Value. It’s our worth, it’s the advantage we hold and it’s the principles that guide us. In a cooperative like MMPA, collective ownership means members share in the business’ value.
For General Manager Joe Diglio, MMPA’s “value proposition” comes down to the cooperative’s vision and actions, as well as the benefits derived from listening and understanding as it evolves. Diglio outlined these components in his address to delegates at the MMPA 101st Annual State Delegate Meeting on March 23 in Lansing, Michigan.
Guiding by vision
Despite two contentious years for dairy farmers, Diglio offered reassurance as to how MMPA is managing and continually serving members. “The dairy industry has always been subjected to volatility and unpredictability, however it is how we deal with them that will define us and how we move towards our vision,” he asserted.
MMPA’s vision, as Diglio detailed, is guided by its past but is directed by a strong strategy which includes product diversification. MMPA has maintained a prudent investment strategy and continues to explore ways to work with others in true “cooperative spirit.” An example he provided is MMPA’s announcement to participate in a joint venture to build a cheese plant in Michigan with Glanbia, Foremost Farms USA and Dairy Farmers of America.
But it goes beyond just vision. “Vision alone can’t enhance value, it takes action to get things done,” Diglio continued. “With the continued production growth we experienced this year, asset maximization has been a continual focus.”
Deliberate actions enacted by MMPA have kept the association on top of continued production growth in the Midwest, especially Michigan. Diglio explained how the Ovid and Constantine plants received an additional 438,000 pounds a day, amounting to 160 million more pounds of milk in the fiscal year.
Further, Diglio said building business relationships with new and existing customers and forming strategic partnerships will allow MMPA to align with others on innovation, product development and diversification.
Listening for clarity
In striving to provide value, Diglio says listening to those the co-op represents, serves and provide for has a meaningful impact. With time set aside to listen to member concerns, hear from customers and seek input from national industry organizations, MMPA keeps its ears open.
“Communication is a two-way street,” he added. “Besides our ability to distribute important information, input from others can help clarify many misinterpretations, prepare people for changes and help identify challenges we face. As we all know very well, changes happen quickly and can have significant repercussions if we don’t prepare for them.”
Moving past listening, Diglio explored the importance of understanding the needs of consumers and the market. Further, with many challenges in regulatory compliance, consumer influences and political instability, the cooperative faces headwinds in everyday business. Understanding what those challenges are and how to move through them is key.
“In order to be successful in today’s world, a firm understanding of consumer trends, heads winds and market conditions are needed,” Diglio explained.
In understanding these needs, MMPA has stayed involved in communicating with consumers and holding a “voice at the table” on national issues. In combating difficult market conditions, Diglio says MMPA is developing a diversified product mix and “working with customers on a collaborative strategy to hedge market variations.”
Evolving for survival
To round out MMPA’s value proposition, Diglio ended with an examination of how the co-op has evolved and will continue to evolve to find success.
“I believe we all can recognize how MMPA has evolved over the years. This transition has been influenced by relationships, industry changes and resources needed to accommodate a growing business. Staying complacent is not an option for survival.”
The future of MMPA will involve further collaboration with customers and industry partners on a strategy in tune with current needs. The resources available, such as employee talent, also continue to evolve in today’s world.
For the MMPA cooperative, where the members are owners of the business, knowing the value it provides is essential. Diglio’s address stressed the importance of staying untied as the co-op moves into the future.
“Understand, we all feel the impact during good and challenging times. While there aren’t many things we can say with certainty, one thing for sure is we will face more challenges. By staying united, we can and will shape the future together,” Diglio concluded.
This article originally appeared in the May issue of the Michigan Milk Messenger.