New Dairy Group Seeks to Unite Nation’s Producers

10:20PM Feb 10, 2011
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National Dairy Producers Organization says U.S. dairy farmers have not been properly represented in the industry

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Vermont's Bill Rowell (left), chairman of the National Dairy Producers Organization, speaks at World Ag Expo Thursday.

The crowd was just a fraction of what meeting organizers had hoped for, but that did not stop leaders of the fledgling National Dairy Producers Organization Inc. (NDPO) today from urging listeners and potential members to join them in their fight to promote producer profitability.

Meeting for the third consecutive day at World Ag Expo in Tulare, Calif., NDPO leaders called for greater representation for U.S. dairy producers and appealed to them to unite with a single national voice as the debate on the 2012 Farm Bill and new dairy policy approaches.

“The producer has not been properly represented in the industry,” said NDPO Chairman Bill Rowell. “Cooperatives have National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) to stand as an intermediary with International Dairy Foods Association. NMPF stands closer to processors, who seem to get represented first.”

NPDO, incorporated last November, has a 13-member board made up of dairy producers from across the U.S. It claims a membership “of less than 5,000” dairy producers. Since last fall, NDPO has held weekly national conference calls with interested producers to share information about the organization as well as news and market updates. The group has also hired a Washington, D.C., attorney to help it in its efforts in the nation’s capitol.

“I’ve spent a lot of time in Washington talking to legislators and they say if dairy producers can get unity, we can help you,” said NDPO board member Doug Maddox, a California dairy producer.

Rowell, whose Highgate, Vt., dairy milks 1,000 Holsteins, said the nation’s 54,000 dairy farms are members “who just haven’t sent in their money yet” for membership dues. Dues are $80 a year per family, Rowell said. Producers can fill out a membership form, found on NDPO’s website, and send it to the group’s Fresno, Calif., office with a check.

In a dairy seminar Wednesday at World Ag Expo, NDPO board member and treasurer Gary Genske, a California-based CPA who also owns a New Mexico dairy, said the group has 20-25% of U.S. dairies organized. “There has never been a national dairy producers group,” Genske said, adding that a fully-supported NDPO could help change the industry.  

NDPO’s goals are detailed in its 20-point “Contract with Producers.” In it, NDPO seeks to:

  • improve the price of milk to dairy producers
  • explore and implement specific program to stabilize the supply of milk
  • remove extreme price volatility
  • restructure national pricing discovery
  • develop processes to prohibit detrimental importation of dairy products
  • produce and maintain dairy exports
  • implement country of origin labeling for dairy products

Rowell acknowledged NDPO has an uphill battle in forming a national producers’ group, when powerful organizations such as NMPF and IDFA have long-standing industry support. “We don’t intend to replace NMPF or IDFA,” he said. Rowell also said NDPO would support NMPF’s Foundation for the Future plan if “it’s well run and for producers.” He added that his group had not yet seen all the details and was waiting for a closer look at the NMPF plan.

Echoing NDPO’s “Contract with Producers,” Rowell asked producers to question whether they’re satisfied with the status quo or want to take control of their financial future. The current system “is not working for the dairy farmer in this country,” Rowell said. “We’ve burned up billions of dollars of equity in the last two years. Today’s higher prices are a reprieve. The price will eventually go down again.

“Let’s get this show going, and show Washington D.C., that dairy producers are important to this country,” Rowell said.

Rowell estimated the three NDPO meetings this week had drawn 150 producers to the big-tent site at World Ag Expo.

Other NDPO board members are:

  • Paul Rozwadowski, dairy producer, Wisconsin, Vice Chairman
  • Anthony Loken, dairy producer, Minnesota, Secretary
  • Pete DeHaan, dairy producer, Oregon
  • Arden Tewsbury, dairy producer, Pennsylvania
  • Robin Berg, dairy producer, Wisconsin
  • Dave Fitch, dairy producer, New York
  • Pete Hoekstra, dairy producer, Texas
  • Robert Krucker, dairy producer, Idaho
  • Dennis Trissel, dairy producer, Virginia
  • Loren Olson, dairy producer, Minnesota