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WCMA Joins Call for Relief from Mexican Tariffs on U.S. Cheese

Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association (WCMA) today joins dairy manufacturers and dairy producer organizations in an urgent request to the Trump Administration to suspend steel and aluminum tariffs on Mexican products to encourage an end Mexico’s retaliatory tariffs on U.S. cheese.

Mexico is the largest international buyer of U.S. dairy products and is Wisconsin’s largest market for cheese exports.  Nearly $50 million worth of Wisconsin cheese reached Mexican consumers in 2017 – more than a third of all cheese Wisconsin exported last year.

“Our cheese manufacturer members with export sales are expressing concern that their customers may turn sales over to competitors in the European Union,” said John Umhoefer, WCMA Executive Director.

Exports of quality U.S. dairy products have been crucial in marketing a growing U.S. milk supply, Umhoefer said. In 2017, nearly 15 percent of all U.S. milk was marketed as dairy products for international customers, and Mexico dominates the field. The U.S. sold $1.3 billion worth of dairy products to Mexico in 2017, nearly twice the dairy exports to Canada and Southeast Asia combined.

As the U.S. and Mexico negotiate a new North American Free Trade Agreement, Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association and 65 dairy manufacturers and dairy producer organizations ask that U.S. tariffs on Mexican aluminum and steel products be suspended so that Mexican tariffs on U.S. cheese – moving from 15 percent to 25 percent on July 5 – can be rescinded.

“Lost cheese sales in Mexico and other key markets can lower overall cheese prices in the U.S. and reduce the price farms receive for their fresh milk,” Umhoefer explained.  “Farms in Wisconsin and around the U.S. need free-flowing trade and export growth, not collapse, if they’re going to climb out of a three-year slump in farm-level milk prices.”

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