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dairy mgmt1

By Heather Thorstensen

hthorstensen@agrinews.com

ROCHESTER, Minn. — Dairy producers need to demand that legislators remove export tariffs and other trade barriers, says an industry consultant.

Monte L. Hemenover of Avenues for Change, a consulting firm based in St. Louis, Mo., spoke to dairy producers Feb. 5 during a Dairy Management Workshop in Rochester. The event was organized by the Minnesota Milk Producers Association in partnership with the University of Minnesota. Approximately 80 people attended the meeting.

The top priority for Minnesota's dairy producers now is survival through low milk prices and high input costs, but the industry's future holds a big opportunity in exports, Hemenover said.

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Asia is home to more than 40 percent of the world's 6.7 billion people, he said. China and India alone have more than a third of the world's population. As part of America's low priced, safe and high quality food supply, the U.S. dairy industry has a chance to increase profitability by getting its products to Asia.

The Asian dairy industry is challenged with landscapes not conducive with livestock production, milk safety issues, a lack of forage quality, inconsistent grain supplies and genetics that Hemenover called "absurd."

He said 2006 statistics show Asia's dairy cow herd produced less than 30 billion pounds of milk, while the U.S. herd created more than 185 billion pounds. It's estimated that Asians only consume about five pounds per capita of the milk produced there.

"The opportunity is enormous," Hemenover said. "...We need to deal with these kinds of numbers to put pressure on elected officials for product exports."

Minnesota's dairy industry is positioned to help meet export demand to these countries, Hemenover said. The state was ranked sixth in the nation for milk production as well as the number of dairy cows in 2007. Minnesota cows produced 18,817 pounds of milk each, ranking 23rd in the nation. The state exported more than 1,000 pounds of milk and dairy products per person, said Hemenover.

Dairy producers here have challenges — it’s not easy to grow and expand existing facilities, manage cows and manage labor — but the state provides unique opportunities. Feed and labor are more available here compared to other parts of the country, and Minnesota is one of the five lowest-priced places in the nation to replace heifers, Hemenover said. Technology can offset weather challenges.

He told producers that he's spoken with UPS staff about getting dairy products on the company's airbuses to Asia.

"Don't tell me it can't be done, because it can," he said.

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Minnesota’s dairy producers need to think outside the box about ways to increase dairy consumption. In addition to increasing exports, Hemenover said the industry should be working with fast food restaurants to get more dairy products on their menus. Another option is to look into ways to increase value from manure.

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