Last week, President Donald Trump held a press conference at the White House to announce a $16 billion package of assistance for the U.S. agriculture sector due to escalating retaliatory tariffs from trading partners. Tariffs have led to a disruption in U.S. agricultural exports, causing farmers to suffer financial losses.
IDFA President and CEO Michael Dykes, D.V.M., attended the press conference. “I was honored to be the sole representative of our dairy industry, standing alongside the president with other leaders from the food and agriculture sector,” said Dykes.
Oval Office Visit
Once the press conference ended, Dykes and others were invited into the Oval Office for a brief conversation with President Trump and his advisors.
“I was grateful for the opportunity to let the president know about the importance of the Chinese market to U.S. dairy,” said Dykes. “He was surprised to learn that it represents a potential $23 billion market opportunity for our dairy industry. I also thanked him and his administration for the 2018 trade assistance package, as well as the federal government’s $135 million purchase of fluid milk, which went to food banks across the country to benefit needy families.”
The USDA purchased the fluid milk under Section 32, a permanent appropriation of the Act of August 24, 1935, that supports the farm sector through the purchase of commodities to encourage domestic consumption. The distribution of milk at food banks nationwide has generated overwhelmingly positive feedback from communities as fresh milk is the most requested item from families in need—but rarely is available.
Fresh Milk for Food Banks
During his conversation with President Trump, Dykes shared an anecdote from IDFA partner Feeding America, which, Dykes said, made a positive impression on the president. The Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida in Orlando relayed the story of a mother who rejoiced when she learned that fresh milk would be a regular food distributed at her local food bank, saying, “Thank you! My children will be so excited to not have water on their cereal now.” The programs positively benefit the lives of families struggling to provide food for their children and help combat hunger in America.
The White House released a statement in coordination with the press conference, with a quote from President Trump: “On every front, we are fighting for our great farmers, our ranchers, our growers.” The statement details the relief package, stating that $14.5 billion will go to direct payments to farmers and $1.4 billion will go to the Food Purchase and Distribution Program to purchase surplus commodities affected by trade retaliation. These products will be distributed to schools, food banks and other groups.
Additionally, $100 million has been allocated to the USDA’s Agricultural Trade Promotion Program, which helps U.S. agricultural exporters develop new markets and mitigate the adverse effects of tariff and non-tariff barriers.
USDA said that the trade mitigation payments and assistance to producers will be expanded to cover a wider variety of commodities, including dairy farmers and dairy products. The USDA estimates that the program is expected to go into effect by July 2019. Dykes has emphasized through advocacy that the outstanding details on dairy farmer payments and the $1.4 billion commodity purchases are very important to IDFA members, who have already suffered a loss in dairy product sales in foreign countries where they have invested significantly to develop these export markets.
For more information, contact Beth Hughes, IDFA senior director of international affairs, at email@example.com.