Dairy exports in the global market: an outlook for the future 

Secretary Tom Vilsack, president and chief executive officer of U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC), wrapped up our Tuesday session with a discussion about the importance of being a competitive player in the global market with U.S. dairy exports.


To kick off his presentation, Tom began by explaining where we are as a dairy industry, and where we are going in the future. He included the many challenges and opportunities that faced the dairy industry in 2018, including the oversupply of cheese in the United States, stocks of skim milk powder (SMP) in the European Union (EU), tariffs and the major changes to trade agreements by the United States and other world players.

Then Tom shifted to discuss the future, for both the U.S. dairy industry and USDEC. He told members, “You’re the best in the world with what you do,” when discussing the many opportunities to expand U.S. exports. American farmers have much easier access to water, land and resources in comparison to other countries — giving the United States a competitive advantage when demand continues to grow, and we increasingly become a larger dairy exporter.

You’re the best in the world with what you do,
— Secretary Tom Vilsack, president and chief executive officer of U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC)

Due in part to Checkoff dollars from members, Tom explained how USDEC was able to hire crucial staff to work in international markets to develop relationships and showcase U.S. dairy products to new customers. In 2018, USDEC became partners with 12 new institutions and universities around the world, including Jiangnan University in China and the International Centre for Culinary Arts in Dubai. This international growth is expected to increase in 2019, as demand in highly populated areas of the world continues to rise.

Tom said, “The United States represents 5 percent of the consuming world today, and over the course of the next 15-20 years, that number will drop to 3 percent. That means 95-97 percent of the world’s consumers lives outside the U.S. It’s incredibly important for us that we make sure we have a presence that competes with our competitors in those markets.”

USDEC will align with others in the industry as new growth continues in 2019 to ensure we’re positioning our products, and our stories, in the best way to show the hard work and dedication that goes into producing milk that comes from a U.S. dairy farm, Tom explained.

Tom then made reference to our Annual Meeting theme — One Cooperative. One Community. One Planet. — and how the efforts by members to protect the environment are important to note when positioning ourselves on the global market. “You all have the best story, we just need to tell it.”

Tom concluded with a message of hope for 2019 and for the future of U.S. dairy exports, noting “I truly believe our best days are ahead.”