Lucas Sjostrom
Lucas Sjostrom

For those of us that travel often enough, hotel and airline loyalty programs are tricks of the trade. These programs’ little perks can make a huge difference in your life – upgraded to a better room or seat when you’re stressed out, free luggage, or even gift packages when you arrive at your destination.

To benefit the most from these programs, you need to double-down and join their credit card program. They usually come with annual fees, but sometimes the benefits pay off in “free” flights, hotel rooms, and more (a vacation strategy for the frugal farmer?) to outweigh the cost.

Join the club

The point is not that I think everyone needs to spend more money through credit cards, but that associating yourself with big groups can have huge payoffs. In the loyalty programs, it is an exchange of business and spending data for “free” stuff. In the dairy world, there are four new cooperative members of the National Milk Producers’ Federation (NMPF), making our industry a more cohesive unit. 

They include my own cooperative, Bongards’ Creameries, as well as Cortland Bulk Milk Producers Cooperative, Mount Joy Farmers Cooperative Association, and Oneida-Madison Milk Producers Cooperative Association. 

NMPF, love it or hate it, has established itself as our industry’s foremost authority on all things regulation, legislation, and even animal welfare. If your cooperative is not a member, they could be missing out on business opportunities or early information. Your cooperative would also miss the opportunity to participate in decisions, and is instead taking a seat on the sidelines. Further, NMPF has a Young Cooperators Program to help develop the next generation of dairy leaders.

As a former dairy industry lobbyist, I know that Washington, D.C., is a different animal than a local organization. But the politics are similar; if you can fight out your differences behind closed doors and come to the meeting with one voice, you will eliminate much confusion and appear as a stronger, organized unit. 

Winners and losers are not decided in November

While NMPF can be your source for national information, local zoning and legislation is more likely to disturb your way of business or future plans. No matter whether you cheered or jeered this November’s election results, the majority of elections happen far before the primary and general election. 

Platforms and candidates are agreed upon at (usually tiny, especially in rural areas) caucuses and conventions held throughout the year. By speaking up, you can gently push issues one way or another.

Make it a New Year’s resolution to consider the return on investment of your time by joining your town/township board, get involved with a local political party you may or may not agree with, or even running for the school board. It could be your best business decision in 2015 and years to come.