FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative members and delegates gathered at the cooperative’s 12th annual meeting on February 9-10, 2024. The event highlighted important industry topics, including the outlook for the industry in 2024, mental wellness on the farm, the cooperative’s resolution session as well as presentations by DMI and National Milk Producers Federation.
The Producer Discovery Workshops kicked off Friday afternoon, featuring Leonard Polzin, UW-Extension Dairy Markets and Policy Outreach Specialist. He shared his knowledge on the current market situation in the dairy industry as well as the outlook for this coming year.
The second workshop featured Jeff Ditzenberger, former farmer, auctioneer, and founder of TUGS, a non-profit dedicated to addressing the stigma surrounding mental health. He shared his personal story and struggle with mental health. He also engaged members on how they can look out for themselves and their neighbors from a mental health standpoint.
The cooperative recognized its 2023 scholarship recipients. Top quality milk awards were also presented to eighteen Family Dairies USA producers. Family Dairies USA is FarmFirst’s milk marketing division. Board member Dan Vandertie was also recognized for his 5 years of service as a director.
At the cooperative’s business meeting the next day, President John Rettler reflected on how dairy farmers have faced challenges this past year. He said that we must acknowledge and celebrate the small things in life and be sure to focus on the good in our lives in order to remain resilient in the face of adversity.
General Manager Jeff Lyon shared similar thoughts, stressing the importance of trying each to keep one’s gratitude higher than their expectations. Lyon, who serves on the board of directors for Easterseals Wisconsin introduced a video highlighting the available services provided by AgrAbility of Wisconsin and Easterseals Wisconsin to assist farmers with disabilities from injuries or a medical diagnosis that limits their ability to farm.
Delegates approved public policy related to supporting improvements to federal milk marketing orders, getting whole milk into schools, enforcement by FDA of dairy labeling, opposition to lab grown and plant-based products being labeled as dairy products and making sure that green energy initiatives remain voluntary.
The annual business meeting continued with a presentation from Nate Janssen, Vice President of Farmer Relations and Outreach with Dairy Management, Inc. He provided an in depth look at where dairy farmers checkoff dollars are being used and also the successes of the checkoff program in the past year. The business meeting concluded with keynote speaker, Alan Bjerga, Executive Vice President of Communications and Industry Relations with National Milk Producers Federation. Bjerga presented an overview of NMPF, a recap of NMPF’s efforts with respect to dairy policy including the FMMO hearing, Farm Bill, feed additives, nutrition, and dairy labeling.
A live and silent auction was held and raised nearly $5,500 youth educational programming and college scholarships.