Market Change Presents New Opportunities

By Dave Kaseno
When I began working for National Farmers in 1972, we were uniting most local bargaining groups into a nationally coordinated structure. Going national gave us the clout we needed to impact dairy price levels positively for dairy producers. I am confident the structure we built and the growth we had helped maintain sustainable prices for family farmers.

It is said for every action there is a reaction, and while we were using strategies to make things better for dairymen, the processing industry was rapidly consolidating to build market clout. The processing industry players successfully changed the pricing mechanisms in the Federal Orders from competitively driven to a system of end-product pricing. With that single move, they were able to control the pricing structure.

Then, they joined forces to eliminate barriers for mega dairies. Consumer concerns about who was producing their food and how it was being produced led to opportunities for some family farmers, though. Certified organic, non-GMO and other designated product sectors have now gained a portion of the total dairy product market share.

Since 2002, the number of licensed dairy herds in the country fell by more than one-half. Meanwhile, investor-owned mega-dairies have been increasing in numbers in regions across the country. Dairymen who are losing their market and those who don’t like this trend are driving National Farmers growth. In some cases, new members are joining us as one group.

Our challenge now, is to find secure markets. There are some processors who are concerned about market domination by a few large companies, because they appreciate conducting business with family-sized farms. And National Farmers is stepping-up to provide quality milk to them. We have to continue to pursue our goal of Federal Order reform that will be fair for all sizes of producers.

I am taking a step back this month. I intend to be available to assist the organization when needed. I want to stay involved in bringing about a system that keeps families farming. Please accept my thanks for your friendship and support through the years. Let’s remain connected and continue fighting to make conditions better for farmily-sized farmers. 

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