News Wire

A U.S. District Court judge in Ohio has refused to block implementation of updated make allowances for Class I and Class II milk for March announced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) last December. The judge ruled in response to a lawsuit filed January 12 by a group of cooperatives seeking to block implementation. “IDFA is pleased that manufacturers will finally get modest relief,” says Chip Kunde, senior vice president at the International Dairy Foods Association. “We now urge USDA to revise the make allowances to reflect today’s higher manufacturing costs in the final decision.” For more information, visit www.idfa.org.
Dallas-based Dean Foods Co. has announced it will refuse milk from cloned cows, despite the Food and Drug Administration’s preliminary approval of meat and milk from cloned animals. “Numerous surveys have shown that Americans are not interested in buying dairy products that contain milk from cloned cows and Dean Foods is responding to the needs of our customers,” the company said in a statement. Public opinion polls currently suggest consumers would shun milk and other food products from cloned animals.
Arden Hills, Minn.-based Land O’Lakes Inc. is selling its West Coast industrial cheese business to Canadian cheese giant Saputo Inc. for $216 million. The business generates about $415 million in annual sales, Saputo reports. Land O’Lakes plans to continue its California operations at a butter-and-powder plant in Tulare and a cheese plant in Orland, facilities that employ more than 500 people. Saputo has also agreed to buy 2 billion pounds of milk a year from Land O’Lakes.
Midwest dairy cooperatives Associated Milk Producers Inc. (AMPI), New Ulm, Minn., and Cass-Clay Creamery Inc., Fargo, N.D., plan to merge, to create a farmer-owned dairy marketing company with more than $1 billion in annual sales. The combined entity will provide a complete line of dairy products to a regional and national marketplace. Final approval is expected this month, with the merger to be completed April 1.
Irene Rosenfeld, chief executive officer of Northfield, Ill.-based Kraft Foods Inc., has announced a plan for making the company’s products more enticing to consumers and cutting costs as it tries to energize its turnaround plan. The proposal comes about a month before parent Altria Group plans to spin off its 89 percent stake in Kraft. The plan calls for Kraft to invest $300 million to $400 million on marketing, research and development and other plans this year and to increase marketing spending again in 2008. In recent years, Kraft has closed plants, cut jobs and sold brands to focus on cheese, snacks and beverages. The company says its four key strategies are to reorganize for growth, make its categories more relevant to consumers, exploit its sales capabilities and drive down costs.
The Lactalis American Group Inc., Buffalo, N.Y., has announced an agreement to purchase Concord, Calif.-based Mozzarella Fresca Inc. The acquisition will create a third subsidiary in addition to the two existing U.S. operating com­panies Sorrento Lactalis Inc. and Lactalis USA.
General Mills, Minneapolis, has announced its new Worldwide Innovation Network (WIN), designed to expand and accelerate the innovation advances already under way inside the company. Through WIN, General Mills is seeking external partners with new products and technologies that will be complimentary to the company’s brands and businesses. “We have formalized our external innovation initiative to ensure potential partners recognize that we are not only open to new ideas, we are actively seeking them,” says Peter Erickson, General Mills’ senior vice president of innovation, technology and quality. “A focus on external innovation has been a critical competitive advantage for General Mills. We believe the next big advance, which may reshape the food industry, has already been invented by someone outside the company, and our goal is to be the first to find it.”
Because of concerns about the economic health of dairy farmers, the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) has asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to investigate the overall implications of the rising production of biofuels, such as ethanol, on food production in the United States. In January’s State of the Union address, President George W. Bush called for even greater development and use of corn-based ethanol. While NMPF understands the need to develop alternatives to imported petroleum fuels, it says it is important for both sides of this story to be evaluated. For more information, visit www.nmpf.org
Washington, D.C.-based International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) is now accepting applications for the fourth annual Dairy Industry Safety Recognition Awards, a program that honors firms for outstanding worker safety performance. Award winners will be honored this fall at IDFA’s Worldwide Food Expo, October 24 to 27 in Chicago. The winners also will be featured in Dairy Field magazine, which co-sponsors the safety awards program. For more information, visit www.idfa.org