Those attending the recent Western United Dairymen annual convention in Temecula, California heard optimistic predictions about the tremendous potential that dairy exports hold for the dairy industry, while at the same time cheering the news that progress has been made on eliminating federal support for ethanol.

Three leading California dairy processing executives provided their outlooks on the potential for growth in foreign markets for California dairy products.

Citing estimates that the world’s population will increase to 9 billion by 2050, up from today’s 6 billion, Andrei Mikhalevsky, new CEO of California Dairies, Inc. , said, “The demand for food and water will be astronomical. The time to act is now. Competition will grow, especially from South America and Eastern Europe. Increased trade won’t come to the U.S. by default.”

The export market is an opportunity, “not an unloading ground for U.S. dairy products,” pointed out Kevin Vogt, vice president and general manager of Hilmar Ingredients . Hilmar’s top markets include Japan, China, Korea, Mexico, the Netherlands and Vietnam. While its markets have increased in number over the past five years, Vogt cautioned his audience that “international markets demand significant investment.”

Mike Reidy, senior vice president of supply chain and corporate affairs for Leprino Foods Company , said the world’s increasing appetite for proteins, coupled with limited dairy supplies from other countries, presented a great opportunity for U.S. dairy producers.


“The U.S. needs to take advantage of the window of opportunity as customers come to our market,” said Reidy. We need to make sure we don’t miss out on this chance.”

WUD continues its important legislative advocate efforts in both Sacramento and Washington D.C. to work on behalf of its members as they continue to struggle with pricing, trade and environmental issues.

Charlie Garrison of The Garrison Group, WUD’s Washington D.C.-based legislative advocate, told delegates that California dairy producers scored a clear win on New Year’s Eve when two of the three legs of the federal support structure for corn ethanol expired — the 45-cent per gallon blenders’ credit and the 54-cent per gallon tariff on imported ethanol.

Garrison hailed the work of Congressmen Wally Herger, Dennis Cardoza, Devin Nunes, Jim Costa and Jeff Denham for supporting the end to the blenders’ credit and tariff.

“Their work will continue in 2012 as they support one or both bills that have been introduced to address the final leg of federal support propping up corn ethanol, which is the mandate that increases the amount of bio-fuel that must be blended into gasoline every year,” pointed out Garrison.

One bill would end the mandate entirely and the other would limit the size of the annual mandate to USDA estimates of available corn stocks.


Gary Conover, WUD’s director of government relations, said the need to educate members of the California Legislature about the issues affecting California dairy producers had never been more important or more difficult.

“Many legislators have a limited understanding of farming and we spend countless hours educating them about legislation that affects the way we do business,” said Conover. “This can be a time consuming task but our elected officials need to be reminded that agriculture is the number one economic engine in our state, providing hundreds of thousands of jobs and producing millions in revenues for the state.”

WUD’s members deserve credit for their calls to Gov. Jerry Brown, asking him to veto the “card-check” bill that would have permitted agricultural employees to select their labor representatives by submitting a petition to the Agricultural Labor Relations Board accompanied by representation cards.

WUD has consistently opposed this legislation and this year marked the fifth year the measure has been vetoed.

“Our members played a direct role in making sure this legislation did not advance,” said Conover. “They understand the importance of personal involvement in the legislative process.”

The WUD board of directors selected its executive committee for 2012. The leadership team consists of President Tom Barcellos, Porterville; Vice President Lucas Deniz, Petaluma; Second Vice President Simon Vander Woude, Merced; Secretary Domenic Carinalli, Jr., Sebastopol; Treasurer Justin Gioletti, Turlock; and Executives at Large Jamie Bledsoe, Riverdale, and Larry Pietrowski, Madera. The board thanked outgoing President Jamie Bledsoe of Riverdale for his two terms of service.


WUD administrative assistant Kathleen Reuter was honored upon her retirement after 15 years of service. CEO Michael Marsh presented her with a plaque and retirement gift at the convention’s banquet, where Kathleen received a standing ovation from the appreciative crowd.

The 2013 Western United Dairymen annual convention will be held in Sacramento on a date to be determined. PD

TOP RIGHT: Charlie Garrison of The Garrison Group provided a Washington D.C. perspective on legislative and regulatory issues affecting the California dairy industry as he addressed Western United Dairymen’s delegate meeting.

MIDDLE RIGHT: Gary Conover, Western United Dairymen’s director of government relations, updated WUD delegates on legislative and regulatory issues being considered by the California legislature.

BOTTOM RIGHT: Western United Dairymen’s Administrative Assistant Kathleen Reuter was honored upon her retirement after 15 years of service. CEO Michael Marsh presented her with a plaque and retirement gift at the convention’s banquet, where Kathleen received a standing ovation from the appreciative crowd. Photos by Mark Looker.

Mark Looker
Communications Director
Western United Dairymen