The dairy export scene has come a long way in the 27 years since the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) was first founded. That’s good news for U.S. dairy farmers given the near linear upward growth of milk production in the country during the same time period. In 1995 when USDEC was formed, the U.S. exported just 1% to 2% of its dairy production; last year that number was solidly in the 17%.

During the January 19 Hoard’s Dairyman DairyLivestream, Cornell’s Andy Novakovic described the long road that has led to greater export business and importantly the addition of higher value dairy products to the export market.

“After World War II, there was a big global effort that basically was predicated on a notion that we have to figure out a way to talk to each other globally and bring cultures, people, and social institutions together,” the seasoned economist explained. “This led to a series of conversations among countries that today we talk about as the World Trade Organization (WTO).”

Even after the founding of what became the WTO, trade related to food items such as dairy remained negligible. It wasn’t until a series of events in the 1980s and 1990s led to less food protectionism and the opening of doors that trade at the level we have today became a reality.

“The point of this story is that we didn’t know diddly about exporting or trade,” Novakovic commented. “We didn’t have companies that had that experience. It wasn’t on our radar screen, and we didn’t care.

“When that happened in the early 1990s, we really didn’t know if we were going to become a net exporter or a net importer. Of course, the story as it turned out resulted in us becoming a very serious exporter, and I think frankly we are the country to beat when it comes to world trade,” Novakovic continued at America’s work on selling dairy products around the globe.

At the onset, the U.S. imported more than it exported as the country learned how to participate in the global market. USDEC and its mission to build relationships, understand the technical rules and assist in meeting standards around the world helped our industry learn how to get involved in trade.

Highly specialized products

Today, our trade goals are focused on some of these intangibles – both sharing the merits of U.S. dairy and listening to the needs of our international customers.

“We’re not selling nails; we’re selling food. We’re selling a product that has a lot of texture and characteristics,” Novakovic said. “It’s this relationship action that is really key and that’s what an organization like USDEC and the elements around it help us do. A lot of this is also listening.”

To watch the recording of the January 19 DairyLivestream, go to the link above. The program recording is now also available as an audio-only podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and downloadable from the Hoard’s Dairyman website.

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The next broadcast of DairyLivestream will be on Wednesday, February 23 at 11 a.m. CDT. In the new year, we moved to a new system, and if you have not yet, you will need to re-register to continue receiving email updates and links to the webcasts. You can sign up here now. Registering once will sign you up you for all future events.

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January 24, 2022
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