President and chief executive officer’s report

President and Chief Executive Officer Rick Smith began his presentation by acknowledging that dairy farmers are in a difficult price situation, while also pointing out a variety of opportunities available to the nation’s largest dairy cooperative.

“2018 is going to be a tough year,” said Rick during Tuesday’s General Session. “We worry about low milk prices, but we also worry about feeding the hungry, both in the U.S. and around the world.”

Rick discussed a variety of issues affecting dairy farm operations and the milk price today, including tax reform, immigration, trade agreements, dairy imposters, environmental regulations and many more. He added that more and more, consumers are interested in the contents of their food and how those products are made, and he acknowledged the opportunity this consumer interest presents to our industry.

“You should welcome that, because you have a great story to tell,” Rick said to a crowd of farmer-members, staff and industry guests. “If the world could see what you do, they’d be in awe. You’re the real deal.”

Rick highlighted the Cooperative’s many sustainability efforts — both on the farm and in DFA’s 42 processing facilities — which include water conservation efforts, enhanced manure management, renewable energy solutions and more.

Those efforts, along with DFA’s Gold Standard Dairy Program, have been invaluable in forming deeper customer relationships. The Gold Standard Dairy Program includes resources and protocols for animal care and wellness, employee safety and training, milk quality and environmental stewardship.

“We need to be a trusted partner and collaborator in everything we do,” Rick said.

That includes engaging with the industry on a global scale.

“We’re not dealing with a national dairy industry, we’re dealing with a global dairy industry,” he said. “We’ve been investing in global markets. We have to become more engaged with our global partners. They are going to be more receptive to food with a story.”

Everything the Cooperative does, explained Rick, is guided by its values of integrity, quality, passion, accountability, community and innovation.

“We are governed by our values, and our values come straight from you, our farmer-members.”