Internationally-known cheese carver Troy Landwehr of Freedom was in the early stages of turning a 40-pound block of Cheddar into the head of a cow during the 40th annual meeting of Family Dairies USA in Appleton. Photo By Ray Mueller
Family Dairies USA reviews past, looks ahead
Reflecting on the cooperative’s 40 years, reports on current activities and the outlook for years ahead highlighted the 2012 annual meeting of Family Dairies USA. Known as the Farmers Union Milk Marketing Cooperative until 1998, it has more than 2,800 direct ship or service members — most of them in Wisconsin and Minnesota plus others in Upper Michigan, Illinois, Iowa and South Dakota.
Current board president Peter Kleiman, of Wilson, MI, reminded members of the issues of earlier decades such as the federal dairy diversion program, the herd buyouts, the importing of Goya cheese, milk marketing order reform and the creation of the Milk Income Loss Contract program.
More recently, he cited the cooperative’s participation in the Midwest Dairy Coalition’s trips to Washington, D.C. in 2010 and 2011 on behalf of new dairy legislation.
“We thought we had a good plan before Congress’s ‘super committee’ collapsed,” Kleiman remarked.
He observed that both farmers and bodies of government are plagued with the same problem — working against one another — and suggested this is not acceptable in a world projecting the need of a doubling of the food supply by 2050.
In discussions with legislators, Kleiman finds that the primary concern is “what the other side wants” rather than a genuine intent to solve.
Some of these pending issues are on-farm child labor restrictions, hazardous waste and dust protocols, somatic cell and antibiotics issues, and safety nets for dairy and other agricultural commodity producers.
Family Dairies general manager David Cooper, now in his 5th year with the cooperative, said “there is no perfect policy” to solve the regional and political conflicts that are inherent in the dairy sector.
He suggested that successes and failures “are what history is about.”
Cooper cited recent successes such as the resolving of the Mexico trucking conflict, which had been limiting food exports to that country, and the removal of milk from the list of items that would be considered hazardous waste in the case of a spill.
He and Kleiman called on farmers to make their voices heard to federal legislators regarding the pending update of dairy and agricultural policies.
Director Joe Schmitt, who represents members in Iowa and Illinois, indicated the long-range planning committee is considering educational activities for dairy farm Hispanic employees.
The committee is also talking about working more closely with the Extension Service, increasing promotion efforts with local radio and newspapers, revamping the cooperative’s web site and examining the possibility of outside investments after the turndown of such a venture by a supermarket in Dubuque, Iowa.
Former director Sue Schultz of Chilton reported that the industry and public relations committee met four times during the year.
She also stated the cooperative’s Co-Share program distributed awards to 11 recipients for the year and 22 scholarships of $500 each (renewable for up to four years) are sponsored by Family Dairies.
Two scholarship recipients who were at the meeting were Brian Narges of Eden (University of Wisconsin-Madison) and Michelle Behling of Lomira (UW-Platteville).
Family Dairies realizes net operating profit
For the cooperative’s business year, members learned that the milk volume of approximately 5.9 billion pounds handled in 2011 was down by .58 percent in Member Service. The Direct Milk Program volume was down 2.4 percent for the year, despite being up by 4.4 percent for the fourth quarter.
Because of the more than $4 per hundred jump to $18.37 in the Class III milk average price for the year compared to 2010, the value of the milk sales for 2011 was up by 21 percent.
Family Dairies realized a net operating profit of $128,687 for 2011 and had a net gain of $22,458 from the futures contracts on 18.5 million pounds of milk settled.
The company also made disaster relief payments of $29,656, paid out $72,092 in equities revolved from 1997 and has total patron equities of $4.239 million.
During the business meeting, the delegates considered a batch of 29 resolutions pertaining to dairy product integrity, family dairy farm operations, agriculture-related issues and external and internal policies.
The only significant change delegates made to the resolutions presented was a directive to the board of directors to allow members to offer new resolutions until the day of the annual meeting.
As it stands today, delegates have a cutoff day of the previous Dec. 31, which had been set by the current board of seven directors.
Lee Klumpers of Waupun was elected to succeed retiring board member Sue Schultz as the director for district 5 (eastern Wisconsin).
In addition, incumbent Randy Peterson of St. Croix County defeated challenger Jan Morrow of Cornell to continue as the district 1 director (western Wisconsin) and Kathy Bauer of Faribault, MN defeated Ryan Pratt to succeed the retiring Allen Blommel as the district 7 director (Minnesota).