Waco, Texas (Sept. 19, 2002) - As dairy farmers face the lowest prices for their product since 1979, Texas Farmers Union is urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to address trading practices that disadvantage domestic producers.
Farmers Union has launched an online petition drive to stop the illegal flow of milk protein concentrate (MPC) into the country, at www.nfu.org, producers and consumers can send a personalized petition directly to Secretary of Agriculture Ann M. Veneman.
TFU President Wes Sims is hopeful the grassroots effort will encourage USDA to impose tariffs on MPC and other dairy imports that are violating current trade laws and negatively impacting U.S. dairy producers.
"Texas dairy producers are extremely concerned about imported MPC, which is displacing the domestic milk market and depressing milk prices," Sims said. "Foreign exporters are circumventing trade regulations that have resulted in a surge of MPC imports and have rapidly increased imports of other dairy derivatives into the United States."
Milk protein cncentrates are powdered milk products containing between 40 and 90 percent complete milk protein. Imported powdered milk products with less than 40 percent complete milk protein would be classified as nonfat dry milk and would be subject to a tariff-rate quota. Because MPC was not considered a dairy product by the World Trade Organization, MPC limits were not included in the last round of dairy tariff-rate quotas.
According to a 2001 General Accounting Office report, MPC imports had surged by more than 600 percent in six years. The report also cites the practice by foreign exporters that deliberately blend previously processed dairy proteins to circumvent statutory U.S. import regulations on nonfat dry milk powder.
"Dairy income is $4 billion less this year than last, and the impact is devastating to American dairy farmers, as well as to rural communities and businesses who depend upon dairy farmers for their livelihood," stated Billy Miller, Crawford, Texas dairy farmer.
Farmers Union members from across the United States discussed remedies to the situation with Senate Agriculture Committee staff and Agriculture Department officials in Washington, D.C. last week.
National Farmers Union sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman September 9th urging tariffs on dairy imports that are violating current trade laws.
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