The Marks of a "Real" Ohio Dairy Producer,

Mr. Tim Demland, Dairy Extension Associate, The Ohio State University

Ohio has more than 3600 dairy producers; 2638 grade A producers and 1050 manufacturing grade producers. Some milk in parlors, some in stanchions. Some milk 30 cows, some 300, and others 3,000. Some cows are housed in free stall barns and others are grazed. Many producers chose to market milk through a co-op, while many others chose to ship milk as independents. Some even market products directly to consumers. There are indefinite numbers of ways that one can define or label dairy farmers.

Other than obvious physical classifications, one can also categorize dairy farmers by their core goals. Some are milking cows because that's what they have always done or that it is all they know. Others milk as a hobby or as a secondary occupation because "It's Fun". Some view dairying as a temporary arrangement, while others are in it for one generation, and still others endeavor to create an entity that will endure from generation to generation.

Get Real!

Regardless of what definition is used, to be a real dairy producer, dairy farmers need to pay attention to more than just business management, nutrition, breeding, forage, cow health/care, labor, and milk marketing. They also need to be aware of some things that they may not have considered to be very important.

As margins shrink, price fluctuations increase, competition grows, public opinion wavers, and regulatory pressures continue to mount, Dairy Producers Need to Invest Time, Energy, and Resources and "Get REAL"!

The marks of a "R" "E" "A" "L" dairy producer are defined by their participation in Regulation, Research, Education, Awareness, Activity, and Legislation. A producer's involvement in these areas determines whether or not they are, in fact, a "R E A L" complete dairy producer.

R - Regulation & Research

"REAL" dairy producers actively participate in the development and implementation of new regulations. They also initiate, support, and direct new research which will be beneficial to dairy production. In Ohio, this can be done by contributing to the Ohio Dairy Research Fund.

E - Educated, Engaged, and Environmental

"REAL" dairy producers are continually seeking educational opportunities and developing their managerial abilities, especially when it comes to the environment. They also use their knowledge to become actively engaged in the problem solving process.

A - Awareness & Activity

"REAL" dairy producers are truly aware of the issues that affect their day to day operations, as well as the entire industry. This includes the management roles of planning, organizing, staffing, directing, and controlling, as well as traditional tasks such as feeding and breeding. Not only are they aware of the issues, but they are active participants in them.

L - Legislation and a Loud Voice

"REAL" dairy producers have a legitimate legislative presence and use a loud voice to express their concerns. They understand that in order to effectively communicate their point, they need to join in the political process, regardless of how ugly it appears. They also understand that the people in the State House are going to make decisions regardless of who speaks up.

So in other words "REAL" dairy producers are members of state dairy commodity groups like the Ohio Dairy Producers (ODP) or the Professional Dairy Managers of Pennsylvania (PDMP) organizations.

The ODP is a group of non-partisan dairy producers from every geographic region of the state who, regardless of size, marketing preference, breed, or production strategy, share a genuine concern for the future of Ohio's dairy industry. It is our mission to optimize profitability and productivity by addressing issues that affect dairy producers.

Over the past two years, ODP has been particularly successful in developing important regulatory and legislative contacts, while tirelessly monitoring a myriad of regulatory issues. We are especially proud of our ground breaking initiative as we seek federal market order reform that will address the negative affects of "depooling" and exaggerated negative producer price differentials.

Membership dues are not just another business expense; they are an investment in the continued growth and strength of Ohio's dairy production industry.

The ODP organization has set as our goals for 2005 to become even more active in addressing Research, Regulations, Education, Environmental Management, Awareness building Activities, and as well Legislation.

Without the support, participation, and involvement of producers and allied dairy industries, the ODP would be severely handicapped. Without a collective voice, the well being of all Ohio dairy producers will continue to be even more severely challenged in the future.