President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Abe announced that they have struck a free trade agreement in principle. A formal signing is expected next month during the United Nations General Assembly meetings in New York. The announcement came as leaders of the G7 countries, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom, and the U.S. met in France.

HighGround Dairy reports that aspects of the trade deal include industrial tariffs, agricultural, and digital trade and called it “welcome news for U.S. agriculture as Japan is a huge net-importer and this trade deal should provide economic advantages for market share growth.”

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue stated: “Japan is a significant market for U.S. agriculture exports, making today a good day for American agriculture. By removing existing barriers for our products, we will be able to sell more to the Japanese markets. At the same time we will be able to close gaps to better allow us to compete on a level playing field with our competitors.”

A study commissioned by the U.S. Dairy Export Council suggests that U.S. dairy exports could triple to Japan in the next 10 years. Cheese could be the biggest winner, as the U.S. exported 74.2 million pounds in 2018, representing just 12% of Japan’s total imports. USDEC says market share could improve to 24% by 2027.

In other news, the dairy industry has always had its detractors and imitators and the latest are plant-based beverages that call themselves “milk.” But a future foe is in the works according to Hoards Dairyman managing editor Corey Geiger.

Geiger previewed an article in an upcoming issue of Hoards in the Aug. 26 Dairy Radio Now broadcast that looks back to the late ‘70s, early ‘80s on what was referred to as “health cheese” and how the dairy industry responded.

One manufacturer simply added vegetable fat as a replacement for the milk fat, Geiger said, while others produced a concoction of vegetable fat, casein and nondairy proteins to make a fake mozzarella and reduce the cost of a pizza. The savings amounted to about 3 cents an ounce or 80 cents less per pound for the “cheese” portion, according to Geiger.

How did the dairy industry respond? “That’s when the Real Seal was born,” Geiger said. It started in California and eventually went national via the United Dairy Industry Association, “But, ultimately, words like taste, natural, and real, words that we’re still talking about today, won the day in the late 1980s.”

“But this is a little different,” he warned. “Our future foe is really being created in a lab by genetically modifying yeast and bacteria.” One company called Perfect Day Foods has produced an ice cream from lab proteins that are essentially the same as that made from dairy cows. Another company called New Culture produces mozzarella and promotes it as “cow cheese without the cow,” he said.

The USDA and the Food and Drug Administration are battling over who will regulate these products, according to Geiger, and the FDA believes it has the upper hand, but “These manufacturers want to claim that their products are free of genetically modified organisms.” “Even putting my dairy cap aside, that’s a stretch,” Geiger concluded. “They’re genetically modifying the yeast and bacteria so that will be one the dairy industry can point out; that this is far from what comes out of a cow.”

In politics, the Wisconsin-based American Dairy Coalition has sided with Washington State dairy producers and their Save Family Farming organization over an Environmental Protection Agency nitrate study completed in 2013 that falsely accused dairy operations. You’ll recall I reported on the issue in mid-July.

The ADC sent a letter to EPA Director Andrew Wheeler echoing the sentiment of their Washington counterparts, requesting he submit the flawed and damaging report in order to “attain the science review it never received.”

The ADC said it is “concerned for the farmers that have already been severely affected by this so called scientific research study report and believes EPA must stop a dangerous precedence from being set which could impact other farmers throughout the U.S.” Director Wheeler was also urged to remove the study from further enforcement action and litigation pending the review.

“It is vital that the administration demonstrate their commitment to maintaining the integrity and transparency of science. The current status of this report sets a very unfortunate precedence for the value of science-based actions and represents a profound opportunity to preserve fundamental principles and standards,” said Laurie Fischer, CEO of the ADC. “Support for this administration has been strong from the farm community because of positive changes in the EPA. However, the lack of action in carrying out this scientific peer review may cause that support to wane.”

The letter also stated, “This report, proven false by 15 national agricultural science experts, was developed without the peer-review required on ‘influential science information’ as the study was categorized. When approached about the error, staff attempted to conceal the failing by falsely claiming the report was not categorized as ‘influential’, but ‘other’, allowing for full discretion in peer reviews.”

“The EPA Yakima Nitrate Report began in 2010 and was published in 2012 and 2013,” the ADC argues. “Despite some of nation’s top scientists and agronomists finding the study to be deeply flawed and other government agencies cautioning its use, EPA Region 10 staff still used the study. This led to highly disciplinary enforcement and threats of federal litigation, which has devastated four large dairy farms. Specifically, these four dairies were pressured into signing a very punitive Administrative Order on Consent, resulting in the loss of one dairy and requiring the remaining to spend upwards of $15 million to comply. Further, the report has been used by an Oregon environmental attorney to force extremely costly settlements with a number of Washington dairy farms, resulting in the loss of farms and creating extreme distress within the entire Washington dairy community.”

More details can be found at www.savefamilyfarming.org.