The author is the chairman of the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF). These remarks were made during the organization’s annual meeting on October 25 in Denver, Colo.

A lot has happened this past year. We continue to see the effects of the pandemic, logistic challenges that hit the global market and were created in part by labor shortages, which spread across and disrupted the entire supply chain. We've had labor shortages on our farms for years, and that trend spread across other sectors as well, affecting processors, retailers, food service operations. Supply chain disruptions were amplified by the war in Ukraine, directly impacting global energy supplies and food security.

These factors have combined to drive record inflation that each of us feels as farmers, as processors, as marketers, and consumers. An uncertainty that shakes confidence and erodes trust.

What will the world look like, and how will we operate in it? Will continued uncertainty and eroding of trust push consumers, companies, and even countries to seek more control or focus on maximizing efficiencies?

We don't necessarily know the answers yet. But we do know that our industry is continuing to rapidly evolve, with dairy farmers at the very center, and because of the investment and the work of our past, we're in a position to take advantage of opportunities.

An anchor amidst uncertainty

Dairy is positioned to be a trusted anchor in an uncertain world, and the root of our ability to be that trusted anchor is our cooperative structure. While we can never control everything around us, cooperatives give us the ability to work together to positively impact our future and the future of people around the world, and the root of our ability to be that trusted anchor is our cooperative structure.

Our product is one of the most nutritionally valuable foods available. No other product can give you the nutrition that dairy can for the price. We have opportunities to nourish communities, to meet consumers' evolving needs all over the world, to care for the environment, and to drive innovation.

These projects show the power of partnerships, and it shows the power of the co-op model. We can deliver all this while ensuring our freedom to operate our businesses in ways that's best for us and our families, our freedom to invest up and down the supply chain as we see fit, our freedom to drive innovation on our farms to continuously improve our product.

No matter what type of cooperative you belong to, vertically integrated or not, large or small, local or national, the cooperative structure allows us to control our own destiny. This structure works because we know we are stronger together.

A balanced approach

Together, we can make every drop count, working with each other to ensure we can stay profitable in the face of increasing regulations. Working together also applies to federal milk marketing order modernization, which is important to our industry. FMMO modernization must take a balanced approach. We also are working together to take advantage of opportunities by pursuing policies that support and drive innovation and farm practices, sustainability, and climate change. Working together to drive rural and urban communities through our work, supporting infrastructure, economic opportunities, and labor. Working together to provide the best nutrition available to families around the world by supporting and enhancing feeding programs like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and school milk, and demanding seats at the table during global trade talks.

Working together to pass our way of life to the next generation through programs like Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) 4.0 and soon to be Version 5.0, which gives us the social license to operate and consumer confidence in our operations. This work, and our ability to take advantage of the opportunities before us, are only possible by working together through organizations like NMPF.

This is an exciting time in our industry. What we do on our farms and in our communities is important, how we do it is important, and it's important that we stay at the forefront of this revolution, never settling for status quo, thinking differently, and seizing the opportunities.

The most important message I want to leave you with is one of opportunity. When we work together, we can seize opportunities that exist in every drop of milk, through our cooperatives, through NMPF, and through our industry organizations. Thank you for what you do and thank you for your passion.

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(c) Hoard's Dairyman Intel 2022
October 31, 2022
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