The U.S. has found a way to avert the collapse of dairy exports to the European Union while still agreeing to European demands for new health certification requirements, according to industry officials.

The domestic dairy industry has been concerned for months that the new certifications that the EU was insisting on would cripple trade.

Technical talks remain ongoing between the U.S. and EU and some details still need to be ironed out, but the bulk of an agreement has been reached, says one U.S. industry official.

Officials representing the U.S. Dairy Export Council and the International Dairy Foods Association tell Agri-Pulse that USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service has devised a program that will allow U.S. producers to come into compliance with the new European requirements while also satisfying the American dairy industry.

The European Commission agreed this week to push back its deadline for new health certificate requirements on U.S. dairy products from Aug. 21 to Jan. 15, and that will give U.S. and EU officials enough time to resolve outstanding details. It will also give U.S. producers and exporters enough time to comply with the certificates that U.S. industry representatives now say they can abide by.

The U.S. dairy sector has vigorously objected to what it considered onerous and intrusive new health certification requirements, such as frequent inspections for signs of foot and mouth disease and rinderpest as well as new record-keeping systems that would store years’ worth of data on cows’ health records and movements.

“The extension for adapting the new EU certs is important, but secondary to the work by USDA-AMS and others in establishing a new program that is intended to meet most of the EU demands without creating new controversial compliance barriers for US producers and manufacturers,” USDEC Executive Vice President Jaime Castaneda tells Agri-Pulse. “We praise the US government and in particular USDA-AMS who is in the process of implementing this new program without creating new burdensome regulations for the industry.”

The U.S. ships about $100 million worth of dairy each year to the EU, despite tariffs and restrictive licensing requirements. The EU uses those products to make hundreds of millions of dollars in other goods such as infant and adult nutritional products.

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The roughly five-month extension agreed to by the EU will give AMS time to cement the new program that will allow for U.S. exports to continue to flow, said IDFA President and CEO Michael Dykes.

“We are grateful for the support and intervention of the Biden Administration to resolve this matter and hope the U.S. government will continue working with IDFA to help U.S. dairy gain access to the EU market,” Dykes said.

AMS and EU officials did not respond immediately to requests for comment.

Beyond the health certificate issue, there are still significant European trade barriers to U.S. dairy.

“America’s dairy industry should not be collateral damage for trade disputes,” Dykes said. “While this stage of IDFA’s advocacy has reached a successful conclusion, we remain deeply concerned by the variety of ongoing trade barriers erected by the European Commission.”

And the U.S. dairy industry also does not want to have to continuously deal with the EU’s frequent demand for new health certificate requirements.

The U.S. and EU need to settle on “a compliance system that forces the EU to recognize the U.S. food system without having a moving target every other year,” Castaneda said. “Time and again the EU uses its agricultural policies to impose new burdens on imports or create upheaval in the market due to the threat of new import barriers.”

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