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Cheese importers upset with REALĀ® Seal management change


The March 29 announcement that the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) will assume management of the REAL® Seal logo and use it to differentiate domestically produced dairy products from imports violates a law imposing fees on imported dairy products, according to the Cheese Importers Association of America (CIAA).

Effective March 15, NMPF began managing the licensing and use of the REAL® Seal, one of the most iconic and recognizable product integrity logos used in the food industry. The management of the REAL® Seal program was transferred from the United Dairy Industry Association (UDIA).


Beginning last August, USDA extended the dairy checkoff to included imported dairy products. Importers must pay the equivalent of 7.5¢/cwt. on all dairy-based imports, including cheese and butter products, as well as dry ingredients such as casein and milk protein concentrates. 


U.S. dairy producers contribute 15¢/cwt. on all milk marketings. The combined money is used by the National Dairy Board to be used for nutrition research, consumer education, issues management, and other programs that build demand for dairy consumption.


“In implementing that law (including importers), USDA ruled that no funds from the National Dairy Board could be expended solely for promotion of domestically produced products,” CIAA said in a press release.“In this way, imports would not be discriminated against by promotion of the domestically produced products. CIAA is disappointed that the REAL® Seal will continue to be used to promote domestic dairy products against imports, even though importers are now paying substantial amounts of money into U.S. promotion programs.”


Ken Meyers, president of the CIAA and a member of the National Dairy Board, said, “It is unfortunate that this action has been taken to circumvent the requirements that were clearly set forth by USDA. This action demonstrates a clear violation of U.S. trade obligations. If the National Milk Producers Federation plans to use checkoff monies that now include mandatory contributions by importers to promote domestically produced dairy products, importers may need to implement a program to tout the benefits of popular cheeses from countries, such as France, Italy, Denmark, Holland, Argentina, Australia, and New Zealand.” 


The Cheese Importers Association, Inc. is a non-profit trade association formed more than sixty years ago whose membership comprises the vast majority of the firms engaged in the business of importing, selling, promoting, and distributing cheese and cheese products in the U.S. The CIAA endeavors to support dairy trade, within the context of compliance with international trade agreements, and all applicable U.S. regulations.