As the National Milk Producers Federation enters its second century, the organization is redoubling its efforts to advocate forcefully on behalf of its members in areas including economic opportunities for farmers and the role of dairy products in the diet, President and Chief Executive Officer Jim Mulhern told more than 800 dairy industry stakeholders at the NMPF annual meeting in Nashville.
Mulhern commemorated the organization’s centennial by assuring stakeholders that its commitments have not altered and that NMPF plans to continue its aggressive dedication to issues like animal care, economics, trade and nutrition.
“We will speak out, we will push back, when those who don’t necessarily have your interests at heart push their agenda at our expense,” he said.
The dairy farming landscape and the world outside of it have changed considerably, Mulhern said. The number of farms has shrunk, the world marketplace has become more competitive, and consumers are becoming increasingly interested in how their food is produced.
“But these differences — these hurdles — will not be a deterrent for us,” he said. “We remain focused on our strategic priorities.”
Mulhern said the Margin Protection Program, created in the 2014 Farm Bill, is still the right program for the dairy industry’s future, even though it has yet to “live up to its intended potential” amid a struggling dairy economy. He said NMPF is committed to determining the necessary adjustments, such as restoring the margin feed cost adjuster to the level NMPF originally intended, and having Congress pass them at the earliest opportunity.
In addition to calling for immigration reform, Mulhern also discussed National Milk’s pledge to seek opportunities for dairy all over the world. This includes pushing for passage of free-trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, strengthening export assistance programs like Cooperatives Working Together and holding other countries accountable for their protectionist behavior. Most recently, Canada is in the process of implementing a pricing policy that would block American milk product exports.
Another area that will be an organizational focus is the National Dairy FARM Program, the dairy industry’s animal care verification program, he said. In the last year, FARM has since expanded to also focus on antibiotic resistance and environmental stewardship. More than 98 percent of the nation’s milk supply is now covered under the program.
“It is precisely through efforts like this that we will keep customers from trying to dictate farm practices, by demonstrating our high standards and our commitment to continuous improvement,” he said.