herdsman at Jersey farmMaggie Seiler tells the interesting story of Windsong Dairy LLC on page 724 of the November issue. The New York dairy is operated by a young man, Diesel Hitt, who did not grow up on a dairy farm but has successfully launched his own dairy business in partnership with the help of his previous employers at another New York dairy. It should also be noted that Diesel's mentors - Bill Morgan and Jon Gilbert - are also Cornell graduates who didn't grow up on dairy farms but have obviously found their own success as dairy farm businessmen.

The stories of all three, and many others like them, are heartwarming and encouraging about the future of our industry, but the particular point I want to make concerns intergenerational transfer in general and the new Margin Protection Program in particular. Whether it is a New York kid who attended Cornell or the bright young Hispanic worker who catches the eye of his boss and his boss' boss, many young people are getting ownership opportunities in their own right because of important mentoring and investments made by people who aren't their parents. We can also say that many middle-aged and older dairy farm owners are finding that their own children aren't interested in taking over the family business, but they find that they have young employees who would love the opportunity to buy into the business.

When we talk about intergenerational transfer, we tend to think in terms of parents transitioning the ownership of their farm to their children, but it is becoming more and more common that these transfers are to young people who aren't related by blood. For my money, this deserves credit and recognition as an intergenerational transfer that is no less valid or important than when one occurs inside a family.

USDA has invited comments on the rules that govern the operation of the new Margin Protection Program for Dairy Producers. One of the subjects that they are expecting comments about is easier rules for establishing a new, presumably larger, Production History or base when a farm business grows as part of a plan to bring in a new generation.

Much of the conversation about this has been framed in terms of parents bringing in a child or children to the family dairy farm. I would encourage us all to think more broadly than ownership and transfers within a family.

As an industry, it is healthy for us to actively think about and facilitate bringing in new blood. I love to hear stories about multigenerational farm families, but in the end it doesn't matter that much if the transfer occurs within the generations of blood relatives or generations linked by a common love of an industry and shared values about a particular dairy farm business.

Editor's note: The preceding item is yet another reason why dairy producers and others in the dairy industry should submit final comments on the how the new Margin Protection Program will be implemented. To make comments, go to: http://on.hoards.com/HDI-MPP-comments. Comments are due by December 15, 2014.

To comment, email your remarks to intel@hoards.com.
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