Last time we were together in person, in March 2020, we were going through a lot of changes. Dean Foods had filed bankruptcy a couple months earlier; Borden’s had filed bankruptcy. Whoever thought that would happen? Industry leadership changes, trade challenges, and continued pressure on farms to succeed.
We thought it was bad then. Then COVID-19 hit.
We had too much milk, restaurants closed down, schools closed down, and entertainment venues closed down. But when you look at what happened, the consumer changed.
When people were under stress. When families throughout the United States were under as much stress as they were under, what did they do? They turned to you. They turned to us for good nutrition. That doesn't mean that the last two years have been easy. They've been very hard, very hard. But what happened is, we got through it. We got through it and worked together, and today we're able to look at the future, because I think the future is bright.
But to stay relevant, we know the consumer won't keep making the same buying decision. The number one goal is to innovate in dairy. Changes in how dairy is consumed, whether that's in the packaging it comes in, the added value of flavors or nutrients, or simply the occasions during which people choose dairy, the forms of dairy continue to change.
We're battling to be consumers' first choice.
Dairy alternatives are claiming to have the same nutrients and the same value to consumers as real dairy, which we know is simply not true. The way food is delivered from stores is changing.
I never thought my wife would sit on an app at night, watching TV, and order our groceries to go pick up. I never thought that would happen. How long will it be until the grocery store, you don't have a super center anymore, you have an Amazon-type warehouse, robots go get your food? We need to figure it out.
It makes me think, in this room, with the number of co-ops, how can we work closer together? Knowing that all this is coming down. Where else can we save money by working together? We have to have the conversation.
Then, there’s climate change.
This continues to be an area where dairy is leading. We're part of the solution to climate change, and we need to be stronger in telling our story. And we need to be stronger in telling our story because of what I said before, is because the plant-based people, if we let them tell it, what's the story going to be? If we let lab-grown tell it, what's their story going to be? We don't want them telling our story, we're going to tell it ourselves.
The past 20 months have shown us that life has changed quickly, and we can't ever anticipate what's going to happen. But it's also shown that when that happens, people turn to what they know and trust, they turn to dairy. They turn to us for comfort, nutrition, taste, value, and convenience.
Back on our farms
Sometimes in the day-to-day of running your farm, managing your employees, taking care of your families, it can be easy to lose sight of that. There's been those days where I've sat on my back porch, putting on my rubber boots, getting ready to go to work, and I know that day is not going to be profitable because of the milk price, because of cost, because of breakdowns, whatever the reasons.
But the one thing I've never doubted is when that milk truck pulls out of that driveway, that I'm putting the most nutritious product on that truck, and it's headed to consumers around the world, that's known to man. That's pretty cool.
We're making every drop count by positively impacting rural economies, by being a solution to climate change, by feeding those in need around the world, and by bringing nutrition, indulgence, and pure joy to families everywhere. Every drop truly does count. Every one of you counts; and the good you do each and everyday counts. I've never been more proud to be part of such a resilient, strong, and innovative industry, and I hope that you are, too. Thank you very much.