Session 1 of our Dairy Leaders Program opened with a leadership orientation presentation by Neil Koenig. Dr. Koenig has worked with all nine classes of the California Dairy Leaders Program. He is a Fresno State University professor and he is a consultant for estate planning, family business transition, and leadership training and development. He shared with our class that he has a genuine concern about the future leaders of the dairy industry and our society as a whole. He spoke about the numerous and ever-growing challenges that potential leaders face in the world that we live in today.
Dr. Koenig asked our class to participate in activities that would help us hone our leadership skills. Our class decided that as individuals it is difficult to achieve, but with effective coaching and teamwork realistic goals can be attained.
This was our first session and we learned many things about each other. It was a great start to our first adventure as Dairy Leaders and we greatly appreciate Dr. Koenig’s passion for teaching leadership skills. We are determined to use and develop the skills
On Tuesday, May 25, the California Dairy Leaders class had the privilege of meeting with Stan Andre, CEO of the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB). We met at the beautiful CMAB office in San Francisco.
Mr. Andre informed us what the CMAB does for the dairy industry. They work hard to promote our milk products, research new advertising ideas, and educate consumers about the benefits and attributes of dairy products. He said, “It’s our turn and time to tell the story we need to tell,” and they do exactly that. They specifically target California producers, moms, food and nutrition leaders, and retailers.
CMAB has just launched nine new commercials based on California dairy families. We want to get the word out that the dairies of our state are 99% family owned and not factory farms.
Mr. Andre educated us on the history of CMAB and how it grew to what it is today. In 1984, the California dairy industry was struggling with too much milk, so a natural cheese business was developed and marked with the ‘Real California Cheese’ seal. Half the cheese produced was mozzarella, which was sold to pizza companies, including buyers outside the U.S.
California grew to become the #1 dairy state in 1993 and has been in the lead ever since. McKinsey & Co had researched how to generate growth in the California dairy industry of 2% to 4% per year. The ‘Real California Milk Seal’ was advertised in 2007.
The ‘Happy Cow’ auditions got the public involved and informed. By having them go online and vote for their favorite cow, they had the opportunity to be educated on dairy products. Soon after, they started sending out coupons for ‘Real California Milk’ and ‘Real California Cheese’ products.
In 2007, they began to market cheese and butter to 13 other countries, mainly China. They sell to 1,400 retail stores in Mexico.
A big “Thank You” to CMAB for all the advertising and promoting they do for the dairy industry. I’d also like to thank Mr. Andre for taking the time to meet with California Dairy Leaders Class IX.
Session 2 of this year’s California Dairy Leaders class dealt with the state legislative and political process. Our first meeting was with Gary Conover, Western United Dairymen’s Sacramento lobbyist. He told us specifically about his role as a lobbyist in the legislative process in Sacramento. He presents WUD’s stance on proposed bills and specifies the pros and cons to the voting senators and assembly members. It is highly beneficial to have him in Sacramento fighting for us because he is the voice of WUD’s member dairymen. Mr. Conover also explained to us the multi-step process of how an idea leads to a bill and then eventually becomes law.
The next day, Mr. Conover took us to the Capitol building for a day full of meetings with members of the state’s legislature. He stressed the importance of building solid relationships with all the political figures you come in contact with. We met with assembly members Jean Fuller and Bill Berryhill and senators Gloria Negrete McLeod and Leland Yee, just to name a few.
An interesting point was how “pro-dairy” all the members of the legislature, even the democrats, seemed to be. Mr. Conover explained that they genuinely like cows and the concept of family dairy farms, but when it comes to voting, most usually still vote according to their party lines, no matter how it might affect dairy families. Regardless of whether we met with a Democrat or Republican, it was a good opportunity for all members of our class to inform our leaders about dairying. They each displayed a genuine interest in our class. We were able to personally answer questions and share our families’ dairy stories with them.
On the final morning, before we ended the session, our group was introduced on the floor of both the Assembly and the Senate. Assemblywoman Fiona Ma introduced us in the Assembly and Senator Leland Yee in the Senate. It was good publicity, not necessarily for us, but for the industry as a whole. Both Assemblywoman Ma and Senator Yee stressed the significance of dairies to the state’s economy by pointing out that dairies create over 450,000 year-round jobs and generate $63 billion in economic activity annually.
All in all, session two was a very informative and valuable experience. It was good to make contacts with members of our state’s legislature and put faces (and personalities) with the people we hear and read about so often. It was a good experience to tour the Capitol building and see where and how laws are made that can affect our dairies so significantly.
The overall education that I gained throughout Session 3 was interesting, and much of it was new to me. The first evening’s session with Annie AcMoody, Western United Dairymen’s economist, was a great introduction for the next day to come, while also being very informative. She provided us with a quick history of the California milk pooling system, and she also went through the details of how the milk price paid to the producer is calculated. I also enjoyed the dinner session we had with WUD board member Ray Souza. He seems to be very knowledgeable about conditions in the dairy industry in the past.
The next day was extremely intense with many meetings, and it was kind of hard to retain everything that the speakers were presenting. I found the sessions on cost of production, milk statements, and managing risk to be the most interesting to me. The milk statement workshop was especially beneficial to me, now that I understand how everything is calculated and for what reasons.
The third day was very informative. My favorite workshop of the entire session was with Eric Erba from CDI. Dr. Erba’s workshop was interactive and interesting. I really enjoyed his slides and hearing about his views of the future of the California Dairy Industry.
Overall the economic session was great. If I could change one thing it would be to transform this session from a two-night, three-day session into a two-day session. Other than that it was informative and fun.
Session 4 took the class to Indianapolis, Indiana, where Elanco served as the host. Upon arrival, on Thursday afternoon, an excellent meal was eaten with a handful of select Elanco employees at Shula’s in the Westin. This was a great time to get to know a little bit about the people behind the company.
On Friday morning, the class was brought out to Greenfield, site of the Elanco offices, where the day would be spent listening to several presentations. Dennis Schaffler opened the day with a welcome message, and Amanda Miller and John Metzger, who both had been at dinner the night before, gave a presentation on where Elanco is on dairy issues. This included information on a cow-side milk test for ketosis being released in the United States before the end of the year, and the use of Posilac and Rumensin in lactating dairy cows. Then, Schaffler gave a second presentation on Elanco’s vision of concerns and opportunities for the industry.
After lunch, Dr. Ed McGruder provided the class with some insight on what it takes to develop products at Elanco, the huge costs associated with that, and the main questions that FDA asks of each product. Those questions basically deal with the safety of the product for humans and the target animal, whether the product is effective, and whether or not it can be produced. This was followed with a tour of the three buildings that make up headquarters, led by Joan Todd. The facility is fairly new and state-of-the-art, and it is very employee-friendly. The class was able to see both offices and laboratories. After the tour, Stacie Warner gave a presentation on the “6 P’s of Persuasion”. This offered some useful information in how to become a persuasive person. The final discussion in Greenfield was an overview of legislative issues with Jesse Sevcik, who spoke via conference call from Washington, D.C. One of the issues discussed with him included how the elections coming up in November may change the dynamics of Congress.
After the limo ride back to the hotel, the class had dinner and a question-and-answer session with some of the Elanco people who had been with the class throughout the day, including John Metzger and Mike McCarty. This time, dinner was at Harry and Izzy’s, an excellent establishment in downtown Indianapolis.
Saturday morning, the class headed back to the airport to fly to Washington, D.C. Though the time spent with Elanco was short, a lot of learning was done, and great connections were made. The company’s employees shared a lot of valuable information with the class, and were all very pleasant to be around. What is accomplished by the company, and the people who make it up, is very impressive.
Federal political advocacy
This week began with a day spent with National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and Dairy Management Inc. (DMI). The staff from NMPF covered the Foundation for the Future plan. It was good to hear a presentation in detail as the plan is very complex. There will be many questions still to be answered concerning certain aspects of the plan over the next year and a half as legislation is crafted for the 2012 Farm Bill.
Trade, government relations, the CWT program, regulatory affairs, economics and federal milk marketing orders, and communications were also covered by NMPF staff. There are a lot of issues in every sector of the dairy industry and NMPF is trying to tackle all of them.
We then had a presentation from Stan Erwine at Dairy Management Inc. concerning communication efforts being conducted by DMI. Mr. Erwine was very refreshing to listen to as he covered all of the positive things going on for the dairy industry. There have been recent studies showing the small carbon footprint of the dairy industry. The health benefits of dairy products are proving to be better all of the time. He also discussed the efforts that need to be made by individual producers to “tell their stories.”
The following two days were spent meeting with House and Senate legislative staff. Quite a lot packed into two days of these visits. We were able to meet personally with Representative Wally Herger, who seems to be very supportive of agriculture and the dairy industry. We also briefly met with Senator Barbara Boxer for a photo with her. The staff for Senator Dianne Feinstein was very encouraging about their work on the AgJOBS bill. Most of the staffers we met with supported some form of either extending the Bush Administration’s tax cuts or supporting a bill to reform the estate tax to help family farms.
We met with staff from the House Ag Committee, which was interesting. They have issues going on with dairies near the Chesapeake Bay and are discussing imposing water quality regulations on them. They are trying to find a resolution with EPA on this issue. We also met with staff from USDA to discuss their major issues.
During our stay in the nation’s capitol, we were treated to a baseball game and a play. Both of these were wonderful and everyone enjoyed them very much.
Session 5, the final session for California Dairy Leaders Class IX, began in Modesto, California at the Western United Dairymen office. We began our final session with probably the most depressing topic you could choose, environmental issues. Environmental issues are not fun to talk about in the dairy industry, especially being in California, noting that dairy has been singled out of late. The reality of the matter is that if you want to continue to do business in California, you will have to comply with changes and adapt to the increasing challenges.
Our first presentation was from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District by Sheraz Gill. The speaker noted that the district helped reduce stationary emissions in California nearly 70% since they were formed. In fact, stationary emissions had been reduced significantly (~25%-30%) to the point where mobile sources cause far more emissions. It is strange to me why they continue their focus on stationary emissions if mobile emissions are a larger problem. If they were truly committed to helping clean up the air, they might focus their attention on mobile sources and give dairies and businesses a rest. It was interesting talking to Mr. Gill to get his perspective on regulations.
Our second speaker was from the regional water quality board. Unfortunately, our speaker was new to his job so he was generally less informed than we were on current water quality regulations. One of the current water quality topics has been that the water board is considering that all dairy operations must install ground water monitoring wells. Unfortunately these ground water monitoring wells would be very expensive for dairies to install on their operations. One proposal that is being put forward as an alternative to this is that ground water monitoring wells could be put in on certain dairies as a representation of what is happening on other operations. So far, this alternative has been supported by the water board as an acceptable alternative to each dairy having to install monitoring wells. Our Dairy Cares speaker, J.P. Cativiela, actually talked more about this topic than the water board.
We also heard from Denise Mullinax about the new FARM program—Farmers Assuring Responsible Management. As an industry, I think it’s good that we take proactive steps to combat the negative publicity with which PETA and other animal rights activist groups are bombarding the media. Dairy farmers take good care of their animals; it’s in their best interests to do so. People should not be apprehensive about the FARM program; it’s fairly straight forward and painless. Most of the requirements in the program are already being done on the dairy. It is far better that we, as part of the dairy industry, develop a program like FARM because consumers are demanding assurances of this sort. In fact, Wal-Mart had begun developing a program for their suppliers to ensure responsible management at the farm level. Fortunately, Wal-Mart has since put their program on hold in order to see if the national FARM program would ensure responsible management. I have no qualms with the national FARM program, and see it as a great way to be proactive and protect again possible negative alternatives.
Another interesting speaker was Mike Payne, a researcher who has looked into composting animal mortalities. California has very little processing capacity to handle large numbers of animal mortalities. In fact, in the summer of 2006, there were an abnormally high number of mortalities, and rendering plants could not handle the load. This was probably one of the events that helped spur Dr. Payne’s research into composting, basically to use composing as an alternative in case of another such crisis. Interestingly, Dr. Payne showed that there is very little residue left after composting the mortalities. He actually inserted harmful pathogens in the stomach of a dead cow, and found that all the bacteria were killed by composting due to the intense heat that is created. This was very interesting, although Dr. Payne did not foresee composting mortalities as becoming a common practice on dairies anytime soon.
Finally, Frank Mitloehner, a university professor from UC Davis, addressed the group. It was great hearing from Dr. Mitloehner, especially about the research he is doing. He is one of the few opponents combating false negative publicity about the impact on the environment by dairies. In 2006, the U.N. came out with a study, Livestock’s Long Shadow, citing animal agriculture as one of the leading sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Dr. Mitloehner argued with the U.N. group for over two years before they admitted the study was flawed, but unfortunately the U.N. report has led to calls for meatless Mondays and other ridiculous suggestions by people wanting to reduce their impact on the environment. Because Dr. Mitloehner has been doing extensive research on this topic, he is probably one of the leading advocates who are trying to dispel the myth that livestock is the primary source of global warming. Dr. Mitloehner communicated to us that all of animal agriculture accounts for on 3% of the emissions in the U.S. and dairy accounts for only 2%. On great point that he brought up was the extent that U.S. agriculture has already reduced their impact in the environment. Over the last 60 years, dairy has reduced its carbon footprint by over 70%. Agriculture really is sustainable, and better efficiencies only make our industry better stewards of the environment.
The following morning, we visited Fiscalini Farms in Modesto. Class member Brian Fiscalini hosted the tour and showed us around his operation. I would consider Fiscalini Farms to be a very progressive operation that is being very proactive in its approach to dealing with the increasing environmental challenges in California. The operation is one of only a few dairies to have a methane digester in California. Due to complicated regulations, Brian noted that it was very difficult to please all the different environmental organizations and regulatory agencies. One issue in particular that had caused the most complications was dealing with nitrous oxide. Nitrous oxide is one of the byproducts from the methane digester and is considered one of the worst greenhouse gasses. As a result, it has been difficult for Fiscalini Farms to comply with various air quality regulations. Eventually regulations may become more streamlined so other digesters can be installed on other dairies.
As our final session drew to a close, I think we as a group were all a bit saddened knowing that it would probably be one of the last times we would all be together. Of course we would see each other around at different industry events, but would not all be together as a group. California Dairy Leaders Class IX was an extremely great group. We all bonded well together, learned a lot, and met a lot of contacts that will be beneficial in the future. Overall, I think that the Western United Dairy Leaders program has really helped my personal development in the industry. I really feel more prepared and knowledgeable with industry issues, I have become much more in tune with how state and federal issues are dealt with, and I have gained much more confidence to be a leader in the dairy industry.