SACRAMENTO — California dairy farmers lead the nation in milk production but face a growing number of issues, including several years of low milk prices, the state’s ever-increasing emphasis on reducing greenhouse gases, trade disputes, and other environmental regulations.
In an ongoing effort to educate up-and-coming dairy industry leaders about these issues and how to advocate for the industry, Western United Dairies (WUD) this year is continuing a long-standing immersion program to give them public relations skills, a better understanding of how government works and dairy promotion. The Farm Credit Alliance is helping to fund the program.
“Farm Credit strongly supports industry efforts to train and equip tomorrow’s leaders,” said Leili Ghazi, Farm Credit Alliance Chair and Senior Vice President of the Farm Credit Banking Group for CoBank. “We’re proud that our funding will allow WUD to continue its successful Dairy Leaders Program, helping the dairy industry navigate the increasingly difficult regulatory maze in the years to come.”
CoBank is the lending partner for California’s Farm Credit System members. Also participating are American AgCredit, Farm Credit West, Golden State Farm Credit and Yosemite Farm Credit.
WUD economist Annie AcMoody said the program, now in its 15th session, could not be held without Farm Credit’s support.
“We could not put together this program without Farm Credit’s support,” she said. “We’re a volunteer membership organization and our revenues and membership are down because of the headwinds buffeting the industry here in California. Without that support, there is no way we could continue this program and it’s critical that we do.”
WUD represents farmers who produce more than 60% of California’s milk each year.
AcMoody said the program is designed to educate farmers and other industry leaders about the challenges they face and to create leaders who will shape the industry’s future.
“We teach them about things that happen outside their farms that affect their operations,” she said. “People who participate realize they didn’t know how much happens (in Sacramento and Washington, D.C.) that they wind up having to deal with on a daily basis, and they really appreciate learning about the impact government has.”
The program begins with PR training, helping future leaders learn how to best craft communications strategies and develop messages. Participants, primarily from the Central Valley and Sonoma County – the state’s two main dairy production regions – then head to Sacramento to learn about the state legislative process and advocate for key issues that pertains to the dairy industry.
Following sessions on how the state’s dairy pricing system works, they travel to Chicago to get a national perspective on dairy promotion and learn more about risk management. As part of that module, they visit the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, where dairy futures and options are traded, which are key parts of risk management strategy for farmers.
The class later heads to Washington, D.C., to meet with federal agencies and associations, learn about the federal legislative process and advocate for issues that matter to the California dairy industry. The final session provides information about environmental issues and the constant efforts put forth to limit regulations and their constraints on the industry.
This year’s participants are Darby Toth from Hanford, Eileen De Raadt from Tulare, Kayleen Kemp from Hanford, Zach Cahill from Loleta (Humboldt County), Darlene Idsinga from Hanford, and Stephanie Moreda-Arend from Petaluma.
Western United Dairies