NOVI, Mich.— Former dairy industry leader and Michigan Milk Producers Association (MMPA) President Elwood Kirkpatrick, of Kinde, Michigan passed away on May 16 at the age of 79. Kirkpatrick served the dairy industry for over 28 years in various leadership positions, including 26 years as president of Michigan Milk Producers Association. Throughout his presidency, Kirkpatrick served the cooperative and dairy industry on both state and national levels through his involvement in a number of agriculture and dairy related organizations.
Kirkpatrick was elected to serve on the MMPA board of directors in 1979 where his aptitude in finance quickly earned him the respect of fellow board members who elected him as president of MMPA in 1981. He continued to serve as MMPA president until his retirement from the board in March 2007.
“The dairy industry lost a great leader. Elwood Kirkpatrick made a tremendous impact on the dairy industry on both the state and national level,” MMPA President Ken Nobis said. “He played an important role in shaping today’s dairy industry, and his vision will live on.”
In Michigan, Kirkpatrick served as chair of the Michigan Dairy Industry Committee, was a member of the United Dairy Industry of Michigan board of directors and had served on the Michigan Agriculture Commission.
On the national level, Kirkpatrick served on the executive committee of the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) for 23 years, including serving as NMPF vice president from 1983-2003.
An example of his leadership character emerged in the late 1980s when he helped lead the charge to unify the promotion and marketing efforts of the U.S. dairy industry, bringing together the activities of the United Dairy Industry Association and the National Dairy Board through the formation of Dairy Management Incorporated, creating greater efficiencies in the national dairy promotion program.
Kirkpatrick accomplished many notable successes for the dairy industry, but one of his most influential roles was serving as the first chairman of the U.S. Dairy Export Council. From its inception, Kirkpatrick worked tirelessly to establish and grow the U.S. dairy export sector. At the time of its start, dairy exports represented less than 3 percent of annual U.S. milk production. Today, exports of U.S. dairy products exceed over 15 percent of U.S. milk production.
Kirkpatrick served as Chair of the U.S. Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee for Trade in Animals & Animal Products (ATAC) and was a member of the U.S. Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee for Trade (APAC).
As an accomplished dairy farmer, Kirkpatrick had been recognized with Michigan State University’s “Dairy Farmer of the Year” award in 1986 and the “Distinguished Service to Agriculture” award in 1987.
Upon Kirkpatrick’s retirement in 2007, the MMPA board of directors established the Elwood Kirkpatrick Dairy Science Research Fund at Michigan State University. The endowment fund pays tribute to Kirkpatrick’s dedication to advancing the research needs of the dairy industry. Kirkpatrick was instrumental in the establishment of the Revitalization of Animal Agriculture Initiative signed into Michigan law in 1993.
Kirkpatrick was born in Dwight Township on January 30, 1937 to the late Ross A. and Eula (Arnott) Kirkpatrick and was a lifetime dairy farmer.
He is survived by his wife, Michelle Kirkpatrick of Dwight Township; daughters: Lisa (Craig) Iden of Kinde and Rebecca Waling of Texas; sons: Dean (Maureen) Kirkpatrick, Ron (Andrea) Kirkpatrick, both from Kinde and Brad (Amy) Kirkpatrick of Traverse City; granddaughters: Corey, Casey, Brooke, and Natalie; grandsons: Randy, Dallas, Sean, Eric, Derek, Nathan, Colin and Ryan; and a special cousin, Beverly (Arnott) McFarland from Bay City. He was preceded in death by his cousin, Leslie Arnott.
Memorials may be offered to Heartland Hospice or to the Bad Axe Free Methodist Church.