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Ag sector uncertain following
Trump actions on immigration

February 24, 2017

WASHINGTON — Dairy and agricultural stakeholders expressed concerns and uncertainty with immigration enforcement actions announced by the Trump administration this week.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly on Tuesday issued two memoranda to the DHS workforce providing further direction to implement President Trump’s recent executive orders on border security and enforcement of immigration laws.

The first memo implements the executive order “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements” issued by the president Jan. 25. This order establishes the president’s policy regarding effective border security and immigration enforcement through faithful execution of U.S. law. It implements new policies designed to stem illegal immigration and facilitate the detection, apprehension, detention and removal of aliens who have no lawful basis to enter or remain in the United States, according to the memo.

The order also constitutes guidance to all DHS personnel and supersedes all existing conflicting policy, directives, memoranda and other guidance on this subject, the memo says.

“As the department works to expand detention capabilities, detention of all such individuals may not be immediately possible, and detention resources should be prioritized based up on potential danger and risk of flight if an individual alien is not detained,” the memo states.

The memo also calls for hiring additional U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers and agents to effectively “detect, track and apprehend all aliens illegally entering the United States.”

The second memo implements the executive order “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States” also issued by Trump Jan. 25. It constitutes guidance for all DHS personnel regarding enforcement of U.S. immigration laws and is applicable to the activities of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), CBP and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

“As such, it should inform enforcement and removal activities, detention decisions, administrative litigation, budget requests and execution, and strategic planning,” the memo says.

The directive adds that with the exception of two memos — one from June 2012 titled “Exercising Prosecutorial Discretion with Respect to Individuals Who Came to the United States as Children” and a November 2014 memo titled “Exercising Prosecutorial Discretion with Respect to Individuals Who Came to the United States as Children and with Respect to Certain Individuals Who Are the Parents of U.S Citizens or Permanent Residents” — “all existing conflicting directives, memoranda or field guidance regarding the enforcement of our immigration laws and priorities for removal are hereby rescinded.”

The actions are not surprising to most, as Trump campaigned heavily on a pledge to toughen up on the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States.

Media reports say many of the instructions to immigration agents outlined in the guidance will not be implemented immediately because they depend on Congress. For example, DHS will need to publish a notice in the Federal Register subject to review in order to implement one part of the plan that calls on ICE agents to increase the number of immigrants who are not given a hearing before being deported.

The new guidelines create an aura of uncertainty across the country.

U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., ranking member of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, says he has called on his counterpart on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Chairman John Cornyn, R-Texas, to hold hearings on the executive orders.

He adds that the Senate also should pass a bill he has sponsored to repeal the mass deportation order.

“The Republican-controlled Congress has an urgent responsibility to do its constitutional duty and act as an independent check on President Trump,” Durbin says.

“There is a great deal of uncertainty and confusion right now about the scope of the recently-announced immigration enforcement actions and how broad the impact will be,” says Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF). “This uncertainty is creating a significant level of distress in farm country.”

Mulhern says NMPF has communicated extensively with its members, outlining the current status of the executive orders and implementation of the White House immigration policy guidance.

NMPF also is continuing discussions with members of Congress about the urgent need for a long-term solution to worker shortages in agriculture, he adds.

“It is critical that we maintain our current workforce and create a sensible, workable means of filling farm jobs in the future,” Mulhern says.

Kristi Boswell, director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), says the organization is watching the orders closely and echoes that there is a lot of anxiety right now.

“AFBF supports border security, but there could be unintended consequences,” Boswell says. “It’s our hope that there will be discussion on ways to increase access for dairy farm workers in the future. It needs to be addressed in Congress.”

The American Dairy Coalition (ADC) — which represents U.S. progressive, modern dairy, livestock and agriculture farmers — has proposed a state-based solution to immigration reform. The coalition says its proposal would allow states to make their own decisions and if they choose, permit a guest worker visa program run by individual state governments and based on the economic necessities of each individual state.

ADC says industries from agriculture to construction have been experiencing a drastic shortage of workers, and eliminating immigrant labor would reduce the U.S. dairy, milk production and the number of farms.

“While nearly everyone agrees that providing more assets to secure the border is necessary, Congress also needs to deal with the shortage of workers,” ADC says.

The coalition says fundamental reasons for state-based immigration reform include each state having unique labor needs that immigration programs have failed to predict, and the federal government’s slow reaction to each state’s rapidly-changing economies. State and local control and experimentation have contributed to America’s economic vitality, ADC adds.

Under ADC’s proposal, states would have the choice to sponsor foreign-born workers based on their own selection criteria and would receive a portion of new federal temporary work visas valid for work in their state. The federal government would play the role of conducting background checks, interviews and issuing visas. Foreign-born workers would only be allowed to renew their visas if they comply with all rules.

Meanwhile, members of the Idaho Dairymen’s Association (IDA) are currently collecting signatures on a Labor Shortage Petition outlining the need for immigration reform. The association hopes to get at least 10,000 signatures by the end of this month.

“We, the dairy producers of Idaho and supporters of the dairy industry in our state, respectfully request that the members of our congressional delegation work with other members of Congress and the new administration to develop and implement federal legislation that includes an effective visa program for dairy farm workers as soon as possible,” the petition states.”

The petition notes an effective visa program for dairy farm workers includes legal status for the current experienced workforce, access to year-round workers and an effective program for legal new workers when they are needed in the future.

To view the petition, visit


Total U.S. milk production
climbs 2.5 percent in January

February 24, 2017

WASHINGTON — Milk production in the 23 major states during January totaled 16.999 billion pounds, up 2.7 percent from January 2016, according to data released this week by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). (All figures are rounded. Please see CMN’s Milk Production chart.)

December revised production in the 23 major states, at 16.777 billion pounds, was up 2.6 percent from December 2015. The December revision represents a decrease of 2 million pounds or less than 0.1 percent from last month’s preliminary production estimate.

NASS reports in the 23 major states there were 8.69 million milk cows on U.S. farms in January, 67,000 head more than in January 2016 and 5,000 head more than in December 2016. Production per cow in the 23 major states averaged 1,957 pounds in January, 37 pounds more than in January 2016.

California led the nation’s production with 3.413 billion pounds in January, a 0.6-percent decrease in its production from a year earlier. The decline was driven by a drop in cow numbers; the state was home to 1.76 million cows in January, down 14,000 head from January 2016 and down 1,000 head from December 2016. Production per cow in California in January averaged 1,945 pounds, up 5 pounds from a year earlier.

Wisconsin followed with 2.541 billion pounds in January, up 1.0 percent from its production a year earlier. The state was home to 1.28 million cows, unchanged from the previous January and up 1,000 head from December 2016. Production per cow in Wisconsin averaged 1,985 pounds in January, a 20-pound increase versus a year earlier.

Total milk production in the United States in January totaled 18.127 billion pounds, NASS reports, up 2.5 percent from January 2016. There were 9.36 million milk cows on U.S. farms in January, NASS says, 56,000 head more than in January 2016 and 6,000 head more than in December 2016. Production per cow in January averaged 1,937 pounds, up 35 pounds from January 2016.

Annual milk production for the entire United States during 2016, a leap year, was 212.436 billion pounds, 1.8 percent above 2015, NASS says in this week’s report. Revisions to 2015 production decreased the annual total 36 million pounds. Revised 2016 production was down 76 million pounds from last month’s report. Annual total milk production has increased 14.4 percent from 2007, according to NASS.

Production per cow in the United States averaged 22,774 pounds for 2016, 378 pounds above 2015. The average annual rate of milk production per cow has increased 12.7 percent from 2007, NASS says.

The average number of milk cows on farms in the United States during 2016 was 9.33 million head, up 0.2 percent from 2015. The average number of milk cows was revised down 5,000 head for 2016, NASS says. The average annual number of milk cows has increased 1.5 percent from 2007, NASS adds.


Schuman Cheese adds new
Imperia-Fall Creek facility

February 24, 2017

FAIRFIELD, N.J. — Schuman Cheese is expanding its footprint with the addition of a 54,000-square-foot production facility in Fall Creek, Wisconsin. The new facility, to be known as Imperia-Fall Creek, is part of a selective asset purchase agreement with Greenwood Packaging.

The purchase, which closed Thursday, positions Schuman Cheese to expand its production and cold storage capabilities for customers, as well as its own growing portfolio of consumer and foodservice products. Greenwood, previously a co-manufacturing partner for Schuman Cheese, currently operates three production lines. In addition to integrating these lines into its operations, Schuman Cheese will assume responsibility for Greenwood’s current customer roster.

“While working with Greenwood, we have been continually impressed by the facility and the team, both of which reflect our commitment to the highest quality cheese production,” says Neal Schuman, CEO, Schuman Cheese. “Not only does this purchase support strategic growth in the processing segment of our business, but it underscores our commitment to creating ways to better meet and exceed our customers’ expectations.”

The Fall Creek facility joins two additional state-of-the-art processing plants in New Jersey and Illinois that grate, shred, shave, slice and cut a wide variety of cheeses each year, which are then packaged, distributed and delivered via a warehouse management system that enables world-class service and logistics.

Schuman Cheese plans to maintain Greenwood Packaging’s current employee levels, and additional positions are expected in the future due to increased shifts and expanded production lines, the company says.


Total U.S. natural cheese
stocks total 1.23B pounds

February 24, 2017

WASHINGTON – Total natural cheese stocks in refrigerated warehouses on Jan. 31, 2017, amounted to 1.23 billion pounds, according to data released this week by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). A record high for the month of January, January’s total cheese stocks were up 3 percent from Dec. 31, 2016’s 1.20 billion pounds and up 5 percent from the 1.18 billion pounds in cold storage at the end of January 2016.

American cheese in cold storage totaled 760.7 million pounds Jan. 31, 2017, up 5 percent from December 2016’s 726.4 million pounds and 6 percent more than the 716.4 million pounds in cold storage at the end of January 2016.

Swiss cheese in cold storage totaled 23.9 million pounds Jan. 31, 2017, down 1 percent from the 24.2 million pounds in cold storage a month earlier and down 1 percent from the 24.1 million pounds in cold storage a year earlier.

Other natural cheese in cold storage totaled 448.0 million pounds Jan. 31, 2017, up less than 1 percent from December 2016’s 447.7 million pounds and a 2-percent increase from the 437.7 million pounds in cold storage Jan. 31, 2016.

NASS reports butter in cold storage Jan. 31, 2017, totaled 223.1 million pounds, a 34-percent increase from Dec. 31, 2016’s 166.0 million pounds and 16 percent more than the 192.1 million pounds in cold storage at the end of January 2016.

This week NASS also released its annual cold storage report. The report puts the highest level of total natural cheese stocks in 2016 at 1.28 billion pounds at the end of July 2016. In 2016, total natural cheese stocks were at their lowest in January when the total was 1.18 billion pounds.

2016 butter stocks were at their highest at the end of July when they totaled 332.8 million pounds. Butter stocks were at their lowest point in 2016 in November when they totaled 161.2 million pounds.


Product quality and leadership go hand-in-hand at Gilman Cheese

By Kate Sander

GILMAN, Wis. — Some avoid taking on difficult projects while others relish it. Tom Hand, owner of Gilman Cheese Corp., is among the latter.

Gilman Cheese, located in the tiny village of Gilman in north central Wisconsin, is the area’s largest employer and specializes in premium quality, shelf-stable processed cheese for the gift pack, retail and airline industries as well as smoked cheese, both natural and processed. If a customer is looking for something unique and difficult in the process cheese business, Gilman Cheese wants to give it a try.

“The nature of our business model is that we do a lot of custom projects. If you’re looking for the finest quality processed cheese you can purchase, we’re your guy,” Hand says. “If you’re looking for filler or cheap product, we’re not your guy.

“We try to find difficult projects others don’t like or can’t do,” he adds.

Under the leadership of Hand and his wife, Char, who is CPA and office manager, Gilman Cheese is focused on producing unique products and convenient package sizes.

Click to continue reading...


USDA releases analysis on
impact of California FMMO

February 17, 2017

WASHINGTON — USDA in Tuesday’s Federal Register published a recommended decision proposing the issuance of a federal milk marketing order (FMMO) regulating the handling of milk in California.

The recommended decision is based on the evidentiary record compiled as part of a public hearing held in Clovis, California from September to November 2015. (See “Hearing begins on proposals to consider California FMMO” in the Sept. 25, 2015, issue of Cheese Market News.)

The proposed FMMO incorporates the entire state of California and would adopt the same dairy product classification and pricing provisions used throughout the current FMMO system. The proposed FMMO provides for the recognition of producer quota as administered by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). (See “USDA will publish proposal to establish California FMMO” in last week’s issue.)

“Throughout the hearing and in post-hearing briefs, dairy farmers and their cooperative representatives stressed that while a California FMMO would provide them a more equitable price for their milk, entry into the FMMO system must not diminish or disturb, in any form, California quota values,” USDA says in its recommended decision. “This decision finds that the package of FMMO provisions recommended in the decision would create more orderly marketing of milk in California, adhere to all the provisions of the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937 and allow the California quota program to operate independently of the FMMO. In doing so, the California quota program will not be diminished or disturbed in any form by California’s entry into the FMMO system.”

The proposed rule also announces the intent of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) to request approval by the Office of Management and Budget of new information collection requirements to implement the order.

The Dairy Institute of California, which represents the state’s dairy product manufacturers, expressed appreciation for USDA’s work in developing the recommended decision. Dairy Institute proposed a California FMMO during the hearing process and provided testimony and evidence to support it, notes Rachel Kaldor, executive director of the institute.

Earlier last week, Dairy Institute filed a petition to CDFA for a hearing to consider amendments to the Class 4a and 4b pricing formulas in the stabilization and marketing plans for the Northern and Southern California milk marketing areas. (See “Dairy Institute petitions for hearing on pricing formula” in last week’s issue.) However, CDFA denied the request this week, citing USDA’s recommended decision to establish a California FMMO.

“We are heartened that USDA’s recommended decision reflects the FMMO we proposed,” Kaldor says. “If California dairy farmers approve a FMMO based upon the recommended decision, the same basic milk pricing and revenue pooling structure in place in the other FMMOs would apply to California farmers and processors as well.”

She notes that the continued operation of the California quota system in the recommended decision “will likely be of keen interest to California dairy farmers, as it rightly should be.

“We are hopeful that our farmers will pay close attention to all the provisions of the recommended decision, its impact on each of them and the industry at large,” Kaldor says.

• Impact Analysis

Along with issuing the recommended decision, USDA has released a Regulatory Economic Impact Analysis it conducted to determine the potential impact of a California FMMO on milk supply, product demand and prices, and milk allocation in California and throughout the United States.

The proposed California FMMO would adopt the uniform classification provisions of the 10 existing FMMOs. Under the proposal, the classification of certain products would change to align with uniform FMMO classification, USDA notes. Changes include:

• Reassigning buttermilk from California state order (CSO) Class 2 to FMMO Class I.

• Reassigning half-and-half from CSO Class 1 to FMMO Class II.

• Reassigning eggnog from CSO Class 2 to FMMO Class I.

• Reassigning nonfat solids and condensed solids used in fortifying fluid milk products from CSO Class 1 to FMMO Class IV.

• Reassigning the Class I skim volume increase due to fortifying fluid milk products from CSO Class 4a to FMMO Class I.

There are numerous instances where the CSO classifies products based on product type and location of where the product is sold, USDA notes. The proposal would classify all products based solely on product type.

The proposed California FMMO would replace current CSO classified price formulas with uniform end-product pricing formulas currently used in the 10 existing FMMOs, USDA notes. Under the proposal, producer prices would be computed the same as current FMMOs under multiple component pricing using the protein, other solids and butterfat prices from the Class III price formulas and a producer price differential; the producer price differential would be announced at the principle pricing point of Los Angeles County ($2.10) and adjusted based on the location of the plant using the uniform FMMO Class I differentials.

Currently, the CSO requires almost all California Grade A milk received at a California plant to be pooled. The proposed California FMMO proposal contains performance-based pooling standards conceptually similar to the 10 existing FMMOs but tailored for the California market, USDA says. The recommended pooling provisions are designed to determine those producers whose milk is consistently available to supply the Class I market, and therefore should share in the revenues from the market, USDA adds. There would be no regulatory producer payment difference given to milk based on the location of the dairy farm where it was produced.

The proposal would fully regulate all Class I distributing plants with route disposition into the marketing area of at least 25 percent of the milk received at the plant. Handlers have the option to pool their Class II, III and IV milk receipts if a minimum of 10 percent of the Grade A milk received at the plant is shipped to qualified pool distributing plants. In addition, during the months of April through February, milk pooled by handlers may not exceed 125 percent of the producer milk receipts the handler pooled during the previous month, USDA says. For March, the limit would be 135 percent.

USDA notes the CSO does not have the authority to regulate interstate commerce; therefore, milk produced outside of California is ineligible to participate in the CSO. Under the proposal, USDA recommends performance-based pooling standards tailored to the California market. Milk meeting these standards would be eligible for pooling regardless of its origin. Therefore, milk produced outside of California could become eligible to participate in the proposed California FMMO and receive the order’s blend price, USDA says.

The analysis estimates that adoption of the proposal would increase U.S. producer revenue by an average of $740 million per year over a 9-year forecast period. This impact reflects the combined impact of the various changes on prices and production forecasted from implementation of the proposal. Adoption of FMMO classified prices in a California FMMO leads to higher classified prices in California, which in turn leads to increased California milk production, USDA says.

Adoption of the FMMO Class III price in California, which is higher than the current CSO Class 4b price, would reduce California cheese and whey production that is priced through the California FMMO, USDA adds, noting that forecasting California manufacturing milk uses that are not priced and pooled on the California FMMO is beyond the scope of this analysis.

The analysis forecasts that the adoption of the proposal increases national Cheddar and dry whey prices and decreases national prices for butter and nonfat dry milk for the analysis period of 2017-2025. The analysis observes marked increases in the protein price per pound, averaging $0.47 above the baseline, accompanied by sharp declines in the butterfat price, which decreases $0.26 per pound on average. Nonfat solids prices range from unchanged to $0.01 per pound lower, while other solids prices increase, ranging from $0.02 to $0.04 per pound higher, according to the analysis.

Meanwhile, USDA notes that because of the bulky and perishable nature of packaged fluid milk, most international trading of dairy products is in manufactured products. The analysis estimates decreased imports of butter and increased exports of butter and nonfat dry milk due to decreases in butter and nonfat dry milk prices if the proposed California FMMO is adopted.

The model forecasts a decline in net exports of approximately $3.95 million annually through the forecast period; however, because international prices are held constant in the model, the forecasted trade impact should be interpreted as the upper limit, USDA says. It is reasonable to assume that cheese and dry whey manufacturers in the United States will continue to export at the higher product prices, although in less quantity to close neighbors where transportation costs are favorable to the United States and where importers have a clear preference for cheese and dry why produced in the United States, the analysis says.

To view the full impact analysis, visit

• Next steps

Written exceptions to the proposed rule must be submitted by May 15. Comments may be submitted at All comments will be made public during regular business hours, USDA says, noting that after analyzing and considering public comments, the agency will issue a final decision. Should USDA recommend a new FMMO, affected producers will be eligible to vote through their cooperatives’ bloc voting for members. In order to implement the order, two-thirds of producers must vote in support.

In addition, USDA will hold a public meeting Feb. 22 at the Clovis Veterans Memorial District Building in Clovis, California. The public meeting will be webcast, with a link available at before the hearing begins. The transcript of the meeting will be made part of the public record of the California FMMO rulemaking proceeding and will be published approximately two weeks after the meeting.

For more information on the proposed rule, contact Erin Taylor, acting director of AMS Dairy Program’s Order Formulation and Enforcement Division, at 202-720-7311 or email


Flavors, applications expand
for Brick, Muenster varieties

February 17, 2017

Editor’s note: “Cheese of the Month” is Cheese Market News’ exclusive profile series exploring various cheese types. Each month, CMN highlights a different cheese in this feature, giving our readers a comprehensive look at production, marketing, sales and in-depth aspects of each profiled cheese type. Please read on to learn about this month’s featured cheeses: Brick and Muenster.

By Stephanie Awe

MADISON, Wis. — Both originating from surface-ripened cheeses, Brick and Muenster offer a slightly salty, milky flavor.

According to the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (WMMB), some historians believe Muenster originated in Alsace, France, while others say it originated in Germany.

John Jaeggi, coordinator — cheese industry and applications group, Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research (CDR), says it has been stated that German immigrants brought Muenster to the United States. Brick cheese, on the other hand, is original to Wisconsin, he says.

The vast majority of traditional Brick is made in Wisconsin today, adds Dean Sommer, cheese and food technologist, CDR. Non-traditional Bricks meet the general compositional requirements in the U.S. standards of identity set by FDA, but their flavors and textures are not quite the same as traditional Brick, he says.

Brick first was made in Wisconsin by John Jossi around 1877 and was named for its shape and because cheesemakers originally used bricks to press the moisture from the cheese, WMMB adds.
Brick typically is available in sweet curd or surface-ripened varieties, Jaeggi says. Sweet curd Brick should be “sweet, clean, milky/buttery” ­— although not as buttery as Muenster ­— and slightly salty, he says. Surface-ripened Brick will be slightly salty and have notes of sulfur and acid with a slight to definite smeared — or pungent — flavor. How pungent the cheese is depends on the length of time in the smearing room, Jaeggi says.

Sommer adds that the smeared flavor is the taste often associated with surface-ripened, smeared cheeses such as Limburger and Brick. This flavor is the result of “distinctive smear” organisms that are wiped onto the surface of the cheese during the aging process, he says.

An old saying is that smeared Brick cheese is “Married Man’s Limburger,” Sommer says. While there is only one Limburger factory in the United States today, there used to be many such factories in Wisconsin, he says. Because smeared Brick had a similar, but not quite as strong, flavor and aroma as Limburger, it is said that married men switched from the strongly aromatic Limburger to a less strong Brick for their wives.

Today, Brick typically is made using the mesophilic lactococcus lactis or cremoris starter cultures, while Muenster typically is made using a streptococcus thermophilus starter culture. Both cheeses are made to control the end pH, giving them their typical sweet curd, milky flavor profile. Traditionally, the pH of Brick is controlled by a curd-washing step that removes lactose, whereas the pH of Muenster is controlled by brining and cooling the cheese, according to Jaeggi.

Annatto sometimes is added to Brick to give it a slight golden color, although sweet curd Brick typically is white. Muenster for deli or slicing often is dipped into a solution of annatto mixed with water, giving it the familiar red rind, Jaeggi says.

Gossner Foods Inc., Logan, Utah, offers Muenster cheeses with a traditional textured red rind as well as in the Asadero (without color) form. The company also carries a natural hickory-chipped smoked Muenster, says Tyler Udy, cheese sales, Gossner.

Foremost Farms USA, Baraboo, Wisconsin, produces all-natural Muenster that is fully brined and colored. While the company has produced Brick in the past, it no longer does due to lack of demand, says Jeff Kent, vice president — cheese, Foremost Farms.

On the other hand, Widmer’s Cheese Cellars, Theresa, Wisconsin, specializes in and is known for its Brick cheese, says Joe Widmer, Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker and owner. The business is located about 15 to 20 miles from where the cheese was invented, Widmer says, and he utilizes the same bricks that his grandfather — a Swiss immigrant who started the business in 1922 — used when making Brick cheese. The company offers milder sweet curd, vacuum-packed Brick varieties as well as original shelf-cured aged Brick that is washed and turned daily for about 10 days — producing a more earthy and pungent Brick — and is packed in foil.

• Applications

Brick and Muenster have a variety of applications, with applications continuing to expand.

“Both cheeses make excellent melting cheeses for everything from casseroles and quesadillas to grilled cheese,” Jaeggi says.

“Mild Brick is probably the best of grilled sandwiches you’ve ever had,” Widmer adds. When growing up, he says his mother also used aged Brick when making pizza.

Muenster also does well melting on sandwiches, pizza and paninis, acting as a replacement for Mozzarella, Cheddar or processed cheese, Udy says. Because of its stretch, he adds that it is a cheese children oftentimes enjoy, making for kid-friendly meals.

Kent adds that Muenster can be used for cheeseburgers, and it is increasingly incorporated into salads as well.

“We’re excited about the future of Muenster,” Kent says, noting that he sees potential for Muenster to grow in popularity in a variety of applications.

Udy adds that he has noticed Muenster becoming a more popular choice to pair with fruit, in part due to its milder flavor. It also pairs well with red wines, he says.

Similarly, Brick pairs well with Cabernet, bock beers and IPAs, Widmer says. Traditionally, aged Brick was served on either pumpernickel or rye bread with a slice of raw onion and a choice of mustard.

• Retail sales

Muenster volume sales in the United States were up 3.3 percent in the latest 52 weeks as of Dec. 25, 2016, continuing on a 5-year positive trend (fixed weight only, total U.S. multi-outlet and convenience stores), according to Information Resources Inc. (IRI) data courtesy of Dairy Management Inc.

Annual volume of natural Brick cheese is 57,100 pounds, down 14.4 percent in 2016 compared to the prior year in the United States, according to the IRI data. Brick cheese volume sales have declined over the last five years and are now less than half of the volume in 2012 (fixed weight only), the data adds.

Muenster prices have trended down over the last year, with an average of $5.79 per pound in January 2016 and moving to $5.35 per pound in December 2016. Private label share of Muenster cheese is 48 percent, down slightly over the last five years from 50 percent.

Brick cheese private label remains consistent at 31-percent share. Brick cheese has an inverse price gap, with private label prices about 25 percent higher than national brands. However, private label Brick in 2016 was down 17.4 percent volume, whereas national brands were down just 6.9 percent — possibly due in part to higher pricing, according to the data.

• Trends and marketing tactics

Gossner Foods, which sells its cheeses through foodservice and retail, had a significantly higher rate of growth in Muenster retail sales until recently. Previously, foodservice sales were slower because less people were eating out, Udy says, but now foodservice and retail sales at the company are evening out. Udy says he expects both Muenster retail and foodservice sales to continue growing as consumers seek new cheeses and the foodservice industry continues to set trends.

“I don’t think Muenster has had its chance to shine yet, but I think it’s coming up,” Udy says.
At Foremost Farms, Muenster cheese is produced at one of the company’s largest facilities, which allows the company to meet volume expectations, Kent says.

Demand for naturally brined, red-rind Muenster fluctuates seasonally, making it challenging for suppliers to fill orders, Kent says, so Foremost Farms looked at the fluctuating demand and figured out how to expand production of the product at its larger Appleton, Wisconsin, plant.

The company produces ready-to-use, long-style Muenster, which Kent says is best for industrial customers that slice it for retail and foodservice. The cheese, first assigned to the product development team in 2015, reached full-scale production in September 2016. Previously offering a different Muenster variety before ceasing its production and selling the plant in which it was produced, Foremost Farms reestablished Muenster production due to customer requests and a desire to meet the growing demand for sliced cheese, Kent says.

The long-style Muenster is 34 inches long and available in either a 4-inch or 3.5-inch square. This format is ready to slice, so that customers receiving it can take it straight from the box to the slicing line, Kent says. With no other packaging to remove, this format helps create efficiency for customers, he adds.

“We pride ourselves in providing innovative solutions to our customers,” Kent says, adding that the company is excited about the product and plans to work with WMMB on marketing once distribution gaps have been filled.

Gossner Foods sells most of its Muenster under private label, with some sold under its name at local stores. Because of this, the company generally does not handle marketing of the cheeses but is entertaining some new packaging ideas. Its newest packaging is its Shingle Slices, which displays Muenster slices like a deck of cards. Slices are “by far” the most popular format based on sales, Udy says.

Gossner Foods also offers a unique hickory-chip smoked Muenster, Udy adds. Many Muensters are made using a smoked dip, but a natural smoke is less common because it is more expensive, he says. Gossner has a smokehouse attached to the packaging plant, where a 4- to 8-hour smoking process takes place based on the size of the cheese.

At Widmer’s Cheese Cellars, its mild Brick for slicing is most popular. In addition, demand for flavored Bricks has increased, leading the company to offer flavors such as Jalapeno Pepper Brick as well as Caraway Aged Brick.

Widmer also has created an aged Brick spread, which uses Brick that is aged to its peak and mixed with white Cheddar. The cheese is made for the company by Pine River Pre-Pack Inc. in Newton, Wisconsin.

Overall, both Widmer’s Cheese Cellars’ sweet curd and aged Brick varieties have had sales increases over the last 15 years, with aged having a slightly higher increase, Widmer says.

Typically, he says he has seen the company’s milder Brick sold in more grocery stores, whereas its aged Brick is sold more in specialty stores and high-end restaurants. Widmer attributes this to some consumers becoming more well-traveled and, as a result, trying new cheeses. Bland cheeses, he adds, are falling by the wayside.


Prairie Farms to expand Fort Wayne, Ind., facility

February 17, 2017

CARLINVILLE, Ill. — Prairie Farms this week announced that an $8.7 million investment in its Fort Wayne, Indiana, facility is underway. The company, which specializes in fluid and flavored milk and other dairy products, says this expansion will allow it to add jobs, manufacture new specialty products and expand its distribution footprint in the United States and Central America.

In December, Prairie Farms announced a merger agreement with Swiss Valley Farms that recently was approved by members of both cooperatives (see “Prairie Farms, Swiss Valley approve merger” in last week’s issue of Cheese Market News).

Prairie Farms says it plans to build a 22,500-square-foot extension onto its existing Fort Wayne manufacturing facility, with construction expected to begin in April and be complete within 18 months. The expansion will include a new processing system, storage vessels, packaging lines, equipment to accommodate existing production, a cooler and a dry storage warehouse.

The decision to expand the Fort Wayne facility was made in part due to incentives offered by the state as part of its strategy focus on expanding Indiana’s current dairy processors, attracting new dairy processing facilities and adopting policies that support and improve dairy farming operations, Prairie Farms says.

“Prairie Farms has been a part of the Fort Wayne community for 23 years, and we’re looking forward to many more,” says Chuck McQuaig, Fort Wayne general manager, Prairie Farms. “We currently employ 117 people, and through this expansion, we are pleased to offer more local jobs. Along with the expansion comes a bigger distribution footprint for us. Once complete, we will ship more Prairie Farms products from coast to coast and to Central America.”


Deutsch Käse Haus Listeria
discovery prompts recalls

February 17, 2017

NASHVILLE — Following the discovery of Listeria monocytogenes in a sample of Amish Classics Colby deli horn cheese by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA), Deutsch Käse Haus and a number of other companies have issued recalls of their cheeses and deli items.

Deutsch Käse Haus, owned by the Michigan Milk Producers Association, manufactures the cheese in question and is instructing all wholesalers and retailers to discontinue selling their existing stock of Amish Classics Colby deli horns distributed by MDS Foods under the Amish Classic label with item No. 55209 and sold as sliced deli cheese. The company also is recalling lot Nos. 110316V02, 110316V03 and 110316V04.

The company also is removing packaged Amish Classic Colby Cheese with item Nos. 55241 and 55245 that were cut from the suspect product and wrapped at the MDS Foods manufacturing facility in Tullahoma, Tennessee.

On Jan. 30, TDA took a sample of the Amish Classic Colby from a store in Trenton, Tennessee. Tests conducted in the state lab confirmed it was contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. FDA is investigating the source and extent of the contamination and determining how many retailers received these batches of cheese. TDA has urged anyone who purchased these items not to consume them.

No illnesses have been reported in Tennessee. The investigation is ongoing.

In addition to a number of Amish Classics varieties, MDS Foods, based in Massillion, Ohio, also is recalling certain lots of Deli Readi, Deli Made EZ, Meijer, Lipari Old Tyme, Old Tyme and Duck Deli cheeses in Colby and other varieties, which were packaged on the same production lines in the Tullahoma facility as the affected product.

Guggisberg Cheese Inc., which sold Deutsch Käse Haus to Michigan Milk Producers last fall, is recalling various types and sizes of Colby that were manufactured both by Guggisberg Cheese and by Deutsch Käse Haus under the Guggisberg label. Among these are certain varieties of Cheddar, Colby, Farmer’s, Garden Vegetable, Marble, Pepper Jack, Thunder Jack and yogurt cheeses manufactured between Sept. 1, 2016, and Jan. 27, 2017. These products were sold primarily in retail stores at deli counters and deli cases in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Illinois and West Virginia.

Several other cheese and food brands also have issued recalls as a result of this discovery. Sargento Foods Inc. is recalling certain sell-by dates of Sargento Ultra Thin Sliced Longhorn Colby and Sargento Chef Blends Shredded Nacho & Taco Cheese packaged at its Plymouth, Wisconsin, facility. It also is recalling certain lots of the following products packaged on the same line as the affected cheese: Sargento Sliced Colby-Jack Cheese, Sargento Sliced Pepper Jack Cheese, Sargento Chef Blends Shredded Taco Cheese, Sargento Off The Block Shredded Fine Cut Colby-Jack Cheese and Sargento Off The Block Shredded Fine Cut Cheddar Jack Cheese.

No other Sargento branded products are affected by this recall, and Sargento says no illnesses have been reported.

Following Sargento’s recall, Country Fresh LLC, Conroe, Texas, is recalling 2,552 cases of various cooking and snacking products that contained Sargento branded cheeses. Albertson’s Companies also is recalling from stores in six states its Signature Café Southwest Style Salad with Chicken, which includes cheese subject to the Sargento recall.

Saputo Inc. is recalling certain Gouda cheese products, including Great Midwest Applewood Smoked Gouda and Dutchmark Smoked Gouda that were sold to retailers nationwide.
Meijer stores have announced a recall of their Meijer Brand Colby and Colby Jack cheeses sold exclusively through deli counters.

Sara Lee Deli is recalling approximately 734 cases of Sara Lee Sliced Monterey Jack Cheese with Jalapeno Peppers and Sara Lee Sliced Colby Jack Cheese distributed to food retailers in Alabama, California, Louisiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Texas.

Choice Farms LLC is conducting a limited recall of stuffed mushrooms sold in Texas and Kansas stores that may contain a cheese component affected by the recall.


Dairy stakeholders urge Trump to act on trade, other priorities

February 10, 2017

WASHINGTON — Dairy and agriculture stakeholders this week continued to urge the Trump administration to address key areas of concern for the industry including trade, Cabinet appointments and regulatory changes.

• Trade

In a letter sent to President Trump on Monday, more than 80 organizations from the food and ag sector including the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), the U.S. Dairy Export Council and Leprino Foods Co. highlighted the importance of trade with the Asia-Pacific region to the health of the U.S. economy. The letter emphasizes the industry’s interest in working with the administration to build strong trade relationships with Asia, now the world’s largest market for food and agricultural products.

“Reducing and eliminating tariffs and other restrictive agricultural policies in this region will help American workers in our sector compete, creating an opportunity to supply Asian markets with high-quality food and agricultural goods,” the letter says.

“Our ability to continue to create jobs and support economic growth in rural America depends on maintaining and increasing access to markets outside the United States through existing and future trade agreements,” the letter adds. “With more than 95 percent of our potential customers living outside our borders, expanding access to international markets is essential for our future success. The Asia-Pacific region is one such market that is critical if we are to attain our future export potential.”

The letter notes the organizations hope the administration will deepen U.S. economic engagement in the region while responding to the regional trade agreements being negotiated by foreign competitors. It notes many in the sector supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which Trump withdrew from last month, and stakeholders hope future agreements build upon the valuable aspects of that agreement to increase market access in the Asia-Pacific region.

“We welcome an opportunity to work with your administration to ensure that America’s farmers, ranchers, processors and food companies do not fall behind our foreign peers in this vitally important economic region,” the letter says.

Meanwhile, the National Farmers Union (NFU), which opposed TPP, this week expressed concern with a growing U.S. trade deficit.

Roger Johnson, president, NFU, says the U.S. Commerce Department recently announced the U.S. trade deficit grew to $502 billion in 2016, its highest level in four years.

“Yet again, our nation’s trade deficit soared to more than half a trillion dollars, representing a direct 2.7-percent drag on our economy in 2016,” Johnson says. “Clearly, the deeply-flawed trade agenda that our trade negotiators have continued to employ is failing family farmers, ranchers, rural communities and the overall U.S. economy.”

NFU urges the Trump administration to “reset” the nation’s trade agenda in a manner that addresses the deficit, expands the agricultural trade surplus and protects U.S. sovereignty while maintaining positive relationships with U.S. trading partners.

• Regulation

Trump last week signed an executive order requiring that for every one new federal regulation issued, at least two prior regulations be identified for elimination.

The order applies to regulations or rules that implement, interpret or prescribe law or policy. It also applies to statements that describe agency procedure or practice requirements. However, rules related to military, national security, foreign affairs and agency management are excluded from the order, as are “any other category of regulations” exempted by the director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), according to IDFA.

Specifically, the order requires that during fiscal year 2017, the cost of each new rule proposed or finalized be offset by the elimination of the cost associated with the repeal of two existing regulations. There also may be no net increase in costs for the regulations finalized or repealed in 2017.

Beginning in fiscal year 2018, the OMB director will set a cap for each agency that reflects the total net increase in costs for new and repealed regulations or OMB may require a reduction in net costs. OMB currently is developing guidance for agencies to determine how to implement this rule.

IDFA says that at this time, it is unclear what regulations will fall under the order, but it has the potential to slow the pace of regulation as agencies evaluate it and work to comply with its requirements.

Center for Science in the Public Interest Director Michael F. Jacobson called the executive order “arbitrary” and a threat to public health.

“(Trump) is calling on agencies to hold regulatory costs on industry to zero without accounting for the public health benefits of regulation, and to eliminate two regulations for every new regulation issued,” Jacobson says. “It’s fair to assume that this latest edict was not run by any of the agencies that actually do the serious business of regulating. If it were, Trump might have learned that not all regulations are reflexively opposed by the businesses affected by them.”

Jacobson says that in the food safety world, “responsible business leaders” supported the Food Safety Modernization Act, which required the writing of new regulations that keep produce, packaged foods and imports safe.

Trump also recently issued a memorandum that seeks to streamline the multiple permitting requirements, such as building permits, that federal agencies require some manufacturers to have and to reduce regulatory burdens for domestic manufacturing. The memorandum instructs the secretary of commerce to work with domestic manufacturing stakeholders and federal agencies to better understand the effect of federal regulation on the sector.

Following this coordination, the secretary must submit a report to the president that outlines how federal permitting can be better streamlined and the regulatory burden on domestic manufacturers can be reduced.

Meanwhile, IDFA joined more than 600 business organizations from 50 states this week on a letter to Senate leaders urging them to support the Regulatory Accountability Act of 2017 that Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, plans to introduce in the Senate this year. The act, recently passed by the House, is intended to ensure transparency, accountability and integrity in the rulemaking process at federal agencies.

“We believe that federal regulations should be narrowly tailored, supported by strong and credible data and evidence, and impose the least burden possible while implementing congressional intent,” says the letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.

Noting that the Trump administration and the House are aligned on the need for regulatory reform, the letter adds that “the Senate has a unique chance to bring real structural reform to the way agencies adopt the most costly rules that fundamentally change our nation.”

• Cabinet

As confirmation hearings on Trump’s Cabinet appointees continued this week, dairy stakeholders urged the Senate to confirm Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue for secretary of agriculture and Wilbur Ross for secretary of commerce.

In a letter sent last week to Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., chair and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Agriculture Committee, food and ag organizations including IDFA, NFU and NMPF urged the committee to swiftly confirm Perdue.

“Gov. Perdue is a small businessman from an agricultural state who appreciates the challenges our industry is facing, both today and in the future,” says Jim Mulhern, president and CEO, NMPF. “The new secretary will have many issues on his plate of great concern to dairy farmers, such as fixing the dairy safety net program, developing export markets, updating child nutrition policies, helping ensure that we have agricultural workers and implementing new food labeling laws. We will be working closely with him on these and other issues in the coming months.”

The letter notes that, as the former governor of a state that produces billions of dollars in food, fiber, specialty crops, nursery crops, dairy products, poultry and livestock each year, “Gov. Perdue understands the critical role of feeding our country and the world. He is also keenly aware of the importance of agriculture in powering our nation’s economy, providing jobs from farm to table.”

Michael Dykes, president and CEO, IDFA, says he is “confident that Secretary Perdue will bring the necessary knowledge and insight to keep American agriculture, food production and nutrition programs strong and vibrant.”

IDFA this week also joined the National Association of Manufacturers and more than 400 other manufacturing organizations in urging the Senate to confirm Ross for secretary of commerce. Ross in this role will be tasked with working with the U.S. Trade Representative and the National Trade Council to develop the administration’s trade policy.

“We believe that Wilbur Ross will bring a unique understanding of what it takes to fuel manufacturing enterprises to this vital role,” the letter says. “Mr. Ross has a firsthand understanding of the challenges manufacturers face to remain globally competitive in today’s economy.”


USDA will publish proposal
to establish California FMMO

February 10, 2017

WASHINGTON — USDA on Thursday announced that it plans to publish in the Feb. 14 Federal Register a recommended decision to establish a California federal milk marketing order (FMMO).

The recommended decision is based on the evidentiary record compiled as part of a public hearing held in Clovis, California from September to November 2015. (For more information, see “Hearing begins on proposals to consider California FMMO” in the Sept. 25, 2015, issue of Cheese Market News.)

The proposed FMMO incorporates the entire state of California and would adopt the same dairy product classification and pricing provisions used throughout the current FMMO system. The proposed FMMO provides for the recognition of producer quota as administered by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). The proposed rule also announces the Agricultural Marketing Service’s (AMS) intent to request approval by the Office of Management and Budget of new information collection requirements to implement the order.

USDA says the recommended decision finds that an FMMO for California would provide more orderly marketing conditions in the marketing area, and therefore promulgation of a California FMMO is warranted. This decision recognizes the unique market structure of the California dairy industry through tailored performance-based standards to determine eligibility for pool participation.

As in all current FMMOs, California handlers regulated by a California FMMO would be responsible for accurate reporting of all milk movements and uses and would be required to make timely payments to producers. The order would be administered by USDA through a market administrator, who would provide essential marketing services, such as laboratory testing, account verification, information collection and publication, and producer payment enforcement.

USDA notes a unique feature of the proposed order is a provision for the recognition of the California quota value specified in the California quota program currently administered by CDFA. This decision finds that the California quota program should remain a function of CDFA in whatever manner CDFA deems appropriate. Should CDFA continue to use producer monies to fund the quota program, this decision finds that the proper recognition of quota values within a California FMMO, as provided for in the Agriculture Act of 2014 (2014 Farm Bill), is to permit an authorized deduction from payment to producers, in an amount determined and announced by CDFA, USDA says.

In conjunction with this recommended decision, AMS conducted a Regulatory Economic Impact Analysis to determine the potential impact of regulating California milk handlers under an FMMO on the milk supply, product demand and prices, and milk allocation in California and throughout the United States. As part of the analysis, a regional econometric model was used to project deviations from the USDA Agricultural Baseline Projections to 2025 under the provisions of the proposed order. The full text of the Regulatory Economic Impact Analysis Report and accompanying documentation may be accessed at or

Written exceptions to the proposed rule must be submitted on or before 90 days after publication in the Federal Register, USDA says.

AMS will conduct a public meeting Feb. 22 to review the rulemaking process, explain and answer questions relating to how the proposed California FMMO would operate and inform the public how they can submit public comments for consideration.

The public meeting will convene at 9 a.m. PST at the Clovis Veterans Memorial District Building, 808 Fourth St., Clovis, CA 93612. Additional meeting information can be found at

Comments may be submitted online at, filed with the Hearing Clerk, USDA, Room 1031-S, Washington, DC 20250-9200 or faxed to 202-720-9976. All comments should reference the docket number and the date and page number of the Feb. 14 issue of the Federal Register. All comments will be made available for public inspection in the Office of the Hearing Clerk during regular business hours or can be viewed at

For more information, contact Erin Taylor, acting director of AMS Dairy Program’s Order Formulation and Enforcement Division, at 202-720-7311 or at


Dairy Institute petitions for
hearing on pricing formula

February 10, 2017

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The Dairy Institute of California this week filed a petition with the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) for a hearing to consider amendments to the Class 4a and 4b pricing formulas in the stabilization and marketing plans for the Northern and Southern California milk marketing areas.

Dairy Institute proposes changing the manufacturing cost allowances for butter and nonfat dry milk (NDM) in the Class 4a pricing formula and changing the Cheddar and butter manufacturing cost allowances in the Class 4b formula so they are reflective of the weighted average manufacturing costs for calendar year 2015 as released by CDFA last month. (See article in this issue.)

According to the petition filed by William Schiek, economist, Dairy Institute, the changes are proposed to make the Class 4a and 4b pricing formulas reflect current industry conditions with respect to the actual costs of manufacturing Cheddar, butter and NDM. Manufacturing cost allowances (make allowances) for Cheddar have not been updated since late 2007. Make allowances for butter and NDM have not been updated since 2011, the petition says.

Dairy Institute says in general, make allowances have been below weighted average manufacturing costs for most (or all) of the period since they were last updated.

“It is essential that the end-product formulas contained in the stabilization and marketing plans be as reflective as possible of current costs,” the petition says. “Failure to maintain adequate make allowances in the formula results in an overvaluation of producer milk and margins that are inadequate for the maintaining of necessary plant capacity. The current situation is unsustainable and the necessary market outlets for producer milk will be put in jeopardy unless the formulas are updated.”

According to regulations, CDFA must either grant a hearing or deny the petition no later than Feb. 21.


Va. raw milk bill defeated; N.D. introduces bill

February 10, 2017

RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia’s House of Delegates recently defeated a proposed bill that would legalize raw milk sales by a vote of 15-6.

HB 2030, introduced Jan. 11 by Del. Nicholas J. Freitas, R-Culpeper, would have allowed for the unregulated preparation and sale of food and milk products sold face-to-face directly to end consumers in Virginia at farmer’s markets, a farm or a home. The producer would have to inform the consumer that the food product is neither certified, regulated nor inspected. The foods would have been intended only for home consumption and could not contain uninspected meat other than poultry.

Another bill to legalize raw milk, HB 1433, has been introduced in North Dakota by lead sponsor Rep. Luke Simons, R-Dickinson, and 10 other state lawmakers. Similar to the defeated Virginia bill, the “North Dakota Food Freedom Act” proposes to allow farmers, producers or anyone with a home kitchen to legally sell their products directly to consumers. The products could include raw milk, baked goods or other products sold for home consumption, though federally-inspected foods such as beef or pork would be exempted. Transactions would be allowed at farmer’s markets, farms, ranches, farm stands or home-based kitchens. The producer would be required to inform the end consumer that the products sold are not certified, labeled, licensed, packaged, regulated or inspected. A hearing on the bill was held yesterday.

Bills seeking to legalize raw milk also have been introduced in Hawaii and Alaska. The proposed bill in Hawaii seeks to allow the retail sale of raw milk, provided the milk is not sold later than 120 hours after it is milked or without a warning label of the risks of consuming raw milk, especially to children and the elderly. The proposed bill also would allow raw milk sales through cow share programs as well as the sale of raw milk for animal consumption. The proposed bill in Alaska would allow the sale of raw milk to a final consumer provided there is a warning that it may cause health concerns.


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Today's Cheese Spot Trading
February 27, 2017

Barrels: $1.4875 (-3)
Blocks: $1.5450 (-3)

Click here for more market activity
Cheese Production
U.S. Total Dec.
1,050.281 mil. lbs.

Milk Production
U.S. Total Jan.
18.127 bil. lbs.

Guest Columnist

NAFTA needs revision, not revocation

Michael Dykes, D.V.M., International Dairy Foods Association

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