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USDA Considers Bulk Milk Purchases for Processing Dairy Products for Schools

Oct 28, 2015

Every year the U.S. Department of Agriculture purchases and coordinates the distribution of over $2 billion in agricultural commodities to the public and private schools that provide meals to students under the USDA Foods program. Many types of cheese and, more recently, yogurt have been included on the list of available foods that schools may receive.

Just this week, USDA asked for industry feedback regarding the possibility of USDA procuring bulk amounts of Grade A milk that could be used for further processing into Class II and III products. Under this arrangement, school districts would contract directly with Class II and III manufacturers that have a National Processing Agreement with the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). An explanation of this program is available here.

More details are available in USDA’s “Request for Information (RFI) on Grade A Bulk Milk for Processing.” The deadline for comments is November 19, 2015.

USDA discussed the RFI at its “2015 Annual Industry Meeting for USDA Food Contractors and Suppliers,” which was held in Arlington, Va., this week. IDFA attended the conference, along with several IDFA members who currently participate in the USDA Foods program.

Rex Barnes, associate administrator of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), told the dairy stakeholders that USDA is not looking to replace direct procurement of cheese and yogurt currently in the USDA Foods program, but rather it is “considering bulk milk procurements as another method to facilitate commercial flow of dairy products into domestic feeding programs.”

The RFI lists the type of information, such as specifications and pricing, that USDA hopes to obtain. IDFA will coordinate with members who are interested in commenting directly or in receiving more information about the RFI.

The conference also covered information concerning the consolidation of dairy and all other agricultural commodity procurement at the AMS. Previously dairy product procurement was handled by the Farm Service Agency. AMS explained how new products are considered for procurement.

Other dairy products being explored under an RFI include natural American reduced-fat cheddar cheese in bulk and natural American cheddar cheese in pre-sliced loaves and alternative cut sizes. See “USDA Sources Sought Notice/Request for Information – Natural American Reduced Fat Cheddar” and “Sources Sought Notice – Natural American Cheddar Cheese” for more details.

Additional information is available on USDA’s AMS Commodity Procurement website.

Members with questions may contact Ruth Saunders, IDFA vice president for policy and legislative affairs, at

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