Dairy Farmers Help Feed The World
By John Parker
Americans are fortunate. Local farmers, as well as those across the United States, produce an abundance, and sometimes a surplus, of food. For example, after meeting the needs of consumers for dairy products, there is a sizeable surplus. The surplus, then, is available for export.
Exports are important to the economy of the country. Selling to other countries creates jobs and stimulates the economy. Export of agricultural products helps the trade balance because the United States exports far more than it imports. Dairy product exports add to the favorable trade balance.
Dairy exports are also important to dairy farmers by improving milk prices. Without them, farm prices for milk could be too low to provide a satisfactory family income. It would be a near disaster for dairy farm families and the total industry.
Last year, dairy export value was $5.2 billion. The United States sent abroad more than 3 billion pounds of total milk solids or 13 percent of the total milk produced in the country. So far this year, the United States has exported 15.4 percent of the milk produced. International customers like American dairy products and can depend on their supply.
To look at it another way, the amount is almost one in seven milk tankers that roll out of a producers driveway is turned into a dairy product that is consumed internationally.
Most of the dairy products that are exported are in the dry form. Forty-seven percent of whey protein is exported, 45 percent is skim milk protein and non-fat dry milk. The balance is cheeses and other dairy products.
Who buys the dairy exports? It might be a surprise, but the United States biggest customer is Mexico, buying about $1.2 billion worth of dairy products. Other customers include Southeast Asia, Canada, China/Hong Kong, Middle East/North Africa, Japan, South America, South Korea and Australia/New Zealand.
Dairy exports are helped by a voluntary program that dairy farmers have established. Through this program called the dairy check-off, farmers contribute about 15 cents for each hundred pounds of milk they ship from their farms. These funds are used in several ways that include setting up a U.S. Dairy Export Council that helps grow the volume and value of dairy exports.
Dairy check-off funds are also used in several other ways. They help tell the story that dairy products are a healthy and great tasting food. Dairy farms are an important part of many communities and are committed to protecting the environment.
Funds are also used to help turn around the decline in fluid milk use, to partnership with several firms to promote dairy, supporting cutting-edge research on dairying and other promotional programs.
Todays dairy check-off has one main mission: to grow the demand for dairy products and ingredients. It does this through the above-mentioned programs that include working with and through the dairy industry and partnering with industry leaders like Dominos Pizza, McDonalds and Quaker.
According to a recent report from the American Dairy Association, for every dollar dairy farmers invest in the program, business partners invest more than $6, a good return on farmer investment.
Through the dairy check-off program, dairy farmers contribute thousands of dollars to help themselves and increase the consumption of milk and dairy products, which are healthy foods that are important in human diets.
Parker is retired from The Ohio State University and is an independent agricultural writer.
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