Recently, the 120th World Dairy Summit, an annual global dairy meeting held by the International Dairy Federation, was held in Chicago for the first time in decades. The IDF is an organization of representatives from 39 member countries, representing 74% of global milk production, that work together to promote and enhance the global dairy sector. Specifically, the organization aims to facilitate global conversations on dairy’s mission to provide high-quality and safe nutrition through dairy products, be a united global voice of dairy to intergovernmental organizations, and provide science-based data and advice for dairy standards and regulation settings.
It has been 30 years since the summit was held in the United States, showcasing the U.S. dairy industry. Therefore, when an opportunity to attend this world-renowned meeting presented itself, Megan couldn’t pass on the chance to attend the four-day grand gathering of global dairy. The theme of this year’s summit was “Be Dairy. Boundless Potential. Endless Possibilities.” The topics of discussion focused heavily on advancements in innovation, sustainability and the common challenges dairy faces throughout the world.
As a participant in the grand event, if there was one big takeaway from the gathering of more than 1,200 attendees that represented 55 countries, it was commonality. Visiting with dairy leaders, farmers and industry persons was fascinating in that it was clear that many of the issues we confront here on our farms in the Midwest are also found in all corners of the world. Even though our dairy farms may look and operate much differently, we seem to be challenged by many of the same issues. The most pressing are climate change and increases in weather extremes, increases in input costs, depressed milk prices and the availability of quality labor.
In a current world environment that seems more divided than ever, it was refreshing to sit down with others from around the globe and discover how much we truly have in common. Capitalizing on opportunities to have these in-person conversations builds not only personal relationships between dairy farmers and/or industry experts from different countries but also a deeper understanding of each other and an enhanced importance of presenting a united dairy front to the rest of the world. We must remember that as much as we are focused on dairy and the challenges that we are currently facing on our individual dairy farms and in our local communities, we are now also a part of a global community where decisions and events that affect dairy in one part of the world often topple down the line of dominoes to our barn doors. Policy decisions affecting dairy need to be science- and evidence-based. Organizations such as the IDF hope to provide information for these decisions as a united front.
It is also critical that dairy farmers are in the room and involved where and when these policy decisions are being made. We are currently seeing the effects of policies developed without the input of the farmers they will ultimately impact play out in the EU’s green agenda. It was extremely interesting to learn directly from the EU producers themselves about the immense challenges that EU dairy farmers will now be faced with in the upcoming decade. It’s critical that we continue to develop these relationships that can allow us to connect directly with those that will be involved in future policy decisions.
Taking time away from our farm, even in the busiest season of the year, is time well spent. Time is the most limited resource on our dairy farms, and we must be conscious of how we utilize it. Through these opportunities of listening, sharing information and building understanding by having face-to-face conversations with others across the globe, we not only build relationships and learn from one another, but we tend to return home with optimism and a renewed sense of purpose. This increased drive can enable us to be more prepared to take on challenges as they present themselves. Now more than ever, it is important to provide a common front as the world is rapidly changing, sharing our strengths and stories in regard to sustainability, animal welfare, innovation and high-quality nutrition. In our commonality, we can clearly see dairy’s critical role in enhanced global health and nutrition and being an advantageous climate solution, building a better and brighter future together.
Megan Schrupp and Ellen Stenger are sisters and co-owners of both NexGen Dairy and NexGen Market in Eden Valley, Minnesota. They can be reached at Nexgendairy@gmail.com.
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