As printed in our May 10, 2015 issue...

IN ONE OF THE LARGEST DAIRY PRODUCT RECALLS in U.S. history, Blue Bell took all of its ice cream off of store shelves following a potentially deadly Listeria monocytogenes outbreak. The investigation has been probing for sources of the bacteria since pasteurization does destroy the deadly pathogen, meaning it was reintroduced during manufacturing.

CLASS III FUTURES HOVERED NEAR $17.20 per cwt. for May to December contracts, down about 20 cents over the past 60 days. May's $16.60 represented the low mark while September's $17.39 was the high point.

MARCH MILK GREW 1.2 PERCENT, the lowest year-over-year gain in the past 12 months. Of the leading 23 dairy states, only New Mexico (-3.9 percent), California (-2.9), Oregon (-1.3) and Texas (-0.6) slowed milk flow.

THE DAIRY HERD CONTRACTED for the first time since November 2013 as culling picked up by 26,000 head or 3.4 percent during the first quarter. Higher-than-average culling has been taking place in California, Arizona, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Texas and New Mexico.

THE U.S. HAS BENEFITED FROM A $4 BILLION dairy trade surplus as exports have grown to $7.1 billion with imports of $3.1 billion. Overall, sales to other countries have grown by $5.7 billion over the past decade.

PASSAGE OF THE TRANS-PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP (TPP) could further boost U.S. dairy trade. Many Southeast Asia nations, making up the world's most populated region, are dairy deficit areas importing between 42 and 74 pounds of dairy products for every citizen.

IN PAVING THE WAY FOR DEBATE ON THE TPP, the Senate Finance Committee voted 20 to 6 to approve fast track authority. That would allow only a "yes" or "no" vote on the final trade deal. The House Ways and Means Committee approved a similar measure on a 25 to 13 vote.

SPECIALTY CHEESE SALES LED all specialty foods, even topping the competitive coffee and cocoa category. Of the combined $100 billion in specialty foods, unique cheeses accounted for $3.71 billion while specialty yogurt and kefir sales reached $1.6 billion in the U.S. last year.

USDA ANNOUNCED A PLAN TO CURB greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. The voluntary, incentive-driven objective would include construction of 500 new digesters and boost no-till cropping by 100 million acres.

BRIEFLY: Dry soil conditions have been spreading as key milk producing states such as Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York and Vermont have been much drier than last spring. California continued to be afflicted by drought. USDA will be holding three hearings in California to gather public input on a proposal to establish a Federal Milk Marketing Order (FMMO). In addition to a unified proposal by three California-based dairy cooperatives, USDA also received three other plans for a FMMO in the nation's largest dairy state.

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