Dairy Farmers of America honors Mark Thomas with regional award

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Mark Thomas
Mark and Chris Thomas (center), of Thomas Farms in Louisville, Ohio, received one of seven national Members of Distinction awards from Dairy Farmers of America. Also pictured are DFA board chairman Randy Mooney (left) and CEO Rick Smith. (Submitted photo)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — More than 1,500 members and guests gathered March 23 in Kansas City for the Dairy Farmers of America’s 18th annual meeting.

The meeting kicked off with the chairman’s report, delivered by Randy Mooney, who operates a dairy farm in Rogersville, Missouri. Mooney, who also serves as chairman of National Milk Producers Federation, talked about how DFA can rethink the possibilities for dairy in ways that will benefit DFA’s farmer-owners.

“By reimagining dairy, we can create opportunities for the next generation of our dairy farmer- owners, and for consumers,” Mooney said.

An overview of DFA’s business was delivered by President and Chief Executive Officer Rick Smith. His presentation highlighted DFA’s financials for 2015 (scroll down to read DFA: By The Numbers).

“We are always working to strengthen and evolve our business so that we can continue to provide value to members,” said Smith. “We do this by seeking out new opportunities, focusing on innovation, and making decisions today for the cooperative we want to be in the future.”

Member awards

The cooperative’s annual banquet brought a host of recognitions, including the 2016 Members of Distinction. Every year, family members at one farm from each of DFA’s seven regions are recognized for service to their dairy, their families, communities and the industry. The 2016 Members of Distinction are:

Mideast Area: Thomas family, Thomas Farms of Stark County, Louisville, Ohio. Mark Thomas spent 25 years on the International Hot Rod Association circuit, where he was a seven-time IHRA Funny Car champion. All the while, he was also his father’s partner on their 400-cow dairy farm. Mark now runs the farm with his wife, Chris.

Northeast Area: Robbins family, North Harbor Dairy, Sackets Harbor, Jefferson County, N.Y. For three generations, North Harbor Dairy was a 100-cow dairy. Today, Ron and Nancy Robbins milk 1,000 cows in addition to operating a milk and grain hauling business and an agri-tourism business called Old McDonald’s Farm. They also farm 7,000 acres of corn, soybean, wheat, alfalfa, grass and hay.

Other regional winners included: Central Area: Hanke family, Hanke Farms Inc., Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin; Mountain Area: Ketterling family, TLK Dairy, Mountain Home, Idaho; Southeast Area: Coble family, Harmony Grove Dairy, Waynesboro, Georgia; Southwest Area: Wolf family, Scot-Tex Dairy, Scotland, Texas; and Western Area: Alderson Family Dairy, Gerber, California.

In addition, outgoing board directors Ralph McNall, of Fairfax, Vermont, and Joyce Bupp, of Seven Valleys, Pennsylvania, were recognized for their contributions to DFA.

Winners of the 2016 DFA Cares Foundation Scholarship were announced at the banquet. This year, 40 recipients will receive a combined total of $49,500 toward their undergraduate and graduate level studies.

During the meeting’s resolutions process, more than 250 elected delegates voted on a slate of issues that guide the policy position and business activities of DFA for the coming year.

Business growth

Related article:

Arla, Dairy Farmers of America to build cheese plant in western NY

In 2015, DFA acquired the remaining ownership interest in DairiConcepts, a cheese and dairy manufacturer, which it previously was invested in as a joint venture partner. Additionally, DFA broke ground on a new dairy ingredients plant in Garden City, Kansas. The plant will produce whole, skim and nonfat dry milk powders, as well as cream, and is a partnership between DFA and a group of member farms in Southwest Kansas.

For the first time in the cooperative’s history, DFA launched a new brand and product from scratch: Live Real Farms Energy Drink.

DFA by the numbers

  • Dairy Farmers of America officials reported net income of $94.1 million in 2015, compared to $43.1 million for 2014.
  • In 2015, DFA directed the marketing of 62 billion pounds of milk for both members and others, approximately 30 percent of the total U.S. milk production.
  • DFA’s net sales totaled $13.8 billion for 2015, compared to $17.9 billion in 2014, a result of lower milk prices, reported Rick Smith, president and chief executive officer.
  • The all U.S. milk price averaged $17.08 per hundredweight in 2015 compared with $23.97 in 2014.
  • The average 2015 price paid to members per hundredweight of milk was $17.18 ,compared with $24.17 in 2014.
  • Cash distributed to members in 2015 totaled $35 million, compared to $28 million in 2014. In 2015, members received $20 million in equity retirements and $15 million of allocated patronage dividends.

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