A UT National Championship – Born of Corn, with TN Ag!

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A #FlashbackFriday – 20 year Anniversary post looking back at UT’s National Championship Win in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 4, 1999!  Ag was involved! 

[[ Note – this was originally published on 9 January 1999, in a column I contributed to the Kingsport Times-News. ]]

“Corn may not grow at all on Rocky Top, but it had a huge impact on the harvest of college football’s national championship bu a Big Orange combine!

Yup, in more ways than one, summer’s slim stalks with big ears mean that we vapid Volunteer fans can at last sigh with satisfaction that a crystal football will now adorn the University of Tennessee’s trophy case! Whoever would have thought that something as humble as a kernel-filled, cylindrical-shaped object born of the soil would give birth to the reality that Tennessee footballs now reigns as pigskin royalty?

This championship born of corn actually took root last January when those corn-fed Nebraska ‘Huskers shucked our fair Vols of all hope of a ’97 championship in the Jan. 1998 Orange Bowl, whenNebraska won 42-17.  Fulmer and staff, although disappointed, made the best of the situation and learned what proper nutrition and conditioning contributed to crossing the Championship line, and they worked harder.

And, as Tee Martin and Peerless Price and Al Wilson entered spring practice with a newfound determination, so farmers entered their fields to plant seeds of corn destined to help pay for a BCS National Championship game.

It took 160,000 acres of prime cropland to grow the specialized white corn which ended up as the primary sponsor of the ‘Tostitos’ Fiesta Bowl!

Since Frito-Lay needs over 300 million pounds of corn to fill America’s demand for Tostitos, these corn fields need to be as proficient at kicking out kernels as Jeff Hall is at kicking points between the uprights!  All told, Frito-Lay utilizes over 1 billion pounds of shelled corn each year to fill all of its corn snack sales!

Tostitos became the Fiesta Bowl sponsor in 1996, and thus began a corn farmer’s contribution to Phillip Fulmer’s tortilla shower on Monday evening!  [Jan. 4, 1998].

Although the corny side of Fiesta activities was courtesy of Illinois farmers, local agriculturists have played a major role in this year’s championship season as well.

Seeing the need for a stable, reliable supply of farm inputs, a team of Tennessee farm leaders had the foresight to form an organized system of stores over 50 years ago.  Now known as Tennessee Farmers Co-op, this agribusiness shifted its marketing scheme a couple of years ago, just as the Tennessee secondary adjusted to contain FSU’s Warrick, their lightning quick receiver.

Since Tennessee’s farming community now includes a large amount of part-time farmers and rural homeowners, the Co-op system saw the need for reaching a broad-based audience with ever-changing product lines.  And what better way to reach millions than through the Vol Network?!?!

Yes, for the past several years, your farm neighbors have helped bring you the familiar resonations of “It’s Football Time in Tennessee!”  Through TFC’s sponsorship of our beloved John Ward and Bill Anderson, football fanatics everywhere have benefitted from the dollars of farmers which brought every moment of the championship march to the radios of all true UT supporters!

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The Tennessee Beef Industry Council, a non-profit organization which educates the public about beef’s benefits in a healthy diet, is responsible for the “Beef, It’s What You Want!” commercials on the Vol Network.  These advertisements are funded through beef check-off funds, collected every time a farmer sells cattle in the state of Tennessee.

[[[ Note: In 2017, The Tennessee Beef Industry Council celebrated its 30th Anniversary as a Vol Network Sponsor, and they celebrate Beef Day every season  at Neyland stadium ]]]

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And who’s to say how beef’s protein contributed to the muscle power of linemen as they protected Tee Martin and sacked opposing quarterbacks?  Would there have been a National Championship without steaks and burgers?

As a farmer’s daughter, I first became a UT fan while riding with my dad in a combine.  John Ward and Bill Anderson kept me posted on the exploits of Dewey Warren and Curt Watson.

As a student at the University of Tennessee, I sat for many long hours in the stadium with John Majors at the helm.  I swung in the Upper Deck to the stadium-wide strains of “Hey Jude” as the Orange finally defeated the “the Bear.”  [Alabama Coach Bear Bryant]

John and Bill have been my connection to Neyland in the past few years as cows had to be milked at gametime, or harvest and crops or cattle had to be tended.

UT Football is almost as much as part of my heritage as agriculture, and my memories of each overlap and become intermingled until the turf of the stadium ripples back into the pasture grasses from which it evolved.

And on a cold January night when ice had to be broken on ponds so cattle could drink, the UT Volunteers were destined to bread through the ice and drink of the joys of a National Championship!

Farming was there – and farming will be there until the next time we hear again “It’s Football Time in Tennessee!”

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Another Ag / John Ward / Vol Network tie – not a part of the original column:  Dairy Farms in Tennessee were an early sponsor of the Vol Network, through an in-state dairy checkoff program.  John Ward was in his early days as a broadcaster, and was helping to figure out a way to help introduce Coach Doug Dickey in his first season as head coach.  Ward sold ads to the Tennessee “Milk People,”  A slogan “For the Lip that Lasts, Drink Milk!”   In Mr. Ward’s Tribute in June of 2018,  Coach Dickey spoke fondly about this relationship during the Celebration of Life.  A video of Dickey’s tribute is here.

And John Ward even did some ads for Milk himself.

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PS – Where has this column been hiding for 20 years?  Kind of ‘old-school filing’  (yet very effective!) with file pocket folders and Rubbermaid tubs!

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Here’s to hoping we’ll hear those Magic Words again in the near future!  Since Coach Jeremy Pruitt has said his favorite food is ‘corn’bread, maybe that’s an omen?!?!

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Michigan Spartan LLC: Major ‘Processing Campus’ to be built in Michigan

A News Digest about Michigan’s $510 Million Processing Complex: DFA, Glanbia, Select Milk, and Proliant are Partners

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On Thursday, August 9, 2018, Michigan announced a monumental project which will fill part of the void in worldwide dairy processing capacity.
Michigan Spartan LLC is the business entity developing a ‘world class dairy processing facility’  expected to process over 8 million pounds of milk a day when fully operating, said to be by September of 2020.  American Cheese is projected to be a primary product, with whey permeates, a by-product of cheese production used for food and feed applications, also a product offering.
The new facility is a partnership between Dairy Farmers of America (DFA),  Glanbia, Select Milk Producers, and Proliant Dairy Ingredients.  The venture is said to be similar to Southwest Cheese, a previously existing partnership of DFA, Glanbia, and Select Milk.
Michigan Milk Producers will also be a milk source for the facility.
The evolution of the project included a number of local and regional economic development and government agencies, with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s Michigan Strategic Fund board an integral player.  The Michigan Department of Agriculture was also involved.
The sheer magnitude of all the agencies and efforts involved in this monumental project offers many lessons to others considering dairy development efforts in any location.
The project is multi-national in scope, and involves worldwide dairy industry heavyweights.   Dairy Farmers of America is North America’s 2nd largest cooperative and 8th largest dairy company.  Select Milk Producers is North America’s 8th largest dairy cooperative according to Progressive Dairy, (6th largest on USDA’s Top 100 Ag Co-ops – last available, 2016 numbers) and 14th largest co-op on that composite  ranking.  Glanbia Nutritionals is North America’s 22nd largest dairy company, and a subsidiary of Glanbia PLC, based in Kilkenny Ireland. Proliant is based in Ankeny, Iowa.

Following is a digest compiled from media reports of today’s (August 9, 2018) from Michigan and other areas:

From the Detroit News:  “We really try to grow the value of the agriculture industry so that most of the commodities stay here in the state, have them processed here, keep the farmers here,” is a statement from  MEDC CEO Jeff Mason. The project is slated to receive $26.5 Million in Tax Abatements over 15 years. 

From the Lansing State Journal (makes one marvel at the effort put into project):  the project involved a number of state and local government agencies, included tax concessions on several levels, with these project parameters:
  • 146 acres in the site
  • Will process about 8 Million pounds of milk a day (mostly American style)
  • Will produce about 300 million pounds of cheese per year
  • Will operate  24/7, 365 days per year
  • Notes similarities to Southwest Cheese in New Mexico [another Glanbia / DFA / Select Milk joint venture]
  • Will use by-products from each layer of processing (whey from cheesemaking, then permeate from whey concentrated for dairy solids)
  • 259 jobs at the cheese plant
  • 38 jobs at the adjacent whey permeate plant

From Crain’s Detroit Business;  a business publication in the area:

  • Another $40 Million in Tax Incentives likely to come in the future may drive total investment from $510 to $550 Million
  • The project is part of Michigan’s Agriculture Processing Renaissance Zone initative, a program which assisted with another $58 million dairy processing facility (Foremost Cooperative) and a soybean processing facility earlier this year
  • “Adding this capacity to our ecosystem . . . is really going to bring stability to the market” – Peter Anastor, Division Director, Michigan Department of Agriculture

From The Charlotte Observer (an AP story)

  • Glanbia will oversee commercial, tecnical, and business operations
  • The project considered other sites in other locations

 

A worldwide milkshed suffering from a lack of modernized processing capacity should benefit from this project.

Note: Additional links and updates may be added in the future to this blog post.

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$52 Million Settlement Brings On Bigger Picture Concerns

NMPF and Related Entities settle CWT Class Action Lawsuit for $52 Million

No Guilt Admitted by Settlement

Name of Case: Edwards et al v. National Milk Producers Federation, et. al

Website containing several very pertinent court documents: www. boughtmilk. com

 (Note:  It is very troublesome to see that this case challenges the previous immunities, abilities, and parameters of the Clayton Act, Capper-Volsted, and the Sherman Act, important to the function of agricultural co-ops.  However, there will be many statements found in court transcripts, depositions, and other events in this suit which may shed light on the reasons for the Settlement.)

 BRIEF SUMMARY:

 The SETTLEMENT, DEFENDANTS, ATTORNEY FEES, and EXPENSES:

  • A Settlement Amount of $52 Million Dollars has been announced, in a 20-page  agreement dated August 11, 2016.
  • $26 Million is to be placed in an Escrow Account 30 days after preliminary approval [by the Court] of the Settlement Agreement.  The balance of $26 Million is to be deposited in same Escrow Account within 90 days after the Preliminary Approval is entered.
  • Documents indicate Settlement accounts will be funded by National Milk Producers, although member Co-ops Dairy Farmers of America (noted as successor to Dairylea by merger), Land O’Lakes, and AgriMark) are named in the court documents.
  • Attorneys Fees & Expenses to be deducted:  It is expected that approximately $17,333.333 million (1/3 of the Settlement Amount, along with a maximum of $2.4 million in expenses, shall be paid to plaintiffs’ counsel.  A maximum of $2 million is allowed for administration expenses.  Therefore, there is a total of $21.7 million to be deducted from the Settlement Amount of $52 Million, leaving approximately $30.3 million for distribution among class members.

Where will the Money to Fund the Settlement Money Come From?

The Settlement Agreement, as noted above, states that NMPF will fund the Settlement Accounts.  A valid question is “How will that $52 Million be replaced in the NMPF accounts?”  It is possible there could be an insurance policy that may cover this.  It is possible that NMPF may ask the defendant member co-ops for money to help fund the costs, but that would be between NMPF and the Boards of Directors of the Defendant Co-ops.  Producers should ask questions in their individual organizations if they are concerned about this matter

It is best to read the entire Settlement Agreement, along with other official court documents, which can provide thorough understanding.

Who are the class members eligible to file for damages?

CONSUMERS are Claimants:  Those consumers eligible for an estimated $30 damages/each are people who live in 15 states scattered over the country, plus the District of Columbia.   The final dollar amount will be determined by number of those who file claims Claims by Jan. 31, 2017.  The ‘Notice of Settlement’,  3 pages long, is the official court document which is the best reference, and is written per standards dictated by Federal Court Rules.  This map, which illustrates the states eligible to receive settlement monies, was downloaded from the boughtmilk.com website, which contains links to several pertinent court documents.

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BACKGROUND: 

The Lawsuit was filed in 2014 challenging CWT activity which began in 2003.  The suit was originally filed by several plaintiffs.  At least some or all of the individuals are associated with a group called Compassion over Killing.  Their Mission statement is:  “Working to end animal abuse since 1995, Compassion Over Killing exposes cruelty to farmed animals and promotes vegetarian eating as a way to build a kinder world.”  An article gives their perspective at the time of the filing.

And for those who want to know the many items that have been vetted, reviewed, and discussed in the course of the litigation, go back to the beginning, and read the “Complaint” (legal term), which set in motion the course of action.  This 52-pg. document is written by the plaintiffs, and was filed with the court in December of 2014.

PRINCIPLES and LOCATIONS: 

  •  Plaintiffs law firm, Hagens, Berman, Sobol, Shapiro LLP is based in Seattle, Washington and Berkely, California.
  • The case has been heard in United States District Court, Northern District of California, Oakland Division. The Honorable Jeffrey S. White is the District Judge who has presided over the litigation. As such, he signed off on the Class Certification Order.
  • Court Documents name the defendants who include National Milk Producers Federation and member co-ops DFA, Land O’ Lakes, and AgriMark. Their legal teams are based in several states in the Eastern United States.

Should the Defendants have settled?

 This is a question which only those intimately involved – and who are well versed in both class action law and federal court case law –  are qualified to answer.  There would have been a far greater financial risk had the case gone on to trial, along with significant additional legal expenses. Millions of dollars, and the risks of being liable for even hundreds of millions of dollars, quickly add up in all class action suits.

RECISSION? APPEAL?  Can the Settlement be Invalidated?

In the Settlement Agreement, there are a few clauses which refer to “Recission,” which describe what will happen  if the Settlement Agreement is appealed, or some other events which could void the agreeement.  It is far too early to predict if such actions will take place, but due to the fact they are mentioned in this agreement,  they can always occur.  The lengthy settlement process in the Northeast Milk Litigation is an example of ‘anything can happen’ in a court of law.

 BIG PICTURE QUESTIONS are raised about long-term CO-OP IMMUNITIES:

  • In general, the class action lawsuit challenged CWT as a vehicle for price-fixing and as a violation of antitrust. Due to the stature of all of the parties involved in developing the CWT, along with the fact a decade passed from the time CWT was instituted and before this suit was filed, it is difficult to understand the impact of the allegations in this suit at this time.
  • The CWT was initiated in 2003, and this suit was filed in 2014. The CWT was well publicized, and legal teams would have had significant input into its design. Why was the CWT not challenged legally at its inception?
  • Did those who designed the CWT miss something at the time, or have times changed and events in the decade since diluted the abilities of Capper-Volsted, the Clayton Act, and how they relate to the Sherman Act?

Questions going forward for all Agriculture Co-ops:

  • Will more lawsuits of this nature be initiated by AR groups? How will we in agriculture get prepared for them?
  • What other kinds of challenges will Capper-Volsted, the Clayton Act, and the Sherman Act have to withstand going forward from any other type of consumer group?
  • As will all big picture events occurring in agriculture today, this settlement could have implications far beyond a $52 Million Dollar Settlement. Only time will tell.

UPDATE –

A Bloomberg writer has posted this article on Sept. 8.  In my opinion, radical wording in the headline which is very shortsighted and shows a lack of knowledge and research into the program’s early days.    This is another example of how words can harm a challenged industry of great people mostly trying to maintain their family farms, which are a treasure to them.   We in agriculture have got to figure out why folks think so little of us, and farms that do feed a world are taken so much for granted. .

The Huffington Post has posted this article.

What’s Missing: 2008-2010 Dairy Crisis saw farm prices down the drain, and Fast Food Dollars and Taxes were generated by the hamburger industry

One item left out of the discussion of any ‘big media’ report is that if the program were designed to raise prices, then the years of 2008-2010 saw some of the worst milk prices in history as paid to farmers.  Many farmers were forced to exit the business in those years, and if they didn’t exit, lost many years of equity. However, if any of those numbers were brought up during the course of the suit’s activity, then a thorough study of the transcripts is required.

And then, there’s no doubt that the slaughtered cows, which were slaughtered by elective choice of the owners, many who may have been facing financial walls, went into the fast-food industry as hamburger.  Event the HuffPo article admits that.  However, what is left out is the amount of income this generated for the fast food industry, along with the tax dollars generated.

This story continues to evolve, and many questions remain.

#NationalIceCreamDay: Big Orange Spoonfuls Churned by Cruze Farm & Mayfield Dairy

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National Ice Cream Day (July 17th) has been served up with a spoonful (well, several spoonfuls) of local farm dairyliciousness !

In East Tennessee, in the very heart of Big Orange Country, ice-cream lovers are lucky to have many great flavors of ice cream available, which are produced using milk from local dairy farms.  Those many flavors are found in two different commercially available brands. Both brands, Cruze Farm, and Mayfield, are popular and iconic in their own right. And both brands support local economies all the way from cow-to-consumer!

Cruze Farm is a single farm which has elected to pursue the difficult path of being a single producer-handler.  They market several types of fluid milk, and are especially known for their buttermilk.  With a very memorable branding program featuring stylish milkmaids clad in gingham, Cruze Farm has become an East Tennessee  and southeast favorite over the past 25-or-so years. They recently opened a seasonal pop-up-shop near Market Square, a food hot-spot, in downtown Knoxville, TN.

Mayfield is a beloved commercial brand founded over a century ago in Athens, TN, and still based there, now under the Dean Foods umbrella.  Mayfield ice cream can be found in several states in the southeast and now expanding it’s geographic reach up the Eastern seaboard.

Due to its market scope, Mayfield supports many regional farms in the southeast, in turn contributing to local agribusiness and economies in the areas where those farms and cows are located. Dairy cows eat lots of feed, formulated and balanced in many different ways, with many different grains and forages.  Mayfield products, and the consumers who buy them, also support many area grain and hay farms who supply those cows with feedstuffs.  This is one way that a ‘regional food system’ which supports medium-sized family farms, continues to be sustainable.

On National Ice Cream Day, it seemed a natural fit to visit the new Cruze Ice Cream Shop. Many East Tennessee minds apparently were thinking alike, as a line out the door signaled the ice cream boutique’s popularity!

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Knoxville Food Tours, which has hosted nearly 6500 guests in over 700 tours, had a lively group ending their culinary tour of the downtown area with cones and cups!  We talked about how #NationalIceCreamDay is really a ‘thing!’  Did you know #JulyIceCreamMonth and Ice Cream Day were official declarations of Ronald Reagan?

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A member of the group, Katrina, also professed her love for ice cream’s parent – Milk!

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A group of folks who struck up a conversation as they made their way through line discovered they had several connections and common acquaintances through the UT College of Agriculture. (A couple already knew each other.)   It made for a great afternoon to spend time catching a sidewalk breeze and relishing the tasty treats!  From chocolate to strawberry to peach, a smorgasbord of flavors filled the cups and cones.

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And anyone who knows Emily already knew what flavor she was savoring – Coffee!

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National Ice Cream Day in Big Orange Country could only end with a nightcap of Orange Ice Cream, this time courtesy of Mayfield Dairy, even it it was accented with a bit of pineapple.

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Local Cows.  Community.  Conversation.  Local Farms. Ice Cream.  Local Economies.

National Ice Cream Day in Tennessee.  That’s how we ‘bowl!’

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Marking Brexit – A Snapshot of Change in a Milkshed Supper

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“Brexit,” an election in which the United Kingdom voted to secede from the European Union, is a day of historic proportions.  While voting took place  on Thursday, June 23, 2016, so many people voted, and the vote was so close that results were not known stateside until early in the wee hours of the morning on Friday, June 24th. The media went into a tailspin, and the financial markets had a pretty rough day.  Nothing knew when change happens.

To mark this occasion, it just seemed appropriate that a simple summer supper, highlighting a UK-US milkshed,  was the most perfect end to this very unique 24-hours in history.  And eventually, we’ll know the effects of this vote on the global milkshed.

The Dairy Dollar$ at stake?  In a  June, 2015 report, the United Kingdom was ranked  10th in the world market, projected to have a global $442.3 Billion value by 2019.   Germany and France, also members of the EU, are ranked 5th and 7th respectively.  Additional information about the EU dairy profile and output is here.   A 2013 article ranks the world’s top 20 countries. (Note: since this is 2013, there may be some slight changes, but this should be a good overview.)

The complexities of this day of Brexit, with geopolitical implications on all fronts, have been enough to make one dizzy with pundits on radio, television, and on social media weighing in on every angle possible – some of them spoke from a knowledgeable aspect. Some weighed in just to be saying something, and were grasping at straws, verging on ridiculous.  The smart ones were saying ‘we’ve never seen anything like this, but changes will be coming, and we’ll have to wait to see what they are.’

My opinion:  I don’t live in the United Kingdom, so it’s really improper for me to comment one way or the other on what was the right thing to do, or to speculate on the short- or the long-term implications, or what effect this will have on an American election later this fall.  It is far too early to know any of that, no matter how learned one is, or how many charts or polls are floating around on any form of social media.

However, I deeply admire and respect a people who voted of their own free will for change they felt was necessary – no doubt, driven by an undercurrent of discontent because of what they were experiencing in their everyday lives.  I cherish a form of government which allows those free-will votes, and allows the people to determine their fate. It was a close vote. Time will tell if that was a right vote, or not.

Because my roots – several generations back –  trace back to Scottish immigrants,, who, driven by their own sense of discontent, came to the US, I am interested in how it all settles out. That knowledge will come in due time.

My head was spinning with all the news, so a walk in a country lane with a far more simple purpose in mind was the perfect way to clear my head.

The sweet corn patch was sending an ‘I’m getting close to being ripe’ signal with rustling silks that were turning an inviting form of brown.  I’d been watching them for a few days, wondering ‘when?’  I couldn’t wait any longer, and came to the house with about a half-dozen ears just to check.

There’s nothing quite like the first ears of sweet corn out of a corn patch in any season.  The long wait over the winter – a dreary drought of corn-on-the-cob for a maize purist – only makes the anticipation that much harder to endure.  The mildly sweet flavor, not quite fully developed, that is enhanced with butter and salt.  Not manna – but oh, so close!

On this day of all days,  I couldn’t help but think about all of the changes this modern world has brought. That American grown corn is a variety called Obsession (yes, it’s a GMO sweet corn, a nod to safe food science with some weed control thrown in.)  And it’s wonderful.  And I feel very, very comfortable eating it.

The European Union is a big player in the world dairy marketplace.  The United Kingdom, in a June, 2015 report was ranked 10th in world production.

I had Kerrygold, an Irish butter I’m quite fond of, in the fridge, so that was the creaminess which buttered my corn tonight.  The plate?  Spode china, made in England, in a pattern called Milkmaid.  [The china was largely purchased at the American discount chains TJ Maxx and Tuesday Morning, retailers who source from all around the world.)  And the salt – from a Morton shaker, source unknown.

The best statement summing up Brexit and dairy came from Dr. Judith Bryans, Chief Executive of Dairy UK.  As reported in a Dairy Reporter article, she said:

“Dairy UK did not take a side in this debate because we knew regardless of the result, we would continue to operate in a global dairy marketplace and demonstrate our unwavering commitment to give the public nothing but the best of UK dairy.”
Dr. Judith Bryans, Chief Executive of Dairy UK

I’m betting that statement applied not only to dairy, but to other product sectors as well.

If the products are good enough, the market will get them to us.  The  UK has plenty of wonderful dairy products with storied reputations – Stilton and KerryGold are two – and the players in the marketplace will keep those trade pipelines open.

Some lines of farm equipment, also part of the global #milkshed, will be affected.  #McHale Hay Balers, made in Ireland, used by a lot of farms shipping to Kerrygold, and now imported into the United States, are one of the best hay balers I’ve ever seen operate.  An ag supply company I’m associated with  is now a dealer.  There may not be some changes in their availability, or there might be.

Whatever changes, even if there are any, will be dealt with by each company and distributors along the supply line.  The market will find a way to make it work.

In the meantime, I don’t plan on getting caught up in the flurry of ‘what ifs’ and ‘the sky is falling’ and ‘oh my goodness, folks got tired of the way things were going, and look what they did!’  No time for that, and very little that can be done to control it.

If you wish to read more of the early speculations about Brexit in general and food implications,  here are some suggestions:

1.) For “Brexit 101,” a general background of events that led to Brexit

2.)  For “What Happens Next,”  an explanation of what and when (Note: this is a process that will take several years.)

And please check back, I’m likely going to add some links here just to keep all of the appropriate Brexit information consolidated.

So for now, I’m going to work on things I can have more control over than Brexit speculation and fear-mongering.  I will eat more sweet corn, on English serveware, slathered with Irish butter.  Maybe not a celebration exactly, but this is a summer of history, which needs recognized.  I can  make sure that some of that corn gets into a freezer, or sold, or given to a few select individuals, and that I get some writing tasks and projects completed

The global milkshed is a part of a global economy.  That is a fact.  What is also a fact is that within that global economy, individual nations can change how they participate in that global economy, and Great Britain has done just that.

There’s always a big picture, and always a smaller snapshot, right in front of our face. The big picture sometimes changes that smaller snapshot, more immediately felt by an individual, and sometimes it doesn’t.  In the case of Brexit, we just don’t know yet.

I’m not going to let fear of change  – or what ‘may’ happen – ruin my summer, or my year. In fact, sometimes the greatest growth comes with change. We are all blessed to be witness to this historic transition.

 

 

 

 

#NationalHugABaristaDay; Hugging Bovine Baristas!

Who even knew there was a #NationalHugABaristaDay?   By Twitter algorithms, it’s today, June 11th!  (Don’t you just love the twitterverse we live in?)

So I’m celebrating with a post about two of my favorite things – cows and coffee!  (I just love bovine baristas, don’t you?)

How many of you have tried Caribou Coffee’s Premium Iced Coffee Beverage, a new and super-dairylicious, milk-based, caffeinated,  taste-bud sensation?  The first day I found it, May 15, at a Dollar General in East TN,  I was inspired to at least do a post for Facebook:

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And on that very same day, a dairy industry colleague, Sherry Bunting, picked me up for a short ride down to a farm on the NC-SC border. (Sherry was delivering a goat her daughter had sold to a SC #farmHer – perhaps another blog post in the making!)

Being the curious dairy industry communicators we are, and because Sherry needed caffeine for a long drive on down to Texas, we ended up at another Dollar General in Chesnee, SC.  We were SO GLAD (and kind of amazed at the karma involved at the timing of all this) when we found the same calcium-coffee concoction in that cooler.

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Dean Foods, one of America’s largest dairy processors, has developed and is distributing the beverage in a joint venture with Caribou Coffee.  Announced to be available by March, 2016,  this was the first day (May 15th) either of us had found it on a retail shelf.   Result: Two very excited Caribou Dairy beverage fans in one day!

Now – as to the #MILKSHED involved (all known from the information on a label):

These bottles were processed at a Dean Foods plant in Riverside, Ca, (Code #06-128), with the milk most likely originating from California herds. (Note:  educated guess based on milk transport and CA’s huge dairy cow presence and milk production, but not for sure known.)  It’s also a guess that this plant had the specialized equipment available needed to produce such a delightful product on a large basis. Dean Foods, because of its size and nationwide network, has the built-in distribution system required to bring the product to retail outlets across the country, in a cost-effective manner.

Even the labels are of a ‘new age.’

Many consumers, myself included, have been frustrated because ‘serving size’ didn’t necessarily match ‘container size.’  However, in this case, a shout-out to Dean Foods and Caribou for going a step further, and putting both ‘serving’ and ‘bottle’ size on the label!

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As for the nutrition, USDA is in the process of writing new label standards, and it appears that ‘added sugars’ will have to wait for a bit to be included.  If you are a diabetic or watching sugar intake, realize you must balance this aspect with other parts of your daily diet.

And lastly, the label engages one with a delightful message:  on this label of Sea Salt Caramel flavor, the message is “JUMP into life!  Just make sure the cap’s on tight first!’, then followed by some wordplay. Lessons in life, and lessons in marketing, too!  The messages differ for different flavors (Sea Salt Caramel, Chocolate Mocha, and Vanilla), so I’ll encourage you to go try some for yourself!

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Why is this Tennessee-southern gal OK with buying a drink made with milk from cows in California?  Several reasons apply:

  1. I have dairy friends in California, and they are experiencing an extremely challenging on-farm low price cycle as this is written. Anything that will help them move milk for new uses is very exciting.
  2. Dean Foods has several plants in the southeast, and if this beverage meets with widespread acceptance, then it means financial stability for Dean Foods in general, and that will benefit Dean plants across the country.  That’s good for both dairy farms and milk plants across the country.
  3. Any new product or beverage that helps sell milk in general is great!  Coffee drinks in the past few years have proven to be a big boost for dairy farms and milk consumption in general, and we cows and people in the dairy industry really appreciate that!  So many THANKS to all you lovers of Lattes, and Champions of Cappucino!
  4. I’ll keep buying regular milks produced by the cows in my neighborhood and processed at the local milk plants near me  – I’m a great believer in local food systems, and make a conscious effort to support that belief with my dollars.  However, a locally processed dairy beverage of this type is not conveniently  and readily available at the current time, in the paths where I most often travel.  There is a local processor who does make a similar product, and it is wonderful, but it’s often sold out on delivery!

For now, I think I’m going to heed that message of “JUMP,”  and go JUMP in the car, and find some of that Caribou Iced Coffee on this hot June afternoon!  I’ll be going to a Dollar General store, because I know that’s where I can get this in my small town.  Look for this at a retailer near you – you’ll be glad you did!

Have a dairylicious #NationalHugABaristaDay!  Party till those Cows Come Home!

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Milksheds 101 – A Primer about a “Cow”mplicated Topic

 

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A MILKSHED – just exactly what is it?

For the purposes of  this blog, a ‘milkshed’ is all of the factors and people related to bringing milk to a consumer.  Those factors include:

  1. Cows, mainly, but sometimes other mammals such as goats, sheep, water buffalo, or camels.  In my view, nut-based and plant-based beverages are not part of a true milkshed; they belong in a faux-milkshed.  However, I will freely acknowledge that sometimes allergies to mammalian milks necessitate the existence of the milk-alternative beverages.
  2. Farms and crops and feed for cows (Some farms have cows, some farms grow feed for others who have the cows.  Sometimes a farm does all of that, but often not in today’s world.)
  3. Farmers (farm families, farm managers, and farm workers)
  4. Agribusiness, livestock supply, farm supply companies, and veterinarians: those who provide products and services that farms need to stay in business
  5. Milk Handlers (milk brokers, co-ops, or farm owners /individuals) – those responsible for selling milk from farms to milk plants
  6. Transport systems – responsible for delivery of milk from farm to plant – includes trucking companies, and those who drive the trucks, those who service those trucks
  7. Milk processing plants – safety labs, quality control labs,  equipment, assembly lines, and some very expensive and very sanitary equipment.
  8. Distribution networks – from the milk plant to retail outlets such as stores, restaurants, or ice cream trucks!  Sometimes, depending on shelf-life of the product, warehouses and then to retailers or restaurants.
  9. Retailers – Groceries, restaurants, fast-food chains, convenience stores, caterers, ice cream parlors, cheese-mongerers, etc.
  10. REGULATIONS!  And again REGULATIONS!  Did you know the dairy industry is one of the most heavily regulated industries in the world?  At every step of the way, from farmer to retailer, there are volumes and volumes of local, state, federal, and in some cases, international regulations.
  11. LAWS and legal events:  Along with regulations, many local, state,  federal, and again, international laws touch that tall, cold, glass of milk.
  12. The consumer- the person who drinks a glass of milk or kefir, enjoys yogurt for breakfast, or eats a big bowl of ice cream as part of a celebration.  THANK YOU, to each and every consumer and afficionado of milk everywhere!

At every level of that milkshed – there are people, and jobs.  And those who supply  equipment and services for every level of the dozen steps of a milkshed above. (Really, there may be way more than a dozen – this is just how it worked out at this writing.)  Some of those people know only one level or niche of a milkshed, while others know and have experienced several aspects of a milkshed. Those who have ‘been there and done it’ are the ones I trust the most with accurate information about a complicated industry.

There are those who milk the cows, the farm families who live and manage the farm business (and it is a business), the milk fieldmen and fieldwomen who connect the milk plant or milk company and their quality standards with the farm,  writers and media folks who communicate to the public and within the different levels of the milkshed about industry events, farm kids, youth, college students and professors, and business executives – and more! Well, you get the picture – at least the start.

100 years ago, a milkshed was often as close as the backyard shed when the family cow was kept in a lot not far from the back door. Almost every residence had one cow.  If they didn’t have a cow, there was a nearby creamery, but the consumer pretty much knew where the cows and farms were that supplied that creamery.  Today, we live in a national or global milkshed that runs from coast-to-coast, and then around the world.

I am based in East Tennessee, but travel across the Southeast, so that is the local/regional milkshed with which I’m most familiar. However, my working knowledge and travel expands to a much wider base, from coast-to-coast, and border-to-border, and even ‘across the pond’ just a bit.

Those are the basics, but the reality is a Milkshed is much more complicated and intertwined than the very simplified explanation you see on this page.  Feel free to ask questions about anything milk!  Many of the answers I will know, some I will have to bring others in on, and some questions – well, answers may still be needed, just as answers are still needed for a lot of life issues.

I hope you enjoy the journey with me!

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