MSU Extension honors MMPA with Key Partner Award

Michigan Milk Producers Association (MMPA), a long-time supporter and partner of Michigan State University Extension, received the Key Partner Award from Michigan State University Extension for its longtime support and for its work helping the people of Flint during the water emergency. The Key Partner Award, presented at MSU Extension’s annual conference in October, is given individuals or organizations who have made significant contributions to creating, improving, supporting or promoting MSU Extension programs.

MMPA formed May 23, 1916 when 400 dairy farmers gathered in Agriculture Hall (now the Justin S. Morrill Hall of Agriculture) at Michigan Agricultural College (renamed Michigan State University in 1964) with the goal of working to establish a stable, reliable price and a market for fluid milk. One hundred years later, the cooperative maintains this goal, as demonstrated by their mission statement: “To market MMPA members’ milk to the greatest advantage possible,” but the organization also does much more for the member-owners. Education, outreach and local support are important parts of how MMPA serves not only cooperative members, but all residents of Michigan.

With these common goals to support both the agricultural and general communities, MMPA and MSU Extension have maintained a strong partnership over the past century. While it is impossible to describe the many instances when MMPA and MSU Extension have partnered during this time, three key areas stand out: education for dairy producers, milk donations to assist families impacted by the Flint water crisis and support for Michigan 4-H youth programming.

Education: For the Michigan Dairy Industry

Throughout all the changes in the dairy industry over the past 100 years, both MMPA and MSU Extension have been there to provide trainings, host meetings, and help dairy farmers adapt.

“MMPA shows itself to be a key partner through sponsorship, partnering on education, and collaborating on growing the Michigan Dairy Industry,” said Stan Moore, MSU Extension senior dairy educator in Antrim County. “MMPA has stepped up when a critical educational need arises, such as sponsoring MSU Extension programming efforts around the 2014 Farm Bill. They also provide content support for educational efforts reaching those not involved in agriculture, such as detailing how milk is processed for consumption.”

These educational efforts are also extended to the general population to provide research-based answers to questions that arise regarding agricultural practices.

“MMPA has been a long-term supporter of MSU from teaching to research to Extension,” said Chris Wolf, an MSU professor in the Department of Agriculture, Food, and Resource Economics. “MMPA provides many scholarships to MSU undergraduate students. They also cooperate on applied research programming from crops to nutrition to reproduction to business management.”

Outreach: For Michigan Communities

MMPA supports all communities throughout the state, but there is no better example of their work and commitment than their response to the Flint water crisis.

In January, MMPA, along with the Kroger Co. of Michigan and in conjunction with the Pediatric Public Health Initiative, donated 12,000 gallons of milk to the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan for distribution to families impacted by the crisis. Nutrition can be used to fight the effects of lead, with foods rich in iron, vitamin C, and calcium, such as milk, mitigating the effects of lead absorption.

“This milk donation, on behalf of MMPA’s nearly 2,000 dairy farm families, is simply the right thing to do to help Flint families in a tragic situation,” MMPA President Ken Nobis said.

“We were blown away by the generosity of Michigan’s dairy farmers and Kroger,” MSU Extension Director Jeff Dwyer said. “All it took was a mention of how calcium plays a key role in blocking lead absorption, and they were immediately on board with not only donating milk to Flint families but looking for long-term, sustainable solutions to raising the level of nutritious options available there.”

An additional 24,000 gallons of milk have been donated by MMPA to help the residents of Flint this year. Earlier this year, MMPA also announced a donation of 100 gallons of milk every day for one year to the Food Bank Council of Michigan in honor of MMPA’s 100th anniversary.

Support: For the Michigan Dairy Leaders of Tomorrow

For more than 80 years, MMPA has actively supported and educated the next generation of youth in agricultural science through programs, donations, volunteers at youth events, and through Michigan 4-H programs. One example of their dedication to youth development is the 4-H/MMPA Milk Marketing Tour hosted annually at MMPA headquarters in Novi.

“Looking back at my experience attending MMPA tour, I remember learning a lot about the dairy industry related to milk pricing, grade of milk and understanding more of the backside of what happens to the milk after it leaves the farm,” Michelle Neff, MSUExtension Educator in Clare County said of her experience attending the 1996 tour. “I would encourage any youth interested in learning more about the dairy industry to take advantage of this great program.”

During this tour, up to 30 Michigan youth are invited to tour headquarters, learn about how a cooperative operates and what happens to milk once it leaves the farm. The tour introduces youth to new career opportunities they may not have been familiar with or even knew existed.

“The 4-H Tour was an eye-opening experience,” said 2015 participant Nic Grifka of Sanilac County. “I learned about the processes used in the dairy industry to produce and change milk into a variety of products. The education from this tour helped me better understand the dairy industry and advanced my goal of one day taking over the family farm.”

In recognition of MMPA’s long-standing support for Michigan 4-H, the cooperative received two additional honors this year, the Michigan Association of Extension 4-H Youth Staff (MAE4-HYS) Partnership Award in April and the 4-H Citation Award from the Michigan 4-H Foundation in September.

MSU Extension is proud to have partnered with MMPA to educate, support, and help the citizens of Michigan for the past one hundred years and is looking forward to one hundred more years of collaboration.