Dairy is an important business to Iowa. It has a $3.8 billion economic impact, about two percent of state GDP, and adds more than $300 million in state taxes.
Americans use about 85 percent of the dairy products produced, the other 15 percent needs to be exported. Selling dairy products around the world and opening new markets is a priority for agriculture groups.
As part of that, The U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) and the Food Innovation and Resource Centre at Singapore Polytechnic signed a partnership agreement furthering U.S. dairy commitment to food innovation to meet the needs of Southeast Asian customers and consumers.
Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, president of USDEC, says, "It's a great opportunity for us, in order to increase exports, we have to increase presence. We have to be actually in these markets so we better understand them."
The Memorandum of Understanding lays out a framework between the U.S. and Singapore to deepen dairy knowledge, develop food products for the Southeast Asian market, and open options for region consumers.
Vilsack says American producers need avenues like this to experiment on other dairy products that would be better received in a different food culture.
Vilsack adds American milk production continues to increase at a rate faster than U.S. demand, "So you have to find a place for this surplus milk. You have to find an opportunity to showcase American dairy, not just to our own consumers. Realize this, 95 percent live outside of the United States. And over time as the Asian population grows, as the African population grows. That percentage will go from 95 to 97 percent."
Also in May, USDEC and the International Dairy Foods Association collaborated to create a "Got Jobs" campaign. Sharing in-depth data and stories of dairy farmers and industry workers. It is intended to highlight the dairy contribution to the U.S. economy.
Vilsack says, "If we continually talk about farmers and agribusiness without talking about food. We essentially diminish both the food and the agricultural industry. And by joining them, by talking about the agricultural industry what we can then talk about are the Amazing number of jobs and the impact it has on the economy."