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May 2014 Archive for AgDairy Market Update

RSS By: Robin Schmahl, Dairy Today

Robin Schmahl is a commodity broker and owner of AgDairy LLC, a full-service commodity brokerage firm located in Elkhart Lake, Wis. He provides dairy market insight.

Why Can’t Milk Compete?

May 23, 2014

While dairy farmers pay 15 cents per cwt. to increase demand for dairy products, milk sales decline and competition from other beverages surges.

U.S. consumption of fluid milk has been steadily declining for quite some time. In fact, consumption of total fluid milk products has been on a nearly steady decline since 1945.

At its peak, per capita consumption of fluid milk products reached 384.2 lb. It has been all downhill since then with consumption less than 195 lb. at present. This has been a concern and remains a concern not only for the dairy industry but, more importantly, the health of the nation.

Now, this is not all gloom and doom, and I do not intend it to be. The decline in fluid milk consumption has been more than offset by an increase in per-capita consumption of cheese and, recently, the surge in yogurt consumption. Per-capita total cheese consumption had tripled since 1970, reaching nearly 34 lb. Add to that steadily increasing export demand, and the decline in fluid milk consumption is not quite so depressing.

So, why the decline in fluid milk consumption? Dairy farmers are paying 15 cents per cwt. for the purpose of increasing sales and demand for dairy products. But why the lower trend of fluid milk consumption? I guess the best explanation is "competition." There are so many beverages available to consumers with more being developed. Back in 1945, soda was considered a luxury by many with milk being more of a staple. There were many small family farms with milk readily available for consumption right at the farm. Now, there are literally isles of soft drinks, sports drinks, juices, and teas available in many flavors.

There are beverages for those who like it spicy. There are beverages for those who want more energy. There are beverages for those who need quick rehydration, and there are beverages for those who want fiber, probiotics, and/or anti-oxidants. There are fluid drinks that are virtually a meal in themselves. On top of this, packaging is very appealing. Innovation in packaging for milk has improved, but consumers still look at milk as a beverage for certain applications and certain times of the day.

Today’s beverages are being produced that carry many of the nutritional qualities of milk and more with a longer shelf life. Milk is best consumed when it is cold. Once it warms to room temperature or above, it losses much of its appeal and if left too long will begin to sour. However, many other beverages are consumed at outside temperature over a longer period of time such as during bike rides, hiking trails or long rides in the car without the same effects. I am not against other beverages and consume them myself, but I love a cold glass of milk and the nutritional benefits of milk are second to none.

Demand for dairy products continues to increase both domestically and internationally providing good demand for the milk we produce. Exports continue to run substantially higher than last year with the latest export report for the month of March showing cheese exports up 36.9% over last year. Cheese exports for the first quarter of this year were 46.5% above the same period last year. Butter exports have been incredible with first quarter exports up 109.0% over the same time last year.

So, despite reduced fluid milk consumption, there are many good things happening in the dairy industry. Increasing world demand provides a positive outlook for milk prices in the future.

Upcoming reports:

  • Agricultural Price report on May 30
  • California 4a & 4b prices on June 2
  • Dairy Product Production report on June 4
  • May Federal Order class prices on June 4


Robin Schmahl is a commodity broker and owner of AgDairy LLC, a full-service commodity brokerage firm located in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. He can be reached at 877-256-3253 or through their website at www.agdairy.com.

The thoughts expressed and the data from which they are drawn are believed to be reliable but cannot be guaranteed. Any opinions expressed are subject to change without notice. There is risk of loss in trading and my not be suitable for everyone. Those acting on this information are responsible for their own actions. This material has been prepared by an employee or agent of AgDairy LLC and is in the nature of a solicitation. By accepting this communication, you acknowledge and agree that you are not, and will not rely solely on this communication for making trading decisions.

Hypothetical or simulated performance results have certain inherent limitations. Simulated results do not represent actual trading. Simulated trading programs are subject to the benefit of hindsight. No representation is being made that any account will or is likely to achieve profits or losses similar to those shown. There is risk of loss in commodity trading may not be suitable for recipients of this communication.

 

 

 

 

Dairy’s Margin Protection Plan Is Not a Cure-all for Marketing

May 12, 2014

Should you commit to the new farm bill program for dairies, or avoid it? Plus, a closer look at the cheese market.

Cheese prices have fallen further than many had expected for this time of year. The price decline was swift, with buyers purchasing on an as-needed basis but waiting for lower prices. There was a feeling that cheese prices would be able to hold above psychological support of $2.00 and, so far, that has been the case. Prices came near that level, increasing buyer interest with the desire to take advantage of lower prices.

Purchasing still seems to be on an as-needed basis. Increasing cheese production has allowed for cheese to move to inventory, lessening the concern of tight supply for the time being. Despite lower inventory than last year, buyers see sufficient supply for the next few months. Schools will be closing over the next few weeks, allowing for greater milk volumes to move to manufacturing. It is unclear as to the extent of milk output over the next few months. New forage supply could provide a boost to milk production.

Farm bill chatter has slowed, with a few items still unclear as to how they will be implemented or what the final provisions will be. In the case of the Margin Protection Plan (MPP), the key feature is to move from a safety net for the price of milk to the margin between milk and feed costs. This milk income over feed costs will be determined by the difference between the national average for milk or the All-Milk price and the cost of corn, soybean meal and alfalfa hay price. It is interesting to note that the milk/feed ratio calculation that we have been using for years will be changed for the purpose of the Margin Protection Plan.

The milk/feed ratio is based on the average price of corn, soybeans and alfalfa hay prices released by the USDA at the end of each month. The actual calculation consists of the All-Milk price minus the prices of 51 lb. corn, 41 lb. of alfalfa hay, and 8 lb. of soybeans. For the month of April, this equated to an income over feed costs of $15.05.

For the purpose of the MPP, the calculation will be the All-Milk price minus the price of corn times 1.0728, soybean meal price times 0.00735, and the price of alfalfa hay times 0.0137. This equates to an income over feed costs of $13.83. The good thing about this is that it reduces the income over feed costs by about $1.20, providing for an earlier level of protection compared to using the current milk/feed ratio calculation.

There is one aspect of the calculation of which I am not completely sure. Soybean meal price is not recorded on the monthly "Agricultural Prices" report. The price used for this calculation will be determined by the Central Illinois soybean meal price as reported by the Market News Service of the Agricultural Marketing Service. It is unclear whether the calculation uses the price by rail or by truck. These prices are not too much different, but using one or the other will make a slight impact on price calculation.

Your decision will be whether you want to commit to the program and choose a margin protection level between $4.00 and $8.00 or whether you will stay out and utilize some other form of market protection for your margin.

I encourage producers who choose this program or the Livestock Gross Margin for Dairy (LGM-Dairy) program to not solely rely on it for price protection. It will not protect against a decline in milk prices. The milk price could decline, reducing profitability while still leaving you out of getting a payment from either program. After all, the current income over feed costs of $13.83 for April would need to decline more than $5.83 before any payment would be received, if the highest deductible would be chosen minus the cost of implementation. This would reduce profitability substantially.

Use put option spreads consisting of the purchase of at-the-money puts and selling puts $1.25 below that level to reduce cost. This provides some downside protection while leaving the upside open. There is no potential for ongoing margin calls with this position.

Upcoming reports:

  • Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry report on May 15
  • April milk production report on May 19
  • GDT auction on May 20


Robin Schmahl is a commodity broker and owner of AgDairy LLC, a full-service commodity brokerage firm located in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. He can be reached at 877-256-3253 or through their website at www.agdairy.com.

The thoughts expressed and the data from which they are drawn are believed to be reliable but cannot be guaranteed. Any opinions expressed are subject to change without notice. There is risk of loss in trading and my not be suitable for everyone. Those acting on this information are responsible for their own actions. This material has been prepared by an employee or agent of AgDairy LLC and is in the nature of a solicitation. By accepting this communication, you acknowledge and agree that you are not, and will not rely solely on this communication for making trading decisions.

Hypothetical or simulated performance results have certain inherent limitations. Simulated results do not represent actual trading. Simulated trading programs are subject to the benefit of hindsight. No representation is being made that any account will or is likely to achieve profits or losses similar to those shown. There is risk of loss in commodity trading may not be suitable for recipients of this communication.

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