June 15 2021 08:00 AM

Resiliency in the face of a global pandemic gives us extra reasons to honor and promote the dairy industry this year.

At the beginning of 2020, the American dairy industry was coming off a tough year marked by major Midwestern floods and challenging market conditions. Then, COVID-19 hit, causing chaos across the global food supply chain. These were significant disruptions, but the industry not only persevered — it helped to keep our nation fed during a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. Farmers, processors, and everyone else in the dairy supply chain came together to help restore and keep products on store shelves and support local communities through donations to local food banks and efforts like the Restaurant Relief Fund to support food service workers.

That’s why, especially this year, National Dairy Month is extra special.

The strength and versatility of the dairy industry — its farmers, its companies, and its products — is something to celebrate. The same passion and determination that got us to where we are today will power our bright future.

The evidence is all around us. At the start of this year, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) forecasted milk production to reach 227.9 billion pounds, up about 2% from 2020. At our farmer-owned cooperative, Land O’Lakes, the team has done an incredible job of overcoming daily challenges and weathering the storm to meet the demands of customers while maintaining profitable market access for our farmer-owners. The strength of our cooperative system has never been more apparent, and together we are stronger than any one of our parts.

Further, even as the industry meets the increased demand for dairy products, we see opportunity to connect with consumers about exciting aspects of our industry, including the steps we’re taking to ensure we pass down the land in better shape than before.

Climate change can make it harder for farmers to manage risk, and with more disruptions and volatility impacting commodity markets, there is also escalating pressure to do more with less. Luckily, farmers are the original environmentalists. They are part of the solution to climate change, as working the land is their livelihood. Because of this, we have an opportunity to help accelerate the shift to more sustainable farming practices, while mitigating the risk factors that have the potential to severely disrupt the strength and viability of our industry.

In recent years, we have also seen that consumers want to feel a connection to where their food comes from. Our industry showed great leadership during the pandemic by supporting our nation’s food supply, and we believe that same leadership can be applied to meeting the expectations of consumers as our economy recovers and food service, schools, and other retail outlets rebound.

There is more work to do, but with all this forward movement, let’s celebrate the accomplishment of weathering all that has been thrown at us over the past year. On behalf of Land O’Lakes and our over 3,000 member-owners, happy National Dairy Month.

Heather Anfang

Heather Anfang is the senior vice president of the U.S. Dairy Foods Division of Land O’Lakes.