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Group looking at ways to improve Iowa dairy industry

AMES, Iowa — The 2011 Iowa Dairy Outlook Initiative held its second meeting July 15 as it looks at ways to strengthen the state’s dairy industry.

Forty dairy industry leaders — producers, processors, and representatives from Iowa State University, Northeast Iowa Community College, the National Center for Animal Health, promotion and producer groups, and agribusinesses that serve the dairy industry — participated in a strategic planning session at the National Center for Animal Health in Ames. Meeting participants toured the center following the meeting.

Chris Mondak, assistant director of Iowa State University Extension to agriculture and natural resources, asked dairy leaders to list positive things that the Iowa dairy industry has going for it.

"Exports," said Mark Schmitt, a Fort Atkinson dairy farmer.

"United we stand, keep working together," said Leo Timms, ISU Extension dairy specialist.

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"Iowa has a competitive advantage in production costs," said Toledo dairy farmer Joe Lyons. "Now is the time to take advantage of that."

"I think we’re collaborating and working together more," said Kent Lehs of Midwest Dairy Association.

"Iowa is building its dairy industry in the right manner," said Mike Meissen of the Iowa Area Development Group.

"The dairy industry has brought great innovation," said Kent Nelson of Nelson Dairy Consultants, Decorah. "Vitamins, computer technology, genetic programs, even rat poison. We need to keep building on that tradition of innovation."

In April Iowa dairy leaders met in Waverly to talk about how to improve their industry. The meeting was sponsored by Midwest Dairy Association in cooperation with the Iowa State Dairy Association, Iowa State University Extension and the Iowa Dairy Coalition.

"The April meeting was tremendous, and there were a lot of expressions of good will and common interest," said Mondak, who led the strategic planning session. "It was a powerful pep rally. Now we are moving on to the strategic thinking and planning step. We have to get the group thinking about where we need to go."

Mondak told the dairy leaders that she understood that they were action people.

"But research shows that 75 percent of the groups who go straight to the action phase without first developing a vision, looking at obstacles, developing an action plan to overcome those obstacles and move toward the vision, fail," Mondak said. "Today, we need to think, contribute, listen and better understand each other."

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Mondak gave the group a homework assignment. They are to report back to their respective groups, seek input and return to a late August meeting to finalize a vision statement, propose solutions and begin crafting an action plan.

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