Family Dairies USA holds 39th annual member meeting

More than 280 delegates, members and guests attended the Family Dairies USA 39th Annual Member Meeting held Feb. 12, at the Kalahari Resort & Convention Center, Wisconsin Dells, Wis.

This year attendees were given the opportunity to attend “Early Bird” presentations on both Friday and Saturday. The Friday afternoon featured three sessions: “Don’t Lose Your Future: Keep Your Calves Alive and Healthy” presented by Dr. Tom Earleywine of Land O’Lakes Animal Milk Products; “Planning Your Future: Farm Succession & Transition” presented by Michelle Birschbach of Steimle Birschbach LLC and “Building a Future with Lessons from the Past” presented by Gary Sipiorski of Vita Plus Corporation. The Saturday morning presentation “Timeless Art of Cheese Making: Breaking New Ground” was led by Adam and Teena Buholzer of Klondike Cheese Company.  At Saturday’s business session, Steve Etka, Midwest Dairy Coalition Coordinator of which Family Dairies USA is a member of was on hand to discuss dairy policy and changes in Washington D.C.

At the Friday evening awards banquet the Meritorious Service Award honor went to former Senator Russell Feingold in recognition of 18 years of representation and dedication to dairy farmers not only within the Cooperative but throughout the United States. The Lifetime Achievement Award was posthumously presented to Wisconsin Secretary of Agriculture Rod Nilsestuen for having given a lifetime of leadership, dedication and guidance to the dairy industry. Mr. Nilsestuen’s two sisters Wilda Nilsestuen and Karen Peterson were in attendance to accept the award on the family’s behalf. A Longevity Award was also presented to Family Dairies USA staff member Bob Hodgson of Dyersville, Iowa for his 25 years of loyal and dedicated service to the Cooperative.

In his address to the delegation, General Manager David Cooper highlighted the accomplishments of the cooperative during the past year and discussed the importance of the days ahead.  Regarding this importance was the need for members to stay informed on the ever changing policy opportunities, challenge and ask questions, be willing to find unity and common ground, and be proactive in moving change forward that will benefit the industry in the years ahead.  “These remain critical times in the dairy industry and despite recent increases on future prices, the volatility is only a market change away – now is the time to ensure the right changes are made,” he noted.

In adopting Family Dairies USA’s 2011 Policy Resolution statement, 29 resolutions were ratified by the delegates during the convention.  Of note, in the Natural Cheese Standard area “all cheeses should be made using FDA rules for ingredients in manufacture of standardized cheeses”, in the Dairy Product Utilization area “we urge that all schools be required to offer milk as a choice to all students and use only 100% real domestically produced dairy products. All milk (flavored and white) provides the necessary nutritional requirements of a healthy diet”.  Two additional areas noted were Dairy Inspection Policy, “We encourage proper education for dairy farmer’s relating to necessary therapeutic medications & precautionary measures and in Environmental Quality “Family Dairies USA recognizes the critical need for managing abandon wells and manure pits. We encourage state and county officials to establish a fund to ensure environmental safety.”

In district director elections, Joe Schmitt of Holy Cross, IA representing District 4, Sue Schultz of Chilton, WI representing District 5 and John Rettler of Neosho, WI representing District 6 were all re-elected to serve on the Family Dairies USA Board of Directors. At the reorganization meeting of the Board of Directors held at the conclusion of the Annual Meeting, Peter Kleiman, Wilson, MI was re-elected as President, Ken Wunderlin, Livingston, WI was re-elected Vice President, Sue Schultz, Chilton, WI was re-elected Secretary and John Rettler, Neosho, WI was re-elected to serve as Treasurer of the Family Dairies USA Board.

Family Dairies USA headquartered in Madison, WI is a qualified dairy cooperative serving and owned by approximately 3,000 dairy farm families in six states. In addition to testing verification and member service programs, the organization represents family farm members in dairy policy matters and offers youth scholarship and educational opportunities.  To learn more about Family Dairies USA, visit our website at