As printed in our February 25, 2014 issue...

THE FARM BILL BECAME LAW in just 10 days. On January 29, it passed the House on a 251 to 166 vote. Then, the Senate approved it, 68 to 32. The President signed it into law on February 7. For more details on what the farm bill holds for dairy, turn to pages 114, 115, 124 and 140.

IMMIGRATION OVERHAUL HAS STALLED as House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) put the brakes on taking action this year. Boehner was also a roadblock to the farm bill. On immigration, he fears a potentially divisive fight among Republicans and its impact on elections this fall.

U.S. DAIRY EXPORTS REACHED $6.7 BILLION to set a new watermark. On a cash basis, sales rose 31 percent from the previous year's record and represented 15.5 percent of U.S. milk production. Imports were 3 percent.

FOR THE 22ND STRAIGHT YEAR, cheese production posted a new record. In 2013, cheese output grew 2.3 percent to reach 11.14 billion pounds.

THE U.S. BUTTER CHURN NETTED over 1.8 billion pounds. Last year's butter output closed to within 1 percent of 1941's record.

BUTTER CONSUMPTION HIT A 44-YEAR HIGH, and margarine sales fell to a 70-year low, according to a Bloomberg Businessweek report.

IN AN ABOUT-FACE, UNILEVER has added butter to its margarine-based spreads in Germany and Finland. Holding 30 percent share of the global spread category, it may do the same in other markets.

I CAN'T BELIEVE IT'S NOT BUTTER and Country Crock are Unilever's U.S. brands. For more details, read the February 17 Hoard's Dairyman Intel e-newsletter. Subscribe by sending an email to

DAIRY WAS THE ONLY BASKET of consumer food products that rose in value this past January, reported the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Prices rose 1.3 percent over December.

THE MILK-FEED RATIO posted its best margin in six years at 2.44, reported USDA. Values used: $23.20 milk, $4.37 corn, $13 soybeans and $185 alfalfa. That netted $13.69 income over feed costs with feed at $9.51. Alfalfa prices are higher in the West ranging from $207 to $245 a ton.

ON JANUARY 1, HEIFER INVENTORIES stood at 4.54 million head (500 pounds or larger) or 49.3 heifers per 100 cows, a four-year low. Coupled with strong milk prices, replacement values have been moving up.

BRIEFLY: March to August Class III futures averaged $19.34. Dairylea members approved a merger with DFA. Dairy cows accounted for 9.8 percent of total beef production, up from 9.6 percent in 2012. Support for the beef checkoff pegged at 78 percent, the highest in 21 years. Farm bill directed USDA to investigate insurance coverage for underserved commodity crops, including alfalfa.

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