FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 8, 2007
Schumer Announces Comprehensive Legislation To Ensure Quality Of Natural Cheese Products And Protect Consumers From Misleading Domestic Cheese Labels
Products Labeled "Domestic" And "Natural" Often Contain Foreign "MPC" Milk Substitutes - Unfairly Hurts NY Dairy Farmers And Misleads Consumers
'Quality Cheese Act of 2007' Would Prohibit Products with Foreign Milk Substitutes from Being Labeled As Domestic Natural Cheese
With consumers tricked into believing misleading domestic cheese labels, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced federal legislation to ensure the quality of natural domestic cheese products. Many products that are labeled as domestic natural cheese actually contain foreign Milk Protein Concentrates (MPCs) instead of dry milk produced by U.S. farmers. The Quality Cheese Act of 2007 would prohibit products containing these substitutes from being added to the ingredient list in domestic natural cheese.
"Consumers deserve to know the truth about their cheese and dairy products," said Schumer. "This legislation is a win-win because it protects New Yorkers from false advertising and protects the NY dairy industry from unfair foreign competition. Without this prohibition, demand for domestic milk would weaken, which would further depress already dangerously low milk prices."
Schumer today unveiled legislation to prohibit products that contain dry ultra-filtered milk products, mild protein concentrate or casein from being labeled as domestic natural cheese, thus restoring consumer confidence in these cheese products. This prohibition also prevents an increase in costs to the dairy price support program, which in turn would translate into an increase for taxpayers. Any inclusion of these products in domestic natural cheese would lower the revenues for dairy farmers as well as compromise the sanitation, hydrosanitary and phytosanitary standards of the U.S. dairy industry because they are imported from overseas.
Schumer has long been an advocate for the NY dairy farm industry. Schumer successfully lobbied to extend the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) through August 2007, which provided dairy farmers with $38 million in payments in 2006. In December 2006 he vowed to aggressively lobby for another extension of this program in the 2007 Farm Bill. As part of his campaign, Schumer is pushing language to double the annual production cap, which could mean millions more for upstate New York dairy farmers.
In 2004, Schumer introduced legislation to address the MPC loophole which allowed foreign dairy producers to avoid U.S. tariffs on nonfat dry milk by instead selling MPCs to be used in products such as cheese spreads, snack foods and coffee creamers. While there is a 39 cent tariff on nonfat dry milk, there is just a 0.17 cent per pound tariff on MPCs. By mixing small amounts of milk protein with nonfat dry milk, foreign producers in countries including New Zealand, Australia, Canada and some European countries essentially import nonfat dry milk as MPCs and avoid the tariff. As a result, over the last decade, MPC imports have more than doubled -- undermining the market for non-fat dry milk, reducing the farm price for milk, and costing New York dairy farmers millions every year. As MPC's have replaced nonfat dry milk in the market, they have driven the price down of milk for New York's farmers and resulted in significant losses in revenue. To protect New York dairy farmers, Schumer urged Congress to close the MPC loophole by passing a measure he is co-sponsored (s.560) that would apply a tariff of 71 to 98 cents per pound of MPC depending on the protein concentration.