NMPF’s Mulhern Speaks on Tom Vilsack’s Nomination to Lead USDA

NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern talks about Tom Vilsack’s nomination to become USDA Secretary on Brownfield Ag News. “He has a deep understanding of our industry and frankly, I think a deeper understanding of all of U.S. agriculture,” Mulhern says in the broadcast.

Podcast: Sen. Pat Roberts on His Past and Agriculture’s Future

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts is leaving Congress after 40 years in January. The only person to lead both the House and Senate agriculture committees takes with him a wealth of wisdom in agriculture policy – but also holds optimism for agriculture’s ability to get things done in an environment of difficult challenges.

“I would just say that I am very confident that the people who will be taking my place, they have a lot of experience,” Roberts said in a Dairy Defined interview released today. “They’re good folks. I think the same attempt, at least, with regards to making it bipartisan, will continue.”

Roberts, who first came to Washington as a congressional staffer a half-century ago, also reflects on the two farm bills he led — 1996’s Freedom to Farm law and the 2018 bill — as well as one area where he wished he could have done more: his leadership of the Senate Intelligence Committee during the Iraq War. He also said he doesn’t consider his career to be over – without revealing plans, he said that when it comes to farm policy, “I intend to have my finger in the pie somewhere.”

To listen to the full discussion, click here. You can also find this and other NMPF podcasts on iHeartRadio, Apple Podcasts, SpotifySoundCloud and Google Play. Broadcast outlets may use the MP3 file. Please attribute information to NMPF.

Dairy Defined: Where Dairy Terms are Done Right – a Photo Essay

This week’s Dairy Defined is a little different: It’s a multi-lingual tour of alternative beverages, coming to you from the European Union, where an oat drink is called … an oat drink.

While many EU dairy policies leave much to be desired, its approach to dairy labeling shows how it’s possible to name beverages accurately, no matter what fake-milk marketers and FDA inaction may enable in the United States. From “hirse” and “chanvre” to “amande” and “soja,” EU grocery shoppers have a wealth of plant-based beverages to choose from – and somehow those beverages manage to exist, like they do in almost the entire world, without being called milk.

Don’t believe it? Click here for proof.

NMPF Congratulates President-Elect Biden and Incoming Congress

The National Milk Producers Federation congratulated President-elect Joe Biden and members of the upcoming 117th Congress for their election victories, pledging to work for bipartisan solutions to the many challenges faced in agriculture and in the nation.

“Congratulations to President-elect Biden and the incoming members of the 117th Congress, who will have a lot of work to do in this country, from legislating to building common ground,” said NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern. “Dairy is ready to do its part and work with the administration and Congress to face difficult problems successfully, in the bipartisan spirit we have always practiced and believed in.”

NMPF has long been committed to working with both major political parties for sound, consensus-based public policy. More on NMPF’s approach to policy, why dairy farmers and the cooperatives they own possess a distinct voice within agriculture, and the crucial role they can play in the months ahead, can be found in this week’s Dairy Defined column.

Dairy Defined: An Open Letter to FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn

Dear Dr. Hahn –

Sorry to bother you at such a busy time, but we need to talk. We’re guessing that 2020 wasn’t what you expected, dealing with COVID vaccines and a host of other pressing concerns. It’s been crazy for us too. But faith and friends can help you through, no matter how big or small the troubles may be. We hope you’ve felt supported through these challenging times.

We’ve noticed that recently, FDA has been getting more active on topics beyond COVID-19, in some cases even revisiting issues that have lain dormant from previous decades in the spirit of completing unfinished business. That made us think it was time to remind you about something you promised you’d deal with back in November, before everything turned upside down. At your FDA confirmation hearing, Senator Tammy Baldwin asked you whether and when FDA under your leadership would soon start enforcing labeling standards that reserve dairy terms for real dairy products, not the plant-based imposters that are posing an increasing problem for public health. You said you supported “clear, transparent, and understandable labeling for the American people” and that you would “very much” look into it.

How is that going? Any way we could help? We understand that FDA has kicked fake dairy deception down the road for decades, but the problem is only growing, public-health experts are growing concerned, and it isn’t a heavy lift for the FDA to do what’s not only true to its mission but also what’s legally required. In fact, we have provided an entire road map proposal that offers a clear guide to resolution – one that is well-grounded in First Amendment law, would ensure that consumers know what products are and aren’t nutritionally, and even could allow plant-based “milks” to continue dairy terms in some instances, with proper qualifiers that have long been established in FDA regulations to clearly distinguish them from dairy.

We had been very hopeful, based on your pledge, that this would be the year this problem could finally be solved. Since it’s late in 2020 – and who knows what the next few months might be like? — we thought we should check in.

We’re cheering for you to take action. FDA commissioner is never an easy job, and 2020’s been a challenge for the ages. But since fake milk has long been crucially important to dairy farmers – in places like Wisconsin, in Michigan, in Pennsylvania, in Minnesota, and all across the United States – we thought this might be a good time to remind you of this promise.

We’re happy to chat further because this simple matter can be resolved soon, to the benefit of everyone. Well, maybe not marketers of dishonest products, but they’ve had their day. Say hi to everyone at FDA for us, there’s never enough bandwidth on Zoom to talk to everyone we’d like to. Good luck with the rest of the year!

With Regards,

The National Milk Producers Federation

U.S. Dairy Exports to Benefit from New USDA-FDA Partnership

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that will establish an interagency process to further support exports of U.S. dairy products. Both agencies play critical roles in facilitating foreign sales of American-made dairy products, which is recognized and appreciated by the U.S. dairy industry. This MOU will draw upon the expertise of FDA as well as USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) to deepen and streamline their work together on the issues facing dairy exports to the benefit of U.S. dairy farmers and manufacturers.

The U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) worked with both agencies to advance this new approach to dairy export collaboration. NMPF and USDEC deeply appreciate the USDA and FDA’s dedication to drafting this new MOU to facilitate U.S. dairy exports and their ongoing collaboration with the dairy industry. Foreign competitors are making advances in international markets, making efforts to expand overseas opportunities for U.S. dairy critical to the long-term health of U.S. dairy farmers and processors.

“Today’s announcement of an interagency MOU on dairy trade between USDA and FDA is the result of years of conversation and efforts between stakeholders within the U.S. dairy industry and the U.S. government to establish consistent guidance on tackling the rising number of export challenges facing our industry. This MOU will help our industry continue to grow in an increasingly competitive global environment,” said Tom Vilsack, president and CEO of USDEC.

“This new partnership ensures that the staff at USDA and FDA are working together in the most efficient way possible to lower barriers for our farmer’s dairy exports. Increasing U.S. dairy exports will strengthen the health of our farmers and rural communities, which is more important than ever as America’s dairy industry faces new and unprecedented challenges. We appreciate all of the hard work from both agencies and stand ready to support the USDA and FDA’s commitment to open new doors for U.S. dairy exports,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF.

NMPF Hails Funding Plan, Calls for Further COVID Relief

The National Milk Producers Federation today thanked Congress for sending bipartisan legislation to President Trump that extends government funding until Dec. 11 and urged Congress and the White House to reach agreement on another coronavirus relief package.

“We are glad Congress reached a government funding deal that provides important support to farmers and families who have weathered incredibly difficult challenges all year long,” said NMPF president and CEO Jim Mulhern. “This measure not only avoids a government shutdown; it also ensures that additional COVID-19 assistance can be provided as further needs arise and provides important nutrition assistance to families in need.”

The legislation passed by the House and Senate immediately replenishes the borrowing authority for USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation. The CCC funds farm bill initiatives, including the Dairy Margin Coverage Program, as well as the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, the second installment of which Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced earlier this month. Notably, it includes $8 billion in nutrition assistance and extends flexibility for school districts to make meals more affordable and accessible for students during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.

NMPF hopes that, with the government funding debate resolved, Congress and the administration will now agree on another coronavirus relief bill. The House earlier this week released a revised version of its Heroes Act, which again includes important provisions such as a dairy product donation program that would help farmers and consumers. NMPF is continuing its push for additional, equitable support to all producers that reflects the losses they have suffered, no matter the size of the operation.

“The House and Senate both provide support for agriculture in their coronavirus relief proposals, and the House is reaffirming that support,” Mulhern said. “Congress and the administration need to bridge their differences and finalize a bipartisan plan that continues to provide needed disaster assistance to all dairy producers. The issues are challenging, but we believe policymakers are up to the task.”