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Dairy Defined Podcast:

Engagement Essential for Younger Producers

May 30, 2024

Dairy farmers are descending on Washington next week, as NMPF’s Young Cooperators lead the organization’s annual fly-in. Hannah and Matthew Lansing, this year’s chairs for the YC Program, say policy engagement is critical to dairy’s future.

“There are so many things that affect us, but they don’t affect us in a way that we see every day,” said Matthew Lansing, who along with his wife and her family milk 1,100 cows and farm more than 5,000 acres at Blue Hill Dairy in Clinton, Iowa. said. “Keeping involved and up-to-date as much as we can and pushing for things that we need on a farm on a day-to-day basis is really key for us to propel forward into the future and be what we need to be for consumers going forward.”

You can find and subscribe to the Dairy Defined podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and Amazon Music under the podcast name “Dairy Defined.” For more on the YC Program, click here.

Media outlets may use clips from the podcast on the condition of attribution to the National Milk Producers Federation.



Alan Bjerga: Hello and welcome to the Dairy Defined Podcast. Dairy farmers are descending on Washington next week with NMPF’s Young cooperators leading the charge in its annual fly-in. Hannah and Matthew Lansing are prominent among them. They’re the YC program chairs this year. Matthew and Hannah milk 1,100 cows and farm more than 5,000 acres with Hannah’s family at Blue Hill Dairy in Clinton, Iowa. They’re member owners of Prairie Farms and they’re going to talk to us about what they’re preparing for next week. Hannah, Matthew, thanks for joining us.

Matthew Lansing: Thanks for having us.

Hannah Lansing: Yeah, excited to be here.

Alan Bjerga: So tell us a little bit about yourself and your operation. How did you get into dairy farming?

Hannah Lansing: Yeah, so dairy farming’s always been a part of my identity. I grew up on my family’s dairy farm where currently I’m the third generation on this farm. My grandpa started the farm in the 1970s, my dad and uncle came back and they own the farm today, and now Matthew and I are here as the third generation. Like I said, a little bit about our farm, we milk in a double 22 parallel parlor, we have a cross vent barn, a naturally ventilated barn, so we’ve got a little mix of everything. All of our young stock are born here on the farm, are raised here until a couple months old, and they actually get shipped out to Northwest Iowa, where they’re raised until they come home. But like I said, on top of that too, we are farming 5,000 acres, but a lot of that goes to feeding the cattle, but we also cash crop as well.

Alan Bjerga: Matthew, what are some of the biggest challenges you’re facing as young dairy farmers?

Matthew Lansing: Some of the biggest challenges we’re facing, I think every young dairy farmer faces different ones. One that we’re currently facing is the transition planning, where to begin, where to go, who do you utilize to help? Obviously a 1,200, 1,100 cow dairy and 5,000 acres is a very large entity, and how do we get started on that? What path do we go? That’s what we’re currently facing. Other ones are staying involved politically. Because we’re so focused on the day-to-day at the dairy and making sure we survive to the next day or survive to the next month, that we don’t stay politically involved as well as we maybe should. But that’s really the things that we see as issues or challenges that we currently face, but really the most rewarding part of the job, I would definitely say, is watching that young two-year-old [inaudible 00:02:17] that you were able to raise from a calf, and helped her along the way, and watched her grow, and just seeing all your work that over the years pay off as she comes in and starts being a profitable animal for you.

Alan Bjerga: Hannah, your peers elected you and Matthew to lead the National YC Program this year. How did you get involved and why would you take on the responsibility?

Hannah Lansing: Yeah, so we got involved with the National YC Program. Actually, my parents served as the national chair couple probably 15, 20 years ago. Rough numbers there.

Alan Bjerga: Back in the chaircouple days. You’re both chairs this year I noticed.

Hannah Lansing: Yes. So they had nothing but great things to speak on about the program. So we knew that when we came back to the farm, we really just wanted to get involved in leadership roles. Again, I think with this set of roles and things that you can gain from programs like this, you create a peer group. And you get to meet other people, tell your story, help really advocate for the dairy industry, and that’s what we really looked for in being a part of this program. And we’re just really happy and thankful, again, that we were elected by the peer group that we were able to meet, and very thankful for them.

But, like I said, when it comes to taking on a leadership role, it was really just to advocate for the dairy industry. Where our farm is located, we’re located outside of … it’s not a big city, it’s roughly 25,000 people, but we’re a more urban area, so the consumers that are around us don’t know anything about dairy farming. The school that I went to knew nothing about farming. So again, we just want to make sure that we can tell that story and let the community understand why we do the things that we do. And I think the best way to do that is to get involved in leadership positions where you’re allowed that platform to do that.

Alan Bjerga: You mentioned earlier, Matthew, the importance of being politically engaged. Why do you think it’s important for dairy farmers to be politically engaged?

Matthew Lansing: I think it’s important just for the fact of, like I said earlier, we’re so focused on the day-to-day here all the time that we do forget what’s outside of our inner circle. We’re focused on employees, efficiencies, different things that we’re facing and dealing with on the farm level that if you get so caught up in that, you will forget the bigger picture. The political debates that happen, the different policies that get made that trickle down and affect you to different degrees, whether it’s management of calves, the farm program, the Farm Bill. I mean, there are so many things that affect us, but they don’t affect us in a way that we see every day. So by keeping involved or up-to-date as much as we can and pushing for things that we need on a farm on a day-to-day basis is really just key for us to propel forward into the future and be what we need to be for the consumers going forward.

Alan Bjerga: Well, if you want political engagement, you’re certainly coming to the right place. You’re going to be in DC next week as part of the YC Fly-In. Why is it important for dairy farmers to be there? And do you have any examples of some of these policies that you may not notice every day, but they’ve affected your farm? And where does Washington meet Iowa in all of this?

Hannah Lansing: Yeah, I think it’s important for producers to be there to make sure that our opinions and voices are heard to the people that are the policymakers. Again, like Matthew said, I think we get really caught up on the dairy, and now we get the chance to be with those impactful people next week that are the ones that are helping form and put things forward to help us on the farm every day. And so that’s why, again, I think it’s really important that farmers get there and I think that the policy side of things is, I think, sometimes the missed side of dairy farming. And so I think it’s a great way for us to learn of the processes that are happening there. I don’t know if you have anything else to add.

Matthew Lansing: Yeah. And to build off that, I mean big things that we’re currently watching is the 2024 Farm Bill, how is that going to affect us with dairy margin coverage, other programs that are of assistance programs. The Federal Milk Market order, that’s a huge one that has been in the works for a couple months, if not a couple years already, of making a more fair way to get paid for the components and the component pricing of the milk that we produce today, as that is very different than milk we produced a year ago, let alone 5 to 10 years ago. But really staying up to date with those is helpful.

Current one, the avian flu. I mean dealing with that now and what that’s changed, just the biosecurity. And I think the dairy industry as a whole knew that at some point we would be hit with something. We didn’t know what it would be, but it was going to cause us to adapt, and different policies and structures that are being put in place now for that of moving cattle and so on, of just keeping in the loop with those things. And in the end of the day, it does make us better. We may not always appreciate it when it happens, but it forces us to get better, get more efficient, and to really just drive the engine forward, and be a better producing entity for the future.

Alan Bjerga: So what do you plan to be talking about with lawmakers and what do they need to hear from dairy farmers?

Hannah Lansing: Yeah, I think that they need to hear everything. They need to hear our struggles, our stories, the triumph, what it’s like to be on the farm from day to day. And I think that helps them move forward while creating policies for us, again, to make us better for the future.

Matthew Lansing: Yeah. And we’ll be talking about, like I stated, the Farm Bill, foreign market access, making sure we’re keeping those markets open and available for us to export as much as we can. And then, another big exciting one is the Dairy Pride Act, to make sure that we’re not mislabeling and misinforming consumers with other plant-based and milk products. There is one true milk product out there and it’s true milk from dairy cows, so making sure we can keep on the front end of that and provide the nutritious product that we can.

Alan Bjerga: What advice would you give other beginning farmers about the value of being engaged in your co-op and through programs like the YCs?

Hannah Lansing: Get off the farm and grow your network. Farmers are great at sharing their stories, and I think that once you are on your farm, you think oh, we’re the only farm that has this problem or we’re the only farm that struggles with this, but I think the YC program really opened my eyes of hearing of other farmers who are the same age as us, they have the same struggles we do. And how did they get through this event? Because what we’re struggling with right now today on our farm. So it was really just good to hear their stories and, again, now we’ve created that group that we can call anytime. When something happens on our farm, we pick up the phone, we call someone in Virginia, and we say, “Hey, what happened when you had this struggle on your farm?” And I think that’s something as farmers that we need because I think that we get so focused on being on the farm every day, because dairy farming is nonstop, it’s all the time. I think that we all need that break to talk to someone else about what’s going on in our operation.

Alan Bjerga: Is there anything else you would like to share?

Matthew Lansing: I just, again, want to thank you guys for the time to let us come onto the podcast. Reminder to everybody out there listening, June’s Dairy month, so make sure to support your local dairy farms and buy as many dairy products as you can. And don’t forget the ice cream as these warm months come up throughout the summer.

Alan Bjerga: We’ve been speaking with Hannah and Matthew Lansing, the chairs of NMPF’s Young Cooperators. Thanks for joining us. For more on the YC program, you can visit our website at You can also find the Dairy Defined Podcast on Apple Podcast, Spotify, and Google Podcast. Until next time.