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National Milk to push farm bill, trade issues

National Milk Producers Federation Chairman Randy Mooney and President and CEO Jerry Kozak told members of their organization this week that they are increasing pressure on Congress to pass a farm bill that will include the new dairy program the group has proposed.

“If the question in Washington is how to reform government programs and make them more effective, we have an answer: pass the 2012 farm bill," said Mooney, a Missouri dairy farmer, at the National Milk annual meeting in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., according to a news release Tuesday. “By not acting on this measure, Congress actually increases federal spending next year,” he said.

“We’re this close to getting it done,” Kozak added in a joint presentation with Mooney.

“To use a football analogy, we’re not just in the red zone, we’re first and goal,” Kozak said. “But great field position, even with the momentum that comes with a long drive, is not the same thing as putting points on the board. All our hard work, all of our compromises and meticulous planning – none of it matters unless we can finish the job.”

Mooney also noted that the group has been able to beat back challenges to the measure, which is now known as the Dairy Security Act.

“There have been repeated efforts to water it down, or strip out the market stabilization elements that help make it effective. Working with our allies in Washington, we’ve been able to defeat those challenges because they’re bad politics, bad policy, and in many cases, are being done in bad faith,” Mooney contended.

Mooney also said they want to use the Trans Pacific Partnership talks to try to expand exports “while also protecting against further encroachment from imports.”

Kozak said the goal in TPP is to increase exports to Canada without the agreement leading to increased imports from New Zealand.

“We’ll see if our northern neighbor will play ball on this,” Kozak said. “The second challenge is to make certain expanded dairy exports from New Zealand aren’t the primary net result of the TPP. New Zealand would like that to be the case, and we’ve stuck to our message that, given the unique market structure of New Zealand’s dairy sector, we can’t allow that to happen.”

Mooney and Kozak also noted that the use of names of dairy products of European origin poses challenges.

“It may seem crazy that fetas and parmesans made by U.S. dairy companies might not be able to use these names any more, but that’s definitely what the European Union is pushing to do with its trade deals,” Kozak said.

“For instance, any cheeses labeled as Asiago, Feta, Fontina, and Gorgonzola now sold in Korea can only come from Europe. And even though the U.S. just signed its own free trade deal with South Korea, we’re now subject to the cheese geographic indication restrictions written into the deal between the [European Union] and Korea.”

Mooney noted that the group has joined the Consortium for Common Food Names, which will try to rally farmers, manufacturers, and retailers of cheese, wines, fruits, and other consumer products that could also be affected by the EU campaign to establish international rules that a product would have to come from the place where they were first made to use the geographic name associated with it.