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Vilsack: Dairy exports improved before coronavirus

The leader of the U.S. Dairy Export Council says the dairy industry is especially hard hit because of the COVID-19 pandemic. President and CEO Tom Vilsack says, “There’s no question this virus has been a gut punch to commodity prices across the board and to the dairy industry in particular. Our Class III milk has seen a 26% decline. Our Class IV milk price is down 36%.”

Vilsack tells Brownfield up until the coronavirus outbreak, dairy exports were doing well. “Our February export numbers were actually pretty decent. They were better than last year, which was surprising, and it continued six months of positive growth despite the port issues and despite the virus, but we expect and anticipate obviously our March, April, and May numbers are going to be down somewhat.”

Vilsack says when food service goes, schools get closed, tourism drops to nearly zero, and there’s economic uncertainty impacting everything. “There’s no question it’s going to have an impact on exports of dairy and on exports of a number of other commodities so tough, tough times for producers, and it’s heartbreaking because we had good momentum going into this year.”

Vilsack says expectations earlier this year also looked forward to decent dairy prices for the first time in several years, but that’s now changed because of the virus.

USDEC President Tom Vilsack discusses the impact of coronavirus on dairy, exports with Brownfield’s Larry Lee

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