The 2014 Dairy Forum honored the leaders who have built the International Dairy Foods Association into a strong voice for processors of milk, cheese, ice cream and other dairy foods. IDFA held its annual event in late January in Palm Desert, Calif.

In a moving tribute at the opening breakfast, industry leaders reminisced about the late E. Linwood “Tip” Tipton who formed IDFA, started the Dairy Forum, created the Milk Processor Education Program and represented dairy interests forcefully in Washington, D.C. and around the world. Tipton passed away in October 2013 (see Dairy Foods, November 2013). His widow, Connie Tipton, is the association’s president and CEO.

At an awards luncheon, IDFA honored Robert G. Bush, Mike Nosewicz, Ed Mullins and Jon Davis. (Watch the tribute videos on IDFA’s YouTube channel.)

Robert G. Bush, chairman emeritus of Schreiber Foods Inc., Green Bay, Wis., received the NCI Laureate Award, The National Cheese Institute’s highest honor. The award recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to the development and growth of the cheese industry.

The son of Schreiber Food’s founder, Merlin G. Bush, Robert Bush dedicated his entire career to the cheese industry. He started with the company in 1946. Bush holds 17 patents and revolutionized the industry with his engineering and technical expertise, which led to the invention of technology that gave the world individually wrapped processed cheese slices.

During Bush’s tenure with Schreiber Foods, the company grew from one plant and $12 million in sales to 19 plants with $1.5 billion in sales. By introducing and marketing new products that enhanced consumer choice, Bush and Schreiber effectively expanded sales of cheese products in the United States as well as around the world.

Nosewicz, Mullins and Davis received IDFA’s Soaring Eagle Awards for their service to the association.

Nosewicz is vice president, Fresh Dairy, The Kroger Co. He served as IDFA chairman from 2011 to 2013 and IDFA vice chairman from 2009 to 2011. He also served as chairman of the Milk Industry Foundation from 2009 to 2011, MIF vice chairman from 2008 to 2009 and MIF treasurer from 2007 to 2008. 

“Mike is a guy who cares about people and it shows,” said Tipton. “You really know he wants to hear what you have to talk about and it creates trust in people, and that has been a great quality for a leader of an organization with a lot of different kinds of people representing different companies. It made him a great IDFA chairman,” she added.

Mullins of Prairie Farms Dairy

While leading Prairie Farms Dairy Inc., a farmer-owned dairy cooperative headquartered in Carlinville, Ill., Ed Mullins became increasing involved in leadership positions in the industry as well. He served as chairman of the Milk Industry Foundation from 2011 to 2013, vice chairman from 2009 to 2011 and secretary from 2007 to 2009. He also served as IDFA secretary from 2012 to 2013 and treasurer from 2011 to 2012.

Tipton commended Mullins, the executive VP and CEO of Prairie Farms Dairy on his MIF leadership and the good humor he brought on every issue and activity. Others commented on his professionalism and ability to encourage debate to determine the best way forward on dairy issues.

Davis, the president and CEO of Davisco Foods International, served as the chairman of the National Cheese Institute from 2011 to 2013, vice chairman from 2009 to 2011 and treasurer from 2007 to 2009. He also served as IDFA vice chairman from 2012 to 2013 and secretary from 2011 to 2012.

As NCI chairman, he testified in front of the House Agriculture Committee and addressed reporters at the National Press Club, successfully defending dairy companies’ opposition to limits on milk production.

“Jon has a really unique quality of being able to be both philosophically true to his ideals and what he believes should be happening in the industry, but also being pragmatic about finding solutions,” said Patty Stroup, IDFA chairman and head of procurement, Global Milk Products, for Nestlé, S.A.

Honors for HP Hood, dairy farmer

 Also at the luncheon, Dairy Foods presented its Processor of the Year award to HP Hood (see December 2013 issue). Hood chairman John Kaneb accepted. Milk Source LLC, a dairy operation located in Kaukauna, Wis., was named the 2014 Innovative Dairy Farmer of the Year. The award is co-sponsored by IDFA and Dairy Today magazine.