On May 23, USDA announced up to $16 billion in relief to U.S. agriculture as retaliatory tariffs from trading partners continue to disrupt U.S. export activity. Michael Dykes, D.V.M., president and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), appealed to the administration to continue to focus on growing food and agricultural exports for dairy and other agriculture products.

“I applaud the administration and leadership at USDA for working quickly to finalize a package of enhanced assistance that begins to address the uncertainty felt by U.S. food and agriculture due to disruptions in trade,” Dykes said. “While the share for dairy is not yet known, this trade-relief package will include important market facilitation payments to dairy farmers, as well as financial resources to continue USDA purchases of dairy products, including fresh, nutritious milk to benefit food banks and food-insecure Americans.

“Fresh milk is the most requested item at U.S. food banks, Dykes continued, “and this assistance from USDA should allow milk to reach those in need. While we welcome this support for the dairy industry, we strongly hope trade mitigation measures are replaced in short order by expanded trade opportunities.

“Retaliatory tariffs by China and other important markets have led to huge losses for our IDFA members,” he added, while the Chinese market has increased dairy imports since the initial tariffs went into effect last July. Sales of U.S. dairy to China are down through March, with U.S. cheese exports declining 44% and U.S. whey to China falling 32% during the past nine months.

“What we need is a predictable, transparent and rules-based system of international trade that provides the agricultural economy with certainty and a clear path to growth,” Dykes said. “Most importantly, we must regain market share from our competitors who’ve benefited from these trade disputes. Over the next decade, China represents a $23 billion market opportunity for U.S. dairy, and it is essential to our nation’s economic future that make the most of it.”

USDA said that the trade mitigation payments and assistance to producers will be expanded to cover a wider variety of commodities, including to dairy farmers and for dairy products. USDA said the program is expected to go into effect by July 2019. Dykes stressed that the outstanding details on dairy farmer payments and the $1.4 billion commodity purchases are very important to IDFA members, who have already suffered a loss in dairy product sales in foreign countries where they have invested significantly to develop export markets.

“Secretary Perdue understands and appreciates the role American food and agriculture play in global trade, and we’re grateful to him and his team for their support,” Dykes said.