ALBANY — 2023 marks the 30th anniversary of the Northeast Dairy Producers Association. The term anniversary is defined as “the date on which an event took place in a previous year” and after three decades of advocacy and growth, the term evolution best encapsulates how the Northeast Dairy Producers Association (NEDPA) has progressed over the years. In agriculture, no two days are the same, let alone two years the same. The evolution of NEDPA has always been to determine which issues are critical facing our dairy farmers today and working to find solutions or alternatives. NEDPA’s ability to act proactively and adapt – each day, week, month, and year – to the needs of the dairy industry has kept this organization relevant 30 years after its inception.
Founded on Environmental Stewardship:
In 1993, the Northeast Dairy Producers Association was established to give dairy farmers a voice on issues impacting their businesses. The top priority identified by industry leaders at the time was environmental stewardship and nutrient management and the need for the farmer’s perspective to be present in regulatory development (now known as the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) permit). With farmers active role in development and revision of the CAFO permit continuing to this day through the CAFO/Water Quality Workgroup, it is a workable regulation for farms and has served as the model for other states. For generations, dairy farmers have been leaders in sustainability and continually striving towards continuous improvement for a viable future for the next generation. Investments in best management practices, technology, and science-based research position the dairy industry to be part of the solution to climate change.
Thirty years later, NEDPA has evolved into THE VOICE for dairy farmers in the Northeast on many issues impacting the industry. In addition to CAFO and water quality, other priority areas include farm labor and immigration, advocating for fair regulations, improving the perception of farming through education, media outreach, farm tours, etc., and crisis management.
Who is NEDPA today?
NEDPA advocates on behalf of diverse family dairy farms that represent almost 240,000 cows and more than half of the milk produced in New York State. Our family dairy farms are critical to our local food supply, rural communities, and the state’s economy. NEDPA has 47 different Affiliate members, and 111 individual Associate members from business and industry.
The Value of NEDPA
According to NEDPA’s current Executive Director, Tonya Van Slyke, who has held the position for eleven years, the organization serves as the VOICE, the RESOURCE, the NETWORK for New York’s dairy industry. The voice; we pride ourselves on being a farmer-lead organization. Our farm leaders dedicate countless hours and energy to leading the organization and connecting with elected officials and lawmakers to help them better understand NY dairy opportunities and challenges. They open their farms to tours and make themselves available for meetings. The resource is what NEDPA provides each day. The board has built a team of farmers, staff, and consultants that are all resources to our members. We have engaged and passionate lobbyists and public relations specialists who have helped to elevate NEDPA’s voice as the leaders of dairy. Since day one, NEDPA has hired dedicated and passionate Executive Directors and staff who work hard to inform and support our members. We provide invaluable legal counsel to members in their time of need. The network is what NEDPA is built on: collaboration. When we look at the workgroups/committees that have been created over the past decade, there is now doubt NEDPA prides itself on networking and collaborative approach: Water Quality Workgroup, AWDC, Animal Well-Being Workgroup, Grow NY Farms Coalition, joint legal action with NYS Vegetable Growers Association, Dairy Summit just to name a few.
Advocating for the future:
In an ever-changing landscape of policy and climate, NEDPA will always serve to maintain the viability for generational family dairy farms. Taking initiative is nothing new for NEDPA and as we celebrate 30 years as an organization, we look back at what we have accomplished and look ahead to what is to come – and more importantly, what role we can take to ensure the steps forward are ones that support our state’s top agricultural commodity.
In the words of recently retired Chair John Dickinson of Ideal Dairy Farm from the closing of his comprehensive address to farm members at the end of his 12-year tenure on the NEDPA board: “Now more than ever we need a voice. We need your voice. We need all hands on deck. We need NEDPA.”
For more information, visit: https://www.nedpa.org/
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–Northeast Dairy Producers Association (NEDPA)