Dairy Leaders Meet in California

Joel Hastings

IDFA MEMBERS MEET WITH CONGRESS MEMBERS AT HILMAR CHEESE: From left are: Paul Cano, Director of Operations, Saputo Dairy Foods; Donald Grady, Manager, Legislative Affairs, IDFA; Colin Newman, Director, Political Affairs and Strategic Programs, IDFA; Christine Hedrick, Director of Human Resources, Saputo Dairy Foods; Brian Bettencourt, Tulare Plant Manager, Kraft Heinz; Jenny Moffit, Undersecretary, CDFA; Kimberly Clauss-Joritsma, Board member, Hilmar Cheese Company, Inc.; Congressman TJ Cox (D-CA-21); Jim Ahlem, Chairman of the board, Hilmar Cheese Company, Inc.; Patti Smith, President and CEO, Valley Milk LLC; David Ahlem, CEO and president, Hilmar Cheese Company, Inc.; Congressman Jim Costa (D-CA-16); Brad Anderson, Chief Operating Officer, California Dairies, Inc.; Sue Taylor, Vice President of Dairy Economics and Policy, Leprino Foods Company; Michael Gallo, Co-Owner and Chief Executive Officer, Joseph Gallo Farms; Michael Dykes, President and CEO, IDFA; Scott Graham, VP Supply Chain, Hilmar Cheese Company, Inc. -DairyBusiness photo

On October 9, members of Congress, leaders from some of America’s top dairy companies, and California government officials gathered at Hilmar Cheese Company to recognize the importance of California’s dairy industry to the state and national economy. Hosted by Hilmar Cheese Company’s CEO and President David Ahlem, the day’s events included a tour of the company’s state-of-the-art processing facility and educational center in Hilmar, followed by a discussion of legislative and regulatory issues impacting U.S. dairy—including pending trade agreements and negotiations, labor and immigration, and sustainability. Those scheduled to attending included: Representatives Jim Costa (D-CA-16), T.J. Cox (D-CA-21) and Josh Harder (D-CA-10) along with Michael Dykes, President and CEO, International Dairy Foods Association and leaders from dairy cooperatives and processors in California, including California Dairies Inc., Saputo Dairy Foods, Joseph Gallo Farms, Kraft Heinz, Land O’Lakes, Leprino Foods Company, and Valley Milk LLC.

The nation’s dairy industry supports more than 3 million jobs that generate $159 billion in wages and deliver approximately $620 billion in economic impact. California is the nation’s leading dairy state. According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, California is ranked first in the nation in the production of milk, butter, ice cream and nonfat dry milk, and second in cheese and yogurt production. California accounts for 18.5% of the United States’ milk production. Overall, California’s dairy industry is responsible for creating 416,000 jobs, $26.5 billion in wages, and delivering nearly $100 billion in economic impact for the state’s economy—or roughly 3.3% of the state’s GDP.

“We’re grateful to Representatives Costa, Cox and Harder for being champions of California dairy and fighting for dairy in Washington,” said Michael Dykes, president and CEO of IDFA, which represents more than 500 dairy processors, marketers and suppliers across the United States. “They understand and appreciate that to continue positive growth, we must work together to support passage of crucial trade agreements like the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and work collaboratively to find a solution for workforce challenges threatening agricultural operations across California. Innovative dairy companies like Hilmar Cheese Company and all the other IDFA members operating in California not only provides jobs and opportunities for millions, but they ensure that our nation and the world can enjoy a multitude of safe, nutritious, and affordable dairy products.”

“We recognize the importance of this opportunity to show our Representatives first-hand how our 1,400 employees use technical and advanced skills to make dairy products that provide nutrition world-wide,” observed David Ahlem, CEO and president of Hilmar Cheese Company. “In addition, taking the Representatives on a tour of our water reclamation facility will show the advancements in water recycling and sustainability.”

California is the nation’s largest producer and exporter of food and agricultural products. Agricultural exports from California are valued at nearly $21 billion. In 2018, California agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico totaled $6.6 billion. Food and agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico alone supported more than 56,000 jobs in California last year. The International Trade Commission determined that the USMCA would have a positive impact on the U.S. economy and a positive impact on the U.S. agriculture sector. In fact, the USMCA would raise the U.S. GDP by $68.2 billion, pumping an additional $2.2 billion, or 1.1%, into the U.S. economy through increases in agricultural and food exports.


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