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Dairy CEO Says Supply Chain Crisis Could Permanently Harm U.S. Agriculture

November 3, 2021

The current supply chain crisis could cause “irreparable harm” to agriculture, Mike Durkin, President and CEO of Leprino Foods, said in testimony prepared for a U.S. House Agriculture Committee hearing today about how supply chain issues are affecting export markets for Leprino and the U.S. dairy industry. The U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) and National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) voiced strong support for Durkin’s call for U.S. government action to more effectively tackle the shipping crisis and its effects on dairy farmers and manufacturers.

“The supply chain challenges have significantly impacted our business, and we don’t expect them to ease anytime soon. I’m here to talk about a critical component of this disruption that has not received much attention – exports,” Durkin said. “This export crisis may well result in irreparable harm to American agriculture as customers around the world are questioning the U.S. dairy industry’s reliability as a supplier.”

Durkin called on Congress to act on ocean shipping legislation, address critical transport-industry labor shortages, increase port hours of operation, and take other steps to help American agriculture producers reach their foreign markets effectively.

Leprino Foods, the largest purchaser of milk in the United States, is a family-owned, privately held company with 4,500 employees and facilities in Colorado, California, New Mexico, Michigan, Pennsylvania and New York. It supports over 1,000 dairy farms and is the largest producer of mozzarella cheese as well as a leading supplier of dairy nutrition products. Leprino exports 26% of its milk equivalent volume to 55 countries.

Across the industry, approximately one day’s worth of U.S. milk production each week goes to exports, which results in about $6.5 billion in U.S. dairy products being exported to over 133 countries.

“The strain of shipping challenges is taking a heavy toll on dairy exporters, which is why it was so important that the House Agriculture Committee heard today from companies such as Leprino Foods that are doing everything possible to hang onto foreign customers yet are still bearing the brunt of this problem,” said Krysta Harden, president and CEO of USDEC. “Dairy exporters are working hard to get American-made product to foreign customers in a reliable and affordable way, but the present situation can’t be sustained long-term. We need Congress and the Administration to move swiftly to improve the efficiency and fairness of supply chains.”

“Dairy depends on exports, a vital part of the total demand for the milk produced every day by America’s hard-working dairy farmers” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF. “We risk damaging foreign market relationships and long-term customers if we cannot better assure efficient export flows. Leprino Foods provided some important recommendations to Congress to address the supply chain challenges. We hope both they and the Administration act quickly to provide relief.”