Congressman Anthony Brindisi, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, held a virtual meeting with dairy farmers from across New York’s 22nd District and advocated for their priorities in a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue.
During the meeting, Brindisi shared updates with the group about the latest coronavirus relief measures, spoke about his bipartisan work to increase domestic agriculture research, and answered questions from farmers about the state of New York dairy. When the coronavirus pandemic hit New York State, Brindisi worked with Democrats and Republicans to expand direct aid to small farms and increase access to Economic Injury Disaster Loans for small businesses and family farmers.
“It was helpful to hear from so many Upstate farmers about their priorities today, and I’ll keep working with both parties to send more targeted relief to our farmers,” said Brindisi. “There’s so much more to be done to support American agriculture: ensuring that we are enforcing the USMCA dairy provisions, passing an infrastructure bill to get goods to market, child nutrition reauthorization, and increased access to essential services like broadband and mental health care to support small towns. Conversations like today’s help drive our legislation, and I will keep working with both parties to ensure our farmers have the resources they need to get through this pandemic and succeed for years to come.”
In his bipartisan letter to Azar and Perdue, Brindisi led more than 50 members of Congress to encourage HHS and USDA to take additional steps to reaffirm the role of dairy foods in building healthy diets. The lawmakers requested that the agencies review studies that have demonstrated beneficial or neutral effects of dairy foods at all fat levels and include those findings in the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
“Mounting scientific evidence highlights the neutral to beneficial health impact of milkfat, showing that dairy fats may be higher-quality and more beneficial than other types of fats. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans provide crucial recommendations regarding what foods Americans of all walks of life should consume. Since the Guidelines are only updated once every five years, it’s critical that they reflect the most updated nutrition science. We commend Reps. Anthony Brindisi (D-NY) and Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (R-PA) for leading a bipartisan coalition of 55 House members to urge USDA and HHS to ensure that recent science that shows health benefits of dairy products at all fat levels is fairly considered as the 2020 Guidelines are finalized,” said Jim Mulhern, president & CEO, National Milk Producers Federation.
“For generations, the Dietary Guidelines have emphasized the important role of dairy foods in healthy diets for people of all ages. However, despite a plethora of science, recent guidelines have ignored and omitted the favorable health outcomes related to consumption of milkfat, which is different from any other saturated fat. We are grateful to Reps. Anthony Brindisi (D-NY) and Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (R-PA) for ensuring the Dietary Guidelines for Americans are science-based and include important research and messages about dairy foods at all fat levels,” said Michael Dykes, D.V.M., president and CEO of IDFA. “Dairy is a superfood and we remain hopeful that USDA and HHS will fully restore dairy foods to their necessary and central position in the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.”
Congressman Brindisi has worked throughout his time in Congress to support New York dairy farmers. He and his Republican colleague from Pennsylvania Congressman Joyce introduced the Dairy and Sheep H-2A Visa Enhancement Act (H.R. 1778) to expand the H-2A program to work for dairy farmers. Brindisi and Joyce also led a group of bipartisan freshman members of Congress urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take strong action against manufacturers who falsely label non-dairy products as milk. Brindisi is a cosponsor of the bipartisan Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act to expand whole milk options in school lunchrooms.
Brindisi’s full letter to Azar and Perdue is below:
Dear Secretary Azar and Secretary Perdue:
We are pleased to see that the final report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) reaffirms the central role of dairy foods in building healthy diets. Three daily servings of dairy for adults and older children are recommended in the Healthy U.S. and Healthy Vegetarian Dietary Patterns. Of the four nutrients of public health concern for under-consumption identified by the DGAC, dairy provides three: calcium, potassium, and vitamin D. Dietary patterns which include dairy were associated with lower risk of several chronic health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, overweight and obesity, hip fractures, and colorectal cancer. The first-ever recommendations for the critical birth-to-24- months period include the introduction of yogurt and cheese between six months and one year and the introduction of fluid milk for children 12-24 months old.
As clearly demonstrated by its recommendations, the DGAC identified the importance of dairy foods for good diets and health. However, we were surprised to see that the committee did not appear to thoroughly consider several recent scientific studies and analyses that show benefits of dairy foods at all fat levels – not just low-fat or fat-free varieties. We are particularly interested in this science because, as highlighted by the DGAC in its report, 88 percent of Americans, including 79 percent of 9-13-year-olds, chronically under-consume dairy foods. Since full-fat or reduced-fat varieties are generally better liked by consumers, greater consideration of the more current science of dairy fat could be helpful in encouraging people to consume adequate amounts.
As you and your colleagues prepare the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), we know you will do so based on the best science, including the DGAC’s recommendations. We encourage you, as you undertake this work, to review studies that have demonstrated beneficial or neutral effects of dairy foods at all fat levels. A major part of encouraging healthier diets is to increase Americans’ dairy consumption, and we look forward to a new edition of the DGA that will clearly show the importance of consuming dairy and other healthy foods.