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11th Annual NODPA Field Days
September 29 & 30, 2011:
'Organic Dairy: What Does the Future Hold?'

Take-way from the NODPA
2011 Field Days

High cost of Feed and Inputs + Excessive Paperwork + a 2008
pay-price = disillusion with organic and inability to pay bills

There will be a more detailed description of the Field Days highlights in the next NODPA newsletter. To view a slideshow of photos from the Field Days, please click here.

Added October 18, 2011.

The NODPA Field Days was well attended in a bucolic surrounding, with great food (wonderful pig roast!) and great presentations on areas of key interest to organic dairy producers. The cordial and respectful discussions and networking gave the opportunity for some education on issues that are normally avoided and the ability to confront our responsibilities to the environment and our wider community.

The agenda for the meeting was designed to allow facilitated discussion on the state of organic and the challenges that both organic producers and all organic stakeholders face in the next five years as we feel the effects of what will inevitably be a regressive 2012/13 Farm and Nutrition Bill. The success of the meeting that most attendees commented on was due to respect amongst peers and appreciation of the dedication to organic production by all attendees. Many non-farmers attest to the lifestyle benefits that producers have to compensate for a lack of profit or return on equity. This Field Day attested to both the hypocrisy of that statement with producers struggling to stay afloat (literally in some cases) and the very real truth that in tough times the organic community will work together with respect and passion.

Organic dairying is a business that needs to be profitable to support current practitioners and attract the next generation. What was evident from this meeting was that regardless of where producer’s milk was sold, the following concerns existed for all:

  • Cost and availability of feed;
  • Increase in utility cost, insurance, taxes, fuel and other inputs;
  • A pay price that is the same as 2008;
  • Increase in organic certification paperwork and lack of consistency in implementation of new pasture rules by inspectors and certifiers; 
  • Fear of restrictive and overly detailed new regulation dominated by consumer concerns rather than recognizing that organic is already the gold standard for production agriculture;
  • Powerless to obtain any changes in:
    • Producers share of the retail dollar – retailers’ aggressive negotiating and control plus fear of inelastic demand over $4 per half gallon
    • Pay price – small increases of 50 cents and a dollar per hundred pounds reflect the difficulty in producers making their voice heard
    • Producers return on a growing market – times are good in the marketplace with high price conventional milk, expanding sales of approximately 13% year over year and a tightening supply, but none of this is translating into a pay price that reflects 2011-12 costs of production.

There will be a more detailed description of the Field Days highlights in the next NODPA newsletter. To view a slideshow of photos from the Field Days, please click here.