A lot of good things are happening in the dairy industry. Here are four things that could make life even better this year (and in the years to come).

1. A long-awaited rebound in consumption. 

Per-capita milk sales fell in 2004 for the 15th straight year — a discouraging note indeed. But new initiatives announced by Dairy Management Inc., the organization that manages the national dairy checkoff, could go a long way in reversing the trend.  DMI plans to spend more money on strategic alliances with food companies and less money on TV advertising. That is a good decision. After all, milk doesn’t suffer from an image problem; the problem lies with not always making it available to consumers in the way they want. (To read more about these new initiatives, please see the Quality Link column on page 8 of this month’s issue.)

2. Producers reach a consensus at conclaves.

Several years ago, in preparation for the 2002 Farm Bill, the National Milk Producers Federation organized five dairy producer conclaves to gain input and map legislative priorities. Enough agreement came out of those meetings that the dairy industry was able to approach Capitol Hill in a unified manner. That was impressive to lawmakers, and the dairy industry got pretty much what it wanted. Now, another round of conclaves is planned for three cities in late January and early February — in preparation for the 2007 Farm Bill discussions. If attendees come with an open mind and the goal of working together, we should be able to find that powerful, unified voice again.

3. We get definitive research on air emissions.

A few years ago, researchers in California did their best to calculate air emissions from dairies. Yet, the special interests turned a blind eye to that research and tried to portray dairies as larger sources of problematic air emissions than they really are. Now, there’s a chance — with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s blessing — to set the record straight once and for all. During the week of Jan. 23, the National Dairy Board will discuss the possibility of using checkoff dollars for a new study. About $6 million is needed. We think that is a good investment — especially if it results in definitive research that shuts up the anti-dairy activitists once and for all. 

4. Exports continue to grow.

Those attending the recent National Milk Producers Federation/Dairy Management Inc. annual meeting were thrilled at the prospects for increased dairy exports in the years to come. As China’s economy continues to grow, so, too, will its appetite for dairy products, said Ross Christieson, director of Landel-Mills Consulting in Great Britian. He estimates that China and other importing nations will need an extra 1.075 million metric tons of dairy products per year by the year 2010. He says the U.S. is in a better position than any other country in the world to significantly meet this surging global demand.