NMPF Submits Comments to Proposed WIC Rule

NMPF submitted comments Feb. 21 urging USDA to not include the proposed cuts to dairy in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), pointing out that reducing dairy could lower participation in the program.

“Reducing the amount of dairy available in WIC packages will decrease participants’ access to valuable nutrients needed during pivotal life stages, such as the first thousand days of a child’s life and their mother’s pregnancy and lactation, and those proposed reductions could lead to long-term negative health consequences,” NMPF said in its comments. With milk, cheese and yogurt being three of the five top redeemed items in the WIC program, NMPF is concerned reducing access to dairy will reduce participation in WIC as participants won’t be able to get the foods they value.

The rule also included some positive proposed changes, such as requiring the authorization of lactose-free milk, increasing the yogurt substitution amounts for milk and flexibilities for yogurt size containers, which are important steps to ensuring dairy and its nutrients are accessible for all WIC participants. The proposed rule was largely based on a 2017 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine report that made recommendations based in part on the principle that any changes be budget-neutral; USDA’s proposal is not budget-neutral, removing one of the key justifications for following that report’s recommendations on that would reduce dairy access.

NMPF’s comments also emphasized the importance of nutritional equivalency for any plant-based alternatives that may be allowed to be substituted for dairy products.

NMPF and IDFA met with USDA last December, emphasizing the two organizations’ concerns with the proposed cuts to dairy. Both organizations will continue to monitor the situation closely.