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U.S. National Debt:

Increasing Access To Idaho Dairy Products

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

June is National Dairy Month, a time to recognize the significant contribution of the dairy industry to the world.  Idaho dairy producers and processors are leading the charge in developing and producing innovative dairy products that are feeding families within and beyond Idaho's borders.  As they continue to advance, increasing exposure to nutritious Idaho dairy products will benefit our economy and the world's consumers.

In addition to playing an important nutritional role, dairy production is a substantial contributor to our economy.  Idaho milk production generates more than $2.4 billionin cash receipts and helps support more than 23,000 jobs.  More than $294 million worth of Idaho dairy products are sold in international markets. 

Dairy processing into cheese, yogurt and other dairy products enables Idaho to share its abundance with people across the nation and around the world.  For example, Glanbia Foods is the largest American-style cheese manufacturer in the United States and one of the largest whey ingredient producers, and Chobani's award-winning Twin Falls Greek Yogurt facility produces nearly 1 million cases of Greek yogurt per week.  I had the opportunity recently to visit this facility that is the largest yogurt production facility in the world, employs approximately 600 full-time employees and processes between 2 and 2.5 million pounds of milk per day.  The rapid growth of the company and ingenuity of its founder and Chief Executive Officer Hamdi Ulukaya, who emigrated to America from Turkey nearly 20 years ago, have been the subject of recent news reports and international recognition.  Fortune Magazine reported that Chobani is growing as fast as Silicon Valley giants, Google and Facebook.    

Working to increase opportunities for nutritious Idaho dairy products to reach more families is an important part of ensuring that more people have access to the nutritional benefits of Idaho agricultural products and helping ensure Idaho dairy production's continued growth and success.  That is why I have been leading an effort with Senator Charles Schumer (D-New York) and members of the Idaho Congressional Delegation to encourage the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to include Greek yogurt in their recommendations for school nutrition programs. 

An announcement about a four-state pilot program to recommend Greek yogurt in schools could come by this fall.  USDA indicated that a pilot program "will help test market demand for this product and help provide schools with an additional option to meet meal pattern requirements."  The USDA decision to open school lunches to Greek yogurt is a win-win:  Idaho dairy workers and management see the potential for a long-term and wider market; producers can realize ongoing and improving sales; and students can enjoy nutritious products made right here in Idaho.

The world's population is projected to increase by nearly 1 billion people by 2025.  Idaho dairy producers and processors are continuously innovating and working to help meet the growing world demand for nutrient-rich foods.  As we celebrate the important contribution of the dairy industry, we must start here in Idaho and continually make progress in increasing access to Idaho dairy products.

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