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NODPA E-NEWSLETTER | October 11, 2011


Take-way from the NODPA
2011 Field Days

High cost of Feed and Inputs + Excessive Paperwork + a 2008 pay-price = disillusion with organic and inability to pay bills

The NODPA Field Days was well attended in a bucolic surrounding, with great food (wonderful pig roast!) and great presentations on areas of key interest to organic dairy producers. The cordial and respectful discussions and networking gave the opportunity for some education on issues that are normally avoided and the ability to confront our responsibilities to the environment and our wider community.

The agenda for the meeting was designed to allow facilitated discussion on the state of organic and the challenges that both organic producers and all organic stakeholders face in the next five years as we feel the effects of what will inevitably be a regressive 2012/13 Farm and Nutrition Bill. The success of the meeting that most attendees commented on was due to respect amongst peers and appreciation of the dedication to organic production by all attendees. Many non-farmers attest to the lifestyle benefits that producers have to compensate for a lack of profit or return on equity. This Field Day attested to both the hypocrisy of that statement with producers struggling to stay afloat (literally in some cases) and the very real truth that in tough times the organic community will work together with respect and passion.

Organic dairying is a business that needs to be profitable to support current practitioners and attract the next generation. What was evident from this meeting was that regardless of where producer’s milk was sold, the following concerns existed for all:

  • Cost and availability of feed;
  • Increase in utility cost, insurance, taxes, fuel and other inputs;
  • A pay price that is the same as 2008;
  • Increase in organic certification paperwork and lack of consistency in implementation of new pasture rules by inspectors and certifiers; 
  • Fear of restrictive and overly detailed new regulation dominated by consumer concerns rather than recognizing that organic is already the gold standard for production agriculture;
  • Powerless to obtain any changes in:
    • Producers share of the retail dollar – retailers’ aggressive negotiating and control plus fear of inelastic demand over $4 per half gallon
    • Pay price – small increases of 50 cents and a dollar per hundred pounds reflect the difficulty in producers making their voice heard
    • Producers return on a growing market – times are good in the marketplace with high price conventional milk, expanding sales of approximately 13% year over year and a tightening supply, but none of this is translating into a pay price that reflects 2011-12 costs of production.

There will be a more detailed description of the Field Days highlights in the next NODPA newsletter. To view a slideshow of photos from the Field Days, please click here.

Next NOSB meeting in Savannah, Georgia
a few days after Thanksgiving

The NOP is hoping to add to the busiest travel days of the year by holding the next NOSB meeting on November 29-December 2nd at the Hilton Savannah DeSoto, 15 East Liberty Street, Savannah, Georgia 31401. Click here for the full agenda. Some highlights for organic dairy will be the discussion and voting on the Animal Welfare & Stocking Rates Regulatory Language and Guidance Recommendations; Animal Handling, Transit, and Slaughter Regulatory Language and Guidance Recommendation; and Species‐Specific Animal Welfare Scorecards Recommendation and Guidance. The NOSB Livestock Committee has been working with NODPA and many other stakeholders since the last meeting to draft animal welfare regulations that reflect the point that organic certification is already the gold standard for livestock operations and the OFPA already covers many areas of animal welfare within the current regulation. The recommendations are not yet published for animal welfare but the slaughter and handling recommendations are published. The discussion section of the recommendations very wisely asks the NOP to consider the small to mid-size slaughter plants’ capacity for further regulation and audits when drafting rulemaking, as assumptions about what is normal in the ‘industry’ may not apply to small and micro plants that currently provide the service to organic livestock producers.

Feed price update

Corn prices are double 2010 levels, matching the highs of 2008. Supply is very tight; some producers are reporting they can’t find any corn, even at $15-16 per bushel. The futures market for conventional corn is fluctuating with every rumor and projection on harvest and the USDA reports that more corn is now being used for Ethanol than for human and livestock feed. Those that tried season extenders have had mixed results with the wide variety of weather we have experienced and the quality of pelleted feed will vary as mills look for alternatives to the higher priced corn. The increase in price of small grains has varied and the price for soybeans and soybean meal is starting to rise. Some organic grain farms are reportedly transitioning to non-GMO crops to increase yields and meet the overseas needs of consumers who now purchase more non-GMO than organic, due to the state of the global economy. This unpredictable situation may be aggravated by the recent de-certification of a large organic supplier in Canada and increased demand from large poultry operations. For producers who like to plan for their winter feed purchases, spinning a roulette wheel might be as good as looking at the futures market. For processors who want winter milk, they need to look at additional payments of at least $5-6 per hundred pounds for producers to break even. For updated data and historical trends, click here.

-- Ed Maltby, NODPA Executive Director

NODPA NEWS & NOTES

Feed Price Updates

Corn prices are double 2010 levels, matching the highs of 2008. Supply is very tight; some producers are reporting they can’t find any corn, even at $15-16 per bushel. The futures market for conventional corn is fluctuating with every rumor and projection on harvest and the USDA reports that more corn is now being used for Ethanol than for human and livestock feed.
Learn MORE >

Recent Discussions
On ODairy
Robust and practical discussions about the benefits of boron supplements in the soil; Normande genetics; treatments for pinkeye; and management of breeding bulls. Learn more >

The Latest e-Organic Dairy Resources
Videos, webinars and more ... Learn more >

SARE Comprehensive Grazing Course
Through a SARE-funded project, partners in multiple states have joined together to deliver a training course focused on comprehensive, holistic grazing planning.
Learn more >

Consider Advertising
in the next NODPA Newsletter

Deadline for the November NODPA News is October 19, 2011. To learn more about advertising and classified submissions, click here

The NODPA News is a print newsletter, published bi-monthly providing up to date information pertinent to organic dairy producers and resource individuals. Included in each issue are articles covering current events, animal health & husbandry, crops, soils, grazing management and important National Organic Program news. Our subscribers are organic and transitioning producers, resource individuals, businesses serving the needs of the organic dairy producer and consumers wanting to learn more about (and support!) the food that they eat. 

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