Idaho dairy farmer John Brubaker said he’d never felt so popular as when he explained his farming practices to a group of food importers during a U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) trade mission to Singapore.
“You almost felt like a rockstar,” Brubaker said on the October 27 Hoard’s Dairyman DairyLivestream sponsored by Cargill. “We were just swarmed with the traders and the buyers and the importers there wanting to know if they could just buy product from our dairy — because they had no idea the way we farmed in America.”
The potential customer relationships illustrated by that example is what most excites Brubaker about dairy exports, a section of the industry that he describes as near and dear to his heart. The Idaho and Utah region he represents on the board of the United Dairy Industry Association (UDIA) sends close to 80% of its vast milk volume overseas through ingredients, cheese, or butter.
“We don’t have a great base of consumers because we don’t have that population base,” Brubaker said. “We are very much an export state because it has to leave our boundaries.”
To meet that need, he also pointed out that the area is home to some sophisticated dairy processing plants that can make quality ingredients such as whey protein and those for infant formula, which are in high demand in various countries.
Brubaker values the chance he had to see that demand in action with the USDEC trade mission a few years ago because it helped put the work he does on the farm into perspective.
“I really wish more dairymen could have that opportunity because it really opens up your eyes to the other part of the world that needs nutrition and has to buy it all in,” he shared. “We take so much for granted here in America.”
U.S. dairy trade efforts have been specifically focusing on Singapore and the greater Southeast Asia region recently because the growing, fairly young population puts great value on protein. Brubaker recalled that on store shelves, he saw formula marketed for every age range from infants to 55 and older.
He also experienced the hot and humid conditions in the region that make efficiently raising dairy cattle difficult. Without that widespread domestic production, imports are critical to feeding a growing population. All of these factors make the region a ripe opportunity for U.S. dairy.
“As those economies develop, I just see so much potential to continue to increase our volume going into Southeast Asia,” Brubaker said. “I think there’s no better time to be involved in exports than right now.”
To watch the recording of the October 27 DairyLivestream, go to the link above. The program recording is also available as an audio-only podcast on Spotify, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, and downloadable from the Hoard’s Dairyman website.
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