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

RULES FOR THE NEW MILK PROGRAM passed in the latest farm bill should be released shortly after Labor Day. Dairy producers then will have 90 days (September to December) to sign up for the program more formally known as the Margin Protection Program for Dairy (MPP-D).

MPP-D WILL LIKELY RUN ON THE CALENDER YEAR, as opposed to the fiscal year. That would make 2015 the first sign up period. Once a producer signs up, they are in the program for the entire five years of the farm bill. However, farmers can pass in 2015 and sign up a following year.

BUMPER CROPS HAVE BEEN FORECAST for both soybeans and corn by USDA. Soybeans were pegged to reach 3.82 billion bushels at 45.4 bushels per acre. Meanwhile, the corn harvest could yield 14 billion bushels with 167.4 bushels per acre. All four would be records.

FUTURES PRICES HAVE BEEN BEARISH for crop producers given the yield projections. November Chicago beans were near $10.60; corn, $3.60.

A DOWNTURN FOR MILK PRICES could be on the horizon. While September and October Class III futures hovered near $22, November to February traded near $19. USDA has pegged a 2015 All-Milk Price of $20.25. Many analysts believe cheaper feed will further fuel milk production.

DAIRY REPLACEMENT PRICES HAVE SHOT UP 37 PERCENT since January. Average prices stood at $1,970 this July and nearly matched the July 2008 watermark when springing heifers fetched $1,990.

ROUGHLY 75 PERCENT OF THE NATION'S CHEESE was produced by 15 percent of its cheese plants, reported John Umhoefer of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association (WCMA). Those leading natural cheese manufacturers represented 20 processors with nine being cooperatives.

LEPRINO FOODS RANKED FIRST on the natural cheese list followed by Saputo, Hilmar Cheese, Glanbia Foods and Agropur on this first-of-its kind list by WCMA. From sixth to tenth were: Foremost Farms, Lactalis, AMPI, Great Lakes Cheese and BelGioioso Cheese.

NESTLE AND SAPUTO PUSHED PAST DEAN FOODS to rank first and second among the nation's top processors, reported Dairy Foods. Dean held the top spot just two years ago and was edged out by the two foreign-controlled entities. Land O'Lakes and Schreiber rounded out the top five.

DAIRY FARMERS' SHARE OF THE RETAIL FOOD DOLLAR has ranged from 30 to 33 percent since 2010. Whole milk delivered the most value at 54 percent and butter at 50 percent. Farmers reaped 32 percent of the retail share from Cheddar cheese and a mere 16 percent from ice cream.

COMPONENTS, BUT NOT MILK QUALITY, improved for the Upper Midwest marketing order's 14,254 farms last year: SCC 224 (2012, 220); butterfat, 3.81 percent (2012, 3.76); and protein, 3.11 percent (2012, 3.09)

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