Oct. 13 2015 06:00 AM

A milk marketing cooperative born out of farmers' concerns has grown to become a nationally ranked organization.

Dairy farmers won't soon forget 2009. Abysmal milk prices and razor thin margins were enough to push many of them out of the industry for good, and those who chose to stay held on by their fingernails.

But while 2009 was the end of the line for some farmers, it spelled a new beginning for others. Dairy farmers, already watching their pennies, more closely scrutinized where their dollars were going. They decided they needed something different that would give them more control over where that money was headed.

Those farmers, many of whom were influential in founding Wisconsin's Dairy Business Association, created the Dairy Business Milk Marketing Cooperative (DBMMC) in April 2010 in Green Bay, Wis.

From the beginning, DBMMC charged $0.015/cwt for its services. The price was lower than other cooperatives at the time. Others have since followed suit by dropping their rates, which has saved all dairy farmers money.

Fast forward to today. DBMMC has become firmly cemented in the top 10 milk marketing cooperatives in the United States. Even though dairy farms continue to consolidate, DBMMC shows no signs of stopping its growth.

DBMMC is involved at all levels of government, particularly when it comes to milk pricing, dairy policy and other related agriculture legislation. The co-op played a role in removing supply management from the U.S. Farm Bill. A focus on policy and membership is causing a rise in membership and milk volume.

"Farmers want to see something different and they are looking to us," said DBMMC business development manager Scott Munes. "Our cooperative has, and will continue to, lead."
Jim Winn, a founding board member, also sees value in DBMMC. "The co-op was started out of a need farmers had, and we pride ourselves on continuing to listen and respond to the needs of our members," he said.

Since its inception during some of the darkest days of the dairy industry, DBMMC has not only survived, but also thrived.

Munes sees a bright future. "We're growing because farmers see value in what we offer and effective leadership on issues that affect them."

To see where Dairy Business Milk Marketing Cooperative ranks among the top 50 co-ops, click here to download the 2015 Hoard's Dairyman Top 50 Co-ops list. The list appeared in the October 10, 2015, issue of Hoard's Dairyman.

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The author is a senior at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, majoring in agricultural marketing communications. She is the 27th Hoard's Dairyman editorial summer intern.