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Dairy Forum Speech by Connie Tipton: "Unlocking Dairy's Potential"

Jan 28, 2013

Please note this correction, January 31: The speech referred incorrectly to Walmart's position on labeling the genetically modified sweet corn created by Monsanto. Walmart has chosen not to label the sweet corn product as containing GMO ingredients.

(Orlando, Fla. -- January 28, 2013) Good morning and welcome to the 2013 Dairy Forum. Last night we got a great overview of what’s driving the global dairy industry and some valuable insights into what our future may hold.

But we as an industry also understand what the former editor of the Harvard Business Review Theodore Levitt meant when he observed, “Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things.”

That’s what our great industry is all about . . . doing new things . . . matching creativity to innovation . . . and innovation to the tastes and needs of an ever-changing world . . . questioning long-held views . . . getting in front of change . . . setting the pace . . . maintaining our global competiveness through innovation while the hesitant fall behind. Sure, we have some challenges, but they pale when compared to our future’s full promise and potential.

So this morning I want to talk about a few things that jump out at me as being important in shaping that future. They include a handful of actions I think we should embrace as an industry to propel us down a path to greater growth and prosperity.

And you know me. I’m not afraid to wade into the tough and thorny issues . . . like politics . . . new technology . . . milk supply . . . government regulations . . . and did I forget, more government regulations . . . and a few more hot topics.

So, where better to begin than politics?

In Washington, D.C., we are swept up every day by an incoming tide of politics and policy, so I’ll start with a few comments about the elections, politics and policy, and how this mash-up might shape the dairy landscape for the next two years.

Last week, we inaugurated President Obama for a second term in office with the usual fanfare and hoopla, including Greek yogurt served in the Capitol for the inaugural lunch. There were inaugural festivities all along the Pennsylvania Avenue parade route with parties, galas and balls to match them all over town. There were so many tuxedos, it looked like a remake of “March of the Penguins.”

As a Washington resident, I knew it was time to either jump into the activities full-tilt, or stay home with a hot toddy and order in pizza. This year I chose the latter. And I think I got the better part of the bargain.

But when the speeches and parties end, the cold, harsh reality of January in Washington sets in. President Obama made it clear in his inaugural address that he wants more government. And this month, a new Congress began its work. I know . . . those words are enough to send shivers up your spine.

And with each election cycle, the new Congress has a number of new faces interspersed with the veterans . . . people who may turn out to be extremely important to our lives . . . or then again, they may not.

Here’s the rack-up of the new 113th Congress. In the Senate, there are eight new Democrats, three Republicans, and one Independent, giving the Democrats an increased majority of 53 to 45, with two Independents who will caucus with them. Interesting to me is how many women are now in the Senate. There are five new woman Senators, increasing their ranks to a total of 20 – or one-fifth of the Senate. Only four of them are Republicans.

But I thought it was funny and telling during their first week back for orientation after the elections when Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota quipped that it was the first time there had ever been a line at the women Senators’ bathroom.

In the House, there are 46 new Democrats and 35 Republicans, but the Republicans retained the majority with a split now of 234 Republicans and 200 Democrats. There's also one vacancy.

The leadership in both the Senate and the House stayed pretty much the same, as did the profound philosophical gulf between conservatives and liberals on most of the big issues, including how to keep us from tumbling off the so-called fiscal cliff.

As the political pundit Charlie Cook recently said, “There are honorable people on both sides with legitimate differences in their points of view . . . so finding compromise means each side will have to give something, instead of the approach that 'what’s mine is mine' and 'what’s yours is negotiable.'” He predicted a grand bargain would eventually be reached. And maybe it will.

The New Year’s Day bargain certainly fell short of the “grand” category or the “go-big” deal people had hoped for. But at least this patchwork agreement bought us some time before the next crisis hits when Congress and the President finally do something more than kicking the can down the road on the debt ceiling and spending.

And, while it bought at least another year before we once again face the widely reported “milk cliff” threat of returning to 1949 dairy policy, it contained a farm bill extension that gives us the time to work again on finding a better safety net program for our nation’s dairy farmers.

In the meantime, the markets and the economy may be in for a roller-coaster ride . . . not a great prescription for a still beleaguered and battered economy struggling to regain its footing. This economy is certainly not for the timid. You need both seat belts and air bags to ride it out safely.

There will be some changes in key cabinet positions. That’s to be expected in a President’s second term. However, although the players may change, don’t expect any major change in policy direction. As the old proverb goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

That likely means more regulations for the food industry coming out of familiar departments and agencies such as USDA, FDA and FTC. That likely means more rules for school meals, more labeling regulations, and possible restrictions on marketing products to children. And the Dietary Guidelines five year update has already begun. Add all this up and for some it’s enough to cause the Biblical weeping and gnashing of teeth.

But for me, the New Year brings the opportunity to start anew . . . to see what waits on the horizon . . . to plot a new course for our future . . . to build on our legacy . . . to see how far we as an industry can go on the global stage when we take steps together. Yes, I am at heart an optimist. Or as President Kennedy said, “I’m an idealist without illusions.”

A quick reflection on my 30-plus years working with the dairy foods industry tells me at once we’ve come a long way. We’ve accomplished much – but much more remains to be done to realize our full potential.

So before we delve into the future, let’s take a minute to look in the rearview mirror to see how far we’ve come . . . to take full recognition of the milestones we’ve reached and some of the trends that are driving our industry.

In the early 80s, our organization represented only the milk and ice cream industries, and we had a lot of family-run companies. The pace was different and pressures seemed fewer.

People took more time for socializing. We had longer conventions with families participating. There was more tennis and golf and time by the pool. And you weren’t tethered to a smart phone. It was a quaint, genteel world now receding into the mists of time.

The next decade saw us growing and flourishing as an organization. We brought the National Cheese Institute under the IDFA umbrella, and in the process, we were able to combine our efforts with a lot of talented and forward-looking leaders from the cheese industry.

The new millennium ushered in a fresh and exciting era for U.S. dairy. We became the platform for global dairy growth and innovation. Make no mistake about it . . . innovation is our industry’s lifeblood. So, we flexed our creative muscles with a new Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and we stepped out with a host of great new dairy products, unimaginable in IDFA’s infancy, but now forming the backbone of our industry.

Just think about it. Back in the 1980s, the only place you could find Greek yogurt was . . . well, Greece. And a smoothie was some sort of fast-talking con man. Today, Greek yogurt is the star of the dairy case and a smoothie is a nutritious treat from breakfast to bedtime.

And the cheese choices were pretty limited then, too. . . perennial favorites like American, cheddar, and Swiss and maybe a smattering of foreign cheeses. Who can forget the Laughing Cow? But you probably would have been laughed out of the store if you asked for goat cheese.

However, the jet stream that helps steer our industry is not just powered by the consumer’s adventuresome palate and far-flung global markets where we’ve raised our flag. Throughout the brief arc of our history, there’s also been enormous consolidation and major changes in how we live and do business.

Science and technology are two of the primary drivers. They’ve produced a tectonic shift with waves rippling throughout our industry. They’ve changed virtually everything from the farm to the office building to the kitchen. Phil Lempert, the Supermarket Guru, even predicts that smart phones will soon network with kitchen appliances to allow shoppers to see how much milk is left in the fridge.

And think about how you operated 30 years ago. Our IDFA chairman, Mike Nosewicz from The Kroger Company, and I were reminiscing a few months ago about early in our careers when calculators were a big deal. In fact, they were so expensive that you had to be one of the higher-ups in a company or an accounting green-shade to have one issued to you.

Indeed, science and technology have increased our speed and enhanced our efficiency and effectiveness in so many positive and meaningful ways. From animal breeding and herd health

. . . to product development . . . to processing, packaging and global distribution . . . all of these activities have radically changed in the last 30 years. And I would argue, for the better.

Century after century, history has taught us that changes in technology require us to adapt to an ever-changing world or be left behind. We can’t, as F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in The Great Gatsby, “be boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” We must use that current to our advantage to make the global economy and marketplace work for us. Adapting to and adopting new technology is not just the best way to survive. It’s the best way to thrive.

Of course, Sir Winston Churchill put it best, “There’s nothing wrong with change . . . if it is in the right direction.”

But here’s a troubling example of change that seems to be headed in the wrong direction. Over the past year, several legislators have encouraged the FDA to require labeling of genetically modified or engineered foods, even though the agency has deemed the products to be safe. At the same time, pressure on the President remains strong as he made a campaign promise in 2007 to support GMO labeling if elected.

On Election Day 2012, California voters defeated by a 53 to 47 percent margin Proposition 37, a ballot initiative requiring labels on foods containing GMO ingredients sold in the state. The "No to Prop 37" campaign successfully argued that the initiative was expensive and could result in tremendous legal action.

However, the California victory may be short-lived. The drumbeat for GMO labeling is as loud as ever and proponents are taking their show on the road. They are training their eyes on other states, such as Washington, Vermont, New Mexico, Connecticut and Rhode Island, and even cities to pursue similar ballot initiatives. Moreover, they learned from their mistakes. We anticipate that these new initiatives will be better written with a better ground game to push them forward.

And it’s not just the ballot box we have to be worried about. How about mega big-box retailer Walmart? It announced this past summer that it planned to sell a new crop of genetically modified sweet corn created by Monsanto. Nothing wrong with that. But a lot of us were scratching our heads when Walmart added that it would label the product as containing GMO ingredients . . . even though FDA has already said the product is safe. Talk about a belt and suspenders approach . . . which, by the way, is not at all attractive. But given Walmart’s size and market share, there are legitimate concerns that its decision on GMO labeling will force other retailers to march in lockstep behind the industry giant.

And in another stunner, Kaiser Permanente warned its members in a recent newsletter about the dangers of GMOs. While the biotech industry adamantly denies the validity of the studies the newsletter cited, Kaiser nevertheless recommended that consumers buy organic food, download the ShopNoGMO app and look for labels that say products are GMO free.

So how do we go about eliminating the pressures of GMO labeling campaigns? How do we put a needle in their balloon of fear and falsehoods?

One of the best ways is to launch an educational campaign around the benefits of biotechnology and its role in feeding a growing world population in a sustainable manner.

For billions of people across this planet, the “Hunger Games” is not a Hollywood blockbuster set in a bleak future. It’s the very real struggle they face each day to stave off starvation. And it will only get worse. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization predicts that global food production will have to increase by 70 percent by the year 2050 to feed an additional 2.2 billion hungry mouths. Although not a solution in and of themselves, GMO crops can certainly play an important role in the war against world hunger. The anti-GMO zealots need to get off their high horses and see what the rest of the world really looks like from the ground up.

So what is the takeaway on GMO labeling? Technology can help marry innovation to new products, but consumers might ask for a divorce if they perceive threats instead of benefits.

Maintaining harmony is a delicate balance, one that our leaders in Washington know little about. But before diving into policies and regulations that are impediments to consumer satisfaction and industry growth, I want to talk about market trends and how the right balance and direction can make all the difference.

Let me tee up that discussion with the recent, pull-no-punches article in Forbes about the fluid milk industry and its business model. The author, Hank Cardello of the Hudson Institute, blames the industry’s current woes on three things: focusing on one highly commoditized product – milk, ignoring market trends and trying to sell what you make rather than what people want. I would add a fourth: focusing on “milking” government regulations rather than making and marketing exciting products has led dairy, and the fluid milk industry in particular, in the wrong direction.

The author says what happened to the milk industry is a cautionary tale that all of us ignore at our own peril. With 20-20 hindsight, he argues that rather than viewing their businesses through the narrow blinders of milk production, industry participants should have opened their apertures and seen themselves as dairy-based nutrition providers. In other words, they needed to build value into their core products.

Now, in all fairness, much of this building is happening today, as I will discuss later on, with products like protein-fortified milk. But the article speaks to all of us here today and we should heed its message. We can’t afford to be complacent. We can’t afford to be insular. We can’t afford to ignore signs that the old paradigms no longer work. And we can’t afford to stop innovating and building value into our products so consumers will want us as part of their lives and lifestyles . . . today and tomorrow.

Indeed, that’s exactly how our industry is responding to new trends in food and nutrition. Let me share some thoughts on what the predictions and nutrition trends for 2013 could mean for dairy.

Ellen Schmitz of the Symphony IRI group says that dairy products continue to hit the right note with health and weight conscious consumers. And she’s right. Lots of Americans are looking for more protein in their diets, especially low-fat sources of protein. And meat is looking less and less attractive while dairy is catching their eye . . . as it should. Dairy is a naturally good source of protein, including many low-fat and fat-free options: cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, protein-fortified milk. So, look for even more protein claims on dairy products over the next year.

Gluten-free has been one of the fastest growing claims during 2012, but some are saying that 2013 might be the year of the “lactose-free” claim. While there’s no nutritional reason for most Americans to avoid lactose, if consumers are on the lookout for products with reduced lactose, we have the dairy products to meet their interest. Most cheeses are naturally lower in lactose, while specially formulated lactose-free milks are also available. Years ago, we learned a valuable lesson: one size never fits all. So, we have an incredible variety of dairy products to fit every taste, need and interest.

Concerns about sugar intake, especially added sugars, will also likely continue through 2013. Processors have already done a lot of work to lower levels of added sugar in flavored milk and to use non-caloric sweeteners in products like yogurt and ice cream. Some producers even use ultra-filtration to remove the natural sugars in milk. So, dairy foods with lower levels of sugar may become increasingly popular.

Less cooking and greater convenience are also great selling points for dairy. In spite of all the cooking shows and the high-end cookware, kitchen appliances and gadgets we have in our homes, we’re looking to cook less. The growing foods are the ones that require less cooking and effort . . . like yogurt, a stick of string cheese or an ice cream novelty. No cooking. No recipes. No cleanup. No brainer.

In fact, yogurt is emblematic of where growth will come from in the future. Let’s take a look at a short video of Harry Balzer, Chief Industry Analyst at the NPD Group, who makes a compelling case that yogurt exemplifies what U.S consumers want from its food suppliers.

Let me repeat Harry’s most salient point: “If you understand yogurt, you understand what this country wants from its food suppliers. It wants a food that satisfies breakfast, lunch, supper; it can be the snack, it can be the main dish or it can be the side dish. You can have what you want, and I can have what I want, and we all have yogurt. And then I think it's good for me. Isn't that what we want?”

So, no matter what the dairy product, we have to keep in mind consumer trends, such as healthy eating and aging well . . . economic trends toward keeping food affordable and accessible to broad demographics. . . and ingredient trends including new colors, flavors and inclusions.

And we as an industry are recognizing those trends by building new value into tried-and-true commodities like milk, cheese and ice cream through innovative new products.

Here are some that will grab you. Shamrock Farms makes a protein-fortified milk called Rockin’ Refuel, endorsed by Kansas City Chiefs running back Peyton Hillis. And Upstate has found success with its pints of Crave flavored milk packaged in aluminum bottles. Yes, you heard me right, aluminum. These are sold in convenience stores, amusement parks and home improvement centers.

And we’ve found a new niche in the weight-loss industry. Schreiber Foods, which manufactures Weight Watchers Cheese, believes snacking continues to be a mega trend. Consumers are looking for easy, on-the-go cheese snacks in the right portions.

Speaking of cheese, Sartori has entered the emerging artisanal cheese market, adding three new limited-edition items to its line – Extra-Aged Goat, which has won multiple awards; the Cannella BellaVitano, a sweet, buttery cheese that’s steeped in cinnamon liqueur and aged at least 15 months; and Peppermint BellaVitano, which is hand-coated with crushed peppermint candy that melts and turns the cheese pink. This cheese was created in support of National Breast Cancer Month. How about a big shout-out for Sartori for its efforts to raise awareness about this terrible disease?

Perhaps one of the most exciting dairy entries in recent years is a former niche product that now controls a large portion of the dairy case. There’s that old saw, “Beware of Greeks bringing gifts.” But Greek yogurt is the gift that keeps giving – just ask one of our newest members, Chobani. From humble beginnings, Greek yogurt is dominating the yogurt category and popping up in other cultured products. It has wide appeal to consumers who are looking for healthier snacking options but crave bold flavors and flavor pairings.

For example, Dannon added new flavors to its Oikos Greek Yogurt and introduced the first-ever light Greek yogurt – Lite & Fit Greek. General Mills’ Yoplait launched a 100-calorie Greek yogurt, which plays into the portion-controlled minded, and introduced a fat-free-Greek yogurt with Nature Valley Granola to mix in. What a great inclusion for the health minded and those looking for a crunchy texture. And Franklin Foods, owners of Greek Mountain Farms, launched a Greek yogurt cream cheese said to contain twice the protein and half the fat of regular cream cheese, plus live and active cultures. Does anyone know what "home run" is in Greek?

When it comes to ice cream, there’s an explosion of flavors to match every taste bud across the globe. Check out some of these flavors that run the gamut from bakery-inspired nostalgia to the exotic, such as Carrot Cake Ice Cream and one I can’t wait to try: Pistachio Brittle-Bourbon Caramel Ice Cream. The New York Times also recently reported that one restaurant in San Francisco is offering sophisticated toppings for the Straus Family Creamery’s soft-serve ice cream that include . . . get this . . . extra-virgin olive oil on vanilla. Even after all the years I’ve worked in the industry, I’m still surprised by dairy’s versatility. It’s a canvas on which you can create practically anything.

People will always love ice cream. But they’re also concerned about weight gain. So how do you achieve a proper balance? One solution is taking a page out of the weight-loss playbook – portion control. Wells Industries developed a snack-sized cone for its Champ! Brand. The smaller chocolate-coated sugar cone is filled with chocolate or vanilla ice cream topped with peanuts and contains 150 calories or fewer per serving.

I’m a firm believer that product innovation around all of these trends will keep our markets strong and growing. However, I think we have to understand that more and more consumers are – to use the words of Phil Lempert – “choosing their food holistically.” In other words, the consumer is not just buying a product because of its taste, ingredients and nutritional composition.

The consumer is also bringing other factors to bear when making a decision, such as the product’s total impact on the environment. It’s no longer just a carbon footprint but could also be a water footprint as consumers are concerned how much fresh water it takes to produce a final product – from a pair of Levis to a Big Mac. They want to know if the company employs sustainable practices in its operations and whether it’s socially conscientious, too. The recent fires and deaths at the garment factory in Bangladesh are a grim reminder for anyone engaged in the global marketplace. Your corporate reputation and integrity can be just as important as your products when it comes to consumer choices. In other words, take nothing for granted.

However, one thing the U.S. dairy industry has taken for granted for most of the past 40 years is that farm milk will always be there to meet domestic processor and manufacturer demand. But, is that still the case today . . . and what about in the future? There are some disturbing trends that could be a harbinger of what lies ahead.

For example, in recent years, over two-thirds of the growing demand for U.S. farm milk has been for dairy exports. This is a huge turnaround. And not only is the export product mix very different from what our domestic consumers want, but the amount needed can vary significantly year-to-year and even month-to-month.

Around the same time, our industry began to be rocked by volatile dairy feed costs and farm milk prices. This was due in part to the growth in production share from U.S. dairy farm operations with just cows and little or no attached cropping operations, but also to U.S. biofuel policy and higher prices for all crops worldwide, not only dairy feedstuffs. Throw in a major drought and it’s a quadruple whammy.

Going forward, one thing is for sure. The conventional thinking that farm milk will “always be there when we want it” has to change. It’s dangerous nostalgia. Fortunately, dairy farm operators are spending much more time than ever before on strategic planning to ensure that the feed they need will be there when they need it. Processors and manufacturers must also pay attention to this issue, as the answers may well be different in different parts of the country.

Here at the Dairy Forum there will be a session tomorrow afternoon that focuses on just this challenge with respect to the Northeastern United States. Recent growth in dairy processing capacity, mostly to manufacture Greek yogurt and other yogurts, has already strained regional farm milk supplies. So pay heed.

However, there are some very basic aspects of this industry as it relates to government regulation where little has changed over the years . . . and to the detriment of our industry.

If you are ever in Washington and have the opportunity to visit the Jefferson Memorial, you can look up and read these words of our third president:

“Laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change . . . institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times.”

Unfortunately, federal milk pricing regulations, food standards and other dairy laws – some of which date back to the 1930s have not kept pace with the times. They are antiquated and still have us in a vise-like grip. They squeeze the life out of product innovation, inflate costs and stifle industry growth both at home and in the global marketplace.

If you’ve known me very long, you know that I’ve raised these issues many times before. But today I want to propose some specific ideas as to how we might work on them together as an industry . . . how we can work together to provide greater product flexibility and innovation . . . how we can better meet the changing needs and often sophisticated tastes of today’s consumers

. . . And how we can work together in collaboration and consensus to remove the shackles of price regulation that are creating untenable market situations.

Let’s start by talking about government price regulations.

The U.S. Government sets prices for farm milk depending on its use. This is a throwback to a bygone era of rural America when dairy farms were small individual enterprises relative to processors. Today, most farms are either part of a cooperative that bargains for them or are themselves a large entity. Streamlining our milk pricing policies would be a great start to break the milk industry out of its doldrums and put some fresh wind in its sails.

I believe it’s time for our industry to come together in support of phasing out government classified pricing and pooling. Certainly, common sense and analysis tell us there will be a few bumps in the road as we move away from government set prices. But the industry would adjust and learn, just as many other industries that have lived through price deregulation can attest.

We must embrace the marketplace rather than government patriarchy and add value at every step from the farm to the consumer, while keeping affordability foremost in our minds. Reliance on the government has kept the U.S. dairy industry mired in the past when we so badly need to break free and move boldly into the future.

And while we’re working together to phase out pricing regulations, I suggest we also find a way to work in harmony to modernize food standards that were initially created in 1938 to prevent fraud and to make purchasing decisions easier for consumers. Most of the dairy standards were promulgated much later – in the late 70s. Currently there are 97 federal standards of identity for various dairy products out of a total of 262 standards for all foods, including dairy. By my math that comes out to a disproportionate 37 percent. Most of these standards are long past their sell-by dates and need to be pulled from the shelves.

When these standards were first set, product names were typically the only piece of information available to consumers to help them determine the contents of food packages. But newer laws and regulations have provided modern consumers with access to much more information to guide product choices, including full ingredient and nutrition labeling.

Our policymakers and regulators must recognize that consumer expectations have changed over time with an enormous emphasis on diversity and individuality that did not exist 40 or more years ago. In fact, today’s consumers demand more from traditional foods. They want variety, healthfulness, convenience, value, novelty, ethnically oriented foods and sometimes several or all of the above.

But it often seems that official Washington just doesn’t get it when it comes to the modern American consumer. They seem to be living out that great line from Chico Marx in Duck Soup, “Who are you going to believe? Me or your own eyes?”

Indeed, innovation offers nearly limitless opportunities to respond to rapidly changing consumer preferences and expectations. But the rigid nature of federal food standards . . . and the almost impossible process for changing them . . . are grave impediments to the innovation necessary to meet evolving consumer needs. And international markets underscore the importance of a modern food standards system. Trade agreements, such as the Uruguay Round which brought agricultural and food trade under WTO rules, are intended to facilitate trade by encouraging the adoption of international standards, guidelines and recommendations. So what should we do?

The current formal rulemaking approach required to change dairy standards is cumbersome, inefficient and resource intensive, so the FDA simply throws up its hands and does nothing. In fact, there have been no changes to any standards since 1998 . . . not a single one in 15 years. And what are we left with? Total stagnation when what we need is innovation.

We can no longer live in the deep freezer of Federal regulation. Yes, we need clear boundaries. But within those boundaries we need the ability to improve our products using 21st century expertise and technology.

To start the thawing-out process, we will propose to draft federal legislation that allows meaningful innovation without changing the characterizing ingredients in the food. With such a change, dairy companies could use safe and suitable alternative ingredients and processes and still market their products within the existing dairy food categories that consumers have come to know and recognize.

I hope the dairy industry can unite in developing an acceptable solution to take to Congress so that standardized products familiar to consumers can evolve with technology and innovation, as well as change to meet new consumer demands. This will allow us to bring new product movement to our traditional dairy markets. The FDA has already proposed a set of “general principles” for modernizing food standards of identity that we believe can provide an excellent catalyst for the next generation of food standards reform, and we’ll use them as a guide in drafting legislation. I think that would be a great start.

Speaking of starts, it’s time to get serious about finding solutions that help everyone in the supply chain. So as we again work on new safety net programs for dairy producers this is a critical consideration. We must consider farms, processors and manufacturers, exporters and consumers for our industry to find true success.

I've tried to provide a foundation of thought for you to consider during your time at the Dairy Forum. Let me end with a few observations and thoughts that bring us full circle.

Today, we stand on the shoulders of giants . . . visionaries and pioneers who rallied our industry and took us to new frontiers and beyond. And today we’re on the verge of a whole new era for the dairy industry. We stand ready to build on that foundation. We stand ready to embrace and enhance the legacy they left us.

I believe there’s enormous opportunity for our dynamic industry, and our potential is unlimited. The future glows bright with opportunity, but our success hinges upon taking steps together on the important issues and challenges we face as a domestic and global industry.

Of course, there will be hurdles along the way. In Washington, political gamesmanship and partisan brinksmanship are rife and show no signs of abating. Status quo has a death grip on our government. Antiquated rules and regulations are apparitions that stifle innovation and new marketing opportunities. And change continues to come at us from every corner of the globe as if shot from a fire hose.

But I have enormous faith in this industry. I have enormous faith in our spirit of community and the people like you who bring passion, determination and dedication to the job every day. I have enormous faith in people like you who are not afraid to tackle the tough problems . . . who are not afraid to engage and lead . . . who can dream big and match those bold dreams with ingenuity and innovation.

So let me leave you this morning with the observations of the great English statesman and philosopher Edmund Burke: “The battle of life in most cases is fought uphill, and to win it without a struggle is almost like winning without honor. If there were no difficulties, there would be no success; if there was nothing to struggle for, there would be nothing to be achieved.”

Honor . . . success . . . and achievement. That’s what our industry is all about . . . and I’m honored and proud to be part of it – along with each one of you here today.

Thank you, and I hope you enjoy the rest of the Dairy Forum.


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