I’ve just completed my first year at the helm of the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), and it’s truly a joy to reflect on all that’s happened during that brief time. To start, let me say how much I’ve enjoyed meeting so many wonderful people throughout the dairy supply chain and learning about the inner workings of this dynamic industry.

Of course, the support from our boards of directors and members has been outstanding. Thank you all for your warm welcome and for generously sharing your insight and expertise with me.  

When I started, I launched a Four-Point Focus action plan centered on people, member value, relationships and operational excellence, and the past 12 months have been a period of review and rebuilding for IDFA. My efforts focused initially on the IDFA team, because I firmly believe the association’s success starts with us having the “A” team in place to deliver results for members.

I’m pleased to say that we have that team in place, and we may add more depth to our bench in the coming year. Please visit www.idfa.org to learn more about the expertise and experience we offer.


A collaborative focus

I also traveled across the country to meet with board officers and visit their facilities, when time permitted. This listening-and-learning tour supplemented the member survey that IDFA conducted earlier this year to make sure we’re providing excellent value to our members and to identify areas for improvement.

And we’ve increased our efforts to attract new members with encouraging results. Our impact in Congress and the administration grows with every additional member, especially when we speak with one voice. 

During these member visits, I received requests to ramp up our efforts to collaborate with industry partners, as well as with other stakeholders. To date, we’ve forged stronger relationships with the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and the U.S. Dairy Export Council, and expanded our efforts to tackle joint projects with remarkable success.

This fall, for example, I joined Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF, at House and Senate Agriculture Committee briefings to present a united front on the farm bill and to offer a proposal for improved risk management under the existing Federal Milk Marketing Order system.

This proposal, developed over the summer by teams from each association and approved this fall by our board of directors, marks a new model of collaboration that has been called “historic” by several longtime members of Congress. We don’t hear that every day!

Indeed, collaboration will remain a key to our future efforts, and I’ve delivered the same message to food and beverage companies, allied organizations and associations, as well as members of Congress and their staffs and officials in the Trump administration: If you want to move the dairy industry forward, we want to work with you.


New initiatives

In terms of operational excellence, we’re taking advantage of new opportunities to make sure we’re pursuing the goals most important to members and meeting their needs with speed. One activity we launched this year has raised the visibility, and possibly political clout, of dairy with federal and state decision-makers.

Dairy Delivers (www.idfa.org/resource-center/dairy-delivers), an interactive tool that measures the economic impact of dairy, shows that U.S. dairy product companies employ more than 975,000 skilled individuals, generate more than $39 billion in direct wages and have an overall economic impact of more than $200 billion. Whether we view the national picture or a close-up look at local impact, it’s evident that dairy plays a vital role in the U.S. economy.

At IDFA, we’re thinking beyond our membership, beyond our product niches and beyond our borders with one goal in mind: to build domestic demand for dairy products and open global markets to support a U.S. dairy industry supremely positioned for global growth. That’s a goal the entire industry can get behind.

Although we’ve made solid progress on my action plan, as well as in the areas of dairy policy, trade and regulations, we’re really just getting started. After one year, I’m very optimistic about the future of dairy, and I look forward to working with you on the issues that matter most.  

We’re laying the foundation for shaping the future of dairy, which just happens to be the theme for Dairy Forum 2018 (www.idfa.org/forms/meeting/Microsite/Dairy_Forum_2018), Jan. 21-24 in Palm Desert, Calif. We hope you’ll join us!