IDFA Chairman Paul Kruse, who is CEO and president of Blue Bell Creameries in Brenham, Texas, told a Senate panel that product innovation and increased global dairy product demand offer the potential for growth that will benefit dairy farmers, dairy foods manufacturers and consumers, but failing federal dairy policies are a barrier to taking advantage of these opportunities.

He testified before a joint hearing of two subcommittees of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry at the invitation of Subcommittee Chairs Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Robert Casey (D-Pa.).

"Our outdated dairy programs stand in the way of our industry's ability to manage price volatility and are limiting our ability to expand demand for dairy both domestically and internationally," said Kruse. "Current policies significantly distort the market for dairy products and limit our industry's ability to fully take advantage of our trading opportunities and to respond to our competition for new food products here in the United States."

Kruse told the committee that now is the time for Congress to assist the U.S. dairy industry by providing the necessary tools it needs to respond to and meet the demands of a growing domestic and international dairy marketplace.

"Our dairy industry needs to make a fundamental decision about its future. Where do we want to go? Do we want an insulated, domestic oriented industry with even greater government intervention in pricing, inventory management, and supply control? Or do we want greater opportunity and growth for dairy farmers and milk processors, large and small," said Kruse.

Blue Bell, in business since 1907, manufactures a full line of ice cream products and is recognized as the third largest ice cream brand in the United States.

As chairman of the International Dairy Foods Association, Kruse spoke on behalf of its 220 dairy processing members, which represents more than 85 percent of the milk, cultured products, cheese and frozen desserts that are produced and marketed in the United States. Members employ more than 120,000 people.

The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), Washington, D.C., represents the nation's dairy manufacturing and marketing industries and their suppliers, with a membership of 550 companies representing a $110-billion a year industry. IDFA is composed of three constituent organizations: the Milk Industry Foundation (MIF), the National Cheese Institute (NCI), and the International Ice Cream Association (IICA). IDFA's 220 dairy processing members run more than 600 plant operations, and range from large multi-national organizations to single-plant companies. Together they represent more than 85 percent of the milk, cultured products, cheese and frozen desserts produced and marketed in the United States.