When we make that trip to the grocery store, we want to know that the shelves will be lined with quality food products of many different kinds. And we want to know the food on those shelves or in the coolers is safe.
Much of the emphasis at a recent Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) Mideast Area Leadership Conference in Columbus that I attended was focused on that point.
DFA is the largest milk marketing cooperative representing dairy farmers in the United States. They are quick to point out that they are taking many steps to improve both the quality and quantity of milk and dairy products.
Lead-off speaker for the conference was Ohio Department of Agriculture Director Robert Boggs. Bob, as many of us know him, pointed out that the dairy industry has a good future in the state of Ohio.
He said that in 1950, we had 500,000 cows in Ohio producing about 5 billion pounds of milk. Today we have about 250,000 cows producing those 5 billion pounds of milk, illustrating the efficient production of Ohio dairy farmers.
Bob also said that every dairy farmer has the right to use safe, proven technology if they want to, referring to the move toward eliminating rbST in dairy herds. If we are going to help feed the world, we must use technology, he emphasized.
Ohio Department of Agriculture's Dairy Division regulates much more than just production. It regulates milk from the producer through the retail distribution system to the consumer.
ODA's large livestock permitting program is one of the strongest regulatory programs in the United States. Livestock waste regulations are tougher than human waste regulations, Bob pointed out. We have more pollution from humans than livestock.
Director Boggs said that biofuels are important to Ohio, with five new plants on line in the state. Each one cost about $1 billion, and they are very efficient plants producing ethanol, leaving a residue that is used for livestock feed and other uses.
One of his final comments was that we cannot allow agriculture to be determined by forces that know nothing about farming, emphasizing the problem we have today with outside influences trying to dictate how farmers should farm.
Director Bob Boggs is a strong advocate for dairy farming as well as all of Ohio agriculture.
Charlie Arnot, CEO for the Center for Food Integrity, was the second speaker. One of his key points also related to the many influences today trying to have a voice in agriculture.
He stressed the fact that some consumers don't care what a farmer does but they want to know how much farmers care for their animals and their farm. Telling their story of the humane care they give to their livestock is important.
Rick Smith, dynamic CEO for Dairy Farmers of America, highlighted many of the actions of the co-op this past year. They have dropped several ventures that were not profitable, turned the organization around and have record earnings for the first six months of this year.
Tom Camerlo, president of DFA, discussed the strategic plan the organization has adopted. Their mission is to deliver value to their members through emphasizing quality and integrity. While their main emphasis is on their members, they also stress the need for satisfied customers for dairy products from those members. They have developed many strategic initiatives to accomplish their mission.
Overall, the future for DFA members is very positive. The outlook for milk price to members this fall is bright with prices increasing as we go into the fall and winter months. John Turcinov, director of market analysis, projects farm prices the second half of this year should average $20.01. The average for the first six months was $18.40.
With sky rocketing farm costs, this increase will be a boost to all dairy farmers.
Trumbull County dairy farmers that I visited with at the conference included Mr. and Mrs. Andy Butler, Mr. and Mrs. Gary Kibler and Davis Denman
It was a good conference with an upbeat outlook.
Parker grew up in Trumbull County, is retired from The Ohio State University and works with the local Farm Bureau Board.