Convention Celebrates History and Holsteins, Tackles Dairy Policy

7/2/2011 10:00 AM
By Jennifer Merritt Virginia Correspondent

 RICHMOND, Va. — The Virginia Holstein Association played host to the 2011 National Holstein Convention last week, prompting organizers to cover the state's outline with black and white and adjust the state's motto to "Virginia is for Holstein Lovers."

The convention and 126th annual meeting were held at the Greater Richmond Convention Center from June 22-25.

Conference attendees had a chance to share the state's best "History, Holsteins and Hospitality" through a series of farm tours and trips to historical sites, including Monticello and Colonial Williamsburg.

Farm tours included a two-day trip through the Shenandoah Valley with stops at Janney Holsteins, Mar-Bil Farms, Gloryland Holsteins and Harvue Farm. Cows-N-Corn, the Leonard family's agritainment business, and Moo-Thru, Ken and Pam Smith's ice cream store, rounded out the tour.

Goochland County offered a one-day tour of the James River Correctional Center State Farm and Alvis Farm, one of the largest dairies in the state.

Before the annual meeting, Curt Van Tassel of the USDA Agricultural Research Service gave an update on genomic technology. The afternoon's keynote speaker was Jerry Kozak, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation. Kozak spoke about "Forging a New Path for Dairy Producers" and answered questions about the Foundation for the Future, a proposed revamping of U.S. dairy policy.

"It's been clear that the MILC (Milk Income Loss Contract) hasn't helped keep anyone from going out of business," said Kozak. "In fact it may have hurt."

The proposed policy is based on margins instead of milk cost and includes base protection for all dairy farmers while allowing them the opportunity to buy additional insurance at an affordable rate.

"It's not a program to give anyone a profit," said Kozak. "It's not designed to guarantee anyone a profit or even to break even. It's for catastrophes."

Kozak likened it to home insurance after a fire. It's not something that is intended to be used unless it is an emergency. Kozak showed graphs and charts, however, that illustrated how much better off farmers would have been if the Foundation for the Future policies had been in place in 2009, when many dairy farmers suffered catastrophic losses.

Questions from the audience included a comment on statements that have been made by the International Dairy Foods Association that say the policy will negatively affect exports.

"Let me try to be as articulate as I can about that," said Kozak. "That's baloney."

Kozak reminded conference attendees about the checkoff money producers put towards supporting export programs.

"How many dollars have IDFA or processors put in," said Kozak. "This (Foundation for the Future) doesn't stymie exports. It only manages supply."

Kozak was asked why he didn't rebut the claims about lack of export growth. He responded that it sends the wrong message to Congress.

"Are you married?" he asked amid chuckles. "I've been married 39 years; 38 I traveled. The one year I was home, I learned not to squabble."

Not squabbling is even more important as Foundation for the Future moves closer to becoming law. The proposed policy has been scored by the Congressional Budget Department, which has shown the new policy will cost less than what is currently in place. Kozak said he hopes that a discussion draft of the policy will be available within the next couple of weeks, ahead of the Farm Bill.

Also at the convention, the National Holstein Association acknowledged new 40-year members and welcomed officials from neighboring organizations.

"It's impressive how our organizations have been growing together," said Felipe Ruiz, CEO of Holstein de Mexico.

Larry Tande, president of Holstein Association USA, teased the president of Holstein Canada for coming south to Wisconsin to pick a wife. After joking about "using North American genetics to improve the world," the Canadian president went on to say, "One of the best things about it (the U.S. and Canada) is that we can work together to make things better."

"They are our neighbors and friends," said Tande. "We have so much in common."

That spirit of camaraderie carried through the entire conference, which included junior dairy activities, a trade show and regional meetings. The National Convention Sale was held Friday night, with sales topping $1.5 million. The convention culminated with a banquet Saturday night.

The 2012 National Holstein Convention will be held in Springfield, Mo. For more information on this year's and next year’s conventions, visit

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