Guest Columns

Industry Issues

Opportunity counts

Connie Tipton

Connie Tipton is president and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association. She contributes this column exclusively for Cheese Market News®.

“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” — Albert Einstein

Obstacles challenge us on our path through life, but opportunity keeps us going. Our freedoms and opportunities in this country are immense and unique. Yet this is so fundamental for most Americans that we forget how important it is.

In the U.S. dairy industry there have been many challenges, but we can see growing opportunities as our economy and economies around the globe rebound. Credible research done by top-notch organizations outside the dairy industry shows the U.S. dairy industry is unique in its ability to capture growing new markets and to be the dairy production platform for people around the world.

Frankly, if you had told me 10 years ago that we would have commercial exports of 10 percent or more of our milk supply without subsidies, I wouldn’t have believed it. But as the world has changed, we have found more and more world market opportunities for U.S. milk. This is indeed an exciting opportunity for U.S. dairy and an opportunity we can’t afford to squander.

This is why I feel so strongly that our policies must be designed to best position us for a future that will unleash this opportunity for the entire U.S. dairy industry, so that we can create jobs and play our part getting our nation out from under our current economic problems.

The health of the U.S. dairy industry depends on the financial viability of our milk producers and processors. A margin insurance program, coupled with new risk management tools to better manage price swings, will go a long way to allow the U.S. dairy industry to remain competitive, both with dairy ingredients in the domestic market and the growing world dairy trade. But if those policies include supply management, we will surely lose the opportunity that is so close at hand.

Supply management is being touted as a way for farmers to control their own destiny, but nothing could be further from the truth. Control is turned over to the bureaucrats in Washington who will decide how much supply is enough and what penalty must be exacted on those who don’t comply with the government decision. Forget freedom to produce and grow as you think is best for your farm. And forget the prosperity that is nearly in the palm of our hands with growing market opportunities.

Bluntly put, I believe supply management will destroy our dairy industry’s opportunity for the future.

I have personally witnessed the move by Canadian dairy manufacturing companies into the U.S. market because we have a growing milk supply and they are stymied on growth in Canada by their decades-old supply management system. If we go the same route as Canada, we will witness not only Canadian companies leaving the United States for a better milk market, but probably some of our own U.S. companies looking elsewhere for their expansion. That’s a recipe that dooms our future as a growing industry.

Supply management will stop U.S. dairy exports at a time when emerging markets are crying out for more dairy products. It will make our dairy industry less competitive and will result in food manufacturers finding ways to reformulate and replace dairy ingredients with lower cost options. Our products and ingredients will be passed by for alternatives where they exist. In some cases we’ll have to rely on more imports and products manufactured elsewhere instead of here in the United States.

Supply management will not impact everyone the same. Many states like Washington, Minnesota and Wisconsin have been growing much faster than average, and they will be forced to slow down. Supply management policies will pit producers against producers and states against states. This is NOT the direction to take.

These will be real consequences of supply management and we must not let this be the future for the U.S. dairy industry.

As Harry Truman reminded us, progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better. We are forming a coalition to fight for freedom of choice for dairy farmers and for opportunity and growth for the U.S. dairy industry. I invite you to join us.


The views expressed by CMN’s guest columnists are their own opinions and do not necessarily reflect those of Cheese Market News®.

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