Staying alert through crisis preparedness

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For the modern dairy farmer, unplanned disruption to the farm business and even everyday life can happen when least expected. Last year alone, Midwest Dairy supported farmers who experienced threats from weather, manufacturing and marketplace disruptions, and animal rights attacks. All these scenarios and more can add stress to the farmer.
A few important services Midwest Dairy provides are issue and crisis training, communications support and consultation to help farmers react to, or recover from, an issue or crisis on a farm or at a dairy-related event. The checkoff can be used as a resource in many situations and is prepared to step in and support in various ways. Preparedness is crucial, and the resources Midwest Dairy can provide will allow you to get ahead of problems, prevent potential accidents and help avoid additional loss of revenue if anything should arise.
Dairy checkoff has learned that a crisis or issue can impact consumers’ perceptions of dairy. Our efforts to help prepare and provide real-time assistance can help head off any of these reputational concerns. Our focus and goal during any crisis is to maintain dairy demand and uphold the reputation of and confidence in dairy among the public. Organizations that prepare for a crisis recover two to three times faster, with significantly less financial and human cost than those who are unprepared. Operations and communications systems put in place before a crisis directly impact how well the industry and reputation recover. Along with Midwest Dairy, the dairy industry’s objective for its crisis management efforts is to establish, maintain and grow industry-wide readiness to effectively act and respond to local, regional, national and global crises with the potential to impact dairy production, perception of the safety of dairy products and consumer confidence in, and support of, dairy products and the U.S. dairy industry overall.
With the hard-earned reputation of dairy products, the industry at stake and the livelihoods of the nearly 4,800 dairy producers across our 10-state region, Midwest Dairy regularly undertakes a comprehensive crisis preparedness effort. This training allows staff to be prepared to help react in real-time situations, being a resource for farmers in a time of uncertainty. One of the first steps in crisis preparedness is assembling a team; checkoff wants to be a part of yours.
To stress-test our preparations, Midwest Dairy held a virtual crisis drill in December 2022. Each of our three business units participated in a separate exercise to give a hands-on experience to as many staff as possible. This drill involved a fictional cyber-attack on a large processor impacting all stakeholders, including farmers, consumers, retail partners, food service partners and schools. We focused on making the scenario as realistic as possible by including a representative from Dairy Management Inc. and farmers who played roles in the drill.
Although the training was fictional, staff came prepared and role-played as if it was a real-time crisis. As part of the drill, we tested components of our crisis plan and training by working on developing response strategies and messaging and discussing how Midwest Dairy can best support our farmer shareholders. We then debriefed to evaluate what was learned and how to improve our tactics. As part of the debrief, staff said the drill provided valuable insights into our crisis preparations and plans and allowed them to move outside of their usual roles to see all facets of a crisis management strategy. Ultimately, the conciseness showed that staff felt better prepared to support in a crisis situation.
Midwest Dairy and the dairy industry have a crisis plan, a crisis team, powerful partners, tested messages and extensive training for the farmer to lean on. This investment in readiness is essential, and when put to the test, it gives us the ability to reduce the duration and severity of any crisis. The team at Midwest Dairy has taken the time to provide and prepare tools, resources and guidance in developing a farm crisis response plan. In addition, we work with partners and national organizations like DMI to assist producers with crisis planning procedures and real-time, 24-hour responses to crises you might need support in handling. I encourage you to use this resource to your advantage as we kick off the new year, and get your crisis preparedness plan in place for 2023.

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