Providing Strength and Support for Pennsylvania Dairy

Across the nation, uncertainty has been the word that has defined the 2019-20 year. With COVID -19 disrupting the economy and the marketplace, the Center for Dairy Excellence has worked tirelessly to help the Pennsylvania dairy industry adapt, pivot, and display resilience in the face of adversity. As a public private partnership, we believe in the power of collaboration and community. Over the last year, we have leveraged funds from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to provide direct support at the farm level in the form of grants, resource-sharing, and business consulting, while working to shape conversation around innovation within the processing sector.

When the pandemic hit in early 2020, we pivoted to ensure Pennsylvania dairy farms and processors had the information, resources and financial relief to work through trying times. Even in this new and uncertain world, we continue to spark connection, ever committed to helping Pennsylvania dairy find its true strength. No matter what the future holds, we will continue to embrace change as a vehicle for innovation and profitability, both at the farm level and across the Pennsylvania dairy industry. —Jayne Sebright, Executive Director

“With the ripple effects of the pandemic this year, the Center for Dairy Excellence has risen to the challenge of getting milk repositioned in an evolving marketplace and helping dairy producers navigate financial assistance options, which keeps our state’s dairy infrastructure functional. From communicating with legislators about today’s challenges to helping dairy producers understand where our industry is headed, the Center keeps communication channels open across the state. By making tools available to help dairy farm families achieve their goals, sustain a viable income, and develop strategies to move the industry forward, the Center is helping to forge a vibrant Pennsylvania dairy industry.”

—Mark Mosemann, Chairman of the Board of Directors

Cultivating Connection During Crisis

In the face of crisis, the Center is committed to providing leadership, collaboration, and guidance. From advocating and attending virtual townhall meetings with legislators to providing COVID -19 assistance grants and hosting virtual community-centered events, the Center has worked to unite the dairy industry and bring constituents together.

  • Providing real-time communication. “The Center’s email alert was the first to come in by over an hour and we were able to get through the disaster loan application process without any issues. I have been checking several times a day and had checked at 10 am this morning, so their email was very appreciated.” –Elaine Noble, Nobledale Farm, Bradford County, PA
  • Hosting virtual continuing education opportunities. “The Center offered an outstanding training and webinar series. The information was super valuable to me as an agriculture extension agent working with a diverse range of producers. The webinar series has been immensely helpful as both an overview and a springboard of new ideas to bring to my colleagues and farm families around the state to make an impact on moving them forward.” –Rachel Henley, Extension Agent, Agriculture & Natural Resources, Powhatan, VA
  • Connecting dairy farmers to industry experts. “As we were going through COVID -19, the Center’s virtual seminars and conference calls were the most valuable resource I found. They were very helpful, very informative, and very well-done. Having the opportunity to listen to the PA Secretary of Agriculture, individuals from Penn State Extension, and other industry experts really helped keep us informed and think of things we should consider when managing risk.” –Ginger Breon, Weaver Family Farm, Huntingdon County, PA
  • Providing legislative updates. “In this uncertain time, the Center’s conference calls helped me connect with others in the industry. It was encouraging to know that industry personnel were working their hardest to try to figure things out. It also was a platform to get questions answered on various topics related to COVID -19 and milk supply. The Center did a tremendous job facilitating discussion!” –Andy Bollinger, Meadow Spring Farm, Lancaster County, PA
  • Sharing dairy’s story with consumers.Our family is utilizing our ‘Still Farming for You’ yard sign, and we posted photos to our farm’s social media page to encourage people to support and back small family farms. The post has reached 2,100 people and was shared by our community newspaper. We want to continue promoting the importance of dairy and agriculture as a whole.” –Jessica Dietrich, Lynnacres Farm, Lehigh County, PA

Dairy Farming COVID-19 Response Video:

Helping Farms Manage Risk and Maintain Profitability

When dairy margins fall, crisis strikes, and volatility hits the marketplace, having a risk management plan in place can help dairy farms protect their bottom line. Throughout the year, Zach Myers, Risk Education Manager at the Center, provided frequent market updates to guide dairy industry professionals and worked closely at the farm level to help dairies develop risk management plans for their operations.

“The risk management seminars offered by the Center have been extremely informative on understanding market conditions, providing solutions to counter downturns, and determining the best strategy for our farm. Zach Myers also visited our farm and met with me to explain the programs in depth. Learning about the multiple programs available and determining your cost of production is critical information for making informed and strategic decisions to protect your farm’s financial health.”

–Ginger Breon, Weaver Family Farm, Huntingdon County, PA

“In today’s environment, it’s even more important to be having a plan for risk management, whether it’s through milk or feed or both. Having done that, I can say it’s made a difference in our operation. We use a lot of different tools. Our baseline is the Dairy Margin Coverage program, and we’ve also used Dairy Revenue Protection. Through these times especially, I wouldn’t even question the importance of risk management tools – especially if you’re a small or mid-size farm. The Center for Dairy Excellence has provided great resources to assist, and they’ve done a great job helping us as we’ve navigated these difficult and challenging price volatility situations.”

–Tim Kurtz, Kurtland Farms , Chester County, PA

Outside Perspective Helps Dairy Farm Find the Courage to Keep Going

Andrew and Jill Henry of Henry Farms of Knox, LLC in Clarion County always dreamed of bottling their own milk and adding a value-added portion to their dairy business. It wasn’t until they learned about the PA Dairy Investment Grant that they discovered a way to make their vision a reality.

“I started researching who could help us figure out how to successfully write the grant. When I called the Center, they suggested we start by looking into the Dairy Decisions Consultants (DD C) grant to get a successful business plan in place,” Jill shared.

The Center’s DD C program provides dairy farm families with funds to work with professional consultants who have firsthand experience in the dairy industry. For the Henry family, they were paired with John Black, a Dairy Decision Consultant with more than 16 years of experience in farm tax accounting and farm business analysis.

“John has hands-on experience being a dairy farmer and has worked in the dairy industry for so long,” Jill said. “When he walked around our facility, he physically wanted to be there and clearly cared about the future of our farm. That made a difference for my family.”

In addition to developing a business plan, John helped them weigh their options and visualize what their farm would look like if they secured certain types of grants and funding. With clear projections for the future and a deep understanding of their business’s bottom line, the Henrys gained the confidence and knowledge to expand into the value-added space.

“To hear John’s perspective and his projections, we learned what to eliminate that’s losing money and how we can come out on top,” Jill said. “The DD C program was a really successful opportunity, and that’s what has allowed us to have the support to seek some other funding and try to add a value-added portion to our farm. We’re hopeful and excited for the future. This program gave us the courage to say ‘yes, we can keep going.’”

Watch how one dairy farmer transformed his farm with the on-farm resource program:

Funding Sources and Allocation of Expenses

Private industry partners stepped up in 2019-20 to increase both their financial and in-kind support of the Center for Dairy Excellence, enabling the Center to document a 1:1 match between the public side and the private side. This demonstrates the Center’s true purpose as a public:private partnership benefiting Pennsylvania’s dairy industry.

2019-20 Allies for Advancement Contributors

Gold Level ($10,000+)

Silver Level ($5,000-$9,999)

(* indicates in-kind contribution)

Bronze Level ($1,000-$4,999)

Friends of the Center for Dairy Excellence ($500-$999)

Center for Dairy Excellence Board Members

Chairman: Mark Mosemann, Warfordsburg, Pa.
Vice Chairperson: Phoebe Bitler, Fleetwood, Pa.
2nd Vice Chairperson: Andrea Karns, Mechanicsburg, Pa.
Treasurer: Michael Hosterman, Chambersburg, Pa.
Jeff Ainslie, Lancaster, Pa.
Robin Breeding, Greenville, De.
Tony Brubaker, Mount Joy, Pa.
Dr. Jody Kull, Danville, Pa.
Steve Paxton, Grove City, Pa.
Jessica Slaymaker, Mansfield, Pa.
Chuck Turner, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Caroline Zimmerman, Martinsburg, Pa.
Glenn Gorrell, Milan, Pa.
Diane Hartman, Sinking Spring, Pa.
Amber Yutzy, Huntingdon, Pa.
Representative Mark Keller, New Bloomfield, Pa.
Secretary Russell Redding, Harrisburg, Pa.