Major dairy coalition disbands
The Alliance of Western Milk Producers has 'run its course'
By CAROL RYAN DUMAS
The Alliance of Western Milk Producers, a coalition of California dairy processing cooperatives representing 60 percent of California's milk, ceased operations Nov. 1.
The organization was formed in 1991 to provide a venue for communication and coordination of Capper-Volstead Act protections to enhance its dairy cooperative members, said Bill Van Dam, CEO of the Alliance since January 2007.
At that time, California's milk supply was divided between six or seven successful co-ops, and they needed an alliance to help them sell commodity products, such as powder and butter, in unison with each other through joint marketing agreements, he said.
It also filled an important roll representing California interests at the federal level, fighting attacks on the state's milk standards and efforts to force it into the federal milk marketing order system, he said.
The Alliance has done some good work over the years, he said. But today, with only three large co-ops in the state and only two members -- California Dairy Inc. and Dairy Farmers of America Western Area Council -- there is no longer a need for the Alliance, he said.
"It's run its course. Quite frankly they don't need an alliance; (they) can just pick up the phone," he said.
In addition, CDI long ago established its own representation at the federal level, and DFA has that representation through National Milk Producers Federation, he said.
A statement from the Alliance said the members have determined a formal organization is no longer necessary to accomplish a concerted effort of California cooperatives.
"Our commitment to working together for the mutual benefit of our respective members remains strong. However, the landscape of the dairy industry has changed dramatically over the last 21 years," said Tony Mendes, chairman of the Alliance board.
As successful as the Alliance has been, CDI and DFA have concluded the ability to collaborate and communicate is most efficiently and effectively achieved through a less formal and more flexible structure, he said.
The Alliance has represented cooperative interests and its producer members to the California Legislature, at California Department of Food and Agriculture regulatory hearings and through participation in organizations, including Dairy Cares and the California Environmental Justice Fund.
CDI and DFA will carry on the work of the Alliance to consult and coordinate on issues that affect California cooperatives and their members. They will also continue their participation in Dairy Cares and the California Dairy Environmental Justice Fund, the statement said.
Van Dam will retire at year's end, and said the Alliance was a good way to cap off his 45-year career of representing dairy cooperatives. He is planning road trips with his wife and hopes to be content in retirement but doesn't discount the possibility that he might not be able to stay away from consulting work in the industry.