In The “Eye of The Storm,” Dairy Farmers Stand Strong
November 6, 2023
Next week, dairy farmers from across the nation are gathering in Orlando, FL, for NMPF’s annual meeting, with no shortage of important items to discuss.
- America is currently without a farm bill — a circumstance that’s not unheard-of given the usual lapses in legislation, but one that inevitably raises uncertainty and questions of strategy.
- USDA’s Federal Milk Marketing Order hearing is in a temporary pause before resuming Nov. 27. Thanks to years of painstaking preparation and an unshakable consensus among our members, we at NMPF feel very good about our hearing proposals. But the hearing’s final major issue, the Class I price surface, is still under consideration. And even after the hearing concludes, several steps remain before a successful producer vote will take place, likely late next year, on a USDA plan we hope will be largely modeled on our own.
- The dairy economy continues to be challenging. Prices and margins are now rising, but only after producers experienced their lowest margins since the current USDA safety-net system began. Meanwhile, dairy producers continue to experience bad-faith attacks from outside activists over their animal care stewardship, environmental and climate leadership, and workforce management. And exports continue to suffer because of unfair trade policies. And so on.
So, while our conversations will be cordial and collegial, in the cooperative spirit that defines our industry, our challenges are real. And, as usual, we will meet those challenges.
- On the farm bill, we have crafted board-approved positions that will both preserve the safety net successfully established in the now expired 2018 law while improving meaningful risk management for farms of all sizes, in all regions, while positioning our industry to utilize financial incentives that support our Net Zero Initiative. Dairy farmers are speaking with one voice on these issues, which is always when we are most effective. And the relationships we’ve built on both sides of the aisle allow us to move ahead with confidence.
- On FMMO, I can’t speak enough about how our comprehensive, farmer co-op-led approach to modernization has impressed the logic and necessity of our plan upon USDA. Through weeks of testimony and dozens of dairy farmer and cooperative expert witnesses, the intellectual rigor and on-farm passion has made a compelling case for our plan – which should carry significant influence with USDA in developing a final proposal. There isn’t enough space in this column to thank everyone who deserves our gratitude, and the honor roll will only grow as we continue to move this process forward.
- On other issues, some shorter-term and others longer, we have our own record of resilience on which to fall back. When the economy stalls, we innovate, adjust, survive, and thrive. When our naysayers proclaim the “Death of Dairy,” we’re the ones who show life, fighting those messages with the most compelling counter we have – the truth. And we continue to show the world just how compelling and critical our products are, building global market share and our reputation for global leadership, as we did at last month’s successful International Dairy Federation World Dairy Summit in Chicago.
From one perspective, given the moment during which we’re meeting, it could be said that we’re gathering during the eye of a storm – not a bad metaphor for a meeting in Florida. But really, I think of it more like the moment before a dawn, when the new day is about to reveal itself and you’re ready to take it on. We never lack for challenges in dairy, and we never lack for solutions. In Orlando, we’re ready to convene. And nationwide, as always, we’re ready to lead.
President & CEO, NMPF