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CANAL FULTON, Ohio — Dairy producers and representatives of related industries in northeast Ohio spent most of the day Nov. 11 learning about the progress they’ve made over the past year as members of the Ohio Dairy Producers Association.
The association held one of three fall meetings at Elm Ridge Party Center in Canal Fulton, followed by a brief tour of Clardale Farms along Strausser Street Northwest.
Normand St-Pierre, Ohio State University Extension dairy specialist, got the meeting started by reminding dairy farmers of the ongoing change in ag deans at OSU. Bobby Moser, who has been dean of the college of food, agricultural and environmental sciences for 20 years, announced his retirement in September. He will continue to serve as dean until a replacement is found.
St-Pierre said dairy farmers should work with their organization leaders to recommend and monitor the types of candidates being considered. Agriculture is just one department within the college, and it’s important to find a candidate who understands ag, as well as the other areas, he said.
“We are not the college of agriculture, we’re the college of food, agriculture and environmental sciences,” he said. “If we are not careful, very quickly we can erode that role for the college and you’re going to be the losers.”
St-Pierre said it’s also important the new dean understand and support production agriculture, and the importance of producing a marketable, available food product.
The keynote speaker for the event was Joe Outlaw, co-director of the Agricultural and Food Policy Center for Texas A&M’s AgriLife Extension Service.
Outlaw provided an analysis of new dairy policy legislation, specifically the Dairy Security Act — a bill introduced in July that would provide a dairy producer margin protection program, a dairy market stabilization program, and make key reforms to the Federal Milk Marketing Order system.
The program essentially provides a structured model of supply management in the dairy industry. Proponents of the legislation say a farmer’s participation is voluntary, but Outlaw said in order for it to be effective, a large volume of producer participation will be needed.
“For supply management to be effective, a large part of the milk supply has to get into this program, otherwise there’s no restrictions,” he said.
Outlaw said he’s fairly confident some type of dairy security legislation will be made law, but the exact form it will take is still unclear.
“I don’t know the answer whether that policy is or good or bad,” he said. “I think it could work, but I could also see situations where it (wouldn’t) work too well.”
Andy Johnson, director of communications for the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association and Ohio Beef Council, reminded dairy producers that although they’re in the milk and dairy business, dairy and beef markets share important connections.
Some 20 percent of the U.S. beef herd is dairy cattle, he said, and 50 percent of dairy beef makes it into whole muscle cuts. The annual beef checkoff collects $79 million, with dairymen contributing 14 percent.
The real benefit of checkoff, Johnson said, is building and maintaining market relations. Johnson, and ODPA Executive Director Scott Higgins, said the program has helped provide research into beef nutrition and consumer trends, and has helped secure new marketing deals with companies like Domino’s Pizza, Kroger Co., and major fast food chains.
“The checkoff program is now working with and through others,” Higgins said, including “leveraging your checkoff dollars to get other people’s money involved.”
Johnson said it’s important to keep consumers educated.
“We are reaching a point in our industry when people are more interested than ever about where their food comes from,” he said. “We have to be transparent; we really have nothing to hide.”
He estimated the checkoff and its affiliate programs have added $100-$125 of value to every beef carcass sold.
Higgins concluded the meeting by reminding producers of ODPA’s ongoing efforts to represent the dairy industry, including at the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board meetings.
“We didn’t wait for someone else to determine what our standards of dairy care would be,” he said.
The event concluded with a tour of Clardale Farms. Frank Burkett and his family milk 460 head of Holsteins and are in the process of constructing a new cow barn.
Other ODPA fall meetings were held in New Bremen with a tour of Brownhaven Farm, and in Plain City, with a tour of Four Henry Holsteins.