Chairman Charles Beckendorf highlighted the successes of NMPF this past year during the annual meeting held in San Francisco, CA. Jerry Kozak, President and CEO, spoke about the direction NMPF is headed.

One important victory for NMPF in 2005 was protecting the dairy price support program from proposals to cut it.  Since the program is the "bedrock" safety net for dairy farmers, making sure that Congress and the USDA don't weaken it was a key priority for NMPF.

Beckendorf reflected on NMPF’s commitment to achieving fair trade deals for dairy farmers. The one receiving the most attention in 2005 was the passage of the Central American Free Trade Agreement. NMPF supported CAFTA because even though “the additional opportunity for dairy product sales to Central America is modest…it’s greater with CAFTA than without,” Beckendorf said.

Another highlight for NMPF this year was getting Congress to approve one-time use of national check-off dollars to pay for research of dairy farm air emissions. Beckendorf talked about the increased pressure farmers are receiving from their neighbors and regulators. He explained that the data needs to be collected and paid for. He thanked the DMI Board members for their support during this process.

A growing relationship with Agricultural Secretary Mike Johanns was and is a bright spot for NMPF. “We were fortunate to have the Secretary speak at our June Board meeting in Washington and more recently in October, Jerry Kozak and I visited with him at his USDA office,” Beckendorf recalls.

From those conversations Beckendorf told the audience that the Secretary’s major priority is to increase world trade, so it has been important for USDA to know that NMPF is willing to work with the Department on these issues. The Secretary also spoke about the upcoming farm bill and told Kozak and Beckendorf to “be creative” in thinking about the future of all farm programs.  

CWT was another 2005 highlight that Beckendorf reviewed. “You can see that once CWT was formed in 2003, the all-milk price has been above historic averages. I’ll be the first to admit that CWT is not the only reason we’ve seen above-average milk checks in the past two years, but it has certainly been a big reason.”

Beckendorf concluded by reading a letter received from President Bush days before the meeting. The president thanked NMPF and Dairy Relief for collecting over $40,000 for Hurricane Katrina relief. Beckendorf thanked those individuals and organizations that have contributed to both the tsunami and hurricane relief funds this past year.

Kozak started his speech with the simple phrase “Where we stand is not as important as the direction in which we are going.” He challenged the audience to think beyond where they stand today and think about how the gateways of our industry are linked, and how the fates of dairy farmers and cooperatives are linked to them all.

The first gateway Kozak explored was the upcoming World Trade Organization negotiations in Hong Kong. He explained it is important that NMPF be represented at these talks because a major sticking point has been agricultural subsidies. “The Bush administration has proposed eliminating export subsidies, cutting domestic support for producers and opening our markets to additional imports.” Kozak acknowledged that, while at first glance, "this doesn’t sound like a good deal" for farmers, he explained further that “U.S. government has said that Europe must offer to eliminate its own export subsidies, which are over 100 times the size of ours.”

NMPF has made it clear to the White House that our competitors must make farm more substantial cuts in their programs that what we have to do or we will not agree with any agreement that emerges.

The next gateway Kozak spoke about was the 2007 Farm Bill. Kozak said the administration has made it clear that this farm bill will be different than the current one, thus making it very important that the dairy industry has a unified approach.

The Dairy Producer Conclaves, a series of regional listening sessions, is how NMPF will ensure that producers have their say in the next farm Bill, Kozak stated. “It is critical that we develop a list of priority items that we can rally around.”

The last gateway Kozak discussed was the benefit of farmers taking control of their own destiny with the Cooperatives Working Together program. He spoke about the recent expansion of the export assistance piece of CWT. CWT members will now be able to export more types of cheese and butter products overseas in 2006, Kozak said.

As to the future of CWT, Kozak made it clear that CWT is the perfect complement to a government safety net program.