USDA said on Aug. 27 that it earmarked almost $85 million in new funding to purchase pasteurized fluid milk and other dairy products as part of the nearly $12 billion allocated for U.S. farmers and food manufacturers negatively affected by trade disruption this year. The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and the Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP), both based in Washington, D.C., said they support USDA’s efforts to provide additional benefits to people across the country who don’t have regular access to nutritious milk and dairy products, while helping to alleviate some of the financial difficulties facing dairy farmers and companies that stem from lost export sales.

“U.S. dairy foods companies applaud the efforts of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and his team at USDA for devising a package that will provide nutritious dairy products to people in need while addressing the financial hardships to the dairy industry caused by steep tariff increases and lost sales in foreign markets,” said Michael Dykes, D.V.M., IDFA’s president and CEO.

“Secretary Perdue clearly recognizes the vital role that American agriculture and food processors play in global trade,” he added. “With this funding package, USDA has erected a temporary bridge for agriculture while the administration continues its efforts to finalize the North American Free Trade Agreement and solidify other much-needed international trade pacts.”

Milk is one of the most requested nutrition staples at food banks, yet it is rarely available, the organizations noted. Since 2014, The Great American Milk Drive — a nationwide effort to deliver milk to children and families in need — has delivered more than 1.8 million gallons, or more than 28 million servings, of milk to Feeding America food banks. Together, the dairy community set a goal of providing 50 million servings of milk to kids and families in need by 2020.

“Milk is the top food source of three of the nutrients most likely to be missing from kids’ diets — calcium, vitamin D and potassium,” said Julia Kadison, CEO of MilkPEP. “Nearly 13 million children face hunger across the country, and we can help ensure they have access to milk’s much-needed nutrition. This announcement is a significant milestone and an important opportunity for milk processors to provide milk to children and families in need.”

The $84.9 million funding package is under the authority of the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC), the organizations said. Earlier this month, USDA announced, under the authority of Section 32 of the Act of August 24, 1935, that it would purchase $50 million in pasteurized fluid milk for distribution to food banks and other feeding programs. Section 32 is a permanent appropriation that supports the farm sector through the purchase of commodities such as fluid milk to encourage domestic consumption.

“The purchases will address one of our country’s significant challenges — hunger — and at the same time, have a positive impact on the dairy industry at a time of significant market uncertainty,” Dykes said.

Also under CCC authority, USDA allocated an initial payment of $127 million to dairy farmers and another $200 million for trade promotion that will build and strengthen new markets for U.S. agricultural products, including milk and dairy products, the organizations said. CCC is a federally owned and operated entity that aids farmers through loans, purchases, payments and other operations, and helps to develop new domestic and foreign markets for agricultural commodities.