Visiting at Booth #3507

All the FarmFirst staff are surely going to miss the opportunity to visit with all the FarmFirst members and Family Dairies USA patrons that attend World Dairy Expo and stop by our booth each year. World Dairy Expo is always a great time to recap what happened over the spring and summer and discuss what the future might hold. And many of our producers know exactly where to find us, in booth #3507.

If we had a chance for a conversation, we would no doubt dive right in with COVID-19 and what the slowdown of the economy did to the dairy markets, with extremely low prices and a concern for how long they would last, to a quick turnaround in the matter of weeks to the highest prices ever and a hope that they would continue for a while.

We would talk first-hand about the challenges we faced marketing milk for our Family Dairies patrons in the latter half of March through May and fully understand the anxiety all our members had at that time. We would report that we did not have to dump any milk and empathize with members that did have to put milk on the ground or in a pit. We would also discuss that we are not out of COVID-19 yet and emphasize the importance for members to establish a risk management plan for milk pricing. For anyone looking for resources, FarmFirst can help. 

We would let you know about the work we have done with our Washington D.C. partners at the National Milk Producers Federation and the Midwest Dairy Coalition, including our success to deliver monetary compensation to members through Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) payments. We would also tell you that our work is not done with Congress and the Administration on COVID-19 relief because we need to have our members receive compensation for the losses experienced in April and May.

We would tell you that when milk prices did tumble this spring, FarmFirst was there to advocate for flexibility in the regulations of what dairy food products could be part of the Farm to Families Food Box program, ensuring that a variety of dairy products were allowed as options to help move product when it was needed most. Our team is also actively watching the markets as schools do their best to welcome students this fall - and stay open - ultimately impacting the price of milk.

We would share that, whether there is a pandemic or not, FarmFirst has been busy advocating for beneficial trade agreements, including the USMCA and enacting the Phase 1 trade agreement with China. Not only does the U.S. have high quality dairy products but we can manufacture quite a bit of it, and quality trade agreements help move products to people around the world who need and desire them. Through our trade advocacy, we also know the importance of the significant details, including geographical indicators, which if we do not push back against, our ability to export and use standard cheese names will be extremely difficult and costly. FarmFirst continues to advocate against nuisance trade barriers.  

We would also share that when it comes to U.S. dairy consumption, FarmFirst is also aware of the regulations that restrict the ease of incorporating  dairy products into Americans’ diets, including the federal dietary guidelines that are being published this year. While science strongly suggests and supports the role that dairy fats play in human diets, the latest federal dietary guidelines did not reference this science, which in turn limits what other federal programs can offer in terms of dairy products, such as school lunch programs.   

 Questions would most certainly arise about federal order reform, and we would discuss in great detail how milk prices are set, why pooling and depooling happens, and the complexity that exists when balancing all these factors to provide the best milk price. We have been talking about federal order reform on a national scale, and we would have loved to talk to you about your thoughts.

We would also mention the thousands of dollars that have been paid to members this year for milk and cow loss due to power outages, tornadoes, barn fires and most recently the “derecho” winds that went through Iowa through our exclusive Milk Loss Program. While the winds have flattened cornfields and twisted grain bins in Iowa, members shouldn’t let derecho steal the wind from their sails – FarmFirst is actively processing claims and preparing to send funds for our members that have experienced any milk income loss.

We would be remiss if we did not show you a picture of the 27 young, inspiring, and ambitious students who received $21,000 in scholarships for their post-secondary education. These recipients are the sons and daughters of our members, and a shining light in the future. We are grateful that our board established a solid foundation to make educational funds available for so many. If your son or daughter is in high school and planning on a post-secondary school, be sure to ask us about our scholarship program.

At World Dairy Expo, our conversation might be just a few minutes or considerably longer as we stand at our booth. One of the most important things I would say at the end is – “Thank you for being a member of FarmFirst.” We appreciate your confidence in us as a partner supporting your business and accept the responsibility to continue to deliver results.

We won’t be able to mingle just outside booth #3507 at World Dairy Expo this year, but you know you are always welcome to call: 608-244-3373 or send us and email at info@farmfirstcoop.com. We wish you all the best with your harvest this fall and look forward to the next conversation we can have with you.