Perspective: Deepening Insights at the International Dairy Federation World Dairy Summit

In the Perspectives guest blog series, Farm Foundation invites participants from among the varied Farm Foundation programs to share their unique viewpoint on a topic relevant to a Farm Foundation focus area. Jack S. Myers, a Ph.D. student in agricultural policy at the University of Arkansas and a 2023 Farm Foundation Agricultural Scholar, contributed this guest blog.

On October 16-19th, Myers attended the International Dairy Federation (IDF) World Dairy Summit in Chicago, Illinois, to hear how global dairy leaders are approaching some of the major issues impacting the dairy sector.

It is not often that the global dairy community gathers to discuss high-level issues that are specific to the dairy industry or agriculture in general. Over the last seven years, I have been lucky to attend numerous conferences that discuss research relevant to specific issues in the dairy industry, whether this be the adoption of a new technology or the modification of a testing procedure. However, I noticed absent from these discussions were relevant policy conversations or how the adoption of new technologies could enhance farm income. More so, there was little discussed as to what is happening in the global dairy sector and how global innovations and trends might impact dairy farmers and processors in the United States. I just assumed these conversations didn’t happen at conferences.

I learned that is not the case at the International Dairy Federation (IDF) World Dairy Summit, which I attended a few weeks ago in Chicago, Illinois. The meeting itself rotates to different countries each year, and it has been over 30 years since the United States hosted the World Dairy Summit. As someone who has recently shifted away from the dairy foods processing sector and into dairy policy and economics, I was excited to attend a conference where there appeared to be such a focus on dairy markets and policy. The World Dairy Summit itself hosted 1,200 participants from around the world to discuss the theme of the conference: “Boundless Potential, Endless Opportunities.”

High-level plenary sessions were held with global dairy industry leaders coupled with topic-specific concurrent sessions. Plenary sessions focused broadly on issues the global dairy industry is facing. However, there was a strong focus on sustainability and how the dairy industry can work toward a greener future. To contribute to this dialogue, global dairy industry leaders discussed how their companies and governments are working to achieve the global dairy industry’s goal of being carbon neutral by 2050. Furthermore, dairy industry leaders discussed how technology adoption and policies can intersect to fill the demand for dairy solids from a growing population. Importantly, leaders also discussed how this intersectionality can work to achieve a carbon-free dairy industry, without curtailing production. In the concurrent sessions, dairy industry leaders widely discussed how trade can be a tool to mutually benefit the global dairy industry, and how changing global consumer demand stands to impact U.S. dairy farmers.

Making New Connections

Although the plenary and concurrent sessions offered valuable information and insight from global dairy leaders, one of the most remarkable aspects of attending the IDF World Dairy Summit was networking with like-minded dairy professionals from around the United States and the globe. These conversations, whether in concurrent sessions or in one-on-one hallway conversations, were incredibly important to gaining valuable insights into dairy markets, policy, and future career opportunities. The connections I have made with farmers, members of the scientific community, and industry groups at IDF were numerous and have proven helpful in several instances since the conference. I hope to continue to cultivate these networks as I continue down the very narrow, but increasingly relevant, field of dairy economics.

Accepting the first place trophy for dairy marketing and economics poster.

Besides a plethora of new connections, friends, and colleagues, I returned to Arkansas with one other memento from the World Dairy Summit, a first-place trophy from the dairy marketing and economics poster session. Participants were invited to submit original research posters to one of seven major research categories. Those who placed first in the category returned home with a glass plaque with the IDF logo etched into it. The dairy markets and economics plaque now sits proudly on a shared bookshelf in our department’s Ph.D. office. In a research space as small as dairy markets and economics, receiving first place signified to me that our research had valid and broad implications for the entire dairy industry. Personally, I feel as though this award signifies I am making headway as an aspiring dairy economist.

Overall, the IDF annual meeting exceeded my expectations and offered an incredible experience of networking with like-minded dairy enthusiasts while thinking of new ideas on how my research can impact dairy farmers here in the U.S. The IDF meeting has truly expanded my personal network of global dairy industry stakeholders and fueled my commitment to contributing meaningfully to the dynamic and ever-evolving world of dairy.

I attended this conference as both a graduate student at the University of Arkansas and as a Farm Foundation Agricultural Scholar, and as such my attendance at this meeting would not have been possible without the commitment of Farm Foundation. As I reflect on this experience, I am incredibly grateful for Farm Foundation for affording me this incredible opportunity.

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