Members of Family Dairies USA, Manitowoc Milk Producers Cooperative and Milwaukee Cooperative Milk Producers voted Tuesday to merge the three cooperatives, creating the largest dairy marketing cooperative in the Midwest. The new, combined cooperative, known as FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative, will begin business function as a unified entity on January 1, 2013.

Votes on the historic merger were counted today during a pair of special meetings at the Holiday Inn in Stevens Point, Wis., and the Milwaukee Cooperative Milk Producers office in Brookfield, Wis. The membership vote follows a unanimous board vote to recommend the unified merger for the membership and several information-sharing opportunities this fall.

“Today, our members made history,” says Dennis Donohue, general manager of Manitowoc Milk Producers Cooperative. “This membership vote to merge the three cooperatives affirms our members’ goals for industry success through collaboration. Collectively, the strength of our three organizations becomes one unified and powerful voice.”

“This is an exciting moment for our members,” says David Cooper, general manager of Family Dairies USA.  “This membership vote is the first step in achieving benefits in efficiency and a stronger voice for our members.”

“We are excited for the future of FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative,” adds Jim Bird, general manager of Milwaukee Cooperative Milk Producers. “Under this new cooperative, our members will see benefits in brand value and marketing opportunities. This vote is a win for our members and the dairy industry.”

Under FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative, the combined member representation will be divided into a total of nine districts, based on membership within each district. The current directors from each of the three cooperatives will transition into the new organization, helping ensure consistency in leadership and membership voice. Dennis Donohue will assume the role of general manager of FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative. David Cooper and Jim Bird will assume the roles of assistant general manager and director of lab services and special projects, respectively.

Family Dairies USA Milk Program and the Fox Valley Quality Control Laboratory will continue to operate as subsidiaries of the new cooperative.

Details on FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative will be distributed to all cooperative members through upcoming correspondence.