Perhaps nowhere else in the United States does the dairy producer and dairy processor community work more closely together to achieve a greater good than in Idaho. The hard-charged dairy state has moved into third place nationally for milk production. That partly came to fruition because of the state’s producers and processors being willing to come together and solve problems.
“We are building the nation’s largest research dairy in Rupert, Idaho. That doesn’t happen if we don’t have dairy processors come to the table and say, ‘We are going to support the producer community and put money toward this project,’” shared Rick Naerebout, CEO of the Idaho Dairymen’s Association (IDA), during a panel at the 96th Idaho Milk Processors Association (IMPA) conference.The University of Idaho broke ground on the new dairy, known as the Idaho Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (CAFÉ), on June 30, 2022. It’s expected the $27 million research dairy will be completed by 2023 and begin milking an estimated 2,000 cows the very next year. The facility is expected to provide science-based answers to better plan dairy’s future.
“There are plenty of areas where we do see that partnership in which the producers have the processors standing right there with us,” shared Naerebout, a 20-year veteran with IDA.
Stepping up safety
“Another area that the IDA partnered on with processors over the past few years is a safety program. That is a robust 50-50 partnership,” shared Naerebout, who grew up on his family’s Michigan dairy.
“We have a staff person on our IDA payroll in which IMPA covers half the cost. That safety specialist goes out and delivers work safety training anywhere in the state for employees,” he further explained.
“That’s another great example of how we came together to improve our formal training process after advocacy groups raised the issue for dairy workers. That shows how the Idaho dairy industry came together at the table, both producers and processors, to solve this problem. We can continue to find similar partnerships,” Naerebout explained to the more than 550 attendees at the annual meeting.