Joan Behr, Foremost Farms, Baraboo, Wis.
A producer's decision to implement an animal welfare program depends on whether he or she is marketing milk directly to a customer or going through a cooperative processor. In the case of marketing through Foremost Farms, the decision to participate in an animal welfare program would probably be driven by us, based on customer feedback and expectations.
Foremost Farms is a member of National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and we've been providing feedback on the National Dairy FARM Program. One of our hopes is that this program would be recognized as credible, comprehensive and providing the assurances customers need when buying milk from farms where animal welfare practices are followed.
We want to be part of a program that's nationally recognized and provides credible assurance that customers are looking for. We haven't yet settled on a program, but we are following the progress of the National Dairy FARM Program from NMPF.
Most dairy producers understand there's a definite disconnect between consumers and modern farming practices. Quite a few producers realize that to do business in the future, they're going to have to provide assurances their animals are well-taken care of.
Behr served on the National Dairy Animal Well-Being Coalition in 2007-08, co-chairing its producer communication subcommittee. She is also part of the team at Foremost Farms looking to select an animal welfare program for its members. Behr is director of communications and employee development for Foremost Farms, one of the nation's top 10 dairy cooperatives.
Bill Van Dam, Alliance of Western Milk Producers and Dairy Cares, Sacramento, Calif.
One of our primary goals is to have a program accepted nationally with the objective of having no company use their animal welfare system or program as a marketing advantage.
Among processors, there are definitely degrees of pressure from customers. Some want an animal welfare program now; others are willing to wait. The general indication is that most just need to see that there is an acceptable animal welfare program.
Undoubtedly, it's smarter to have a national animal welfare program, and we have determined that working with National Milk Producers Federation and Dairy Management Inc. on a national program is the right way to achieve our objectives.