A former Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, is weighing in on the current state of U.S. dairy in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Vilsack, who now serves as the President and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council, made it very clear that COVID-19 was the absolute last thing that dairy needed. “The pandemic has been a gut punch to commodity prices across the board,” says the Secretary, “but probably most significantly for the dairy industry and dairy farmers.” Vilsack explains that milk prices have plummeted by roughly 30%, which is “a more significant drop than any other commodity.”
Vilsack, who is also the former Governor of Iowa, says that what is particularly excruciating is that this all comes at a time when dairy was finally recovering from a downward spiral. “The dairy industry was just now recovering,” he says. At the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020 the industry was seeing “a lot of momentum on the export side.” Vilsack also points out that we were seeing record levels of volume and record value being paid by other countries for American dairy products. Now, it is a different story as the pandemic holds the globe in its grip.
“We fully expect an impact on exports,” Secretary Vilsack states. He says that with other nations shuttering schools and business, much like the U.S., a profound impact on exports is certain. On a domestic front, Vilsack hopes that the USDA can look into help for dairy, which could include reopening the Dairy Margin Coverage Program or purchasing product for food banks.
Despite all that is stacked against dairy, Vilsack does make one thing clear: the industry has plenty of product. Despite much of the economy closing down, farmers continue to produce the best products they can. “Cows don’t know there’s a virus…cows are continuing to produce milk…farmers are continuing to work 24/7 to produce that milk,” Vilsack says.
To hear comments from Secretary Tom Vilscak, click the play button below: