During IDFA’s fly-in this week, dairy leaders from 10 member companies met with congressional leaders and administration officials to call for urgent action on U.S. tariffs that are impeding exports and other dairy trade priorities. While they urged Congress to pass the newly signed U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), they expressed concerns that its benefits won’t be realized as long as the tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, and resulting retaliations on U.S. dairy, remain in place.

They also urged the administration to resolve tariff issues with China, address global protections on common food names, include dairy in upcoming trade talks with Japan and the European Union and pursue future bilateral pacts to increase dairy market access abroad.

“The House and Senate are working down to the wire to pass pivotal legislation and make their mark before the end of the 115th Congress,” said Dave Carlin, IDFA senior vice president of economic policy and legislative affairs. “This is the perfect time for IDFA to strategically deploy its member company leaders on Capitol Hill, sharing stories about how these tariffs and other trade issues directly affect their companies and communities.”

After a briefing Tuesday by the IDFA legislative team, the dairy leaders and IDFA staff members met with lawmakers, as well as agriculture and trade officials who are instrumental collaborators within the Trump administration on trade policy.

The group said the USMCA as signed met IDFA’s top priorities, including maintaining dairy market access to Mexico, eliminating Canada’s Class 6 and 7 pricing programs, improving market access into Canada and including strong provisions on geographical indications. With the administration’s steel and aluminum tariffs still in place, however, the Mexican market is no longer duty-free, the executives said. U.S. dairy access to the Mexican market, which remains U.S. dairy’s largest export market, remains at serious risk, they added.

The leaders also asked Congress to work with the Trump administration on tempering the ongoing trade dispute with China, which is the third-largest export market for U.S. dairy and the leading market for U.S. whey. The Chinese government placed retaliatory import taxes on nearly all U.S. dairy exports in September. The executives urged lawmakers to share stories of the negative impact that this trade disruption has on U.S. dairy companies with the administration. They stressed that U.S. dairy needs a level playing field in the Chinese market to continue its previous growth in the region.

Additionally, the executives expressed appreciation to the administration officials for U.S. plans to pursue a bilateral agreement with the European Union and Japan, which is U.S. dairy’s fourth-largest market abroad. The dairy executives asked for the EU agreement to be comprehensive and to include provisions on agriculture. They also urged administrators to negotiate for greater market access in Japan and tackle barriers to trade there.

Dairy Decision-Makers

The dairy executives participating in the fly-in were:

  • Terry Brockman, President and COO, Saputo Cheese USA Inc.;
  • Jay Bryant, CEO, Maryland and Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association, Inc.;
  • Rich Draper, CEO, The Ice Cream Club, Inc.;
  • Heather Draper, Director, The Ice Cream Club, Inc.;
  • Ken Jorgensen, Director, Dairy Operations, H-E-B;
  • Andrei Mikhalevsky, President and CEO, California Dairies, Inc.; 
  • Chris Olsen, Vice President, Community and Government Relations Americas, Tate & Lyle Custom Ingredients, L.L.C.;
  • Mike Reidy, Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs, Leprino Foods Company; 
  • Alan Thomsen, President and CEO, Schoep's Ice Cream Co., Inc.;
  • Tim Walls, Executive Vice President, Schreiber US, Schreiber Foods, Inc.; and
  • Dan Zagzebski, President & CEO, Great Lakes Cheese Co., Inc.

They met with the following officials:

  • Gregory Ibach, undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture;
  • Ted McKinney, undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs at USDA;
  • Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C.;
  • Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis.;
  • Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis.; and
  • Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore.

Follow their activities @dairyidfa on Twitter


(L-R: Dykes, Thomsen, Olsen, Brockman, Reidy, Draper, Rep. Gallagher, Zagzebski, Jorgensen)

Nomination and Governance Committee Meeting

Most dairy executives who participated in the fly-in are members of IDFA’s interim Nomination and Governance Committee. The committee met yesterday to consider a slate of officers who will serve on the new IDFA Executive Council. They also made final arrangements to keep these changes on track for implementation on Jan. 1, 2019.

“One of the many benefits of this new governance structure is that it will allow IDFA to pursue policy priorities as one advocacy organization and enhance the effectiveness of our voice in Washington,” said Michael Dykes, D.V.M., IDFA president and CEO. “I’m excited about our progress and look forward to this evolution for meeting our members’ needs, now and in the future.”

Read, “Building the IDFA of the Future,” to learn more about how the new structure provides a variety of benefits for members.

Celebration of Dairy Holiday Reception

The fly-in culminated Wednesday evening with IDFA’s Celebration of Dairy Holiday Reception, where around 300 attendees enjoyed dairy products donated by IDFA member companies.

IDFA hosted this event adjacent to the Capitol Building to bring together members of Congress, their families, staff and other special guests to enjoy scoops of ice cream, eggnog and holiday displays of cheese.

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