A hard year coming to an end, and a look at 2021
By Darren Turley, TAD executive director
What a year 2020 has been, and it is finally coming to an end! The ups and downs in the dairy markets from shelter-in-place rules due to the pandemic led to some major swings in prices this year. This has caused a roller coaster of emotions for everyone in every segment of the dairy industry.
Now the increasing infection rate has many people second-guessing the wisdom of family gatherings over the holidays, as well as putting pressure on so many sectors as hospital beds are full and schools are running short of teachers and substitutes. Even as vaccines start to roll out, we can expect much of 2021 to still require masks, social distancing and restrictions on business capacity. It will prolong the return of the food service industry to pre-pandemic levels, which of course impacts our industry.
Also next year we expect to see some decrease in prices with the stockpiled butter for food service weighing on the markets. This is pushing January prices down significantly. One promising point is that there is speculation that the incoming Biden administration will consider another round of the Farmers to Families Food Box program. This was the largest of several government efforts to purchase surplus food products to donate to those in need, and it is winding down quickly. Many food bank suppliers already have used their share of the $500 million allocated for November and December, and government-funded cheese orders have dried up.
President-elect Biden has nominated Tom Vilsack, the current head of the U.S. Dairy Export Council, to return to his former post as Secretary for the Department of Agriculture. But after watching the damage that sky-high cheese prices caused to U.S. export opportunities, and their uneven benefits to dairy producers, Vilsack may not be inclined to rubber stamp the program. The market could be counting its food boxes before they are packed.
On the state level, the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality has worked with TAD on milk disposal options this year, first due to the pandemic shutdown and then on options for the future. The Bosque River Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) working group has been established and has started discussing next steps for the future TMDL.
The Texas Legislature will convene in less than a month (see the article from our government relations team). During the interim, as COVID-19 eliminated our usual in-person visits, TAD staff has kept in touch with legislators through video conferencing.
Public access to the Texas Capitol has been the big discussion this month. While no rules have been set, the ongoing pandemic is expected to impact access as well as testimony on bills. Thanks to years of working on relations with lawmakers, and excellent communications, TAD expects to be able to fully represent the viewpoints of the daily industry to our elected officials.
The holiday season is a time to slow down and think about our savior (the reason for the season), family, friends and all you have to be thankful for, despite the hardships of this unprecedented year.
Merry Christmas from Texas Association of Dairymen, and let’s hope for a Happier New Year!