WASHINGTON, Jan. 12, 2017 – The U.S. Dairy Export Council made it official today – announcing that former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will take over leadership of the group on Feb. 1. Agri-Pulse reported on Vilsack’s plans on Jan. 3.
“If we can work hard to make sure we have a supply chain that’s close enough to the customer to be able to be flexible enough to respond to changes, I think we’ll continue to see what we’ve seen over the past 10 to 15 years – an expansion of export opportunities,” Vilsack said.
Vilsack acknowledged there are obstacles to expansion. Russia still bans U.S. dairy products, the European Union continues to try to protect its products with “geographic indications,” and Canada is threatening new policies to minimize its imports from the U.S.
Vilsack said that much of his job will also be protecting healthy trading relationships, including with the country on the U.S. southern border. “Mexico is an incredibly important partner for us in terms of export opportunities,” he said. “It’s our number-one customer.”
The U.S. exported $1.3 billion worth of dairy products to Mexico in 2015, down from $1.6 billion in 2014, according to Foreign Agriculture Service data.
Other areas Vilsack said he will be focusing on are China and Southeast Asia, which are already growing as customers for U.S. dairy products. U.S. exports of dry whey to China increased by 25,500 tons in the five months through November and shipments of U.S. whey protein concentrate were up by 15,000 tons, according to an Export Council analysis.
Vilsack will succeed Tom Suber, who served as president of USDEC since its founding in 1995, and retired at the end of 2016. Under Suber's leadership, global U.S. dairy exports showed significant growth, rising from the equivalent of roughly 5 percent of U.S. milk production to a high of 15.5 percent, the Export Council said.
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