“How many people work for U.S. dairy in Japan?” asked Tom Vilsack, who is now CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council.
“Three people, but that is really 1 to 1-1/2 full-time equivalents when you consider those same people represent other U.S. farm commodities,” he told those attending the joint annual meeting of the National Milk Producers Federation, the United Dairy Industry Association, and the National Dairy Promotion and Research Board at its gathering in Anaheim, Calif., on November 1.
“How many people does Fonterra have in Japan?” he asked, alluding to New Zealand’s chief dairy processor.
“Seventy! We need to do better. We are going to increase the number of people ‘in country’ to grow U.S. dairy exports,” said Vilsack.
“The critical component for growing exports is creating relationships and developing trust,” Vilsack went on to explain. “We must be ‘in country’ to provide service to our customers when it comes to dairy exports. We need to build a customer service and ideation center in an emerging market to send a loud message that we (the U.S.) are here to stay,” shared the former USDA Secretary.
“To help reach this objective, we reached our first goal to commit an additional $4 million of investment to dairy exports,” he said.
This new funding will be an important step in growing dairy exports an additional 5 percent — so will having more staff in key dairy export markets.
“Expanding dairy exports is about expanding the American brand,” Vilsack continued.
“We want to be good partners. Mexico’s dairy farmers raised milk output 58 percent in the past 10 years,” he explained, noting that when a country like Mexico grows its dairy product base, both countries can win. And with the current NAFTA renegotiations, Mexico definitely matters to the U.S. “Today, 75 percent of all dairy product imports into Mexico come from the U.S. They are America’s number one customer,” stated Vilsack.