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New York City schools limit lunchtime milk choices
By Lee Mielke

While many schools throughout the country have expanded the varieties of milk being offered to students, schools in New York City are doing the opposite. The International Dairy Foods Association’s, Chip Kunde, reported that the city school system has removed a number of milk choices, citing the need to reduce obesity but Kunde said “They have overlooked all of the nutritional benefits that milk has to offer.”

They have phased in restrictions on ala carte offerings and the lunch line and, in many New York schools, kids now only have 1 percent regular and nonfat regular to choose from and on certain days, fat-free chocolate.

The decision runs contrary to what has happened in schools in St. Louis and other markets, Kunde said, that have expanded their offerings of milk and that has led to increased sales and consumption.

The good news, according to Kunde, is that New York Councilman, Bill de Blasio, introduced a resolution calling for an investigation of the decision. IDFA applauds the resolution, Kunde said, and will work with producers and processors to make sure it gets passed and reverses what the district did. He called it a “dangerous precedent.”

The schools have banned soft drink sales, according to Kunde, but made Snapple, a high fructose corn syrup drink, the official school drink and “they were roundly criticized for it and this looks like the second criticism to come.” Interestingly, it was announced this week that the nation’s largest beverage distributors have agreed to end nearly all soft drink sales in schools.

National Milk and more than two dozen agricultural organizations are pressing Congress to clarify that regulations on super fund sites not be applied to manure on farms. National Milk’s, Chris Galen, reports that environmental groups and even some local and state government agencies are using the regulations to target livestock operations and treating manure like it was toxic waste.

Farmers for Clean Air and Water want Congress to “clarify its intention,” Galen said, “To clean up toxic waste but not necessarily go after manure,” because a farm is different from a waste site and manure can be a “helpful crop nutrient.”

He admitted that manure can be an environmental problem if it’s overly concentrated and is why they’re not seeking exemption from the Clean Air or Clean Water Acts or state odor laws. At issue is the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act.

A bill to do that has been introduced in the House (HR4341) and has more than 127 cosponsors among Republicans and Democrats, according to Galen, and a companion bill is expected to soon be introduced in the Senate.

Environmental activist groups oppose the legislation and Galen predicts it will be a “big battleground” because the activists advocate that farms with as few as 100-200 cows be regulated like industrial toxic waste sites and spills such as Love Canal and Times Beach. “That’s inappropriate,” he said, and he called on farmers to contact their elected officials and urge them to support this legislation.

The USDA issued its annual year-end summaries on 2005 dairy product manufacturing and dairy farmer income. Dairy Profit Weekly editor, Dave Natzke, talked about the findings in his DairyLine report. “Simply put, more milk equals more dairy products, but lower prices for farmers,” Natzke said. Dairy farmers marketed a record 176 billion pounds of milk in 2005, about 3.5 percent more than 2004, and a lot of that milk went into cheese vats.

2005 cheese output totaled more than 9 billion pounds, almost 3 percent more than the year before. American-type cheeses, led by cheddar, still account for the largest share and totaled more than 3.8 billion pounds. But production of Italian varieties, such as mozzarella and provolone, grew by nearly 4 percent last year, and pulled nearly equal to American-type cheeses in annual production.

Wisconsin edged out California to remain the leading cheese producing state, according to Natzke, and those two states accounted for nearly one-half of all cheese (excluding cottage cheese) in the United States.

More milk went into butter churns as well as production totaled more than 1.3 billion pounds in 2005, up more than 8 percent from 2004. California and Wisconsin produced almost 60 percent of all U.S. butter.

USDA also reports there were 1,081 dairy manufacturing plants in 2005, down about a dozen from 2004, and about 410 of those plants produce cheese.

Turning to farmers, Natzke reported that two factors influenced income from milk sales: volume and average price. In 2005, higher volume was offset by lower prices, he said.

The average All-Milk price was $15.20 per cwt., down about 93 cents from 2004, “So even though production was up,” Natzke said, “When you multiply production by price, U.S. producers saw gross income from the sale of milk fall by about $700 million, from $27.4 billion in 2004 to $26.7 billion in 2005, a decline of about 2.4 percent.

“Putting it on the cow level,” Natzke said, “When you factor in the lower price, milk income generated from each cow (producing 19,756 lbs.) averaged $2,976 last year, down $83 from the year before.”

Milk receipts in California, at $5.22 billion, and Wisconsin, at $3.53 billion, were down slightly from 2004. Combined, those two states generated almost 33 percent of the nation’s total dairy receipts, Natzke said.

The April Federal order Class III milk price dropped 18 cents. The USDA announced the benchmark price Friday at $10.93 per cwt., down $3.68 from April 2005. The 2006 average now stands at $11.91, down from $14.38 a year ago. The April Class IV price is $10.36, down 32 cents from March, and $2.25 below a year ago.

Class III futures look to bottom out in May at $10.82, based on trading late Friday morning. June was trading at $10.90, July $11.27, and August $11.59, with the peak in September at $11.90, followed by October at $11.68, November $11.70, and December $11.69. The April Milk-Feed Price Ratio plunged to its lowest level in nearly three years, falling 23 points to 2.47, according to the USDA’s latest “Ag Prices” report, and compares to 3.18 in April 2005.

The All Milk Price was estimated at $12.10 per cwt., down 50 cents from last month’s revised estimate, and compares to $15.20 a year ago. Corn averaged $2.11 per bushel, up a nickel from March’s revised estimate, and 11 cents above April 2005. The soybean price, at $5.39 per bushel, was down 18 cents from March’s revised estimate, and 64 cents below April 2005. The alfalfa hay price, at $110 per ton, was up $10 from last month, and $5 above April 2005.

Cash block cheese ended the first week of May still at $1.16 per pound, unchanged on the week, but 28.5 cents below a year ago. Barrel closed Friday at $1.1250, down three-quarters on the week, and 24 cents below a year ago. Four cars of block traded hands and two of barrel. The NASS U.S. average block price hit $1.1599, up 1.2 cents. Barrel averaged $1.1351, down 0.2 cents.

Butter closed at $1.1750, down a half-cent on the week, and 18.5 cents below a year ago. Only two cars sold. NASS butter averaged $1.1499, up 1.1 cents.

There was 6.8 million pounds of nonfat dry milk purchased this week under the price support program, raising the cumulative total to 27.3 million, compared to 31.8 million at this time a year ago.

This farm news was published in the May 10, 2006 issue of Farm World.