IDFA, NMPF Oppose Dairy Reductions to WIC Program
Representatives from IDFA and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) met last week with Office of Management and Budget (OMB) staff to discuss proposed modifications to the nation's supplemental feeding program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). IDFA and NMPF voiced concern that the proposed changes would significantly reduce the consumption of dairy products in WIC households, and urged OMB to consider the negative nutritional impact the changes would have on these women and children as well as the economic consequences to processors, farmers and the federal budget.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which oversees the WIC program, proposed the changes based on recommendations from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to align the program with the 2005 Dietary Guidelines and add more fruits and vegetables. In an effort to keep the program at the same budget level, USDA has proposed reducing the amount of dairy and other products in the WIC food package.
Last fall, IDFA and NMPF sent a joint letter to USDA requesting the retention of the current levels of dairy products in the WIC program to ensure that the nutritional needs of the participants were met. Because OMB is now reviewing the proposed USDA rule, IDFA and NMPF representatives presented their case to OMB.
At the meeting, IDFA referenced published data from USDA and IOM to illustrate the negative nutritional effect a reduction in dairy servings would have on program participants. According to these reports, WIC program participants often lack adequate levels of key nutrients, like calcium, potassium and magnesium.
Although calcium intake is adequate for children ages one through four years, their intake of potassium is consistently below adequate levels. That finding is true for all groups of women in the WIC program as well. The reports also show that calcium intake is significantly inadequate for women participants across all age groups, and magnesium deficiencies are almost universal among 14-to-18-year-old participants.
NMPF representatives reviewed the economic impact that the proposed changes would have on the U.S. dairy industry and the federal budget. This analysis showed:
Purchases of fluid milk would decline 57 million to 78 million gallons per year, and purchases of cheese would decline 43 million to 49 million pounds per year. These reductions are equivalent to losses of 0.9% to 1.3% of annual fluid milk sales and 1.1% to 1.3% of annual sales of American-type cheese; The processing sector of the U.S. dairy industry would experience sales losses of between $321 and $402 million per year; Producers would experience income losses of between $1.05 and $1.3 billion over four years; and Federal budgetary expenditures would increase by between $63 and $80 million per year, due to increased purchases by the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) under the dairy price support program.
IDFA Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Cary Frye and Tuckie Westfall, director of government affairs for Kraft Foods, explained why the amount of cheese currently allowed to be substituted for milk should not be cut back, and why soy beverages should not be substituted for milk. They also recommended allowing yogurt to be substituted for milk because yogurt contains lower levels of lactose.
"OMB staff members were very interested in the data provided," said Frye. "They wanted to better understand how pricing is set for the CCC and what trends were attributed to the high volatility in surplus milk supply. They also asked general questions on the trends of consumer demand for dairy products and how the higher cost of energy is affecting both the farm and dairy processing sectors."
Some of the information presented appeared to be new to the OMB staff, Frye explained. For example, they were unaware that hard cheese contains no lactose and that yogurt is lower in lactose than milk, and asked for more information on the prevalence of lactose intolerance. IDFA will provide OMB with this information as a follow-up to the meeting.
The proposed rule was received by OMB on April 25, and the staff has 90 days to complete its review. Once the review is completed, USDA will publish the proposed rule for comment; the final rule is expected to be issued by November 2006.
To read the joint letter from IDFA and NMPF to USDA, click here. To read the analysis of the economic impact of the proposed changes, click here. For more information, contact Frye at email@example.com or 202-220-3543.
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Posted June 19, 2006