Current Progressive Dairy digital edition

I belong to … USDEC: Les Hardesty

PD Staff Published on 05 April 2011


"As a first-rate dairy producer who also runs his own processing facility, Les brings a unique perspective to his USDEC chairmanship. He truly understands both sides of the equation. It’s exactly this kind of experience that we need to help grow strong global markets." —Tom Suber, president, U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC)

Age: Young enough to still be having fun and enjoying life.



Location: Greeley, Colorado

My dairy’s history: Sherrill and I are the third generation that has marketed milk for consumption. We operate two dairies: the 700-cow Painted Prairie Dairy as well as our small, educational showcase farm, Cozy Cow Dairy.

If I wasn’t a dairyman, I would be … Honestly, I’m not sure. I certainly would be in the agriculture industry in some capacity, as I can’t imagine not working with such genuine, compassionate and honest folks.

From Earth-friendly to neighborly, members of the ag community can be depended upon in times of need. And that’s a good thing, as we are going to need each and every one of their farms to feed the world in the coming years. We are ready for the challenge.

I have been a member of USDEC for … Seven years.


I believe I was elected USDEC chairman because … USDEC members recognize the contributions producers made in establishing the organization 15 years ago, well before most industries fully understood the opportunities to be had in the export market.

So they support a dairy farmer as chair and also appreciate the experience I have both in production agriculture and on the processing side.

My favorite USDEC outpost is … Each of USDEC’s foreign offices do a fantastic job representing the interests of U.S. dairy producers and processors. I have spent more time with the Mexico, China and Southeast Asia teams and have learned a great deal from the well-connected, knowledgeable staff members at those offices.

But all of the teams are dedicated to expanding sales of U.S. dairy products in their respective regions and have highly qualified and impressive staff members – many of whom have been with USDEC from the very beginning.

What USDEC does best is … Represents the value of U.S. dairy products to consumers the world over, creating opportunities for increased sales.

I feel valued as a USDEC member when … We as an industry find a new outlet for our products or introduce a new customer to the world of U.S. dairy. Success comes only after work on so many fronts, from sales to technical barriers to trade issues.


USDEC is a very effective organization and it represents the dairy industry’s interests extremely well.

An influential person whom I’ve met through USDEC is … Tom and Tom: Former USDEC Chairman Tom Camerlo, who was years ahead of his time in recognizing the importance of the world market for our dairy products, and USDEC President Tom Suber, who has orchestrated the building of this organization into the premier business that it is today.

My worst struggle in dairying is … Like all dairymen, I struggle with the price volatility of the domestic market. All the more reason we as producers need to become consistent suppliers to markets both inside and outside the United States.

I hope my dairy legacy is … That I leave this already great industry in better shape than I found it when I accepted the challenge of leadership.

My advice to dairymen is … Believe in this industry and its people. Know that the export market is real and beneficial to us as producers. The world has been turned on to U.S. dairy products; they like them and they want more.

Exports will continue to grow and expand our bottom line. Especially during difficult spells, we must continue to be optimistic about the months and years to come; exports are a big part of that bright future. PD


Year organized 1995
Members 100+
States with member headquarters 28

A growing dairy industry efficiently and consistently meeting customer demands worldwide.

USDEC’s network of offices in 11 countries provides in-country market data, competitive conditions and trade contacts; conducts market development; works on market access and regulatory affairs; encourages research; and monitors and contributes to the formation of trade policy.