There are few celebrations that don’t include dairy products. Birthday celebrations include a dollop of ice cream. Mashed potatoes served at Thanksgiving are usually made with milk and butter, maybe even cream. Yogurt is a staple in many people’s diets and there’s nothing more refreshing than a shake or ice cold chocolate milk after an intense workout.
Dairy products aren’t only wholesome and nutritious, they’re important components in nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals, industrial and technology products. This makes American dairy products important at home and around the world.
The former U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is committed to maintaining and expanding the export of American dairy products around the world. In February, he began his new post as President and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) where he’ll continue working as an advocate for farmers and American agriculture.
The U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) is a non-profit, independent membership organization that represents the global trade interests of U.S. dairy producers, proprietary processors and cooperatives, ingredient suppliers and export traders.
“As secretary, I traveled around the country to meet with farmers. I had a chance to listen to their concerns, their hopes and their aspirations,” Vilsack said.
Even as Secretary, Vilsack always had a special interest in dairy. “Dairy farmers are incredibly hardworking and proactive. They are committed to sustainability and to educating the public about what they do,” Vilsack said.
In his new role, Vilsack is focusing on the growth of U.S. dairy products in the global market and sees export as essential to the future of the dairy industry and America’s dairy farmers.
“The international market for dairy products supports 95,000 on farm jobs and 15,000 export jobs. That doesn’t include the jobs for domestic production,” he said.
Farmers in New York and Vermont may not necessarily send their milk to markets in Mexico, Cuba or Japan, but trade relationships with other countries impact prices and ultimately benefit farmers in New England.
“I can pick up the phone and call the Minister of Agriculture in Canada, Mexico and China or the embassy in Japan. Not everyone can do that. It’s important to keep the lines of communication open,” he said.
Vilsack knows dairy farmers in New England are particularly concerned about impending changes to Canada’s trade policies.
“We have made a specific request on how these changes will be implemented. It’s important that the system is fair and that the purpose or intent is not to make it more difficult for American dairy farmers to import their products,” he said.