June 13, 2014

Farm Beat: Dairy leaders urge donations, export help

Milk producers in the Modesto area and beyond are celebrating National Dairy Month with an appeal to the public to donate to food banks for milk purchases.

The dairy industry is asking consumers to donate money so food banks can provide milk to Americans in need.

And, since there are plenty of dairy products to go around, the industry is urging the federal government to break down trade barriers in other nations.

The donation effort, the Great American Milk Drive, is a partnership with Feeding America, a network of food banks that includes those serving the Northern San Joaquin Valley. Online donations of $5 or more through next April 1 will go to vouchers that these charities can use to buy milk for households in the donors’ areas.

The state’s dairy industry, the largest in the nation, will match donations up to a total of $30,000. Taking part are the California Milk Advisory Board, the California Milk Processor Board and the Dairy Council of California.

More information is at www.milklife.com.

Exports were addressed Wednesday by Andrei Mikhalevsky, president and chief executive officer of California Dairies Inc., in testimony before the House Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade. The Visalia-based company has a Turlock plant that makes butter and powdered milk and a Los Banos site that produces condensed milk and cheese.

“Despite the promising outlook for international trade of dairy products, trade barriers in the form of government protectionism of dairy sectors are among the highest for any of the traded agricultural commodities,” Mikhalevsky said. “It is critical that these inequities be rectified so that the U.S. dairy industry has a level playing field with its competitors to access those markets where dairy products are sought.”

Mikhalevsky said dairy farms contribute about $40 billion a year to the U.S. economy and processors account for an additional $100 billion. His company produces 47 percent of the milk in California and 12 percent of U.S. dairy exports.

Finally, we’re in the middle of National Dairy Month, which celebrates the top-grossing farm sector in the North Valley and statewide.

“Although we celebrate dairy every day, in June we get the chance to celebrate not only the variety of dairy foods that consumers love, but also the families who make them possible,” said Jennifer Giambroni, director of communications for the California Milk Advisory Board. It is based in Modesto and South San Francisco.

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