On Feb. 26, the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) said dairy industry leaders from across the country were in Washington, D.C., to urge congressional leaders and appropriators to fund important research, a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) milk incentive pilot program, and dairy standards modernization at the FDA in fiscal year (FY) 2021. The executives are participating in an IDFA legislative fly-in focused on the federal appropriations process, which began in February.

“As congressional appropriators deliberate funding priorities for next year, it’s important they hear from the dairy industry,” said Michael Dykes, D.V.M., president and CEO of IDFA. “IDFA’s fly-ins have had a significant effect.

“Just last year, our appropriations fly-in helped secure funding for the SNAP milk incentive program, a new program created in the 2018 Farm Bill to empower families in need to make nutritious choices,” he added. “We hope to build on that momentum this year.”

The group will spend the next couple of days on Capitol Hill urging lawmakers to increase funding for the SNAP milk incentive program, continue important research and collaboration on ice cream food waste solutions, and fund the FDA office responsible for modernizing dairy’s 97 standards of identity, IDFA said. They will also meet with senior administration officials to discuss shortages in the domestic sugar supply.

Dairy executives participating in the fly-in include:

  • Jay Bryant, CEO, Maryland and Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Inc.
  • Ricky Dickson, president and CEO, Blue Bell Creameries L.P.
  • Rich Draper, CEO, The Ice Cream Club.
  • Heather Draper, director, The Ice Cream Club.
  • Jeff Kaneb, executive vice president, HP Hood LLC.
  • Chris Olsen, vice president, community and government affairs, Tate & Lyle Ingredients Americas L.L.C.
  • Stan Ryan, president and CEO, Darigold Inc.

The SNAP milk incentive program, formally titled the Healthy Fluid Milk Incentives Projects program, was authorized in the 2018 Farm Bill, IDFA said. The program allows SNAP beneficiaries to purchase more milk with SNAP benefits, helping low-income individuals meet the Dietary Guidelines for Americans nutrition recommendations of three servings of dairy per day.

Congress provided $1 million in FY2020 appropriations to get the program off the ground, but additional funding will allow for a greater geographic diversity of projects and the testing of various milk incentive delivery mechanisms, improving the pilot’s ability to test this incentive concept, IDFA noted.

Over the past two appropriations cycles, Congress also has provided $3 million in funding for USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) to find an industrywide solution to ice cream waste — a multimillion-dollar food waste issue. IDFA in July convened ice cream manufacturers and researchers at its Washington, D.C., office to kick off a collaboration that will better inform ARS researchers as to the unique challenges faced by the industry. As the research gets underway, Congress can help ensure its long-term success through additional, annual appropriations, IDFA said.

Moreover, dairy products represent a third of the 280 federal food standards of identity, and these standards are significantly outdated. They stand in the way of companies exploring new technologies, ingredients and innovative processes for dairy foods that respond directly to consumer demand, IDFA said.

The FDA office responsible for modernizing dairy’s 97 standards of identity is chronically underfunded, and although FDA received increased funding to speed its work in FY2020, additional funding is needed.