After a year most experts are calling the worst dairy economic climate since the depression, California dairy families were in the mood to hear some brighter forecasts as they gathered in Modesto, California for Western United Dairymen’s annual convention. Several speakers gave credence to the convention theme “To a Brighter Future” as they noted some encouraging economic developments.
More than 500 people representing California’s dairy families, friends, allied industries and supporters heard optimistic messages that while the worst of the dairy economic crisis is behind them, stronger marketing efforts will be necessary for the industry to continue to climb out of its worst economic situation in recent memory.
Nationally recognized dairy economist Jerry Dryer focused on export market potential and told dairy producers they need to think about “what producers might do to add value to their milk? Where are the opportunities to add value to milk?”
The potential for increasing exports is there, said Dryer, but the problem is that most U.S. milk products do not match what overseas customers want. Potentially desirable products include milk protein concentrate, fat-filled powders and total milk protein, he pointed out.
California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary A.G. Kawamura told the audience, “You need to decide if you are in the supply-management business or demand-creation business.”
The economic crisis indicates that it is time for the industry to consider how it changes to meet the challenges of up and down markets.
“You have to ask yourself whether the box you built for yourself is the right one to stand on or should you build onto that box or a different box,” noted Kawamura.
Jerry Kozak, chief executive officer for the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), provided a national perspective and outlined components of a plan being considered by the NMPF’s strategic planning committee.
“Tomorrow’s federal dairy policy and programs must include a new and comprehensive approach which allows producers to take advantage of changing markets and not be overwhelmed by them,” said Kozak.
The proposed plan would, “Shift the focus from attempting to reduce price movements in the market place to an emphasis on risk management mechanisms designed to protect and stabilize individual producer incomes,” explained Kozak.
Titled the Dairy Producer Income Protection Program (DPIPP), it is intended to protect dairy farmers against significant or catastrophic losses in income by guaranteeing a margin that is equal to the all-milk price minus feed costs.
Revitalization of the CWT program is part of the new program, said Kozak, but NMPF is not yet ready to announce the launch of a new herd retirement program. The herd-retirement of late 2008, plus the three herd-retirements in 2009 removed more than 250,000 cows from the nation’s dairy herd.
Dairy challenges are not solely economic, pointed out speaker David Martosko, director of research for the Center for Consumer Freedom in Washington, D.C, who spoke about the group’s recently launched website HumaneWatch.org , which tracks the activities of the Humane Society of the U.S. HSUS masquerades as a protector of pets while plotting the demise of the dairy industry, Martosko warned his audience.
"They are not promoting kinder treatment of farm animals," said Martosko, director of research for the Center for Consumer Freedom in Washington, D.C. "They are promoting the abolition of farm animals."
Martosko said many people believe that the society mainly funds dog and cat shelters when in fact it spends most of its hefty income on lobbying, salaries and political donations. He told the dairy farmers that Wayne Pacelle, the president and chief executive officer of the Humane Society of the United States, is "the biggest enemy you have."
As the curtain rang down on the convention, organizers announced the next annual convention on March 16-18, 2011 in Visalia.
ABOVE RIGHT: CDFA Secretary A.G. Kawamura and outgoing WUD president Ray Souza discussed the outlook for the California dairy industry prior to Kawamura's address to the WUD convention Thursday.
ABOVE LEFT: Jerry Kozak, CEO, National Milk Producers Federation, discusses dairy industry concerns with audience members following his talk at the WUD convention last week in Modesto. ( Photos by Mark Looker )
For more information about Western United Dairymen, visit www.westernuniteddairymen.com
Western United Dairymen