Standing before their members this week at the National Milk Producers Federation’s (NMPF) annual meeting, NMPF leaders reported on the organization’s progress over the past year.

NMPF Chairman, President cite successes at annual meetingNMPF Chairman Randy Mooney, along with President & CEO Jerry Kozak, started the joint presentation by discussing NMPF's most prominent initiative to reform U.S. dairy policy through Foundation for the Future (FFTF), which this fall evolved into the Dairy Security Act (DSA) of 2011 (HR 3062). FFTF began in June 2009 with the creation of a Strategic Task Force instructed to come up with a better safety net for dairy farmers.

AgriTalk's Mike Adams was also in attendance, serving as Master of Ceremonies once again. Listen to his interview with Randy Mooney, who discusses immigration and other issues impacting the dairy industry.

Mooney and Kozak stressed that although NMPF has come a long way toward achieving its goal of better dairy policy, there is still more work to be done.

"Success is coming up with a better, more innovative way of preventing an economic crisis down on the farm," Mooney said in a press release. "Ultimately, success in dairy policy reform is working together to get something better than before."

The initial FFTF provisions were refined after NMPF staff went on the road during the summer of 2011 and presented the proposal to dairy farmers in 12 cities and 11 states across the country. Kozak explained that although the primary purpose of the tour was to speak directly to farmers about the need for dairy reform, it also allowed NMPF staff to listen to farmers' perspectives.

"This gave us an unfiltered insight into the producer community's view of FFTF," Kozak said.

The changes that resulted from the summer tour were incorporated into the DSA under the leadership of Congressman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), with support from co-sponsor Congressman Mike Simpson (R-ID).

Mooney thanked both congressmen for their hard work on the bill and urged all producers to rally behind it.

Although dairy reform was the most visible initiative in 2011, NMPF was busy throughout the year working on other priority issues, which Mooney and Kozak also discussed in their presentation.

The organization worked on several regulatory efforts in 2011, including advocating for a reduction in somatic cell count levels to 400,000 and grappling with the Food and Drug Administration on drug residue violations in dairy animals. A significant regulatory victory came from the Environmental Protection Agency's final exemption of milk storage from its Spill, Prevention, Control and Countermeasure regulation.

"Reforming immigration policies to address the labor needs of farmers remains a paramount concern for NMPF," Mooney said.

Although there had not been any significant progress made on immigration in 2011, the issue was getting the attention of Congress through a Senate hearing, the H-2A visa program, and E-Verify.

Mooney and Kozak noted various successes on Capitol Hill, such as minimizing the impact of the estate tax, overturning the proposed tax reporting requirement known as the IRS form 1099, passing three Free Trade Agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea, and resolving the trucking dispute that was negatively impacting U.S. cheese exports to Mexico.

NMPF also was pleased to see the final implementation of the promotion checkoff on imported dairy products. "Ultimately, the outcome of this issue is not about equity, but justice for America's farmers," Kozak explained.

Annual Meeting attendees learned that Cooperatives Working Together will continue in 2012 and 2013 after the program reached its 70% membership goal this year.

The joint presentation concluded with Mooney and Kozak affirming that NMPF will continue to work on the issues important to its membership. "We won't settle for mediocrity…We will never settle on anything less than what our members expect," they said.

The full text from Mooney and Kozak's joint speech is available on the NMPF website.

Source: NMPF news release, AgriTalk