US Trade Policy on Dairy Is Simple: We Basically Allow No Imports at All

Here’s a fascinating chart on an obscure subject. I can’t imagine what prompted me to look this up, but here you go:

The barely-visible red bits represent US quotas on dairy imports, part of the wildly complicated array of policies that govern the dairy industry in the United States. The International Trade Commission described it in 2001, and nothing much has changed since then:

The U.S. dairy sector is also characterized by heavy government intervention. U.S. dairy policies center on four major areas: federal marketing orders, federal price supports, dairy compacts, and international trade policy….U.S. trade measures restrict imports mainly through the imposition of TRQs….TRQs apply to fluid milk as well as processed and high value-added products. High over-quota tariff rates restrict imports within quota levels, except under exceptional market conditions.

TRQs are Tariff-Rate Quotas. We set very tiny quotas for the amount of dairy product that can be imported at low or zero tariffs, and above that the rate is so prohibitive that imports cease entirely. For example, the price of dry skim milk currently runs around 80 cents per pound, while the over-quota tariff is about 50 cents. The price of butter is $2.30 per pound, while the over-quota tariff rate is about 80 cents. No one can sell dairy into the already glutted US market with tariffs like this, so the TRQs essentially act as hard quotas on dairy imports.

In total, US import quotas amount to about 2 percent of total dairy production, and it’s only that high because of cheese. For other products, the quotas amount to well under one percent of production. For all practical purposes, then, this is US dairy trade policy:

  • We allow a little bit of foreign cheese to be imported.
  • Everything else is subject to tariffs so high that we allow no imports at all.

Just thought you’d all like to know this. Roughly speaking, this is the way every country works. Everybody protects their dairy industry, though the details vary considerably in how they do it. We’re no different.

BY THE WAY: I don’t doubt that Donald Trump’s outrage over Canadian milk tariffs is real. I’m sure he hasn’t the slightest clue that the US restricts dairy imports far more than Canada does.

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate