Minnesota dairy farmers are calling on Congress to ratify the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) in the wake of a government report that shows dairy farms are closing at an alarming rate.
Associated Milk Producers Inc. (AMPI), in a letter sent April 24, asked Minnesota’s Senate and House officials to call for an immediate vote on USMCA. President Trump, and his counterparts in Mexico and Canada, signed USMCA last year. The trade deal is now awaiting Congressional ratification before it can take hold.
“You have the power to help kickstart the state’s ailing dairy outlook,” said Steve Schlangen, an Albany, Minn., dairy farmer and chairman of the AMPI Board of Directors. “USMCA would maintain important trade avenues for Minnesota dairy farm families and businesses.”
Minnesota, like many dairy-producing states, has faced disruption during the ongoing trade war. Slow-moving negotiations, U.S.-imposed tariffs, and the ensuing trade retaliation measures continue to disrupt dairy exports and pressure milk prices, the dairy cooperative said.
And that is taking its toll on America’s dairy farms. The U.S. Department of Agriculture in March reported that an average of seven U.S. dairy farms were lost every day in 2018. Minnesota lost an average of four every week.
USDA also reported 70 percent of U.S. farms have operating margins in the “red zone,” indicating a high risk of financial problems.
“Farm incomes are falling, households are depending more on off-farm income, and the rural economy is bleak,” Schlangen said.
Minnesota exports $174 million worth of dairy goods every year — trade that supports more than 2,500 jobs. The state’s dairy industry wants to see exports increase before more family farms close.
USMCA locks in duty-free access to Mexico’s growing dairy market, provides additional dairy market access to Canada that Minnesota is well-positioned to supply, reforms Canada’s controversial Class 7 milk pricing scheme, and tackles the misuse of geographical indications that block U.S. dairy sales, the cooperative told lawmakers.
Beyond the letter, AMPI partnered with Farmers for Free Trade
“On behalf of Minnesota’s dairy industry, we are asking you to urge House and Senate leaders to bring USMCA up for an immediate vote and ratification,” Schlangen concluded.
AMPI is headquartered in New Ulm, Minn., and owned by dairy farm families from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota. AMPI members marketed 5.7 billion pounds of milk, resulting in $1.6 billion in sales for the cooperative in 2018. AMPI owns 10 Midwest-based manufacturing plants where nearly 10 percent of the nation’s American-type cheese and butter is produced. The cooperative’s award-winning cheese, butter and powdered dairy products are marketed to foodservice, retail and food ingredient customers.