DFA’s historic founding took place on September 9, 1997, when leaders from four cooperatives met in St. Louis, Mo. On that early fall day, eight men signed paperwork that pledged each organization would go to their membership and gain approval for what would become Dairy Farmers of America. The four consolidating cooperatives — the Southern Region of the Associated Milk Producers, Inc. (AMPI), Mid-America Dairyman, Inc., Milk Marketing, Inc. (MMI), and Western Dairyman Cooperative, Inc. (WDCI) — all agreed to hold delegate and member votes by December 1.
“With approval, Dairy Farmers of America would be open for business January 1, 1998,” wrote Ewing Row, the managing editor of Hoard’s Dairyman at the time, in the September 25, 1997, edition of the magazine.
Those attending the formation meeting on September 9, 1997, included (L to R): WDCI chairman Tom Camerlo and CEO Greg Yando; MMI chairman Herman Brubaker and CEO Don Schriver; Mid-Am Chairman Carl Baumann and CEO Gary Hanman; and Southern Region AMPI Chairman Charles Beckendorf and CEO Noble Anderson.
When comparing and contrasting DFA at its founding versus the 25-year-old rendition, the cooperative continued to grow as U.S. milk production continued to grow, from 156.6 billion in 1998 to 226.5 billion pounds in 2022. With its 65.4 billion pounds of milk, DFA accounted for 29% of the nation’s 226.5 billion pounds of milk in 2022. DFA also counts nearly 11,000 members and 5,800 farms amongst its ownership group. As Mooney shared in the opening quote, the cooperative’s total sales moved to $24 billion in 2022.
At its formation, DFA had 104 directors. That unwieldy number was trimmed to 45 directors by 2000. Today the co-op has 48 board members as other cooperatives have since joined DFA. Of the eight cooperative leaders who inked the deal on that September 1997 day, Charles Beckendorf and Gary Hanman were able to attend the 25th annual meeting in Kansas City, Mo.
Those leaders shown in the Tuesday, March 21, 2023, photo at the 25th annual meeting were (L to R): Charles Beckendorf, former chairman of Southern Region of the Associated Milk Producers, Inc., and former chairman of the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF); Rick Smith, the second ever CEO and President of DFA; Gary Hanman, the very first DFA CEO and President of DFA; Dennis Rodenbaugh, the current CEO and President of DFA; and Randy Mooney, the current DFA Chairman.