HARRISBURG, Pa. - The dairy industry is at a crossroads. Will producers actively participate in charting the direction at this fork in the road? Or will they leave that decision to others?
“As a dairy producer and DPAC board member, I believe dairy farmers need to be part of their own pricing system and understand it to be able to control and be part of their own destiny,” notes Duane Hertzler. He and his wife June and son and daughter-in-law operate Moo Echo Farms, Loysville, Perry County, Pa.
Hertzler is one of the 20 founding members, all dairy farmers, of the Dairy Policy Action Coalition (DPAC), formed in November of 2009. He currently chairs the finance committee and serves on several of the DPAC action groups.
“DPAC’s board and ad hoc members have been working on a grassroots level to leverage the funds given to us by other farmers and dairy businesses, by volunteering our time and using our own money for expenses related to this grassroots effort on dairy policy,” Hertzler explains.
Board and ad hoc members have logged countless hours and miles in the past 19 months building a grassroots coalition of producers from different geographies, herd sizes and management styles, while at the same time receiving producer input and expert analysis to develop DPAC’s Cornerstones for Change.
“DPAC offers producers the opportunity to make their view known,” says volunteer treasurer Bernie Morrissey. “Producers are getting a big bang for their buck in the fight to reveal the facts and provide the vehicle for producers to make a decision on the type of programs they want for the future.”
With the mission of promoting policies that equip dairy producers for the global realities of the 21st Century and position them for the opportunity to be profitable, DPAC’s Cornerstones for Change is a federal dairy policy outline for the 2012 Farm Bill, which offers a clear choice to National Milk’s Foundation for the Future.
Cornerstones for Change puts more emphasis on reporting and market transparency, simplified price discovery, and less government control, instead of more government control, of business decisions at the farm level.
The Cornerstones began as a discussion framework after the DPAC board’s milk pricing workshop in March 2010. DPAC had already been to D.C. working with lawmakers on leftover issues from the previous Farm Bill, making market transparency and price discovery front-burner issues while building consensus on other parts of the framework.
In March of this year, the Cornerstones were developed into a legislative outline, and after additional meetings and discussion, the six major points are being requested in Washington, D.C.
“DPAC has made a difference in discussions regarding dairy policy reforms, and we have positioned ourselves to continue to influence future dairy policy,” observes Alan Kozak, who operates Clover Patch Dairy with his wife Sharon and their two children near Millersburg, Holmes County, Ohio. He is also a founding board member and serves on the fundraising action group.
“On those issues where there is unity, we have actively participated. On the one most contentious issue, supply management, we have proposed an alternative-the Market Cow Bonus Program-in an attempt to build unity,” Kozak (Alan) explains.
Following through is the key.
“DPAC is recognized as the grassroots voice of dairymen by the powers-that-be in Washington, D.C. We have spent a year and a half developing relationships in Washington and across the United States,” Kozak explains, having traveled many of those miles at his own expense in addition to having monthly donations deducted from his milk check to help fund DPAC’s $12,000 per month budget.
“This has been accomplished by leveraging the donations by a few agribusinesses and producers along with many hours of volunteer effort,” the Ohio dairyman relates. “It is time for those who will directly benefit from dairy policy reforms-crafted with the influence of a pure producer perspective-to support the effort with a vote of confidence and financial support.”
The funds and the vote of confidence are both needed to move Cornerstones for Change forward in the dairy policy arena. “If everyone does a little, then no one has to do a lot,” is the theme of this fund drive. To inspire fellow producers to contribute, the DPAC board approved a national “Pledge-A-Penny” campaign, to be launched this month via mailings, print and electronic media.
“To date, DPAC has survived, financially, on the generous donations of agribusinesses (feed mills, equipment dealers, insurance and accounting firms, etc.), that have a vested interest in the sustainability of a vital dairy industry,” notes Morrissey. In fact, 75% of DPAC funding has come from agribusinesses and only 25% has come from producers who, most of all, have a vested interest in the sustainability of a vital dairy industry.
“Either we as producers step up through support of DPAC or we allow the current powers to determine our destiny,” says Alan Kozak. “For me the choice is an easy one.”