Dairy cooperatives and milk processors can apply for partial reimbursement for milk they donate to the needy through a new program administered by USDA.

The Milk Donation Reimbursement Program, authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill, goes into effect Sept. 16.

The program is aimed at both reducing food waste and providing nutrition assistance with a $9 million budget in Fiscal Year 2019 and $5 million annually thereafter.

Under the program, eligible dairy organizations must partner with nonprofit organizations that distribute food to low-income individuals.

Eligible dairy organizations are cooperatives or processors that incur qualified expenses by accounting to a Federal Milk Marketing Order pool for fluid milk donations.

The reimbursements will offset a portion of the raw milk cost for donated milk. Only Class I fluid milk products produced and processed in the U.S. are eligible for reimbursement.

The dairy organization and nonprofit organization must submit a joint plan for eligibility and approval by USDA Agricultural Marketing Service.

Plans for FY 2019 can reflect donations made from Oct. 1, 2018, through Sept. 30, 2019.

The National Milk Producers Federation and the International Dairy Foods Association both support the program.

“The milk donation program is another example of members of Congress finding positive, creative ways to get nutritious milk to low-income Americans who need it,” Matt Herrick, IDFA senior vice president for executive and strategic communications, told Capital Press.

In an earlier letter to Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow, IDFA stated the program will provide many more families with the nutritional benefits of milk.

“We firmly believe that the tremendous productive capacity of the nation’s dairy farmers and processors can be utilized to aid food insecure populations,” the letter stated.

NMPF is pleased to see USDA roll out the program and will do what it can to ensure its success, Jim Mulhern, NMPF president and CEO, stated.

“As the dairy industry continues to confront market uncertainty, we are grateful for new tools that help get dairy products more quickly to those in need,” he said.

“By helping dairy producers and cooperatives donate fluid milk to food banks and other outlets, the program helps dairy farmers feed Americans,” he said.

Donation and distribution plans for FY 2019 and FY 2020 are due Nov. 6. Claims for FY 2019 are due by Feb. 6, 2020.

Claims for FY 2020 will be processed quarterly once plans have been approved and are due by Dec. 31, 2020.

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