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CEO's Corner:

More Protein, Better Policy: Welcome to 2024

January 3, 2024

Happy New Year, and what a year 2024 promises to be. Within dairy and throughout agriculture, the refrain that will be often repeated is that this will be the year of protein. In fact, it may be the first of many — if you look out over the next decade, the supply of animal protein in the world – that’s beef, pork, poultry, and dairy — comes nowhere near meeting the demand.

That means U.S. dairy’s emphasis on exports and our international competitiveness will certainly be an area of focus. Dairy farmers and their cooperatives are extremely well positioned to do this: we’re efficient, we can get high-quality products overseas competitively, and our processing capacity is expanding. Our innovation and technology in the dairy industry to expand international markets is second to none. NMPF can support these efforts by continuing our excellent partnership with the U.S. Dairy Export Council and by seeking sound policy that promotes the powerhouse potential of U.S. dairy.

Our Cooperatives Working Together Program will soon be in a position to bring significantly greater resources to bear in supporting market growth for U.S. dairy worldwide – just as our main competitors in New Zealand and Europe take a step back in large part due to regulatory constraints we in the United States have been able to avoid.

We also have room to grow our industry by increasing protein demand at home. A focus on the next generation is critical to achieving this. Last month, the House of Representatives took an important step toward boosting the next generation of milk drinkers by passing the Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act, which would get whole and 2% milk back on school lunch menus. The vote was 330-99, which gives us high hopes in the Senate next year. Meanwhile, we know that the science behind the health benefits of dairy in all its compositions is only becoming more compelling – and that puts us in a great position as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans Committee meets to craft new nutrition standards that guide federal programs.

More demand for dairy protein and better health, in America and worldwide. If that’s not enough to get an industry excited for the future, I don’t know what could be.

Another critical topic for this year is risk management. USDA’s Federal Milk Marketing Order hearing has been painfully slow, but it’s incredibly important for U.S. dairy producers. Our NMPF game plan and team effort has been outstanding thus far, and we will follow the hearing to its conclusion. We will be prepared to respond as needed to whatever USDA proposes and ensure that the path forward is what’s best for dairy.

A new Farm Bill is also on tap. We’re comfortable this time around with the fundamental structure of the dairy safety net, but there are always improvements to be made, and we’ll be seeking opportunities for positive change whenever they become available.

Of course, federal policy includes much more than just the Farm Bill. We’re excited to see the evolution of greenhouse gas regulation and carbon markets in ways that benefit dairy farmers. We are pushing for faster approvals for feed additives that reduce methane emissions and put us on a path toward consistently improving our environmental footprint. We’re excited to see billions of dollars of investment capital and new technology and innovation flow toward dairy, because it’s not just farmers who believe in this industry’s future – it’s some of the world’s brightest minds and savviest investors.

These are just some of the most immediate opportunities we can meet. Looking only slightly beyond 2024, we will again need to address tax policy and how we can stimulate investment and growth in all of agriculture and rural America. In addition to that are the ongoing, long-term fights where progress is slow, but real. Dairy is chipping away at the market share of plant-based imposter-dairy beverages and making headway with FDA in restricting the use of dairy terms. Our FARM program remains a world-leading customer assurance program that’s protecting this industry from the wildly inaccurate claims of our detractors and competitors.

As NMPF’s new president and CEO, I am duty-bound to defend this industry. And because of our farmer and co-op leadership and first-class staff, we defend it well. But 2024 is also exciting because of the great potential we in dairy have to take the initiative. We can attack as well as defend. 2024 is going to be a great year for this industry. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share in the leadership of this journey.

Gregg Doud

President & CEO, NMPF