The Class III price ended the year at $11.87, following four consecutive months above $12.

According to the USDA’s announcement of class prices on Jan. 2, the December Class III price landed at $11.87 after falling $1.60. Still, it is $2.13 higher than a year ago and 45 cents higher than the 2003 average Class III price of $11.42. However, the annual average is the seventh lowest in the past 10 years, says Phil Plourd, vice president of research with Blimling and Associates, Cottage Grove, Wis.

Meanwhile, the Class II and IV prices continued to strengthen during December. The Class II price gained 31 cents — putting it at $11.30. The Class IV price climbed 22 cents — to $10.52. The Class IV price averaged $10 per hundredweight during 2003. That is the lowest price since Federal Order Reform began in January 2000, Plourd says.

The Class III price may decline a bit further in January — spurred by further erosion in block and barrel cheese prices at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Plourd says. CME cheese prices from Dec. 26 through Jan. 16 will carry the greatest influence on January milk prices, he adds.

Block and barrel prices ended the year at $1.305 and $1.235, respectively, on Dec. 31. There was no change to those prices at the close of trading on Jan. 5.

USDA, Chicago Mercantile Exchange