Washington, D.C.— In a win for Maine’s dairy farmers, an amendment authored by U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) that will promote innovation and increase demand for milk products was included in the appropriations minibus by a vote of 83-15.
Senators Collins and Baldwin’s amendment would provide $7 million for grants to state departments of agriculture, cooperative extension services, institutions of higher education, and nonprofit organizations to administer programs that promote dairy product innovation, process improvement, and marketing. Senator Angus King (I-ME) was a cosponsor of their amendment.
“Our amendment will support Maine’s hardworking dairy farmers by increasing awareness of milk’s many health benefits and investing in new techniques and processes,” said Senator Collins. “I am pleased that an overwhelming bipartisan majority of my colleagues joined me in advancing this amendment that will help this integral part of our agriculture community to thrive.”
“Maine’s dairy industry is a vital part of our rural economy,” said Senator King. “Our state’s dairy farmers have worked hard to find innovative new approaches in the face of economic challenges, while still prioritizing their commitment to making high-quality dairy products. This investment in our nation’s dairy farmers opens the door for new, creative techniques to help this industry grow and thrive for years to come.
The funding in the appropriations minibus would build on provisions in the Dairy Business Innovation Act that Senators Collins and Baldwin included in the Senate-passed Farm Bill. The legislation would establish regional initiatives to spur innovation in dairy businesses, which can help add more value to the milk farmers produce and expand uses for milk to address oversupply and depressed milk prices. The legislation would also foster the development of new and innovative dairy products, modernize existing dairy plants and support new dairy entrepreneurs.
Specifically, the regional initiatives created by the Dairy Business Innovation Act would provide technical assistance and grants for the purpose of:
- Supporting new and expanding dairy businesses—Initiatives would provide assistance with business plan development, accounting, market evaluation, and strategic planning.
- Promoting innovation in dairy products—Dairy businesses could get assistance with product innovation, marketing and branding, packaging, distribution, supply chain innovation, food safety training and consultation, dairy product production training.
- Assisting with dairy plant modernization and process improvement—Dairy businesses could get assistance with processing facility improvement, including assistance with plant upgrades, food safety modernization, energy and water efficiency, byproduct reprocessing and use maximization, and waste treatment.
Senators Collins and King also voted to block a separate amendment to the appropriations minibus that would have allowed companies to continue mislabeling imitation dairy foods. If the amendment had passed, it would have prevented the Food and Drug Administration from seeking to limit non-dairy products from being labeled as milk. These misleading labels can cause confusion among consumers and lead to lost sales for dairy farm families.