USDA to Require Changes to Dairy Check-off Program to Collect Import Fees
New rule requires Dairy Check-off program to promote domestic and imported dairy products to avoid trade infraction.
(Washington, D.C. - May 19, 2009) The International Dairy Foods Association applauded the U.S. Department of Agriculture's efforts to recognize trade concerns when the department released a proposed rule today for the Dairy Import Assessment. At the same time, IDFA cautioned that the proposed rule could significantly change the current program that promotes only U.S. dairy products.
These changes are included in a proposed rule to implement an assessment on dairy imports that was included as a provision in the 2008 Farm Bill. That bill stipulated that the assessments could only go into affect if implemented in compliance with U.S. trade obligations.
IDFA President and CEO Connie Tipton complimented Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk for working together to consider the important trade issues caused by the new law. She also complimented Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and Max Baucus (D-MT), chair of the Senate Finance Committee, who insisted that the dairy import assessment should not violate U.S. trade obligations.
"Clearly the Senate and Obama administration understood the importance of preserving our U.S. dairy export markets by ensuring that we do not implement policies that are not in compliance with our global trade rules," said Tipton. "One of the consequences of the new rule is that the program's focus can no longer be to promote only U.S. dairy products. This rule attempts to correct the problem of treating imports unfairly in our market, which could encourage discrimination against our exports. The U.S. dairy industry has real growth opportunity outside our borders, so this is one of the reasons IDFA strongly opposed the import assessment."
Under the new rule, the definition of milk would change from milk produced in the United States to all milk, regardless of its source. As such, the Dairy Board would no longer be able to limit its promotion efforts to domestic milk. Some examples of the changes that would be required under the new rule include the expansion of the Real Seal promotion to allow its use on all dairy products, including those that are imported; and supplier contact information would no longer be constrained to U.S. manufacturers, as is done today on websites that are funded through the check-off program.
The rule also would expand the Dairy Board to include two importer members. Importers would be allowed to use one-third of the required import assessments for qualified national and regional programs that promote imported dairy products.
USDA has asked to receive comments on the proposed rule by June 18, 2009. The proposed rule is available here.
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The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), Washington, DC, represents the nation's dairy manufacturing and marketing industries and their suppliers, with a membership of 530 companies representing a $110-billion a year industry. IDFA is composed of three constituent organizations: the Milk Industry Foundation (MIF), the National Cheese Institute (NCI) and the International Ice Cream Association (IICA). IDFA's 220 dairy processing members run more than 600 plant operations, and range from large multi-national organizations to single-plant companies. Together they represent more than 85% of the milk, cultured products, cheese and frozen desserts produced and marketed in the United States. IDFA can be found online at www.idfa.org