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  • Why Four DMI Board Members are Optimistic About Exports After Asia Trip (Video)

    By Mark O'Keefe December 18, 2018

    Since returning from a November mission to Asia, four farmers serving as active board members of Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) have been sharing their observations about exports with fellow farmers across the country.

    Asia trip2 (3)

    With milk prices low, it has been a challenging year for dairy farmers. But after spending time in a growing market like Asia, the farmers are expressing optimism about better days ahead.

    DMI is the parent organization of the checkoff-funded U.S. Dairy Export Council, which organized the November 2-10 trip to Japan and Hong Kong.  Luke Waring, USDEC's communications and membership manager, helped organize the trip beforehand and guide it on the ground.

    Waring captured the thoughts of all four board members in the video below.

    VIDEO BELOW: Four DMI board members discuss what they saw in Asia.

    VIDEO ABOVE: Four DMI board members discuss what they saw in Asia.

    On the trip, the farmers also interacted with U.S. cheese suppliers who were in Asia on a parallel trip. That, in turn, gave the farmers a better understanding of the logistical challenges in getting products to overseas markets.  

    Brad Scott, a dairy farmer from San Jacinto, California, was joined by fellow farmers and DMI board members Marilyn Hershey (board chair), of Cochranville, Pennsylvania; Lowell Mueller, of Hooper, Nebraska, and Cheri Chapin, of Remus, Michigan.

    Below is an edited Q&A highlighting some of their observations. 

    Q. After this trip, what is your assessment of the dairy checkoff's investment in exports? 

    Mueller: I’ve always been a firm believer in exports. Any time you can market more product, you have more sales. We just need more sales to get a better price. I feel very strongly that the extra funding for exports provided this year by state and regional dairy organizations is really helping. I can already see the benefits from it. It’s exciting to see the progress we have made in such a short amount of time. 

    Q. What did you find most interesting about your time in Japan?

    Chapin: I’m seeing a lot of very health-conscious people in Japan. They really care about nutrition and exercise, so I think it is a great opportunity for U.S. Dairy. Our whey protein is going to make a big difference in a lot of their health issues, and I think they’re finding that cheese is a healthy part of their diet.

    Mueller: I found out that Japan is the No. 1 cheese importer in the world, which may surprise some people. Japan is the United States’ third biggest customer for cheese. We have opportunities to grow our exports to Japan.

    Q. What were your impressions of the people you met in Hong Kong?

    Chapin: The people of Hong Kong work hard. They have a very low unemployment rate. But they also look like they enjoy life, and I think there’s a market for people to buy more of our product so that they can enjoy their lives a little more. This is an opportunity for U.S. products and U.S. artisan cheese.

    Scott: I was struck by the uniqueness and diversity of the cultures in Hong Kong. You can see that in the kinds of food that they have, and when you go to the stores the diversity in the dairy case. There are so many different levels of dairy products available and a lot of needs that we can work on filling. It’s about having the right products for the right people—from the household all the way up to the higher-end restaurants. As an industry, we need to come together to be more collaborative finding ways to meet those needs. We need to create value-added products that people in other countries want. 

    Q: What are you going to tell fellow dairy farmers about USDEC's in-market efforts to increase exports? 

    Chapin: I would say that USDEC is really toeing the line here. They are pulling their weight and then some. They know much dairy farmers are hurting back home, and they’re putting extra effort into making sure we have markets for our dairy products.

    Hershey: There is hope. Farmers want innovation. They want different ways to use dairy products, and the mission certainly opened my eyes to the different ways we can use dairy products overseas. USDEC is not sitting on its hands just because there are some tariff issues with Mexico and China. USDEC is out there with more people, partnerships and programs on the ground, in the export markets. These investments already are paying off. It looks like 2018 will be a record year for exports. My message to fellow farmers is it's a big world out there with a growing demand for dairy. That creates increasing need for your milk for years to come.  

    Editor's note: A version of this article was first published by MILK magazine. Mark O'Keefe is vice president of editorial services at the U.S. Dairy Export Council. 

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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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