After more than two years of discussion and more than 130 meetings, the National Milk Producers Federation Board of Directors unanimously endorsed a comprehensive plan to correct shortcomings exacerbated during the pandemic regarding pricing regulations for milk.

Among the proposed changes, NMPF called for a return to the “higher of” Class 1 mover that was changed in the last farm bill.
NMPF also recommended that USDA update make allowances and review them every two years. Make allowances are based on estimates of what it costs to convert a hundredweight of raw milk into commodity dairy products such as cheese, butter, whey and nonfat dry milk. The proposal also addresses updating the Class 1 differential price system and milk component factors for establishing skim milk price formulas.

Federal milk marketing orders “establish minimum prices paid to farmers, ensure payments to farmers are accurate and timely, and provide market information,” NMPF said.

NMPF plans to submit its proposal to USDA for a hearing and a potential producer referendum on the order’s modernization yet this year. The International Dairy Foods Association previously said it would request a hearing only on the make allowances request.

GOP senators express concerns to DOE about small refinery exemptions

Ten Republican Senators have told the Department of Energy they have “strong concerns” about the agency’s process analyzing small refinery exemption applications under the Renewable Fuel Standard.

The letter from lawmakers including Sen. Cynthia Lummis, R-W.Y., cites a Government Accountability Office report that said the agency does not have “policies" and “procedures”  for consulting about and making exemption decisions with EPA, which ultimately decides whether to grant the exemptions from blending requirements.

Vilsack has full agenda in the Sunshine State

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack arrives today for a three-day trip to Florida, but he won’t have much time for golf, sunbathing or Disney.

Today, he’ll be in Miami Beach for a climate event hosted by the Aspen Institute, and tomorrow he’ll be speaking at the 2023 National Pork Industry Forum in Orlando, where he will “highlight USDA’s efforts to support the nation’s pork producers by creating new, more, and better markets, combating the spread of costly swine diseases, and more,” according to USDA.

The Commodity Classic is also in Orlando this year and Vilsack will be delivering the keynote address on Friday, just as he did in 2022 when the event was in New Orleans. Vilsack’s remarks will focus on how USDA “is working to create more, new, and better markets; increase competition, lower costs, and add value; and create new revenue streams for producers and their communities.”  

USDA’s Taylor heading to Panama

Alexis Taylor will be leading her first USDA trade mission as Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs this month. She’s going to Panama City, where U.S. participants will meet with buyers from Panama and other Central American countries.

“International trade is built on developing successful relationships between U.S. producers and the distributors and consumers in foreign markets,” Taylor said. “I look forward to connecting the trade mission’s participants to buyers throughout Central America and supporting our efforts to expand the U.S. presence in the region.”

Participants on the mission will be representing the USA Rice Federation, National Pork Board, United States Soybean Export Council, California Fresh Fruit Association, Blue Diamond Growers, Leprino Foods and many other companies and groups.

USDA seeks members for air quality task force

USDA is seeking nominees for a task force on agricultural air quality that has been dormant for years.

Established by the 1996 farm bill, the Task Force on Agricultural Air Quality Research last met in 2016, when it issued a broad set of recommendations to the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Its most recent charter expired in July 2022, and memberships expired in January. The charter was just renewed last month, allowing the Natural Resources Conservation Service to solicit membership for the next two-year term.

The task force “examines the intersection of agricultural production and air quality, and advises the Secretary on scientifically sound, cost-effective, federally supported agricultural solutions that can help improve air quality,” USDA said in a release.

Nominations must be emailed or postmarked by May 5 to be considered. Interested candidates can nominate themselves. The number of members has varied from 18-45 in the past.

Odds and ends: Animal antimicrobials, endangered species petition

FDA has extended the comment period until May 19 on draft guidance it issued in December on evaluating the safety of new animal antimicrobials on human health. The American Association of Swine Veterinarians, North American Meat Institute and National Pork Producers Council had sought an extension until June 18.

Four environmental groups have filed a petition with the Fish and Wildlife Service to list the pygmy rabbit, which resides in the sagebrush ecosystem covering more than 100 million acres in 13 Western states.

The petition, which triggers an initial 90-day review, calls livestock grazing “the most ubiquitous human-caused disturbance across the range of the pygmy rabbit, and thus it is one of the chief factors in contributing to or exacerbating certain cumulative effects on the species’ habitat.” 

He said it: “NMPF will work across the industry to ensure consensus support for FMMO modernization while representing the best interests of dairy producers. That includes conversations with key industry partners as we move forward with the plan that our members unanimously approved today.” -- Alan Bjerga, NMPF senior vice president of communications.

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