18 episodes

Experienced dairy traders from T.C. Jacoby & Co. discuss issues, trends and dairy market movements that will impact the prices paid to U.S. dairy farmers for the milk they produce. Episodes are posted each month just before the previous month's final checks are paid to dairy farmers.

The Milk Check T.C. Jacoby & Co. - Dairy Traders

    • Business

Experienced dairy traders from T.C. Jacoby & Co. discuss issues, trends and dairy market movements that will impact the prices paid to U.S. dairy farmers for the milk they produce. Episodes are posted each month just before the previous month's final checks are paid to dairy farmers.

    Is USDA’s Dairy Revenue Protection program a good deal for farmers?

    Is USDA’s Dairy Revenue Protection program a good deal for farmers?

    It's less than a year and a half old, but the USDA's new Dairy Revenue Protection program has already led farmers across the U.S. to hedge an estimated 12% of the national milk supply.

    Blimling and Associates' Phil Plourd, Tiffany LaMendola and Katie Burgess join Ted and T3 to explain how this price risk management tool works and discuss why quick adoption of the program bodes well for the industry.

    Anna: Welcome to The Milk Check, a podcast from T.C. Jacoby & Company, where we share market insights and analysis with dairy farmers in mind.

    T3: Hello everybody, this month on The Milk Check we have another guest on our panel, Phil Plourd is President of Blimling and Associates. And he and his team are here to help us learn about DRP or the Dairy Revenue Protection program recently created by the USDA to help dairy farmers protect downside milk price risk. Well, we're excited today to be here with Phil Plourd, Phil's got two other members of your team that have joined us.

    Phil: Yes. So we have on the line today Tiffany LaMendola, who's the Vice President of our risk management practice and she is based in the Modesto, California area. And also Katie Burgess, who is one of our Risk Management Leads. And the two of them have spent a lot of time over the past year working on the DRP insurance program. So been out in the field, working with dairy farmers and getting them enrolled and getting them going in the program.

    T3: So what I thought today would be a great topic to discuss with Phil in town was the dairy revenue protection program, which is a great program that's been set up for dairy farmers, but a program also that I have to admit I don't know a lot about.

    Ted: And I have to concede, I don't know anything about it either.

    T3: So I thought we'd go ahead and have Tiffany, and Katie, and Phil, kind of give us their view of what the program is all about, how it works. And Dad, you and I can just ask questions, and it's gonna be an educational experience for us as well as for the farmers that listen.

    Ted: It can't help but be educational for me.

    T3: Phil, Katie, Tiffany, what is it?

    Tiffany: It's a relatively new program for dairy producers to manage milk price risk. It was first rolled out in October of 2018. There was a slight delay while the government was shut down. And so it really is quite new. So don't feel bad if you don't know much about it. We're finding actually a lot of producers are still learning about it themselves. At its simplest terms, it is the ability to buy a milk price floor at subsidized levels, it's very customizable by... So, you know, obviously different producers in different regions have different milk price risk, you know, based on how their milk prices are determined. And this allows a producer to go in and sort of do their best to mimic how their milk is determined with some combination of Class III and Class IV. And look out into the future and set milk price floors kind of based on where the markets are at, at a quarter-by-quarter. And really kind of dial in as close as we can to, again, how their milk price is determined. It is offered through the Risk Management Agency of USDA as a crop insurance program. So you do have to buy essentially the program through a crop insurance agent, so producers kind of across the U.S. will be working with crop insurance agents to access this program.

    Ted: So where are these agents located, in the local extension service?

    Tiffany: They're kind of all over. So we have agents on our team. You know, we'd like to think we have the dairy expertise piece of it that's been quite important.

    • 39 min
    Cheddar block futures contracts are coming to the CME

    Cheddar block futures contracts are coming to the CME

    In this episode, Ted and T3 are joined by Eric Meyer, President of HighGround Dairy in Chicago. Eric explains the CME's new block cheddar futures contracts, which will begin trading on Jan. 13.

    The panel also reacts to surprising NDPSR data for the month of November. Eric is reminded that the St. Louis Blues won the 2019 Stanley Cup.

    Anna: Welcome to "The Milk Check," a podcast from T.C. Jacoby & Company, where we share market insights and analysis with dairy farmers in mind.

    T3: Welcome everybody to the T.C. Jacoby & Company Milk Check podcast. Today, we have a guest speaker: Eric Meyer, President of HighGround Dairy. And we thought we'd talk about the milk production report and a little bit about markets, and then also talk about the new cheddar block futures contracts that are going to be introduced on the CME in the middle of January. Eric, welcome.

    Eric: Thank you very much. It's great to be here in a cold and snowy St. Louis. It's almost colder here and snowier than up in Chicago, so I feel for you.

    Ted: How about the St. Louis Blues who played Chicago on Monday night?

    Eric: Oh, do we need to talk about that? I was also told, I think, four or five times since arriving last night that you guys are currently the Stanley Cup champions. That's always nice to hear after three of them in the previous five years.

    T3: I'm glad you know that. It's Wednesday, December 18. It just so happens the milk production report was released not ten minutes ago, before we started this, recording this podcast. Milk production in November came in at up 0.9% in November for the country and up 0.5% in the 24-state. And that's a bit of a surprise to the downside. I think most people were expecting something up about 1.5%. Eric, what are your thoughts on that?

    Eric: So we were in that same camp, so we thought that the all U.S. number was gonna be in the 1.2 range with the 24 states that have been trending a lot higher. And we'll talk about that. I think there's a big shift in the last year of the 24 states straying from the all U.S. number, a big dichotomy between the larger farms in the dairy-centric states and the rest of the country. So we were in that camp, 1.5% was what we were thinking. Those were the numbers from both September and October, and so these numbers are definitely below expectations, a bit of a change in trend from the previous two months. With that number being up 0.9%, we also had a 60 million-pound downward revision in the October number, which represented a 0.3% decline.

    So USDA originally reported a 1.3% all U.S. gain and now it's down to just 1% higher. We are getting more milk. I think there is, from a fundamental perspective, the first half of this year, we were down on milk production. And we hadn't been down on milk production since 2013. I mean, it's been four, five-plus years that we've been growing milk production. And so the poor economics in 2018 and in the early 2019 kinda did the market in. Farmers finally responded, which, you know, we rarely see. That said, the large scale farming communities, the ones that are larger that are more apt to hedging that have brought costs of production down, economies of scale, we feel like they've maintained, and are now starting to pick up that growth.

    So one of the items in this production report that we saw that is notable, we didn't have any change this month from October to November from a herd perspective. But we now are in the 24 states which represents right around 96% of total milk production in the country. We're now above previous year on the overall milking herd while the all U.S. is down 27,000 head.

    • 36 min
    The Milk Check interviews DMI’s Tom Gallagher

    The Milk Check interviews DMI’s Tom Gallagher

    A special guest joins The Milk Check this month: Tom Gallagher, CEO of Dairy Management, Inc.

    Ted, T3 and Anna ask about how DMI allocates the funds it collects from the Dairy Checkoff program; Gallagher explains why recent changes to DMI's advertising strategy position the industry to interact with today's consumers. (Spoiler: There's a reason you don't see "milk mustache" commercials on TV anymore.)

    Gallagher also urges farmers to band together against aggressive animal rights groups who he says want to put dairy farms out of business.


    Anna: Welcome to "The Milk Check," a podcast from T.C. Jacoby & Co. where we share market insights and analysis with dairy farmers in mind. Today on "The Milk Check," we interview Tom Gallagher, CEO of Dairy Management, Inc. DMI is responsible for increasing sales and demand for dairy products by spending the money generated through the Checkoff program.

    T3: First, I'd like to say thanks for joining us today. We really appreciate you taking the time to discuss DMI and some of DMI's activities and the Checkoff program. And I think the best place to start this conversation would be Tom, tell us about the Checkoff program and how the money is used and where DMI is spending Checkoff dollars today.

    Tom: Okay. Well, on the Checkoff money we get money, $0.15 per hundredweight that is provided by dairy farmers by law to the Checkoff. And $0.05 of that goes to the National Dairy Board and $0.10 goes to local promotion groups. So let me start there and also state that the Checkoff's been in place since 1983 when dairy farmers approached Congress and said, "Look, the government is sitting on 17 billion pounds of excess product. That's not good for the government, it's not good for taxpayers, it's not good for dairy farmers. We have had a voluntary Checkoff for years. We'd like a mandatory Checkoff and we will fund it. We will pay for USDA oversight because we believe farmers need a voice in the marketplace." And since that time, we have seen per capita consumption grow 75 pounds per person in the United States. And prior to that, which really shocks a lot of people, in the early decades of the 1900s, per capita consumption was on a straight decline until just about the time the Checkoff went into place.

    So we take that money that we receive and we do a number of things with it. We have an export company that is run by former secretary Vilsack from USDA. And there are 120 members of that company that export dairy products. And through that company, the Checkoff funds about $20 million in marketing activities. The 120 members fund about $1.5 million that can be used for policy, trade policy, so the dairy in the street speaks with one voice, which is really a very, very powerful and important thing to do as an industry to make sure that we're unified. And it's necessary to have those member dollars because Checkoff cannot do lobbying. So with that, that company was created in 1995 by processors, manufacturers, traders, farmers. And then the Dairy Management organization itself focuses on increasing sales and trust. So maybe I should stop there and let you take it deeper.

    Ted: Roughly what percentage of the Checkoff money goes to USDEC? Keeping in mind that Jacoby & Co. is one of the original members of the USDEC. And we greatly value the assistance that USDEC has given our company in marketing products overseas.

    Tom: Yeah. Well, and we appreciate that you were an early member. And so Dairy Management, Inc. was formed by the National Dairy Board, which gets the nickel, and that's about $100 million. And then state and regional organizations that get the $0.10 but not all of them are members. So they have about $100 million to $120 million. Not all state and regionals are members.

    • 35 min
    These market anomalies are worth watching

    These market anomalies are worth watching

    As the industry preps for the holiday buying season and looks forward to 2020, some abnormal market conditions—both domestically and internationally—caught our attention.

    Ted, T3 and Anna discuss market anomalies that might set the tone for markets in the new year.

    Anna: Welcome to "The Milk Check", a podcast from T.C. Jacoby & Co. where we share market insights and analysis with dairy farmers in mind. We're going to talk about dairy markets today but this isn't just another discussion of markets. That's because there are several anomalies we're watching that we think will impact the way markets behave through the end of this year and into 2020. Ted, let's start with you. Milk production in Europe has caught your attention. Why?

    Ted: As far as Europe is concerned, production seems to be starting to come up and the question is why. The reason is the Dollar has been so strong and the Euro has been relatively weak. Their production costs have reflected that also. We look at currency valuation as—we have in the past—we've looked at it as what's the cost of putting milk powder into China or the Philippines or wherever. And the Euro is one value, the Dollar is another value and it reflects on the landed price of the product.

    Well, if you look at the mailbox price in Europe relative to the mailbox price in the United States, the European prices, you know, 15%, 20% lower than ours depending on the country and so on. So what that means is that our currency valuation is a hell of a lot more...

    T3: It's having a negative influence on our ability to export.

    Ted: Well, it reflects on the producers' costs in a way that we really haven't acknowledged up to now. Their cost of production has got to be a lot lower than ours in order for them to be increasing production at the price level that they have. Their production's going up, not down and these are basically smaller dairymen than ours, less efficient than ours. And their production is starting to bottom out and go up.

    What I'm conjecturing on this is that...or concluding on this is that the value of the currency affects their production costs in ways that we haven't really come to grips with. You know, we tend to think in terms of landed price of product somewhere in the world but it also affects their production cost. If their production costs were quid pro quo with ours, they wouldn't be increasing production. Europe is a lot bigger than we are and if we're gonna be competing for markets particularly in the trade discussions, with the trade discussions going on and so on we're gonna be competing for markets. In this kind of environment we're gonna have a tough time doing it.

    T3: I think we were...I think last year feed quality was very poor and I think this year feed quality is better. So when you're talking about a 1% change in milk production levels, feed quality is enough to change that dial about 1%. I think the more relevant question may be, "is it sustainable?" And I haven't heard anyone that strongly believes European milk production is going to be growing at that, you know, 2%, 3%, 4% rate that it has in the various years, in the last five years because as you say, I don't think the numbers are there.

    Ted: Well, maybe not. But, you know, we also have to factor in our feed quality which right now is on the edge. This is one of the anomalies. We have not had a good growing season. If we're looking at our frost here in the northern...in the upper Midwest in the next week or two, it's gonna greatly affect the feed quality for the next year.

    Anna: Dairy markets move on an international scale. Buyers and sellers thrive when they think globally. Put T.C. Jacoby and Co.'s 70 years of market expertise to work for your organization. If you're looking for someone to help you market your products or you're lo...

    • 29 min
    Killing off minimum price under the order—too controversial?

    Killing off minimum price under the order—too controversial?

    What would happen if Federal Milk Marketing Orders' minimum price provisions were eliminated? Would it increase returns to dairy farmers? And even if it did, would it wreak too much havoc in the industry to be worth trying?

    Ted, T3 and Anna dive into what might be The Milk Check's most controversial conversation yet.

    Anna: Welcome to The Milk Check, a podcast from T.C. Jacoby & Co., where we share market analysis and insights with dairy farmers in mind. The topic of Federal Order Reform is never far from our minds. Whether it's a conversation on The Milk Check or a chat around the office, we talk about it all the time.

    Today, we’re addressing it head-on. And we assume the industry will have strong opinions about this. Email us your thoughts at podcast@jacoby.com, or submit a question to www.jacoby.com/askted.

    Do minimum price provisions still make sense? What would happen if we got rid of them? Would conditions on dairy farms change for the better? Or is Federal Order reform of this sort not worth the chaos it would likely cause?

    Ted: What's the objective of Federal Order Reform? From the dairy farmer standpoint and from the industry standpoint, from my perspective, the objective is to increase the price to the dairyman. The objective...

    T3: We're not talking about what the objective was 90 years ago when it was started.

    Ted: Well, be it...

    T3: But what it would be to change what we have now into something else.

    Ted: Ninety years ago, it was started to monitor the veracity involved in weights and tests in butterfat and protein—well, we didn't even have protein. We had butterfat and skim. And the perception in the '20s and early '30s was that everybody was cheating the dairy farmer on butterfat tests. And so they requested a Federal Order that monitored the tests. Eight or ten years later, it morphed into a price mechanism. And over the years, we've had classified pricing. So now we have basically two regulatory systems. And you have the Capper-Volstead Act, which allows dairymen to band together, similar to a labor union and bargain collectively. And then you have a regulatory system, which allows cooperatives to pay less than the mandated price, or the minimum price under the Federal Order into a pool plant. You have two regulatory issues involved here. You have collective bargaining, and the second issue is the classified pricing system, which prices fluid milk at one price, and yogurt and cottage cheese, and whips and dips at another, ice cream. And then you have the cheese at one price and you have butter / powder at another price. In order to participate in the classified pricing system, you have to participate in the regulatory system.

    T3: But there's not a rule that says you have to.

    Ted: You can go unregulated if you want, unless you're a bottling plant. If you distribute milk, quote-unquote, in the marketing area, in the defined marketing area, by law, you are going to be a pool plant. There are certain percentages involved that by law, you have no choice, you're gonna be a pool plant. And anyone who sells milk into that pool plant is gonna be qualified. And it's against the law to sell milk into that pool plant at less than the minimum price under the order.

    T3: And the pool plant would basically be a plant that's bottling milk that is sold as fluid milk at a store, gallon of milk, or a quart of milk, or whatever.

    Ted: No, that's the distributing plant.

    T3: Okay.

    Ted: A pool plant can be anything, it can be a silo down at the end of the string of silos, it can be a whole plant, it can be anything that you wanna make it. It depends on how you pipe it and how it's approved by the regulatory system. The distributing plant is a bottling plant that distributes milk in the marketing area.

    • 39 min
    Feed, milk production, market psychology and more: A conversation about everything

    Feed, milk production, market psychology and more: A conversation about everything

    It's a traditionally slow month for the dairy industry, so Ted and T3 take a whirlwind tour of the state of the industry. Topics include potentially bad crop yields, slowing milk production, the trade situation with China and a dose of market psychology.

    Anna: Welcome to The Milk Check, a podcast from T.C. Jacoby & Co., where we share market analysis and insights with dairy farmers in mind. It's early August and things are slow in the dairy industry. We're taking a step back to look at markets as they stand today and discuss where things might go from here.

    We'll start by discussing feed. You don't need to be a feed expert to know it's been a hard year. T3, what's your understanding of the feed situation? And how might this year's issues affect milk production?

    T3: You know, my understanding of the issues with feed are, you know, we've had a lot of rain, the corn that's in the ground is, for the most part, running behind and in some cases, we'll probably never catch up, they're just gonna run out of time.

    Ted: It's running behind, the question is where it's running behind.

    T3: Absolutely. You know, where we live in, in St. Louis and in the parts of Missouri and Illinois down by us is actually in pretty good shape. We're hearing that there are parts of Illinois that are not in as good as shape but the fields that I've seen are in good shape around here.

    A couple of weeks ago though, I was up in Wisconsin, eastern side of Wisconsin between Madison and the lake and I saw a lot of really bad fields that were just in bad shape for, you know, for the second to last week in July, they weren't even up to my waist yet and they certainly weren't anywhere near getting ready to tassel.

    Ted: Michigan is the same way. Northern Ohio, same way. Northern Indiana, same way.

    T3: And I'm hearing Minnesota is the same way too. I'm hearing that northern Iowa might be struggling a little bit, but southern Iowa was in pretty decent shape. Here's where I'm going with that discussion. You know, a lot of the corn that turns into being feed for dairy cows is actually silage. What I'm actually hearing is the silage is not gonna be a problem, the dairy farmers are gonna have enough silage, and also due to tariffs and other things, brewer's grains and some of the other things that dairy farmers feed their cows, there's also gonna be an ample supply of.

    And so, ironically, even though the corn is not looking good, the corn directly is not gonna be the problem, the problem is going to be that the same weather that's caused the corn to be behind has caused the pasture, whether it's hay or alfalfa or whatnot, is a major problem. That whether they're gonna get one or two fewer cuttings this year, and the quality of the cuttings they do get, it's a pretty big problem. And so it's very safe to say that feed quality is going to be an issue but the issues probably gonna be more an issue of feed quality than feed price.

    You know, the basis has gone up and so maybe the feed costs a little bit more in various places but the bigger issue for the dairy farmer is gonna be feed quality in most parts of the country.

    Ted: Well, that's a price-related factor.

    T3: So that eventually will have a negative effect on milk production per cow. And so you've got cow numbers down, you know, I'm not ready to say milk production per cow is gonna be down because it's usually up a little bit every year but heifer numbers are down. We know that a lot of dairy farmers are breeding with Angus and other beef cows rather than Holsteins or Jerseys. The sense I get is that there's more, they're replacing out the Holsteins much more than they're replacing out the Jerseys.

    Ultimately, you're gonna have a smaller number of heifers in the pipeline to eventually go into thei...

    • 26 min

Customer Reviews

Avanvh1 ,

A great informative update on the dairy industry

Always an excellent analysis of current trends and insider takes on current market forces contributing to the farmer’s milk check. I always look forward to the next episode.

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