The patrons of Family Dairies USA, Manitowoc Milk Producers Cooperative and Milwaukee Cooperative Milk Producers (MCMP) voted to merge as of Jan. 1, 2013. FarmFirst Dairy will be the largest dairy marketing cooperative in the Midwest, with roughly 5,100 patrons and 30 individual dairy plans in Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and the Dakotas. The merger will make FarmFirst the third-largest dairy co-op in the United States, behind Dairy Farmers of America and California Dairies.

“Today, our members made history,” says MCMC General Manager Dennis Donohue. “This membership vote to merge the three cooperatives affirms our members’ goals for industry success through collaboration. Collectively, the strength of our three organization becomes one unified and powerful voice.”  

Donohue, who has announced plans to retire in 2014, will serve as FarmFirst’s general manager for the company’s first year, with Family Dairies’ David Cooper serving as assistant general manager and Jim Bird from MCMP serving as director of lab services and special projects, officials announced. The co-op, which will be headquartered in Madison, Wis., will have 20 directors within nine districts comprising seven existing Family Dairies board members, seven existing MCMP board members and six existing Milwaukee Milk board members. Within three years, co-op leaders plan to reduce the total number of directors to nine.

FarmFirst will be organized under two main divisions: lab testing, which currently is operated by Milwaukee Milk’s Fox Valley Quality Control Lab in Nenah, Wis., and the Family Dairies’ milk program, which markets their product in Wisconsin and Michigan.