Leaders’ Conference 2015

Kicking off 2015-2016 Local Meetings, the 2015 Leaders’ Conference brought together MMPA leaders from all facets of the cooperative to the Michigan State University Kellogg Center in East Lansing on November 23.

In addition to presentations by MMPA General Manager Joe Diglio and President Ken Nobis, MMPA welcomed Joel Mergler from Select Sires, Kelly Millenbah from the MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) and Bill Creal from Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). Members listened and asked questions about dairy market conditions, MSU CANR initiatives, water quality issues and the global dairy industry.

Nobis first addressed the group of leaders, providing a positive outlook after a challenging year. “Our cooperative and the dairy industry are still in a good position and the future is still positive. Consumers demand a high quality protein source and dairy fits that need beautifully,” Nobis said.

His presentation also included updates on the impact of the global dairy industry, programs related to MMPA’s involvement in the Agricultural Leaders of Michigan and how the Cooperatives Working Together (CWT) has assisted marketing members’ milk.

In his overview of MMPA operations and current market conditions, Diglio presented to members a year in review snapshot of the activities and changes. “In 2015, we saw massive market volatility and the market was very competitive when seeking new customers. Despite the distressed price, the assets you’ve invested in—our processing plants—are performing very well and we continue to pursue new opportunities for the future,” Diglio explained to the conference attendees.

Diglio also highlighted MMPA accomplishments over the last fiscal year, including attaining Level 3 Safe Quality Foods (SQF) Certification in the two processing plants, realizing a net savings of $6 million and paying out $24.4 million in producer incentive premiums to members. Diglio also commended members for producing milk with historic low levels of somatic cell counts, leading customers to covet MMPA’s high quality milk.

Mergler, the Vice President International Development for Select Sires, brought his expertise in international market development to share his insight on global dairy markets to MMPA leaders. Mergler strives to assist global customers breed better dairy cows, especially in countries with a growing middle class. “We are breeding for the global population,” Mergler said.

Yet he noted many countries are unable to meet their domestic demand for demand for dairy and U.S. producers are at a distinct advantage.  “You are no longer just a milk producer in Michigan, you need to have a global perspective and understand the world dairy market,” Mergler relayed.

2015 Outstanding Young Dairy Cooperators (OYDC) Shawn and Beth VanDrie lead the luncheon program, which included honoring the MMPA MSU Scholarship recipients. MMPA awarded 10 scholarships to the children and employees of MMPA members attending the MSU Institute of Agricultural Technology. The VanDries also introduced their fellow 2015 Top Ten OYDCs and raffled off two free registrations for the 2016 Great Lakes Regional Dairy Conference.

The couple welcomed CANR Associate Dean Millenbah during the luncheon, who provided updates on CANR, MSU Extension, AgBioResearch and the CANR dean search. Incumbent CANR Dean Fred Poston retired in December and Millenbah announced Douglas Buhler will begin serving as interim dean on Jan. 1 until a successor is named.

In the afternoon, Creal provided insights on water quality issues through the lens of DEQ, including the algae bloom in Lake Erie. Following his presentation, Nobis and Diglio returned to the stage, opening up the floor for questions and comments from members.

The conference offered to members a forum to hear from MMPA management and learn industry perspectives as a lead into the following months of local and district meetings and the 100th Annual State Delegate Meeting.