Breaking Out of the White Gallon Jug - Midwest Dairy CEO Lucas Lentsch Talks Dairy's Bright FutureThu, 20 Dec 2018 10:06:29 CST
It is a situation that can be neither denied or ignored. The rural and agricultural community as a whole is facing currently some of the hardest economic times it has seen in recent memory. This is a fact Lucas Lentsch, chief executive officer of the Midwest Dairy Association, chooses to face head-on. He talked about the struggles that American dairy producers are challenged with, but also the silver lining to the current situation that keeps farmers going, in a recent conversation with Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Associate Farm Director Carson Horn. You can listen to their complete conversation by clicking or tapping the LISTEN BAR below at the bottom of the page.
“One of the things that is clear, is that there are some tough economic conditions out there for all of agriculture, dairy included,” Lentsch said. “We know that anytime there is a trade battle going on, many times agriculture is the first casualty that falls victim to that. So, we’ve seen that pressure this year in particular. But, we’ve got great folks, working in concert with USDA and trade negotiators and good stuff is happening there in dairy - but it all takes time.”
According to Lentsch, 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside of the US and one in seven gallons of dairy production are exported. He says that number is only expected to grow. Recognizing that, Lentsch says dairy producers understand the need to seek better trade agreements and increased market access around the world - and have thus been supportive of the Administration’s trade agenda despite the temporary hardships it may have caused for the ag community. He points to the new US-Mexico-Canada Free Trade Agreement as evidence of the good things happening in the world of dairy right now.
“We’re talking about cheese getting back into Mexico. That’s where the real value is for America’s dairy farmers,” he said, referencing the USMCA. “People are talking about dairy and we’re excited about that. From the highest levels of government in our country - dairy is top of mind. Because it’s not just dairy farms that are affected. Over half of that dairy farmer’s investment is in feed procurement. That’s that local corn or soybean grower, the forages. It’s about a dairy community back at home on the farm that comes around and supports that dairy farm.”
With the spotlight on dairy, Lentsch says the association is capitalizing on that captive audience and taking advantage of the attention being paid to the industry by broadcasting dairy’s message - and it is a good one. Lentsch says right now is the perfect opportunity to talk about dairy’s versatility as a product and how the industry’s investment in research, education and promotion have paid off.
“In the last 35 years of dairy promotion… if you were to compare a consumer from 1984 to a consumer in 2018 - as Americans we’re eating 140 more pounds of dairy per year,” Lentsch reported. “That’s the year-over-year growth of 4.3 pounds since 1984. That’s promotion, research and education hard at work. But, it also speaks to the diverse functionality that dairy has. It’s not just in a white gallon jug. It’s innovation that’s driving it into new forms of products and that is bringing people back to the dairy aisle.”
In fact, Lentsch says the dairy industry has done so well, it is starting to see competitors imitating their product. While that is flattering, Lentsch supposes, he says retorts that the industry is working aggressively to protect and grow its presence in the market.
“Today more than ever, especially with the kind of noise that’s going on and the food marketing schemes that are out there, free from claims and deceptive marketing,” Lentsch said, “people just want to believe in a message that’s true and dairy farmers bring that to bare every day.”
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