The U.S. Department of Agriculture shared finalized changes to the federally funded Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children on Tuesday. To the dismay of many in our dairy industry, the program updates reduce the amount of milk provided to participants in the program known as WIC.

About 6.6 million mothers and children participated in WIC during the 2023 fiscal year. People in the program receive benefits to purchase certain foods based on their age and dietary needs.

Under the new rule, which will go into effect in two years, families will receive more assistance to purchase fruits and vegetables. Conversely, the amount of milk they will receive assistance to buy has been cut. In the future, the program will provide 3 gallons of milk per month for toddlers, down from 4 gallons, and 3.5 gallons for children ages 2 to 4, also down from 4 gallons. Fully breastfeeding mothers will now receive 4 gallons, down from a monthly maximum of 6 gallons.

On the positive side, lactose-free milk can now be bought using the funds, and there are more options available for purchasing yogurt and cheese in various package sizes. However, these changes also allow for the use of WIC dollars on plant-based alternatives.

Dairy organizations spoke out against the announced rule changes, including the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA).

“NMPF is disturbed by the decision to reduce access to the essential nutrients dairy adds to the diet,” said Gregg Doud, NMPF president and CEO. “Nutrition science demonstrates that dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese are especially important for women, infants, and children; meanwhile, nearly 90% of Americans don’t meet the number of dairy servings recommended by the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. This rule works against the WIC Program’s goal of ensuring all Americans have consistent and equitable access to healthy, safe, and affordable foods.”

In a New York Times article, USDA defended the change by explaining that the previous milk allocation equaled 128% of the daily amount required by nutrition guidelines. The new amount is 71% to 96% of the recommended intake, according to the article.

IDFA polled WIC participants, and 35% said they would need to use funds beyond those provided by WIC to cover purchases of milk and dairy because of these cuts. Another 33% of respondents said the cuts will make shopping for milk and dairy products more difficult. As producers of nutritious dairy products, that is not what we want to hear.

“At a time of rising food costs, it‘s important to focus on increasing access to a wide variety of healthful, nutrient-dense, and affordable foods, including dairy products,” said Doud. “It’s disappointing that the final rule limits WIC family purchasing power for nutritious dairy foods.”

To comment, email your remarks to
(c) Hoard's Dairyman Intel 2024
April 11, 2024
Subscribe to Hoard's Dairyman Intel by clicking the button below