National Milk Producers Federation Senior Vice President for Policy Strategy and International Trade Jaime Castaneda today urged federal officials to effectively allocate dairy products as a source of high-quality, cost-effective nutrition in any successor to the Farmers to Families Food Box Program at a USDA listening session.
“Dairy foods, including milk, cheese, yogurt and butter, and many other dairy products are staples of our diet. No single food contains as much nutritional bang for the buck as milk,” said Castaneda during the session, hosted by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service. “Additional USDA purchases of milk and milk products, to then be donated to food banks and other charitable feeding organizations, would deliver a wide range of healthy nutrients to people at a relatively low federal cost. The cost-benefit equation for providing milk’s nutrition to the nutrient-insecure is enormous.”
USDA is soliciting feedback on how it should overhaul or restructure the Food Box program, implemented last year as part of the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic. The comments will focus on the value of government purchases to the dairy sector and how the future product mix acquired and donated should minimize farm-level price distortions.
Castaneda said an ideal program would better balance its nutritional offerings to both serve families and minimize price disruptions in the agricultural community.
“That disparity caused tremendous market volatility and unusual pricing challenges throughout the country, including extreme price differentials between neighboring farms,” Castaneda said. “We are eager to work with USDA to improve upon the product balance, particularly between cheese and butter, and ensure the department’s efforts better meet the needs of all producers as well as the families that benefit from these dairy products.”
Comments on the potential USDA plan are open until the end of the month. They can be filed here.