On February 11th, several Ohio dairy stakeholders attended ODIF's quarterly business meeting and trade discussion, with the following special guests: National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) Trade Specialist, Jaime Castenada; Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) Dairy Division Chief, Lewis Jones: and OSU Extension Milk Marketing Specialist, Cameron Thraen. The main focus of the discussion was the effect that shipments of Canadian raw milk were having in the Midwest and what efforts could be taken to assure that market equitability in the region is sustained.
Currently, shipments of raw milk continue to move into Ohio's neighbors, Pennsylvania and Indiana. Ohio's Department of Agriculture has avoided these shipments by asserting that comprehensive antibiotic testing of Canadian milk will be required before unloading. Certain drugs considered carcinogenic and prohibited in the US are allowed for use in dairy cattle in Canada.
Concern was raised that if this disallowing of the milk into Ohio continues, Ohio's dairy processors may be put at a competitive disadvantage. In the past, it was agreed that efforts should be made to encourage a level marketing environment, which would also include the opening of Canadian markets for finished products. Currently, Canada's trade policy discourages shipments of dairy products into the country.
The milk being exported into the US is classified as "non-quota" milk in Canada, and is therefore, not regulated by their milk program. In light of the World Trade Organization's (WTO) recent decision against Canada's milk export programs, this may not be the case for long. Mr. Castenada encouraged attendees and dairy producers across the region to initiate and participate in grass root efforts that contact government officials urging stricter and immediate enforcement of the WTO ruling. He also suggested that the best-case scenario to restore a more equitable marketing environment is for Ontario and Quebec officials to start regulating "non-quota" milk. If this is done, the milk will "disappear" because under Canada's quota system, there is no provision for "non-quota" milk.
Until enforcement of current marketing agreements is more strict, it will be important to encourage USDA, the Pasteurized Milk Ordnance (PMO), and Interstate Milk Shipment (IMS) enforcement agencies not to grant Canadian farms Grade A milk marketing status. Charles Twining with the ODA stated that there are three scenarios that foreign produced milk can be granted Grade A status: (1) when a state or authorized entity performs all regulatory functions in the foreign country exporting the milk, (2) when the exporting country completely adopts the PMO and IMS standards, or (3) when the FDA determines that the exporting country's milk program is equivalent to the PMO and IMS standards enforced by the states.
Another major concern raised during the meeting was that once raw milk crosses the border, there are no established means to track the location or use of the milk. This effectively eliminates any ability to monitor product safety, biosecurity, and raises definite concerns during this time of increased security against terrorist activities. Mr. Castenada said that the FDA was not required to track such shipments and that these efforts are at the sole discretion of Customs officials.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the parties attending decided that increased communication between the parties was needed and it was agreed that the ODIF should act as a liaison to gather and distribute information on future events.