A group of US Congress members have written to the US Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, and US Trade Representative, Ron Kirk, urging them to take proactive steps to prevent Canada from imposing new barriers to US dairy exports.
The 1 March 2013-dated letter expressed concerns over reports that the Canadian government is considering further changes to its Cheese Compositional Standards (CCS).
A total of 18 US Congress members, including Ron Kind, Tom Reed, Sean Duffy, Chris Collins, Reid Ribble, Bill Owens, Mark Pocan, Richard Hanna, Chris Gibson, Louise Slaughter, Charles Rangel, Sean Patrick Maloney, Brian Higgins, Dan Maffei, Paul Tonko, Gwen Moore, Tom Petri and Jim Sensenbrenner, signed the letter.
If executed, these changes would further restrictive actions implemented in 2007, the letter said. This and other actions taken by the Canadian government have left the Canadian dairy market “extremely inaccessible” to US dairy products, according to the letter.
The letter adds that US states such as Wisconsin and New York are currently well positioned to take advantage of opportunities in the Canadian dairy market. The actions currently being considered by the Canadian government will however “negatively impact the sale of safe US dairy products in Canada,” it said.
“Negative impact” on trade relations
Imposing an additional barrier to US dairy exports could create “sizable losses for US companies currently shipping dairy ingredients for use in Canadian cheese-making,” the letter said. It could also threaten US cheese sales to Canada, it added.
“The prospect poses a significant concern to our states in particular: Wisconsin and New York are home to approximately 17,000 dairy producers, who rely on exports opportunities to help sustain their farms,” said the letter. “In addition, New York and Wisconsin both have robust dairy manufacturing sectors which help provide stable jobs in rural areas of our states.”
“As border-states, our industries are well-positioned to take advantage of opportunities in the Canadian market. However, because of our proximity, our sectors also bear a sizeable part of the burden when Canadian regulations are aimed at thwarting that opportunity.”
The Congress members urged Vilsack and Kirk to “proactively impress” on Canada the impact that further restrictions would have.
“It is essential that the US government stress to Canada that imposing new non-tariff barriers to US dairy products with no demonstrated food safety risk runs counter to the on-going efforts to foster closer US-Canada ties in a variety of forums.”
“Furthermore, we urge your offices to take a proactive stance in order to reduce the likelihood of any Canadian action that would further hinder current US dairy exports.”
US government has " important role" to play
The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), which represents the US dairy manufacturing and marketing industry and their suppliers, has come out in support of the letter.
Speaking with DairyReporter.com, IDFA vice president of communications, Peggy Armstrong, said that preventing the implementation of further barriers was an “important role” for the US government to play.
“IIDFA agrees with the letter to Ambassador Kirk and Secretary Vilsack regarding barriers to the export of US dairy products to Canada,” said Armstrong. “Canada is the number two market for US dairy exports, totally $554.2m in 2012, up 11%.”
“This is an appropriate and important role for the US government to undertake,” she added.