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  October 29, 2010

Common ground with western states: status quo not an option

by Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, October 29, 2010

RENO, Nev.--There is a sort of symmetry to the notion that a unity of purpose would be discussed in Nevada, where the state motto is: "All for our country." The state flag, after all, bears the phrase "battle born."

This week, one could say members of America’s battle-bruised dairy industry met here seeking a sort of unity of purpose on several fronts, perhaps most pressing being the need to truly look at the future of the dairy industry and chart a course of opportunity.

Merriam Websters’ second definition for "unity" is: "a condition of harmony." That’s what is developing among dairy producers amid the ongoing national debate on ideas.

But "harmony" does not come from everyone singing the same note. Instead, it is the blending of different people singing different notes that sound really good together. Not everyone is meant to be a soprano. The point is that dairy producers today, more than ever, are talking to each other. They are sufficiently concerned about the future of dairying in the U.S.

Having had the opportunity to meet and correspond with dairymen across the country--as both a journalist and in serving as correspondence secretary for the Dairy Policy Action Coalition (DPAC)--it is obvious to me that there is a lot of common ground out there.

In September, DPAC received an invitation to attend the Western States Dairy Producers Trade Association (WSDPTA) meeting Oct. 25 and 26 in Reno, Nevada. WSDPTA includes dairy organizations representing producers in about 10 western states.

Occurring separately at the same location--the Grand Sierra Hotel--was the joint annual meeting of the National Milk Producers Federation, National Dairy Promotion and Research Board, and United Dairy Industry Association.

For DPAC vice-chair Rob Barley and myself, it was a privilege to be able to participate in WSDPTA’s 10 hours of meetings this week.

They invited us as part of their effort to reach out to producers in other regions, and DPAC accepted the invitation in the same spirit, after having reached out this year to meet with producer groups in the Midwest and Southeast and after having made some contact with western producers via email and through DPAC’s participation in a nationwide discussion of dairy policy in Chicago back in July.

Dairy producers realize their industry is at a crossroads, and they know one region’s voice, alone, will accomplish far less than a harmonized approach at the grassroots level across the nation. The future is not about East or West; large or small. It’s really about taking an honest look at the factors affecting opportunity.

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