“Inspire” was the theme for the 24th annual Professional Dairy Producers Business Conference, which fulfilled its purpose of motivating and exciting more than 1,600 dairy producers and industry partners, March 16-17 in Madison, Wisconsin.

Coffeen peggy
Coffeen is a former editor and podcast host with Progressive Dairy. 

Inspiration was certainly around every corner of the Alliant Energy Center, with a total of 48 speakers and presenters tackling top-of-mind topics from global markets to land values to consumer trends. Dan Basse, president of AgResource Company, officially kicked off the conference with an overview of world market activity, including the impact of the European Union’s quota removal.

New York City fire chief Richard Picciotto

“I don’t see an indication the EU will stand down in milk production going forward. We’re seeing records in dairy product production,” Basse explained. “EU domestic cheese, butter and powder demand will stagnate due to a population decline of 25 million people by 2040. They will be an even more significant exporter.”

However, he maintained an optimistic attitude for U.S. dairy, citing an increased domestic appetite for butter and the potential for product demand in China and other growing nations.

PDPW board of directorsUniversity of Wisconsin agriculture economist Bruce Jones confronted one of the burning questions on dairymen’s minds: Is now the time to buy more land? He cautioned, “If you want to buy land, the lender wants to see a lot of liquidity, cash reserves to withstand short-term adversity. Do you have enough liquidity to comfort the fears of the lender? Lenders want to be investors; they don’t want to be owners.”


Producers got a peek inside the consumer mind with a panel led by Charlie Arnot from the Center for Food Integrity. Beyond price, he said, “Taste and convenience, health and wellness, food safety, environmental and social impact all play a role in consumer decisions.” Annika Stensson from the National Restaurant Association added that people are also looking for a more sophisticated dining experience that is memorable and interesting with expanded choices.

Hands-on-hubs full on hands-on activities Culver’s Restaurant co-founder Craig Culver explained that his franchise reacts to these demands with expanded menu options and focus on food quality and safety.

Beyond the many sessions, attendees enjoyed networking with friends and visiting the more than 200 dairy companies that were part of the trade show.

Save the date for the 2017 PDPW Business Conference on March 15-16, in Madison, Wisconsin, which is sure to be a special event as the organization celebrates its 25th anniversary.  PD

PHOTO 1: Charlie Arnot, CEO of the Center for Food Integrity, led a discussion on consumer choice, featuring panelists Craig Culver (left), co-founder and board chairman for Culver’s Restaurants, and Annika Stensson (right), director of research communications for the National Restaurant Association. Culver reassured dairymen, saying, “… we continue to have a great need for your milk.”

PHOTO 2: New York City fire chief Richard Picciotto shared his inspirational firsthand account as one of the first on the scene of the Sept. 11 attacks.

PHOTO 3: Three Wisconsin dairymen were re-elected to their three-year posts on the PDPW board of directors: Mitch Breunig, Sauk City; Brian Forrest, Stratford; and Marty Hallock, Mondovi. Breunig and Hallock maintain their positions as president and vice president, respectively.

PHOTO 4: At the conference’s Hands-on Hubs, dairy producers fully engaged in hands-on activities like examining postmortem calf lungs and an adult cow necropsy. They also watched a live demonstration led by renowned dairy stockmanship expert Dr. Don Höglund, DVM. Photos by Ray Merritt.

Peggy Coffeen