USDA asked to purchase cheese, butter

Wisconsin and New York want USDA to offer producers assistance as Canada’s ultra-filtered milk policies change May 1.

Top agriculture officials in Wisconsin and New York called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help dairy farmers in those states who have lost a market for their milk as a result of Canada’s recent actions to block the import of ultra-filtered milk from U.S. producers.

The state officials joined the International Dairy Foods Assn. and others in the U.S. dairy industry in calling on the Trump Administration to fight back against protectionist Canadian trade policies that are slamming the door shut to American dairy exports, in violation of existing trade commitments between the two nations.

Ben Brancel, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection, and Richard Ball, commissioner of the New York Department of Agriculture & Markets, urged USDA to help producers by exercising its authority to purchase cheese and butter in storage and distribute it through USDA's nutritional aid programs, including food banks and the national school feeding programs.

Canada recently informed major Wisconsin and New York dairy processors that they will no longer have a market for ultra-filtered milk.

In Wisconsin, this action affects about 75 farmers, leaving them with no buyer for about 1 million lb. of their daily milk production as of May 1.

"If these multi-generational farm families cannot find another market for their milk, they will be forced to sell their cows and go out of business," Brancel said.

“The U.S. dairy industry is united on this issue because these restrictive policies effectively bar a significant U.S. export to Canada, with total losses estimated to hit $150 million worth of ultra-filtered milk exports from Wisconsin and New York. As we feared, these policies are now prohibiting our nation’s dairy processors from accessing the Canadian market,” Dr. Michael Dykes, president and chief executive officer of IDFA, said.

“IDFA is speaking out against Canada’s protectionist policies on Capitol Hill and asking the Trump Administration and state governors and legislators to insist that Canada honor its trade commitments and allow more market access for U.S. dairy products,” he added.

Wisconsin is home to 1.28 million cows on 9,236 dairy farms -- more farms than any other state in the country -- and 96% are family-owned farms, with an average number of 138 cows per farm. Dairy is the largest segment of Wisconsin agriculture. Of the $88.3 billion economic impact of agriculture, $43.4 billion is generated by the dairy industry, including 78,900 jobs.

IDFA said New York exports more to Canada than to any other country in the world. Last year, the bilateral trade relationship totaled $32.93 billion in goods and supported more than 500,000 jobs regionally. The dairy industry is New York's largest agriculture sector, having almost 5,000 family-run farms that are home to more than 618,000 cows, resulting in an average of 128 cows per farm. In 2015, the dairy community brought in $2.5 billion in sales and employed close to 20,000 people.

USDA is authorized under Section 32 of the Agriculture Act of 1935 to support agricultural producers by purchasing surplus commodities for food banks and nutrition assistance programs, such as the National School Lunch Program.

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