Closing Remarks - Kris Wardin, MMPA Board of Directors
February 19, 2021
- I've just been asked to give a perspective both from the farmer side as well as my role at the Michigan milk producers board of directors. So that's what I'm gonna do today I have a few slides but not too much. So is everybody hearing me okay Charles does that sound good? - Yep. - Okay. Well, I'll get my screen pulled up here and we'll get to it. I'll share that, okay. So again, what I'm gonna do is just give you a little bit of my perspective on handling manure. This first picture I snapped last time, we were hauling manure and I just kind of struck me there, we all deal in a business that's kinda messy at times, it's kind of smelly at times, but it can be a beautiful part of the process as well when you think about the fact that our cows are producing something, that's very nutrient rich and it's helping growing their own feed that they're gonna eat again. And it really is a beautiful cycle, that we're all part of whether we're farmers or applicators or educators. So, it was a nice picture that struck me when we were pumping manure last time. As Charles said we have had six generation dairy farm, my name is Chris, my wife Carla and our three boys live here on the farm, we're the six generation here and we've been farming here as owners for almost 15 years now. My wife is very active on social media, some of you guys might be familiar with her work I take absolutely zero credit for that, but we do feel very strongly that helping to educate the public is a very important part of what we do as farmers, as well as your jobs, whether that's educators or manure applicators, we're all on the same business and less and less of the population out there knows what we're doing. So that is her blog, she maintains all the social media channels and tries to just share a little bit of the normal life that we do here on the farm every day. we are currently milking about 500 cows here we do all have all of our young stock as well, but we are not technically CAFO status. We have drawn up with NRCS funding through the equip manure management program, but we are doing that at this point on a voluntary basis. One of the other things that gives me a perspective on manure hauling is one of our goals here at the dairy is to kind of get out of the machinery business, at our size, we're kind of a medium dairy that needs to get a lot of things done in a short period of time, but we don't necessarily have the capital to do it all ourselves or the labor to do it all ourselves. So, we are kind of phasing out of the machinery business and the manure hauling was one of the first things that got pushed off of our plate, onto a very efficient proficient manure hauler that we've worked with just over four years now. I am also an MMPA board of directors, going on four years now. So I'll give you a little bit of my perspective of what the co-op is maybe looking for here, as Charles alluded to and I have been involved in the mid, Michigan State Extension Berry Advisory Committee the Michigan Farm Bureau Policy Development and some other boards. So I've had a fair amount of experience in the regulatory side and kind of what we all need to be prepared for on the farms as far as that goes as well. So the first thing I wanted to share was just from a manure certification perspective, what is the farmer looking for? What's important to us as farmers when we're looking to have somebody haul manure? Probably the biggest thing as a trusted partner, it's something that we have determined that we don't wanna handle anymore and that could be for a lot of reasons. I wrote down here, maybe we have a lack of time, maybe it's an equipment issue, a capital issue, we all know that this manure equipment is not cheap. Maybe it's the labor to do things efficiently and to do it in a competent or trustworthy manner, for some of us maybe it's all of the above. It's just something that, you know, some of us have grown relatively quickly, maybe times on the milk pricing side have made us change what we're doing at a management side, but we all have our reasons for looking outside to a higher manure applicator to help us on the farm. Some of those needs specifically that I just jotted down being reliable, timely, we all know that we've covered in this session a lot of different reasons why timeliness is so important. I wrote down good value because I truly believe those of us that are left dairy farming, you don't just look at price anymore. The cheapest cost per gallon does not necessarily mean that's the best manure hauler to hire. I think in a lot of ways, having a certification to bring to the table speaks to your professionalism, if you're a manure hauler and the more professional you are, the more you've proven out how you've thought about, how this manure should be hauled, makes the farmer maybe think that even if it's more money per gallon, that you're gonna figure out a way to do it more efficiently and maybe be a better value to the farmer. So I think that is a big piece of what this certification could help bring to a farm, is demonstrating a hauler's level of professionalism. And then of course being safe and trouble-free, again, part of the reason why we hire somebody else to do a job is we are not looking to gain any other problems. Every farm has their fair share of problems and we certainly don't need to hire somebody that is gonna cause just another headache. So that probably goes without saying, but I just thought that I would throw that in there cause it is important. Good insurance is a must for all custom hires. Same could be said for a custom harvester or anybody doing mechanic work on our farms, but insurance is one I think about, we just went through our annual workers' comp audit with farm bureau and that's always part of the audit is having a list of all the custom operators that do operate on our farm and then they go and either I have to provide proof of their insurance or farm bureau has to go and talk to them and make sure that they are fully insured. So that's kind of a must and a given if you're gonna do work on a professional basis for other farms. And I think this last point is a really big one I know a lot of the manure summit is dealt with paperwork, but most farmers i know hate paperwork. Not that anybody loves it, but even if you're not a CAFO, there's increasingly more paperwork and documentation that needs to be done to cover yourself. And so I think hiring a professional manure hauler is something that a lot of farms are really looking for to help them with the paperwork side of it. Now, a lot of the larger dairies I would say, have a system in place, either that came out of their CNMP process, or just something that they like to use, but then when you get maybe to the medium to small producer they may be looking for help with a way to document it and maybe a way that you as a hauler on other farms have a good way to keep track of manure rate, hauling times, weather documentation. So in a lot of cases I think just be prepared to have something that works for you if the farmer doesn't have a specific way, that they wanna document that manure and how those nutrients were applied. Now, switching gears from a co-op perspective and obviously my first disclaimer is that not every co-op handles suppliers or farmers or recommendations the same way but I'm gonna give you a little bit of a taste for what we've done here at MMPA and as a producer of MMPA kind of what we deal with. So, part of it is just looking for more help in the regulatory fight and maybe that's a little combative, but I don't think any of us love to deal with regulations and are looking for more regulations, but it's coming whether we want to or not. Michigan milk has been very active in the regulatory arena trying to advocate for our producers and the more people and the more groups that we have advocating on behalf of the farmer, I think really just helps that. It also helps when more people are doing things right. It just makes rate the farm easier, it allows our social license to continue as farmers and so the certification program really speaks to the fact that more people are out there being educated and knowing how to do things the right way. So I think that helps the co-op's job on the regulatory side as well as the farmer social license in general. And I just wrote down here too that the attacks are not gonna stop. It sounds kind of pessimistic, but I think there's this new lawsuit that's going back and forth, is just testament that the ambalo is gonna continue to get pushed. Less and less people know what we do on the farm, more and more people are concerned with the environment even if they don't really understand and what we do. And so more certification, more paperwork is just becoming a necessary evil, unfortunately but we have to be prepared to defend ourselves. This final point, I know this is something that Charles and Dean have talked to, and the group has talked to with Dean, but Michigan milk doesn't usually officially endorse outside suppliers, but we definitely do try to steer our producers in the right direction, if they're looking for some help with suppliers. The best example I can give on that is mill calling. We don't push a producer to any certain mill caller, because that contract is between the producer and the hauler. But when our producers call into the co-op, we like to have a list of professional mill callers that we can give as references. And I could foresee a time where manure Holland line could take on a similar aspect at the co-op, where if a producer calls in or ask their field rep, hey do you know of anybody I could call in the area to do some manure hauling? If we have some confidence in the competency of those haulers through a certification program, it makes it a lot easier for the co-op to say, yes we have a list, you might wanna try these guys, here's their number. And the official relationship would still be between the producer and the hauler, but the co-op can kind of be a conduit for that. But they wanna make sure that they're not giving people names of manure haulers that maybe aren't professional, or would cause problems in the field for our producers. So that's a little bit of the co-op perspective. And so just to wrap it up, I'll, if there's time for questions I'm really happy to give you my thoughts as well from a producer or a co-op perspective on that. But I threw this slide up there because I don't think too many of us need a reminder as to what an interesting year 2020 was. But from my personal experience, we had part of a roof blow off, we had a tractor catch on fire, it was just a good reminder as I was putting this presentation together that anything can happen at any time. Whether you're talking a farm, a hauler, we all deal with machinery, we don't know when regulatory comes calling and part of the certification process is just being prepared for anything to happen. This fire that happened, I have a long time employee that was there when it happened and we had discussed many times on the what ifs when a piece of equipment would catch on fire what would you do? And I will admit it wasn't anything very formal or written, but the fact that we talked about it and we were thinking about it, made us much more prepared for something bad to happen and preventing things from going even worse. So I think that's really the name of the game and this manure certification, just being prepared, having a plan and trying to document things for the future because it's not really a matter of if something is gonna happen, it's more a matter of when and how do you deal with it.