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Chobani Visit a Chance to Discuss Trade, Nutrition with Ag Secretary Perdue and Rep. Brindisi of New York

May 30, 2019

A yogurt factory in a small upstate New York town was home to a discussion about global trade and retaliatory tariffs yesterday, as IDFA member Chobani hosted Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-NY) for a tour and roundtable discussion with local dairy farmers and agriculture groups. IDFA President and CEO Michael Dykes, D.V.M., attended the meeting and gave short remarks at the discussion, thanking Perdue for demonstrating leadership on trade issues. “You have been our champion,” said Dykes. “We want to thank you.”

Mark Broadhurst, senior director of public affairs for Chobani, organized and hosted the event at the famous New Berlin yogurt plant, where Chobani CEO Hamdi Ulukaya founded the company in 2005 in an old Kraft Foods plant. Broadhurst called attention to the local dairy farmers in attendance, many of whom supply Chobani with milk to make their widely sold Greek yogurt and other products. Representatives from Farm Credit East, the New York Farm Bureau, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Dairy Farmers of America, the Northeast Dairy Processors Association and others also were present.

Trade Deals and Tariffs

One dairy farmer advocated for passage of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal, which is awaiting a vote by Congress. Secretary Perdue pointed out that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has not set a timetable to consider the trade pact. “For us, it’s about more trade,” said the farmer. “And personally, I really recognize the Administration for keeping trade front and center.”

Perdue said President Trump really cares about farmers and their wellbeing. “I don’t know how a man from New York City can have this much affinity for agriculture, but he does,” said Perdue.

The Secretary also asked the audience for patience in negotiations with trading partners like China. “The president knew this would be difficult, but he’s calling out China for all sorts of wrongs they’ve committed for years.”

Referencing the $16 billion trade aid package announced by President Trump last week, Perdue continued, “I think we’ll get a deal. We need a deal. I think every farmer would prefer to make product than get a government check.”

More Milk Options in Schools

Bradd Vickers, president of the Chenango County Farm Bureau, told Secretary Perdue he would like to see whole milk in schools again.

Dykes echoed the request, saying that it’s time Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture work together through the Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR) legislation to restore more varieties of milk to the school meals programs. CNR provides Congress with an opportunity every five years to make changes to the school meals and child nutrition programs—including the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)—to ensure the programs meet the needs of their participants.

Dykes said he sees a trend in recent legislation toward more “commonsense” approaches in nutrition programs to prioritize dairy, including a bipartisan effort led by Rep. GT Thompson (R-PA) and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) to give students whole milk options in meals.  

“We need to get wholesomeness back in dairy,” said Dykes.

“It’s all of our responsibility to educate and talk about the benefits,” Perdue said. “We’ve lost a generation of milk drinkers. We’ve got to build that back up.”

For more information, contact Dave Carlin, IDFA senior vice president of legislative affairs and economic policy, at dcarlin@idfa.org.

 
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