WASHINGTON, March 9, 2023—A bipartisan group of 7 U.S. Senators and 28 U.S. Representatives yesterday sent letters to leaders at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) urging the Department to abandon a proposal to reduce the amount of milk and dairy provided to mothers and children enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, or WIC. The USDA’s proposal would eliminate as much as 3 gallons or more of milk per month for WIC mothers and their children, a cut that members of Congress say will have “unintended and significant negative effects”.
The letters, led by U.S. Senators Roger Marshall (R-KS) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Reps. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and Josh Harder (D-CA), cite the nutritional importance of dairy products to WIC participants. The House letter also cites a Morning Consult national tracking poll that found 20% of WIC participants are likely to drop out of WIC if USDA makes the proposed cuts. Dairy products provide 13 essential nutrients like vitamin D and calcium for infants, children, mothers, and expectant mothers—nutrients that are under consumed by the WIC population. Three of the top five foods redeemed are dairy products, and current WIC allotments allow low-income families to continue purchasing dairy products, especially as fluid milk prices have increased nearly 20% since last year, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.
International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) President and CEO Michael Dykes, D.V.M., issued the following statement in support of the letters:
“USDA’s proposed cuts to WIC dairy benefits put low-income mothers and children in severe jeopardy at a time when food costs are a major challenge for families. USDA’s proposal ignores its own federal Dietary Guidelines, which say 90% of Americans are not consuming enough dairy to meet daily requirements. USDA must not make these cuts and instead find ways to improve program participation by encouraging the purchase of nutritious milk and dairy. IDFA is grateful to the bipartisan members of Congress led by Sens. Marshall and Gillibrand and Reps. Stefanik and Harder who are calling on USDA to maintain the current level of WIC dairy benefits in the final rule.”
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The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), Washington, D.C., represents the nation’s dairy manufacturing and marketing industry, which supports more than 3.3 million jobs that generate $41.6 billion in direct wages and $753 billion in overall economic impact. IDFA’s diverse membership ranges from multinational organizations to single-plant companies, from dairy companies and cooperatives to food retailers and suppliers, all on the cutting edge of innovation and sustainable business practices. Together, they represent 90 percent of the milk, cheese, ice cream, yogurt and cultured products, and dairy ingredients produced and marketed in the United States and sold throughout the world. Delicious, safe and nutritious, dairy foods offer unparalleled health and consumer benefits to people of all ages.