by Elizabeth A. Tomlin
Once again an increase in membership in the Producers’ Cooperation of Dolgeville was applauded at the 2013 annual meeting.
“Currently we are 85 members strong, representing Montgomery, Fulton, Herkimer, Schoharie, Otsego, Madison and Delaware counties,” stated Co-op President Byron Walrath.
Walrath says Producers’ Co-op is completely owned and operated by the dairy producers. “We hire no outside help to manage our co-op and we are strictly an organization that has the dairy producer as its number one priority. That is the main reason why our membership has increased every year for the last six years.”
Walrath reminded attendees that the Co-op puts a strong emphasis on milk quality — and at least one Producers’ Co-op member has won national recognition with Horizon Organic.
“Horizon Organic honors the top 10 producers for quality,” stated Horizon Organic Northeast Producer Relations Manager Peter Slaunwhite, an attendee and speaker at the meeting. “Jeff King was one on the top 10 producers of organic milk in the country.”
King’s dairy is located near Jordanville, NY.
Slaunwhite said that Horizon Organic pays top quality awards and reported that there are three organic producers who currently ship their milk through the Producers’ Co-op.
“Our Quality Pay Program proves that we are serious about producing quality milk,” said Walrath. “It is our belief that the consumer today is more concerned with the quality of the dairy products they purchase than any other aspect.”
Dean Foods Producer Relations Director Brent Bunce, also a speaker at the meeting, agreed. “Milk quality is very important to us,” Bunce acknowledged.
Some attendees questioned Bunce about Dean Food’s position on the projected move by the FDA to add aspartame or other artificial sweeteners to milk without changing the label or adding a special label. The International Dairy Foods Association and the National Milk Producers Federation had made this request to the USFDA in the form of a petition. If successful, artificial sweeteners would also be added to other dairy products, including half-and–half, eggnog, sour cream, yogurt and other dairy products, with no required special labeling.
“We’re going to do what we need to do to make sure milk is known as a healthy beverage,” responded Bunce. “It’s important to pull together.” He stated that Dean Foods’ dieticians are currently working on this issue.
Bunce also commented on a website designed by Dean Foods’ laboratory that will accommodate producers by informing them of the components in their milk, including butter fat and protein. Even more important, the site will inform them of any changes in values of Milk Urea Nitrogen (MUN), Preliminary Incubation (PI) count and Somatic Cell counts (SCC). This will enable producers to keep abreast of changes that require immediate action.
Bunce reported that Dean Foods has had a very strong first quarter. “And we expect an increase in milk price through the fall.” He remarked that after the autumn of 2013, “New Zealand gets back in the game.”
New Co-op member Mike Settle spoke about recent meetings with politicians, including Chris Gibson, who voiced concerns about the dairy industry and agriculture in general. “We talked about immigration and he thinks there will be a provision for dairy,” Settle said. “You just can’t end that labor if you want to continue with consistent milk production.”
The recently crowned Herkimer County Dairy Princess, Rebecca Jenkins was on hand to explain to attendees what her goals are for the coming year and to tell them how their Check Off dollars have been spent. “First, on the National level, Dairy Management, Inc. and Quaker Oats have confirmed a three-year partnership to promote healthier families through the nutritional power of oats and milk, thereby increasing dairy sales through their program ‘Make it with Milk.’ Currently, less than 30 percent of the 9 billion servings of oatmeal made are prepared with milk. Therefore, if just 1 more percent of servings were made with milk, it would result in another 30 million pounds of milk being consumed.”
Jenkins also noted that the ADADC has been established as a leader in the breakfast movement in schools, ensuring at least one more serving of dairy per day.
“For my own campaign,” Jenkins stated, “I will be pursuing Chobani and Fage to put the Real Seal on their Greek yogurt packaging, ensuring that all dairy products used in the making of these products are sourced from American farmers.”
Jenkins has a calendar filled with events she has planned for the upcoming summer, where she will be promoting dairy at Farm Safety Day events, fishing derbies and Diamond Dawg baseball games.
Producers’ Co-op of Dolgeville ended their meeting with the appointment of a new board member, Richard Becker of Mohawk and the re-appointment of Glen Damin.
“Our members are local dairy producers providing quality milk to local stores through the Garelick Farms brand,” said Walrath.
For information about the Dolgeville Producers’ Co-op contact Byron Walrath at 518-337-7071. Directors meet the last Monday evening of each month at 8 p.m., in the Knight’s Inn, Little Falls, NY.