There and back again with 2019 OYDC James Weber

By: James Weber, 2019 Outstanding Young Dairy Cooperator

In early November, Kylie and I had the privilege of representing MMPA alongside fellow members Paul and Nancy Pyle at the 2019 National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Our program started with the 2020 NMPF advisory council meeting where Kylie and I sat alongside a group of young dairy cooperators focused and engaged in discussion. It was an excellent icebreaker to the ensuing conference as we familiarized ourselves with like-minded individuals that we would continue to connect with over the next few days. The day included a presentation titled “The Media: (How to) Deal with It” hosted by NMPF’s senior vice president Alan Bjerga. He discussed the methods employed by different parties during interviews and how we can use these opportunities to promote our industry and positively affect the story being created.

The conference was jam-packed with a wide variety of speakers covering a vast number of topics. Allyson Perry, from Center for Food Integrity, hosted a consumer panel of 8 individuals randomly selected from the New Orleans area; Steve Lerch, a former employee of Google, talked about how to understand dairy consumers; Don Schindler brought three media experts to learn about their take on the story of dairy; and Emily Yeiser-Stepp, from the FARM program, gave updates on 4.0 and how we can use it as a tool against animal activist videos.

Kylie and I’s favorite presentation was University of Nebraska’s Ron Hanson who shared his emotionally charged stories of his past and experiences he has encountered with farm ownership transition. Dr. Hanson shared with me that he will be speaking in Traverse City for Farm Bureau and I strongly encourage fellow members to attend if their schedule allows.

Before heading home, our final order of business was our 2020 YC Council meeting to elect our board members. I am thrilled to share that MMPA will hold the chair position for the second year in a row! I am following in the footsteps of Paul and Nancy Pyle as National YC Council Chairman and am very honored to be chosen to help lead such a talented group of young individuals.

Our trip was an exciting, fast pace and an engaging opportunity that I am so happy Kylie and I were able to experience. I want to thank MMPA for allowing us to hear from an outstanding, knowledgeable speakers and meet with fellow dairymen from across the nation. I’d like to personally thank Jessica Welch, Sheila Burkhardt, Paul Pyle and Nancy Pyle. These four individuals helped guide us and made our time in New Orleans memorable.

As with other similar events I’ve attended in the past, the networking and personal connections are the most valuable part of the whole experience. I can attest to our MMPA members that you are represented by an incredible cohort of staff at MMPA. You have a board of directors that are highly engaged in this industry and the well-being of your co-op and your future. The entire dairy industry is working together for a promising future.

As we look towards 2020, I am eager to share with you the upcoming YC events that I am helping to plan. The annual YC tour is going to be held in Grand Rapids on March 31 to April 1.

The overnight event will provide young cooperators the opportunity to tour an MMPA customer’s large-scale cheese plant. The agenda is filled with a variety of tours and fun events that will allow attendees to meet fellow young cooperators, develop relationships with the board of directors and meet the MMPA staff that work on your behalf. I highly encourage any MMPA member or their employee under the age of 40 to join me in exploring West Michigan.

From left, OYDCs Kylie Schuh, James Weber, Nancy Pyle and Paul Pyle attended the NMPF Conference on behalf of MMPA.

This article was originally published in the January/February issue of the Milk MessengerSubscribe »