DFA's Fallon, Nev., plant 'opens the door' to new export opportunities

At the ribbon-cutting, DFA President and Chief Executive Officer Rick Smith said, “It’s not an exaggeration to say Fallon, Nevada is known worldwide, and that’s only going to grow. That is very exciting.”

Smith said the new plant may be a “door opener” not only for DFA but the U.S. dairy industry as a whole. With its four silver silos rising from the desert like shiny monuments to exports, the plant is a tangible sign that the U.S. dairy industry is serious about becoming a long-term and consistent supplier of products and ingredients that meet the unique and often stringent specifications of global customers.

At the grand opening, on a long table piled with food sat a canister that dispensed milk created with whole milk powder from the plant. The refreshing beverage was full-flavored and slightly sweet.

The plant, which operates 20 hours a day, was built with a focus on product safety, traceability and supply chain integrity. At capacity, plant employees can process 2 million pounds of raw milk into 250,000 pounds of whole milk powder daily. They can process six 25-kilogram, oxygen-free bags of powder every minute, place them on pallets with a robotic arm and have them trucked 274 miles west to the Port of Oakland. There container ships take the powder to Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, where it is used in infant formula, drinking milk, baked goods, yogurt and other products. In part because it has a shelf life of up to two years, WMP has been called the global dairy currency. Until now, DFA had difficulty creating enough of it.

“The Fallon plant sends the message that we are committed to global markets and customers overseas,” said Jay Waldvogel, DFA’s senior vice president, strategy and international development. “We’re not trying to refit an older DFA plant not truly designed for exports. We’re not hopping in when the market is high and hopping out when the market is low. We’re building relationships for the long term.”

Connecting 13,000 dairy producers in 48 states, DFA has been exporting since the organization’s formation in 1998. In 2013, DFA exported 222 million pounds of products to customers in 42 countries, totaling $355 million in sales, a 43% jump from the previous year. In April, the first cases of California Gold, DFA’s ultra-high temperature (UHT), shelf-stable milk were shipped to China.

“Year after year, exports have always been part of the DFA business mix, but progress has come slowly,” said Tom Suber, president of the U.S. Dairy Export Council, the trade group which leads the industry’s overseas market development and is funded primarily by the dairy farmer checkoff. “Persistence is now paying off. Throughout it all, DFA has never lost sight of the global vision Camerlo saw.”