Panelists: Alex Peterson (NDB), Barb O'Brien (DMI), Jim Mulhurn (NMPF), and Krysta Harden (USDEC)

“Exports are on track for a record year,” shared Jim Mulhern, who is the CEO and president of the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF).

“The rise in exports could not have come at a better time,” continued the dairy leader as he shared insight with the audience at this year’s joint annual meeting of NMPF and Dairy Management Inc. (DMI). In making those comments, Mulhern was alluding to the fact that 75% of the new milk production in the United States has been absorbed by dairy product exports.

The future is not secure, however. It will take continued work to grow partnerships and create sales.

“No one is going to give America market share. We have to go out there and get it,” said Krysta Harden, president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC), who shared the stage with Mulhern during a dairy leaders panel on Wednesday, November 17, 2021.

“Our closest neighbor, Mexico, is a strong market for U.S. dairy producers and processors,” continued Harden. “Southeast Asia and its growing middle class of consumers is another great market,” she added. “It’s why we started the Center for Dairy Excellence in Singapore,” she went on to say regarding America’s growing presence in the region.

“Southeast Asia is a big region,” shared Barb O’Brien, president and CEO of DMI and a member of the same dairy leader panel. “Its 16 countries have a growing appetite for dairy.”

In the past 25 years, the U.S. has grown from a near nonplayer on the international stage to a major dairy exporter.

“We are No. 3 in dairy exports next to New Zealand and the European Union,” commented Mulhern. “One day we will be No. 2 and eventually we will be No. 1,” predicted the NMPF CEO.

As for the future of the U.S. dairy industry, Mulhern urged some caution. “International dairy companies are investing in our markets,” said the longtime dairy policy expert. “We need to reinvest in our market or we will not have as bright a future as we could have,” he said of our co-ops and domestic dairy processors.

“Innovation and investment will be critical to our future,” O’Brien quickly added in speaking on a panel moderated by Alex Peterson. The Missouri dairyman chairs the National Dairy Board.

“Relationships and partnerships are so important to our success,” O’Brien also stated, noting that strategy is important in both domestic and international markets when it comes to growing dairy product sales.

A look into metrics
“Overall, exports have looked very good despite our shipping and port problems,” stated NMPF’s Peter Vitaliano earlier in the meeting. “We are on track to export 17% of our solids production this year,” continued the longtime dairy economist.

Those solids are mainly butterfat and protein. Vitaliano contended that milk solids is a better metric to track the relationship between milk production and dairy product output. This is largely due to America’s and the world’s growing appetite for fat and protein.

“Milk solids is really what should be tracked on the production side of the equation,” said the NMPF vice president of economic policy and market research. “Milk solids is a much more accurate measure of growth in the milk supply,” said Vitaliano in a direct comparison to total milk production. And five to six days each month, U.S. dairy cows are collectively producing milk to serve the export market.

More work needs to be done
“We are continually touting the need to bridge the competitiveness gap,” said Shawna Morris, who jointly serves as the senior vice president of trade policy for NMPF and USDEC. “We are focusing on the United Kingdom, Southeast Asia, Japan, China, and other key markets,” said Morris in comments made earlier in the program. “The EU and New Zealand have made major inroads. If we don’t take action, we will limit our future sales,” she said in making a cautionary prediction in the competition between the world’s three largest dairy exporters.

As for the near term, “We are pursuing market access improvements in Indonesia, which is a top 10 dairy market,” said Morris. “The big focus is working to streamline and speed up the ability to ship products.”

As the middle class grows around the world, dairy has a big role to play on dinner plates.

“Dairy is feeding those in need around the world,” said NMPF Board Chairman Randy Mooney. “Dairy is bringing nutrition, indulgence, and pure joy. Dairy is making every drop count,” he added in making a direct connection to the joint annual gathering’s theme “Making every drop count.”

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(c) Hoard's Dairyman Intel 2021
November 18, 2021
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