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Senate hearing looks at milk pricing, federal order system

September 17, 2021

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee’s dairy subcommittee, this week held a hearing on “Milk Pricing: Areas for Improvement and Reform” that featured testimony from dairy industry stakeholders.

The hearing focused on issues related to milk pricing and the federal milk marketing order (FMMO) system, which has shown strains during the COVID-19 pandemic due in large part to flaws in the current Class I milk price mover and its ripple effects through dairy revenues, stakeholders say.

“Unfair trade practices from foreign countries, increasing production costs and a drop in milk consumption have led to an increasingly unstable dairy market, and farmers are suffering the most,” Gillibrand says. “The cost of milk production is higher sometimes than the reimbursement rate, and that puts businesses out of business. It puts our dairy farmers in a tough place, and a lot of our dairies as a consequence have closed.”

Catherine H. de Ronde, vice president for economic and legislative affairs for Agri-Mark, Middlebury, Vermont, in her testimony said Congress must do additional work to ensure dairy farmers are fairly compensated for losses rooted in a change to the pricing formula for Class I milk.

The pandemic “has created an even greater urgency to revisit orders,” de Ronde says.

“Negative PPDs (producer price differentials) had milk checks looking incredibly bizarre; depooling at a level never before seen became a new phenomenon for many,” she says. “The change to the underlying Class I mover was a key catalyst of these outcomes.”

The 2018 Farm Bill changed the Class I mover, which determines the price of fluid milk under the FMMO system, at the urging of dairy processors who sought greater price predictability. The change contributed to substantial market volatility last year and has led to an estimated $750 million in losses for farmers compared to the previous Class I formula. Without a fix, dairy farmers permanently will bear unfair and unnecessary price risk compared to processors during times of unusual market volatility, stakeholders say.

USDA plans to mitigate some of last year’s losses through its Pandemic Market Volatility Assistance Program, which will reimburse farmers for $350 million of those losses. But that initiative distributes payments unevenly, requiring further remedies to equitably fill the gap for producers of all sizes, says the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF).

“The National Milk Producers Federation appreciates the work of Sens. Gillibrand and (Cindy) Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) for (this week’s) initial examination of crucial milk pricing issues,” says Jim Mulhern, president and CEO, NMPF. “Dairy farmers have done their best to navigate this ongoing crisis, aided in part by necessary disaster assistance. But without equitable assistance, many family dairy farmers across the nation will needlessly struggle from the effects of the Class I mover change they’ve already felt. And without a change in the mover, we can only expect these struggles will recur.”

It is critically important to recognize the intersections in milk pricing and how a change in one area can impact a change in another, de Ronde says.

“While I deeply and personally understand the urgency to resolve our challenges, thorough analysis of these intersections, considering all perspectives is essential in guaranteeing reform success. Changes should be made through the formal rulemaking process to ensure that a comprehensive approach is taken,” she says. “The formal hearing process allows for producer, processor and consumer voices and perspectives to be heard and considered. This hearing is an important step in the start of this dialogue on milk pricing issues.”

In his testimony, Robert Wills, owner of Cedar Grove Cheese, Plain, Wisconsin, and Clock Shadow Creamery, Milwaukee, said administered milk pricing, established by Congress, functions opposite to its intent.

“Market orders cause higher dairy prices for consumers and lower milk prices for farmers. The system responds slowly and inadequately to changes in costs and demand shocks. The complexities of market orders create opportunities for anti-competitive behavior and promote consolidation among suppliers,” Wills says.

He adds that the dairy industry today faces unprecedented challenges such as increased international competition, rising costs and uncertainty from climate change, and disruptive technologies that could replace much of the dairy industry.
“To serve our customers and farmers, we must be efficient and reduce our environmental footprint. Administered pricing does not and cannot set dairy product prices fairly or efficiently. The survival of the dairy industry may depend on eliminating the rigidities of the market order system as soon as possible,” Wills says.

He notes that over the past year-and-a-half, most milk has not been pooled in market orders because the cost of participation is greater than the value.

“My factory decided two years ago to leave the administered pricing system. Many other independent dairy companies have made the same choice. The draw from FMMA Order 30 over the past several years has averaged negative, meaning our milk producers were being taxed to support farmers supplying other plants,” Wills says.

Meanwhile, cheese producers are under increased pressure to sell varieties of cheese other than Cheddar so they are able to make money, he adds.

“If they make Cheddar and pass along cost increases, the formula will increase the price of milk,” he says. “Basing the Class III formula on Cheddar prices discourages production of that variety. The price of that biggest selling variety, Mozzarella, is not included in the weekly survey of prices used in FMMO price formulas.

“To summarize, I suspect that voluntary participation in market orders by proprietary processors will continue to decline. Only fluid milk handlers are required to participate. The various market order formulas are rigid and cannot adjust quickly to changes in costs or technology or demand,” Wills says. “Current make allowances are woefully inadequate. Only companies or cooperatives who can manipulate that system will remain, and any benefit to their farmers will shrink. People who make their living by understanding the orders will engage in increasingly desperate efforts to tweak the system to encourage participation. Likely, they will solicit various forms of congressional intervention to keep the system afloat. These efforts are not primarily based on the ability to help farmers.”

Wills concludes that “none of the challengers to milk sales — including international competitors and processors of vegetable analogs or biotech replacements — are saddled with the burden of the milk market orders. The dairy industry needs to quit squabbling over esoterica of milk marketing and keep its eye on the prize: our customers. The government should step out and let dairy compete. That is the best hope for our farmers.”

Christopher A. Wolf, E.V. Baker Professor of Agricultural Economics at the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University, also testified at the hearing, noting that, given the age of the FMMO system, length of time since the last major reform and changes in the market from both the production and consumption side, it likely is time to re-examine many aspects of FMMOs including many issues that motivated this hearing.

“If we were to start over with U.S. dairy policy, it seems unlikely we would arrive at the current system. However, there are legitimate reasons for making each of the previous policy revisions and choices,” Wolf says. “The current set of markets and institutions has evolved around the FMMO system as it is currently constituted, and the ripple effects of reforms should be carefully considered. There may be lessons that could be found in the systems found in other countries. Any reform should balance the interests of all involved parties including equity as well as economic efficiency.”

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Dairy industry reacts to federal mandate on vaccines, testing

September 17, 2021

WASHINGTON — Last week, President Biden announced the U.S. Department of Labor is developing an emergency rule to require all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workforces are fully vaccinated or show a negative test at least once a week. This would impact more than 80 million workers.

“The bottom line: We’re going to protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated co-workers. We’re going to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by increasing the share of the workforce that is vaccinated in businesses all across America,” Biden said in his Sept. 9 speech.

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), which will draft this rule, has announced that the new emergency temporary standard (ETS) will be released in “the coming weeks” and that the rule will carry penalties of $14,000 per violation.

Soon after the announcement, the Republican National Committee announced its intention to sue the Biden administration over the mandate.

Meanwhile, industry groups are seeking more information and some continue to encourage vaccinations among their members.

“We will wait to see the actual rules from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration before commenting on the measure, but we will continue to encourage vaccinations in our industry as far and wide as possible,” says Matt Herrick, senior vice president of public affairs and communications, International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA). “The dairy foods industry has been working with federal, state and local officials to make it easy for workers to get vaccinated. IDFA applauds our members who are providing information and education to workers on-site, providing paid time off or bonuses and incentives to those who get vaccinated, and to companies bringing vaccinations directly to their workforce.”

The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) also tells Cheese Market News that it continues to encourage COVID vaccinations and has offered guidance for employers and farmers as to how they are crucial to a safe workplace and economic recovery. Last week, NMPF published its latest toolkit on what dairy employers need to know about the COVID-19 delta variant.

“Vaccination remains an employer’s best tool for returning to normalcy, even with the delta variant. If you’re an employer, remove any barriers that could prevent your employees from getting vaccinated and consider offering incentives to employees upon proof of vaccination,” NMPF says in its guidance, available at www.nmpf.org/covid-19-delta-variant-what-dairy-employers-need-to-know.

Earlier this week, the Consumer Brands Association (CBA) urged the Biden administration to accelerate federal guidelines and clarify how businesses are expected to implement the COVID-19 Action Plan. In a letter to the White House, CBA outlined questions on specific vaccination requirements, testing standards and processes, and operational issues such as timeline for compliance, impact on collective bargaining agreements and state-imposed obligations, and potential disruptions to the consumer packaged goods supply chain.

“Federal agencies must move quickly, anticipate challenges, promptly answer questions and partner with the private sector if we are to realize successful implementation of the administration’s COVID-19 Action Plan and achieve our shared goal of increased vaccination rates,” says Geoff Freeman, president and CEO, CBA.

CBA notes that government guidance earlier in the pandemic routinely lagged weeks to months behind initial announcements and often conflicted with state and local requirements. A flood of feedback received from member companies — including more than 50 unique questions needing clarification — confirms the pressing need for guidance from federal agencies on how the mandate will affect business operations and employees, CBA adds.

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BelGioioso Cheese announces acquisition of Polly-O brand

September 17, 2021

GREEN BAY, Wis. — BelGioioso Cheese Inc. this week announced it has entered into an agreement to acquire Polly-O, a cheese brand founded in 1899, for an undisclosed purchase price.

The Polly-O brand will expand BelGioioso’s footprint in the dairy case in addition to its existing Casaro brand. Polly-O achieved net sales of approximately $177 million in 2020, BelGioioso officials note. Polly-O offers a selection of Mozzarella and other Italian-style cheeses.

Kraft Heinz last fall agreed to sell the Polly-O business to Lactalis Group as part of a natural cheese transaction previously announced by Kraft and Lactalis. In fulfillment of conditions identified during the customary antitrust review of that transaction by the U.S. Department of Justice, Lactalis Group agreed to sell the Polly-O business to BelGioioso.

“We are thrilled to add the Polly-O brand to our portfolio and want to thank the teams at Kraft Heinz and Lactalis Group for their assistance and dedication to finalizing the agreement in such a short time,” says Errico Auricchio, president, BelGioioso Cheese. “I am confident this will benefit consumers thanks to healthy competition in the category as a result of this acquisition.”

BelGioioso’s acquisition of the Polly-O business remains subject to final approval by U.S. regulators and the satisfaction or waiver of other customary closing conditions.

BelGioioso Cheese, based in Green Bay, Wisconsin, is a family-owned and operated company specializing in artisan Italian cheeses.

CMN



Pine River’s new single-serve cheese spreads offer on-the-go convenience

NEWTON, Wis. — Cold pack cheese spread, a longtime staple for snacks, gatherings and supper clubs across Wisconsin, now is available in new single-serve varieties for those on the go, thanks to the latest introduction from Pine River Pre-Pack Inc.

The 2.5-ounce single-serve cheese spread cups, which retail for a suggested price of $1.99-$2.49 each, now are available in two of Pine River’s most popular flavors: Sharp Cheddar and Spicy Beer. These can be purchased individually or in orders of three or six at www.pineriver.com. Pine River also has agreements with Stater Bros. Markets in California, Sendik’s in Wisconsin and Spec’s Wines, Spirits & Finer Foods in Texas to sell the new individual cheese spread cups in their stores.

Sharp Cheddar is Pine River’s classic bestseller, while Spicy Beer has a unique flavor that is a little spicy and pairs well with pretzels, says Brittany Requejo, marketing manager, Pine River. The recipes are the same as the company’s standard cold pack spread varieties, just in a wide-mouthed 2.5-ounce plastic cup for easier dipping.

“We’ve talked about doing this for a long time, especially when we’ve been seeing guacamoles and hummus available in single-size servings,” Requejo says. “Our target is busy moms looking for a wholesome snack for lunches, or the young food enthusiast wanting a convenient snack at work or on the go.

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Industry organizations make safety a priority during events

September 3, 2021

By Rena Archwamety

MADISON, Wis. — After a year of scheduling in-person gatherings largely on hold, many dairy industry organizations recently have resumed in-person contest, trade shows, networking opportunities and other events. While these events bring a sense of normalcy, the hosting organizations also face a “new normal” that requires balancing face-to-face opportunities for members and attendees with prudent health and safety measures.

The American Dairy Products Institute (ADPI) is planning to host two live events in Reno, Nevada, Oct. 25-28 — the ADPI Dairy Ingredients Technology Symposium and the Global Cheese Technology Forum — during its “Dairy Technology Week in Reno.”

Earlier this week, ADPI released its amended attendance guidelines for hosted events and activities. ADPI outlines that attendance to all direct-facing events and activities shall be open to those who have been properly vaccinated, or those who have not been vaccinated but can provide proper documentation of having received a negative COVID-19 test within three days of their arrival to the event. All attendees also will agree to comply with the masking and social distancing protocols in effect at the venue or event site.

“We believe that our attendance requirements broadly sync with both in-person interaction and the health and safety protocols as recommended by the health officials/experts at this point in time,” says Blake Anderson, president and CEO, ADPI.

He says the reason ADPI published its guidelines is that, up to now, there has been a void in “common industry practices” as the pandemic and its impacts have been very different depending on locations, venues and vaccination trends.

“We all initially thought that by now the original COVID-19 pandemic would be more under control and on the wane, and then along came the delta variant and reset everyone’s expectations,” Anderson says. “COVID-19 is called a ‘novel virus’ for good reason, and we all need to keep that top-of-mind as we deal with it.”

ADPI developed its event guidelines with the input of its board of directors as well as feedback from other various ADPI members-at-large. Anderson says feedback for the most part has been extremely positive, and ADPI feels its guidelines are fair, equitable and easily complied with.

“We have a very diverse membership base encompassing processors, producers, sellers, marketers, equipment and service providers in and to the industry, and as such enjoy the benefit of broad and strategic thinking on such matters and their impacts,” Anderson says. “ADPI is an organization of, for and by members, and the same is reflected in our guidelines.”

He adds, “A critical component of our guidelines is that people know what is expected and can assess their abilities to comply in advance. If for some reason compliance is not possible for any number of reasons, we are providing options to enable them to still participate and benefit from the experience, i.e., virtual attendance versus direct facing. The key is everyone will have a choice that they can make based on their own personal circumstances.”

The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) has held all of its board of directors meetings virtually, using Zoom, since March 2020. Its annual meeting last October also was virtual. However, NMPF is planning for its November 2021 board meeting to be an in-person event.

“We will be following the public health requirements of local authorities in Las Vegas, where our November meeting is being held. Currently those guidelines require masking in public spaces; that may change based on the evolution of case rates during the fall months in Nevada,” says Chris Galen, senior vice president, member services and strategic initiatives, NMPF.

All organizations that hold meetings have learned over the past 18 months to be flexible and use different tools, while also balancing the expectations of members that certain interactions are optimized with in-person engagement, Galen adds.

“While we are hoping for a more ‘normal’ approach to meetings and events in the future, the shared experience of the past year-and-a-half is certain to require some new approaches after 2021,” he says.

All events hosted and sponsored by the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) have been virtual since its in-person Dairy Forum that was held in January 2020. IDFA staff also continues to work remotely.

“As we look ahead to in-person events later this year or in early 2022, health and safety is our top priority,” says Matt Herrick, IDFA senior vice president of public affairs and communications and executive director of the IDFA Foundation. “We will continue to adhere to CDC recommendations as well as state/local guidelines and work collaboratively with our on-site partners — such as hotels and conference centers — to put health and safety first.”

The Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association (WCMA) also has adjusted many of its events this past year, canceling its World Championship Cheese Contest in March and switching to a virtual CheeseExpo in April of this year. WCMA is offering virtual options for its upcoming Dairy Food Safety Alliance meeting Sept. 9. However, it plans to return to hosting an in-person World Championship Cheese Contest and CheeseExpo in 2022.

“We’re all eager to be together, as colleagues and as friends, once again,” says John Umhoefer, executive director, WCMA. “We are constantly reviewing public health guidance and will make determinations on safety measures for these events in the coming months. Our top priority is the health and safety of our participants, so safety guidelines for these events will evolve to match public health guidance.”

While many organizations have switched mostly or entirely to virtual events and meetings, the Wisconsin Dairy Products Association (WDPA) has continued its in-person events, though with added precautions. Executive Director Brad Legreid says the association did not make this decision lightly.

“We had hours and hours of discussion, planning and studying COVID regulations, not only in the county and state, but also federal guidelines,” he says. “Between our staff and board of directors, we came to the conclusion that what was best for our members was to hold safe events this last year.”

Since it was safer to be outdoors and golf courses remained open, WDPA held a golf outing in September 2020, providing face masks and individual hand sanitizer bottles to all participants. A month later, instead of its traditional Dairy Symposium, WDPA hosted an outdoor evening reception along with a golf outing in Door County, Wisconsin. Hand sanitizer, masks and social distancing again were provided and encouraged.

After COVID-19 guidelines and restrictions relaxed this spring, WDPA this year continued to host its golf outing and traditional Dairy Symposium and saw record turnouts. It also resumed hosting the World Dairy Expo Championship Dairy Product Contest, and judging took place last month while following face masking and social distancing requirements in Madison, Wisconsin.

Legreid notes that WDPA’s decision to continue holding in-person events with extra safety precautions was driven by its members’ desire to meet face-to-face. He adds that each organization must do what works best for them and their members, and different approaches are just as respected.

“As you know, the dairy industry is a very social industry,” he says. “We take it very seriously. When we do hold an event, and it’s successful, and we see smiles, hear laughter and can see each other again, it makes it all worth it.”

Without question, the dairy ingredients and related products industry is “people-centric,” focused on relationships and trust, Anderson says. He adds that ADPI pivoted to virtual events over the last year-and-a-half rather than canceling them because members needed to remain connected and informed.

“It is critically important to all of us to resume in-person meetings to enable relationships to be built and developed,” he says. “Our businesses did not stop, but it did take on many different dimensions in facing and adapting to ‘pandemic’ times and challenges. If we in the dairy products industry are nothing else, we are resilient!”

CMN


Emmi Roth acquires Athenos Feta brand from Lactalis Group

September 3, 2021

FITCHBURG, Wis. — Emmi Roth, in partnership with Emmi Group, this week announced it has acquired Athenos, which includes the No. 1 Feta in the United States. This acquisition from the Lactalis Group complements Emmi Roth’s extensive range of high-quality locally produced and imported specialty cheeses and strengthens the company’s long-standing dedication to the specialty cheese industry, Emmi Roth says.

“This is an exciting day for Emmi Roth,” Tim Omer, president and managing director at Emmi Roth, said in yesterday’s announcement. “We’re continuing to focus on the specialty cheese industry that we really care about. We take pride in providing the best specialty cheese to our customers and consumers, and adding Athenos to our family will strengthen our product range and allow us to offer another great line of products.”

As the leading Feta brand in the United States, Athenos generated net sales of almost $90 million in 2020. Emmi Roth notes Feta has benefited from recent changes in consumer consumption habits, and volume sales in the Feta category are up 22% versus last year, according to IRI data. Emmi Roth adds Athenos also will benefit from its strong retail and foodservice connections as well as its marketing expertise to reach new consumers through digital marketing and social media.

Kraft Heinz agreed to sell the Athenos business to a U.S. affiliate of Lactalis Group in autumn 2020 as part of a natural cheese transaction previously announced by the companies. In fulfillment of conditions identified during the customary antitrust review, the Lactalis Group agreed to sell the Athenos business on to Emmi.

Emmi’s acquisition of the Athenos business includes the rights to the Athenos brand as well as other existing rights and contracts in connection with this business. The products themselves have been contract manufactured, processed and distributed to order for many years, and Emmi says it plans to preserve this established value chain. The transaction remains subject to final approval by U.S. regulators. The parties have agreed not to disclose the purchase price.

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U.S. dairy export volume rises 7.2% in July over a year ago

September 3, 2021

WASHINGTON — U.S. dairy exports in July totaled 195,029 metric tons (milk solids equivalent), up 7.2% from July 2020, according to the latest data reported by the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC). U.S. dairy exports in July were valued at $667.9 million, up 20.6% from a year earlier, thanks to a surge in higher-value products in addition to overall volume growth, USDEC says.

Skim milk powder and nonfat dry milk (SMP/NDM) exports in July totaled 72,990 metric tons, down 3.1% from July 2020. USDEC reports SMP/NDM exports to Mexico increased 14%, while shipments to were down 30% to Southeast Asia, likely due to continued port congestion in the United States.

Dry whey product exports in July totaled 53,384 metric tons, up 17.8% from volumes a year earlier, led by sales to China which were up 33% over July 2020, USDEC reports.

U.S. cheese exports in July totaled 36,804 metric tons, up 26.8% from year-ago exports. Cheese shipments were up in all of the top markets: 4% in Japan and Korea, 23% in Mexico and 83% in Latin America. USDEC says a combination of factors appears to be driving gains in Mexico and Latin America, including favorable pricing, vaccination progress and economic reopenings, and improving tourism numbers.

Exports of lactose totaled 32,165 metric tons in July, down 2% from a year earlier. Shipments were up in Southeast Asia and Japan and Korea, and down in China, USDEC says.

CMN


Industry organizations make safety a priority during events

September 3, 2021

By Rena Archwamety

MADISON, Wis. — After a year of scheduling in-person gatherings largely on hold, many dairy industry organizations recently have resumed in-person contest, trade shows, networking opportunities and other events. While these events bring a sense of normalcy, the hosting organizations also face a “new normal” that requires balancing face-to-face opportunities for members and attendees with prudent health and safety measures.

The American Dairy Products Institute (ADPI) is planning to host two live events in Reno, Nevada, Oct. 25-28 — the ADPI Dairy Ingredients Technology Symposium and the Global Cheese Technology Forum — during its “Dairy Technology Week in Reno.”

Earlier this week, ADPI released its amended attendance guidelines for hosted events and activities. ADPI outlines that attendance to all direct-facing events and activities shall be open to those who have been properly vaccinated, or those who have not been vaccinated but can provide proper documentation of having received a negative COVID-19 test within three days of their arrival to the event. All attendees also will agree to comply with the masking and social distancing protocols in effect at the venue or event site.

“We believe that our attendance requirements broadly sync with both in-person interaction and the health and safety protocols as recommended by the health officials/experts at this point in time,” says Blake Anderson, president and CEO, ADPI.

He says the reason ADPI published its guidelines is that, up to now, there has been a void in “common industry practices” as the pandemic and its impacts have been very different depending on locations, venues and vaccination trends.

“We all initially thought that by now the original COVID-19 pandemic would be more under control and on the wane, and then along came the delta variant and reset everyone’s expectations,” Anderson says. “COVID-19 is called a ‘novel virus’ for good reason, and we all need to keep that top-of-mind as we deal with it.”

ADPI developed its event guidelines with the input of its board of directors as well as feedback from other various ADPI members-at-large. Anderson says feedback for the most part has been extremely positive, and ADPI feels its guidelines are fair, equitable and easily complied with.

“We have a very diverse membership base encompassing processors, producers, sellers, marketers, equipment and service providers in and to the industry, and as such enjoy the benefit of broad and strategic thinking on such matters and their impacts,” Anderson says. “ADPI is an organization of, for and by members, and the same is reflected in our guidelines.”

He adds, “A critical component of our guidelines is that people know what is expected and can assess their abilities to comply in advance. If for some reason compliance is not possible for any number of reasons, we are providing options to enable them to still participate and benefit from the experience, i.e., virtual attendance versus direct facing. The key is everyone will have a choice that they can make based on their own personal circumstances.”

The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) has held all of its board of directors meetings virtually, using Zoom, since March 2020. Its annual meeting last October also was virtual. However, NMPF is planning for its November 2021 board meeting to be an in-person event.

“We will be following the public health requirements of local authorities in Las Vegas, where our November meeting is being held. Currently those guidelines require masking in public spaces; that may change based on the evolution of case rates during the fall months in Nevada,” says Chris Galen, senior vice president, member services and strategic initiatives, NMPF.

All organizations that hold meetings have learned over the past 18 months to be flexible and use different tools, while also balancing the expectations of members that certain interactions are optimized with in-person engagement, Galen adds.

“While we are hoping for a more ‘normal’ approach to meetings and events in the future, the shared experience of the past year-and-a-half is certain to require some new approaches after 2021,” he says.

All events hosted and sponsored by the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) have been virtual since its in-person Dairy Forum that was held in January 2020. IDFA staff also continues to work remotely.

“As we look ahead to in-person events later this year or in early 2022, health and safety is our top priority,” says Matt Herrick, IDFA senior vice president of public affairs and communications and executive director of the IDFA Foundation. “We will continue to adhere to CDC recommendations as well as state/local guidelines and work collaboratively with our on-site partners — such as hotels and conference centers — to put health and safety first.”

The Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association (WCMA) also has adjusted many of its events this past year, canceling its World Championship Cheese Contest in March and switching to a virtual CheeseExpo in April of this year. WCMA is offering virtual options for its upcoming Dairy Food Safety Alliance meeting Sept. 9. However, it plans to return to hosting an in-person World Championship Cheese Contest and CheeseExpo in 2022.

“We’re all eager to be together, as colleagues and as friends, once again,” says John Umhoefer, executive director, WCMA. “We are constantly reviewing public health guidance and will make determinations on safety measures for these events in the coming months. Our top priority is the health and safety of our participants, so safety guidelines for these events will evolve to match public health guidance.”

While many organizations have switched mostly or entirely to virtual events and meetings, the Wisconsin Dairy Products Association (WDPA) has continued its in-person events, though with added precautions. Executive Director Brad Legreid says the association did not make this decision lightly.

“We had hours and hours of discussion, planning and studying COVID regulations, not only in the county and state, but also federal guidelines,” he says. “Between our staff and board of directors, we came to the conclusion that what was best for our members was to hold safe events this last year.”

Since it was safer to be outdoors and golf courses remained open, WDPA held a golf outing in September 2020, providing face masks and individual hand sanitizer bottles to all participants. A month later, instead of its traditional Dairy Symposium, WDPA hosted an outdoor evening reception along with a golf outing in Door County, Wisconsin. Hand sanitizer, masks and social distancing again were provided and encouraged.

After COVID-19 guidelines and restrictions relaxed this spring, WDPA this year continued to host its golf outing and traditional Dairy Symposium and saw record turnouts. It also resumed hosting the World Dairy Expo Championship Dairy Product Contest, and judging took place last month while following face masking and social distancing requirements in Madison, Wisconsin.

Legreid notes that WDPA’s decision to continue holding in-person events with extra safety precautions was driven by its members’ desire to meet face-to-face. He adds that each organization must do what works best for them and their members, and different approaches are just as respected.

“As you know, the dairy industry is a very social industry,” he says. “We take it very seriously. When we do hold an event, and it’s successful, and we see smiles, hear laughter and can see each other again, it makes it all worth it.”

Without question, the dairy ingredients and related products industry is “people-centric,” focused on relationships and trust, Anderson says. He adds that ADPI pivoted to virtual events over the last year-and-a-half rather than canceling them because members needed to remain connected and informed.

“It is critically important to all of us to resume in-person meetings to enable relationships to be built and developed,” he says. “Our businesses did not stop, but it did take on many different dimensions in facing and adapting to ‘pandemic’ times and challenges. If we in the dairy products industry are nothing else, we are resilient!”

CMN


Emmi Roth acquires Athenos Feta brand from Lactalis Group

September 3, 2021

FITCHBURG, Wis. — Emmi Roth, in partnership with Emmi Group, this week announced it has acquired Athenos, which includes the No. 1 Feta in the United States. This acquisition from the Lactalis Group complements Emmi Roth’s extensive range of high-quality locally produced and imported specialty cheeses and strengthens the company’s long-standing dedication to the specialty cheese industry, Emmi Roth says.

“This is an exciting day for Emmi Roth,” Tim Omer, president and managing director at Emmi Roth, said in yesterday’s announcement. “We’re continuing to focus on the specialty cheese industry that we really care about. We take pride in providing the best specialty cheese to our customers and consumers, and adding Athenos to our family will strengthen our product range and allow us to offer another great line of products.”

As the leading Feta brand in the United States, Athenos generated net sales of almost $90 million in 2020. Emmi Roth notes Feta has benefited from recent changes in consumer consumption habits, and volume sales in the Feta category are up 22% versus last year, according to IRI data. Emmi Roth adds Athenos also will benefit from its strong retail and foodservice connections as well as its marketing expertise to reach new consumers through digital marketing and social media.

Kraft Heinz agreed to sell the Athenos business to a U.S. affiliate of Lactalis Group in autumn 2020 as part of a natural cheese transaction previously announced by the companies. In fulfillment of conditions identified during the customary antitrust review, the Lactalis Group agreed to sell the Athenos business on to Emmi.

Emmi’s acquisition of the Athenos business includes the rights to the Athenos brand as well as other existing rights and contracts in connection with this business. The products themselves have been contract manufactured, processed and distributed to order for many years, and Emmi says it plans to preserve this established value chain. The transaction remains subject to final approval by U.S. regulators. The parties have agreed not to disclose the purchase price.

CMN


U.S. dairy export volume rises 7.2% in July over a year ago

September 3, 2021

WASHINGTON — U.S. dairy exports in July totaled 195,029 metric tons (milk solids equivalent), up 7.2% from July 2020, according to the latest data reported by the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC). U.S. dairy exports in July were valued at $667.9 million, up 20.6% from a year earlier, thanks to a surge in higher-value products in addition to overall volume growth, USDEC says.

Skim milk powder and nonfat dry milk (SMP/NDM) exports in July totaled 72,990 metric tons, down 3.1% from July 2020. USDEC reports SMP/NDM exports to Mexico increased 14%, while shipments to were down 30% to Southeast Asia, likely due to continued port congestion in the United States.

Dry whey product exports in July totaled 53,384 metric tons, up 17.8% from volumes a year earlier, led by sales to China which were up 33% over July 2020, USDEC reports.

U.S. cheese exports in July totaled 36,804 metric tons, up 26.8% from year-ago exports. Cheese shipments were up in all of the top markets: 4% in Japan and Korea, 23% in Mexico and 83% in Latin America. USDEC says a combination of factors appears to be driving gains in Mexico and Latin America, including favorable pricing, vaccination progress and economic reopenings, and improving tourism numbers.

Exports of lactose totaled 32,165 metric tons in July, down 2% from a year earlier. Shipments were up in Southeast Asia and Japan and Korea, and down in China, USDEC says.

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Today's Cheese Spot Trading
September 23, 2021


Barrels: $1.6000 (+2)
Blocks: $1.7075 (-1 3/4)


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Cheese Production
U.S. Total July
1.149 bil. lbs.


Milk Production
U.S. Total July
19.140 bil. lbs.

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