago, and that U.S. companies export dairy products to more than 140 countries.

“Free trade agreements like the USMCA that open markets and lower trade barriers are crucial to continuing this trend of growing U.S. dairy exports,” Dykes says. “Maintaining and expanding access to international markets is essential for the future success of the U.S. dairy industry.”

• Mexico

U.S. dairy exports to Mexico now account for one-quarter of total dairy exports supporting nearly 30,000 American jobs, Dykes points out, calling Mexico “an indispensable partner” for the industry. In 2017, Mexico imported more than $1.3 billion of U.S. dairy products.

Dykes adds that the industry is pleased that the agreement preserves duty-free market access to Mexico and contains geographical indications (GI) provisions within the intellectual property chapter to protect the use of certain common food names, such as gouda and mozzarella, by U.S. cheesemakers. However, he says the dairy industry had hoped the GI provisions would go further to protect more of these names such as asiago and others that remain unclear.

Additionally, U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Mexico are having a negative impact on dairy exports because Mexico has imposed retaliatory tariffs of 25 percent on U.S. cheeses, IDFA notes.

“We’ve seen sales decline 20 percent for cheese in July, August and September due to the tariffs,” Dykes says, adding that until these are lifted, “U.S. dairy’s access to the Mexican market is at risk.”

• Canada

Dykes in his testimony commended the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative for “negotiating strong transparency provisions that hold Canada accountable for publishing data and notices on a public website in a timely manner. This is critical for monitoring and enforcing the USMCA.”

While Dykes notes that the agreement appears to have addressed Canadian dairy policy measures that restrict market access, he cautions that the corrections need to be monitored and enforced.

Canada’s current dairy ingredients pricing strategy includes a Class 6 program that effectively blocks U.S. ingredients from entering the Canadian market and a Class 7 program that allows Canada to export surplus skim milk powder at prices below the cost of production. Although the new agreement will eliminate the Class 6 and 7 programs, Canadian processors still will be able to use Canada’s “make allowance” formula, or processor cost, that is nearly double the U.S. version. This formula will allow large processor margins that will drive expansion and provide Canadian dairy-protein processors a competitive advantage over U.S. companies, IDFA says.

The new agreement also calls for duty-free quotas in Canada for the majority of U.S. dairy products, but Dykes warns that the Canadian dairy industry could find ways not to fill the quotas.

“There’s precedent for Canada not to fill quotas. Several World Trade Organization quotas are routinely left unfilled for milk protein substances and products of natural milk constituents,” Dykes says. “For these reasons, we believe that actual market access for the U.S. dairy industry to the Canadian market could be much lower than what was negotiated.”


Award-winning Schuman Cheese aims to ‘push the boundaries of flavor'
Collaboration, expertise are keys to artisan line success

By Kate Sander

FAIRFIELD, N.J. — Schuman Cheese, a fourth-generation, family-owned business, continues to innovate and adapt to changing market needs.

The company started in 1946 as an importer of Italian cheese, expanded to different areas of the world like South America and Eastern Europe to use its expertise to make cheese abroad and, in more recent years, has invested heavily in the United States to produce specialty artisan cheese.

“As we map out our future, innovation is always at the front of our mind,” says Allison Schuman, a member of the Schuman family’s fourth generation and the company’s senior director of sales. “We pride ourselves on being nimble, and we continually challenge ourselves to be disruptive innovators for the cheese category.”

The shift to U.S. production occurred about 13 years ago, Schuman says, noting this was a pivotal point in company history.

“It has allowed us to keep tight control over the quality of what we produce, be near the production and use our creativity to innovate around cheesemaking,” she says, noting the company makes a wide variety of cheeses including Parmesan, Fontina, Blue and Alpine-style cheeses.

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Stakeholders react to election, hopeful for farm bill progress

Nov. 9, 2018

WASHINGTON — With the midterm elections largely in the review mirror, dairy stakeholders this week expressed eagerness to work with the new Congress in 2019 and are optimistic that a new farm bill will be passed yet this year in the lame duck session.

Following Tuesday’s election, some race results are still outstanding, but it is clear that Democrats took the majority in the House of Representatives, while Republicans gained additional seats in the Senate but still remain shy of the 60 seats needed to pass legislation without bipartisanship.

“By and large, nothing about the election particularly changed my legislative outlook from what it was before,” says Paul Bleiberg, vice president of government relations for the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF).

The National Restaurant Association notes in addition to the fight for control over the Congress, Republicans and Democrats also battled for several governorships and state legislatures. Voters also weighed in on state ballot referendums that could have an impact on the restaurant industry and how it conducts business. Those initiatives included minimum-wage increases and the introduction of gross receipts taxes.

“Though a divided government can often lead to substantial levels of gridlock, the association’s policy leaders — who consistently work in a bipartisan and bicameral fashion — said they are optimistic there will be opportunities to advance the industry’s priorities,” National Restaurant Association says. “For example, the association is hopeful it can work with the Senate and House on key issues, such as infrastructure, immigration, workforce development and criminal justice reform.”

• Farm bill

Bleiberg and other stakeholders anticipate the leadership of the Senate and House agriculture committees to remain largely unchanged, with the House Ag Committee chairman role likely to be assumed by current Ranking Member Collin Peterson, D-Minn. Peterson was chairman when Democrats last controlled the House.

“The election results seem to have breathed new life into the farm bill negotiations,” says J. David Carlin, senior vice president of legislative affairs and economic policy for the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA). “While there are still many issues to be worked out in a fairly short period of time, it sounds like all of the key negotiators are working hard to come up with a bill that can pass both chambers before the end of the year.”

News reports this week say Peterson has indicated that farm bill negotiators are getting “relatively close” to an agreement for a final measure that Congress can pass during the lame duck session.

Uncertainly lies mostly within the nutrition title, with lawmakers split on potential new work requirements for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients.

“We could have a very fast (bill) without the work rules, but we want the work rules in,” President Donald Trump said Wednesday during a post-election press conference.

Randy Dwyer, director of advocacy and political affairs for the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), says AFBF is looking forward to working with the new Congress, noting a “green wave” of largely pro-agriculture lawmakers is anticipated.

“In the lame duck, we would like very much to see our farm bill conferenced as well as passed and signed. We don’t need to wait for the new Congress to get that taken care of,” Dwyer says.

“We look forward to working with the new Congress to strengthen agriculture by fixing the ag labor problems we face, boosting our farm economy via export growth and reducing the burden and cost of federal regulations,” adds Zippy Duvall, president, AFBF. “It is clear that rural voters turned out for this election, and we are proud of them. We stand ready to work with this wave of elected leaders who will stand up for farmers and ranchers and our ability to feed our nation.”

• Trade

Meanwhile, stakeholders expect finalization of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and other trade developments to be pushed to 2019.

“Unless something extraordinary happens, they’re very unlikely to rush through (USMCA) in the lame duck and will do it in 2019,” says Dave Salmonsen, trade policy specialist, AFBF.

He notes a report on the agreement is expected in March. Final text has to be sent to Congress after that, and then the clock starts on congressional consideration.

“It’s likely to be implemented in spring or summer,” Salmonsen says. “Now that Democrats are in the majority, they may ask for concessions in the agreement.”

Meanwhile, tariff retaliation continues from China, Mexico and Canada.

“I don’t know that Congress will do anything legislatively, but they likely will be reflecting and amplifying concerns from farmers,” Salmonsen says.

President Trump last week asked key members of his administration to begin writing potential pact terms for a possible trade deal with China. Trump’s request comes after a call with China’s President Xi Jinping last week, which both sides called “constructive discussions on North Korea and trade,” according to news reports.


USDA, dairy farmers mark start of California federal milk order

Nov. 9, 2018

WASHINGTON — USDA Under Secretary Greg Ibach joined dairy farmers in Tulare County, California, on Wednesday to celebrate implementation of the new California federal milk marketing order (FMMO) that went into effect Nov. 1.

“America’s dairy farmers face many challenges at home and abroad, so working together is more important than ever,” Ibach says. “This new federal milk marketing order decreases regulation for processors, moving industry into a less regulatory system, and also helps put California’s producers on equal footing with producers across the country.”

California represents more than 18 percent of all U.S. milk production, and with this new order more than 80 percent of the total U.S. milk supply will be covered by the 11 orders overseen by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).

Federal milk marketing orders are voluntary, industry-initiated, industry-driven marketing tools intended to prevent damaging price competition inherent in the marketing of highly perishable commodities. FMMOs establish the terms of trade between the farmer and the first buyer of milk by enforcing timely payments from milk processors to milk producers and developing minimum milk prices based on market values with respect to supply and demand conditions.

The implementation of the California FMMO concludes a rulemaking process that began in 2015 when three California dairy farmer cooperatives — California Dairies Inc., Land O’Lakes Inc. and Dairy Farmers of America Inc. — jointly petitioned USDA to establish a federal marketing order for the state. A 40-day formal rulemaking hearing was held in the fall of 2015 to collect evidence and testimony and the resulting hearing record consisted of more than 8,000 pages of hearing transcripts, 200 exhibits and 30 post-hearing briefs.

Based on this evidentiary record, USDA published a recommended decision proposing the establishment of a California FMMO in February 2017. A final rule announcing industry approval was published June 7, 2018.

The entire record of the rulemaking is available at


Judge dismisses central claim in Parmesan labeling lawsuits

Nov. 9, 2018

CHICAGO — A federal judge last week dismissed the central claim in lawsuits accusing five food producers and retailers of deceiving consumers by using “100% Grated Parmesan Cheese” labels to describe products that contained cellulose, an anti-clumping agent.

U.S. District Judge for the North District of Illinois Gary Feinerman found a lack of proof that the labels would mislead reasonable consumers into thinking the products were 100 percent cheese.

The judge allowed some state consumer protection claims to continue in part against Albertsons Cos., Kraft Heinz Co. and Walmart Inc.

He dismissed all claims against two other retailers, Publix Super Markets Inc. and Target Corp.

The complaints allege violations of various state consumer protection statutes, breaches of express and implied warranty, and unjust enrichment stemming from two alleged misrepresentations: the representation on the containers’ front labels that the products are “100% Grated Parmesan Cheese,” when in fact they contain non-cheese ingredients; and the representation on the ingredient lists that cellulose is used to prevent caking, when in fact it could be used as a filler.

The “100%” claims are dismissed, while the anticaking claims are dismissed in large part, the judge says.

In his conclusion, Feinerman writes: “The 100% claims are dismissed in their entirety, as are all anticaking claims against Target/ICCO and all anticaking claims under Alabama law against Albertsons.”

He notes anticaking claims under select state laws are dismissed as well.

The anticaking claims under Connecticut, Michigan, and New York express warranty law are dismissed, as are the anticaking claims against Kraft and SuperValu under Illinois express warranty law. The anticaking claims against SuperValu under Alabama and Illinois implied warranty law are also dismissed, he writes.

Feinerman says plaintiffs may proceed on their anticaking claims against Kraft under select state laws and against Albertsons/SuperValu under Illinois state law. They may proceed with their anticaking express warranty claims against Kraft under Alabama, California, Florida and Minnesota law; against Albertsons under Illinois law; against SuperValu under Alabama law; and against Wal-Mart/ICCO under Alabama, California, Florida, Minnesota, and New Jersey law. They may proceed with their anticaking implied warranty claims against Kraft under California, Connecticut, Michigan, and Minnesota law; against Albertsons under Illinois law; and against Wal-Mart/ICCO under Alabama, California, Florida, New Jersey, New York, and Minnesota law. Finally, Plaintiffs may proceed with their anticaking unjust enrichment claims against Kraft, Albertsons/SuperValu, and Wal-Mart/ICCO, except for the claims against Albertsons under Alabama law.

“No anticaking claims may proceed against Publix and Target, which are dismissed from this litigation,” he writes.


As midterms approach, dairy industry eyes tariffs, farm bill

Nov. 2, 2018

WASHINGTON — Dairy and agriculture industry stakeholders continue to press for action on ongoing tariffs as well as the expired farm bill.

This week at its annual meeting in Phoenix, the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) asked President Donald Trump to recognize the significant economic losses milk producers are suffering because of the administration’s implementation of Section 232 and 301 tariffs. The duties have resulted in retaliatory tariffs against U.S. dairy exports, particularly by Mexico and China.

NMPF notes these tariffs continue to cause severe economic harm to U.S. dairy farmers. NMPF’s board of directors has adopted a resolution calling for aid commensurate to that damage.

“In light of the administration’s decision to establish a program to compensate farmers for the damage caused by these retaliatory tariffs, we call on the president to direct USDA to provide assistance to dairy producers at a level that reflects the damage they have caused,” NMPF says, citing estimates that show farmer losses will exceed $1 billion this year.

An initial USDA mitigation package announced in August allocated $127 million to dairy, but stakeholders say further aid is needed.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced this week that the Trump administration will begin a second round of mitigation package payments to dairy producers in December. USDA does not plan to change the payment amounts but could adjust them depending on the state of agriculture trade relations. Perdue says there have been no discussions of the payments continuing into 2019.

Also this week, a new analysis says the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), once ratified, will provide a bump in U.S. agricultural exports — but those trade gains are overwhelmed by lost exports due to retaliatory tariffs.

The Farm Foundation, an agricultural policy institute, contracted with economists at Purdue University to estimate the impacts on U.S. agriculture from USMCA. The study contrasted USMCA with its predecessor, the North American Free Trade Agreement. The study also looked at the impact of retaliatory tariffs by Canada, Mexico and China against U.S. agricultural exports.

“The modest market access improvements in the USMCA will lead to an expansion of U.S. agricultural exports by $450 million, mostly in the dairy and poultry sectors. However, the retaliatory measures taken by Canada and Mexico, in reaction to the U.S. decision to raise tariffs on their exports of steel and aluminum, will cause U.S. agricultural exports to decline by $1.8 billion, and by $1.9 billion to these key trading partners,” the analysis says. “In today’s broader context of reactive trade retaliation from countries around the world, the United States would see a decline in agricultural exports of $7.9 billion, thus overwhelming the small positive gains from USMCA.”

It could be worse, the analysis continues.

“The USMCA may fail to be ratified. One plausible outcome of a failure to ratify the new agreement would be for the United States to withdraw from the original agreement, in which case all three countries could revert tariff rates to the so-called most favored nation (MFN) status, granted to all countries that are members of the World Trade Organization (WTO). MFN tariff levels would hit U.S. agricultural exports particularly hard. One study estimates that U.S. agricultural exports would decline by more than $9 billion, and lead to higher consumer prices for food,” the analysis says.

To download the analysis, visit

Meanwhile, warning that the financial security of America’s farmers and ranchers is in jeopardy, 16 agriculture organizations including the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) this week urged House and Senate agriculture leaders to complete the farm bill by the end of this year.

The 2014 Farm Bill expired Sept. 30. Both the House and Senate have passed separate versions of the legislation. Lawmakers are now working to draft a single bill for Congress to approve and send to President Trump for his signature.

“As you well know, conditions for producers across the country are daunting. Low prices, uncertain market opportunities, and the current weather challenges are all weighing heavily on the minds of our respective members,” the groups wrote in a letter to House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, and Ranking Member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., as well as Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.

The groups note the farm bill provides policies that support food safety, production agriculture, environmental quality, crop insurance, animal disease prevention, conservation, research, renewable energy and new foreign market access. In addition, without a farm bill in place, it’s difficult for farmers to secure the credit they need to plant crops, buy fuel, and repair and invest in equipment in 2019, they add.

“We appreciate each of your efforts to move this bill forward. It is our sincere hope, however, that you will be able to resolve any remaining differences so that this bill can be finalized and sent to the president for his signature before the close of the year,” the groups wrote.


Mid-Atlantic sees growth in artisan, commodity business

Nov. 2, 2018

Editor’s note: As part of our series, “From Cow to Curd: A Look Across the Nation,” Cheese Market News takes a look at the cheese and dairy industry across the United States. Each month we examine a different state or region, looking at key facts and evaluating areas of growth, challenges and recent innovations. This month we are pleased to introduce our latest states — Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey.

By Rena Archwamety

MADISON, Wisconsin — The Mid-Atlantic states of Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey are home to a range of dairy processing activity, from artisan goat’s and sheep’s milk cheesemakers to large bottling and converting facilities owned by major cooperatives and corporations.

The number of dairy farms in these states, as in other parts of the country, continues to decline as costs rise, cities encroach and older generations retire. According to the most recent numbers from USDA, dairy cow and licensed dairy herd numbers in all three states are down compared to a year earlier. For 2017, USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service reported an average 30 dairy farms in Delaware, 400 in Maryland and 55 in New Jersey.

“For Delaware, and a lot of New Jersey, as urban pressures increase, farms are going to decrease,” says Jerrel Heatwole, chairman of the Dairy Farmers of America’s (DFA) Northeast Council and vice chairman/treasurer of DFA’s corporate board. “Clearly the number of farms will continue to decline as there’s urban encroachment. The more people around, the more regulatory issues you face. Farms are going to continue to get larger.”

Heatwole, who milks 65-75 cows outside Greenwood, Delaware, about 25 miles south of the state’s capital Dover, notes that his farm is in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, which adds extra regulations. Heatwole also has to go out-of-state to access suppliers and services for his dairy equipment. On the positive side, though, dairy farms in the state can grow much of their own feed. The region also has plenty of processing capacity and demand for milk from many high-population centers.

“In the Mid-Atlantic region, we probably have more processing capacity demand than actual milk produced,” Heatwole says. “Demand for our milk hasn’t been an issue.”

• Dairy processing

In 2011, Delaware’s two major dairy processors, Hy-Point Dairy and Lewes Dairy, merged. The combined company, which still uses the two separate names, remains the only major dairy processor in the state, producing butter, milk, ice cream, cream and eggnog. Delaware also has four dairy farms that produce ice cream on a smaller scale, as well as another small dairy that bottles its own milk and sells it at farmers’ market and a few local markets, according to the Delaware Department of Agriculture.

Maryland has more than 50 licensed dairy processors, including a Saputo Dairy Foods plant in Frederick, Maryland, and two facilities owned by Maryland and Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative.

Maryland and Virginia Milk Producers, which has 157 members in Maryland and four in Delaware, notes that it recently modernized both of its Maryland facilities, which include a fluid milk bottling plant in Landover and an ingredients/balancing plant in Laurel.

“At the Landover facility, we added a caseless filling line that we commissioned in spring 2017,” says Amber Sheridan, director of corporate communications, Maryland and Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative. “At our Laurel ingredients facility, we expanded our drying capacity by making modifications and upgrades to our dryer. The Laurel plant is a significant balancing plant for the region and processes milk from several states, though mainly Pennsylvania and Maryland.”

New Jersey has four Grade A commercial fluid processing plants, as well as one on-farm Grade A processor and one state Grade A processor for yogurt, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture says. The state also has 16 cheese processing plants that processed 5.4 million pounds of cheese in 2017.

DFA, which has about 100 farmer members in Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey, last fall acquired Bridgeton, New Jersey-based Cumberland Dairy, a family-owned processor of ultra-pasteurized dairy products with extended shelf life (ESL). DFA notes that Cumberland Dairy manufactures and distributes both branded and private-label products and serves some of the nation’s top quick-service restaurants, convenience chains, grocery chains, wholesale food distributors, fine-casual restaurants and dessert concepts.

“This is DFA’s first acquisition in the ESL space, and we think there is opportunity to grow our work with customers and existing product lines through ESL,” says Pat Panko, senior vice president and chief operating officer, fluid milk and ice cream, DFA.

• Artisan cheese

One of New Jersey’s most visible artisan cheesemakers is Valley Shepherd Creamery, Long Valley, New Jersey, which makes cheese, butter and yogurt from the milk of its 600 sheep, 220 goats and 50 cows. Additionally, the 20-year-old farmstead operation hosts tours, teaches cheesemaking classes and sells its products from its on-farm Sheep Shoppe and its retail and grilled cheese counter in Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market, as well as other regional retailers.

“Agritourism is pretty big at the farm here, especially spring and fall,” says Eran Wajswol, owner and cheesemaker, Valley Shepherd Creamery. “We have a tourism center with guided tours and wagon tours. Our cheesemaking classes are always sold out. It’s a very active farm.”

Outside its own shops, Valley Shepherd Creamery cheeses are sold mainly in retailers on the East Coast, though it recently expanded and launched national distribution of its line of sheep’s milk yogurt. The creamery also is working to expand its Jersey Cow cultured butter to meet increasing demand, and it has increased its wholesale accounts for cheeses.

“We’ve been growing from the day we opened. My wholesale person tells me there hasn’t been a week without two or three new customers ... it never seems to stop,” Wajswol says.

Running a farm and processing operation isn’t easy in the suburban landscape of New Jersey. Feed production and procurement, waste management and stringent inspections are among the challenges, Wajswol notes. However, the area’s population also provides a close and constant customer base.

“Demographics is great. The price you pay for being here is getting the demographics,” Wajswol says, adding that the proximity of his customers has made it possible to deliver most of his product without hiring a distributor.

Goat’s milk artisan cheesemaker FireFly Farms also has grown over its 17 years in Accident, Maryland, and the company now is planning an expansion into a second aging, processing, lab and office space over the next couple of years.

FireFly owners Michael Koch and Pablo Solanet left their respective corporate and culinary careers started making cheese from their own goats at their farm in the western Maryland mountains. Eventually they sold their goats to focus exclusively on cheesemaking, and now they source all their milk from six old-order Amish family farms within 20-25 miles from the creamery.

“We’re in northern Appalachia, and just 11 miles north of us is the Pennsylvania border,” Koch says. “We don’t have any trouble (sourcing milk). Actually, we can’t grow as fast as our farmers would like us to grow.”

FireFly Farms’ main market is in the D.C. metro area, with concentration in the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast. However, the company’s cheeses also are now being distributed as far as Northern California, the Midwest and Florida. FireFly has done business with Whole Foods Market since 2003, and recently was asked to create exclusive, limited-run cheeses for the chain.

“Once we grow and build our new place, we will have more manufacturing and aging space,” Solanet says.

“Our business plan has us going from about 200,000 pounds a year to about three times that size in the next five to eight years,” Koch adds of the planned expansion.

Koch is president of the Maryland Cheese Guild, which has been in existence since 2011 but has had more momentum in the past two or three years, he says. The guild holds an annual festival, which took place earlier in October, in conjunction with the state’s wine guild. The cheese guild now has 28 members, including 10 that have achieved a large enough scale to be “paying” members.

“I’m hoping the mountains of western Maryland look like Vermont in 15 years,” Koch says of the growing interest in artisan cheesemaking. “There’s talk about whether in the future to expand the Maryland guild, whether we should combine forces with Pennsylvania, or maybe there should be a Mid-Atlantic guild. For the meantime, we’re pleased the Maryland guild has formed and are trying to drive as much growth as possible with the cheesemakers who are here.”


U.S. cheese production climbs 3 percent over year earlier

Nov. 2, 2018

WASHINGTON — Total U.S. cheese production in September, excluding cottage cheese, was 1.06 billion pounds, 3.1 percent above September 2017’s 1.02 billion pounds, according to data released Thursday by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). (All figures are rounded. Please see CMN’s Dairy Production chart.)

September cheese production was 2.0 percent below August 2018’s 1.08 billion pounds. Adjusted for the length of the months to a daily average basis, September cheese production was up 1.3 percent from August 2018.

Total Italian-type cheese production was 451.2 million pounds in September, up 4.3 percent from September 2017. Mozzarella production, the largest component of Italian-type cheese production, was up 7.5 percent from a year earlier to 357.1 million pounds.

Total American-type cheese production in September was 419.4 million pounds, a 3.9-percent gain over production a year earlier. Production of Cheddar, the largest component of American-type cheese production, was up 0.4 percent from September 2017 to 293.0 million pounds.

Wisconsin led the nation’s cheese production with 280.5 million pounds in September, up 2.0 percent from its production in September 2017. California followed with 205.5 million pounds, a 5.9-percent gain from its production a year earlier.
NASS reports total U.S. butter production was 134.4 million pounds in September, down 0.1 percent from 134.6 million pounds in September 2017.

September butter production was 0.3 percent higher than August 2018’s 134.0 million pounds. When adjusted for the length of the months, September butter production was 3.6 percent higher than August 2018 production on a daily average basis.
California led the nation’s butter production in September with 43.7 million pounds, up 21.0 percent from the 36.1 million pounds produced in September 2017.


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Today's Cheese Spot Trading
November 16, 2018

Barrels:$1.3600 (NC)
Blocks: $1.4525 (+2 3/4)

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

Milk Production
U.S. Total Sept.
17.376 bil. lbs.

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