NMPF President’s Update – July 17, 2020

Balance of CFAP Payments Coming End of August, USDA Says – In a welcome development for dairy producers still recovering from the low-priced milk checks of the spring, the USDA said this week that the second round of Coronavirus Food Assistance Program payments will be issued by the end of August.

In comments this week to Agri-Pulse, Bill Northey, USDA’s undersecretary for farm production and conservation, said there should be sufficient resources in the $16 billion CFAP fund to soon pay farmers the remaining 20% of what they are due.

Recall that when dairy and other farmers sign up for CFAP assistance, they are initially paid 80% of their eligible payment. USDA had been circumspect about how much of the remaining funds will be provided, but it now looks like dairy farmers will soon receive the entire payment of $6.20 multiplied against first quarter milk production. To date, dairy producers have received about $1.2 billion of the $5.9 billion total paid to all farmers and ranchers. Signup for CFAP is still open and ends Aug. 28.

NMPF Publishes Another Coronavirus Dairy Toolbox – We’ve just released the seventh in our series of farmer-focused resource kits to update the many resources available to help the dairy production chain deal with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. New and updated guidance for the prevention and management of coronavirus on dairy farms is available here on our website, which also compiles federal assistance offerings for which many producers are eligible. Visit www.nmpf.org/coronavirus for additional resources.

Dietary Guidelines Mostly Positive for Dairy – The highly-anticipated release this week of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s final report reaffirms dairy’s crucial role in a nutritious diet.

The report highlights the importance of nutrient-rich dairy foods to healthy eating patterns across the lifespan and maintains the recommendation to consume three servings of dairy/day in most food patterns.

Disappointing in the report, however, is the committee’s failure to fully acknowledge newer and emerging science that shows neutral to positive effect on health of dairy foods at all fat levels. In its recommendations for the future, the committee did note the need to examine the effects of different sources of saturated fat on health, indicating that in their view the existing data is “very limited.”

As was the case with the report’s dairy recommendations, overall, not much is different compared to the 2015 version of the Dietary Guidelines. The DGAC’s final scientific advisory report noted that Americans overall need more dairy in their diets, with 88 percent of them falling short of recommendations. That figure includes 79 percent of 9 to13-year-olds, who rely heavily on the school-lunch program to meet nutritional needs. The report also highlights dairy’s unique place as a provider of key nutrients that otherwise would be under-consumed in American diets.

One of the report’s strongest recommendations was that that Americans should eat less added sugar. [I don’t want to talk about the committee’s other major recommendation that men should limit alcohol intake to no more than one drink per day. What are they thinking? In the middle of a pandemic??]

During the next phase of the guidelines process, which includes a review by other NGOs and the public, we will continue to emphasize that the status quo, while overall positive for the role of most dairy foods in the diet, needs some new thinking. NMPF and IDFA have delivered that message repeatedly, including in a letter last month to the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health & Human Services. USDA and HHS are accepting written public comments on the committee’s final report through August 13, and the public will also have an opportunity to provide oral comments on the scientific report to the departments at a public meeting on August 11.

Clay Detlefsen, NMPF’s senior vice president for regulatory affairs, discussed the science behind the Dietary Guidelines report on the “Adams on Agriculture” podcast this week. “We think there is a lot of good research out there on full fat dairy that says it’s not harmful, and beneficial in some cases, and they didn’t focus enough time on that emerging research,” he noted.

Value vs. Volume Comparison Shows Appeal of Real Milk – While the dietary guidelines’ continued inclusion of real milk as an essential source of key nutrients is a victory in our battle against fake dairy products, we still have to combat the misinformation, often driven by vegan activists, about the relative popularity of real dairy vs. imitators.

Our latest edition of Dairy Defined, released this week, examined how plant-based food marketers use clever – and misleading – statistics to make their products seem more popular than they are. Plant-based activists like to measure sales by value, which has a bias toward more expensive products. But measured by the more honest assessment of the volume of products actually sold, this year consumers have bought 1.7 billion gallons of milk through mid-June, while plant-based alternatives have sold only 0.17 billion gallons year-to-date – meaning real milk outsold its competition by more than 10 to 1.

I’m closing today another reminder about the American Butter Institute’s annual joint conference with the American Dairy Products Institute. The meeting later this month is a virtual one being held in limited time blocks over five days, from July 27-31. This year’s conference schedule and registration information are available here.

Thanks for reading this week’s report. I hope you have a great, and safe, weekend.