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  • USDEC's new board leaders left budding careers to return to family dairy farms

    By USDEC Staff December 27, 2023

    Dairy farmers Alex Peterson and Becky Nyman have much in common, including a shared vision to grow U.S. dairy exports. 

    Alex and Becky7 (2474 x 2526 px)-1

    Missouri dairy farmer Alex Peterson, right, is USDEC’s new chair. Becky Nyman, left, a California dairy farmer, was elected as vice chair. In this June USDEC photo, they hold up Calli ice cream cups (made with U.S. milk protein concentrate) while in Southeast Asia on a USDEC-sponsored farmers' mission. Download this photo here.

    The new leaders chosen to guide the U.S. Dairy Export Council's board have similar experiences and beliefs that fuel their passion for exports.

    USDEC’s board of directors recently (December 13) elected dairy farmers Alex Peterson of Missouri and Becky Nyman of California to be its new chair and vice chair, respectively.

    The two have much in common, including:

    • They both left budding, successful careers to return home to work on dairy farms owned by their families for generations. 
    • They both have unselfishly given their time and energy to serve the broader U.S. dairy industry in multiple leadership positions. 
    • They both believe the U.S. is uniquely positioned to export the dairy nutrition the world needs while at the same time improving the bottom lines of dairy farmers here in the United States.

    Their global worldview and years of on-the-ground dairy experience are good news for USDEC's 119 member organizations, the 37,000-plus farmers who fund USDEC through the dairy checkoff and the more than 150 countries that rely on U.S. dairy suppliers to ship them U.S. cheese and ingredients made with U.S. milk. 

    “I am delighted and thrilled to have such bright and capable leaders to guide us at this pivotal time,” said USDEC President and CEO Krysta Harden. "As we look to the future, this is the right team to help the U.S. dairy industry continue to grow exports.” 

    Left Capitol Hill to milk cows again

    Peterson earned a degree in agricultural economics from the University of Missouri and landed an internship in Washington, D.C.

    He found work on Capitol Hill exciting but missed the day-to-day joy of dairy farming. He returned home to Peterson Dairy, Inc. where he helps care for 150 cows on 1,000 acres in Grundy County, Missouri, with his parents, Brian and Barb Peterson, brother Opie, and niece Jandie Davis. 

    Peterson has emerged as an influential leader within the dairy checkoff. He has served on the board of Midwest Dairy, representing 4,400 dairy farms. He is also a board member at Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), which manages the national dairy checkoff to increase sales and demand for U.S. dairy. In November, Peterson was elected chair of the United Dairy Industry Association (UDIA).  

    Peterson became USDEC's vice chair in 2021. He traveled to Mexico, Southeast Asia and other export markets on behalf of U.S. dairy farmers, impressing people with his friendliness, curiosity and accessible personality.  

    International advocate for U.S. dairy farmers

    In August, Peterson was named USDEC's interim chair, stepping in for Larry Hancock, who had served four years in that role. 

    "My job as USDEC’s chair is to bring fresh, innovative solutions to life and help solve some of the most pressing challenges the global dairy industry faces today," said Peterson.

    "Ultimately, my goal is to advocate for U.S. dairy farmers on the international stage, making it as simple as possible for U.S. dairy exporters to establish footholds in new regions, develop their business, and meet the rising demand for dairy across the globe." 

    'Turn these changes into opportunities'

    With a master's degree in Agribusiness from Texas A&M University, Nyman worked for eight years for a company providing consumer research for agribusiness and consumer packaged goods clients.

    Nyman left that corporate job in 2011 to join her brother, Brad Nyman, as the business manager at her family’s 4th-generation, 1,200-cow dairy farm in Hilmar, California. Nyman Dairy Farms has expanded to include eight additional dairies and other ventures.  

    Nyman2Becky Nyman, USDEC's new vice chair, runs Nyman Dairy Farms with her brother in Hilmar, California. As fourth-generation dairy farmers, they believe that export growth is vital for making family-owned farms more profitable. Photo: Nyman Dairy Farms. 

    “At a time in which there is so much change around the world -- from public policy to the economy to consumer demand -- USDEC is positioning our industry to turn these changes into opportunities,” said Nyman, who also serves on the DMI and National Dairy Promotion and Research boards.

    “The challenges we have experienced this year highlight the importance of exports to help build healthy markets that contribute to profitable margins for U.S. dairy farmers.”   

    A ten-fold increase in exports

    DMI founded the U.S. Dairy Export Council in 1995, bringing together milk producers, dairy processors, co-ops, ingredient suppliers and export traders in a unified strategic effort to grow exports.

    Since then, exports have increased more than 10-fold to $9.6 billion in 2022, an all-time high. Export volume last year was equivalent to 18% of all U.S. milk produced in 2022, which was also an all-time high.  

    U.S. dairy exports are down in 2023 as high global inflation and economic struggles have dampened demand and depressed U.S. dairy export volumes.

    'Keep the faith' during a downturn

    In a letter to USDEC members in the organization's 2024 Operating Plan, Peterson said, "My message here is 'keep the faith.' "

    He cited past declines, such as in 2015, when China’s buying bubble first burst, to remind members that markets go up and markets go down, but the long-range trend line for U.S. dairy exports remains strong. 

    ”We’ve been here before," Peterson wrote, "facing tough market conditions and lower export volumes. Every time, we’ve come back stronger and grown in subsequent years.

    "We’re confident that will be the case again this time. The global economy will bounce back, populations will continue to expand, dairy protein demand will continue to grow, and the U.S. remains best-positioned to supply that demand."


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    The U.S. Dairy Export Council fosters collaborative industry partnerships with processors, trading companies and others to enhance global demand for U.S. dairy products and ingredients. USDEC is primarily supported by Dairy Management Inc. through the dairy farmer checkoff. How to republish this post.   

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