Cooperatives Working Together Dairy group renews commitment to export program, but needs others, too

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The members of Cooperatives Working Together have reiterated their support for a multi-year program to help boost U.S. dairy exports, with the stipulation that the program must be supported by 70 percent of the nation’s milk supply.

At a recent meeting in Virginia, the farmer-run committee overseeing CWT voted to renew the program for two years, starting in January 2012 and running through December 2013 — once a 70 percent level participation level can be reached.

Current membership pledges amount to 68 percent of the milk supply.

The two-cent membership dues will subsequently start being collected in January 2012. The Cooperatives Working Together (CWT) Export Assistance program is funded by voluntary contributions from dairy cooperatives and individual dairy farmers.

“Cooperatives Working Together remains an incredibly important self-help tool for the nation’s dairy producers,” said Jerry Kozak, president and CEO of National Milk Producers Federation, which manages CWT.

“The members of CWT want to keep it going into the future because it helps farmers access the fastest-growing markets for their milk, which are overseas.”

Since the start of 2011, the program has used funds carried over from the previous year to help export 39 million pounds of cheese, to 20 countries.

The CWT program no longer funds herd retirements or cow removals, and will focus exclusively on assisting member organizations with dairy exports.

Kozak noted that the export market “has been incredibly helpful to farmers in finding new homes for their milk output, but the loss of export markets in 2008 and 2009 illustrated what can happen when we aren’t able to compete internationally.”

Approximately 15 percent of the nation’s milk production is headed for exports markets in 2011.

Kozak said that at the next meeting of the CWT operating committee, in mid-November, the membership participation level will be assessed to verify that the 70 percent participation level has been reached.

The money raised by their investment is being used to strengthen and stabilize the dairy farmers’ milk prices and margins. For more information about CWT, visit www.cwt.coop.

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