Editor’s Note: September Newsletter Operating Instructions

September 06, 2023

For the second consecutive year, NMPF is devoting its September newsletter to updating members on progress made so far this year on crucial issues for dairy farmers and the cooperatives they own. While August has been a busy month for dairy – as you can see in our article updating the latest developments – Washington tends to take a slower pace in late summer because of the annual congressional recess. That makes Labor Day week a great chance to take stock of what’s been accomplished so far, before the hectic calendar of autumn takes hold and additional developments gather in speed and frequency, with a farm bill looming, critical legislation yet to pass and the Federal Milk Marketing Order process moving forward.

Here’s how to proceed: Start with the update, then work through this team-by-team update of NMPF’s work so far in 2023. We hope you find this account of challenges met so far this year to be useful. We look forward to more in the upcoming months. Thank you, again, for this opportunity to serve.

August Update: FMMO Hearing Underway; Margins Below $4

September 06, 2023

NMPF capped an unusually busy August – traditionally a slower month in policy circles due to the congressional recess – with the beginning of the USDA Federal Milk Marketing Order hearing in Carmel, IN. The first comprehensive hearing on the FMMO system since 2000 is the result of more than two years of NMPF study, discussion and leadership, featuring more than 200 meetings and exhaustive, member-led examination of all issues as dairy farmers achieved overwhelming consensus behind its proposal.

That said, work is far from over. The first weeks of questioning and cross-examination have featured challenging questions regarding methodology, analysis and whether NMPF’s plan is best for the industry. Still, led by staff economists, cooperative efforts and dairy farmers, NMPF is entering September in a commanding position in a hearing that may last well into October.

“Thanks to the tireless efforts of dairy farmers and their cooperatives, this industry is poised for progress as Federal Milk Marketing Order modernization is now in sight,” NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern said in a statement on Aug. 23, the hearing’s first day. “NMPF’s comprehensive proposal for improvements to the system forms the basis of this hearing, and through our members’ depth of expertise and unmatched team of dairy farmers and cooperative analysts, we are prepared to advance our industry’s need for these updates.”

The FMMO hearing is occurring against a backdrop of the lowest producer margins since margin-protection insurance was introduced in the 2014 Farm Bill. The USDA announced that the July Dairy Margin Coverage margin dropped $0.13/cwt from June to $3.52/cwt. That will generate payments of $0.48/cwt payments for the free $4/cwt coverage level, and payments of $5.98/cwt for coverage the maximum $9.50/cwt Tier 1 coverage. The July all-milk price was $17.40/cwt, $0.50/cwt lower than in June, while the DMC July feed cost was $0.37/cwt of milk lower than June’s.

Available forecasts indicate the margin will increase rapidly during the following three months and stabilize around $9.50/cwt for the fourth quarter of this year.

In addition to FMMO activity, NMPF and the U.S. Dairy Export Council organized an Aug. 3 meeting for APEC agricultural officials as part of the larger APEC Food Security Ministerial session in Seattle as part of the federation’s ongoing engagement with the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), an organization that includes 15 of the top 20 U.S. dairy export markets. Mulhern spoke to the value of an incentive-based, voluntary approach toward improving the sustainability of U.S. agriculture and highlighted the dairy sector’s leadership in implementing climate-smart solutions.

NMPF tangibly expanded U.S. dairy exports in August through the Cooperatives Working Together program. CWT member cooperatives secured 67 contracts, adding 6.3 million pounds of American-type cheeses, 2,000 pounds of anhydrous milkfat, 337,000 pounds of cream cheese and 137,000 pounds of whole milk powder to CWT-assisted sales in 2023. In milk equivalent, this is equal to 61.5 million pounds of milk on a milkfat basis. Sales for the year so far through August are the total milk equivalent of 610.5 million pounds on a milkfat basis.

NMPF’s regulatory team, meanwhile, noted progress in the Waters of the U.S. issue, with a new Biden Administration rule offered in line with a Supreme Court decision last spring that limited the reach of EPA’s regulatory authority. While the rule will almost certainly be subject to litigation, the approach is an improvement of the most recent changes to WOTUS, which created regulatory uncertainty for farmers and represented government overreach, a point regulatory staff have made in numerous meetings with and comments to EPA over more than a decade.

Finally, the final day of August saw USDA announce the fiscal year 2023 notice of funding for CIG On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials, bringing to fruition an important win NMPF secured last year.

On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials support widespread adoption of innovative approaches, practices, and systems on working lands. The Inflation Reduction Act, which Congress passed last year, doubled annual funding for this program from $25 million to $50 million for four fiscal years. NMPF won language in the law to target this new funding toward initiatives that use feed and diet management to reduce enteric methane emissions, which can comprise roughly one-third of a dairy farm’s greenhouse gas footprint and represent a major opportunity for dairy to lead the agriculture sector in making sustainability gains.

NMPF Advances Dairy Priorities in Farm Bill, Ag Labor, Sustainability

September 06, 2023
  • Advocated for farm bill policies that maintain and strengthen gains made in 2018
  • Prepared farmer cooperative members for farm bill listening sessions
  • Helped obtain a commitment from House leadership to work on ag labor reforms that would protect current workers, allow year-round sectors to access H-2A, and reform H-2A wages
  • Assisted bipartisan House ag labor working group in developing its report and recommendations on how to fix the broken ag workforce system
  • Helped advance bipartisan legislation to spur approval of innovative products to help farmers reduce enteric methane emissions.

Agricultural organization government relations teams are facing a dynamic legislative environment in 2023, a “farm bill year” that brings a heightened focus on agricultural and food policy in Congress. NMPF has successfully navigated this policy climate, seizing opportunities to advance on traditional farm-bill topics as well as agricultural labor reform and sustainability concerns that are among dairy farmers’ top policy priorities in 2023.

The farm bill due to expire Sept. 30 leads this year’s agricultural policy agenda. NMPF seeks to build on its successes in the last farm bill to strengthen the dairy safety net and provide producers with access to a range of risk management tools. NMPF supports updating the Dairy Margin Coverage program’s production history calculation to better reflect current data, as well as further strengthening key dairy risk management tools. As part of its effort toward modernizing the Federal Milk Marketing Order system, NMPF also is seeking to restore the previous “higher of” Class I mover formula in the most expeditious manner possible and advocating for language to direct USDA to conduct mandatory plant cost studies every two years to better inform future make allowance discussions.

NMPF cooperative members have voiced these key points across the country as the House Agriculture Committee has embarked on a nationwide producer listening tour intended to help Committee Chairman GT Thompson, R-PA, and Ranking Member David Scott, D-GA, craft a new law.

NMPF is also advancing the workforce needs of dairy farmers, even as lawmakers appear reticent to work on immigration reform beyond border security measures. NMPF and the Agricultural Workforce Coalition (AWC) in May worked with Congressman Dan Newhouse, R-WA, and other congressional champions to turn the controversy surrounding the Secure the Border Act (H.R. 2) into an opportunity to gain a commitment from House majority leadership to work on ag labor reforms to protect current workers, allow year-round sectors to access H-2A, and reform the H-2A wage. NMPF also assisted the House Ag Committee’s bipartisan ag labor working group to develop a report on the current problems with America’s ag labor system and draft a set of bipartisan recommended solutions. The working group plans to issue a preliminary report in early fall.

Following a historically productive 2022 on sustainability front through passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, NMPF has not slowed down in 2023.

Beyond farm bill conservation programs, NMPF and partners worked closely with Senators Roger Marshall, R-KS, and Tammy Baldwin, D-WI, to advance legislation to enable the Food and Drug Administration to review animal feed ingredients as food, not as drugs. That would help unlock animal feed ingredients to reduce enteric methane emissions by as much as 30 percent, a key role in dairy’s sustainability efforts once approved for use. The provision backed by NMPF and sponsored by the two senators secured a strong bipartisan vote of 19-2 for this bill in the Senate HELP Committee in order to smooth its path to eventual passage this fall.

A “farm bill Congress” is a busy one no matter what. After having laid significant groundwork this spring and summer, NMPF is eager this fall to support passage of a farm bill that improves dairy policy while also informing the important efforts of the House’s agriculture labor working group and making further legislative gains to give producers the stewardship tools they need. With another presidential election looming next year, NMPF is ready to seize what may be a last window of opportunity this fall to notch wins for U.S. dairy producers and the cooperatives they own.

NMPF Economists Lead on Path to FMMO Modernization

September 06, 2023
  • Led development of NMPF’s policy proposals to modernize the Federal Milk Marketing Orders.
  • Requested national order hearing to amend five pricing provisions, as agreed unanimously by the NMPF Board.
  • Developed testimony and gathered witnesses in support of the FMMO modernization efforts in advance of the hearing.

The Economics team this year has led NMPF’s efforts to modernize the Federal Milk Marketing Order system, a complex and critical component of the industry’s future.

After nearly two years of work and more than 200 virtual and in-person meetings, NMPF’s FMMO efforts reached another milestone August 23 on the long path towards implementation. with the start of the national USDA hearing in Carmel, IN. NMPF’s Chief Economist, Peter Vitaliano, providing the first testimony of any of the interested parties presenting at the hearing, expected to last six weeks. Vitaliano’s initial testimony laid out the context for NMPF’s full proposal before he focused on the rationale for updating the milk component factors in the skim milk price formulas, the first of National Milk’s five proposals to amend the FMMO pricing provisions.

Before the hearing concludes, Vitaliano will testify another four times on NMPF’s other proposals to ensure the FMMO better reflects current market conditions. Those additional four proposals recommend that USDA:

  • Discontinue use of barrel cheese in the protein component price formula
  • Return to the “higher-of” Class I mover
  • Increase make allowances in the component price formulas; and
  • Update the Class I differential pricing surface.

In addition to Vitaliano, experts from NMPF member cooperatives along with dairy farmer leaders will be testifying in support of NMPF’s proposals. Throughout the process, NMPF staff, attorneys, and consultant/FMMO expert Jim Sleper will remain actively engaged in formulating strategy to achieve the best possible outcome for U.S. dairy farmers and their member cooperatives. Economics has also assisted Government Relations in advocating for Farm Bill language to direct USDA to conduct mandatory plant cost studies every two years to better inform future make allowance discussions.

Beyond the extensive Federal Order work, the Economics team provided the analytical and administrative backbone to the Cooperatives Working Together program, supporting the export of more than 600 million pounds milk equivalent of dairy products through August of this year. Additionally, the team has been helping members and farmers stay ahead of the market, publishing 40 market reports and delivering over 35 presentations so far this year.

Regulatory Staff Protect and Advance Dairy

September 06, 2023
  • Pushed for labeling integrity and FDA to enforce its own standards of identity, filing extensive comments in response to its draft guidance on plant-based beverage labeling
  • Personally urged FDA Commissioner Robert Califf to develop labeling standards for cell-based and synthetic “dairy” products
  • Successfully advocated for dairy cooperatives and their producer members at the National Conference of Interstate Milk Shipments to ensure they have a voice in any updates made to the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance
  • Filed comments on FDA’s proposed “healthy” definition pushing for milk, cheese and yogurt to qualify, thus better educating consumers on dairy’s nutritional benefits
  • Outlined animal health priorities with USDA APHIS

Regulatory work is often just as much about fighting against harmful rules, as it is pushing for positive change. Efforts this year have ranged from pressuring FDA to enforce its own standards of identity for milk and develop labeling standards for cell-based products to representing member views on issues including the biannual update of the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance and EPA PFAS regulations.

FDA’s draft guidance on labeling for plant-based beverages released in February encourages plant-based beverage manufacturers who choose to use dairy terms to voluntarily disclose their nutritional differences with real milk. NMPF regulatory staff submitted comments July 31 emphasizing the importance of transparent product labeling to ensure consumer understanding FDA’s need to enforce its own standards of identity for milk.

NMPF staff also elevated the need for FDA to develop labeling standards for cell-based products to end dairy product mislabeling and prevent a repeat of the plant-based labeling fiasco through a conversation and letter addressed to Commissioner Califf sent on June 26.

The biannual National Conference of Interstate Milk Shipments convened in April to revise the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance, with NMPF regulatory staff playing a vital role in the conference deliberations. NMPF submitted three proposals at the conference, dealing with on-farm biosecurity and defining equivalency – all of which had positive outcomes.

Following a proposed rule from FDA to update the labeling definition of “healthy” to align more closely with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), NMPF urged FDA to include a broader range of dairy products, thus educating consumers about dairy’s nutritional value and improve consumption closer to DGA recommendations.

NMPF in August met with USDA Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) leadership to discuss dairy’s domestic and international animal health priorities. Staff emphasized the importance of collaboration between industry and government on preparedness for foreign animal diseases such as Foot and Mouth Disease.

To further NMPF’s antibiotic stewardship work, Chief Science Officer Jamie Jonker, Ph.D., was appointed to the Global Leaders Group on Antimicrobial Resistance to provide an animal health perspective to the group’s goal of strengthening global political momentum on the issue.

Nutrition Collaboration Expands Governmentwide Efforts

September 06, 2023
  • Filed multiple sets of comments with USDA on protecting dairy in WIC; ensuring schools can continue to serve healthful dairy products in school meals; and reducing the burden for schools in low-income areas to utilize the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) to qualify students for school meal programs
  • Engaged in the 2025-2030 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, submitting written comments on the draft scientific questions and protocols
  • Helped organize five bipartisan messages from members of Congress to USDA calling on the Department to protect dairy in WIC and continue the allowance of flavored milk in schools
  • Engaged USDA in an ongoing, collaborative dialogue regarding dairy’s value to nutrition programs, especially in providing vital nutrients and encouraging participation
  • Joined dairy nutrition Hill champions in building broad bipartisan support for returning 2% and whole milk to school meal programs,

NMPF’s regulatory affairs and government relations staff broadening and deepening NMPF’s nutrition policy work in a highly coordinated effort that aims to protect and expand access to healthful dairy foods in federal nutrition programs. The team has focused this year on strengthening dairy’s robust presence in the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), school breakfast and lunch programs, and on the next update of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA).

NMPF has been engaged in the update process to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, set to be released in 2025, submitting comments on the proposed scientific questions and protocols which inform the conduct of systematic reviews and food pattern modeling that will form the science base of the 2025-2030 Dietary Guidelines.

NMPF also has engaged members of Congress to ensure USDA hears from its fellow policy makers regarding dairy in WIC and school meals. Beginning in March and continuing through the summer, staff helped organize five bipartisan messages sent from lawmakers to the department. Two focused on the importance of protecting dairy in WIC, one Senate letter and one House letter. Both explained the vital importance of dairy’s nutrients for the life stages covered by the WIC program, urging USDA not to reduce the amount of dairy that participants can access through the program. The other three messages call on USDA to keep allowing flavored milk in schools, noting the central role flavored milk plays providing students the nutrients they need to grow and thrive.

NMPF also met with USDA multiple times to discuss technical or specialized information beyond its submitted comments. The expert information brought to USDA included:

  • Meal modeling that depicts how sodium and sugar levels impact school nutrition directors’ ability to meet their students’ nutritional and taste needs
  • Working with IDFA to provide feedback on how reducing dairy in WIC would negatively impact the overall program
  • The growing body of evidence demonstrating dairy’s health benefits at all fat levels, asserting that these scientific studies must be included in the DGA review process.

NMPF also continued its effort to expand milk in school meals in both houses of Congress via the Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act (H.R. 1147, S. 1957). This bipartisan bill, led in the House by Agriculture Committee Chair GT Thompson, R-PA, and Rep. Kim Schrier, D-WA, and led in the Senate by Sens. Roger Marshall, R-KS, and Peter Welch, D-VT, would allow schools to serve 2% and whole milk in meal programs in addition to the skim and 1% varieties currently allowed. NMPF built bipartisan support for the measure, including organizing a letter from 58 dairy organizations to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce urging the committee to advance the bill. The committee approved the legislation, and NMPF is hopeful the full House chamber will also approve the bill sometime this fall.

Trade Team Builds International Ties While Supporting U.S. Dairy

September 06, 2023
  • Championed the introduction of the Safeguarding American Value-Added Exports (SAVE) Act to protect market access for U.S. cheesemakers
  • Secured the right of producers to use the common name “gruyere” in the U.S. market through a landmark legal victory in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
  • Led engagement with the U.S. government to hold Canada accountable for its ongoing violations of USMCA’s dairy provisions
  • Promoted U.S. dairy’s trade initiatives and sustainability progress as lead sponsor of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation’s agricultural ministerial luncheon in Seattle
  • Formed alliances with dairy and agricultural organizations worldwide to strengthen and grow NMPF’s voice.

NMPF trade activities this year have included initiatives that defend U.S. products in the global arena while expanding trade. Efforts made in collaboration with the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) and the Consortium for Common Food Names (CCFN) prompted the May 17 introduction of the bipartisan, bicameral Safeguarding American Value-Added Exports (SAVE) Act to increase U.S. government actions to protect common terms like “parmesan” and “feta” in export markets. The milestone bill to advance common name protections capped off months of congressional engagement, including a March 1 event on Capitol Hill.

The SAVE Act explicitly defines “common names” as a term ordinarily used for marketing a food product, as determined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and directs the U.S. government to proactively defend the rights of U.S. common name users and exporters. Led in the Senate by Sens. John Thune, R-SD, Tammy Baldwin, D-WI, Roger Marshall, R-KS, and Tina Smith, D-MN, and in the House by Reps. Dusty Johnson, R-SD, Jim Costa, D-CA, Michelle Fischbach, R-MN, and Jimmy Panetta, D-CA, the SAVE Act is expected to be incorporated into the 2023 Farm Bill. Members and supporters can make their voice heard by writing to their representatives in Congress through NMPF’s advocacy platform.

NMPF also secured a key victory for U.S. cheese producers and dairy farmers through a March 3 ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which confirmed that “gruyere” is a common name, in opposition to French and Swiss consortiums which hoped to trademark the term in the U.S. market. The NMPF trade policy team, alongside USDEC and CCFN, worked diligently with the legal team to ensure that American gruyere producers can continue to market and sell their products in the United States.

NMPF’s dedication to building dairy exports through expanding market has included fly-ins to DC, use of congressional trade hearings to elevate dairy priorities, meetings with USTR and USDA political appointees on trade, intensive work with U.S. negotiators on using the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework to address nontariff trade barriers, and joint agricultural coalition efforts such as the trade-focused August 21 letter to 2024 Presidential candidates urging a greater commitment to trade agreements.

Efforts also extend to ensuring existing agreements deliver full benefits for U.S. dairy. NMPF commended the U.S. government’s Jan. 31 announcement that it requested a second USMCA panel to hold Canada responsible for violating the agreement’s dairy market access obligations. The announcement resulted from extensive work by NMPF with USTR and USDA last year to ensure that the second USMCA case was well-positioned for success. NMPF and USDEC since January have continued to work closely with USTR and USDA to support their case and ensure that Canada grants U.S. producers and exporters the market access negotiated and promised under USMCA.

To bolster NMPF’s work to preserve and expand market access for dairy products in markets around the world, the organization has also continued to grow its global voice and influence, forming partnerships with leading dairy and agricultural organizations overseas.

As governments around the world embrace protectionist stances and adopt ill-advised policies, NMPF strives to continue to grow its network of allies to support pro-dairy, pro-trade and science-based rules. Strengthening ties in Latin America, NMPF announced on April 20 a new collaboration with the National Agricultural Organizations from Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile, Bolivia and Colombia to represent the dairy and livestock industry in international climate discussions. During a trip to Japan, NMPF formalized a July 6 “Letter of Friendship” with JA-Zenchu, Japan’s Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives, to address the common difficulties that dairy farmers in the two countries are facing. Most recently, NMPF and USDEC signed on July 27 an agreement with the Italian Dairy Association, Assolatte, to promote the nutritional benefits of dairy products and support dairy-friendly policies in international forums.

FARM Program Area Updates Underway

September 06, 2023
  • Finalized recommendations for FARM Animal Care standards and received NMPF Board of Directors approval
  • Expanded reach of the Calf Care Quality Assurance Program
  • Developed online training for FARM Enhanced Biosecurity to be made public in October
  • Conducted testing on select farms nationwide to further development of the RuFaS model for Environmental Stewardship

The National Dairy Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) Program has refined and grown its Animal Care, Workforce Development and Environmental Stewardship program areas in preparation for new versions in 2024 as it harnesses the latest science and best management practices with significant farmer leadership, feedback and stakeholder discussion.

All FARM program area standards are revised every three years to reflect the most current science and best management practices within the dairy industry. For the FARM Animal Care Program, the Animal Care Task Force and NMPF’s Animal Health and Well-Being Committee worked closely with program staff throughout 2021 and 2022 to develop recommendations for Animal Care Version 5, leading to votes in March and June 2023 by the NMPF Board of Directors approving the recommended revisions. The FARM Program staff is updating all resources and materials related to the Animal Care Program—including manuals, handbooks, preparation guides, Evaluator training materials, templates and posters—ahead of the July 1 effective date.

Additionally in Animal Care, FARM continued to grow the Calf Care Quality Assurance program efforts. This initiative is jointly led by National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s Beef Quality Assurance Program with support from the Dairy Calf & Heifer Association and Veal Quality Assurance. CCQA in the past year has released calf-care specific employee training modules and in-person courses offered in both Spanish and English. Over the two-year lifespan, more than 1,200dividuals have become CCQA certified. In progress is an audit tool specifically for facilities without lactating animals but raising calves with dairy genetics. More information can be found at calfcareqa.org.

The FARM Biosecurity Program this year has further developed Enhanced Biosecurity, in collaboration with Danelle Bickett-Weddle of Preventalytics LLC, through a cooperative agreement with U.S. Department of Agriculture National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program, to accompany the Everyday Biosecurity Manual and suite of materials made available in 2022. Enhanced Biosecurity incorporates elements of the Secure Milk Supply Plan into a voluntary continuity-of-business plan built for the entire chain of movement of milk from farm to processing plant should a Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak occur in the United States. Enhanced Biosecurity training developed over the course of 2023 is set to launch in early October.

FARM Environmental Stewardship (ES) and the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy (IC) are collaborating to update the scientific model that powers FARM ES, through work with the Ruminant Farm Systems (RuFaS) model, an initiative involving researchers across the country. FARM convenes a bimonthly working group including dairy farmers, cooperative/processor staff and members of the industry to collect stakeholder feedback throughout the development process.

FARM also facilitated direct industry participation in the scientific process by supporting recruitment of 20+ volunteer farms representing a variety of sizes, geographies, and productions styles to participate in scientific model validation. FARM, in collaboration with the IC Environmental Research team, trained FARM ES evaluators to support the volunteer farms. The on-farm model validation will generate valuable feedback to help build out FARM ES V3 output reports, evaluator training, and other resources. The evolution to FARM ES Version 3.0 will enable dairy co-ops and processors to better address customer requests while offering more insights to farmers. More information on FARM ES Version 3.0 is here.

FARM Workforce Development Version 2.0 will launch next July, with minor updates expected to the evaluation tool. The FARM Workforce Development Task Force met in April and discussed possible adjustments to the evaluation for Version 2.0, including streamlining evaluation questions and adding ones that further highlight practices that promote a culture of safety. The Task Force will convene again later this year to review draft modifications to the evaluation tool for Version 2.0.

Young Cooperators, Dairy Voice Network Add Volume

September 06, 2023

NMPF communications staff continued to develop and serve the next generation of dairy-farmer leadership through its National Young Cooperators (YC) program and its latest group of dairy-farmer spokespersons through the Dairy Voice Network.

In addition to quarterly webinars that focused on finding work-life balance on the farm, NMPF’s FMMO modernization efforts and disaster preparedness and management, the program for the first time this year provided a forum for cooperative staff to share ideas and experiences, build community and brainstorm ways to boost the impact of beginning farmer programs at the cooperative and national levels. The training was filled with robust discussion on a variety of topics including relationship building and recruitment, communications and outreach, sponsorships, event planning and facilitating feedback and measuring success.

YCs also met this year in Washington, D.C. for the program’s Dairy Policy and Legislative Forum. 49 dairy farmers from 21 states and representing ten member cooperatives participated in the two-day event, which included discussions about political engagement and dairy policy issues, along with training on how to be an effective advocate and spokesperson for dairy. YCs then headed to Capitol Hill to speak with members of Congress and their staffs about NMPF priorities.

Immediately following the fly-in, work began on the next group of dairy farmers selected by their cooperatives to participate in the Dairy Voice Network (DVN), first launched in 2021 with 18 media-trained farmers selected to represent dairy for outside media audiences and other public-facing experiences. Six farmers from four cooperatives were represented, participating in mock interviews and media training workshops. With the addition of the latest group, 10 cooperatives participate in the DVN, featuring farmers of all size and business models in all regions of the country.