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The Mid Atlantic Beef and Dairy Farmer a supplement to the Delmarva Farmer

Dairy farmers praise Trump’s cut to school milk regulation

By JONATHAN CRIBBS
Associate Editor

(May 23, 2017) Maryland dairy farmers and industry representatives celebrated news that the USDA plans to repeal a regulation prohibiting the sale of 1 percent flavored milk through the federal school meals program.
Farmers and dairy representatives said the change could be a significant boost for the ailing milk industry, which has suffered declining consumption and persistently low milk prices for several years. The May 1 announcement from newly appointed Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue was part of a larger regulatory rollback related to nutrition requirements in school lunches.
“I think it’s a tremendous thing. I think sales will come back. And I think our future milk drinkers will want to buy it when they grow up,” said Jody Vona, co-president of Dairy Maid Dairy, a Frederick milk company that sells to school districts across the Mid-Atlantic region.
Vona said his business dipped by 30 percent after the federal government banned 1 percent and 2 percent flavored milk from its school meals program, which reimburses school districts for milk purchasing. One percent milk will be more popular with students, and the difference in calories in slight, he said. Fat-free flavored milk isn’t just unpopular, it turns young students — and potential future milk drinkers — off the beverage, he said.
“Fat-free chocolate milk is not putting our best foot forward in the dairy industry,” Vona said.
Michael Haines, who milks about 65 cows in Taneytown, said he’s seen the amount of local milk sold decline over the last several years and believes the government’s 1 percent flavored milk ban played a role in that. He said he’d like to see the government go beyond 1 percent.
“It’s not very tasteful, and that’s why I think they should actually be selling whole milk,” he said. “(Students) need the calcium for their bones to grow. It’s healthy, and they’re not going to get fat off of milk. They can drink milk until they’re blue in the face, they’re not going to get fat off it.”
Several producers also said they’d like to see the government allow more. Phyllis Kilby, a producer in Colora, said she thinks nutrition advocates have been too restrictive with fat limitations in dietary recommendations.
“I think we’re going back to common sense as far as dietary restrictions are concerned,” she said. “This action by the federal government is going to take a couple of years to build that back up too.”
Vona said his contracts with school districts are for fat-free milk, so they’ll have to ask for 1 percent if they want it. He said his sales people are making schools aware of the change.
“I haven’t had a school county had a negative opinion of moving from fat-free flavored milk to 1 percent,” he said.