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Dykes: Dairy industry needs to be at the table

The dairy industry needs to band together to aggressively advocate for dairy, using the industry’s economic impact as the center of discussion.
Carol Ryan Dumas

Capital Press

Published on January 26, 2018 10:37AM

Michael Dykes, president and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association, speaks Monday, Jan. 22, at the International Dairy Forum in Palm Desert, Calif.

International Dairy Foods Association

Michael Dykes, president and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association, speaks Monday, Jan. 22, at the International Dairy Forum in Palm Desert, Calif.

A joint advocacy effort by the different sectors of the U.S. dairy industry brought successes this year on Capitol Hill and beyond, but the chief of the International Dairy Foods Association says the industry must continue to band together to push the message of dairy’s economic impact.

The different sectors have so many shared interests, and they came together to accomplish several things this past year, Michael Dykes, IDFA president and CEO, said during a live-streamed presentation from the International Dairy Forum.

“I really think we’ll be stronger if we work together,” he said.

The collaborative effort tackled everything from milk in school lunches, regulatory issues and farm bill policy to protecting generic food names in trade agreements.

“If we don’t advocate for ourselves, we won’t be successful,” Dykes said.

The effort has also had success in the U.S. trade arena, with President Trump vowing to vigorously defend generic food names and the industry lending a strong voice to the discussion on the North American Free Trade Agreement.

But there’s more to be done on communicating the benefits of trade, he said.

The new administration has already withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and ended negotiations with the EU in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. It’s threatened to withdraw from NAFTA and the free trade agreement with South Korea and has had serious discussions with China.

There’s a lot at stake, as half of all U.S. dairy exports go to Canada, Mexico, Korea and China, Dykes said.

“These are important countries. These are important discussions. We need to be at the table. We need to be advocating for the dairy industry,” he said.

The industry is trying to tell its story, and its message is getting through to Trump and Congress in regard to NAFTA, he said.

“But we must continue to advocate and communicate for our industry. … We’ve got to be aggressive. We’ve got to tell our story,” he said.

That’s why last year IDFA commissioned a report on the economic impact of the dairy industry, he said.

For the last 20-some years, “we’ve talked about trade in terms of market access. But if we look at the last election, most of the people in society don’t relate to market access,” he said.

It’s more about two things — jobs and wages, he said.

With data from the report, the dairy industry can tell the story that dairy supports nearly 3 million jobs and has an economic impact of more than $600 billion, he said.

“That changes the conversation when you can go visit with an elected official, with a policy maker, and you can take those kinds of numbers to them,” he said.

IDFA also joined with other agricultural organizations to show the broader impact of agriculture — 43 million jobs and nearly $7 trillion in economic impact. In addition, food and agriculture is the largest manufacturing sector in the nation, he said.

“So when we take these kinds of data to policy makers, these kinds of messages, we can have an impact,” he said.


To view the economic impact of dairy, go to IDFA.org under “Resources” and “Dairy Delivers”

To view the economic impact of agriculture, go to feedingtheeconomy.com


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