U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Jewel Bronaugh announced Aug. 25 the establishment of the program, which aims to facilitate timely dairy product donations while reducing overall food waste. The DDP became effective Sept. 2.
Through the program, eligible dairy operations will partner with nonprofit feeding organizations to distribute dairy products to those in need. Dairy farmers, cooperatives and processing facilities that produce retail dairy products are eligible to participate.
The $400 million designated under the program is designed to help offset the costs associated with processing and donating qualified dairy products.
Eligible producers, co-ops and processors will be reimbursed for the cost of milk used to make donated products, as well as some associated manufacturing and transportation costs.
“The benefits of the Dairy Donation Program are twofold—it supplements other financial support for producers while providing nutritious dairy products to American families,” said Bronaugh, who previously served as commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services before her USDA appointment.
“When there is surplus milk production, we encourage the milk be donated instead of being dumped,” she continued. “Together, we can help someone in need, minimize food waste and support the U.S. dairy industry.”
According to USDA, the DDP is part of a wider stimulus package that will help the U.S. dairy industry respond to the ongoing pandemic, improve existing programs and establish new ones.
Tony Banks, senior assistant director of agriculture, development and innovation for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, noted USDA’s continued investment in U.S. dairies could be positive for Virginia producers.
Banks said local farmers could benefit directly from the program if their cooperative or processor is eligible for participation. They may benefit indirectly as the program increases volume and consumer demand for dairy products.
“It can be a challenge to donate dairy products, because the processing required to make those products—as well as the refrigerated transportation and storage—can be expensive,” Banks said. “The DDP will make it easier for farmers, co-ops and processors to make those donations and recoup some production and transportation costs.”
Program details are available at ams.usda.gov/ddp, and interested parties can apply by submitting a Dairy Donation and Distribution Plan Form.
Once approved, eligible businesses can submit reimbursement claims for dairy product donations dating from Jan. 1, 2020. Operations participating in the Milk Donation Reimbursement Program will automatically be enrolled in the DDP.