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NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern announced Tuesday he will retire from his position at the end of this year, concluding a decade of service leading the organization and capping a 45-year career in U.S. agricultural and dairy policy.
“Directing the policy efforts of the nation’s dairy farmers and their cooperatives has been the highlight of my professional career,” said Mulhern, who was asked to lead the organization in 2013 and guided NMPF through two completed farm bills, the COVID-19 crisis, and an ever-quickening pace of change in an industry that in some ways is unrecognizable from that he entered in 1979, when he began his career working for a Midwest dairy cooperative. After coming to Washington to work on Capitol Hill in 1982, he began his first stint with NMPF in 1985, directing the organization’s government affairs activities and shaping NMPF strategy in the face of earlier farm crises.
He returned to Capitol Hill in 1990, to serve as chief of staff to Wisconsin Sen. Herb Kohl. Following that, he was a partner at Fleishman-Hillard, an international communications firm, and managing partner of Watson/Mulhern LLC, a life sciences communications and public affairs firm that focused on food and agriculture policy challenges.
While his work included providing expert strategic counsel to numerous Fortune 500 companies and working extensively in government relations, issues and crisis management, media relations, and litigation communications, the Portage, WI, native always considered the dairy industry his professional home.
“My hope, all those years ago when I first came to Washington, was to make a difference and remember where I came from. Being part of the agricultural policy community here in Washington and working with and on behalf of many great people in the dairy community across the country has enabled me to achieve both goals,” Mulhern said.
Mulhern leaves NMPF in a commanding position, with the organization spearheading a once-a-generation update of federal milk marketing orders and advancing both a fairer economic and regulatory environment for dairy farmers and a more transparent marketplace for consumers amid the proliferation of plant-based dairy imposters. Through its partnerships with the U.S. Dairy Export Council and others, NMPF has supported policy changes to boost dairy exports, which are reaching records; and through its stewardship of the National Dairy FARM Program, it is enhancing dairy’s leadership agricultural sustainability and animal care.
“Dairy farmers have numerous reasons to be thankful for Jim Mulhern’s leadership at NMPF,” said Randy Mooney, a Rogersville, MO dairy farmer and chairman of NMPF’s Board of Directors. “Jim has been a leader, a visionary, and a friend to dairy, and through that, a leader in agriculture. The combination of his depth of knowledge, his energy, and his unflagging passion for dairy producers is impossible to replace, but we all will know that his influence and achievements will resonate in this industry for years to come.”
The topic of naming a new top executive at NMPF will be discussed at NMPF’s Board Meeting this week in Arlington, VA.