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  August 24, 2010

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, August 13, 2010

ATHENS, Tenn.—They came from all corners of the Southeast -- 22 dairy producers from 10 states -- and by the end of the day last Thursday (August 5), the group assembled had identified six key action items for short- and long-term dairy policy. During the daylong meeting, they also shared consensus to form a southeast action group with DPAC (Dairy Policy Action Coalition), setting their next meeting for early September in Atlanta, Georgia, where they will chart a course of next steps.

The idea for the "summit" came from DPAC’s southestern ad hoc board members at the conclusion of the coalition’s July teleconference meeting. Chairman Cliff Hawbaker, Chambersburg, Pa. and vice-chair Rob Barley, Conestoga, Pa. traveled to the Athens, Tennessee meeting, primarily to listen, but also to bring a few ideas to the table.

Maury Cox, executive director of the Kentucky Dairy Development Council and Julie Walker of Agri-Voice worked together on the preparations. Several years ago, Cox had been involved in a "Southeast steering committee," which at that time had identified some changes to seek through the USDA administrative hearing process. But the result didn’t come through as hoped at that time.

This time, the group assembled reaches further and covers more states. It was a grassroots group of dairy producers, spanning virtually all milk cooperatives and southestern producer groups. A few state Farm Bureaus were represented there as well: To observe.

There is a sense of urgency in the Southeast these days. On August 5, the 22 producers who participated in the grassroots meeting were thoughtful and motivated.

It was truly a "meeting of the minds" among these grassroots industry leaders. Unity of purpose was the hope laid out on the table.

Topping the list of milk pricing and dairy policy actions the group focused on was the American ideal: A true vote for every dairy producer in the policies and regulations that affect the future survival of the region’s dairy farms and the infrastructure of businesses and jobs that rely on them.

"Bloc voting has to go," they agreed.

The short list of action items at the end of the day included:

1) Reforming the producer voting process for Federal Order Administrative Rule changes. (Change the "all or nothing" voting procedure.)

2) Elimate "bloc voting" so producers have a vote.

3) Increase Federal Order Location Differentials.

4) Eliminate Transportation Credits for Federal Orders 5 and 7.

5) Influence National Milk Producers Federation’s Foundation for the Future.

6) ·Work towards Country of Origin Labeling and sustaining dairy product Standards of Identity.

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