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Importance of U.S. Dairy Exports Takes Center Stage at Virtual AgTalks Town Hall

September 1, 2020

The critical role that U.S. dairy exports play in Wisconsin’s economy and beyond took center stage at a virtual town hall today. This town hall was co-hosted by the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) and Farmers for Free Trade, a coalition of pro-trade farm organizations, as part of an ongoing series titled AgTalks.

Tom Vilsack, president and CEO of USDEC, moderated the event, which featured panelists from across all aspects of Wisconsin’s dairy supply chain. The clear consensus of the panelists was that expanding dairy trade opportunities will bring tangible benefits to America’s dairy farmers, processors, exporters and rural communities.

“America’s dairy farmers help produce high-quality dairy products that are renowned around the world. These exports drive economic growth here at home and create new jobs in rural communities that have borne the brunt of years of recession. We cannot accept unjust trade barriers that limit our export dairy market access. The dairy industry in Wisconsin, and across the country, is counting on the U.S. government to help open new doors and strengthen our international supply chains through a robust and forward-leaning trade policy,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF.

“It is important that policymakers continue to not only advance new trade agreements to further open markets for U.S. dairy, but also enforce the agreements that are already on the books. We know that dairy exports will help build a brighter future for our industry, from the thousands of proud Wisconsin dairy farmers to the multi-generation business exporting world-class cheeses abroad. It was an honor to moderate this important discussion and I am grateful to our panelists for their timely insights into what matters the most to U.S. dairy at this critical juncture,” said Tom Vilsack, president and CEO of USDEC.

“We are proud to be a family-owned business with a long legacy of sharing Wisconsin dairy with the world. We would like to continue serving customers around the world, but unfair rules and unbalanced trade relationships have at times made expanding exports difficult. This harms our dedicated workers and our supplying farmers. Preserving and growing dairy exports is not just an economic issue, it’s a people issue,” said Jeff Schwager, President of Sartori Cheese.

“It’s true what they say: America’s farmers feed the world. Wisconsin dairy farmers are proud to be a part of this agricultural tradition. Our farming families produce nutritious and wholesome milk that ends up in dozens of international markets as ingredients or dairy products. It is important that the U.S. government continue to work towards fairer trade rules, and we’ll continue to provide Wisconsin milk to help feed families around the world,” said Chad Vincent, CEO of Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin.

“The current health care crisis has highlighted the resiliency of America’s dairy farmers and the importance of ensuring that U.S. dairy products can continue to move smoothly to overseas markets. It is critical that our lawmakers support our hardworking dairy farmers by continuing to fight for fair trade and the smooth export of American-made dairy products,” said Jeff Lyon, CEO, FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative.

“Wisconsin is proud to be known as America’s Dairyland. Our dairy farmers, cooperatives and processers are an integral part of our state’s culture and a cornerstone of our economy. Trade is key to the health of Wisconsin’s dairy industry and its critical that we all work together to keep Wisconsin dairy exports moving,” said Randy Romanski, Secretary-designee of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP).