Dairy industry representatives offered their support for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) new $400 million Dairy Donation Program (DDP). The Department released an interim final rule all but finalizing the DDP and making its $400 million funding available to eligible handlers and cooperatives. The program will ensure U.S. dairy companies are fairly compensated for donating nutritious dairy products to Americans struggling with hunger and food insecurity.
Michael Dykes, president & CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) shared, “IDFA applauds USDA for finalizing the Dairy Donation Program, making it possible for U.S. dairy companies to donate fresh, nutritious dairy products to nonprofit organizations reaching Americans struggling with hunger and food insecurity. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. dairy producers and dairy foods companies have led efforts to feed the hungry and support struggling communities. With the Dairy Donation Program announced today, USDA is providing our industry with one more tool to reach Americans in need. The dairy industry welcomes the opportunity to continue to partner with non-profits, charities, and other organizations working to combat hunger and nutrition insecurity. The Dairy Donation Program ensures high-quality, nutritious products like milk, cheese, yogurt and more will get to those who need them most, while ensuring dairy foods producers receive a fair market value for their healthy products. IDFA and our members look forward to working with USDA and the non-profit community to get this program off the ground this fall.”
Congress established the DDP in December 2020 and USDA has been working for the past several months to design the new program. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. dairy producers and dairy foods companies have been proactive about responding to hunger and supporting families in need through local food drives and charitable donations as well as federal nutrition assistance programs.
“We thank USDA leadership for their work to bring the Dairy Donation Program to fruition. This important program will help dairy farmers and the cooperatives they own to do what they do best: feed families nationwide,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF). “Dairy stakeholders are eager to enhance their partnerships with food banks and other distributors to provide dairy products to those experiencing food insecurity, which the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated.”
NMPF championed the proposal throughout the legislative process and worked closely with Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), who led the effort to include this new program in COVID-19-related legislation enacted last year. The new Dairy Donation Program expands the original Milk Donation Reimbursement Program and has one-time funding of $400 million to reimburse farmers, cooperatives, and other dairy organizations for the full cost of raw milk needed to make finished dairy products for consumers.
NMPF worked closely with USDA to ensure that the program addresses additional costs, such as processing and transportation, as well as other elements that make the program more viable. The provision covering the cost of processing is a significant enhancement from the previous program. NMPF also worked closely with Feeding America to support the program and recommend approaches to ensure its effectiveness.
“We are grateful to USDA for helping ensure wholesome dairy products can be provided to food banks and other food distributors by reimbursing for some of these costs,” said Mulhern. “We have also been pleased to work with Feeding America to advance the partnership approach taken by this program as it will help to target dairy donations in a manner that effectively meets on-the-ground demand.”
“Feeding America applauds today’s announcement implementing the Dairy Donation Program, which has the potential to connect millions of additional pounds of dairy donations through food banks to the people we serve. We look forward to working with USDA and our dairy partners to make this program a success now and in the future,” said Vince Hall, Interim Chief Government Relations Officer at Feeding America.
Mulhern said NMPF appreciates Chairwoman Stabenow’s leadership in securing the program’s enactment last year, as well as the support for dairy donation offered by other key members, including Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (R-PA).
“We commend Chairwoman Stabenow for her leadership in authoring this program and look forward to working with Congress to secure additional funding for this program in the future to continue to minimize food waste by providing nutritious dairy products to those who need them most,” Mulhern said.
Jackie Klippenstein, Senior Vice President, Government, Industry and Community Relations for Dairy Farmers of America, added, “The Dairy Donation Program is an important step in helping to strengthen the dairy industry’s commitment to fighting hunger in a way that reduces food waste and minimizes disruption to the supply chain. We are pleased USDA is implementing this and other programs to help distribute dairy to those who need it most.”