By Sherry Bunting
“It has been the suddenness of the impact. We’re going to have some losses, but our goal is to come out on the positive side at the other end of this. It’s going to take government, agribusiness, agri-lenders, and producers — all working together — to go through this situation,” said Dr. David Kohl, Virginia Tech professor emeritus, during a new PDPW Dairy Signal webcast Wednesday.
The Dairy Signal webcasts — insights for informed decisions — livestreamed Tuesday through Thursday Noon to 1:00 p.m. CDT and archived for viewing later. Check it out here.
What indicators is the world renown ag economics and finance expert watching?
- Consumer sentiment index – Will it start coming back up toward fall? Will service industries — universities, sports complexes, etc. — begin coming back in the picture?
- Value of the dollar – in relation to other countries.
- Unemployment – How long it stays low, not how low it goes.
- Weather in North and South America – input costs
- Ethanol plants – Will oil price reduction war between Russia and Saudi Arabia drive them out? Energy resilience makes us strong.
He also urged producers to embrace these things:
- Work together.
- Keep detailed loss records.
- Avoid knee-jerk reactions.
- Use resources available to assist you.
- Communicate with your lender.
- Re-evaluate your goals: Where do you want to be in three years? What do you want your business to look like? How are current conditions changing what that might look like for you?
- Manage what you control in business and in life — manage around the things you cannot control — tune out the noise.
- Take time out and enjoy the simple things.
“Every producer should really get onto documenting everything. If you’re dumping milk, or your processor says we can’t handle the milk, you get those weights. You get those values. You document those losses,” said Kohl. “Having those good records is going to be very critical. Don’t let it slip through the cracks.”
According to PDPW executive director Shelly Mayer, who moderated the webcast, many questions came in on this topic of how to document milk dumped directly on the farm and not picked up by a handler.
Even though milk marketers have the responsibility for Federal Order measures and testing if the dumped milk is priced and pooled on the Order, measure and document your loss anyway. Even staff at USDA Dairy Programs told Farmshine recently that it is wise to measure and pull an agitated sample to do component and quality testing, especially when pulling the plug to dispose of the milk on your own farm without being picked up by a handler. If this wasn’t done for milk already dumped, be sure to record the next similar time frame of measurement, pull the next milk’s sample and get the previous milk’s data to come up with an average for your records.
“I like to err on more information being the better,” said Kohl. “Document everything that you can.”
In the PDPW webcast discussion, both Kohl and Jason Karszes, Cornell ag business management, agreed that getting a clear answer from the processor on what their “process” will be for documenting and covering dumped milk is a fair question to ask and expect an answer for. In the meantime, measure whatever you can measure about what you dumped, and get whatever records you can from the handler or processor so you can also document these losses.
This information will be important down the road so that lenders and producers and the agribusiness community — working together — can build the case for what is needed and be eligible for potential assistance at a later date, said Kohl.
“It is interesting as we go through this to see how we (as a people) are reacting and handling it,” Kohl observed, noting that the local creamery he is involved with in Virginia has seen the home-delivery waiting list quickly grow to 175. He also heard from a ‘cow-share’ producer that demand for his local un-processed milk has grown to where he could add 70 cows right now from new demand.
This observation about consumer behavior ties in with a more long-term webcast question:
“What will our world look like after we as a people walk through this?”
Speaking candidly, Kohl sees a move away from globalization to “selective globalization,” where we will see more industry move back into not just the U.S., but into North America, and where concentration and bigness will be challenged by consumers and politicians, bringing shock effects.
This is a good time for dairy operations to re-evaluate their goals, said Kohl. As producers make decisions about the future, he advised new considerations will be: assess consumer sentiment, available labor, management capacity, available milk market, and how these global-national-regional-local supply chain shifts might affect these factors.