February 2, 2017

Mulhern Emphasizes Dairy Export Importance

 |  By: Anna-Lisa Laca

As campaign rhetoric becomes policy, many dairy farmers are concerned over President Trump’s trade policy and how it might affect the dairy industry. One farmer on Twitter noted he wasn’t sure if he should lock in milk prices now because of the President’s stance on trade, or if he should wait for prices to go up because of the President’s immigration policies. No matter your position, dairy farmers around the country agree that export markets have become a vital part of the U.S. dairy industry.

In a recent column, Jim Mulhern, CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) noted the letter he sent to President Trump after the election explaining just how important export markets are to the industry.

“Dairy exports are worth more than $5 billion annually, generating 120,000 jobs in dairy farming, manufacturing and related sectors,” he wrote. “Any disruption in exports of dairy would have a devastating ripple effect on our farms and beyond, to workers in processing, transportation, and countless other sectors whose jobs are supported by these exports.”

Mulhern used the dairy market crash years of 2009 and 2015 as examples of the importance of our trade partners. Both of those years the U.S. was outpriced on the global market and exports suffered.

“For dairy and much of agriculture, a large measure of our future growth opportunities resides outside of our borders,” he said. “We will need the right combination of market development, favorable exchange rates, and the negotiation of new agreements – as well as strict enforcement of existing ones – to keep fueling the economic health of the dairy sector.”

The President’s back out of TPP and threatened renegotiations of NAFTA are top of mind for dairy interest groups including NMPF.

“Last month, National Milk and the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) urged President Trump to pursue new, viable trade deals with countries in the Pacific Rim, and emphasized the critical importance of protecting our trade with Mexico, one of agriculture’s most beneficial relationships,” Mulhern said. “For the U.S. dairy industry, Mexico represents our number-one market, totaling $1.2 billion in 2016. Any policy or action that disrupts our trade with Mexico would cause severe and immediate harm to U.S. dairy farmers and processors.”

The National Milk Producers Federation plans to work closely with the new administration as NAFTA renegotiation discussions get underway “to demonstrate the importance of Mexico to rural America, and at the same time evaluate how to improve NAFTA by renegotiating trade provisions with Canada.”