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Cheese Company Leaders Hit Capitol Hill, Call for Critical Trade Action

Oct 04, 2018
Fly-in participants with Ted McKinney, USDA undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs (center).

A coalition of executives from U.S. cheese companies arrived in Washington, D.C., this week to meet face to face with top administration and congressional leaders and stress urgent action on the most pressing policy area to the industry: global trade.

The group thanked the administration for working to preserve and open dairy market access in the new trilateral trade pact with Canada and Mexico announced this week but stressed that any gains won’t be realized unless American steel and aluminum tariffs, and the resulting retaliations on U.S. cheese exports, are lifted. The leaders also called for proactive trade actions that would defend U.S. companies’ use of common cheese names abroad and secure bilateral trade agreements with key countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

“I can’t think of a more critical moment than now for a powerful team of IDFA cheese company members to band together, calling for trade actions that will place them on a level playing field with global competitors,” said Dave Carlin, IDFA senior vice president of legislative affairs and economic policy. “Cheese companies in the United States rely on trade to succeed. With more than 95 percent of our potential customers living outside our borders, expanding access to international markets is essential for our future success.”

The cheese executives also urged lawmakers to pass legislation that would ensure that “natural cheese” retains its historic meaning and helps consumers identify “natural cheese” from “process cheese.” The group told senators that U.S. cheese companies have been using the term “natural cheese” for decades, and that enacting a bill is necessary to help prevent consumer confusion.

A Packed Schedule

The cheese company executives met with top leadership in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), as well as senators key to trade issues and several that have cheese company constituents. They include:

  • Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue;
  • Ray Starling, chief of staff at USDA;
  • Ted McKinney, USDA undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs;
  • Ambassador Gregg Doud, chief agricultural negotiator, USTR;
  • Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo.;
  • Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M.;
  • Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D.;
  • Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis.;
  • Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del.;
  • Staff of Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho;
  • Nasim Fussell, deputy chief international trade counsel, Senate Finance Committee;
  • Guillermo Malpica Soto, head of the trade and North American Free Trade Agreement Office, Embassy of Mexico; and
  • Carlos Vazquez, minister of agricultural affairs, Embassy of Mexico.

IDFA staff and the executives also hosted a dinner for Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis.

Dairy Decision-Makers

The cheese company leaders and other fly-in participants are:

  • Dan Zagzebski, president and CEO, Great Lakes Cheese Co., Inc.;
  • David Ahlem, CEO and president, Hilmar Cheese Company, Inc.;
  • Jeff Saforek, chief operating officer, Agri-Mark, Inc./Cabot;
  • Jim Sartori, CEO, Sartori Company;
  • Louie Gentine, CEO, Sargento Foods Inc.;
  • Chad Hamilton, executive vice president and general counsel, Sargento Foods Inc.;
  • Michael Doyle, president and CEO, Foremost Farms USA;
  • Mike Reidy, senior vice president of corporate affairs, Leprino Foods Company;
  • Rob Byrne, vice president of industry and regulatory affairs, Schreiber Foods, Inc.;
  • Stan Ryan, president and CEO, Darigold, Inc.;
  • Tom Murphy, president, Brewster Cheese Company; and
  • Wilf Costello, chief commercial officer of cheese, Glanbia Nutritionals.

Follow their activities @dairyidfa on Twitter.




 

Press Briefing 

Three of the leaders kicked-off Wednesday morning with a press briefing. Ahlem of Hilmar Cheese, Ryan of Darigold and Sartori of Satori Company outlined the importance of progressive trade agreements to the health of the U.S. dairy industry and demonstrated the impact that dairy exports have on their states and the economy overall.

The briefing generated several interested journalists, representing Agri-Pulse, Inside U.S. Trade, NPR, POLITICO, Reuters, USA Today, The Washington Examiner and others.

For more information, contact Carlin at dcarlin@idfa.org.

 
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