by John Clark, NEAFA President
I must admit, that like for many others recently, life has come at me full tilt the past few weeks. Our upcoming Board Meeting, several active committee meetings, and the work that “pays the bills” has taken my focus off of contemplating an appropriate article for this month’s newsletter.
It’s a struggle not focusing on the negatives that we face currently as an industry. The continued business threats that exist for myself, customers, friends, and the associates that I have the distinct privilege of working with. Labor issues, trade wars, low commodity prices, droughts, floods, regulations, and the continued loss of honest hard-working dairy farm families that were excellent stewards of the land for generations. It can all be hard to take in. And yet we must come to peace with these obstacles, look for the positives in life and move forward from there.
There are plenty of positives in life, and support from new and old friends alike helps us move past the negatives that we all must continue to face. For me, our new intern Marie has been a small blessing. Working for us part time while still milking cows at home, she brings youth, enthusiasm, and a different view point on dairy to my world. It’s the proverbial breath of fresh air. Old friends help lift my spirits as well, people that I’ve counted on for years to share my thoughts, concerns, and joys in life with. Rene sharing his work at the Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) and spending time sharing what DFA means to the producers and the whole community. Sharing that their goal is to provide a market for producer’s milk – it’s just beautiful in its simplicity. And new friends like NEAFA’s new member Michael Howlett, are a help as well. Despite Howlett’s frenetic travel schedule to DC and back, he found time to share his philosophy of, “we don’t make farmers be price takers. We operate this way – when a farmer calls we connect them with an end user.” Again, simplicity brings success. I encourage you to take the time to reach out to the friends and colleagues in your world. You’ll find a wealth of knowledge, and people generous enough with their time to share it.
If you’re struggling with connecting with friends and colleagues that understand the difficulties you’re facing, NEAFA provides a platform in numerous formats to help network with people and meet them. Help your friends and colleagues that can benefit from this by spreading the word about signing up to become a member. Corwin Holtz, the chair of our membership committee, is ready and waiting to help with that. Secondly, attend our Annual Meeting on February 4-5, 2020 in Albany, NY at the Albany Marriott Hotel. I enjoy the Annual Meeting precisely because of the people it brings together that we don’t get a chance to see on a daily basis. It is a great, relaxed place to recharge, to learn about the industry, to gather trends and yes, make new friends and catch up with old ones. If you’ve never been or if you’ve been to every one of the NEAFA’s past 15 meetings, you can benefit. Stay tuned for details.
Dealing with the changes in the markets, the friends above have helped me navigate it. They share their knowledge and expertise. Listening to Rene, I learned what a tremendous reach DFA has, and how its members have great tools to work with. While they see strength in the market, they also see continued consolidation. For the commodity complex that Michael deals with, he sees strength in the market price. More importantly he sees the best farm managers preparing for the long term. He sees that long term producers will work hard to have margins and not eat into their equity.
To our members, thank you for being friends, for your hard work, and your continued involvement with the issues that our industry faces. Hopefully we will see you at the Cornell Nutrition Conference, our Annual Meeting, or sometime in between.
John’s Jottings over and out.