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Dairy farmers make hay in Washington

(Thursday, April 10, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- The following is a news release from the National Farmers Union.

Contact: Laura Johnston, 202-314-3104, nfudclj@sso.org
Kristy Berger, 202-314-3191, nfudckb@sso.org

WASHINGTON (April 10, 2003) - About 60 dairy farmers from across the country headed back to their farms today after three days spent working with lawmakers to close trade loopholes allowing imported milk protein concentrate (MPC) and casein to flood domestic markets.

"Imported MPC and casein are displacing our domestic dairy supply at a time when U.S. dairy farmers are getting the lowest prices for their products since 1979," said NFU President Dave Frederickson. "While some imported powdered milk products are subject to tariff-rate quotas, MPC and casein are not. This loophole must be closed."

The farmers visited more than 160 congressional offices advocating the Milk Import Tariff Equity Act, S. 560 and H.R. 1160, which Frederickson said would "level the playing field" by limiting MPC and casein imports by imposing effective tariffs. The legislation is sponsored by Sens. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, and Mark Dayton, D-Min., in the Senate and Reps. Don Sherwood, R-Pa., and David Obey, D-Wis., in the House.

Sens. Craig and Dayton and Rep. Sherwood participated in a "MPC-free" ice cream social Tuesday evening during which each of the lawmakers commended the farmers for their efforts to gain cosponsors for the Milk Import Tariff Equity Act. The leaders reported that, while in Washington, the dairy farmers had helped increase the list of cosponsors to 92 in the House and 22 in the Senate.

In addition to congressional members and staff, the farmers met with Dr. Lester M. Crawford, Food and Drug Administration deputy commissioner; Dr. James G. Butler, deputy under secretary for the USDA Farm and Foreign Agriculture Services; and Jonathan Coleman with the U.S. International Trade Commission.

Frederickson said the dairy farmers effectively raised the awareness of the MPC issue this week, but that Farmers Union would continue its push until limits are placed on imported MPC and casein.



Additional background information follows:

Support H.R. 1160 and S. 560 - The Milk Import Tariff Equity Act

Background: Casein and MPC imports result in a price disaster for U.S. dairy producers.

The imports of casein (a milk protein), Milk Protein Concentrate (MPC - a dried protein product derived from milk using ultra-filtration), and other dairy manufacturing-ingredient substitutes are pushing U.S. dairy prices to historical lows. Increased imports, generally highly subsidized by the exporting country, displace domestic dairy products and put downward pressure on already historically low prices received by American dairy producers. Unlike many dairy and other agriculture products, there are no mechanisms in place to stem the flood of these imports.

  • Imports of milk proteins (casein and MPC) are trending upward.
  • Unlike other dairy products, there is no tariff-rate quota (TRQ) on MPC because it was a new product when the World Trade Organization (WTO) agriculture agreement was negotiated. After implementation of WTO rules in 1995, MPC became commercially viable.
  • Increasing percentages of imported casein are being used for the production of food and food products, rather than traditional industrial uses.
  • A 2001 General Accounting Office (GAO) study says MPC imports have surged by more than 600 percent in just six years. MPC imports doubled between 1998 and 1999 alone.
  • According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), MPC and casein displace about 9 billion pounds of skim milk.
  • The European Union subsidizes casein and MPC imports at over $1 per pound, and last month increased export subsidies on powder by 16 percent.

Action Needed: Close Trade Loopholes and Enforce U.S. Law

  • Pass S.560 and H.R.1160, the Milk Import Tariff Equity Act (MITEA).
  • Prevents continued unrestricted access to our domestic markets.
  • Imposes TRQs on import of MPC and casein products intended for food and animal feed use.
  • Does not affect industrial casein use.
  • Ensures TRQs are consistent with current U.S. trade policy
  • Continue working with U.S. Customs to change the tariff classification of dairy protein blends.
  • Enforce Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards that prohibit the use of MPC in standardized cheeses.
  • Retain current definition of "milk" - do not include "MPC" in definition.

The Milk Import Tariff Equity Act Co-sponsors:

Co-sponsors of H.R. 1160: Sherwood, Obey, Abercrombie, Aderholt, Allen, Baca, Bachus, Baker,
Baldwin, Bartlett, Berry, Bishop, Bonner, Boucher, Boyd, Bradley, Brown, Brown-Waite,
Capito, Cardoza, Conyers, Cramer, Davis (Artur), Davis (Jo Ann), DeFazio, DeLauro, Doyle,
Ehlers, Emerson, English, Everett, Filner, Gilchrest, Goode, Greenwood, Grijalva, Hart,
Hinchey, Holden, Houghton, Janklow, Johnson (Nancy), Kanjorski, Kaptur, Kelly, Kind, Kleczka, Kucinich, Larsen, LaTourette, Lewis, LoBiondo, Matheson, McCollum, McGovern,
McHugh, McNulty, Michaud, Mollohan, Murtha, Nunes, Oberstar, Olver, Osborne, Peterson (Collin), Peterson (John), Petri, Pickering, Pitts, Platts, Pomeroy, Quinn, Rangel, Rehberg, Rogers
(Mike D.), Rogers (Mike), Sanders, Sandlin, Saxton, Sensenbrenner, Shimkus, Shuster,
Simmons, Simpson, Smith, Stupak, Sweeney, Taylor, Turner, Vitter, Walsh, Whitfield

Co-sponsors of S. 560: Coleman, Craig, Dayton, Bingaman, Bond, Cantwell, Clinton, Collins,
Domenici, Dorgan, Feingold, Jeffords, Johnson, Kohl, Landrieu, Leahy, Levin, Lincoln,
Schumer, Shelby, Snowe, Specter