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Missouri dairy farmer Alex Peterson, right, is USDEC’s new chair. Becky Nyman, left, a California dairy farmer, was elected as vice chair. In this June USDEC photo, they hold up Calli ice cream cups (made with U.S. milk protein concentrate) while in Southeast Asia on a USDEC-sponsored farmers mission.

Dairy farmers Alex Peterson of Missouri and Becky Nyman of California have been elected to guide the U.S. Dairy Export Council as its chair and vice chair, respectively. The vote came in a December 13 meeting of USDEC’s board of directors.

“I am delighted and thrilled to have such bright and capable leaders to guide us at this pivotal time,” said USDEC President and CEO Krysta Harden. "As we look to the future, this is the right team to help the U.S. dairy industry continue to grow exports.”

Peterson and Nyman share similar personal stories. Both left budding careers to return home to work on their family-owned dairy farms. Both have given their time and energy to serve the broader U.S. dairy industry in multiple leadership positions.

Peterson earned a degree in agricultural economics from the University of Missouri and landed an internship in Washington, D.C. He found work on Capitol Hill exciting but missed the day-to-day joy of dairy farming. He returned home to Peterson Dairy, Inc. where he helps care for 150 cows on 1,000 acres in Grundy County, Missouri, with his parents, Brian and Barb Peterson, brother Opie, and niece Jandie Davis.

Peterson has emerged as an influential leader within the dairy checkoff. He has served on the board of Midwest Dairy, representing 4,400 dairy farms. He also is a board member at Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), which manages the national dairy checkoff to increase sales and demand for U.S. dairy. In November, Peterson was elected chair of the United Dairy Industry Association (UDIA).

Peterson became USDEC's vice chair in 2021. He traveled to Mexico, Southeast Asia and other export markets on behalf of U.S. dairy farmers, impressing people with his friendliness, curiosity and accessible personality.

In August, Peterson was named USDEC's interim chair, stepping in for Larry Hancock, who had served four years in that role.

"My job as USDEC’s chair is to bring fresh, innovative solutions to life and help solve some of the most pressing challenges the global dairy industry faces today," said Peterson. "Ultimately, my goal is to advocate for U.S. dairy farmers on the international stage, making it as simple as possible for U.S. dairy exporters to establish footholds in new regions, develop their business, and meet the rising demand for dairy across the globe."

With a master's degree in Agribusiness from Texas A&M University, Nyman worked for eight years for a company providing consumer research for agribusiness and consumer packaged goods clients. Nyman left that corporate job in 2011 to join her brother, Brad Nyman, as the business manager at her family’s 4th-generation, 1,200-cow dairy farm in Hilmar, California. Nyman Dairy Farms has expanded to include eight additional dairies and other ventures.

“At a time in which there is so much change around the world -- from public policy to the economy to consumer demand -- USDEC is positioning our industry to turn these changes into opportunities,” said Nyman, who also serves on the DMI and National Dairy Promotion and Research boards. “The challenges we have experienced this year highlight the importance of exports to help build healthy markets that contribute to profitable margins for U.S. dairy farmers.”

DMI founded the U.S. Dairy Export Council in 1995, bringing together milk producers, dairy processors, co-ops, ingredient suppliers and export traders in a unified strategic effort to grow exports. Since then, exports have increased more than 10-fold to $9.6 billion in 2022, an all-time high. Export volume last year was equivalent to 18% of all U.S. milk produced in 2022, which was also an all-time high.

About USDEC: The U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) is a non-profit, independent membership organization that represents the global trade interests of U.S. dairy producers, proprietary processors and cooperatives, ingredient suppliers and export traders. Its mission is to enhance U.S. global competitiveness and assist the U.S. industry to increase its global dairy ingredient sales and exports of U.S. dairy products. USDEC accomplishes this through programs in market development that build global demand for U.S. dairy products, resolve market access barriers and advance industry trade policy goals. USDEC is supported by staff across the United States and overseas in Mexico, South America, Asia, Middle East and Europe. The U.S. Dairy Export Council prohibits discrimination on the basis of age, disability, national origin, race, color, religion, creed, gender, sexual orientation, political beliefs, marital status, military status, and arrest or conviction record.