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Around 1,400 dairy farmers and exhibitors attend Midwest Dairy Expo

By Carol Stender

Date Modified: 12/27/2012 8:44 AM

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ST. CLOUD, Minn. — More than 1,400 dairy farmers and exhibitors traveled to St. Cloud for the Midwest Dairy Expo.

Break-out educational sessions informed dairy producers about policy issues and production research. Minnesota Milk Producers Association members honored several producers and industry leaders.

Glen and Sadie Frericks of Melrose received MMPA's Producers of the Year award while Sherry Newell received the Bruce Cottington Award.

Past MMPA president George Bakeberg of Howard Lake received a standing ovation from the banquet crowd as he, Arlon Fritsche of New Ulm and Bill Rowekamp of Lewiston received MMPA's distinguished service award. Bakeberg finished his term as MMPA board member at the annual meeting and didn't seek re-election. He served 12 years on the board and five years as association president. Fritsche and Rowekamp have also served on MMPA's board and completed their terms last year.

More than $7,000 was raised for MMPA's scholarship fund during an auction the first night of the Expo.

District 4 incumbent director Greg Blaine of Little Falls was re-elected to the board. Sara Jane Brutscher, also of Little Falls, ran against him for the seat. In District 7, the board position held by Bakeberg, Garrett Luthens of Hutchinson overcame a challenge from Scott Hoese of Mayer. Michael White of Pine Island ran unopposed for his District 10 post. Shelly DePestel of Lewiston was re-elected to the director-at-large seat.

University of Minnesota economist Marin Bozic addressed the dairy outlook for the coming year and discussed what programs dairy farmers should consider. There are many unknowns because the new farm bill hasn't been completed. There is talk of an extension or something could be included in "fiscal cliff" legislation.

"If you are a dairy producer, you will have to decide if you participate in the farm bill programs or not," Bozic said. "If you don't want to take part in the farm programs, you don't have to, but you may be missing out on an opportunity."

While the MILC program ends Dec. 31, farmers can consider other programs that include the Dairy Producer Margin Protection Program and Dairy Market Stabilization Program.

The Frericks and Grant Post who farms with his wife, April, at Lake Wilson, gave tips to young farmers starting dairy operations. The panelists said it takes time to build an operation. Additions can be made incrementally. It's important to have a plan and to use available resources.

Jorge Delgado, who works with Alltech, offered hints for farmers working with Hispanic labor. Stop assuming, he said. Even if the worker may already possess the skills for a job, provide training.

Providing a written job description in both languages can be beneficial when its reviewed with every person hired. While many dairies have job descriptions, they don't use them properly, he said.

"Remember that you need to enforce the rules and objectives discussed at the beginning of the hiring process with your employees every time you see somebody is not following your directions and respecting this contract."

He also encouraged farmers to keep employees motivated.

At the dairy leaders roundtable, Dave Weinand of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture said the state had 4,006 dairy farms as of Nov. 12. The number is expected to drop to 4,000 farms by year's end. The good news is the number of cows has remained steady and production is good.

While dairy producers in the Midwest have fared better than those dairying in other parts of the county, feed costs are also playing a role in many farms' decisions to reduce herd size or sell the farm.