Today’s dairy industry faces a marketplace that is more dynamic, complex and competitive than ever before. Consumer expectations, marketplace demands and even business practices are changing. And the strategies and tools that have created success in the past most likely will not be enough to ensure it in the future.

Among these changes are two constants that we must keep in mind. First, ensuring continued consumer confidence in our dairy products and in the safety of our food is vital to maintaining a healthy and growing dairy industry. Second, everyone in the dairy food chain -— from producers to manufacturers to retailers — must share a common strategy of risk reduction and customer assurance.

Industry’s role
Agroterrorism preparedness has become a focus not only for the Department of Homeland Security, but for most state departments of agriculture and many county governments. With 90 percent of dairy industry resources residing in the private sector, it follows that the dairy industry must actively prepare, as well. Without the involvement of the local and state dairy industry, the government’s emergency-preparedness efforts are not likely to succeed or, at best, will be less effective.

Advanced planning and resource coordination can help mitigate and improve the response to any crisis. Therefore, connecting dairy-industry organizations with local, state and federal agencies is a key first step. It is extremely important for our industry to be aware of what steps government agencies will take to respond to and resolve the crisis. It’s equally important for government agencies and local response groups to understand the industry resources for a coordinated response. 

One example of this is the Wisconsin Agri-Security Resource Network, or WARN. The overall goal of WARN is to implement a seamless, coordinated response to animal health emergencies by industry groups and government agencies.  In addition to developing communication links to quickly disseminate scientific, accurate information to media, producers, industry groups and consumers, members of the network have been invited to participate in local and regional training exercises and emergency drills.

Your role
What proactive steps can individual dairy producers take to help safeguard our food supply, as well as their business?  A first step is to develop an on-farm biosecurity plan that focuses on preventing the accidental or intentional introduction of disease to a herd or premises and preventing the spread among other animals. Prevention of animal disease on our farms is the critical first step in making sure that our food system remains one of the safest in the world.

A number of online information resources are available to give you more information on biosecurity. Here are four Web sites to explore:

We hope there will never be a catastrophic animal health emergency in the dairy industry. But in the event of an incident, we are confident that coordinated response systems, such as the Wisconsin Agri-Security Resource Network, will help safeguard our animals, our industry and the confidence that consumers have in our products.

Matt Mathison is vice president of technical service for the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.