USDA will spend up to $50 million on fluid milk in half-gallon containers for distribution to the Emergency Food Assistance Program.
The purchases, announced Tuesday, will be made under Section 32 of the Agricultural Adjustment Act to encourage consumption of domestic agricultural products and are separate from possible purchases through the $12 billion in farm aid planned to offset retaliatory trade tariffs.
The agency did not disclose the level of purchases it will make in the pre-solicitation notice, but industry groups say they have verified with USDA the intent to spend $50 million on pasteurized fat-free, low fat, reduced fat and whole milk.
A public affairs officer with USDA told Capital Press in an email on Wednesday the agency will purchase up to $50 million in fresh milk over several months.
Recent increases in milk production and lower demand are providing a timely opportunity for USDA to purchase relatively inexpensive and nutritious fluid milk for use in the network of food banks and food pantries that participate in the Emergency Food Assistance Program, the officer said.
The International Dairy Foods Association and MilkPEP, which represent dairy processors, have been working with USDA to utilize Section 32 funding for milk purchases, Bailey Wood, IDFA vice president of communications, said.
The groups estimate the purchases will amount to 12 million to 15 million gallons of milk.
“We don’t quite yet know what food banks will request. The cost will vary depending on the product” and transportation costs, he said.
“We want this to be flexible,” he said.
The goal is to help people, especially children, get the nutrition they need, he said.
“As many as 41 million Americans, including 13 million children, face hunger daily and are at risk of missing out on essential nutrients when they don’t have access to milk,” Michael Dykes, DVM, president and CEO of IDFA, said in a press release on Tuesday.
Feeding America, which is trying to increase milk donations through The Great American Milk Drive, says its food banks are able to provide only the equivalent of one gallon of milk per person per year.
“Milk is one of the most requested nutrition staples at food banks, yet it is rarely available,” Julia Kadison, CEO of MilkPEP, said in the press release.
With one out of two children ages 9 and up falling short on calcium, vitamin D and potassium, there is an even greater need to make sure milk is getting to children and families who need it most, she said.
USDA’s purchase will address the significant challenge of hunger and at the same time have a positive impact on the dairy industry at a time of significant market uncertainty, Dykes said.
The National Milk Producers Federation also welcomed the USDA purchases for food assistance programs, saying it’s the first time the agency has bought milk for that use.
“We are pleased that ISDA is now including milk in the assortment of foods it is buying and donating, as milk is in high demand at food banks because of its unparalleled nutritional benefits,” Jim Mulhern, NMPF president and CEO said.
But NMPF did not request the purchases, Chris Galen, NMPF executive vice president of communications, said.
The organization’s focus with USDA has been on how to best use the $12 billion tariff mitigation package, he said.
“So that’s been our main point of discussion with the agency. We are hoping they will have more on that by the end of the month,” he said.