Western United Dairymen will hold its annual convention March 4-6 at the Double Tree Hotel in Rohnert Park, California. The convention's theme is "Field of Dreams."

The following are pre-event comments from speakers scheduled to present at the convention.

Ken Fransen
Bolen Fransen LLP
Session topic: Dairy FarmSuccession

Q. Why is this topic important?

A. Dairy farm succession planning is critically needed for two reasons. First, without proper planning, dairies will increasingly be lost to estate taxes that will soon be at a permanent 45 percent tax rate. Second, proper planning is needed to assure proper leadership of the farm in a way that does not cause conflict within the family.


Q. What do you hope attendees will take away from your presentation?

A. Dairy farmers attending the session will become aware of the need for succession planning and why they must act now in light of changes proposed by our new Congress. They will also be introduced to tools and techniques they can use in their own families to provide for the continuation of their dairies for future generations. PD

Tiffany LaMendola
Western United Dairymen
Session topic: Pricing, Futures, Forecast

Q. Why is this topic important?

A. Dairy families are experiencing severe financial hardship. Milk prices have plummeted while the cost of production has skyrocketed to record highs. The months to come will be some of the hardest financial times California dairy producers have ever faced.

Domestic and global demand for U.S. dairy products has drastically declined as the world economy is grappling with an unprecedented economic slowdown. U.S. consumers are struggling with the largest job losses since World War II, the worst loss in stock values since the Great Depression, a credit crunch, plummeting home values, frozen lending and all-time low consumer confidence. World markets are not faring any better.

Current U.S. milk production growth is along historical trends (1.4 percent year-over-year growth in December 2008), but decline in demand for dairy products due to the weak general economy both here and abroad is the largest factor contributing to drastic declines in producer prices.

Q. What do you hope attendees will take away from your presentation?

A. I hope to provide dairy producers with a better understanding of the current milk price situation and all the factors at play. Current milk price indicators and forecasts for the remainder of 2009 will also be reviewed. PD

Gary Smith
Colorado State University
Session topic: Animal welfare

Q. What are the most important aspects of animal welfare for dairymen to know about in 2009?

A. Of total U.S. domestic beef production, 14 percent is from young, fed dairy cattle (primarily Holstein steers) and 6 percent is from salvage dairy cows.Dairy steer carcasses are very desirable in both USDA Quality Grade (grading Prime and Premium Choice much more often than do carcasses from beef steers/heifers) and USDA Yield Grade (being substantially leaner than beef steer/heifer carcasses). Were it not for Holstein steers, we could not meet domestic or international needs for Prime beef. Beef from salvage dairy cows is found in the U.S. marketplace as primal cuts in supermarkets, as main-menu buffet meals and entrée items in restaurants and on airlines, as sliced beef roast in quick-service restaurants and as beef snacks in convenience stores – not just as ground beef or in sausage.

Dairymen can increase the value of salvage cows by improving management practices, conscientious monitoring of health and condition, feeding of dry cows prior to marketing and better timing of sales. Beef and dairy cattle producers must be “squeaky clean” on the care/handling of their livestock because consumers are losing confidence in the industry’s humane handling of livestock.

The Center For Food Integrity (October 2008) reported in a national survey that only 16 percent of respondents “strongly agree that U.S. meat is derived from humanely treated animals” (29 percent strongly disagree) and 47 percent of respondents “strongly support a law in my state to ensure the humane treatment of farm animals” (10 percent strongly disagree). PD

Anthony Raimondo
Attorney with McCormick, Barstow, Sheppard Wayte & Carruth
Session topic: A labor update for dairy producers

Q. Why is this topic important?

A. In troubled economic times, laborissues typically become more acute. As employees face their own financial struggles, they are more susceptible tounion promises ofhigher wages, better benefits and more job security. When unemployment is low, there are fewer lawsuits because employees who find new jobs quickly are more likely to put the past behind them.But in bad times, employees who lose their jobs are more likely to sue theirformer employer because of their own financial desperation.

The dairy industry is no exception, andunion organizing and legal actions against dairymen are on the rise.The only good news is that through advance planning and preparation, dairymen canfeel confident that they will bein a good position to protect theirbusinesses and their assets from these threats.

Q. What do you hope attendees will take away from your presentation?

A. Dairymen who attend the presentation will receive an up-to-date assessment of theclimate affecting labor and employment issues in the dairy industry. Attendees will hear about basic business practices that they can implement to protect theirbusinesses and to place themselves in a strong position in the event they face union organizing,labor commissioner claims or investigations, Cal/OSHA investigationsor lawsuits for discrimination, wrongful termination or wage and hour violations.This presentation will provide an overview of steps dairies can take to proactively protect the business they have worked so hard to build. PD

Cynthia Cory
California Farm Bureau Federation
Session topic: New diesel truck rule for California

Q. Why is this topic important?

A. Most people are aware, but if they aren’t they need to be, that a new statewide diesel law was passed, and it will affect every diesel fuel truck that operates in California. It was voted on and approved December 12, 2008. It will require all diesel trucks and buses over 14,000 Gross Vehicle Weight Rating, basically anything bigger than a pickup, to be replaced on a replacement schedule, and the older vehicles have to go first.

The thought there is that the newer the engine, the cleaner the engine and the cleaner the emissions. The ultimate goal is to get folks into a 2010 engine. The way that could happen is by buying one when they become available or by buying soot traps for your current engine. It has to do with two pollutant criteria: particulate matter and nitrous oxide (NOx). It will have a huge effect on folks. Agriculture will have some flexibility in their compliance and will have a little longer to comply depending on if they can stay under a certain mileage threshold. So I will be explaining the details about that.

Q. What do you hope attendees will take away from your presentation?

A. Depending on their fleet of trucks, and a fleet is one or more trucks, I want producers to know how they can comply with this new rule. It is important that they know the details. While they may not need to do something tomorrow, they will need to do something in the next couple years, and this presentation will help them plan for it. PD