Tom Vilsack Highlights Exports at Dairy MAX Board Meeting

Jan 17, 2019
Tom Vilsack speaks to a group

Former Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack shared his expertise and commitment to the dairy industry at a recent Dairy MAX board of directors meeting. Now serving as president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC), Vilsack provides strategic leadership and oversight of global promotion and research activities, regulatory affairs and trade policy initiatives. He works with industry leaders to develop strategies for building sales and consumer trust in U.S. dairy.

During the meeting Vilsack’s presentation had a central theme that exports are a bright spot for the dairy industry. This is on track with USDEC’s initiative, The Next 5%, which is a coordinated effort across the industry to build U.S. dairy export volume from about 15 percent of the milk supply to 20 percent. With 95 percent of the world’s population living outside of the U.S., this effort aims to find more markets for milk in an environment of strong global demand.

An example is the innovation partnership between China’s Jiangnan University and USDEC. China is a high-priority export market, and the partnership intends to present new opportunities for U.S. dairy export growth. It also encourages the development of new food products that incorporate U.S. dairy ingredients like whey, milk proteins and skim milk powder.

Vilsack highlighted people, partnerships and promotions as driving factors behind The Next 5%. Rather than a combination of commodities, this initiative is coordinated by a group of dedicated industry professionals focused on increasing demand for dairy. USDEC educates members on export markets and increases awareness of U.S. dairy through tradeshows, seminars, farm tours, product formulation and partner contract support.

Another point he made was the importance of referring to dairy as part of the food and agriculture industry. Food and agriculture account for 20 percent of the U.S. economy and 43 million jobs. Although we have global challenges like milk alternatives, the U.S. dairy industry is in a unique position to enhance our presence beyond borders to increase demand for dairy farmers. To learn more about how dairy checkoff supports export programs, click here.