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 A Unified National Response as Dairy Producers


Bill Rowell        

                                                                                                                                  March 27,2011     


     The National Dairy Producers Organization Inc. is a 501 c3 not for profit corporation formed in compliance with Delaware state law, the organization came to exist legally on November 19, 2010.

We established a Board of Directors from the organizing committee and then elected corporate officers.

Our attorney is Mr. Fred Fielding who served as General Counsel for three U.S. Presidents, and whose offices are located on Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington, D.C.

     Membership consists of voting members and associate members, voting members must either be a current or retired dairy farmer;  associate members are typically those whose livelihood depends on the milk check such as vendors, which account for much of our rural infrastructure across the nation. Anyone can join the organization as an associate member however, they are not entitled to a vote.

     Our Executive Director is a publisher who recognizes his agri business publications depend on   advertising dollars which grow scarce during an economic downturn in the dairy sector.

This gentleman organized a communication network and held national conference calls daily before an expanding audience to raise awareness, answer questions, and increase support for our effort; that continued for well over four months and included the board of directors as well.

     We had a presence at the World Dairy Expo in Madison Wisconsin last October, and more recently the National Dairy Producers Organization Inc. held its first annual meeting at the World Ag Expo in Tulare, California during February, all board members were present. We have a diverse Board from across the nation and each director is a dairy producer. The Board had previously developed a “ contract with producers “ which was then signed by each director while in California, if you are not familiar with it, use this link  www.nationaldairyproducers.org

     We face many challenges: 1) Regional differences have traditionally kept us divided, since every producer is protective of his region the cost of production by region is divisive, the amount of milk produced by region is an issue, and market availability in a region is another issue producers consider while waiting out the cycle as unwitting participants in “ survival of the fittest “. Overwhelmingly, government involvement in dairy is perceived to impede progress, yet dairy producers expect the government to provide them with a level playing field either through programs, subsidies, or policy.                     2) Like most countries we balance our domestic market by using export markets for the commercial disappearance of  excess milk, as markets recede a continued oversupply undermines pricing while blame is assigned perhaps to other regions, fickle export markets, or deceptive import practices but there is little acknowledgement of responsibility by producers themselves. The government is expected to ease the financial burden but the resulting expense is realized through a loss of more producers; since 1970, 648,000 dairy farms have dwindled to 53,125 across the nation. During the present cycle we have culled animals more aggressively only to recognize that a healthier national herd produces more milk per cow thereby increasing our annual production with less animals.   

3) We are misled by deceptive import practices which allow products such as milk protein concentrates , casein, caseinates, powders, mixes, and ingredients not identified as a milk product, and therefore not scrutinized for import tariff purposes, to enter this country diluting our market which contributes to a drop in the price of milk. This seemingly suspicious practice raises the question of whether or not this is a deliberate attempt by processors to dilute the market and thereby ensure an oversupply of milk at depressed prices. 4) Dynamics of the political realm have to be recognized; The National Milk Producers Federation ( NMPF ), International Dairy Foods Association ( IDFA ), and official Washington, Congress of the United States.

NMPF is an intermediary between the dairy co operatives, which are owned by producer members, and IDFA, an association of processors who gain market control during times of milk over supply, ( raising the price of milk by one dollar per hundredweight for a year increases the expense to processors by $ 1.8 billion. ) official Washington strives to ensure abundance which, in turn, helps to ensure a cheap food policy in the United States.

     The need for dairymen to speak with a unified national voice is overwhelming, we are caught in a repetitive cycle of crisis after crisis without adequate tools to make our way forward, dairy farmers have converted a life time of hard earned equity to working capital in order to continue operating.    The United States needs to ensure an adequate food supply, but we must first adopt a responsible national dairy policy, rather than continue a failed experiment which is evidenced by years of history.  Today, we believe that achieving balance between supply and demand in the marketplace would serve to reduce price volatility and stabilize the producer sector, several management tools have been developed, and the result of modeling by dairy economists proves largely favorable though not entirely.

     While we are making progress toward developing tools more suited to our needs, we have not found the imagined champion, or the magic bullet. We are beginning to notice a change in attitude as producers  recognize a responsibility of themselves to provide leadership; animosity, fear, and distrust are still with us but complacency, assigning blame to the other guy, or lamenting after the fact is viewed as missing the point. Dairy in this country is a $110 billion industry and control is fiercely protected by those who profit, production management is a threat to depressed milk pricing and therefore vehemently opposed by IDFA, concern over a lack of transparency in the dairy industry leads one to  expect dirty politics to play a role. The government will then be expected to intervene as referee.

     My interpretation of the role to be played by National Dairy Producers Organization Inc. is that of  advocate, to provide a unified national voice on behalf of the producer sector. I believe there are many capable individuals of high integrity in the dairy industry who have been unable to speak up for two reasons: 1) The industry's current business model has traditionally discouraged that voice through insinuated forms of retribution, and 2) The dairy farmer has remained relatively complacent all these years, entrusting his or her future to leadership that operates under a business model which has taken advantage of dairy policy proving detrimental to the producer sector. While  this observation may seem off base or imagined, it appears to have worked through divisive measures to prevent  dairymen from achieving national consensus, and therefore unable to generate a legitimate response. If in fact this observation does sound ludicrous, my response is simple, “ follow the money”,  consider the history, and explain the lack of transparency; remember, control is profit.   

     If we neglect the opportunity to work with existing organizations due to fear, distrust, or animosity, we will not have recognized or engaged the tools available to improve the U.S. Dairy industry and therefore will remain confined to our plight. In light of the current status of the producer sector, it is imperative U.S. Dairy producers engage the process and begin speaking with a unified national voice.

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CONTACT :  billrowell@billrowell.org