COLUMBUS – An innovative organization has given new life to the fight to keep the dairy industry alive and well in the Buckeye State.
Ohio’s Dairy Industry Forum brings together producers, processors, allied industries and retailers and distributors. ODIF’s mission is to strengthen the overall profitability and competitiveness of Ohio’s dairy industry.
“We need to let the world know we are not going to sit back and die,” said Connie Finton, ODIF trustee, dairy producer and Dairy Farmers of America director. “With ODIF, we have the infrastructure, vision and energy to keep it going.”
The group hopes to improve communication among various segments of the industry, provide leadership for issues of importance to the sustainability of the industry, and encourage networking to forge strategic alliances.
“I, as a producer, may not agree with everything Tom Jackson (of the Ohio Grocers Association) wants to do, but by joining together, the two of us can fight for the things we do agree on,” said Finton.
Tim Demland, ODIF president, said his goal is to make this group “the” place to turn to for information or help in the dairy industry. The group has created task forces to work on different issues within the industry.
Demland says task forces will be created and dissolved as needed. Currently there are task forces for environmental issues and animal disease concerns.
“If someone has a question about anything at all related to the dairy industry, we want to be able to help them find the answer. If someone needs help, we want to be able to provide that for them,” said Demland.
There will be two ODIF meetings a year; one is to be purely educational and the other will serve as a business and educational meeting. ODIF will work closely with the Ohio Department of Agriculture and Ohio State University Extension.
“By bringing all sectors together, we can use each other for information and we can better understand the needs of one another,” said Demland, who also works for OSU and as executive secretary of the Progressive Dairy Producers of Ohio.
Lewis Jones of the Ohio Department of Agriculture was appointed to represent ODIF as secretary. Leon Weaver, veterinarian and dairy producer, was elected to chair the board of trustees.
One vice chair was elected from each of the four membership sections. They are Dale Arbaugh, producer sector; Don Buckley of Midwest Dairy Foods Association, processor sector; Mark Armfelt of Monsanto Dairy Business Services, allied industry sector; and Scott Higgins of American Dairy Association and Dairy Council Mid East, retail/distribution sector.
ODIF held its kick-off event June 5 at ODA’s Bromfield Administration Building. The group explained its purpose and went over its code of regulations. Demland asked for the participants of the summer forum to become charter members of ODIF, and at the end of the day, several companies, organizations, individuals and producers were on board.
Joining ODIF as charter members were Dairy One, Land-O-Lakes Farmland Feeds, American Jersey Cattle Association, Ohio Grocers Association, COBA/Select Sires, Monsanto Dairy Business Services, Dairy Farmers of America, American Dairy Association and Dairy Council Mid East, Ohio Dairy Farmers Federation and Midwest Dairy Foods Association.
Industry representatives joining were Larry Smith, Kent Hoblet, Lewis Jones and Tim Demland, and individual dairy producers joining were Don Hempfling, Paul Broering, Leon Weaver, Tom Fleming, Cliff and Connie Finton and Dale Arbaugh.
ODA Director Fred Dailey also spoke and urged participants to build a better dairy industry in Ohio. He said the dairy industry needs to do a better job working together and with the legislature.
“We shouldn’t be fighting amongst ourselves. We have to grow together with the changes,” said Dailey. “The dairy industry needs a bigger voice with our legislators. We at ODA are behind this group, and we believe it will make a difference.”
(Reporter Annie Santoro can be reached at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 22, or firstname.lastname@example.org.)