Communications agency C.O.nxt provides public relations and marketing services for a wide range of companies and organizations, reaching from dairy producers to consumers. As such, they have a bird's-eye view of the “state of dairy” throughout the supply chain.
Rochelle Ripp Schnadt, a senior public relations supervisor, says that – due to high-cost business models – the dairy producers and companies they represent are all entering 2023 “calculated."
“Across the country, there are fewer players with a bigger presence – the same number of dairy cows are represented. So, we’ve noticed a shift in the number of farmers to call on as we help our dairy clients market to their target audiences,” she says. “Dairy retailers are managing their business with smaller margins and calling on large producers and companies with a bigger voice and more negotiation power.”
Pressures and expectations from the consumer side are adding to the already intense demands of the dairy industry. However, although producers and companies face market competition and the need to address sustainability initiatives, optimism is evident, supported by innovation and the efficiencies and opportunities it creates.
“There are advancements on the horizon that will help improve compliance and sustainability, support labor needs, secure prosperity for rural America, create new jobs attractive to new, diverse populations and establish research to help answer questions from the field and barn,” Schnadt says.
In addition to new technology and tools, collaboration and strong relationships between producers and companies will be necessary to overcome supply chain disruptions and labor shortages, while creating and enhancing the positive stories dairy offers on sustainability and climate challenges.
“The efficiency evolution will continue as we get smarter and tuned into the animals and the land we steward,” she says. "The sustainability story we’ve been telling is just getting started, and we have a huge opportunity to show how agriculture is a key piece to resolving so many challenges we’re facing throughout the value chain. Just like good employees, good partnerships will be imperative to remain relevant.”
With all levels of government making decisions impacting dairy, producers and companies must be present at local meetings and represented on federal and international platforms, according to C.O.nxt.
“Farmers and agribusinesses of all kinds, from all parts of the country, need to show up. From local watershed meetings to state ag day events to federal fly-ins offered through many of the checkoff boards,” Schnadt says. “The farm bill will influence the food that our children are recommended to consume during the school day, all the way to impacting the Federal Milk Marketing Orders and international market access for trade relations at a very critical time. Representation of your farm and the agricultural industry is vitally important. Tell your story, people are receptive and interested, take the opportunity to engage.”
The team of C.O.nxt offers five recommendations to navigate the current state of dairy:
- Have conversations. Lean on existing trusted advisers and representatives, or seek new relationships if you’re no longer receiving value. Look for creative solutions to challenges together and build your team of experts to support your business.
- Get back to the basics. Make sure the basics are covered and are at a healthy status – family, nutrition, herd health, finances, etc. Redefine “success” in these areas if needed.
- Education. Take advantage of webinars, trade shows and company-supported scholarships/grants/programs to learn and become more nimble. Getting off the farm to engage with others to keep your mental health in check is equally important.
- Don’t panic, stockpile supplies or buy ahead as much as possible. Supply will continue to return to a new normal. Be patient, we’re all in this together.
- Control what you can. There are many overwhelming variables outside of your control – know what you have influence over and let go of the rest.