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0309 PD: Dairy cooperatives to continue services and benefits

Karen Lee Published on 06 February 2009

Dairy cooperatives across the country are doing what they can to provide services and benefits to their members. They are implementing different processing and marketing methods, cutting their own expenses and offering tools to members to improve their individual operations.

Northwest Dairy Association
The Northwest Dairy Association (NDA) in Washington is realigning its marketing efforts “to meet the shifting demand in both the domestic and overseas markets,” reports Michelle Carter, legal assistant and communications specialist for NDA.

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As a part of the Pacific Northwest Federal Order, the price for most of NDA members’ milk is established by the order. At the same time, Carter says, “We look for opportunities to return added value to our members through on-going programs such as pooling/depooling opportunities, quality program premiums, forward contracting opportunities, income deferral and other member service programs.”

Those additional member services include state-of-the-art laboratory testing, on-farm field services, direct deposit and risk management options to assist NDA member-owners.

United Dairymen of Arizona
Frances Lechner, member relations manager for United Dairymen of Arizona, says the cooperative is “cutting expenses whenever and however we can to give more money back to the producers.”

It is also working with the National Milk Producers Federation on its programs to assist producers.

Foremost Farms USA
In the Midwest, Foremost Farms USA is taking a wait-and-see approach before deciding on plant projects, says Joan Behr, director of communications and employee development at Foremost Farms.

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It has also begun working with other cooperatives in the Midwest to optimize the cost of getting milk from farms to processing plants. Behr reports that Foremost did this within its own structure two years ago and the next phase was to get other cooperatives doing the same thing.

The cooperative was forecasting higher milk supplies from its members after a survey this fall. “This tracks with what’s been happening in the upper Midwest. Members have been building and adding cows. The investments from the past five years are showing this year,” Behr says.

To handle the influx of member milk, Foremost has been purchasing less outside milk.

“We are improving our product planning,” Behr adds. “We are directing milk into products that bring high prices and use the most of milk supplies.”

Foremost’s financial strength heading into this downturn will be a huge asset to the cooperative. “Our board has been very focused on being financially stable. That’s very important now in these times,” she says. “Our past decisions will help us be here for the long haul.”

Cooperative members can take advantage of a new online Milk Lab service that provides analysis of components on a long-term basis. “It tracks the quality and cost of production so farmers can tweak their management and optimize herd performance in a cost-efficient manner,” Behr says.

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They can also source all milk test information via phone or online. Previously it was just for individual cow test results.

Dairy Marketing Services
As the milk marketing service for cooperatives in the Northeast, Dairy Marketing Services (DMS) has been doing everything it can from a policy standpoint, says Leon Graves with DMS.

It has pursued the president’s economic stimulus package and is looking for ways to tweak the MILC payment programs. DMS also works with state pricing policies within each individual state and offers support on the regulatory side as environmental regulations can run up costs significantly on a dairy, he says.

DMS also offers connections with a number of non-milk businesses that support a farmer’s bottom line by reducing costs. Some of those businesses include lending, health insurance, livestock marketing and risk management. In addition, DMS is an agent for the new Livestock Gross Margin (LGM) for Dairy.

“Our goal is to help increase farm income and decrease costs,” Graves says. PD

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