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Is the dairy industry nearing consensus?

PD Editor Walt Cooley Published on 12 November 2010

I’m an eager reader of the Harvard Business Review. The business management magazine’s November issue focuses on leadership lessons managers can learn from the military. In an article titled, “Four Lessons in Adaptive Leadership,” Wharton professor and author Michael Useem says one essential leadership precept is to make good decisions. Easier said than done, right? But his explanation of how military leaders are taught to make good decisions seemed to make the task easier to do.

“The ability to make fast and effective decisions that draw quickly upon the insights of all those on the front lines is among the defining qualities of combat-ready leadership. It is encoded in a Marine dictum: When you’re 70 percent ready and have 70 percent consensus, act. Don’t shoot from the hip, but also don’t wait for perfection.”

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I know that personally I wait too long to make decisions. I wait until I’m beyond 70 percent ready and have near 100 percent consensus. I probably make fewer bad decisions this way, but I probably also miss opportunities to make more good decisions too.

Consensus is also what National Milk Producers Federation is waiting on before it introduces legislation to Congress proposing wide-ranging dairy reform. In attending the group’s annual meeting this year, I sensed they may be getting close to or have just passed 70 percent consensus. NMPF President Jerry Kozak said when consensus is reached, a plan will be presented in Washington.

“The best, fastest way to deal with Congress is to go up to the Hill and tell them that you have consensus,” Kozak said. “When we can tell Congress we have a unified voice, that is what will expedite passage and implementation of Foundation for the Future.”

( See Costa-Sanders Bill supporter Rob Vandenheuvel’s article about reconciling your checklist of items for dairy reform against the Foundation for the Future plan.)

The federal order reforms proposed under NMPF’s plan are still a black box. Kozak indicated that NMPF “fully supports the Federal Milk Marketing Order (FMMO) framework.” He compared the FMMO to an “old, sturdy” chair that needs to be reupholstered and put back in use. Some are holding out their consensus for the plan until they see what those proposed federal order changes look like. “Where there is clarity, there is less resistance,” Kozak said. More yet-to-be-revealed details, including those about FMMO reform, are needed to improve consensus.

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During the meeting it was announced CWT herd retirements will cease for the foreseeable future. An export assistance program funded at a two-cent rate will replace it if a 75 percent majority of participation among U.S. producers can be obtained. ( Read more about this topic here .) Again, there’s that consensus word.

In this issue we focus on calf health and those who often are associated with care for it – women.

I recently spoke with a nutritionist who said that for two open positions, the majority of candidates were women. He said it seems the male college students are getting two-year degrees and heading back to the dairy and that the career path for four-year and advanced degrees for consulting nutritionist and veterinarian positions are increasingly being pursued by women. In his opinion, a woman consultant’s opinion is more generally accepted in the Northeast and Midwest than in the West. I’m sure there wouldn’t be a consensus on that statement.

Hope you enjoy hearing from the many female producers or calf raisers featured in this issue who are working directly on the farm and influencing decisions on a day-to-day basis. PD

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