Our processors, our partners
Tuesday, February 13, 2018
Posted by: John Holevoet, director of government affairs
In the past, the relationship between dairy farmers and dairy processors has not been the best. Farmers may have viewed the processors with distrust and both groups may have been alienated by the other’s views on pricing and competition.
Throughout the dairy community, these old divides are being broken down. National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and the processor group International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) have agreed on a common platform for the upcoming farm bill negotiations. This is a first for these groups, which in the past have been bitterly divided over certain farm policies.
Edge is a young cooperative. Unlike others, we are not saddled with decades of baggage from past legislative fights. We were formed by progressive dairy farmers who understand that innovation, technology, and competitiveness are the best ways forward. That being the case, we never had a negative relationship with the processing community.
Instead, we have worked with cheesemakers and others to advance our shared agenda. During the fight over supply management in the last farm bill, Edge and other progressive dairy farmer groups worked with our processors to end the government-orchestrated program. Now, the same groups are discussing how the free market and farmer or processor-led initiatives can help with supply issues.
Throughout our co-op’s history, the board has always sought advice and counsel of industry partners, including processors. We will continue to build on that model going forward.
Looking at our top legislative priorities, we know that processors are with us. They want meaningful changes to our immigration system that would provide farmers with a sustainable workforce as many of them also face labor concerns. They want to promote better access to foreign markets and share our concern that NAFTA be improved, not abandoned. They also want to see a farm bill that promotes farmer’s financial wellbeing. They understand the challenging times our farmers are facing because of low commodity prices. They know they cannot be successful long term without farmers’ long-term success.
In January, a group from Edge attended IDFA’s annual Dairy Forum, the primary annual meeting of dairy processors and allied business people. We had the chance to catch up with processors from throughout the Midwest. These are old friends and trusted allies. We also sat down for meetings with two large dairy processors for the first time to talk about how we could work together more effectively. Our goals may not always overlap, but where they do, we want to build on those relationships.
Edge will take a group of members to Washington, D.C. in March to meet with elected officials from throughout country to talk about dairy farmer priorities. This trip will also give us the chance to reconnect with the same companies we met with at Dairy Forum. Together with processors, Edge is dedicated to improving the conditions for the dairy community. Many of the fights ahead of us are significant, and dairy farmers can use all the support they can get.