September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.
CROPP annual meeting: 2011 a year of growth
The co-op's profits grew, too. They rose to $13.3 million, from $12.1 million in 2010.
Growth also took place in terms of membership. Two-hundred twelve farmers joined the CROPP ranks, bringing its membership to 1,687 farmers in 35 U.S. states and three Canadian provinces.
Those are just some of the highlights that were pointed out during CROPP's annual meeting at La Crosse, Wis., at the end of March. The meeting drew more than 600 CROPP members from as far away as both coasts.
Chief executive officer George Siemon called the meeting "a celebration of the strength of the cooperative model and how each member benefits when we remain true to our mission."
Commenting on the record $715.6 million in sales, Siemon said, "It's not about sales. It's about farmers and serving farmers."
Last year was not without its challenges. Chief among them continues to be the prices farmers pay when they buy organically grown feed for their dairy cattle and other livestock.
"...We are wrestling with the responsibility of increasing the feed supply as we trigger new livestock producers into the organic market," Siemon reported. "Our feed program has become a valuable service to our members, but it is not directly stimulating more supply.
"High feed costs have been a major negative factor on CROPP's livestock members' profitability and have been a major focus of the board and farmer committees," he continued. "CROPP has always been pioneering in our thinking and our actions, so we need to now address this feed supply constraint directly."
To help farmers buy feed, CROPP raised its prices paid to members "significantly," Siemon said. The higher pay for milk and other livestock products are aimed at farms' long-term profitability.
"Feed costs may come down," Siemon said, "but due to the ethanol boom, strong organic growth, and worldwide food demand, we see that feed and food prices will stay at a higher base. This is good news for agriculture, after a lifetime of low, unsustainable prices."
Organic Valley honored several dairy farmers with Cream of the CROPP Awards. This award went to the farm with the best milk quality in each of six regions.
In the Wisconsin region, the honor went to Kevin and Mary Jahnke and their Jahnke Family Limited Partnership, Lancaster. The north-central region award went to Dale and Carmene Pangrac and Andrew and Kimberly Olson, at Prime Pastures Organic Dairy, Utica, Minn.
In the northeast, a Cream of the CROPP Award was given to the Meyer family, North Hardwick Dairy, Hardwick, Vt. The mid-east award went to David VanderZanden, Casnovia, Mich.
The southern region award recipient is Grazeland Dairy, Phillip and Therese Witmer, Dayton, Va. And the west region award went to Ross and LeAnna McMahan, Cowlitz Meadows Dairy, Randle, Wash.
In addition, CROPP recognized dairy farmers in 10 states with "gold" quality awards. To qualify for this award, the farm needed to produce milk with an average somatic cell count (SCC) of less than 100,000. The milk also needed to have a standard plate count average below 20,000; an average preliminary incubation count below 30,000; and a laboratory pasteurized count averaging less than 100.
In Wisconsin, seven farms met all the qualifications. They are: Joas M. and Lydia E. Miller, Mondovi; Mike and Julie Petherbridge, Dresser; Daniel and Darlene Coehoorn, Rosendale; Lyle Holtz, Wisconsin Rapids; Richard J. and Jean A. Anhalt, New Holstein; Sidney L. and Miriam B. Nolt, Greenwood; and Robert L. and Lori A. Prahl, Luxemburg.
Twenty-four more Organic Valley members received gold milk quality awards. They are in Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Washington.
Organic Valley also cites members for producing quality meat from cull dairy cows. This year's "gold" award recipients are John and Veronica Hellermann, Melrose, Minn.
Hass award to Wedeberg
Organic Valley chose Jim Wedeberg, Gays Mills, Wis., to receive its Ray Hass Organic Pioneer Award. Wedeberg, a former dairy farmer, is a founding farmer of Organic Valley/CROPP and is its dairy pool director. He recently passed his farm on to his children.
The Ray Hass Organic Pioneer Award is given to a "pioneer in the organic movement and in the cooperative," according to CROPP. The award is named after Ray Hass, a founding member of Organic Valley and one of the first organic dairy farmers in the U.S.
Three younger CROPP members were honored with Generation Organic awards. These "Gen-O" awards are for farmers ages 16 to 35 who "demonstrate a commitment to sustainable agriculture and believe in the power of organic to change the world," according to CROPP.
The U.S. has lost roughly 4.5 million farmers since 1935. Most of the remaining 2.1 million farms are operated by people whose average age is 57. By contrast, noted CROPP, the average age of an Organic Valley farmer is 44.
The lone dairy farmer recipient of the Gen-O award is Laura Boere, 27, who farms with her father and brother in Stanislaus County, California, on the 500-acre John Boere Dairy. It transitioned to organic in 1999.
Their dairy farm's Holstein, Ayrshire and crossbred cows can graze nearly year-round, due to the clay in the soil, allowing green pastures through all four seasons. Boere said she is committed to following an organic path on her family's farm and is hopeful about the future of organic farming in California. She participated in the Generation Organic "Who's Your Farmer?" 2010 Tour to colleges and universities in the Northeast, and the 2011 tour in the Pacific Northwest and California.
The two other Generation Organic award recipients are Jared Luhman, 18, Goodhue County, Minnesota; and Adam Holter, 21, Frederick County, Maryland.
Luhman plans to one day take over his family's farm, Jon Luhman Organic Crops. Holter, meanwhile, is the sixth generation on his family's grass-fed beef and pastured pork farm.
Siemon, CROPP's CEO, made it a point to mention during his remarks a new product that the co-op introduced early in March. It's Organic Valley Grassmilk and is from cows that eat only grass and dried forages - no grain or soybeans.
Grassmilk is produced by cows "grazing in the lush pastures of California's north coast," according to CROPP. Nutritionally, said CROPP, Grassmilk is "flowing with Omega-3s, CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), and calcium. It all starts with the soil - organically managed soils that support diverse forages and the highest quality pasture grasses which the cows eat."
A survey of more than 1,000 people by Organic Valley found that "more than 76 percent" of people who drink organic milk want milk from grass-fed cows. Grassmilk will be available in fat-free, two percent and whole varieties at Whole Foods Markets on the West Coast this month, and later in natural foods stores and food co-ops. Organic Valley suggests a retail price of $5.49 per half gallon.
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