By Doug Chapin, MMPA Board Chairman
MMPA recently hosted our 105th Annual State Delegate Meeting. In my virtual speech, I reflected on our last annual meeting, one year ago. The last large function held at the Lansing Center, we just were beginning to experience some of the unprecedented challenges and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic. None of us thought then, that a year later we still couldn’t be together.
It was during this early time that we saw dairy cases in grocery stores empty. We saw restaurants and schools close, forcing the dairy industry to adjust from providing for food service, to more at-home use. As producers, we know the risk of producing a product as perishable as milk. It doesn’t take much to affect the markets. However, we were seeing massive challenges and markets tumbled.
At MMPA, we faced these challenges and continued to serve our members. But the biggest thing MMPA did was market ALL of our members’ milk. So, what are we seeing today? The pandemic challenges remain.
However, exports have rebounded so well, that 2020 ended as a record year. And 2021 has certainly started strong in dairy exports. The food service and restaurant industries should continue to improve throughout 2021 as we see the country opening up. We have several vaccines that have been developed and are being distributed. These vaccines should hasten the recovery process as people become more comfortable returning to normal.
Two takeaways I have from 2020 are: First, 2020 called us to utilize all of our relationships. We worked with government leaders, customers, stakeholders and partners in the industry. Second, the pandemic highlighted that dairy and dairy farmers are valued and respected by the marketplace and consumers. The pandemic showed our bond with American consumers is one that other food categories are envious of. We truly are essential!
We continue to work together on shared solutions for sustainability. Last year, leaders in the dairy industry put forward the Net Zero Initiative for the dairy industry. Simply put, this is a goal to be neutral on carbon emissions and improve water quality and use by 2050. This initiative was done in response to the concerns of both our consumers and customers.
Today, with the new administration, it is clear that government wants to play a larger role on the climate agenda. Fortunately, agriculture is unique in the carbon discussion. We can sequester carbon and several other industries are looking to us for answers. Not only do we want to be at the table as these decisions are made, we want to be leaders at that table. We want food production and dairy to offer answers. It’s crucial that we stay involved.
Furthermore, the MMPA board of directors formed the Farmer Sustainability Advisory Committee, or FSAC. FSAC’s role is to disseminate information from the industry and make recommendations to the board. This committee has met virtually with customers and other stakeholders and made recommendations. This committee puts producers in the discussion, and the board is excited to see how this develops.
In closing, I would like to thank our President and CEO Joe Diglio and all of our employees for their work and effort this past year, whether at our plants, in the field or in Novi. It’s important to recognize that the pandemic brought challenges on top of their normal responsibilities.
I would also like to thank the board of directors, they never missed a step this last year. Their dedication to members is evident and served as their motivation. This next year could be just as challenging as 2020 was, but I believe our relationships will get us to shared solutions. But most of all, the relationships with our members will matter the most.
This article was originally published in the March/April 2021 issue of the Milk Messenger. Subscribe »