In her keynote speech at Dairy Forum 2010, Connie Tipton, president and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association, called for industry involvement, innovation and unity as the best ways to combat a sluggish economy and unleash the industry's potential for growth and success. Tipton addressed a record crowd of dairy producers, processors, suppliers and other industry participants gathered at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa in Phoenix this week for the 25th annual Dairy Forum.  

Touching first on the dramatic changes emerging from the Obama administration and Congress, Tipton warned that a flood of new regulations, taxes and mandates may soon become laws of the land. From healthcare to food safety, nutrition to cap-and-trade, the industry needs to oppose unnecessary regulations or unjustified fees that will add costs to production without providing benefits to dairy consumers, she said.  

"There are businesses and industries that simply cannot weather additional costs in an increasingly competitive and regulated marketplace," Tipton said. "Our industry is not immune to these risks. So we have a real stake in what comes out of this very political process in Washington."  

Tipton also pointed out that the past year of "devastating milk prices," dropping export levels and consumer belt tightening clearly showed that the "so-called safety net programs for our dairymen" don't work in today's market economy.  

She offered highlights from a comprehensive plan for reformatting dairy policies and programs put forth by Jerry Kozak, president of the National Milk Producers Federation. Acknowledging that the plan would affect different businesses in different ways, Tipton encouraged industry leaders to abandon the status quo and give the plan serious consideration.  

By doing so, she added, "The U.S. dairy industry has a chance in 2010 to re-chart its future, to build a better, stronger, more cohesive community, energized at last by genuine teamwork and breakthrough thinking."  

Another lesson the industry learned last year, Tipton said, is that it must listen closely to consumers and provide innovative ideas, products, ingredients and packaging to meet their needs.  

"Fundamental to our success will be how well we compete for the consumers' palate - at home and around the globe. We need more people eating dairy and choosing dairy ingredients - and that means we'd better know what consumers are thinking and what's tickling their taste buds," she said.  

She concluded with a call for industry leaders to confront the current policy climate and all industry challenges with resolve and teamwork.  

"It's the only way we can progress, the only way we can win, the only way we can realize the kind of success we all know is possible - the success that is within our grasp," she said.  

Click hereto read Tipton’s entire speech.  

The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), Washington, D.C., represents the nation's dairy manufacturing and marketing industries and their suppliers, with a membership of 550 companies representing a $110-billion-a-year industry. IDFA is composed of three constituent organizations: the Milk Industry Foundation (MIF), the National Cheese Institute (NCI) and the International Ice Cream Association (IICA). IDFA's 220 dairy processing members run more than 600 plant operations, and range from large multi-national organizations to single-plant companies. Together they represent more than 85% of the milk, cultured products, cheese and frozen desserts produced and marketed in the United States.  

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