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Farm groups form Ag Workforce Coalition to fix immigration policy
In dairy politics; with dairy policy reform on hold, National Milk (NMPF) is ramping up attention on an issue affecting the day-to-day operations of many dairies, immigrant labor availability. NMPF CEO Jerry Kozak said “There’s continued pressure from the business community, including agriculture that our current ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ employment system is broken.” “All of these things are aligning to create a more favorable political climate. There is light at the end of this tunnel.”

NMPF hosted a conference call, Jan. 16, to discuss recent developments on the issue. Among those is the formation of the Agriculture Workforce Coalition (AWC), an organization seeking to ensure America’s farms, ranches and other agricultural operations have access to a stable and skilled workforce.” NMPF is one of 11 founding members of AWC.

Mike McCloskey, chair of the NMPF’s immigration task force, said solving the issue is critical to the future of the U.S. dairy industry and to food supply and safety issues impacting consumers.
Dairy will be represented at Super Bowl this year. The International Dairy Foods Assoc.’s SmartBrief reported that the Milk Processor Education Program, which is responsible for a number of the well-known “Got Milk?” advertisements, is buying a 30-second commercial to be aired in the second quarter of Super Bowl XLVII. 
Dwayne Johnson, known as “The Rock,” will appear in the commercial, which intends to show a father going to great lengths to procure milk for his children’s cereal.

Cash dairy prices mixed this month
Cash dairy product prices were mixed the third week of the New Year. The block cheese price closed that Friday in Chicago at $1.6875 per pound, down 3.25 cents on the week but 18.25 cents above a year ago when they tumbled 9 cents to $1.5050. The barrels closed at $1.6375, down 3.5 cents on the week and 13.5 cents above a year ago. Nine cars of block traded hands on the week and 18 of barrel. The AMS-surveyed U.S. average block price inched up 0.7 cent, to $1.7542, while the barrels averaged $1.7384, up 2.5 cents.

Cumulative cheese production for the first eleven months of 2012 was up 2.5 percent from 2011, according to USDA’s Dairy Market News (DMN). Cheese featuring in retail print ads was reduced after the holidays according to the National Dairy Retail report. 
FC Stone dairy economist Bill Brooks noted in the Jan. 14 eDairy Insider Opening Bell that “beginning this month, dairy producers will start to see the recent declines in dairy product prices in their milk checks. They know the lower milk prices are coming and will probably start to cull their lower-producing cows, but I’m not sure culling will be strong enough to offset the number of heifers coming into the milk herd.” 

USDA’s Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook reported that; “Until the end of December, weekly dairy cow slaughter has been above year-earlier levels and the 3-year average since early in 2012, yet dairy cow numbers for much of 2012 remained above 2011. Along with steady replacement heifer prices, this high slaughter rate suggests some herd freshening among producers. Expectations of moderating feed prices, down from last summer’s drought-induced highs, led to slightly higher 2013 forecast dairy cow numbers in January.” 

The dairy herd is expected to average 9.14 million head for 2013, according to the Outlook. Yield per cow was forecast at 21,880 pounds per cow, unchanged from December. Production for 2013 was projected at 199.9 billion pounds, up slightly from last month based on the higher expected cow numbers.

Cash butter continued the previous week’s small rally, closing Friday at $1.5050 per pound, up a nickel on the week but 6.5 cents below a year ago. Six cars were sold on the week. AMS butter averaged $1.5229, down 1.2 cents. 

Butter churning is “active”, “increased” or “above demand” across the country, according to DMN. Cream offerings remain heavy and butter is going into inventory, sometimes manufacturer’s inventory and sometimes buyer’s inventory. Export interest has improved. 
Cash Grade A nonfat dry milk slipped a half-cent, to $1.53, while Extra Grade remained at $1.56. AMS powder averaged $1.5482, down 3 cents, and dry whey averaged 65.66 cents, up 0.8 cent.
USDA’s weekly update says milk production across the U.S. ranges from steady to increasing with the exception of Florida which has experienced higher temperatures and humidity thus lowering cow comfort levels and production. Manufacturing milk supplies are heaviest in the Northeast, but more manageable compared to the holiday period. Processing plants in the rest of the country are working on reduced schedules as yearend milk supplies are worked through and other fluid handlers and smaller processors have resumed normal intakes. 

The February Federal order Class I base milk price was announced by USDA at $18.21 per cwt., down 76 cents from January but $1.18 above February 2012, and equates to about $1.57 per gallon. That put the two-month average at $18.59, up from $17.92 a year ago and $15.55 in 2011.

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of Farm World. Readers with questions or comments for Lee Mielke may write to him in care of this publication.