Debate ignites over dairy import fees

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Dairy International dairy foods Milk

A battle over whether to expand fees on dairy imports to help pay
for promoting dairy products has broken out in Congress, as states
not included in the current fee system fear inclusion would deal a
devastating blow.

At the moment charges are levied on the 48 contiguous states and changes would mean Hawaii and Alaska would be brought on board. The scheme pays for ventures such as the 3-a-day marketing campaign, which urges people to eat three dairy servings a day. However, earlier this year an amendment to the 2007 farm bill in the House proposed the fee would be extended to all states to remove trade hurdles and pave the way for fees on imports. For some groups, the bill has been seen as a perfect opportunity to reform out-dated regulations. The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) said the bill: "Offers an unprecedented opportunity to usher in an era of modern dairy policies that will help the industry take advantage of growing markets in the US and the world while providing a sustainable financial safety net for dairy farms"​ But criticism from senators in Hawaii and Alaska has come forward, urging this change to be taken out. They argue extension of the fees would hit home producers hard, and adding a fee to imported dairy was unfair. According to the Associated Press, senators from large dairy producing states, including Wisconsin and California have hit back with counter-claims. Thirteen senators have grouped together to call for the end of "freeloading of imported dairy products"​ and say the fee should be extended, AP said. Chris Galen, from the National Milk Producers Federation, said: "America's dairy farmers feel that it is a fundamental issue of fairness and only want everyone - including domestic production and imported production - to be treated equally." ​ Cheese importers and U.S. food companies that use imported dairy products as ingredients have formed the Alliance for Fair Dairy Promotion to lobby against fee system assessment. The coalition includes companies such as ConAgra Foods, General Mills, Kraft Foods and Nestle, as well as groups such as the Cheese Importers Association of America, the National Taxpayers Union and the International Dairy Foods Association.

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