The Agriculture Department’s monthly benchmark milk price has reached the highest level in more than a year and a half. The May Federal order Class III price was announced at $16.38 per hundredweight, up 42 cents from April, $1.20 above May 2018, and the highest Class III price since November 2017.

The May price equates to $1.41 per gallon, up from $1.37 in April and $1.31 a year ago. The year to date Class III average stands at $15.05, up from $14.25 a year ago but compares to $16.05 in 2017. California’s 4b cheese milk price was $14.90 in May 2018.

The May Class IV price is $16.29, up 57 cents from April, $1.72 above a year ago, and the highest it has been since August 2017. Its five-month average stands at $15.81, up from $13.42 a year ago and compares to $14.92 in 2017.

June’s first Global Dairy Trade auction was a second session of decline as the weighted average of products offered fell 3.4 percent, following a 1.2 percent drop on May 21. Sellers brought 43.8 million pounds of product to the market, up from 34.2 million in the last event.

The losses were led by cheese and butter. GDT Cheddar was down a whopping 14.0 percent following a 15.2 percent rise last time. Butter was down 10.3 percent, after a 3.2 percent loss last time. Buttermilk powder was down 10.1 percent, anhydrous milkfat was down 5.7 percent, after it slipped 1.4 percent. Skim milk powder was down 4.0 percent, following a 0.5 percent rise, and whole milk powder was off 1.5 percent, following a 2.1 percent loss last time.

Rennet casein and lactose were the only gains, up 4.2 percent and 0.4 percent respectively.

You’ll recall that preliminary data showed April’s 50-State milk output at 18.43 billion pounds, up just 0.1 percent from April 2018. That lowered the month’s butter and milk powder production, according to the April Dairy Products report.

Starting with cheese, total April output came in at 1.08 billion pounds, down 3.6 percent from March but 0.2 percent above April. Year-to-date cheese output is now at 4.29 billion pounds, up 0.3 percent from a year ago.

Revisions added nearly 20 million pounds to the original March cheese estimate, according to the Daily Dairy Report, “enough to swing March production from a 0.7 percent year-over-year deficit to a 1.1 percent increase.

Wisconsin cows produced 279.5 million pounds of April’s cheese, down 4.6 percent from March and 2.1 percent below a year ago. California produced 212.2 million pounds, down 1.6 percent from March but 0.7 percent above a year ago. Minnesota, with 59.3 million pounds, was down 5.4 percent from March and 4.2 percent below a year ago.

Italian cheese totaled 474.3 million pounds, down 4.2 percent from March but 2.9 percent above a year ago. YTD Italian stands at 1.9 billion pounds, up 2.4 percent. Mozzarella output jumped in April, totaling 372.7 million pounds, up 4.0 percent from a year ago, with YTD now at 1.5 billion pounds, up 4.7%.

American type cheese totaled 431.9 million pounds, down 1.9 percent from March and 2.8 percent below a year ago, with YTD at 1.7 billion pounds, down 2.3 percent.

Cheddar output was also down; the cheese traded at the CME. It totaled 308.5 million pounds, down 4 million pounds from March and 10.7 million or 3.3 percent below a year ago. YTD Cheddar hit 1.2 billion pounds, down 3.7 percent from 2018.

Dairy Market News reports that cheese orders are picking up “noticeably,” according to producers of multiple varieties. Milk suppliers say some cheesemakers are looking to take more milk for the near term, into the fall. That said, milk supplies were comparatively snug. This week’s reported spot milk prices ranged from Class III to $1.50 under Class. Week 23 in 2015 to 2018 saw discounts average roughly $3.75 under Class.

Some cheesemakers attempted to sell extra milk loads back onto the market at overages, although no takers were reported. The wide price spread between the blocks and the barrels puts plant managers in a predicament of booking milk in the near term, according to DMN. “They reported recent production upticks, some at seven-day workweeks, but question how long that will last.”

Western butter output is active with schedules booked from day to day. Cream inventories are tightening but still available to satisfy butter makers.

The U.S. All-Milk price averaged $17.70 per hundredweight, up 20 cents from March and $2 above April 2018.

The April milk-over-feed margin increased 11 cents to $8.96 per hundredweight, according to the Daily Dairy Report, but “May’s margins will not be as favorable.”

The DDR warns: “Feed prices soared in May and milk prices have leveled out. The optimum time to plant corn has long passed and soils remain saturated. The year ending in April was the wettest 12-month period in the U.S. on record.”

National Milk Producers Federation also commended the Environmental Protection Agency this week for issuing a final rule to codify its earlier interpretation that air emissions from manure are not reportable under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act. The action concludes a two-year battle.