News Wire

Parmalat will slash almost half its work force as it sells or liquidates units in 20 countries in an effort to keep the beleaguered company afloat. The Italian food giant is in talks to sell its U.S. dairy subsidiaries and plans to pull out of much of Latin America and Asia to focus on Europe, Canada and Australia. The downsizing would cut the number of worldwide employees to 17,000 from 32,000.
Canada-based Saputo Inc. has appointed Lino Saputo Jr. as its president and chief executive officer. Pre­viously, he served as president and CEO of the company’s Lincoln­shire, Ill.-based U.S. cheese division. Company founder Lino Saputo will continue as chairman of the board.
nCheese prices have reached all-time record levels, boosting milk prices for dairy producers. Prices for 500-pound blocks of cheddar cheese reached $2 a pound on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange in late March. Butter prices have also experienced sharp increases recently, climbing to $2.36 a pound. Wholesale butter prices haven’t been this high since October 1998 and have reached levels more than double a year ago. Milk prices, once as low as $10 per hundredweight early last year, are expected climb to as much as $18 per hundredweight because of aincreasing butter and cheese prices.
The National Milk Producers Federation’s (NMPF) board of directors last month voted to reauthorize the Cooperatives Working Together (CWT) program for another year beginning July 1.
CWT will be funded by a 5-cent-per-hundredweight assessment on producers, either through their participating co-op membership or individual CWT participation. The assessment will run through June 30, 2005. NMPF launched the program last year as an effort to boost farm milk prices by reducing supply through herd buyouts and other strategies.
Nine dairy cooperatives are seeking an emergency hearing from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to correct marketing issues that they claim resulted in lost income to Upper Midwest dairy farmers. Sponsoring co-ops are Cass-Clay Creamery, Fargo, N.D.; Dairy Farmers of America, Kansas City, Mo.; Foremost Farms USA, Baraboo, Wis.; Land O’Lakes, St. Paul, Minn.; Mid-West Dairymen’s Co. Rockford, Ill.; Milwaukee Cooperative Milk Producers, Brookfield, Wis.; Manitowoc Milk Producers Cooperative, Manitowoc, Wis.; Swiss Valley Farms, Davenport, Iowa; and Woodstock Progressive Milk Producers, Woodstock, Ill. The co-ops want to discuss modifications that would “level the playing field” for farmers who pool milk on Federal Milk Marketing Order 30. According to Dennis Tonak, author of the joint letter and manager of Mid-West Dairymen’s Co., an increased amount of milk coming from outside the Upper Midwest — “distant” milk — and unfair practices which govern how proceeds are shared among farmers within the region, have severely reduced the incomes of Upper Midwest dairy farmers, who supply the region’s Class I beverage milk markets. In other USDA news, the agency announced a tentative final decision that adopts proposals to amend classification provisions of all 10 Federal milk marketing orders. This decision would change the milk classification used to produce evaporated milk or sweetened condensed milk in consumer-type packages from Class III to Class IV.
Wells’ Dairy expects to decide on a new location for its $30 million corporate headquarters this month, says Gary Wells, chief executive officer. About 355 employees are spread out at seven locations in Le Mars, Iowa, where the company was founded in 1913. Wells’ plans to consolidate its offices and add 161 more jobs. Gov. Tom Vilsack last month signed a law qualifying Wells’ Dairy for millions of dollars in tax breaks. Wells’ had been heavily courted by Nebraska and South Dakota for its new main offices.
Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream, Oakland, Calif., recalled 14,000 cartons of ice cream that may contain peanuts not listed on the label. Mislabeled Toffee Bar Crunch and Peanut Butter Cup cartons were distributed in Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, D.C., West Virginia and Wisconsin. In other news, Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream Holdings Inc. reported a fourth-quarter loss dye to higher costs and charges related to its 2003 merger with Nestlé.