Partners in Success Luncheon: IDP Covered a Lot of Ground this Year!
By Sherry Bunting
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana Dairy Producers (IDP) Partners in Success luncheon Oct. 25 at the state fairgrounds in Indianapolis was a time to review the past year’s activities and look ahead to the future of the organization, which serves as the voice, advocate and partner for Hoosier dairy farmers, with membership accounting for about 70% of the state’s dairy cows.
IDP executive director Doug Leman thanked the approximately 80 sponsors ranging from corporate sponsors to bronze, silver, gold, platinum and diamond level sponsors.
“Without our sponsors we would not be able to do what we are doing for our producers,” said Leman, giving special recognition to the support of the Indiana Soybean Alliance and Indiana Corn Marketing Council hosting the fourth annual IDP Partners in Success luncheon. In addition to ISA / ICMC, other diamond-level sponsors are Milk Promotion Services of Indiana and Stewart-Peterson.
Representing ISA / ICMC, Andy Tauer said “We appreciate this relationship and what we learn from you folks, and we continue to look for ways our checkoff can support dairy.” He gave the example of including dairy as a permanent fixture in the ISA / ICMC “Glass Barn” that opened this year at the state fair and will be used for educating school groups throughout the year.
IDP president LuAnn Troxel reviewed the organization’s many events during the year and reminded the group of the organization’s purpose supported by allied industry sponsorships and producer membership dues.
“The Milk Promotion Service’s job is to promote dairy products. Our job is to support dairy farmers,” she said. “We are the proactive voice, and we are also listening to what is going on.”
Troxel gave the example of the survey members filled out on dairy policy. “There’s nothing else in the nation like this showing how farmers answered fundamental questions about the dairy policies being considered in the Farm Bill. Our farmers responded and that information is being used by lawmakers,” Troxel explained.
From hosting the Kentuckiana Dairy Exchange and organizing a bus tour to Wisconsin as well as six regional winter educational meetings to partnering with Stewart-Peterson on marketing field trips to the CME, planning the annual meeting in conjunction with the Indiana Livestock, Forage and Grain Forum, and offering young farmer discussion groups and tours… 2013 has been another busy year for IDP in providing value to producers who want to continually improve their dairy management skills.
“I love working with an engaged board of dairy producers,” said Troxel as she presented a slide show of 2013 events that offered networking opportunities for producers to learn from each other and exchange ideas. She also highlighted IDP’s efforts to bridge the disconnect with consumers by helping producers communicate what they do. “It’s not about size, it’s about doing a good job, whatever size the dairy is,” said Troxel. “There are people using fear to sell food. We need to counteract that, to have our eyes and ears open, and be positioned to bridge the disconnect one conversation at a time.
”Luncheon attendees also heard from Dr. Jay Akridge, Dean of Agriculture at Purdue University. He reported over 2700 students are enrolled this year -- more than at any time since 1982. He also updated the group on the process for construction of a new Agricultural and Life Sciences building for the University’s large and important animal science department serving 600 undergraduate and 600 graduate students with 35 faculty members. Dr. Mike Schutz also updated the group on the Dairy Youth Academy.
In addition to promoting the Green Express and its potential to revolutionize dairy marketing and transportation in Indiana -- as well as the partnership between IDP and ISA in the search for new dairy processing ventures for the Hoosier state because of it -- IDP has also partnered with other major commodity organizations on projects like the “before you build” campaign. Leman showed the folders that have been developed full of important information and considerations for producers who want to expand their operations.
Another partnership is IDP’s participation in the National Dairy Coalition, initiated by the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin. The Coalition meets twice yearly, and the most recent meeting in Madison during World Dairy Expo included leadership from six states.
“Our issues are similar and we help each other and work together,” said Leman.
He also gave examples of how IDP bridges the gap at home between regulatory agencies and producers. “Indiana producers’ needs are our first and foremost obligation,” said Leman.
On government policies, Leman said Immigration is a big one. As a former dairy producer and now executive director of IDP, Leman can tell the farm employer’s story without fear of reprisals. In fact, he was in Washington D.C. this week for a few days, learning about where Congress may go with its pending bills on immigration.
He left the 80 luncheon attendees with a final word on hunger and how Indiana producers can help. “One in four children and one in six Hoosiers are considered ‘food insecure,’ which means they are not sure where their next meal is coming from,” said Leman. “Those numbers, to me, are mindboggling.”
He introduced the group to the FiSH program (Feeding Indiana’s Hungry) and the concept of dairy producers having the opportunity to authorize a small voluntary milk check assignment to get fresh milk and dairy products into local food banks that are currently stocked with pop, vitamin water and other beverages.
“Just think what dairy protein would mean to those families,” said Leman. “If we could average $10 per month per producer in Indiana, that’s $150,000 the FiSH program can use to get our product into food banks to feed Indiana’s hungry.”
He encouraged attendees to share their thoughts and ideas on this. “We need a name for the effort and we hope companies will join with dairy producers by pledging funds also.” A potential launch for the program could be as early as June Dairy Month of 2014.
“We can do this,” said Leman.