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Donations promote understanding and discussion about opportunities in trade, trends and markets

Contributed by Deb Reinhart Published on 19 July 2019

Dairy farmers established Dairy’s Foundation to ensure our dairy farms remain viable and socially responsible for generations to come.

Dairy farmers and industry partners engage in discussion and ask tough questions to explore how emerging trends might impact the dairy community and how to proactively position dairy for the future. As the saying goes, “If you are not at the table, you’re on the menu.”

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Dairy producers need to understand the issues influencing consumers’ food-buying decisions in order to maintain public trust and sustain the dairy community for generations to come. Awareness of other stakeholders’ perspectives is critical to producers being able to shape a conversation that will benefit the cow, the industry and our consumers.

The PDPW Dairy Food and Policy Summit, supported by Professional Dairy Producers Foundation, addresses that need by bringing together a diverse group from across the food value chain to gain insights into the perceptions consumers have of modern farming and the science behind key issues. It is important to hear what consumers and processors expect from dairy farmers.

It is difficult to keep things other than day-to-day management of dairy farms in our sights. It is hard to understand what we hear consumers and our processors saying. And often it feels like we do not know what is coming next until it hits the windshield or is in our rear view mirror. Dairy food and public policy is complex, but knowing what is on the horizon will help the dairy community manage better in the long run.

“Without farmer engagement in policy discussion, the chances for success are less,” says Keith York of Merry-Water Farms, a family-owned dairy in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. “Most policy results because of a desire to correct a problem or improve a current policy; if producers are not present, they miss the opportunity to educate others as to why and how a policy is beneficial or harmful to us. Policy will be made, but it gives the message that farmers do not care – or even worse, that they do not have a vision for how our industry can improve or are not interested in their future. Being present can show that we care about our industry and are looking to continual improvement. If we are not part of the discussion, then we have to accept the results or regulations and lose the chance to educate others about what we do on our farms and why.”

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The PDPW Dairy Food & Policy Summit, held annually in Madison, Wisconsin, is designed for dairy farmers, policymakers and the food system to engage with a striking lineup of dairy leaders, chief executives and science-based experts. The summit emphasizes key learnings, advancements and developments surrounding critical and timely biological, environmental and social science issues faced by modern agriculture, covering topics of milk markets, global policy, non-ag media, GMOs, genetic editing, air emissions, antibiotic resistance, bacteria resistance, and well-water safety and water quality.

Public policy with a focus on the farm bill, a global view of dairy, agricultural policy, trade and the U.S. dollar can give a snapshot of how to prepare for the future on our dairies. Consumer trends with a panel of trend-setters from across the dairy food value chain furnish information and help position the products we produce on our dairies with the intention of boosting consumption. Market expectations on animal transport, best practices, animal health and regulation drive the discussion for industry-wide collaboration. Discussing uncomfortable topics and learning from other industries builds vibrant rural communities.

York states, “The great results of the summit are because it brings all stakeholders to the table to talk about what they think is important for the industry and their vision of the future. Farmers do not get a lot of opportunity to sit with industry stakeholders and listen to what they have to say and what they can do for our industry. Dairy needs everybody from consumer to farm involved in the process of producing a great product that consumers desire, to exchange ideas and educate others about what they think is the future of our industry. Listening and talking to industry leaders brings out the passion to succeed and to create a better future for everybody involved.”

York encourages others to join the conversation. “Farmers must network with other farmers and join in discussions about subjects you are passionate about. If you are passionate about your farm, these discussions will be beneficial and inspiring to you. Through that passion, you will realize you have a vision for the future. The feeling of lifelong learning and for succeeding will carry you forward, and you will discover your opportunity to lead. From there your future will grow, and you will be invited to the table because of your passion for your industry.”

Across the dairy community, excellent programs exist that bring stakeholders together to find solutions that contribute to a proactive and prepared industry that will be financially sound, socially responsible and sustainable over time. Farmers need to be present in the discussion and engage thoughtfully because, at the end of the day, it is our business, our community and our way of life.  end mark

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The following update is provided by the Professional Dairy Producers Foundation, which raises funds nationwide and awards grants and sponsorships for educational programs and initiatives that benefit the U.S. dairy community. PDPF is committed to uniting the dairy community on issues of common concern to achieve its vision of a professional, proactive and prepared dairy community.

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