IDFA presented a three-point plan for bolstering dairy demand in a letter sent last week to new Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. In the letter, IDFA President and CEO Connie Tipton recommended exchanging federal bulk dairy inventory for consumer-ready products, using available funding to stimulate demand and allowing yogurt to be included in feeding programs for women and children.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that milk production will outpace demand this year, resulting in the triggering of dairy farm support programs under the 2008 Farm Bill. While these programs encourage continued growth in milk supply, they do not address current sagging demand in the United States and abroad.
In her letter, Tipton notes that IDFA has joined a new interagency team to advise USDA how best to use surplus dairy products for federal feeding programs.
"We salute this effort to provide the needy with greater access to healthy dairy products while minimizing taxpayer's costs and supporting new demand that will help sustain jobs in the dairy industry," Tipton said.
As a first step toward bolstering demand, Tipton urges USDA to convert government inventory into consumer-oriented dairy products with savings that previously would have been spent on transportation and storage. Updating specifications for products purchased under the Dairy Price Support Program to reflect current commercial practices also would allow companies to more readily sell products to the government under this program, Tipton said.
Second, Tipton notes that most dairy products currently aren't purchased under the price support program. She recommends "stimulus purchases" of products such as yogurt and additional funding, available under the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act, for reduced-fat and lower-fat cheeses that can be used in schools and other institutions.
As a third step, Tipton encourages USDA to finalize the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) rule by including the Institute of Medicine's recommendation to offer yogurt in the WIC food package.