During a week that will be remembered for its frigid below-zero temperatures and added weather complications on the farm, more than 450 farmers and allied industry professionals traveled to Green Bay, Wisconsin, for the Dairy Strong Conference, held Jan. 16-18, 2024.

Devaney kimmi
Editor and Podcast Host / Progressive Dairy

Optional tours of GLC Minerals and Schreiber Foods were available for attendees on Jan. 16, followed by a welcome reception and dinner at Lambeau Field that evening.

The next morning, Dairy Business Association (DBA) President Lee Kinnard opened the conference by welcoming everyone to Green Bay.

“For a farm kid from just up the road from here, this is my Christmas,” Kinnard said. “I love talking about farming. I love talking with farmers and really love listening to farmers about what their adventures have been for the last year.”

He also encouraged attendees to visit with trade show exhibitors. Most meals were held in the trade show exhibit hall, along with several presentations on the innovation stage. These sessions provided insights on preventing digital dermatitis, feeding dairy beef, forage quality, magnesium, clean data and grazing heifers.


The first of three keynote speakers was author and geopolitical strategist Thomas Barnett, who discussed what he referred to as the “zone of turbulence,” including climate change, “demographic collapse” and the “insatiable” demands of a global majority middle class.

Three breakout session tracks focused on farm management, sustainability and innovation/policy filled the agenda for most of the day, along with the presentations held on the innovation stage.

In a breakout session about what to expect for ag policy in an election year, Cassandra Kuball discussed several policy issues affecting dairy in 2024, including the farm bill. Kuball is vice president of Torrey Advisory Group, where she provides guidance and representation to clients on a variety of agricultural and food policy issues.

She shared some key political dates, including caucuses, primaries, trials for former President Trump, debates and funding deadlines leading up to election day in November.

“A lot of this is happening before summer, and this is when we anticipate the most work out of Congress,” Kuball said. “Our congressional to-do list was a copy and paste from the end of last year. Not necessarily what you want to see. Congress decided to punt pretty much all the big things to 2024. We’ll see how wise that was.”

Some of the items on the congressional to-do list aside from the farm bill reauthorization are funding the government, border security, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization and the tax package.

“A lot of the work on the farm bill is done,” she said. “[However,] we have a very different House version than Senate version, so there’s a lot of work to do even though the bulk is complete. We still need a topline number. We don’t know what we are working with yet. So watching the budget appropriations process is going to tell us about how it’s going to impact the farm bill.”

Timing is up in the air during an election year, and it is yet to be seen whether we will see a completed farm bill later this year or in 2025, she said. In an audience poll, the majority of breakout session attendees said they anticipate a new farm bill in 2025.

During the Q&A at the end of her presentation, Kuball encouraged the audience to get involved either through their cooperative, Farm Bureau or other organizations and engage with elected officials.

Two dairy producers received awards for their advocacy and community-building efforts. Tom Crave of Crave Brothers Farm in Waterloo, Wisconsin, received DBA’s Advocate of the Year Award. New this year was the Community Builder Award, which was presented to Doug Grotegut from Grotegut Dairy Farm Inc. in Newton, Wisconsin. This inaugural award was presented by DBA and Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin.


Doug Grotegut (left) accepted the inaugural Community Builder Award from Dairy Business Association President Lee Kinnard (center) and Chad Vincent, CEO of Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin, (right) on Jan. 17 during DBA’s Dairy Strong conference. Courtesy photo.

A highlight for many was Wednesday evening’s keynote address from Baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr., who spent time visiting with attendees and taking photos after his presentation. In his speech, Ripken Jr. recounted some lessons from his baseball career. He began by sharing a memory of his first endorsement with a local dairy association.

Among the wisdom and insight shared throughout his speech, Ripken Jr. discussed how he navigated change when working with nine different managers during his 21 years as a Major League Baseball player.


In his keynote address, baseball legend Cal Ripken Jr. recounted some lessons from his baseball career and shared wisdom with the audience. Photo by Kimmi Devaney.

“I quickly realized that I could sit back and wait to find out what they expect of me, or I could be proactive in the process,” he said. “So, on the first day of spring training, I would walk in and shake the new manager’s hand and say congratulations on being the manager. Then I would take that time to ask them how they saw my spring training unfolding. Most of the time, the answer was pretty consistent: ‘Well Cal, you’ve been doing this for years, how do you see your spring training unfolding?’ So, it would give me the chance to create a plan for every day of spring training. They would thank me, and then they would manage me from that piece of paper.… Some of my teammates got mad and asked, ‘Who's running the team – you or the manager?’ I said all you have to do is have this conversation with the manager. Do you know how many people took me up on that? Zero. I don’t know if they thought it was combative. To me, it’s just common sense…. That’s a simple example of putting some sort of control over things that you don’t think you can control.”

After the DBA and Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative annual meetings on the morning of Jan. 18 (see sidebar for election results), closing keynote speaker Scott Caine, president of Aimpoint Research, discussed risk mitigation, national security and drivers of change. He also shared the pros and cons of four types of operators with varying interest in collaboration, innovation and change.

In the last session before the conference wrapped up, Evan Grong, sales manager for dairy ingredients with Valley Queen Cheese Factory in South Dakota; and Holly Jones, director of global sustainability for Agropur, described how they work with farmers and others on sustainability.


Attendees enjoyed time to network and enjoy various Wisconsin cheeses during Wisconsin’s Master Cheese Reception on Wednesday evening. Photo by Kimmi Devaney.

Jones noted that it’s important to make on-farm sustainability changes as non-prescriptive as possible, which allows farmers to figure out what works best for them. She provided examples of Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) programs that already offer a “menu of options” for farmers to choose from. 

Organization updates

Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative 

Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative re-elected three dairy farmers to the board of directors during the cooperative’s annual business meeting at the 2024 Dairy Strong conference. 

  • Brady Janzen of Riverview LLC in Morris, Minnesota, was re-elected after serving an interim term. 
  • Jamie Witcpalek of Pagel’s Ponderosa Dairy in Kewaunee, Wisconsin, was re-elected and will continue to serve as board treasurer. 
  • Justin Peterson, president and managing partner of Creamery Creek Holsteins in Bangor, Wisconsin, was re-elected to another three-year term.  

After previously serving as board secretary, Heidi Fischer of Fischer-Clark Dairy in Hatley, Wisconsin, was elected vice president of the board, and Josh Meissner of Norm-E-Lane in Chili, Wisconsin, will fill Fischer’s position as secretary.

Other board members: Brody Stapel of Double Dutch Dairy in Cedar Grove, Wisconsin, president; Mike Crinion of Ash Grove Dairy in Lake Benton, South Dakota, director; Jay Stauffacher of Highway Dairy in Darlington, Wisconsin, director; Mitch Davis of Davis Family Dairies in Le Sueur, Minnesota, adviser; and Dr. Marin Bozic of Bozic LLC in St. Paul, Minnesota, adviser.

Dairy Business Association

The Dairy Business Association (DBA) elected three directors to its board during the group’s annual meeting at the 2024 Dairy Strong

  • Greg Siegenthaler of Grande Cheese has been re-elected to serve a third term and as vice president of the organization.  
  • Spencer Frost of Frost Farms in Waterford, Wisconsin, was re-elected to begin his second term on the DBA board. He will continue as secretary.  
  • Travis Speirs of Shiloh Dairy in Brillion, Wisconsin, joins the board in a producer-director seat.

Paul Fetzer of Fetzer Farms in Elmwood, Wisconsin, retired from the board after serving nine years. He was also the longest-serving chair of the Government Affairs Committee.

Other board members: Lee Kinnard of Kinnard Farms in Casco, Wisconsin, president; Steve Bodart of AgriGrowth Solutions, treasurer; Jesse Dvorachek of Wayside Dairy in Greenleaf, Wisconsin; Kevin Collins of Collins Dairy in Greenleaf, Wisconsin; Bob Nagel of Holsum Dairies in Hilbert, Wisconsin; Chris Schneider of Nicolet National Bank; and Amy Penterman of Dutch Dairy in Thorp, Wisconsin.

Farmers for Sustainable Food

Members of Farmers for Sustainable Food (FSF) elected three directors to its board during their annual meeting at the 2024 Dairy Strong


  • Mike Berget of Berget Family Farms in Wiota, Wisconsin, was re-elected to a new, three-year term representing the Lafayette Ag Stewardship Alliance and serving as vice president.
  • Mark Loehr of Loehr Dairy in Mount Calvary, Wisconsin, was elected to represent the Sheboygan River Progressive Farmers. 
  • Holly Jones was re-elected to represent Agropur as a general member of FSF. 

In addition, changes were made to all other board officer positions. Paul Cornette of Cornette Dairy in Luxemburg, Wisconsin, and a member of Peninsula Pride Farms is president; Lee Kinnard of Kinnard Farms in Casco, Wisconsin, is treasurer; and Lynn Thornton of Grande Cheese is secretary.

Other board members: Todd Doornink of Jon-De Farm in Baldwin, Wisconsin, and a member of Western Wisconsin Conservation Council; and Holly Bellmund of GLC Minerals.