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DFA Takes Action to Help Members

U.S. dairy farmers face unprecedented losses in 2009, cooperative working on several initiatives to help.

With dairy prices plummeting, management of Dairy Farmers of America, taking measures to assist their members through this uniquely challenging low price cycle.

"Although we expect to have to manage through volatility in this industry, this down cycle is an especially bad one," said Tom Camerlo, chairman of DFA and a dairy producer from Florence, Colo. "We are seeing drastically low milk prices at a time when on-farm costs are at historically high levels. Compounding this is the fact that we are in a global economic crisis. As a cooperative, we are concerned about the stress this difficult situation is placing on our members."

DFA has several initiatives underway designed to ease the burden on members. Among these initiatives are:

• Continued support for the Cooperatives Working Together (CWT) program, a dairy farmer-funded self-help initiative designed to strengthen and stabilize milk prices by balancing supply with demand.

• The establishment of a DFA Cares Hotline, a 24-hour support system to offer assistance to members. By calling a toll-free number, producers can speak to a DFA staff member and ask general questions, seek market information or, in some cases, receive consultative assistance. Through DFA, members also have access to a Member Assistance Program, operated by a third party, which offers financial and legal advice and resources to deal with farm and family stress.

• Working extensively with the financial community to educate them on the dire conditions dairy farmers face and to discuss ways in which we can collaborate to assist our members. DFA recently conducted a webinar for more than 500 members of the lending and agribusiness community, as well as nutritionists, suppliers, academia and others with a stake in dairy farmers' futures.

• Working hard to secure the best possible price for members through maximizing premiums and working closely with suppliers and customers to maximize efficiencies in the supply chain.

• Continuing development of new products and technology to increase and serve unmet domestic needs and international demand. Some of the ways we are accomplishing this is by seeking better utilization of government feeding programs for domestic and international consumption, and supporting Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) on initiatives such as the recently launched specialty pizzas from Domino's, which use 40 percent more cheese per pizza.

• Legislatively, DFA staff in Washington, D.C., are working closely with lawmakers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to enact or expand government programs that will benefit dairy producers, including utilization of the Dairy Export Incentive Program. In addition, we continue to advocate for fair trade policy, constructive small business/farmer-friendly tax policy, and balanced policy on environmental matters and immigration.

• DFA also offers several programs and services designed to help members manage their on-farm costs and their price volatility risk. Forward contracting services through Dairy Risk Management Services and bulk-buying programs are just two examples.

"It is important right now that we offer all the support we can to our members," said Camerlo. "DFA is committed to bringing value to members and these initiatives are just a few ways we are doing that."

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