The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) and the International Dairy Foods Assn. (IDFA) – the three leading U.S. dairy organizations – jointly urged Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to use all tools at his disposal to “ensure high-quality, nutritious U.S. dairy products are made available to our international neighbors in need.”
The COVID-19 virus has created a humanitarian disaster that touches every corner of the world. The sheer scope of the food crisis alone is unlike any witnessed in a generation, as disrupted supply chains and economic downturns have devastated farmers and left millions around the world without reliable access to food.
“As a nation, we are blessed to have an abundance of dairy available, even during this difficult time. Taking steps to share that abundance with the world will provide a lifeline for regions where food is needed while supplying an additional outlet for American farmers to share their abundance of dairy products,” NMPF president and chief executive officer Jim Mulhern, USDEC president and CEO Tom Vilsack and IDFA president and CEO Michael Dykes wrote in the letter dated May 18.
“We encourage a focus in particular on countries that have indicated a food or nutrition deficit in their country during these times and that lack the infrastructure or resources to reliably deliver dairy supplies through robust commercial channels,” they added.
The letter noted that the provision of dairy products should be used in a manner that fills a void at no cost to the recipient markets rather than commercialized in a manner that could displace sales and, thereby, worsen the impact of the pandemic further.
Dairy products provide key nutrients necessary for healthy child development and for adult health. The letter added that some developing nations with sizable vulnerable populations are lacking reliable and affordable access to wholesome food; dairy products are an essential nutrition source that can help meet this need. “Working together, we have an important opportunity to put your motto into action at this critical moment: Do right, and feed everyone,” the dairy leaders noted regarding Perdue’s motto.
Dairy farmers are facing some of the steepest losses of all major U.S. agricultural producers – potentially $8.2 billion, based on a comparison of current U.S. Department of Agriculture projections with pre-crisis estimates. U.S. dairy supplies available for international distribution remain ample, making targeted food aid shipped worldwide a promising avenue for helping populations that are struggling with localized hunger and the coronavirus crisis, the dairy groups explained.
“America’s dairy farmers, farmer-owned cooperatives and dairy processors stand ready and willing to work with your office in order to ensure that food aid efforts are implemented in the most efficient manner possible to bring mutual benefit to communities both at home and abroad while operating within the boundaries of our existing international trade agreements. Food aid initiatives have also traditionally enjoyed bipartisan approval, and now, more than ever, we should strengthen these efforts to reach those who need additional support,” the letter added.