IDFA Weighs in on State of the Dairy Industry with Dairy Foods Magazine
Dairy Foods magazine asked top executives from the leading dairy associations to provide our thoughts related to current industry issues and opportunities — and to discuss how our organizations are helping members succeed in trying times. Here are my responses in full:
Dairy Foods: What are your members most worried about right now, and why?
Michael Dykes: The dairy industry understands the importance of innovation and the expanding choice to adapt to a changing consumer marketplace. For that to happen, our members need the ability to launch new products and grow the market with fewer burdens — a level playing field for trade, reforming the outmoded milk price regulation system, building a stable workforce and limiting the impacts of industry consolidation. I’d add sustainability concerns to this list — not only ensuring good environmental stewardship but standing for and enforcing the highest animal welfare and product sourcing standards across the industry.
Helping consumers recognize again that dairy is wholesome and nutritious is a challenge because we’ve experienced a few decades of confusing and contradictory nutritional recommendations on dairy. We think the dust has settled on this, and the research is more and more clear that dairy — all fractions of the bucket of milk — contributes to a healthy life and offers huge benefits for child health.
All these issues are important for our members as we look to the long-term viability and growth of the dairy industry in the United States.
Dairy Foods: What is your organization doing to help address these member concerns?
Dykes: Given IDFA’s broad membership across the entire dairy industry, we’re working on behalf of our members with a unified voice to advocate for policies that lead to economic growth, innovation and access to nutritional products for all consumers. Our staff is working with other dairy organizations on practical and feasible updates to the Federal Milk Marketing Orders. We have been proactive in pressing the current administration on the necessity of a comprehensive rules-based system of international trade that will level the playing field and expand market access for the U.S. dairy industry. For us, the passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement is a necessity, as well as finalizing bilateral agreements with Japan and China that remove unfair barriers to trade.
On the nutritional front, we’d like to see the Child Nutritional Reauthorization restore low-fat 1% flavored milk in schools and offer reduced-fat 2% to WIC participants. There is an overwhelming body of research recognizing dairy as part of a healthy diet — we need our policymakers to recognize it.
We will work hard to maintain the current recommendations for dairy in the next version of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Our team is also working to get federal funding for a SNAP incentive program for fluid milk and dairy products.
Along with MilkPEP and Feeding America, we’re working with USDA on continuing the successful fluid milk purchase program for food banks. And finally, IDFA’s NextGen Leadership program aims to prepare tomorrow’s leaders to carry the industry into the future.
Dairy Foods: Looking ahead to 2020, what do you see as the most significant opportunities for your members (or dairy processors overall), and what will they need to be able to tap into those opportunities?
Dykes: Again, when we look to the future, we’re looking to meet changing consumer preferences. As consumers place a premium on protein in their diet, the dairy industry will be there to offer new options that meet health and wellness demands.
IDFA is working to ensure dairy products get back in the “healthy foods category.” To deliver on these new demands, the dairy industry needs a supportive policy.
Earlier this year we restructured our governance to create one streamlined IDFA that represents and engages all segments of the growing dairy industry. A major part of the new governance model are five industry segment boards representing fluid milk, yogurt, and cultured products, ice cream, cheese, and dairy-derived ingredients.
We are seeking a combination of smart policy updates, as well as safeguarding and funding existing policies in eight common priority areas: nutrition, research, education, standards, food safety, trade, labor, and Federal Milk Marketing Orders. We’re also seeking to define in federal law the term “natural cheese” — a process for cheesemaking distinguished from processed cheese — to help prevent consumer confusion.