Michael D. Dykes had quite the coming out party this morning in Orlando, Fla.  Speaking before hundreds of dairy processors and others allied with the industry, he told them “I love this job.”

Though he stepped into the role of president and chief executive officer of the International Dairy Foods Association on Oct. 1, his breakfast address to members at the association’s annual Dairy Forum represented his introduction to a mass audience. He succeeds Connie Tipton, who retired.

An estimated 1,100 members are in Orlando for the three-day conference for dairy processors and producers. Dairy Foods broadcast Dyke’s presentation to viewers in 50 countries. View his talk 30-minute presentation on demand here.

He said he will work on issues as varied as health care, trade policy, food safety and food labeling.

Dykes described his first 100 days on the job. He drew up a plan that had him talking with each IDFA employee, visiting selected members and reaching out to external audiences (such as suppliers and other allied associations). He said he plans to increase membership and to collaborate with allied partners, such as grocery retailers. “We can’t do it by ourselves,” he said.

He also advised members that the dairy industry cannot turn back the clock and go back to the way things used to be.

“We are in a new food culture,” he said, noting that the millennial generation has different views of food than those of his generation.

From dairy farm to veterinary school

Dykes described his up-by-the-bootstraps childhood, growing up on a Kentucky dairy and tobacco farm with his father, who was illiterate, and his mother who went as far as the eighth grade. Dykes graduated from the University of Kentucky where he received a Master of Science degree in Agricultural Economics and a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Science. Later, he earned a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from Auburn University.

Dykes’ career in the agricultural industry should serve him well as the dairy industry confronts issues such as animal welfare, the use of genetically modified ingredients and the backlash against artificial growth hormones.

Prior to joining IDFA, Dykes served as vice president of government affairs for Monsanto for the past 19 years. According to his biography provided by IDFA, Dykes was responsible for developing and implementing a portfolio of U.S. government relations strategies and programs that included agricultural biotechnology policy. He led Monsanto’s office in Washington, D.C., and served as the company’s primary point of contact for elected officials, regulatory authorities, U.S. farm organizations, key industry participants, trade associations, international organizations and embassies. He directed the company’s efforts in state and local government affairs, in addition to government affairs in Mexico and Canada.

He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association and the National Academy of Practitioners, an interdisciplinary organization of health care practitioners and scholars. He also was a member of the Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee (APAC) during the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, and he served on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture.

IDFA announced on Aug. 31 that it had selected Dykes to replace Tipton. He began his duties on Oct. 1.

Jeff Kaneb, executive vice president of HP Hood LLC, was chairman of the search committee. Other members were Ed Mullins, executive vice president and CEO, Prairie Farms Dairy, Inc.; Mike Reidy, senior vice president – corporate affairs, Leprino Foods Company and chairman of IDFA; Patricia Stroup, vice president and chief procurement officer, Nestle USA, Inc.; Gregg Tanner, CEO of Dean Foods Company; and Mike Wells, president and CEO of Wells Enterprises, Inc.