In merger, N.J. farmers join checkoff dairy group

Staff Writer

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (April 1, 2016) — Hundreds of dairy farms in the region found themselves under new leadership last month after the Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association merged with two other checkoff groups to create the American Dairy Association North East.
The Mid-Atlantic group, which represented 7,200 farmers in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, southern New Jersey and Northern Virginia, merged with the American Dairy Association and Dairy Coucil Inc. and the Pennslyvania Dairy Promotion Program.
The merger was effective on March 1 and was designed to help the dairy industry better compete against foods and beverages that have cut into dairy consumption over the last several decades.
“By bringing the organizations together, it’s going to be a more efficient way to serve the dairy farmers throughout the new region,” said Cindy Weimer, vice president of producer relations. “More than ever we have competition. … This just really felt it was going to give us a competitive edge.”
The new association’s board met last month for the first time to approve bylaws, elect additional officers and review current programs, according to an association statement.
American Dairy Association North East will be responsible for promoting dairy and its nutritional benefits to 50-million consumers within a six-state region including New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Washington, D.C., and four counties in northern Virginia.
This consolidation joins more than 13,500 dairy farm families.
“More than ever, dairy farmers must be united as we work to re-connect our consumers with where their food comes from and re-establish consumer confidence in dairy,” said Harold Shaulis, the new association’s second vice chairman and a Somerset County, Pa., dairy farmer, in a statement.
Milk consumption has steadily fallen over the last several decades according to reports.
That decrease has lead to a plummeting decrease in the number of available gallons of milk per person — from more than 30 gallons per person in 1970 to slightly more than 20 gallons in 2012, USDA data show. Soft and sport drinks as well as other beverages, including cow’s milk substitutes such as nut milk or soy milk, have been the biggest culprits.
Cheese consumption has risen drastically in that time, USDA data show, from more than 10 pounds per person each year in 1970 to almost 35 pounds in 2012 thanks to the introduction of pre-packaged foods such as frozen pizza and the emergence of cheese-rich Italian and Tex-Mex cuisines.
“We need to keep milk products in the forefront, and our staff is on the battlefield every day trying to do that,” said Richard Byma, who is chairman of the association and a New Jersey dairy farmer. “We have the best product — natural product — in the world and yet people have so many choices.”