IDFA: Assessment rule means imports must be promoted, too

New rule requires dairy checkoff program to promote domestic and
imported dairy products to avoid trade infraction

After a lengthy period of opposing a call to impose a dairy checkoff assessment on imported dairy products,  the International Dairy Foods Association (IFDA) applauded USDA’s proposed rule, saying it addresses trade concerns. At the same time, IDFA
cautioned the proposed rule could significantly change the current program that promotes only U.S. dairy products. 

Thee changes are included in a proposed rule to implement an assessment
on dairy imports that was included as a provision in the 2008 Farm Bill. That bill stipulated that the assessments could  only go into affect if implemented in compliance with U.S. trade obligations. 

IDFA president and CEO Connie Tipton complimented U.S. ag secretary Tom Vilsack 
and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk for working together to consider
the important trade  issues caused by the new law. She also complimented Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chair of the  Senate ag committee, and Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chair of the Senate finance  committee, who insisted that the dairy import assessment should not violate U.S. trade  obligations. 

“Clearly the Senate and Obama administration understood the importance
of preserving our U.S.  dairy export markets by ensuring that we do not implement policies that are not in compliance with our global trade rules,” said Tipton. “One of the consequences of the new rule is that the  program’s focus can no longer be to promote only U.S. dairy products. This is one of the reasons  why IDFA strongly opposed the import assessment.” 

Under the new rule, the definition of milk would change from milk produced in the United States  to all milk, regardless of its source, IDFA said. As such, the Dairy Board would no longer be able to limit its  promotion efforts to domestic milk. Some examples of the changes that would be required under  the new rule include the expansion of the “Real Seal” promotion to allow its use on all dairy  products, including those that are imported; and supplier contact information would no longer be  constrained to U.S. manufacturers, as is done today on websites that are funded through the checkoff program.

The rule also would expand the Dairy Board to include two importer members. Importers would  be allowed to use one-third of the required import assessments for
qualified national and regional  programs that promote imported dairy products.

USDA has asked to receive comments on the proposed rule by June 18,
2009. The proposed rule  is available at  http://www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/component/main?main=DocumentDetail&o=090000648099fce1. 

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