Pa. ag chief reports on dairy industry
ROCK SPRINGS, Pa. — Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell C. Redding addressed the Dairy Investment Program of the state Farm Bill and the current dairy export situation at a breakfast hosted last month by the Center for Dairy Excellence during Penn State’s Ag Progress Days.
On Aug. 13, Redding credited the CDE for the dairy industry study which led to value-added product development, and in turn, to the Dairy Investment Program.
The now-enacted state Farm Bill provides $5 million for dairy investment, including research and development, assistance with organic transition, value-added processing and marketing.
Redding said dairy is complicated. For example, one cannot just study production but must consider distribution as well, he said.
The surveys leading to the program indicated that farmers want control over their businesses, and that value-added grants are popular, Redding said.
Regarding consumers, reports show they are concerned about the source of their milk. Redding also suggested that dairy producers should satisfy consumer desires in matters such as packaging milk in single-serve containers.
“Habits change,” Redding added, calling attention to difference in breakfasts today and the appearance of products such as energy drinks compared to years ago. “Keep promoting your product,” he urged, noting the value of milk in nutrition, economic and social terms.
Redding pointed out that dairy exports have declined this year, and he stressed the importance of the international market.
Dairy exports have a considerable impact on fluid milk prices due to flat domestic demand. Unfortunately, the volume of exports in the first half of 2019 has declined about 14 percent. Because of retaliatory tariffs and swine fever in China, our exports to China were down 54 percent.
Recently, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said he is optimistic despite the trade challenges after his trip to China. He advised continuing to build relationships with vital markets.
Vilsack said he is “hopeful” for a Japan-U. S. trade pact. Strong competition from New Zealand and the European Union has limited our dairy trade with Japan. However, U.S. cheese sales in Japan increased 18 percent in the first six months of this year compared with last year.
Mexico is the largest importer of U.S. dairy. Both Mexico and Canada have ratified the USMCA, but the U.S. Congress has yet to ratify this agreement.
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