Dairy Foundation refinances through NICC, looking to future
By Jean Caspers-Simmet
Date Modified: 04/05/2012 1:59 PM
CALMAR, Iowa —When Gary Kregel became president of the Northeast Iowa Community-Based Dairy Foundation a year ago, the board was putting out fires.
"Today I can report that the fires are out, and we are looking to the future," Kregel, a Guttenberg dairy producer, said during the annual meeting of the Dairy Foundation at the Dairy Center.
The debt balloon payment and refinancing package along with the operating agreement with Northeast Iowa Community College have been a topic of discussion for nearly three years, Kregel said.
"I can report that all issues are concluded and concluded in a manner that provides for a very positive future for the foundation," Kregel said.
The 20-year financing package with bonds through NICC offers certainty to the foundation, and the business arrangement with NICC offers clarity, Kregel said. At the end of the financing period, the Northeast Iowa Dairy Foundation will own all the dairy farm assets, and NICC the educational building.
"NICC has given the foundation reassurance with a guarantee of their unwavering support of the Dairy Foundation and the dairy science program," Kregel said.
Thanks to strong dairy prices in the fiscal year ending June 2011, the Dairy Foundation saw a net positive of $500,000.
"The price of milk has been good and even with feed prices up, we had decent returns," Kregel said.
The Dairy Foundation has taken on two new partnerships in the past year with Midwest Dairy Association and BouMatic, Kregel said. MDA is helping to fund the Dairy Center coordinator and BouMatic is bringing parlor software up to date and assisting with parlor supplies. They join existing partners ROTO-MIX and Accelerated Genetics.
He noted that it has been great to have a Dairy Center coordinator again. Megan Kregel started in June.
NICC hosted President Obama and five Cabinet members at the Peosta campus in August for a rural issues outlook conference. Kregel was invited to represent the Dairy Foundation.
"I took advantage of the opportunity to share dairy farmers' concerns with secretary Vilsack and President Obama," Kregel said.
NICC's new president, Liang Chee Wee, has brought a renewed commitment to the dairy program and the foundation from NICC and the NICC Board of Trustees, Kregel said.
"For any partnership to work, respect and trust are key," said Wee, adding that there is great leadership at the Dairy Foundation, both from Kregel and past president Jed Becker. "I'm not a farm kid, but my role at the table is how NICC can bring the most appropriate resources to continue to move this organization forward. Then everyone wins. Not only do we want to serve students well, but we want producers to know how important they are to the continued success of this place."
The Dairy Foundation is considering capital improvements. While no decisions have been made, one possibility is a robotic milker.
"There is a lot of interest in getting a robot here for education, tourism and keeping up with technology," Kregel said. "We're seriously looking at several funding opportunities in that area."
Kregel recognized Dave Lawstuen, head of NICC's dairy program, for being named Iowa Professor of the Year.