At its Fall Issues Forum on November 7th, the Professional Dairy Managers of Pennsylvania (PDMP) will try to get to the bottom of the question on every dairy farmer’s mind these days; how can we increase milk consumption? The morning program is a departure from the typical farm operations focus that PDMP’s professional development programs often highlight. “We can be the best dairy producers in the world but if we don’t have a sustaining market on the other end, the industry is going to continue to struggle for survival,” said Brett Reinford, President of PDMP and Chair of the newly formed PA Dairy Future Commission.
“In trying to find a positive solution to our industry’s decline over the past couple of years, we have been told time and again that our economic condition is directly linked to changing consumer demands”, Reinford added. “But how much are they really changing? Is competition from nut juice, or on-farm practices, or buy local labelling really impacting consumers’ decision making, and at what point?”
That is what PDMP’s Dairy Issue Forum will unearth, live and in real time. PDMP organizers are hoping that by taking dairy farmers out of the farmland and into today’s consumers’ world; beginning with a live consumer focus group; shoppers who won’t know there are dairy producers in the audience, followed by an outstanding panel of food market experts who track and respond to food consumer behavior and decision making, they will discover what is really behind consumers’ buying habits and motivations and maybe, in the process learn what can be done at home to sell more milk.
“We are spending a lot of time and energy in Pennsylvania trying to find ways to increase processing here and sell more milk,” said Reinford. “But the truth is, if we don’t know what consumers want, we don’t know what to process or what practices might win them over.” Concerns that information on what consumers want is filtered in order to motivate dairy farmers to adopt certain practices and processors to add more qualifying, and sometimes misleading labelling, many in the industry are becoming more skeptical rather than more likely to change operations. PDMP hopes to expose the truths by directly asking consumers; suburban PA, non-farming consumers...millennials and all. And following the live focus group, a panel of experts will bring it all in from a statewide, national and retail perspective; including review of a brand-new study of Pennsylvania dairy consumers and one of the Mid-Atlantic’s fastest growing and most innovative grocery retailers.
Then after a networking lunch, attendees are invited to tour the Wegman’s store next door and see first-hand how they are meeting customers’ demands. “Those of us who milk cows, don’t live anywhere near a Wegman’s or see the majority of our Nation’s consumers where they live and shop,” added Reinford. “We keep hearing part of our problem is that consumers are disconnected with agriculture and we need to get them on farms to tour and see firsthand how we operate, but I could make the case that we farmers are just as disconnected with today’s consumers and we need to go to where they are to learn more about them”.
A registration fee of $85 for non-PDMP members and $35 for PDMP Members is required and includes the lunch and Wegman’s self-guided tour. Producers joining PDMP for 2020 may also take advantage of the discounted member rate. Check in and on-site registration begins at 7:30 a.m. and the Forum will start at 9:00 a.m. To register, call the PDMP Registration Office at 877-326-5993 or go to the Events page at www.pdmp.org to download a registration form or link to online registration. Attendees are asked not to wear apparel with farm logos or anything that will identify them as part of the dairy industry so that the consumers’ answers will not be influenced by who they see in the audience.
The ‘Fall Issue Forum’ is part of the Professional Dairy Managers of PA’s ongoing commitment to offer top-quality professional development programs to help improve the profitability of the state’s dairy producers. Attending workshops such as these help producers keep abreast of the latest technologies and management strategies, and provide important networking opportunities. Registration fees are kept low with the support of sponsors, especially the American Dairy Coalition and Animal Ag Alliance and including: Acuity CPA, Farm Credits, King's Agri-Seeds, Land O’Lakes, Murray Securus and Mycogen Seeds as well as industry partners Center for Dairy Excellence and PA Dairymen’s Association.
PDMP is a not-for-profit organization of progressive, positive-minded dairy producers and agribusiness leaders working together to advance the dairy industry in Pennsylvania through improved productivity and profitability. Programs offered by PDMP are designed by dairy producers for dairy producers. For more information on PDMP including membership enrollment forms, visit www.pdmp.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.