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Election defeat doesn’t stop Blaine from helping dairy industry

By Carol Stender

cstender@agrinews.com

LITTLE FALLS, Minn. — Greg Blaine is turning his November re-election defeat into an opportunity.

Blaine, who served House District 12B from November 2001 until January, is one of 14 people appointed to Minnesota ag commissioner Gene Hugoson’s Dairy Profitability Advisory Committee.

The Little Falls dairy farmer wants to use his legislative experience to help Minnesota agriculture and, in particular, the state’s dairy industry.

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He’s an at-large committee member among representatives from farm and dairy organizations, processors, lenders, input suppliers and the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities.

MDA livestock specialist Curt Zimmerman is committee chairman.

Blaine hopes his legislative experience, government connections and bill-crafting abilities can move the group’s efforts forward. Blaine is enthusiastic about the group’s potential.

Blaine is a supporter of the state’s Dairy Profitability and Enhancement program, an effort the group will most likely review.

"The state has put a lot of money into that program and I feel it’s OK to evaluate it and other programs," he said. "We have to look at whether we are getting the best bang for our buck in the way the program is being administered. I feel that all programs need to be reviewed and we need to look at making them better."

Blaine would like people to think out of the box to enhance the industry and dairy programs. He’d like discussions to focus on capital investments in dairy operations to help producers expand and modernize.

"In some ways, we have been stagnant in addressing the needs of the dairy industry in the state and the needs of agriculture," he said. "Times are changing tremendously in agriculture, especially in Minnesota with bio-energy. We will have to change in the landscape and the technology is leading us to look at the needs for ethanol and cellulosic technology. That means opportunities for dairy feedstuffs."

For Blaine, that includes mentor programs linking experienced dairy farmers with young couples. He has such a model on his own farm.

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Blaine and his wife, Michelle, have hired Andrew and Lindsey LeClair to work on their farm. They will eventually purchase the operation. They aren’t the first couple the Blaines have helped. The two have hired dairy herdsmen and farm workers in the past and many remain active in the industry.

The Blaines interviewed the LeClairs for the herdsmen position and found the two had the same "burn in the belly and passion in their heart" for dairying.

He’s unsure when he will transition out of dairying, but Blaine is excited knowing the farm will remain in operation. Through the mentorship, the LeClairs have an opportunity to work into the operation.

Blaine hopes the model can be duplicated on many more dairy farms.

"I don’t necessarily believe you have to milk "x" number of cows to be profitable," said the 46-year-old Blaine. "I think the size of an operation really dictates how you want to manage it. We have been profitable with 70 cows because it’s a style of farming we understand and manage."

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