Latest News

Dairy Defined Podcast:

NMPF’s Chairman Mooney Spotlights Dairy Leadership

November 16, 2023

The dairy sector has benefited from strong leadership, as farmers work together to meet today’s challenges, National Milk Producers Federation Chairman Randy Mooney said in a Dairy Defined podcast.

A new farm bill, a national hearing on modernizing the Federal Milk Marketing Order system, and ongoing challenges in sustainability and risk management have challenged dairy farmers, Mooney said in the podcast, taken from his remarks at the organization’s annual meeting in Orlando on Tuesday. Farmers have responded with their trademark resilience, uniting to advance their industry, he said.

“This year we came together as an industry to unite around a number of issues that helped build that resiliency. Together we worked to make every drop count, every meeting, count every call, every email, every handshake,” he said.

The full podcast is here. You can also find the podcast on Apple Podcasts and Google PodcastsBroadcast outlets may use the MP3 file below. Please attribute information to NMPF.


Christina Loren: Ladies and gentlemen, Randy Mooney.

Randy Mooney: Thank you, Christina, thank you for that great introduction. I really do appreciate it, and I’m humbled to have this role as Chairman of National Milk. One of the reasons I’m so humbled is, John, your opening comments about your dad and the pictures of your dad being a former chairman of this organization, people like him, Tom Camaro and others that I’ve got so much respect for that I don’t know that I even deserve to be up here in the same role as they was. They was true pioneers. So thank you very much, John, for that introduction and welcome to Florida. I also want to say thank you to all of you for being here in Disney World. Now, Jim’s sitting over there thinking, now Randy don’t even know where he is at, but when you have grandkids and you’re sitting around a kitchen table and they say, “Where’s your next trip going to be?”

You say, “Well, Orlando.” And the two granddaughters start yelling Disney World and you say, “No, Orlando.” And they say, “Disney World.” You know that you’re probably going to go to Florida, you’re going to go to Disney World. But this is my family. It’s my daughter Christina, seven month old Cameron, my son-in-Law, Chad. Then Annabelle’s the blonde. Adeline is the little girl in the middle and Cole’s the little one, they’re here in the hotel somewhere. They’ve been to the parks the last two days. So if you see them in the halls, you might step aside because they’re so excited. They’re good kids, but they’re so excited they may run over you. But that’s my family and Christina works on the farm with us, so we’re glad to have them with us down here in wonderful Florida, John.

Also, we was a few years ago, 2017. It don’t seem that long. It don’t seem like it’s been that long. We was in Anaheim at Disneyland and I found this picture and I was showing it to Jan the other day, and I said to her, I said, “I thought you was going to run off with Goofy.” And she said, “Well, I did 42 years ago and I’m not going to change now.” So I love you too, honey. But then also at that very meeting, we had a problem. We had an issue at that meeting. The issue was the night of the cheese reception we had a problem with some of the cheese. Well, we found out the mice got in the cheese. We had to send the Terminator to take care of it, but we got through that okay, so it was a good meeting. Let me get started. I want to, again, thank all of you for being here, but I also want to thank our partners, DMI, US Deck, all the people involved.

Marilyn, thank you for everything you do for the dairy farmer in this country. I know you traveled the world on our behalf, and I want to thank you for doing that. Alex, thank you for now chairing two organizations, US Deck and UDIA. Congratulations on that election. I think it was this morning. So congratulations, wherever you’re at. You’re out here somewhere. The lights are bright, but congratulations. And Neil, thank you for your many years of service chairing UDIA. I saw you had a sash on in one of the pictures and it said legends on it, legend. So I always knew you as a legend in your own mind, so that’s good. That’s good. No, you did a great job. Appreciate it. I also want to thank you Barb and DMI and US Deck and even the National Milk people who put on the IDF World Dairy Federation came to the United States, hadn’t been here in 30 years, and it was dairy farmers and leaders from all over the world coming to the United States to Chicago, and it gave us an opportunity to show the world what US dairy is all about.

And I know a lot of you were there, several of you were there, but if you was a US farmer, like me, dairy farmer, and you sat in that room, you had to be extremely, extremely proud. And Nick Gardner and Shauna Morris is two people that really put it together from the ground up, and I really thank you for doing that. It was a great event. And Barb, I know you guys sponsored that. It wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t have done that. So thank you. I also want to start off by thanking our 33 National Milk employees, 33 people that have dedicated their life to and their career to dairy. Some of them come with a farm background, a lot of them don’t, but they all care so much about what they do and they have a passion for their job and they want to do what’s right for us as dairy farmers.

I also have a 56 person director board, 56 people on the National Milk Board. I call it the who’s who of the dairy industry. And you probably can’t see the list, but they’re all there and I appreciate so much their guidance, their help. We come together with leadership coming into the room with different ideas, but we come, at the end of the day, we have unity in that room and that’s what makes the US dairy industry so strong. All those board members represent 25 companies, 25 companies that pay dues into national milk. We couldn’t run without money obviously, but more importantly is the leadership they bring, and I just sincerely want to thank them for that leadership. We’ve had a lot of achievements this year, but it’s also been a challenging year.

A year ago when we was here, we had inflation costs were up on the farm extremely high, but we had prices that would cover that. So it was all okay. This year is at different story costs are still high, maybe even higher than they were last year, but prices are down. So a lot of stress on the farm, a lot of stress, and we all understand that. But we’re also dealing with problems that we’ve dealt with for years. We’re used to dealing with problems, labor problems. I’m dealing with that on my farm. You just can’t find anybody to work.

Supply chain disruptions, and I think I used this slide last year talking about how we is having trouble getting product offshore. What seems to me like this year, supply chain problems are closer to the farm. It’s milk trucks getting milk off the farm, it’s feed trucks bringing feed into the farm. It’s getting parts, simple parts that we took for granted we could get anytime we wanted to, but they’re hard to get now and we all understand that. Geopolitical issues, that’s so sad to think of all the innocent people here that’s getting hurt through all this. And then the government shutdown looms again, it’s going to push off a farm bill. The choosing of a new speaker took up valuable time, so just Washington DC froze up. Extreme weather events. We deal with this all the time. Floods, seemed like we’re having floods everywhere, tornadoes, stuff we normally deal with.

And it’s all about the challenges that we have on the farm. We have them all the time, but it just seems like we continue to have more, but we’re familiar with those. We can deal with those. I put this up here because it seems like we’re in the eye of a storm and Jim don’t think I read his columns, but if you read Jim Mulhern’s columns last week, he talked about us being in the eye of the storm right now, and it does feel like that with prices where they’re at, margins where they’re at. All this stuff going on. I believe we are in the eye of the storm, but we always, as farmers, we anticipate a moment before the dawn, before things turn, before things get good again. And one of the things I learned at the IDF meeting was the rest of the world looks to us and a lot of it, they’re envious.

They’re envious because we got a farm program. They don’t have the heavy hand of government telling them what to do. We’ve got a self-governing program. We’ve got a government that recognizes what we’re doing with sustainability. We’re doing it ourself. It’s not being mandated down from the top and we’re doing … And other governments are pushing their farmers back and we’re not seeing that done here. We’re doing it ourself. We’re taking care of our own. Today we produce more milk using fewer and fewer natural resources. In the 10 years between 2007 and 2017, we’re using 30% less water, 21% less land, and 19% smaller carbon footprint. That’s pretty impressive. We’re revitalizing rural communities. For every dollar generated in dairy farming, it turns over three to seven times in local communities generating 750 billion in the United States. Dairy production provides livelihoods for a billion people. Out of the 8.1 billion people that’s in the world, 12% of the world population derives income from dairy.

Pretty impressive. We’re nourishing families around the world through milk’s unbeatable nutritional value. I’ve dairied for a long time, through good times and bad times, but there’s never been a time that I haven’t laid my head down on my pillow at night and been proud of what I accomplished on my farm. Putting the most nourishing, most nutritious product known to man in that milk tank. And when that truck leaves, I know I’ve done something good. And you have too for a world sometimes when it’s hard to find good. Our ability to evolve how we work and adapt and change our resiliency is becoming more and more important. This year we came together as an industry to unite around a number of issues that helped build that resiliency. Together we worked to make every drop count, every meeting, count every call, every email, every handshake. We had to because we had too much to do.

And National Milk worked with member co-ops, farm bureaus, state dairy organizations to come to consensus on the most substantial issues. Even going back to 2021, when you talk about federal milk marketing order modernization, we worked hard to get these things done and we also did something the secretary asked us to do. The secretary said the industry needs to be together, and farmers came together and got it done. A lot of people in the room were part of this. A lot of you testified, and I had somebody in the room there in the hearing that would text me anytime a farmer was getting ready to testify, and whether I was in the tractor or the barn or wherever I was at, I’d try to dial in and listen. And the humility by which all of you did that was amazing. Talking about your farms, talking about the stress that’s on the farms, talking about what you needed for the future for your business to survive.

I can tell you you made a difference. Nobody knows what the outcome’s going to be, but you telling your story made a difference. And I was sitting there thinking about you, thinking about the stress we have from a margin standpoint, and the attorneys on the other side really grilled you. We didn’t think that would happen, but they really did. Some of you pretty hard, and I’m sitting there thinking about that attorney and making $1,000 an hour and you’re busting your behind to try to do what you do on your farm. It really irritated me, but you did a heck of a job. Thank you. We all know that once work ends on the farm bill, we always begin work again. And I think you’re going to hear in one of the breakout sessions this afternoon about where we’re at on the farm bill.

We’re probably going to get an extension. We’re not going to get a farm bill passed. We need to know what’s in a farm bill so we know how to work, but it’s going to be pushed off. So we’re going to have an extension and we’ve been working to implement the next version of farm, Farm 5.0. We’ve worked the last couple of years putting that together and the board came up with a consensus and passed it I think either in March or June. I don’t remember what month, but that goes into effect July of 2024. Then sustainable nutrition. Dairy offers the most complete nutritional package available, and what’s amazing is that we produce more milk, we’ll continue to use fewer natural resources, and that’s the definition of sustainable nutrition.

At the Global Dairy GDP meeting in Chicago here a few weeks ago undersecretary Bonnie made a statement and he said, “There’s two things that we’ve got to do. We’ve got to feed a hungry world and we’ve got to have dairy to help do that, and we’ve got to do it in a sustainable way.” Well, I went over a while ago how we are sustainable. We all know that, but it’s very … I don’t know the right word. It felt good to me to hear the undersecretary say, “We’ve got to have dairy to help that.” Because that’s such a contrast to other countries in the world. I think we’re positioned very well to take advantage of some of these things. What we do on our farms every day is sustainable. For years, we’ve talked about sustainability in terms of environmental stewardship, how that translates into financial value for farms, and now it’s the financial values there. John talked about his digester. You take solar panels, wind, a lot of things is going on on a farm that’s generating electricity to run your farms, to run your neighbor’s households.

We’re there now. What we need though is through conservation funding in the Farm Bill through USDA grants through state and federal programs, there’s real money available to help us continue to do that. And we will. All of you, all of us, we do sustainable things if it’s profitable for our farm to do it. We can’t just invest in something that’s not going to be profitable, but if it’s a way that we can do it, we’re going to be all over it. We always have. That’s why we’re where we’re at today. And so many parts of the world, dairy’s providing for families through its essential nutrition through the job is provided through its benefits to rural communities.

And no imitation food from a nut a bean or grain can hold a candle to dairy’s nutritional package. We all know that. That’s why it’s important to keep fighting the fight on plant-based alternative labeling. And in the guidance that was issued earlier this year, FDA recognized and admitted that plant-based alternatives are nutritionally inferior to real dairy. I wonder how much it cost the government to come up with that. It’s not hard to figure out.

Dairy protein plays a critical role in feeding people around the world, and it can’t be replaced by alternatives, including plant-based. Consumers have the right to understand how they’re nourishing their families, and we’re going to continue to advocate for the Dairy Pride Act to try to get that passed in Congress. And we’re going to continue to fight for more flavored milk in schools, higher fat levels, especially for those whose children whose main source of nutrition is through the school milk program. Milk is essential to their diets, and we’re not going to give up that fight, and we’re all part of an industry that’s doing remarkable things. Thanks to your leadership and the people in this room, we are succeeding. We are winning.