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NMPF Focuses on Maintaining and Growing Markets Abroad for U.S. Dairy Exports

July 2, 2010


NMPF Focuses on Maintaining and Growing Markets Abroad for U.S. Dairy Exports

NMPF continues to work hard to maintain existing markets around the world – most notably in Europe and China – and to work to help expand opportunities as well in places like Cuba. First, NMPF has played defense in both China and Europe.

NMPF has continued to work closely with our government as it has worked to propose new certificate language to China to address China’s professed concerns with the current food-grade dairy health certificate and its perceived lack of adequate food-safety-related assurances. (Please see this month’s CEO's Corner column for more information on this issue.) The tenuous market situation is such that no formal approval exists for the acceptance of the current certificate, but China has indicated that it does not plan at this time to enforce a market closure. This puts shipments at risk, however, of later enforcement efforts by China that could conceivably negatively impact product already en route to China. USDA’s Under Secretary Miller and USTR’s Ambassador Siddiqui have remained personally involved in the ongoing certificate negotiations. A letter from them to Chinese authorities will accompany the latest certificate proposal this week.

Meanwhile, in Europe, NMPF remains concerned by the impending plans by the E.U. to begin requiring U.S. dairy exporters to test for compliance to the 400,000 SCC limit at the individual farm level, rather than at the tanker or silo levels, as had customarily been the practice. The lack of scientific justification for this requirement and concern that the E.U. is seeking to impose unfounded and onerous product quality and/or animal health requirements on the U.S. has driven NMPF’s response to this situation. NMPF joined with the U.S. Dairy Export Council to write to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg last week about these concerns and to urge FDA to work appropriately with the other relevant U.S. agencies and with appropriate EU counterparts to address the negative economic impact this could have on many coops and farmers, as well as the scientific and W.T.O.-compliant justifications for a requirement of this nature.

In a related vein, NMPF has also been partnering with USDEC and the International Dairy Foods Association to combat ardent efforts by the European Union to claw back generic cheese names like “parmesan” and “provolone.”

This effort came to light late last year, as details of the EU-South Korea FTA became public. All indications over the past several months have been that the EU is pursuing an aggressive strategy with all its FTA partners (including U.S. existing or prospective FTA partners such as Peru, Central America, Colombia, and Canada) to get protection for geographical indications like “Parmigiano Reggiano.” In the EU’s eyes, this would prohibit anyone outside of the Parma, Italy, region from selling a cheese labeled as “parmesan” into those FTA markets – which would allow the EU to commandeer for its own use commonly used cheese name categories. Many generic cheese names used in the U.S. could be impacted by such as push, which is why NMPF has been working closely with our government to develop strategies for combating this blatant market share grab by the EU.

NMPF has also played offense on experts, urging Congress to open new opportunities in Cuba. The House Agriculture Committee held a hearing on June 30th to consider the Travel Restriction Reform & Export Enhancement Act (H.R. 4645), which would ease agricultural payment restrictions limiting U.S. competitiveness, as well as permit travel by all Americans to Cuba. The Committee narrowly approved the legislation, which will move in the coming weeks to a vote by the full House.

As NMPF and USDEC noted in a joint letter to House Agriculture Committee members this week, “Economists at Texas A&M University estimated the impact of eliminating U.S. financial constraints on agricultural exports to Cuba, and allowing U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba, at $50 million a year in additional dairy exports.” Given these anticipated gains in new export avenues for the U.S. dairy industry, NMPF has strongly supported this legislation.