WASHINGTON (DTN) -- USDA announced this week that it will soon implement the Dairy Donation Program (DDP) as established in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack noted Wednesday at a House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee hearing that USDA would not continue the Families to Farmers Food Box Program started by the Trump administration but expected to distribute dairy products from the dairy donation program.
"The program will facilitate the timely donation of dairy products to nonprofit organizations who distribute food to persons in need and prevent and minimize food waste," USDA said in the announcement.
"Because the statute allows retroactive reimbursements of donations made before donation and distribution plans are approved, USDA is providing advance notice of the minimum provisions to be included in the program to encourage the dairy industry to process and donate surplus milk supplies as it moves through the spring surplus milk production season.
"Although the DDP regulations have not yet been published, the following are the minimum key program requirements included in the statute:
1. a donation and distribution plan must be submitted and approved by USDA;
2. the reimbursement will be at least equivalent to the minimum classified value of milk used to make the donated product on the date of manufacturing;
3. records related to donating and receiving products must be maintained and available for review and/or audit;
4. eligibility is open to dairy farmer cooperatives and processors who "account to" a federal milk marketing order (FMMO) and donate dairy products to any private or public nonprofit food distribution entity."
After Vilsack said the food box program would not be continued, National Milk Producers Federation President and CEO Jim Mulhern said in a news release, "While the Farmers to Families Food Box program was very helpful last year in responding quickly to both last year's food supply chain disruptions and the dramatic rise in the number of Americans experiencing food insecurity, it also had its challenges."
"That's why we are not surprised by the decision to move beyond the food box program, and in fact, expected it," Mulhern said.
"The important focus now is addressing the twin needs of assisting food insecure families and aiding food supply chains like dairy that are still dealing with the effects of reduced foodservice demand.
"We support USDA's efforts to use multiple programs, including TEFAP, Section 32, the new dairy donation program and other efforts to purchase dairy products, produce, meat and other products for distribution through food banks and other charitable organizations in the most efficient and effective ways. This will help farmers do what they do best: Serve people who benefit from the nutrition they provide."
International Dairy Foods Association President and CEO Michael Dykes said in a release, "The Farmers to Families Food Box Program represented an innovative approach to tackling what was a massive issue last spring -- finding a way to use existing foodservice distribution capacity to deliver nutritious dairy products, fruits, vegetables, and meat to people in need."
"While we're optimistic about the positive trajectory of COVID-19 cases, vaccination rates, and the relative normalcy returning to restore our economy, millions of Americans continue to face hunger and nutrition insecurity," Dykes said.
"Dairy has a vital role to play in meeting the nutritional needs of Americans, especially in this time of great need. Dairy is a unique and nutritionally dense food group that is under-consumed by 90% of Americans according to the recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and it provides eleven essential nutrients, including protein, vitamin A, niacin, vitamin B12, riboflavin, and iodine and three of the four under-consumed nutrients of concern in the DGA: calcium, vitamin D, and potassium.
"Because dairy products are so nutrient-dense, they deliver more nutrients for fewer dollars in federal nutrition programs.
"IDFA looks forward to working with USDA on further bolstering of the U.S. nutrition safety net through SNAP, TEFAP, and other important programs to ensure families struggling with hunger and malnutrition continue to receive the unique nutritional benefits of dairy products."
USDA Agricultural Marketing Service -- USDA Provides Notice of Retroactive Reimbursements Under the Dairy Donation Program, Encourages Donation of Surplus Dairy Products: https://www.ams.usda.gov/…
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