The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), the National Dairy Promotion and Research Board (NDB) and the United Dairy Industry Association (UDIA) held their annual meeting virtually Oct. 27-28. The meeting was offered at no cost, allowing dairy farmers and others nationwide to participate in the annual policy and promotion leadership gathering.
The first day of the meeting included a dairy farmer leadership panel focused on lessons learned during unprecedented times, a forecast of the 2020 elections from David Wasserman, House editor for The Cook Political Report, and a moderated town hall with leaders from NMPF.
In his remarks, NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern, reflected on the past year and the resiliency of the dairy industry. “This year has posed challenges beyond what any of us could have imagined just one year ago…. challenges on our farms, in our families and to our futures. And yet, the obstacles we’ve faced this year will only make us stronger as we deal with the hardships that, yes, still lie ahead,” he said.
“Think back to March, when the COVID-19 crisis began to profoundly change all our lives,” Mulhern continued. “The challenges were immediate… and clear. The solutions, less so. At National Milk, as we looked at all of this, there were a few things we knew. We knew that the nation’s dairy farmers and our member cooperatives are essential for the nourishment of those we serve. We knew that the dairy community can be formidable when it pursues its goals with unity and commitment. And we knew that our organization has demonstrated a track record of effectiveness, even in the face of daunting tasks.”
“Just as important as protecting our businesses, of course, is protecting our families, and our workers, and our communities, especially during a pandemic. Through the National Dairy FARM program, we quickly made available industry best practices and guidance to help address the crisis, and through our outreach and our coronavirus toolbox on our website, we gave our members – and all dairy farmers – the information they needed to adjust to dairy farming in this new reality,” he said.
“So, what will all this mean in the days ahead?” Mulhern continued. “Well, make no mistake: this crisis is far from over. Without a vaccine, with an uncertain political future, with an economy that still hasn’t found a ‘new normal,’ there’s no happy ending I can share with you today, because we still have a long way to go.”
However, Mulhern concluded with a few observations that point toward optimism for the future:
- The strength of farmer-owned dairy cooperatives.
- The power of unity to allow the dairy industry to achieve goals and prevail.
- The importance of lessons the industry has learned on advocating for Dairy Margin Coverage and touting dairy’s positive stewardship story.
On the second day of the virtual meeting, a dairy executive panel shared promotion priorities and plans for 2021 and beyond, including how COVID-19 has uncovered and accelerated opportunities for U.S. dairy. Peter Sheahan, founder of Karrikins Group and a globally recognized thought leader, shared his thoughts on how companies develop and sustain a competitive edge. The meeting concluded with a panel with updates and context around the industry’s sustainability journey.
Barbara O’Brien, Dairy Management, Inc. president, discussed how checkoff organizations pivoted throughout tumultuous moments in 2020. “It has prompted staff at all levels to respond by doing everything necessary to keep products moving into the marketplace, restocking shelves and redirecting excess milk and other dairy products into food banks,” she said.
In the export arm of the checkoff organization, Secretary Tom Vilsack, President and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council described the organization’s efforts to increase exports of U.S. dairy products through focusing on key markets and promoting what differentiates American dairy on the global stage.
“Especially with our sustainability commitment, we will be able to make the claim of dairy products being produced in the greatest sustainable way in the future,” he says. “We are pleased to have increased volume and milk solids in exports. We have all doubled down on exports, and it’s paying dividends. We will continue to work hard at USDEC to see that potential expand.”
The virtual programming was also included a two-day Young Cooperator Leadership Program, hosted by NMPF and MMPA 2019 Outstanding Young Dairy Cooperator James Weber, who serves as the 2020 NMPF YC Chair. In the annual NMPF Communications Competition, MMPA won six awards, including “Best in Class” for the Milk Messenger magazine.
This article was originally published in the November/December 2020 issue of the Milk Messenger. Subscribe »