Maury Cox: Dairy Advocate. Milk Leader. Friend.

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“It’s the people that make the difference, and there’s no better people than dairy farmers and their families.” 
This is how Maury Cox summarizes his perception of the people he’s served – mostly in Kentucky, but extended to the Eastern United States – during his tenure as Executive Director of the Kentucky Dairy Development Council, a position he’s held since May 31, 2009.
Cox was honored by his peers and colleagues for his service to the Dairy during the Awards Banquet of the Kentucky Dairy Partners Annual Meeting in Bowling Green, KY on February 26, 2019.
Cox had announced a retirement date of March 1st, but since the position has not been filled as of press time, he will be available for additional duties until the time a new Executive Director is named.
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Maury Cox was honored at the KY Dairy Partners to recognize his service as Executive Director of the Kentucky Dairy Development Council. He was presented with a signatory crock, and was delighted to receive a new fishing pole, presented by Tom Hastings.  In case you didn’t know, Maury is almost as passionate about fishing as he is dairy cows and dairy people!
His leadership at KDDC culminates a life-long career in the dairy industry.  He began as a dairy farmer, and later worked for Kentucky Artificial Breeders Association / Select Sires.  He was a founding member of KDDC in 2005, and became the Dairy Consultant Director in 2007.
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As Executive Director, Cox worked closely with and relied on the efforts of his current team of Area Dairy Consultants, who serve four regions across the state.  From left to right (above), they are Meredith Scales, Jennifer Hickerson, Maury Cox, Beth Jones Cox, and Dave Roberts.
On any one day, Maury could be speaking to a committee at the KY Legislature in the morning, visiting a farm in in the afternoon with his barn boots on, and ending the day by promoting milk at a ballpark.
Without a doubt, Maury led his state during the most challenging time of all in 2018 as 19 dairy producers lost their milk contracts and markets.  With grace, poise, and an almost 24-hour effort, Maury led the way to 11 producers eventually finding a home for their milk with either Scioto Milk Producers Cooperative of Ohio, and some with DFA.  As an eiplogue, some of those 11 survivors have since gone out of business as well.
Maury has collaborated with many affiliated organizations to advance the dairy industry in Kentucky, in the Southeast, and across the country. For a number of years, he, working with others, such as the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, organized bus tours and educational trips on a regular basis.
Maury has always appreciated the role an ‘outside perspective’ and exposure to new ideas can play in enhancing a dairy farm when new ideas are applied. The Kentucky Department of Agriculture has been one of his most valuable working partners through the years on these outside trips.  Additionally, he is considered a “Senior Statesman” of the southeast dairy industry.
He has made a point to build bridges with other state producer groups, respecting that there are differences from region to region which affect farmers in every area across the country.  When he learned something that made a difference to Kentucky, he tried every way he could to make that a reality in his home state.
A prime example is the implementation of the Market Industry Leader of Kentucky (MILK) program. With KDDC organizing a collaborative effort of co-ops and processors, the effort was designed to make strong improvements in Kentucky milk quality in order to remain competitive in today’s milk marketplace.
Over the years, this program has supported milk quality improvements, putting $8 Million dollars back into the Kentucky farm economy.  A longer term result is that the collective Kentucky dairy industry is generally more sustainable.
Communications of the KDDC also went to the ‘next level’ under Maury’s leadership.  The Kentucky Milk Matters newsletter is read across the southeast, and is considered an accurate source of current information.
As a regional policy leader, Maury played an instrumental role in the Southeast Dairy Coalition, an informal working group of grass-roots dairymen from several states who worked together to navigate the challenges of the 2009-11 Dairy Crisis, as well as influence the 2012 Farm Bill.
Sometimes as a leader, and sometimes in collaboration with others, he has been a part of many meetings concerning milk pricing and Federal Milk Market Order function, and has worked to effect change in that sector as much as possible.  Getting timely information to his producers has always been a priority.
As parting words, Maury offers this perspective on the future:
“As long as supply outpaces demand, over-order premiums in most markets will be non-existent. Premiums are where the profit is.  Until dairy farmers come together and decide they want something different, fewer and fewer will continue in business.”
Maury’s plans includes more time to recreate and travel with his wife, Sue, and their family, to devote more care to his mother, and of course, spending more time at any favorite fishing spot or watching a Kentucky Ballgame (basketball might be his favorite!)  It’s safe to say he’s as passionate about those things as dairy!
Maury is also a man of deep faith, and applies faith and prayer to every situation. He shows Christian grace in his everyday and his professional life, and his approach to some very difficult situations is a testament to faith in action.
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Maury reminisces with some folks he’s worked with through the years: Bob Klingenfus, a former President of KDDC, Warren Beeler, Executive Director of Governor’s Office of Agriculture Policy, KY Dept.of Agriculture, and Eunice Schlappi, Office of Ag Marketing, KY Dept. of Agriculture.
Robert Klingenfus, a former President of KDDC, says:   “The Kentucky Dairy Community has benefited greatly from Maury’s leadership.  His dedication to serve producers was unparalleled, and he has navigated challenging events with a calm, steady hand.  We can never thank him enough for his efforts.”
Bob continues:  “Maury has been a help to countless dairy farmers. On the surface we see Maury helping with Milk quality problems, division of water issues. But what he is really good at is what he calls facilitating.  He is a good listener and when you are done venting,  he will give a few suggestions and  the names of people that can help you with your problem.  He is careful not to tell you what to do, but facilitates  you with the ability to achieve what you are seeking.  Maury has become the go-to man if you need something; he seems to know everyone. If you need a barn, Maury knows who has built one recently, or sell or buy cows same thing, he put people together to solve problems.
“It has been an honor and privilege to serve you. I am a lucky and blessed guy,” were Maury’s closing words on the evening of the KY Dairy Partners banquet.

Here’s to you, Maury!  Those sentiments are a thousand times reciprocated!  We know we’ll be seeing you around!

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We have been blessed you chose to serve us.

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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To Be “Milk” or Not to Be? That is the Question!

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UPDATE: Comment Period Extended Until October 11!

August 27th is Deadline for Comments to FDA on Milk Standards of Identity

Background Information for the purpose of preparing public comments to the FDA concerning Standards of Identity for Milk

 

On March 29, 2018, FDA introduced the  “FDA Nutrition Innovation Strategy,” a comprehensive effort to review labeling of foods and an impact on human health, particularly in relation to preventable and chronic diseases.

“An almond doesn’t lactate, I will confess.”  And with those words, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, in a July 17 report by Politico,  amped up the debate about the relabeling of plant beverages which label themselves as ‘milk,’ which many believe are misleading and deceptive.

Although firm enforcement of FDA standards of identity should have been implemented several decades ago when “Plant Beverages” or “Nut Milks” first began to creep onto ‘dairy’ shelves, they were not.  No one knows the reasons why, but here we are, now with a debate and labeling examination which will cost taxpayers – and companies – millions of dollars.  Here’s some background:

A History:

First, it’s helpful to actually read and know about the standards as they exist:

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Standards of Identity for ‘Real Milk” were established in 1938 in the Federal, Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

Part of the controversy results from the “real” vs. “processed” (aka ‘fake/faux ) nutritional properties of real milk.  The Wisconsin Agriculturist, in a July 23rd, 2018 article written by Fran O’Leary,  describes it this way:

Real milk provides eight times more naturally occurring protein in every glass, is wholesome and simple, and is a minimally processed beverage. Real milk also has no added sugar. The sugar in real milk is lactose, which is a naturally occurring sugar. Many types of nondairy milk, such as almond milk, contain sugar. Tell that to your friends and family members who believe otherwise.”

The Wisconsin Agriculturist concludes that article by quoting an emphatic statement from the American Dairy Coalition, which reminds real dairy advocates:

“It is crucial the dairy industry speaks up on the issue,” the American Dairy Coalition said in a statement. “We can no longer stand by” and allow plant-based beverages to be labeled as milk.

On July 26, 2018, the FDA released an official statement concerning its reasoning and approach to re-working milk / dairy labeling standards.

This statement occurred in conjunction with a July 26, 2018 Public Meeting to Discuss FDA’s Nutrition Innovation Strategy.   Several industry stakeholders went on the record with comments at that meeting, and those comments can be accessed via links here. 

Public comments on the FDA Nutrition Innovation Strategy will be taken until August 27, 2018.  (Update / 3rd week of August:  comments now taken until Oct. 11.)  Comments can be posted at this docket folder. (Electronic – OR – written/mail delivery submission is acceptable!).   It is particularly important for dairy FARMERS – those whose livelihood depends most directly on the sales of milk from their farms – to comment either individually, and via any producer organizations of which they are members!!

A Kathleen Doheny Article from WebMd:
“[Gottleib] . . . said the agency has ”probably not” been enforcing the standard of identity — and as a result, this nonenforcement has become the standard.”
– Agency will be ‘modernizing’ the standards of identity
– Comments expected be taken for a year
– Intentions to enforce standard of identity

The article also notes that plant / nut beverage sales increased 61% from 2012-2017, while Real Milk sales decreased 15%.

This proliferation of plant-based beverages has led to sales of those products which are expected to reach over $16 Billion (in US Dollars, but referring to the total world market value)  by the end of 2018.  That competition is in two forms: 1) dollars which have been removed from dairy communities & economies across the United States, and 2) Hundreds of Millions of gallons of real milk from real cows which no longer has a home, and has led to a long cycle of depressed prices which is steadily killing rural economies.

Much of that market displacement – and resultant stress on rural economies –  is believed to be because plant “milk” is a term which cannibalizes and preys on the goodness of natural milk, and the proven knowledge milk is natural protein source, readily absorbed by the human body.  

Spirited Plant-Based Advocacy Organizations and Individuals will challenge Real Dairy / Real Cow-Goat-Sheep-Mammal Advocates:

It should go without saying, but never doubt that those organizations and businesses who continue to build their financial empires while opposing the enforcement of standards of identity of “Real Milk”  will be relentless and tireless in their fight to bend the narrative in their favor.

A collaborative editorial in a Boulder, Colorado, web-based publication, advocates for the blurred lines and gray areas which are the basis for the advocacy of truth-in-labeling for those who believe traditional standards of identity exist for a reason.  Their citations to many will be questionable, and in some cases, outdated in their accuracy, particularly in the Greenhouse Gas Emission discussion.   At least one commenter suggests alternative beverages be called ‘milk substitutes.’

The Good Food Institute, whose website has the tagline “Creating a healthy, humane, and sustainable food supply,’ has already submitted this letter on July 23rd, before the July 26th hearing.

Food Navigator, in an article written by Elaine Watson, relays views of a firm which recently raised $24 Million to commercialize ‘animal-free proteins.”  According to the article, the company ‘takes food grade yeast, and adds DNA sequences . . . which instruct the yeast to produce the proteins found in milk.”

[Note: Admittedly, this technology is morbidly fascinating, but also gives real meaning to the terms “Sci-Fi Food” and “Frankenfood.”  We really, really need to ask ourselves:  just because we can – should we?”] 

 

Dairy Farming: continued decline, will it stabilize, or more consolidation?

It is no secret that the dairy farming industry is in a sea change of transition from smaller (400-head or smaller) herds to large herds of 1000 cows or more. And with that change, rural ag economies, the agribusinesses and services which serve those dairy farms are at risk themselves.

From New York, to Virginia, to Georgia, to Wisconsin, and to other regions, reports of dairy farms exiting from the industry are almost of epidemic proportions.  If these were job losses from a ‘factory in a big building’ closing, the public outcry would be deafening. However, because dairy is so scattered across the landscape and not contained in a single building like an industrial building, the loss of these economies is often a silent erosion that gets little public notice.

One example of some of the abuse that has occurred:

From The Cheese Reporter: Sunflower Butter!  A bid request from the USDA itself

But let’s give credit to #TraderJoes, who actually has an acceptable label on their plant beverages!  Kudos to them, and I’ll be back in their stores because they get it right! This is an example to others that it can be done!

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Additional Links to Consider (and look for others to be added before Aug. 27th!):

From Feedstuffs:  Gottleib:  “FDA . . . is invariably likely to get sued”

For now, please begin to do your homework, and draft your comments.   It could be as simple as “Real Milk comes from Cows, Goats, Sheep and other mammals.  Make this simple, and have “MILK” be labeled that way!”

From the American Dairy Coalition – Background & bullet points:

You can save time, and comment via electronic means directly to FDA via the portal.  As you do this, please remember your comments may be able to be viewed by the public.

And here’s a link to the portal to comment by October 11 deadline – Comment here.

  • As of 5:00 pm on Monday, August 20, 496 comments were received.
  • As of 11:59 pm on Sunday, August 26, 2,303 comments had been posted.

Please make sure that by late evening, on Monday, August 27, and now on October 11, your voice will be among them too.

#MilkTruthMatters  #IdentityMatters  #RulesMatter

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Proposal for Multiple Component Pricing in Southeast Withdrawn

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National All-Jersey has withdrawn their request  for a USDA-AMS Dairy Program FMMO Hearing to consider implementation of Multiple Component Pricing for the Southeast (FMMO 7) and Appalachian (FMMO 5) Milk Marketing Orders.
The withdrawal of this proposal culminates a process of several years of discussion and evaluations by producer groups and several dairy cooperatives on how Multiple Component Pricing in the Southeast might affect producer pay checks.
Following is the timeline of this spring’s events:
April 2, 2018: National All-Jersey submitted their 80-page proposal  requesting a hearing.
May 2, 2018:  USDA-AMS then posted an Action Plan.
May 16, 2018: An information session was held in Knoxville, in Knoxville, TN, which was coordinated by Tennessee and Kentucky Farm Bureaus.  The session was recorded in two parts, and each are available for viewing:
  • Part 1:  A 1 hr – 39 minute video recorded by TN Farm Bureau (Dana Coale, explaining FMMO process)
  • Part 2:  A 1 hr. 14  minute video recorded by TN Farm Bureau  (FMMO Administrators and officials explaining the specifics of the process leading to acceptance or denial of an MCP hearing)
June 1, 2018:  Two additional proposals were submitted to USDA-AMS:
  1. A  7-page request from Michael Brown, Director, Dairy Supply Chain for Kroger, stated: “We ask USDA to also include the a proposal to lower the minimum amount of Class I Sales required a distributing plant to achieve pooling status from 50% to 25%. “
  2. The Tennessee Dairy Producers Association, with Stan Butt as Executive Director, submitted a 16-page proposal in opposition to Multiple Component Pricing, with this opening statement:  “Opposition to the proposal submitted by NAJ to changing the current pricing structure in FMMOs 5&7 is based on the proposition that the majority of producers in both orders will be negatively affected.”
June 11, 2018:  A letter-to-the-editor written by John Harrison, Sweetwater Valley Farm in opposition to Multiple Component Pricing was posted by Progressive Dairyman.
June 28, 2018:  The letter withdrawing the Hearing request,  written by Erick Metzger, General Manager of National All-Jersey, posted at USDA-AMS – Dairy Program,  contains these statements:

 
“Marketing conditions in the Appalachian and Southeast Federal Order Marketing Areas are in a state of flux, aggravated by challenging national dairy product markets.
 
The proponents therefore withdraw their proposal for a multiple component pricing hearing in Orders 5 and 7 at this time.”
The letter closes with:
 “We anticipate resubmitting the proposal when the current marketing  challenges have stabilized and resources necessary to advance the proposal again become available.
Here is the letter in its entirety:
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All USDA-FMMO processes are directed and defined by a set of rules, including procedural rules.  It is up to farmers themselves – those most affected by FMMO rules and regulations – to learn the process, and to participate in the process. 
This spring, and the preceding years and months of information seeking, are an example of civil discourse which can occur.
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TN June Dairy Month: Kickoff Luncheon & Then 4-H at work!

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It’s ‘Raise A Glass’ Time in Tennessee!!

For several decades, the Tennessee June Dairy Month Kickoff has been the launch for events across the state highlighting Tennessee’s collective dairy industry.  The 2018 event was held at Battle Mountain Farm, the event venue of Hatcher Family Dairy Farm, College Grove, TN on May 30.  The rural setting, with Holsteins and Jerseys grazing in a nearby pasture, emphasized that tasty and nutritious dairy products truly do begin on a farm.

This event honors several aspects of Tennessee 4-H involvement in dairy related activities.  4-H County Chairmen, who conduct dairy promotion and awareness events across the state are recognized.  The Tennessee 4-H Dairy Quiz Bowl Finals are held. And always, an inspirational speaker brings life’s insights to 4-H’ers as they return home to begin June Dairy Month events.  Their activities allow them to compete for awards in several categories, which are presented at the next years events.

This year’s event was organized by Denise Jones, of The Dairy Alliance, who put the engaging tables and decor together and set a great dairy mood as folks entered the beautiful event venue.  She was assisted by Joan Benton and Cindy Cooper of The Dairy Alliance.

Following are some photo highlights of the event.

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Emma Mull, McMinn County, Grace Rich, Clay County, and Elizabeth Bright of Loudon County, are three of several County Dairy Month Chairs who have a full slate of activities planned.

You can follow Grace on Instagram as ‘udderlylegendairy,  Emma will be social on Facebook as McMinn County June Dairy Month, and Elizabeth Bright’s creative videos and spots are on Facebook at June Dairy Month – Loudon County.  Look for other social promotions and public activities from chairmen in your area of TN!

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Part of the setting front and center of the banquet hall, framing the dynamic Denise Jones, the event organizer, of The Dairy Alliance!  Did you know MILK is Tennessee’s Official Beverage?  It was given that designation in 2009 by the Tennessee Legislature.

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Three 4-H’ers, who will become future consumers, related how their participation both in Dairy Production Projects and Nutrition, Health, and Fitness projects, have made them appreciate dairy’s unparalleled nutritional benefits, along with the hard work of Tennessee farmers who produce that milk. Abigail Ferguson, Ashley Bell, and Kathryn Fellhoelter all gave great presentations.

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Marshall County is the winner of the Dairy Quiz Bowl Competition, and will be headed to the National Contest later this year.

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Some more of our Tennessee County 4-H Chairmen!  Do you know who the 4-H Dairy Chairman is in your county?

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Jeff Aiken, President of TN Farm Bureau, and a former dairy farmer himself, represented the organization as an event sponsor, and brought words of encouragement to those attending.  He was accompanied by many Farm Bureau staff members from across the state, as they came to support the TN June Kickoff event.

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Do You Know “What’s Your Why?”

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George Wilson, who retired from the Tennessee Titans after an NFL career with several teams, challenged the audience with the question “What’s Your Why?”  A two-time Walter Payton Man of the Year in the NFL, he inspired with point after point:

  1. Be the first to show up, and the last to leave. Be grueling, tough, and unrelenting in the pursuit of your dream!
  2. Be mindful of what you do and the choices you make, and of those whom you allow to make decisions for you.  [He began at an SEC school, Arkansas, on an academic scholarship, walked-on and made the football team, and then was able to receive a football scholarship because someone got arrested and lost the scholarship they had.  And that set the stage for his 11-year NFL career.]
  3. Sometimes in life, “Opportunity is Disguised as Hard Work!  [It took 15-16 years of hard work and sweat on the football field to finally get a starting position on an NFL team and an interception against the cowboys on national TV.]
  4. “I give of myself because others gave of themself to me.  THAT’S MY WHY! He prayed, “Lord, if you you allow my dream, I will give back.  And then noted, “that is a debt I’ll never repay!”
  5. Why does he care about Fuel Up to Play 60?  Because his thoughts were captured by this statement: “We could be raising the first generation of kids who won’t outlive their parents.  FUTP 60 puts power and decision-making in the hands of students who participate in the program.”

 

Celeste Blackburn, President of TN American Dairy Association, served as MC for the event, and gave Mr. Wilson an appreciation gift featuring some of Tennessee’s farmstead dairy products.

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At the event close, Jimmy Hopper, Assistant Commissioner of the TN Department of Agriculture overseeing TDA’s Consumer and Industry Services Division, was honored with the TN Outstanding Dairy Promoter Award. One of Hopper’s responsibilities was overseeing the Dairy Quality Division, charged with quality and safety on dairy farms and in milking barns, in processing plants, and addressing retail dairy sales outlets.  Jimmy went above and beyond a ‘job description’ to serve Tennessee’s dairy industry.  And he did it with class and respect for all he worked with. During his tenure, Tennessee’s first robotic milking barn was installed.

The Tennessee Cooperator has a great summary of Hopper’s career.

Always a man of humility, Hopper encouraged young folks present to find a dairy farmer and work with them for a while.  He noted there was no better role model for developing a work ethic that would serve one well throughout a career.

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McMinn & Loudon 4-H’ers Helped with a Milk Drive on World Milk Day!

Wasting no time getting started with June Dairy Month promotions, and in a way that serves others, the McMinn Co. 4-H Chairman, Emma Mull, and Loudon County’s Elizabeth Bright spent World Milk Day (June 1) helping Second Harvest in East TN at the Randy Davis Memorial Milk Drive. 

The event they participated in was held at Lenoir City, in Loudon County, Tennessee’s #1 Dairy County.   On that one night, in a 4-hour period, 1457 gallons of milk were purchased and loaded on a Second Harvest refrigerated truck, destined for distribution to neighbors in need in their 18-county East TN service area.

These annual events, held onsite with the cooperation of Ingles Groceries in East TN, encourage purchases of milk at the groceries for the purpose of distributing milk to hungry neighbors.  With their hands-on approach, the onsite drives encourage human-to-human connections in the spirit of giving back, and ignite a life-long spirit of being a benefactor to the community.

Customers coming in to the grocery stores can contribute in two ways:  they can make monetary contributions, which the Milk Drive Team uses to purchase milk from the store, or  they can purchase the milk themselves and bring to the waiting Second Harvest Refrigerated Truck.

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Tennessee Agriculture has had a very difficult spring in 2018, dealing with price and market challenges in all sectors of agriculture, Dairy included.

With future consumers enthusiastic and connecting with farmers and industry leaders present, the 2018 TN June Dairy Month Kickoff served as a happy occasion to remind us all in the TN Dairy Industry to reflect:

So, “What’s Your Why?”

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Dean Foods to close 7 plants in 2018; No additional producer letters expected soon

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(NOTE:  This is an evolving story affecting Dean Plants across the country.  Sources are a variety of public information and anonymous sources.  Updates will be made as warranted).

Dean Foods will be closing 7 processing plants in seven states in the next months, with the plants located in Kentucky, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota.

News of the plant closings began to emerge through local news outlets in some of the cities involved through the day Tuesday, May 22nd, yet, at this posting, there are yet no official statements from Dean Foods corporate officials.

This announcement follows the jolting announcement in early March that over 100 farmers in 8 states, marketing milk as Dean Dairy Direct (independent producers, meaning not members of a co-op or marketing agency) producers, would have their contracts terminated as of May 31, 2018.  At this point, many of those farmers have found new markets, several elected to disperse their herds, with several still struggling to find a market and income source for their farm’s milk.

The navigation of stormy, wind-tossed oceans of milk in the overflowing worldwide dairy milkshed has led to the announcement that these processing plants will be shutting their doors during the late summer and fall.   Intense competition to find a processing market/plant for milk, exacerbated by declining milk consumption the world over, has converged in a perfect storm of farmers getting caught in the crosshairs with no markets for their milk, along with employees in processing plants losing their jobs as well.

Competition for the prime retail real estate of grocery store shelf space is also a factor in these events.

In the southeast, the two Dean Foods plant closures at Braselton, GA and Louisville, KY follow the early May announcement of the closure of a Fulton, Ky plant, owned by Prairie Farms.  In that event, processing operations will cease, but the facility will remain a distribution center, with 12 of 52 employees remaining.

An anonymous Dean Foods source says that “no more farmer/producer contract terminations via letters from Dean Foods are expected in the near future.”  However, we all know that increasing consumption of fluid milk is the quickest way to stabilize the future of all dairy farms across America.

The Dean plants said to be closed are:

  1. (News report: not initially confirmed by Deans)
  2. (News report: Member of founding family not bitter) 
  3. News report:  (Processes gallons & half-gallons, 120 employees)
  • Braselton, GA [Mayfield brand]   (2015 Dean’s CEO Quality Award Recipient)    (Visitors Center closed in 2014, reopened, Over 1 million folks a year to learn) (Reports from anonymous employees who received notices)
  • Louisville, KY    [Dean’s brand] News report link to WKYT) “That loss will cut production at the company’s Louisville plant, which will shut down.”

This announcement is only one in a series of cost-cutting measures Dean Foods has taken over the past several years.  A PET milk plant in Richmond, VA was closed in the fall of 2017.   In a Food Business News report of March 1, 2018, phrases such as “increasing competition,’ ‘6% decline in volume,’ and ‘reset cost structure,’  were signals more changes are to come.

The Louisville plant closure comes as no surprise, due to its distribution overlap into Indiana of retail centers to be served from the new Walmart milk processing plant opening in Fort Wayne, IN.  However, the opening of that Walmart plant has now been pushed to late summer, for a variety of reasons.  A recent report by Sherry Bunting, which appeared in the Farmers Exchange, features an interview with a Walmart spokesperson on that project’s status.

The closure of the Braselton, GA, Mayfield plant, may have come as a bit of surprise to some folks.  In 2016, this display in the Visitor’s Center relayed some stats which were current at that time, however, today’s employee count is closer to 150.  It is not known if this includes distribution networks.

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Dean Foods, as of an annual Dairy Foods (magazine) report, last published in the August 2017 edition, is the United States second largest milk processor, with Nestle being #1.

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As is common with any company treading in difficult waters, reports of a sale of the company, or of a merger and acquisition, are commonplace.  Sometimes they prove to be nothing, sometimes they prove to be true, and only time will tell which is the case with Dean’s.  It truly will be in the best interest of the United States dairy industry for the company to stabilize, due to the number of farms for which it provides a market, and for the number of employees in plants across the country.

The hardest truth of all of this is that ultimately, farmers in local regions, the rural economies that depend on a viable market for those farmers, and employees at plants, are the ones suffering the most from battles at all levels of the worldwide milkshed. 

Updates, and corrections if needed, will occur as more news becomes available.

 

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Multiple Component Pricing for FMMOs 5 & 7; A Meeting, Action Plan, Information

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Will Multiple Component Pricing be implemented in the Appalachian (FMMO 5)  and Southeast (FMMO 7) Milk Orders?
Multiple Component Pricing, a way to value milk at the farm level based on components found in milk (protein, butterfat, and other non-fat solids),  rather than the skim/butterfat pricing currently implemented, is on the table for the two geographically largest milk orders in the Southeast United States.
Florida and Arizona do not price milk based on MPC, and those areas are not included in this current request for change.
An April 2nd request for a hearing to evaluate the implementation of Multiple Component Pricing for Federal Milk Marketing Order 5 (Appalachian) and FMMO 7 (Southeast) was filed with USDA-AMS by National All-Jersey, Inc.  The 86-page document can be reviewed here.
A great article concisely summing up the request and important factors has been written by Dave Natzke of Progressive Dairyman; read his perspective at this link.
The Tennessee and Kentucky Farm Bureaus have joined together to host an information meeting before the request for Multiple Component Pricing is fully evaluated; A Federal Order Hearing on the matter is tentatively scheduled for July 30, 2018
This May 16th meeting provides producers with a means of direct contact with FMMO officials who can explain not only the MCP proposal, but milk market pricing in detail, and how producers’ milk checks are affected by various market factors.
The details about this FB Information meeting, scheduled for May 16th in Knoxville, TN, are:
What:  Meeting with Dana Coale, Deputy Administrator for USDA -AMS Dairy Programs, along with several officials of Market Administrator Offices in Federal Orders 5 & 7
For:  Any dairy farmer in Federal Milk Marketing Orders 5 & 7
Organizers:  Meeting has been organized by TN and KY Farm Bureau organizations
Several state Farm Bureaus have been involved in dairy farm matters in the past few months – please give them a THANK YOU!)
Date: Wednesday, May 16, Knoxville TN  11:00 am
Time:  Sandwich Lunch @ 11 am; Lunch begins promptly at Noon EDT
Where: University of TN Ag Campus, Hollingsworth Auditorium. Plant Sciences Bldg.
             2505 East J. Chapman Drive; Knoxville, TN  37996
For:  Any dairy farmer in Federal Milk Marketing Orders 5 & 7
Purpose:  To discuss current market procedures and proposed market changes
RSVP / Register by May 11th: 
        Roxann Sanders – Email at rsanders@tfbf.com – OR
                                      Phone at 931-388-7872, ext 2231

The Invitation Letter and Announcement:

Jeff Aiken, TN Farm Bureau President, and Mark Haney, Kentucky Farm Bureau President, co-authored this meeting invite, which was also mailed to dairy producers:
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The Meeting’s suggested agenda:

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Following the announcement of these Knoxville, TN meetings, USDA-AMS has posted an “Action Plan” with a proposed calendar of activity related to Multiple Component Pricing.  Please note additional proposals can be accepted until June 1st!
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Resources for Additional Consideration  (Highly suggested reading!!!):

Multiple Component Pricing (MCP) first began taking place in the Federal Order System in the Great Basin Milk Marketing Order in 1988.  [The Great Basin Order is referenced in this 2002 testimony to a Western Milk Marketing Order Hearing.]
Since that time, several orders have consolidated, but the great majority of the United States dairy producers are paid on a MCP basis.  At this time, this map generally defines the geographic locations of FMMOs across the United States, however, California was conducting a producer referendum, in which voting ended on May 5th to finalize entry into the Federal Order System:
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Producer groups in the southeast, including the Kentucky Dairy Development Council, the Georgia Milk Producers Association, and the North Carolina Dairy Producers, have endorsed a Multiple Component Pricing structure.  The Tennessee Dairy Producers Association is currently opposed (as of May 10th).
Each and every producer should take the time (and it may take a few hours) to evaluate Component Pricing and how it will affect your farm’s income in the future!  Isn’t your farm’s future worth that time?
AND – each producer is highly encouraged to attend the May 16th meeting in Knoxville to have a chance to ask direct questions to USDA-AMS officials.
Your future income depends on accurate information – please make the most of this meeting opportunity!
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