Connecting dairy producers on an international level was the focus of the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin (PDPW) Business Conference, held March 18-19 in Madison, Wisconsin.

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

Rabobank global dairy strategist Tim Hunt brought the optimistic message to dairy producers that “milk prices will rise again.” He acknowledged the U.S.’s advantages over foreign competition, including competitive cost of production, capital availability and solid trade relationships.

Mary Keough Ledman explained local dairy prices as a result of international influence, noting lower export demand and the strengthening of the U.S. dollar.

Jay Heeg, Linda White, Dan scheider“Right now the value of the euro is falling while the dollar is going up,” the dairy economist said. “This means it’s hard for other countries to buy our products. In fact, some of those nations are actually starting to export dairy products here to the U.S.”

Former Virginia Tech professor and economist David Kohl brought a global message to PDPW as well. Emerging markets around the world that have been top importers of U.S. crops are seeing an economic slowdown, and he warned of the inconsistency of China as a trade partner. He urged dairy producers to travel abroad in order to gain a worldwide perspective of the industry.


Men eating pie“You need to travel overseas,” Kohl said, noting that European consumer and regulatory trends set the fashion for what U.S. dairy producers will see in the future.

The conference also featured international visitors, including Michael and Geraldine Murphy from Ireland and Eckhard Meiners from Germany, to discuss the challenges and opportunities as quotas go away in the European Union. Like many U.S. dairy producers, labor and land availability are among their top concerns as they enter the open market.

“Land is the new quota,” Murphy stated, quoting average figures of $12,000 an acre and as high as $20,000.

event attendees

A charitable pie-eating contest took place during the event to benefit the Professional Dairy Producers Foundation. The contest successfully raised $30,000 for the non-profit group that raises funds and awards grants for various dairy educational programs nationwide. Dairy farmer Mark Diederichs of Malone, Wisconsin, took home champion honors.

In addition to five top-notch keynote speakers, the conference featured 35 additional educational opportunities in the form of breakout sessions, hands-on learning labs, panels and mini-sessions.PD

PHOTO 1: “Supply chain integrity and security will become increasingly important locally and globally,” according to Tim Hunt, global dairy strategist for Rabobank.

PHOTO 2: PDPW members elected two new active dairy farmers and re-elected one incumbent to the PDPW board of directors. Pictured from left are: Jay Heeg, Colby, Wisconsin; Linda White, Reedsburg, Wisconsin (incumbent); and Dan Scheider, Freeport, Illinois. Retiring from the board were dairymen Walter Meinholz and Keith York.

PHOTO 3: Three men got messy for a good cause. Dairyman Mark Diederichs duked it out with Matt Repinski of Winfield Solutions and Jeff Montsma of Agropur Inc., to compete in a hands-free pie-eating fundraiser for the Professional Dairy Producers Foundation.

PHOTO 4: There were educational opportunities around every corner at the conference, including 18 “Learning Lounge” sessions. These 30-minute presentations covered topics ranging from labor laws to drones. Photos by Ray Merritt.

peggy coffeen

Peggy Coffeen
Progressive Dairyman