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Forward-thinkers, please step forward

PD Editor Walt Cooley Published on 11 October 2010

I recently returned from World Dairy Expo, cautiously optimistic about the dairy industry in 2011. Plans for dairy policy and pricing reform continue to be discussed. Your opinion on how soft or hard a position the U.S. should take will determine whether you support “market” management or “supply” management for the future.

Two very clear sides of this issue are developing. Undoubtably, supporters on both sides will get more and more strident in supporting their causes and opinions. Will partisanship tear the industry in two just like it has U.S. politics? It could. I hope not.

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I’m encouraged to see many of the plans that emerged in the bottom of the milk price trough of 2009 emerge again with further analysis about how effective they would be at improving producer pay prices. Some of these plans include adopting California-like fluid milk standards and increasing the frequency of reporting for dairy products. I hope they are considered as possible solutions as well.

As I was meeting with producers and allied industry in Madison, one of the most frequent questions posed to me was, “What type of producer does your magazine target?” I’ve discussed this topic before here, but given the currents that will collide over dairy policy soon, I discuss the topic again.

Progressive Dairyman delivers timely news, market information and production/management articles that benefit forward-thinking dairy producers. Obviously, this is true to our name “progressive.”

I recently received a letter from a reader who called these types of producers “both fascinating and scary.” The reader will remain anonymous, but the comments quoted are a lesson for all.

Fascination:
“There is no end to [these dairymens’] ambition and goals. From this side, it looks like the sky is the limit for them, and by golly it looks like they are trying to get there! That demands respect and causes jaw-dropping awe for some farmers who probably still milk with buckets! From down here looking up, [these dairymen] have success, money, respect and power.They are visionary, go-getters and very progressive, futuristic dairymen.”

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Everyone likes reading about and chasing after the best. But there is another side to this admiration.

Fear:
“My family has an 85-cow dairy. We are first-generation, and we are on the cusp of turning over to the second.I am extremely proud to say the third generation has begun with the most perfect granddaughter already born and a grandson on the way. We love this life.We have grown our farm in acres and genetics. We have kept up with as much technology as we can, including everything from solar energy to forage growth and harvest.

"But we are still an 85-cow dairy.That’s where we want to stay.We are successful and happy and financially secure. Are we going to be squashed like a little bug in the way of huge farms?Is it their goal to get rid of all of us little guys?Do we even matter anymore?Is that the way of the future?”

The other half of what Progressive Dairyman delivers you is not all “just business.” We recognize dairying is a lifestyle that espouses certain family values and requires a hard work ethic. We aim to have the magazine represent this part of your life too.

To avoid partisanship, we cannot pre-determine that one policy will be better for a large dairyman and bad for a small family dairy. Or that supply management will limit a Western dairyman. Or that market management will set back an Eastern dairyman. Or that one policy will benefit an older dairy producer more than a younger one.

Progressive, forward-thinking dairymen are irrespective of size, geographic location or age. You know who you are. If these producers step forward and lead out in the discussion in the coming months, I believe we can avoid partisanship. If not, we will cloud the definition of “progressive” and emerge with no change at all or policy that redefines progressive as something else – maybe even regressive. PD

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