Members of FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative gathered for their third annual meeting on Feb. 13-14 in Onalaska to discuss critical industry issues and ways to enhance their farm's bottom line in addition to providing direction for the cooperative's leaders.
This year's annual meeting included a visit from the National Milk Producers Federation CEO and President Jim Mulhern, who spoke to the group about national and international policy issues including geographical indicators, trade agreements and the status of the global dairy market.
"Dairy farmers and processors here in Wisconsin and surrounding Midwest states have a great deal riding on the outcomes of the TPP trade negotiations, and this leadership from the state's Congressional delegation is key to helping ensure our farmers get a fair deal," says Mulhern.
Mulhern also spoke about NMPF's National FARM (Farmer's Reassuring Responsible Management) program, which was established to enhance consumer confidence regarding the animal welfare practices on dairy farms across the country.
"Consumers are genuinely concerned about animal care on farms, and expectations have risen across the food chain in recent years," notes Mulhern. "The FARM program was established to demonstrate the good care dairy farmers commit to providing their animals."
Rep. Ron Kind, representing his district from western Wisconsin, also attended the meeting. His involvement with the Ways and Means Subcommittee has been influential in helping move these trade agreements to the forefront of policy priorities.
"We thank Rep. Kind for his continued efforts on behalf of dairy farmers, helping explain the importance of the trade talks to U.S. officials currently engaged in negotiations," says Mulhern. "Rep. Kind has even hosted U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman on a dairy farm here in Wisconsin last August to drive home how important international sales are to Wisconsin's dairy industry. His dedication is evident, and we applaud his efforts."
This year's annual meeting theme was "Partnering to Build a Better Industry."
The business meeting included recognition of the past year's scholarship recipients, which included 30 individuals being awarded over $26,000. Thirteen individuals thanked the delegation personally during the business meeting for making youth and higher education one of the cooperative's priorities.
At the Friday evening banquet, board members that had retired this past year were recognized, including Bernie Vander Heiden of Kaukauna, Randy Peterson of Wilson, and Francis Cherney of Milladore, Jim Bird was also awarded the Meritorious Service award in recognition of all his years and dedication to the cooperative and its predecessors in addition to the dairy industry as a whole. Bird retired from FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative this past year, marking the end of his career of over four decades of advocacy and policy reform in the dairy industry.
Source: FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative