By Tony Parra
Roosevelt County dairy officials met with members of the United States congress this week in Portales and Clovis in an attempt to convince members of Congress to implement a tariff on foreign companies looking to import milk protein concentrate (milk powder).
If the bill is not placed, it could affect the MPC plant in Portales of Dairiconcepts Inc., which according to Alva Carter, chairman of the Southwest Dairy Farmers of America council. He said the MPC plant was the first of its kind in the United States, and that competition for the product is mainly from foreign companies.
Carter said the Southwest DFA is trying to get support from the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate for the bill implementing a tariff on foreign MPC products.
“All of our elected officials have really supported the bill,” Carter said about Senators Pete Domenici and Jeff Bingaman, and Representatives Tom Udall, Steve Pearce and Heather Wilson from New Mexico. “We are trying to get our congressmen to support the bill.”
Congress Majority Whip Roy Blunt, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman and Pearce visited the milk powder plant during their visit in Portales.
Armand Smith, a cattle and businessman from Clovis, said he helped bring in the lawmakers for a series of topics such as cattle-crossing from the Canadian border and the new cheese plant.
Smith said the goal of the visits were to show the dairy development in eastern New Mexico and to help Pearce in a fund-raising effort.
“They were impressed how up to date are in technology,” Smith said. “We don’t want to have a small community left behind. She (Veneman) did not want the small communities to be left behind. She’s amazed at how aggressive we are in our pursuits.”
Milk protein concentrate can be an ingredient in cream cheese, yogurt and processed cheese. The MPC plant uses milk from dairies within a 100-mile radius. When the plant first began, it was producing 35 to 45 tankers at an average of 50,000 pounds per tanker. It is now up to 120 tankers in one day totaling six million pounds of milk.
“I don’t know why they wouldn’t vote for it (tariff),” Wayne Palla, chairman of the Southwest DFA. “The government purchases milk powder from MPC. If there is no tariff on foreign imports then it drops the price. By not implementing the bill it hurts the local dairies producing milk.”