|
|
|
The Times
  • Schumer proposes milk import limits

  • The Milk Import Tariff Equity Act, unveiled by U.S. Senator Charles Schumer Wednesday, would close a loophole in federal law that allows for the unlimited importation of foreign milk protein concentrate for use in food.

    • email print
  • The Milk Import Tariff Equity Act, unveiled by U.S. Senator Charles Schumer Wednesday, would close a loophole in federal law that allows for the unlimited importation of foreign milk protein concentrate for use in food.
    Milk protein concentrate imports have more than doubled during the last decade, undermining the market for domestic powdered milk, reducing the farm price for milk and costing New York dairy farmers millions every year.
    “For too long our farmers have been getting hammered on all sides,” Schumer, D-N.Y., said during a telephone conference call with reporters. “If it isn’t weather problems, it’s the USDA’s failure to provide adequate aid to farmers during market crisis. If it isn’t problems with harvests, it’s ill written trade agreements that allow importers to circumvent the intent of our trade rules. Instead of New York milk in our dairy products like coffee creamers and snack foods, we end up with imported milk protein concentrates.”
    Milk protein concentrates are a product derived from milk that is used in a variety of food and non-food related industries.
    According to the National Milk Producers Federation, 27,800 metric tons of milk protein concentrates, valued at $108.7 million, were imported during 2004-07, and that is revenue that Schumer said New York farmers are missing out on.
    On the call, Schumer said imposing tariff rate quotas on imported milk protein concentrate is consistent with the spirit of the United States’ existing dairy trade regime, and will raise demand for domestic milk and allow U.S. dairy farmers to compete on a level playing field.
    “The U.S. dairy industry is in crisis and immediate action must be taken to help dairy producers weather unprecedented low prices,” said Schumer. “Since last summer the domestic dairy industry has been grappling with a serious imbalance which threatens the stability and future of American dairy farmers. Unprecedented low dairy prices, caused in part by high supply, are creating extreme financial strain for dairy farmers across the country, forcing many to go out of business.”
    Current tariff rate quotas on dairy products went into effect in 1995. At that time, milk by-products such as milk protein concentrate, casein and caseinates were not widely used in the production of dairy products and were not included in the tariff rate quotas for dairy.
    Since then, imported milk protein concentrates have become common in many processed dairy products, displacing domestic dairy.
    Some importers even adjust the protein content of powdered milk for export to the U.S. so that it is classified as an milk protein concentrate and, thus, not limited by the tariff rate quotas and licensing requirements on powdered milk.
    Schumer said that it is in the spirit of the original trade agreement to place tariff rate quotas on imported dairy products intended for consumption, but importers are using milk protein concentrates to skirt existing tariff rate quotas. The Milk Import Tariff Equity Act, he said, will close the loophole in the current system that allows these foreign dairy products unlimited access to domestic markets.
    Page 2 of 2 - “Using milk protein concentrates to bypass our dairy trade regime has got to stop now,” he said.
    Schumer is also taking other actions to increase aid dairy to farmers. He is co-sponsoring legislation to increase MILC reimbursement rates to 90 percent and has recently written to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack requesting that prices paid to farmers by the U.S. government for dairy products purchased through the Dairy Product Price Support Program be raised by at least five percent.
    Schumer successfully fought for strengthening the MILC program in the 2007 Farm Bill. The new MILC program significantly raised the reimbursement rate for dairy farmers from 34 percent to 45 percent in cases where the price of milk falls below the target price, which is currently stipulated at $16.94. This was an important increase in the safety net for dairy farmers to offset against plummeting milk prices.

        calendar