FMMO Hearing Shows Strength of Co-ops

USDA’s Federal Milk Marketing Order hearing in Carmel, IN, is providing the dairy industry with mountains of valuable information and insight that goes well beyond facts and figures.

The hearing isn’t only about shaping milk pricing; it’s also showing what needs improving in our industry, and it’s an opportunity to demonstrate what keeps dairy strong. And nothing is on display more emphatically than the power of dairy farmers and the cooperatives they own, and the importance of the cooperative structure to future progress in dairy, at all levels of production, processing and marketing.

Our breadth of membership and depth of milk marketing expertise has risen to every occasion during this hearing, relentlessly advancing the consensus proposal we adopted after two years of exhaustive study and discussion.

That plan, the only comprehensive solution that adequately makes the adjustments the FMMO system needs, would not have come about in the first place were we not able to rely on our farmer-cooperative members and staff to lead the industry. And without the unified voice a farmer cooperative provides its members in policy discussions, we never would have been able to achieve the unanimity in our membership that was necessary for USDA to take up our plan at all.

That final point is important. Cooperative membership holds multiple benefits for member-owners, beginning with having a guaranteed market for milk each day, but adding up to much more. Cooperatives provide technical expertise and risk-management assistance. Cooperatives pool supplies and capital, finance exports, enhance farmers’ bargaining position with proprietary processors, and even enable those farmers to become processors themselves.

These benefits have allowed dairy farmers to build multimillion-dollar processing plants in local communities, access needed financial resources, and capitalize on efficiencies in areas like milk hauling. Membership in a cooperative is the best way, and sometimes the only way, for a dairy farmer to get products to market and earn a decent return from doing so. Simply put, cooperatives make farmers stronger.

But for cooperatives to remain strong, they also need their members to actively engage.

That’s why it’s important to always remain vigilant against any effort to weaken cooperatives by limiting their ability to speak with a unified voice or adequately represent the best interests of their members. From time to time we hear of efforts on Capitol Hill or elsewhere to dilute the power of cooperatives to speak with one voice on votes on issues such as the Federal Milk Marketing Order system. Offered under the guise of encouraging individual choice, in practice these efforts are more like “divide and conquer” – chipping away at the benefits cooperatives provide by weakening their ability to pursue their members’ best interests.

Such efforts tend to be pursued by the same interests that, in the end, would rather that co-ops go away: companies that would prefer the benefits (to them) of vertical integration; agribusinesses that would rather not bargain with co-ops to get a better price for farmers; individual farmers who don’t feel they “need” co-ops to succeed (even as they buy inputs and sign contracts with them); and political ideologues who just don’t like the idea of farmers helping one another for mutual benefit. We’ve always been able to successfully resist them because, in the end, we use the very power we have to work together and protect our members’ interests.

As we celebrate October as National Co-op Month, with Farm Bill discussions underway and FMMO modernization making its way toward an eventual producer vote, we stand ever ready to defend cooperatives and their principles. Every day, at the federal order hearing in Indiana, we’re proving just how valuable to dairy the cooperative model remains. And every day across America, on farms, in milk trucks and in supermarkets, we remain proud of all we do to facilitate orderly marketing of milk and keep this nation nourished – and will continue to do so, with a strong, united voice, for many years to come.


 

Jim Mulhern

President & CEO, NMPF

 

 

 

 

 

NMPF Board of Directors Names Gregg Doud New President and CEO

The National Milk Producers Federation’s Board of Directors today unanimously voted to name Gregg Doud, a globally recognized agricultural leader, as its next president and CEO, succeeding Jim Mulhern, who is retiring at the end of the year.

“Dairy farmers across the nation are pleased to endorse a true champion of agriculture, someone who both understands the hard work we do and the opportunities and challenges we face both here and abroad,” said Randy Mooney, chairman of the NMPF Board. “NMPF has long been blessed with leadership that’s been able to take its advocacy for dairy to a higher level. We strongly believe that Gregg Doud more than amply provides the expertise, the background, and the passion we will need as we navigate a challenging, but promising, new era.”

Doud has served in numerous leadership roles in trade association and government work in his more than 30-year career in agricultural policy and economics, most recently at Aimpoint Research, a global intelligence firm specializing in agriculture and food. From 2018 to 2021 he served as Chief Agricultural Negotiator for the U.S. Office of the Trade Representative, appointed by President Donald Trump and confirmed by the Senate, where he led numerous successful efforts to create a fair, prosperous environment for U.S. agricultural exports, including the U.S.-China “Phase One” agreement and the USMCA negotiations.

Before that role, he served as president of the Commodity Markets Council, a trade association for commodities exchanges and industry counterparts; as senior professional staff on the Senate Agriculture Committee; and as chief economist for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, among other roles.

Doud said that as the organization’s next leader, he’s excited to engage on critical issues facing dairy farmers. “From the policy arena to new technologies, there are many great new opportunities for dairy producers at home and internationally,” he said. “It is a tremendous privilege to have the opportunity in these exciting times to lead NMPF, one of Washington’s oldest, most prestigious and well-respected agricultural trade associations.”

Doud was born and raised on a 1,000-acre grain, hog and cattle farm near Mankato, KS. He is a graduate of Kansas State University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science and a master’s in agricultural economics. He remains actively engaged in production agriculture through partnership in a cow-calf operation and lives with his wife and two children on their horse farm in Lothian, MD.

Doud will begin official work at NMPF in September as its chief operating officer before assuming the role of president and CEO upon Mulhern’s retirement.

NMPF’s Bjerga on March Board Meeting

 

NMPF Senior Vice President of Communications Alan Bjerga discusses the organization’s recently concluded board of directors in Arlington, VA in an interview with RFD-TV. NMPF’s board unanimously approved a proposal to modernize the Federal Milk Marketing Order system to benefit farmers and better reflect today’s dairy industry. NMPF board members also discussed the ongoing fight against plant-based milk imitators, as well as advances in animal care and sustainability.

NMPF Lauds Bipartisan Ag Climate Measures in Appropriations Package

The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) today commended Congress for including the Growing Climate Solutions Act and the SUSTAINS Act in its final fiscal year 2023 budget package. These measures will help dairy farmers seek additional sustainability opportunities as they work to fulfill the dairy sector’s voluntary, producer-led goal of becoming greenhouse gas neutral or better by 2050.

“Environmental markets and conservation programs have the potential to meaningfully assist dairy producers as they work to meet their 2050 environmental stewardship goals,” said NMPF president and CEO Jim Mulhern. “The Growing Climate Solutions Act and the SUSTAINS Act will strengthen these important tools.”

The Growing Climate Solutions Act, authored by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-MI, and Senator Mike Braun, R-IN, passed the Senate last June on a bipartisan vote of 92-8. The legislation would enable USDA to register technical service providers that help farmers implement stewardship practices that can generate credits on environmental markets. In turn, producers will be better positioned to participate in these important markets. Reps. Abigail Spanberger, D-VA, and Don Bacon, R-NE, have introduced companion legislation in the House.

The SUSTAINS Act, authored by House Agriculture Committee Chairman-elect Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson, R-PA, passed the House Agriculture Committee in May on a bipartisan voice vote. The measure would allow private sector funds to supplement existing funding for farm bill conservation programs, which are continuously oversubscribed. The bill is an innovative approach to boosting funding for USDA conservation programs, which provide important technical assistance to dairy farmers for a variety of stewardship practices.

In addition to the sponsors of both bills, committee leaders Rep. David Scott, D-GA, and Sen. John Boozman, R-AR, also played important roles in finalizing the bipartisan package.

“We commend the leaders of the Agriculture Committees – Senators Debbie Stabenow and John Boozman and Reps. David Scott and GT Thompson – for working together to fashion this bipartisan agreement on agricultural climate legislation,” Mulhern said. “We look forward to working with them and their colleagues to build on this progress in the new year.”

NMPF’s Mulhern on FMMO Modernization and the State of Dairy

 

NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern recaps progress made at NMPF’s annual meeting in Denver last week, including unanimous support for a Federal Milk Modernization Order modernization framework. Mulhern also talks about next steps on FMMO modernization and highlights the current popularity of dairy products and their nutritional benefits, noting the highest U.S. per capita consumption since 1959. Mulhern speaks on the “Agriculture of America” podcast.

Live, from the Dairy Bar, it’s NMPF!

 

NMPF Senior Vice President of Communications Alan Bjerga gives an impromptu tour of the Dairy Bar and the Joint Annual Meeting in Denver. From delicious products to critical information, the Dairy Bar has it all — and the meeting itself resulted in gains for dairy producers, as detailed in this interview with RFD-TV.

NMPF’s Bjerga on Annual Meeting, Dairy’s Challenges

 

NMPF Senior Vice President of Communications Alan Bjerga talks about some of the challenges dairy farmers face, and how they’re facing it together, in an interview with the National Association of Farm Broadcasters. As NMPF members gather in Denver this week for the organization’s annual meeting, milk-pricing modernization, sustainability and stewardship, and international trade are all taking the spotlight.

Hall of Famer Stammer Says Cooperatives as Valuable as Ever

To celebrate National Cooperative Month (and the centennial of the Capper-Volstead Act that underpins farm cooperatives to this day), Cooperative Hall of Fame Member Rich Stammer, former CEO of Agri-Mark, says the values of cooperatives remain important as new challenges to dairy farmers emerge.

“As more and more people moved away from the farm, didn’t know anything about farming, co-ops have played a bigger role in informing consumers about dairy and farmers and what they do,” he said. “We have attacks from animal rights groups. Dairy farmers take great care of their animals, but getting that message out to consumers with all the negative things that come down, is an important role of co-ops. We have a program, our FARM program, basically to ensure animals are treated right, to have a measurable way of animal care, and to get that message out to consumers about how well we care for our animals.

“You have more and more challenges on the environmental side of our business. And dairy co-ops have become very involved in sustainability efforts, and again, showing how sustainable dairy farms are and how we take care of our land. We are much more involved in getting messages out to consumers, representing farmers and environmental laws, and there’s so many areas,” he said.

For more about the value cooperatives provide, NMPF has a page here. The full podcast is below. You can also find the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and Amazon Music. A transcript is linked below. Broadcast outlets may use the MP3 file. Please attribute information to NMPF.


Cooperative Spirit Promotes Dairy’s Progress

October is significant in the NMPF calendar. Many years, including this one, it features our annual meeting, when dairy farmers gather to share a common voice on important policies and represent the best practices and advances this industry has to offer. It’s also National Co-op Month, a time dear to our own hearts as the nationwide federation of dairy cooperatives. The principles of self-help and pursuit of common goals that cooperatives embody are core values of our organization, ideals we see lived by our members every day.

A very public example of how co-op leadership combined with sound public policy can advance dairy and serve broader communities came in September, as NMPF members received a significant portion of USDA’s $2.8 billion in funding for 70 projects in the first round of awards under the department’s Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities initiative. California Dairies Inc., Dairy Farmers of America, Land O’Lakes, and the Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association are leading or partnering on specific projects that may receive up to $245 million in funding that will further industry goals on greenhouse gas emissions reductions, optimal resource use and sustainability.

These member cooperatives, along with others in dairy who are building a better future through climate-smart agriculture projects, should be commended for taking a proactive approach to continuing dairy’s leadership within all agriculture. Following on the heels of the Inflation Reduction Act — which promises more opportunities for solutions that create both a more sustainable planet and a sustainable future for many dairy farms — it’s a powerful investment, and a significant signal from USDA that co-ops have the tools to succeed in meeting 21st century challenges.

Speaking of challenges … anyone who has followed industry discussions since the 2020 pandemic knows of the need to modernize the Federal Milk Marketing Order system, as well as NMPF’s leadership in crafting a plan that can gain broad-based support from farmers across the country. After more than a year of examination of important and relevant issues by our Economic Policy Committee, along with a task force created to craft consensus on critical topics, and wide-ranging discussions with our leadership and throughout the industry, we’ve gained important insights into what changes are critical and which ones need extra attention to get right.

For example: Any solution that works for farmers and the entire industry needs to address FMMOs comprehensively. Milk-pricing formulas, to name one area, need to reflect milk component composition in 2022 – not the lower levels assumed by the industry experts of nearly a quarter century ago. Pricing formulas also should better reflect what dairy products are being sold in 2022 so that price reporting covers the right markets, in the right proportion for a fair price. At the same time, addressing make-allowances — which haven’t been adjusted in nearly 15 years and don’t fully reflect present-day manufacturing costs — is important.

It’s also clear that changes made to FMMOs must be implemented gradually enough to keep markets calm. Most importantly, solutions need broad buy-in from farmers first, closely followed by everyone else. Proposals that have advanced from our task force are ones that had strong support among many of the experts who crafted them, ensuring that a firm consensus stands behind our proposals.

To some, that may slow down progress; but proposed progress that ends up being eventually rejected leaves everyone back where they started. Our goal is to move forward and forge lasting solutions work for all regions of the country, all sizes of farms, and perspectives from across dairy.

We’ve come a long way toward meeting that goal, in no small part due to the ethic that we, as a federation of cooperatives, follow of making sure that our efforts benefit all. But our work is far from over: Any plan we advance will need to go before a USDA-directed federal order hearing – we’re aiming for next year – that would be subject to a producer vote on a modernized FMMO system, if USDA approves a plan. In the meantime, as our members create consensus, we’re also consulting with other farmer groups, other industry organizations, and experts from across dairy to make sure our proposal addresses widely shared concerns and attracts wide support.

As the largest dairy-farmer organization in the United States, as well as the one that, due to the structure of cooperatives, also represents farmers invested in their own milk processing capacity, we’re well positioned to lead Federal Milk Marketing Order system modernization, and we’re looking forward to discussions that yield a proposal that will nourish this entire industry for a generation, and potentially beyond.

That is how our members lead, and that’s what we will celebrate, both at our annual meeting, throughout National Co-op Month, and as we move forward on FMMO modernization. The work is never-ending. But neither is our progress.


Jim Mulhern

President and CEO, National Milk Producers Federation