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Setting the template for U.S. dairy in 2024

December 11, 2023

By Tony Rice, Trade Policy Manager, National Milk Producers Federation

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While still historically strong, U.S. dairy exports this year are down from 2022’s record year, largely because of weaker global demand coupled with rebounded global supply. That doesn’t mean the U.S. isn’t making progress in overseas markets. Despite the headwinds, the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) are moving toward boosting exports by successfully fighting against nontariff barriers in key markets and promoting the U.S. dairy industry.

Below are key trade policy efforts that affected the U.S. dairy industry in 2023, just a sample of NMPF and USDEC policy activities.

Working every angle to support trade

NMPF has been active this year across six continents, engaging governments and local organizations. At home, NMPF’s trade policy team filed six sets of confidential comments and seven additional sets of public comments while sending 17 letters to U.S. government agencies on issues ranging from trade negotiations to supply chain challenges.

NMPF and USDEC have also strengthened ties and forged new partnerships with local and regional organizations worldwide to improve dairy consumption while pursuing projects in the United Kingdom, China, Thailand, the Philippines, and Taiwan to boost U.S. dairy competitiveness.

Landmark common names bill introduced

For more than a decade, the European Union has imposed its geographical indication (GI) rules on countries around the world, limiting the ability of U.S. producers of common name cheeses — such as “parmesan” or “feta” — to sell their products worldwide.

Following advocacy led by NMPF, USDEC, and the Consortium for Common Food Names, as well as partners in the food and wine sectors, a bipartisan congressional group introduced the Safeguarding American Value-Added Exports (SAVE) Act in May. The SAVE Act would amend the Agricultural Trade Act of 1978 to explicitly define “common names” and direct USDA to coordinate with the U.S. Trade Representative to proactively negotiate protections for common names.

Securing a critical cheesemaker right in federal court

European interests even tried to extend their GI campaign into the U.S. market when a European dairy organization attempted to trademark “gruyere.” NMPF and its partners fought this shameless attempt to confiscate a common cheese term and secured a final victory in March when a U.S. Court of Appeals found “gruyere” to be a generic term, upholding prior decisions. This final ruling sets a strong precedent for protecting common names and should discourage EU attempts to expropriate generic terms in the United States.

Championing expanded trade following USMCA ruling

NMPF and USDEC coordinated a November 27 industry letter to the President’s Export Council (PEC) supporting recommendations from NMPF member and PEC representative Land O’Lakes to bolster American agricultural trade by expanding market access opportunities and tackling nontariff trade barriers. The Council — the primary advisory committee on international trade — unanimously approved the recommendations on Nov. 29.

The vote followed a November 24 U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) dispute panel ruling that allows Canada to continue to restrict its dairy market access. The disappointing ruling followed years of NMPF advocacy on the issue. It is work that continues as NMPF urges the U.S. government to address Canada’s trade distorting practices.

Showcasing U.S. dairy to the world

For first time in 30 years, the World Dairy Summit took place in the United States, offering an opportunity to highlight the U.S. dairy industry’s world-class products, leadership on sustainability, and dedication to innovation to an audience of over 1,240 dairy professionals from more than 55 countries.

Hosted in Chicago in mid-October, NMPF played a leading role, co-chairing the conference and helping design the conference. Over the four days, attendees enjoyed dynamic programming, including opportunities to tour nearby farms.

This column originally appeared in Hoard’s Dairyman Intel on Dec. 11, 2023.