Increased engagement could
boost U.S. exports to MENA
November 28, 2014
Editor’s note: Cheese Market News’ Senior Editor Alyssa Mitchell took part in a trade mission to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in November 2013 with the U.S. Dairy Export Council. Following a 4-week series of articles last fall, CMN is taking a look at the status of U.S. dairy export relations with the MENA region one year later.
By Alyssa Mitchell
MADISON, Wis. — The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region continues to be an area of growing opportunity for U.S. dairy exports, but high U.S. prices and the need for steady communication have presented some challenges in growing exports to the region.
U.S. dairy exports in general have started to slow following months of higher prices of U.S. commodities compared to other nations. The MENA region is no exception, although cheese has fared better than most commodities, according to the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC). USDEC says in the year-to-year comparison of January-September, 2014 cheese exports to the region are up 1.5 percent.
Meanwhile, butterfat exports, which were up 35 percent in the first half of the year, fell 60 percent from that pace in the third quarter and were 62 percent below third quarter 2013, while skim milk powder and whole milk powder exports, both up 7 percent in the first half of 2014, fell 33 percent and 97 percent in the third quarter, respectively, compared to the same period last year, USDEC says.
Alan Levitt, vice president of communications, USDEC, says he attributes the slowdown to a combination of slower overall purchases as well as lost share due to the pricing disadvantage for U.S. suppliers.
However, while U.S. dairy exports to several MENA regions have slowed, exports to Saudi Arabia in particular have showed improvement, says Nina Bakht Halal, director, USDEC Middle East.
Halal says that for the January-September 2014 period compared to the same period last year, U.S. cheese and curd exports to Saudi Arabia are up 73 percent by value and 63 percent by volume, a record high.
U.S. skim milk powder exports also showed significant improvement, jumping up 382 percent by value and 320 percent by volume in the January-September 2014 period. Butter and whey exports also increased in Egypt during that period, she adds.
Halal notes the year is not yet over, either.
“Depending on what happens with prices, things could yet improve,” she says.
Halal says the lower numbers of U.S. dairy exports across most MENA markets can be attributed to a number of factors, including price, competition from nations with longer-established relationships to the region and political unrest in some parts of the MENA region.
“Traders here typically do not rely on only one country of origin to source their product, so it’s very competitive with pricing,” she says.
Halal notes the Russian ban earlier this year on exports from Europe exacerbated the situation as the European Union (EU) looked elsewhere to house its products.
She adds this is not only a challenge for dairy but commodities across the board.
Political unrest in some MENA nations makes traders nervous, Halal adds, and some may be reluctant to engage in business during challenging times.
“When you have this kind of instability, traders tend to not buy or store as much in times of stress because they don’t know what comes next,” she adds.
The U.S. government supports trade with MENA and other regions through the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) Market Access Program (MAP). FAS partners with U.S. agricultural trade associations, cooperatives, state regional trade groups and small businesses to share the costs of overseas marketing and promotional activities that help build commercial export markets for U.S. agricultural products and commodities.
“The Market Access and Foreign Market Development Programs help agricultural organizations representing thousands of producers and businesses open and grow markets for American products around the world,” says U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Exports create jobs and foster growth that is critically important for rural communities and our entire nation’s economy.”
Through programs like MAP, FAS also helps U.S. companies market their food and agricultural products at international trade shows, such as the Gulfood show in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE).
USDEC also participates in the Gulfood show, held in February, which is the Middle East’s largest food, drink, foodservice and hospitality equipment exhibition, drawing buyers from throughout the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
Participating in the Gulfood show keeps the door open for U.S. agricultural companies to develop new relationships with buyers in the Middle East or strengthen existing ties, says Angélique Hollister, vice president, cheese and consumer products, USDEC.
Halal says more and more U.S. exhibitors are showing interest in Gulfood, and next year’s show, slated for Feb. 8-12, should be a good opportunity for people looking to establish new business.
In fact, many companies are likely waiting until the show to finalize commitments with new suppliers, she adds.
To further enhance trade between the United States and MENA, USDEC’s communication team organized a trade mission to Dubai for four dairy producers and two members of the dairy trade media and hosted its first U.S. Dairy Business Conference there. During the conference, Hollister and Kristi Saitama, vice president, export marketing ingredients, USDEC, provided an overview of the prospects for U.S. cheese and dairy ingredient exports during a panel discussion. (See “MENA region fast-growing market for U.S. dairy exports” in the Nov. 22, 2013, issue of Cheese Market News.)
“We couldn’t be more pleased with the conference,” Saitama says. “Customers in the Middle East had looked primarily to Europe before, and this helped them to see that the U.S. also has a lot to offer.”
Hollister says the conference also helped to show that the United States’ interest in the MENA region “is not just talk — we really want to build relationships.”
Halal says she knows that post-U.S. Dairy Business Conference, there are more U.S. suppliers penetrating the MENA region and holding meetings.
“The business conference really put the United States on a different platform,” she says. “It brought together producers, suppliers, end users — really all facets of the supply chain.”
In addition, the conference created more bonding among local trade and end users as well as relationships with U.S. dairy industry stakeholders, she says.
However, Halal says there are only a few larger U.S. companies that she sees doing consistent, long-term business in the MENA region.
She notes that trade missions and conferences are great tools to foster relationships and education about different countries and products, but particularly in regard to trade missions, it’s limited in terms of how many people are invited.
More one-on-one business and meetings between companies in their own countries is helpful, Halal says.
“U.S. companies could invite customers to their plants to see what they do and how products are made,” she says. “And the face time lends itself to securing more long-term business.”
Halal notes that a lot of buying in the Middle East is still done largely on a spot basis, but USDEC is working on education and stressing the importance of more long-term buying relationships and contracts.
“We’re still doing mostly spot sales here, but it’s something we’re working on,” she says.
Consistency and product customization also are challenges, Halal notes.
“I think one of the main points is that exporters, importers and end users all need to be aligned in what they are asking for,” she says.
Direct follow up from exporters would be helpful in this endeavor, she adds.
“Exporters need to follow up to ensure the end user is getting a product that works the way it is supposed to,” she says.
Halal notes MENA stakeholders are beginning to appreciate what the United States has to offer in terms of high quality varieties of cheese, particularly in the catering and foodservice sectors.
However, those sectors typically design their menus months in advance, she notes.
“In order to rely on an American cheese for a menu, they need to know that it will be available long-term,” she says. “Consistency and volume distribution needs to be established.”
Halal says having established business “on the ground” in the MENA region also helps to grow long-term business. For example, countries in the EU, as well as New Zealand and Australia, have regional offices and people on the ground in MENA countries.
“The United States is still largely absent in that regard,” she says. “There are a few companies that come here, but they don’t stay as long or come as frequently.”
There is definitely an opportunity to fill a need for product, particularly in Saudi Arabia, she adds.
Looking ahead, Halal says the expanding retail and foodservice sectors in the MENA region will continue to provide growth opportunities for U.S. cheese in particular.
“People are looking more to health and wellness in foods,” she says. “There’s an emphasis being placed on dairy as a better-for-you food.”
Hollister notes USDEC continues its efforts to facilitate increased relationships between U.S. and MENA dairy industry stakeholders, and new companies are looking to exhibit with USDEC at next year’s Gulfood show.
“We’re seeing more and more that the U.S. industry is interested in doing more in MENA,” Saitama says. “The MENA region remains a core strategic priority for us, and we’ve only scratched the surface of opportunities.”
West Coast port slowdown
creates headache for dairy
November 28, 2014
By Alyssa Mitchell
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — Stalled contract negotiations between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) are creating backups at West Coast ports, and the dairy industry is feeling the effects.
Negotiations for a new labor contract covering nearly 20,000 dockworkers at 29 West Coast ports began in May in San Francisco.
The contract is between employers who operate port terminals and shipping lines represented by PMA and dockworkers represented by the ILWU. The parties have negotiated a West Coast collective bargaining agreement since the 1930s.
A final agreement still has not been reached, and now companies are experiencing slowdowns at the Pacific Northwest ports of Seattle and Tacoma, Wash., during the peak holiday shipping season. Delays also have spread to Oakland, Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif.
PMA earlier this month said ILWU initiated the orchestrated slowdowns.
“PMA and ILWU specifically stated that they were mindful of the broader economic implications of these negotiations. As such, they agreed that normal operations at West Coast ports would continue until an agreement could be reached. Now, the ILWU has reneged on that agreement,” says Wade Gates, spokesperson for the PMA.
PMA says ILWU initially targeted select terminals in Tacoma Oct. 31 and expanded to more terminals in Tacoma and the Port of Seattle throughout that weekend.
PMA says the slowdowns at these Pacific Northwest ports have resulted in productivity being reduced by an average of 40 to 60 percent. For example, terminals that typically move 25-35 containers per hour were moving only 10-18, according to statistics compiled by PMA, which tracks historical productivity based on the number of containers moved per hour for each vessel at the same terminal.
PMA Nov. 13 issued another update which stated that:
• Since Oct. 31, members of the ILWU have continued to work slowly in the ports of Tacoma and Seattle. Various reports have detailed the dramatic impact these slowdowns are having.
• In recent days, longshoremen on several shifts have walked off the job in Oakland, shutting down their terminals for the remainder of the shift.
• In the critical ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, where growing congestion has been a recognized issue for some time, ILWU continues to short-shift crews by withholding qualified yard crane operators, PMA says.
Late last week, PMA said that despite a request to continue bargaining, ILWU has decided to curtail “big table” negotiations.
“As a result of the union’s decision, the only bargaining through Dec. 1 will be limited to subcommittees discussing limited issues, with most members of the ILWU’s negotiating committee taking an extended break,” PMA says. “Making matters worse, the ILWU is refusing to agree to a temporary contract extension despite multiple requests by the PMA.”
A contract extension would give both parties access to the established waterfront grievance process, and most notably would give employers recourse for the ILWU slowdowns that are continuing, PMA says.
“We have made it abundantly clear that we believe these negotiations are of the utmost importance,” Gates says. “We are disappointed the union is not showing the same urgency to resolve the issues between us.”
However, the union says the documented causes of congestion at the ports include chassis shortage and dislocation; rail service delays, including a shortage of rail cars nationwide; the exodus of truck drivers who cannot make a living wage; long truck turn times; record retail import volumes (increases of 5.3 percent over 2013); larger vessels discharging massive amounts of cargo; container terminals pushed to storage capacities; and the peak shipping season.
“The numerous, non-labor related causes of the congestion problem up and down the West Coast are well documented,” says ILWU spokesperson Craig Merrilees.
Merrilees says that during recent negotiations, the union addressed PMA directly to express concerns about its deceitful media tactics and the corrosive impact of such tactics on collective bargaining.
“It’s particularly inflammatory for workers to be told that they’re using safety as a gimmick,” he says.
West Coast longshore work is extremely hazardous, with higher fatality rates than the work of firefighters or police officers, according to U.S Department of Labor figures, ILWU says.
“The men and women of the ILWU will not make up for the current supply chain failures at the expense of life and limb,” Merrilees says.
News reports say the national economy could take a multi-billion dollar hit this holiday season if there’s a strike linked to contract talks.
According to Alan Levitt, vice president of communications for the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC), carriers are pushing their losses onto agriculture shippers in the form of new “congestion surcharges.”
Levitt says a member of USDEC on the West Coast says it has several containers of product unable to ship and as a result is racking up warehouse charges daily.
USDEC is a member of the Agriculture Transportation Coalition (AgTC), a coalition representing U.S. agriculture and forest products producers — including farmers, food processors, exporters and transportation and logistics providers — that includes the International Dairy Foods Association, Northwest Food Processors Association, Organic Trade Association and others.
AgTC last week sent a letter to President Obama urging him to “use all tools available to the federal government” to restore the ports to full operation while negotiations continue.
“The disruption is a result of marine terminals closing due to labor stoppage, ships being forced to skip port calls or to re-route, and truckers are limited by endless lines at port gates,” AgTC says.
“And if products cannot be delivered on time to the foreign customer, the customer will source from other countries such as Brazil, Australia, Chile or Argentina.”
AgTC suggests bringing in a federal mediator to help resolve the contract dispute. In the event of a strike or lockout, AgTC asks the president to consider invoking the Taft-Hartley Act to keep exports moving and protect the U.S. economy.
Darigold Inc., Seattle, says it ships more than 600 containers of different products overseas each month. Containers have been backing up, and it’s just getting worse, says Dermot Carey, senior vice president of Darigold’s ingredients division.
At least several hundred containers of products including cheese, milk powder, whey powder and milk proteins are in limbo, Carey says.
“Right now we’re paying to store them in warehouses, and that’s no small cost,” he says.
Carey adds that the amount of available warehouse space could be a future concern if the situation continues.
In addition, contract defaults could occur if the products do not get to their planned destinations soon, he says.
“Our customers are all long-term for the most part, so I don’t think it will impact those contracts, but it’s always a risk,” he says.
Marie teVelde, director of communications for California Dairies Inc., says that according to DairyAmerica, who markets CDI milk powders, CDI has not experienced any product delivery delays as a result of the protracted labor negotiations at the ports. However, freight and schedules are being watched closely.
CDI has not been hit with any congestion fees or other port fees, but DairyAmerica remains in constant contact with the port, delivering freight exactly when allowed, so as not to incur any demurrage or delays, teVelde says.
Levitt says USDEC continues to keep its members informed and remains engaged with AgTC to support a quick resolution of the dispute.
“This situation adds to the cost of U.S. exports, which of course isn’t helpful at a time when the world market is very competitive and U.S. commodity prices are already higher than most everyone else’s,” he says.
Swiss Valley plans major
expansion in Luana, Iowa
November 28, 2014
LUANA, Iowa — This week, Swiss Valley Farms announced a $20.6 million expansion of its cheese manufacturing facility in Luana, Iowa.
The expansion centers around the improvement of the cheese manufacturing operating equipment, including a replacement of current press vats with a molding system solution, installation of additional system automation, updated press tunnels and new buffer tanks.
The project also includes a 12,000-square-foot expansion that will allow room for this new equipment and additional warehousing space.
The facility currently manufactures Swiss, Baby Swiss, Gouda, Neufchatel, cream cheese and sweet whey.
Increased demand for these products, as well as new varieties of cheeses, spurred the decision to move forward with this expansion, says Don Boelens, CEO, Swiss Valley Farms.
“Our goal is to increase capacity at this facility, drive efficiency and explore new cheese types that our customers are demanding,” he says.
Once completed, the expansion is expected to double natural cheese production capacity and give the company the flexibility to produce new sizes and cheese varieties such as Maasdam, Havarti and Muenster. The expansion also will increase the production of cream cheese and whey.
Expansion efforts are expected to break ground in 2015 and are anticipated to be completed in late 2016.
“This expansion will be a great benefit to our customers, our members and to the Clayton County community,” Boelens says. “It will give us the flexibility we need to meet ever-changing market demands and the operational upgrades needed to continue to be a viable business.”
FDA finalizes menu, vending
calorie labeling regulations
November 28, 2014
WASHINGTON — FDA on Tuesday finalized two rules requiring that calorie information be listed on menus and menu boards in chain restaurants, similar retail food establishments and vending machines with 20 or more locations to provide consumers with more nutritional information about the foods they eat outside of the home.
The menu labeling law was passed in March 2010 as part of the Affordable Care Act.
“Americans eat and drink about one-third of their calories away from home and people today expect clear information about the products they consume,” says FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg. “Making calorie information available on chain restaurant menus and vending machines is an important step for public health that will help consumers make informed choices for themselves and their families.”
The menu labeling final rule applies to restaurants and similar retail food establishments if they are part of a chain of 20 or more locations, doing business under the same name and offering for sale substantially the same menu items. Covered food establishments will be required to clearly and conspicuously display calorie information for standard items on menus and menu boards next to the name or price of the item.
Seasonal menu items offered for sale as temporary menu items, daily specials and condiments for general use typically available on a counter or table are exempt from the labeling requirements, FDA says.
Some states, localities and various large restaurant chains are already doing their own forms of menu labeling, FDA notes. The 1990 Nutrition Labeling and Education Act, the law establishing nutrition labeling on most foods, did not cover nutrition labeling for restaurants and other ready-to-eat foods. In the years that followed, states and cities created their own labeling requirements for such foods.
“These federal standards will help avoid situations in which a chain restaurant subject to the federal requirements has to meet different requirements in different states,” FDA says.
FDA notes it considered more than 1,100 comments from stakeholders and consumers in developing these rules. In response to comments, FDA narrowed the scope of foods covered by the rule to more clearly focus on restaurant-type food, made other adjustments such as ensuring the flexibility for multi-serving dishes like pizza to be labeled by the slice rather than as a whole pie, and provided establishments additional time to comply with the rule.
In addition, the menu labeling final rule now includes certain alcoholic beverages served in covered food establishments and listed on the menu but still provides flexibility in how establishments meet this provision, FDA notes. The majority of comments supported including alcohol because of the impact on public health. The menu labeling rule also includes food facilities in entertainment venue chains such as movie theaters and amusement parks.
Restaurants and similar retail food establishments will have one year to comply with the menu labeling requirements.
The National Restaurant Association says it supports the menu labeling regulations as a way to avoid a patchwork of differing state and local requirements.
“The National Restaurant Association strongly believes in the importance of providing nutrition information to consumers to empower them to make the best choices for their dietary needs,” says Dawn Sweeney, president and CEO of the association.
“We joined forces with more than 70 public health and stakeholder groups to advocate for a federal nutrition standard so that anyone dining out can have clear, easy-to-use nutrition information at the point of ordering — information that is presented in the same way, no matter what part of the country,” Sweeney says.
The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) notes these new regulations will require establishments that sell restaurant-type food and vending companies to request up-to-date information on calories from their suppliers.
“The dairy industry will need to be ready to provide their foodservice customers with nutrition information on calories for the foods and food ingredients they provide, since bulk food used in foodservice use (such as ice cream for dipping, or cheese for pizza, or cottage cheese for a salad bar) are exempt from nutrition labeling,” IDFA says.
FDA notes that to help consumers understand the significance of the calorie information in the context of a total daily diet, under the rule, menus and menu boards will include the statement: “2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary.”
The menu labeling final rule also requires covered establishments to provide, upon consumer request and as noted on menus and menu boards, written nutrition information about total calories, total fat, calories from fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, fiber, sugars and protein.
The vending machine final rule requires operators who own or operate 20 or more vending machines to disclose calorie information for food sold from vending machines, subject to certain exceptions. Vending machine operators will have two years to comply with the requirements.
The final rules are set to be published in the Federal Register Dec. 1.
Italian heritage, focus on quality products set Lioni Latticini apart
By Kate Sander
UNION, N.J. — Making traditional fresh Mozzarella isn’t about profit margins at Lioni Latticini Inc. -— it’s about making products that are true to tradition and quality-focused.
Operated by the Salzarulo family, Lioni Latticini is the outgrowth of tradition that began in the town of Lioni, Italy, many decades ago. In 1980, the family brought its art of cheesemaking to Brooklyn, N.Y., when Giuseppe Salzarulo, who had lived in the United States for a few years, joined forces with his nephew Salvatore Salzarulo, who had recently immigrated, to make the fresh, whole milk Mozzarella they knew so well.
“My uncle and my father breathe and embrace their Italian tradition,” says Teresa Salzarulo Conforte, director of operations and Salvatore Salzarulo’s daughter. “In so doing, they have passed their beliefs and cheesemaking practices to the next generation. They take pride in perfecting and delivering that simple food ingredient that they know as the Mozzarella.
“Everything is done from the heart,” Conforte adds. “It’s a lifestyle for them. They want customers to experience what we have in our own homes.
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Unique flavors designed with
locale, consumers in mind
November 21, 2014
By Emily King
MADISON, Wis. — From beer to honey, cheesemakers around the nation are experimenting with added flavors. Very little is off limits — although not everything makes it to market.
“We research what is popular at the time and we experiment with a lot of things that don’t see the light of day,” says Francis Plowman, director of marketing, Rogue Creamery, Central Point, Ore. “A lot of what the final product results in is trying a lot of different things to get what you want.”
Sue Merckx, marketing director of retail at Sartori Co., Plymouth, Wis., says its master cheesemakers are constantly experimenting with new flavors to see what will and won’t work with the company’s cheese.
“This is a very involved process and can take years for a new product to be ready to go to market,” Merckx says. “The development of new products for our company is done on an ongoing basis. We also partner up with foodservice and retail accounts to explore items that they are looking for to fit in with their current product mix.”
Added flavors not only can give consumers new things to try — it can make a cheese more approachable.
“Sometimes (consumers) are not so sure about sheep’s milk cheeses, but if they taste basil for example, they are familiar with that flavor,” says Brenda Jensen, owner of Hidden Springs Creamery, a sheep’s milk cheese producer in Westby, Wis.
Merckx says educating consumers on all cheese products is key for growth in the specialty cheese category.
“The more people know and understand about a product, the more willing they are to purchase the product,” Merckx says. “One of the biggest challenges we see in the category is the ability of the consumer to decipher and understand what the differences are between all the cheese products that are being offered out to them. We continue to work with retailers in supplying them with tools on ways to educate consumers, promote, sample and merchandise our products.”
In 2013, Sartori released its Reserve Chai BellaVitano, which is its BellaVitano Gold base cheese hand-rubbed with a blend of black tea, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves with chai.
“With that blend alone, we hit some of the major flavor trends for 2015,” Merckx says. “Unique bold flavors and fruity flavors are on trend, such as our Espresso, Chai and Merlot BellaVitano cheese items. Hot flavor or ingredients in 2015 include sweet/savory mixes and blended spices. Flavors such as chipotle, maple, cinnamon, ginger are starting to become trendy.”
Sartori released it Espresso BellaVitano cheese in 2011, which is its BellaVitano Gold hand rubbed with freshly ground Italian roast espresso beans.
“No other company had released a cheese like this, and the feedback we received from consumers was overwhelmingly positive,” Merckx says. “It’s now one of our best sellers.”
Rising Sun Farms, Phoenix, Ore., has been creating a line of Cheese Tortas with diverse and inventive flavors for retail and foodservice professionals for 30 years.
At one time, Rising Sun Farms had 12 different flavors of its signature Cheese Tortas, but the company decided to bring it down to nine so it was more manageable.
The most popular of its torta line are the Pesto Dried Tomato Torta and the Gorgonzola Cheese Torta. The Pesto Dried Tomato Torta starts with a base of Rising Sun Farms’ hormone-free cream cheese, then is blended with Parmesan and Romano cheeses, followed by a layer of nut-free pesto and topped with sweet and tart dried tomatoes. The Gorgonzola Cheese Torta is a blend of cream cheese and Gorgonzola, sweet pears, and dried cranberries, topped with toasted hazelnuts and cranberries.
At Rogue Creamery, local partnerships have driven the company’s cheese creations.
“We’ve been doing beer cheese for a long time,” Plowman says. “We released our Chocolate Stout Cheddar in 2004. It uses Newport, Ore.-based Rogue Ales & Spirits’ beer. We’ve done about 10 since then; four have been with Rogue Ales’ beers, and we have a Cheddar made with Morimoto Soba Ale, also brewed by Rogue Ales.”
During the company’s 80th anniversary last year, Rogue Creamery partnered with Rogue Ales & Spirits to create an Imperial Brown Ale made with 13 different ingredients. The creamery then used this special ale in its 80th Anniversary Ale Cheese.
“It’s always a lot of trial and error,” Plowman says. “It took us a year to figure out the best kind of hops when we partnered with Rogue Ales to make our anniversary cheese.”
Rogue Creamery’s beer Cheddar has found a niche with a younger crowd who has grown up with more cheese choices than there used to be, which has taken pairing to another level, Plowman says.
As a result of Rogue Creamery’s partnership with Rogue Ales & Spirits, the company also had opportunities to work with other beermakers — mostly within Oregon — but with breweries in Virginia and Delaware as well. Its largest partnership remains with Rogue Ales & Spirits.
Rogue Creamery works hard to put as much effort as it can into local businesses, Plowman adds.
An area chef inspired Rogue’s Smokey Blue Cheese — the first of its kind, Plowman says.
“We’re very successful with the Smokey Blue Cheese. It won the Innovation Award in Paris at the 2006 SIAL,” Plowman adds. “Traditionally lower-quality cheese is smoked, but we decided to turn that on its ear to see what would happen if we smoked first-quality cheese.”
The Smokey Blue Cheese is cold-smoked over shells from Oregon hazelnuts, which infuses Rogue Creamery’s Smokey Blue cheese with an added layer of rich flavor and terroir, the company says.
The idea for Rogue Creamery’s Cacow Belle Cheese, a chocolate Cheddar cheese developed for Valentine’s Day that remained a staple in its lineup, came from its own property.
“We have a retail shop and world-class chocolaterie called Lillie Belle Farms Artisan Chocolates on the property,” Plowman says. “We partnered with them to create Cacow, which is a combination of eight spices and organic chocolate with our Cheddar.”
Jensen also endeavors to keep her product and flavors local and derives ideas from her environment.
“I try to use flavors and ingredients from my area,” she says. “Most are within 50 miles of our farm, except for olive oil.”
Hidden Springs Creamery’s Driftless Maple combines natural maple syrup from a neighboring Amish family with its sheep’s milk cheese.
“I really like to use local, interesting, and not too overwhelming flavors,” Jensen says.
Meanwhile, artisan honey from a Driftless-area beekeeper and lavender were combined to create Driftless Honey and Lavender.
For inspiration, Rising Sun Farms looks to its customers for ideas and requests. Some, such as a turkey-flavored torta, may not make its way to production, but many others have.
Certain flavors are notably more popular within specific demographics, says Sheila McRoy, national sales manager, Rising Sun Farms. For example, the Marionberry Cheese Torta is a showcase of Oregon, and is extremely popular with the residents of the Northwest. The Marionberry Torta is comprised of blackberries from Marion County, Ore., and apricots from the state’s orchards blended with dried cranberries and cream cheese, and topped with dried cranberries and hazelnuts — Oregon’s state nut.
Sartori seeks feedback from its consumers as well.
“During demos, we’re able to talk with consumers, get feedback, answer questions about the product and tell them our story,” Merckx says. “It’s important for consumers to understand what we do and why we do it.”
Flavors processed by Rising Sun Farms are designed to highlight the base cheese, but it is the combination of the ingredients used that make the product, McRoy says.
“We’ve perfected the balance in our formula,” she says.
Jensen says for all of her products the cheese rules. She wants the texture and flavor of the cheese itself to come through.
“For us the cheese comes first and the treatment is more of a ‘wow’ factor — an enhancement to the cheese,” Merckx says. “Our goal is to create new cheese items that are unique, yet will appeal to people ages 8-80.”
An extensive amount of calibration takes place in the creation of Rogue Creamery’s flavored cheeses.
After the cheesemakers fine-tune a new cheese, everyone at Rogue Creamery tastes the cheese.
“The judge is our team,” Plowman says. “But the consumer is the ultimate judge.”
Plowman adds that Rogue Creamery has a tradition that began with its establishment in the 1930s. The original owners trained the subsequent owners and cheesemakers that the consumer should taste the Cheddar first, and then whatever flavoring there is.
“I think it’s the evolution of everything,” Plowman says. “Plain and original cheese just isn’t enough. There’s a culture revolving around what’s new. We do shows all over the world, and we’re always asked what is new or different. You have to do the flavors to get attention.”
Merckx says as the marketplace has globalized and people become more educated about what they eat, there is an increase of more unique and specialized products.
“Consumers are starting to look at cheese with more intrigue and want to incorporate it into their daily lives,” Merckx says. “They want cheese as a snack during the day, then to be used in their dinner dishes, and also to be the hit at their entertainment parties. Consumers are moving away from processed cheese and looking for more artisan, ‘American original’ cheeses. They are looking for the next best thing they can share with their friends.”
Trade negotiations progress,
but dairy challenges remain
November 21, 2014
WASHINGTON — Government leaders of participating countries in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) met on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Beijing earlier this month. Although a time line for conclusion was not announced, they released a statement saying that the countries see “the end coming into focus” and included instructions to negotiators to “make concluding this agreement a top priority.”
Between the United States and Japan, dairy still is a challenge in the market access chapter and may continue to be so, notes the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA).
Japan’s economy recently slid into a recession, and Prime Minister Abe announced national elections next month. IDFA notes this could be the kick that propels much-needed reforms within Japan, but it also could complicate and slow down the TPP negotiations.
IDFA continues to press for a comprehensive agreement that includes real market access for all dairy products, across all tariff lines. Improving access to the Japanese and Canadian markets for U.S. dairy products remains a high priority, IDFA says.
IDFA, along with 200 other business and agriculture groups, signed a coalition letter to Congress last week asking for passage of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), a legislative tool to advance trade negotiations, by the end of this year. The letter notes that “Congressional action on TPA is needed to help ensure high-standard outcomes in the TPP negotiations,” as well as other agreements that are currently being negotiated such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), a new trade initiative focused exclusively on service industries.
IDFA notes passage of TPA is unlikely in the lame duck session of Congress, but with the change in the leadership of the Senate, there is an opportunity in the first quarter of 2015 for the legislation to come up for a vote.
Meanwhile, since the seventh round of negotiations in early October, TTIP talks have lagged between the European Union (EU) and the United States. However, the new EU trade commissioner, Cecilia Malmstrom, met with U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman late this week in Brussels, Belgium, and Malmstrom and Froman are expected to take stock of the negotiations in December in Washington, D.C.
In a speech Wednesday at The Wilson Center in Washington, Froman said TTIP will not only break down run-of-the-mill barriers such as tariffs and traditional non-tariff barriers, it also will work to try and bring two well-regulated markets closer together.
“That will allow us not only to trade more with each other, but to work with each other to raise the bar around the world,” Froman says. “TTIP will allow us to be standard-setters rather than standard-takers.”
In other trade news, after 10 years of negotiations, Australia earlier this week announced the conclusion of a free trade agreement with China. Key outcomes of the agreement include the removal of all tariffs on Australian dairy products exported to China within four to 11 years, IDFA notes.
The Australian Dairy Industry Council (ADIC) welcomed the deal with China, saying “the FTA will strengthen Australian dairy’s competitiveness by providing our industry with a significant advantage compared to other countries in the market that do not have a FTA with China.”
After a legal scrub and translation of the text, the two countries are expected to sign the agreement in 2015.
Production per cow hits record levels in October
November 21, 2014
WASHINGTON — Milk production in the 23 major milk-producing states during October totaled 16.05 billion pounds, up 3.9 percent from October 2013, according to preliminary data released Wednesday by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). (All figures are rounded. Please see CMN’s Milk Production chart.)
September revised production in the 23 major states, at 15.51 billion pounds, was up 4.3 percent from September 2013. The September revision represents an increase of 22 million pounds or 0.1 percent from last month’s preliminary production estimate.
NASS says total U.S. milk production in October is estimated at 17.10 billion pounds, up 3.8 percent from October 2013. NASS says there were an estimated 9.28 million dairy cows on U.S. farms in October, 4,000 head more than a month earlier and 77,000 head more than a year earlier. Average production per cow in the United States is estimated at 1,842 pounds in October, 52 pounds more than in October 2013.
In the 23 major milk-producing states, production per cow averaged 1,868 pounds in October, 51 pounds above October 2013. This is the highest production per cow for the month of October since the 23-state series began in 2003, NASS says.
The number of dairy cows on farms in the 23 major states was 8.59 million head, 89,00 head more than in October 2013 and 3,000 head more than in September 2014.
California led the nation’s milk production with 3.43 billion pounds in October, up 2.7 percent from its production a year earlier. The gain came from increased productivity as NASS reports production per cow in California was up 50 pounds from October 2013 to 1,925 pounds in 2014 while cow numbers were unchanged from a year earlier. According to NASS, there were 1.78 million cows on California farms in October, up 1,000 head from the previous month.
Wisconsin followed with 2.34 billion pounds of milk in October, up 2.4 percent from its production a year earlier. Production per cow was up 45 pounds from a year earlier to 1,840 pounds, NASS reports. There were 1.27 million cows on Wisconsin farms in October, unchanged from the previous month and 2,000 head lower than a year earlier.
U.S. cheese among top
World Cheese Award winners
November 21, 2014
LONDON — Three U.S. cheeses were major trophy winners at the 2014 World Cheese Awards held in London Nov. 14-16. The largest competition of its type in the world, the World Cheese Awards drew more than 2,600 cheeses from 33 different countries.
Bandage Wrapped Cheddar made by Fiscalini Cheese Co., Modesto, Calif., won the trophy
for “Best Mature Traditional Cheddar Cheese” sponsored by The Truckle Cheese Co. Sartori Reserve Kentucky Bourbon BellaVitano from Sartori Co., Plymouth, Wis., won the trophy for “Best Overseas Additive Cheese” sponsored by Windyridge Innovative Artisan Cheese. And Bayley Hazen Blue from Jasper Hill Farm, entered by Cellars at Jasper Hill, Greensboro, Vt., earned the trophy for “World’s Best Unpasteurized Cheese” sponsored by John Webb.
The World Champion trophy at this year’s contest went to Bath Blue made by Bath Soft Cheese, Kelston, England.
Several U.S. cheeses also made it into the top 62 cheeses of the contest, earning a “Super Gold.” In addition to the trophy winners, other U.S. cheesemakers who earned Super Golds include:
• Baetje Farms LLC, Bloomdale, Mo., for Bloomsdale;
• Cypress Grove Chevre, Arcata, Calf., for Truffle Tremor;
• Grafton Village Cheese, Grafton, Vt., for Bismark and Shepsog;
• Emmi Roth USA, Monroe, Wis., for Grand Cru Surchoix;
• Marin French Cheese, Petaluma, Calif., for Supreme; and
• Rogue Creamery, Central Point, Ore., Caveman Blue.
A number of U.S. cheesemakers also earned gold, silver and bronze medals for cheeses in their respective categories:
• Arthur Schuman Inc., Fairfield, N.J., won silver medals for its Cello Riserva Copper Kettle Parmesan, Cello Riserva Hand Crafted Asiago and Cello Thick and Smooth Mascarpone.
• The Artisan Cheese Exchange, Sheboygan, Wis., won a silver medal for Deer Creek The Stag and a bronze for Deer Creek The Winter Buck.
• Barinaga Ranch, Marshall, Calif., earned a silver medal for its Txiki.
• Beehive Cheese Co. LLC, Uintah, Utah, won bronze medals for its Barely Buzzed, Promontory and Apple Walnut Smoked Promontory.
• Belfiore Cheese Co., Berkeley, Calif., won a bronze medal for Belfiore Mediterranean-style Feta.
• Bleating Heart Cheese, Tomales, Calif., won bronze medals for its Shepherdista, Ewelicious Blue and Buff Blue.
• Burnett Dairy Cooperative, Grantsburg, Wis., won bronze medals for its Provolone and Plain String Cheese.
• Carr Valley Cheese Co. Inc., La Valle, Wis., earned a bronze medal for its Black Sheep Truffle.
• Cellars at Jasper Hill, Greensboro, Vt., earned gold medals for Cabot Clothbound Cheddar and Moses Sleeper from Jasper Hill Farm, silver medals for Oma from von Trapp Farmstead and Harbison from Jasper Hill Farm, and bronze medals for Kinsman Ridge from Landaff Creamery and Weybridge from Scholten Family Farm.
• Cypress Grove Chevre, Arcata, Calif., won gold medals for its Humboldt Fog mini and Midnight Moon, a silver for its Herbs de Humboldt and a bronze for PsycheDillic.
• Di Stefano Cheese, Pomona, Calif., won a gold medal for its Fresh Mozzarella 8-ounce.
• Emmi Roth USA, Monroe, Wis., won gold medals for Roth Havarti and Grand Cru Reserve, silver medals for Grand Cru Original and Monticello Reserve, and a bronze medal for Roth’s Private Reserve.
• FireFly Farms, Accident, Md., won a gold medal for its Bella Vita and bronze medals for its Allegheny Chevre and Mountain Top Blue.
• Harley Farms Goat Dairy, Pescadero, Calif., earned a gold medal for its Monet.
• Joseph Gallo Farms, Maker of Joseph Farms Cheese, Atwater, Calif., earned a bronze medal for its Reduced Fat Monterey Jack.
• Lactalis American Group, Buffalo, N.Y., won bronze medals for its Whole Milk Milk-Based Ricotta and Whole Milk Whey-Based Ricotta.
• Laura Chenel’s Chevre, Sonoma, Calif., won silver medals for its Crottin, Taupiniere and Cabecou and a bronze for Chef’s Chevre.
• Leelanau Cheese Co., Suttons Bay, Mich., won a gold medal and a bronze medal for its Aged Raclette.
• Lioni Latticini Inc., Union, N.J., won a bronze medal for Lioni Burrata Con Panna.
• Marin French Cheese, Petaluma, Calif., won a silver medal for its Schloss and a bronze medal for its Triple Creme Brie 1-pound.
• Old Chatham Sheepherding Co., Old Chatham, N.Y., earned a gold medal for Nancy’s Hudson Valley Camembert.
• Orland Farmstead Creamery, Orland, Calif., won a gold medal for its Fromage Blanc.
• Rivers Edge Chevre LLC, Logsden, Ore., won bronze medals for its Valsetz and Up in Smoke.
• Rogue Creamery, Central Point, Ore., won a bronze medal for its Echo Mountain Blue.
• Sartori Co., Plymouth, Wis., won gold medals for Sartori Reserve Espresso BellaVitano, Sartori Reserve Chai BellaVitano and Sartori Limited Edition Cinnamon BellaVitano, silver medals for Sartori Limited Edition Extra-Aged Goat, Sartori X, Sartori Reserve BellaVitano Gold, Sartori Reserve Black Pepper BellaVitano, Sartori Reserve Rum Runner BellaVitano, Sartori Reserve Balsamic BellaVitano and Sartori Reserve Merlot BellaVitano, and bronze medals for Sartori Reserve Pastorale Blend, Sartori Reserve Rosemary & Olive Oil and Sartori Limited Edition Cognac BellaVitano.
• Vermont Creamery, Websterville, Vt., earned a gold medal for its Bijou; and bronze medals for its Fresh Crottin, Spreadable Goat Cheese, Fresh Goat Cheese Chevre, Coupole, Vanilla Creme Fraiche, Cremont and Fromage Blanc.
CME cheese price plummets; analysts expect more volatility
November 14, 2014
By Alyssa Mitchell
MADISON, Wis. — Cheddar prices at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) plummeted Tuesday, a move long-anticipated by dairy market analysts who have been scratching their heads at the long-term gap between U.S. and global prices.
“The question is not so much ‘why now’ — it’s why did cheese shoot up to $2.20 again in the last month?” says Mike McCully, owner of The McCully Group LLC, Chicago.
CME Cheddar blocks fell 21.25 cents Oct. 23 to $2.1575 per pound from $2.37, but in the following weeks managed to rally back to $2.20 by Nov. 6. Cheddar barrels also showed weakness in mid-October, falling as low as $1.9225 per pound Oct. 24, but also recovered a bit to reach $2.16 Nov. 5.
However, both blocks and barrels had steep declines this week, falling 18 cents and 17.25 cents, respectively, on Tuesday, and falling further to settle at $1.9425 and $1.9150, respectively, as of Friday.
“The severity of the drop was a little more than I anticipated, but the fact that it came down was not surprising,” says Bill Brooks, dairy economist with FCStone, Chicago.
Sara Dorland, managing partner with Ceres Dairy Risk Management LLC, Seattle, notes that while no one is fond of a large drop like that seen on Tuesday, long, agonizing movement down over several weeks keeps buyers cautious.
“A drop like this gets things moving, and we may see some buying pick up now,” she says.
USDA’s Dairy Market News notes some Midwest cheese plants are operating near capacity and also are fortifying vats with nonfat dry milk (NDM).
“This has resulted in a situation where increasingly cheese supplies are being viewed as long as holiday orders move closer to being filled,” Dairy Market News says. “Buyers have been adding to inventories lately, but recent CME activity reflects sellers with extra blocks and barrels finding less buyer interest than expected. The weaker buyer interest has surprised some cheese sellers.”
However, continued volatility is expected in the marketplace as lower prices may bring more buyers back to the table, resulting in another price bump, Brooks says.
“It’s a sideways market right now,” he says. “I don’t think this is the beginning of a straight downward trend yet.”
McCully agrees that cheese is likely to be well-supported through December.
“I think it will be near $2, give or take a dime,” he says.
Andrew Novakovic, E.V. Baker Professor of Agricultural Economics at the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University, notes that tight U.S. supplies and a lack of imports due to various global fundamentals helped to support U.S. cheese and butter prices this year.
“International markets are certainly an important factor (in our price), and perhaps we should look at them as a dominating factor. However, while what was happening in the U.S. managed to trump the gap between U.S. and world prices for some time, clearly a day of reckoning was going to come,” he says.
Novakovic notes that CME futures indicate further price weakness ahead for both butter and cheese.
Class III and Class IV milk futures on Wednesday showed prices for Class III falling from $21.64 per hundredweight this month to $16.60 per hundredweight by April of next year, and Class IV, at $17.60 in November, falling to $16.19 by December and into the $15.00s early next year.
Novakovic notes butter still stands approximately $1 above international prices.
CME butter dipped below $2 per pound this week, settling at $1.9875 per pound as of Friday. Butter previously had fallen below $2 at the end of October, settling as low as $1.77 Oct. 28, but bumped up over $2 last week before the declines seen this week.
McCully notes that some were surprised by the timing of the steeper butter price drop seen last month, but it brought more buyers back to the market.
“Retailers who were anticipating $3 butter were more interested in doing features and promotions with it closer to the $2 level,” he says.
However, he says butter has “a short fuse” right now and could soon drop into the $1.70s.
Dorland says that, in her opinion, CME futures are currently casting “a rosy picture” for butter prices in the months ahead compared to what she anticipates.
“Futures show butter in the $1.70s, while European butter is in the $1.60s and New Zealand is at $1.10,” she says. “I think we can expect to move closer to the European price.”
Meanwhile, NDM continues a weaker downward trend, perhaps the commodity most in line with its global counterparts. Still, while NDM at the CME was at $1.18 per pound as of Friday, McCully notes that with the European milk powder price near $1, “it’s indicative of what’s happening in the milk powder market, and I think that will continue to put pressure on cheese and butter prices as well.”
Market activity for NDM is light with buyers not wanting to expand inventories in a downward trending market, Dairy Market News says.
“Export demand has weakened as global milk production and processing has increased, expanding global supplies of competing milk powders,” Dairy Market News says. “The market undertone is weak.”
Dorland notes that a lot of what helped to buoy U.S. dairy prices the past couple of years were strong export numbers.
“As we look to the first quarter of 2015 and our prices compared to world prices, we need to come down to be more competitive,” she says.
USDA’s Dairy Market News notes that butter export orders also currently are “lackluster” given higher U.S. butter prices compared to competing global markets.
“A key question is definitely whether we will gain back some ground on export markets in 2015,” Novakovic says.
Agropur announces $55 million expansion in Weyauwega, Wis.
November 14, 2014
LONGUEUIL, Quebec — Agropur Inc. is investing more than $55 million in its Weyauwega, Wis., facility to increase its Feta cheese production capacity.
“There is a lot of tradition, skill and work ethic among our employees, and we are recognized in the market for having high-quality products,” says Doug Simon, president, USA Cheese Business Unit, Agropur. “We are a leader in Feta cheese production, and this will allow us to maintain that leadership position. We are very excited about this investment and in the future of the Wisconsin dairy industry as it provides employment opportunities and a stable home for milk produced in the area.”
Agropur CEO Robert Coallier adds that the investment “truly shows how committed we are to establishing our leadership in the U.S. market and to the future of the Wisconsin dairy industry.”
The expansion, now underway, is to be completed in 2016. It is expected to create about 22 new jobs.
“I congratulate Agropur and applaud them for deciding to embark on this major expansion in Wisconsin,” says Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. “Not only is Wisconsin the top cheese-producing state in the country, but the state has an international reputation for quality dairy products. The expansion will help to further that reputation.”
To help ensure that the Canadian company expanded in Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. (WEDC) is providing Agropur with $1.65 million in Economic Development Tax Credits over the next few years. In order to receive the full credits, Agropur must retain its existing 146 jobs at the facility, create 22 new jobs and invest at least $55 million in capital investment.
“WEDC is pleased to be able to assist Agropur in strengthening its already strong position in the dairy industry and cheese production,” says Reed Hall, secretary and CEO, WEDC. “Wisconsin produces so much cheese that if the state was a country, it would rank fourth in the world in total cheese production behind the United States, Germany and France.”
Judge dismisses consumer
lawsuit against Darigold Inc.
November 14, 2014
By Alyssa Mitchell
SEATTLE — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit that accused Northwest dairy cooperative Darigold Inc./Northwest Dairy Association of misleading consumers about its treatment of cattle and employees.
Earlier this year, plaintiffs Yesenia Ruiz and Fernanda Dorantes filed a complaint against Darigold alleging that the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility Report (CSR) casts its treatment of workers and cows in a positive light when they are mistreated, plaintiffs say.
The plaintiffs allege that Darigold misrepresented the conditions under which its products were produced and that the plaintiffs relied on false assurances of ethical treatment for cows and workers when they chose to purchase Darigold products.
“Darigold markets and sells its milk and dairy products as if they were produced in an environment that places utmost care on animal health, food safety and labor protections for its employees,” plaintiffs say in the complaint filed May 5, 2014. “In reality, however, some of Darigold’s milk is produced under conditions where dairy cows are injured and sick, where despite suffering from bloody and swollen udders, cows are still milked, and where workers are denied the most basic labor protections, such as drinkable water, lunch rooms, meal and rest periods, and an environment free of discrimination.”
The plaintiffs allege that Darigold misrepresents these situations in its 2010 CSR and in other publicity.
However, in an Order of Dismissal issued Nov. 3, U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik rules that the plaintiffs’ interpretation of the CSR is unreasonable because Darigold acknowledges shortcomings and does not claim to be flawless.
“While there may be one or two statements in the 60-page report in which Darigold expresses satisfaction with its performance and fails to explicitly incorporate by reference the caveats and problems mentioned elsewhere, a reasonable consumer would not be deceived or misled into believing Darigold or its member farms had a perfect track record on worker rights or animal health,” Lasnik says.
The plaintiffs allege that they relied on Darigold’s statements when choosing to purchase Darigold products. In early 2014, the plaintiffs learned that workers at one of Darigold’s member dairies had sued their employer for violations of Washington’s wage and labor laws. Ruiz also alleges that she discovered that unspecified “questions have been raised about the treatment of workers and animals at Darigold member facilities.”
Both plaintiffs stopped buying Darigold products and allege that they would not have purchased them had Darigold been honest about the conditions in which its products were produced.
“The gist of plaintiffs’ complaint is that the 2010 CSR misled consumers into believing that (a) all Darigold employees and all workers at the 500-plus member dairies were treated well, with respect, and in full compliance with the law and (b) every cow that contributed milk to Darigold for processing was healthy,” the dismissal order says. “A fair reading of the 2010 CSR would not support such beliefs, however, and a reasonable consumer reading the report would not be misled in the way plaintiffs allege.
“The court finds that, as a matter of law, plaintiffs’ payment for the milk products consumed and Darigold’s retention of that money were not unjust,” the order says.
“Although plaintiffs request an opportunity to amend if their claims are dismissed, they do not identify any additional facts that could be alleged to overcome the fact that the 2010 CSR cannot reasonably be read as a representation that all workers and animals involved in the production of Darigold’s products are treated well, with respect and in compliance with all laws,” the judge says. “Absent some indication of what additional facts plaintiffs might plead to overcome this hurdle, it is very difficult to determine whether an amended pleading would fare any better than the current complaint. The court is therefore loathe to grant leave to amend outright. Instead, plaintiffs will be given 30 days in which to file a motion for leave to amend that is supported by a proposed amended pleading. If a motion for leave to amend is not filed in the time provided, judgment will be entered in favor of defendants and against plaintiffs.”
Steven Rowe, general counsel and senior vice president of corporate affairs, Darigold Inc., says Darigold is very pleased with the dismissal order and the court’s reading of the cooperative’s efforts to report on the company’s and cooperative’s sustainability journey.
“This is one of the strongest dismissal orders I’ve ever seen,” he says. “I’m very pleased with the court’s opinion and that the court not only read the complaint but also our CSR. We’re very pleased and happy at their finding that this complaint is unmerited.”
Mario Martinez, the plaintiffs’ attorney at Marcos Camacho, A Law Corp., Bakersfield, Calif., says consumers across the nation have been “horrified” to learn of ongoing reports of animal and worker abuse at Darigold member farms.
“Given this increased consumer concern and demand for fair treatment of workers and animals, there is a growing call for Darigold to work with workers and third parties to resolve this issue immediately,” Martinez says. “While plaintiffs are disappointed with the judge’s ruling, the ruling does not change the fact that consumers are demanding changes from Darigold. Re-filing of the complaint is certainly a possibility that is being explored, as plaintiffs and their counsel strongly believe in the claims brought before the court.”
GMO labeling measures fail in Colorado, Oregon
November 14, 2014
By Emily King
WASHINGTON — Colorado and Oregon rejected ballot initiatives requiring the labeling of foods produced from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) during the 2014 election. Meanwhile, Maui County, Hawaii, approved a temporary ban on GMO crop cultivation and Humboldt County, Calif., voted to ban genetically engineered (GE) crops from being grown in the county.
Colorado’s Proposition 105 would have required food companies to label packaged foods with the text “produced with genetic engineering” if they contained derivatives of GMO crops. The initiative failed, with 66 percent voting against it and 34 percent in favor.
According to Ballotpedia, those in support of Proposition 105 donated $625,968 and those in opposition donated $12.7 million as of Oct. 27.
A similar initiative was defeated in Oregon, but by a much narrower margin. Oregon’s Measure 92 stated that food labels would need to include the words “genetically engineered.” The statute was narrowly defeated, with 50.5 percent voting against it and 49.5 voting for the measure.
In Oregon, those in opposition to Measure 92 donated $16.3 million, while those in support donated $9.0 million, Ballotpedia says.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food (CFSAF) say they are satisfied with these ballot outcomes.
“We are pleased that the voters of Colorado and Oregon both rejected these mandatory GMO labeling measures,” says Pamela G. Bailey, president and CEO, GMA. “These sorts of state-based GMO labeling proposals would provide consumers with incomplete and inaccurate information, only serving to misinform and mislead them.”
GMA, along with CFSAF, support the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, which they say would eliminate consumer uncertainty created by a state-by-state patchwork of labeling laws, advance food safety, inform consumers and provide consistency in labeling.
CFSAF provides the public with information about ingredients grown through genetic modification technology. The coalition is comprised of American farmers and representatives from a group of industry and non-governmental organizations, including the International Dairy Foods Association and the National Milk Producers Federation.
The legislation would require the FDA to approve all new GMO ingredients before they are brought to market and establishes federal standards for companies that wish to voluntarily label their products for the absence-of or presence-of GMO food ingredients.
“It’s time to give consumers what they deserve — a consistent, national framework for food labeling that is based on science, not politics,” says Claire Parker, spokesperson, CFSAF. “Consumers have a right to reliable information and a uniform labeling standard that is regulated by experts at the FDA.”
CFSAF says studies have shown that mandated GMO labeling would increase grocery prices for consumers by hundreds of dollars per year as food companies are forced to construct multiple supply streams, design new labels, acquire additional warehouse space and create new transportation routes.
Proponents for GE and GMO labeling have appealed to FDA as well. The Center for Food Safety (CFS), an environmental, non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C., submitted a formal legal petition to FDA in 2011 demanding the mandatory labeling of GE foods, although neither proposal to the FDA has seen any advance, according to CFS.
During elections in Maui County, Hawaii, voters chose — in a margin barely more than 1,000 votes — to support an initiative to prohibit the growth, testing or cultivation of GE crops in Maui County until an environmental and public health study can show they are safe.
CFS says opposition to the initiative was almost exclusively backed by Monsanto Co. and Dow Chemical.
“Our victory today sends a strong message to the agrochemical industry in Hawaii,” says Ashley Lukens, program director, Hawaii Center for Food Safety. “Community members will not sit idly by and watch these companies threaten the health and safety of our people and our planet. Voters saw past the misleading claims of pesticide companies like Monsanto and Dow Chemical and demanded accountability to the community.”
California’s Humboldt County became the seventh county in the state to vote in support of banning GE crops from being grown within the county. The Humboldt County Genetic Contamination Prevention Ordinance (Measure P) was approved by 59 percent of county voters, according to CFS.