November 10, 2022 at 4:07 p.m.
Minnesota Milk is stepping away from its partnership with Midwest Dairy as it looks to the future.
Lucas Sjostrom is executive director for Minnesota Milk. He released an email statement about the change.
“For our associate members, we expect you to see little difference except our ability to stretch your dollars and impact further in coming months,” Sjostrom said. “Midwest Dairy will still be a valuable resource and partner for both organizations and our members, especially as we make the transition of services.”
Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative is based in Green Bay, Wisconsin. It is the third largest dairy cooperative in the country as far as milk volume. Farms in its membership are located in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. It was first founded in 2010 as the Dairy Business Milk Marketing Cooperative.
Minnesota Milk explained the partnership on its Facebook page.
“Edge will provide our organization with services currently provided to us by Midwest Dairy such as event planning, (human resources) and financial services, communications and more. The transition began (Nov. 2) and will be completed by Dec. 31,” the statement read.
Edge also announced the change Nov. 2 on its website.
“The decision to switch providers followed a decision from Minnesota Milk’s board of directors to focus the organization’s efforts more on state policy,” the announcement said.
Brody Stapel is president of Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative. He released comments on the company’s website.
“We are excited to connect with another grassroots dairy group driving positive change for farmers,” he said. “Minnesota Milk and Edge share many members. This agreement allows both groups to pool resources and amplify the voice of milk in Minnesota and across the Upper Midwest.”
Shelly DePestel, president of Minnesota Milk, also released a statement.
“We see many efficiencies in working with a policy-focused dairy organization,” she said. “We appreciate being able to remain independent while still tapping into the efficiencies of shared communications, human resources and accounting. We thank Midwest Dairy for its years of support and look forward to continued collaboration in the future.”
Alan Merrill, chairman for Midwest Dairy, responded to the change.
“Midwest Dairy respects this dairy farmer-led decision by the Minnesota Milk Board of Directors. We are proud to represent over 4,800 dairy farm families to 39 million consumers across our 10-state region and will continue to remain focused on dairy checkoff’s role of promotion and research,” he said.
In his email release, Sjostrom clarified some position changes brought on by the agreement.
“My term as a Midwest Dairy employee (ended) effective Oct. 31, but I will continue to carry out the vision set forth by our Minnesota Milk farmer-led board on policy, policy-education and membership,” Sjostrom said. “Also with the transition, Jenna Davis and Shannon Watrin continue at Midwest Dairy but will be no longer on our Minnesota Milk team after we complete the transfer in future weeks.”
Looking forward, Sjostrom sees benefits in the partnership.
“I am very excited to continue the work for Minnesota Milk, and I think the path the board chose is very logical,” he said. “I believe it will put Minnesota dairy farmers in a better position to use our limited assets in St. Paul but also partner with someone like Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative, who can complement our membership in many ways.”
The change means that Sjostrom will no longer be directly working with some of his Midwest Dairy colleagues.
“I am going to miss many of the people – both staff and board members – that I worked with at Midwest Dairy,” he said. “But, the checkoff will continue to be a resource for farmers in promoting dairy.”
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