Strengthening the Dairy Industry Through Issues and Crisis Programs

By Jordan Manning on 10/15/2018

Tags: Dairy Farmers

Sometimes it takes a catastrophic event to realize how unprepared you were for a situation. Reflecting on what could have been done to respond sooner and more effectively is helpful, but it’s often too late to ease the blow of a crisis. This is why Dairy MAX, along with key industry partners, has adopted a comprehensive crisis preparedness effort to stay ahead of a crisis and protect dairy image.

Dairy MAX’s issues and crisis plan enhances response and provides resources for telling the dairy story. This includes training and workshops for staff, dairy farmers, industry partners and students. Issue Alert emails are also sent to participants of these trainings to inform them of a crisis related to the dairy industry by providing key messages and next steps.

“Studies show that organizations who prepare for a crisis recover two to three times faster,” says Susan Allen, manager, issues and crisis for Dairy MAX. “With this in mind, we continue to prioritize crisis readiness and work together across the industry to ensure preparedness.”

Telling Your Story is the flagship communications training for dairy farmers and industry professionals in the Dairy MAX region. Participants work in small groups to increase their communication skills and take a deeper dive into how communications in a crisis is different, yet critical. Trainings are held three times a year for various groups, offering storytelling techniques, suggestions for handling difficult questions and tips for managing an on-camera interview. Once the training is complete, participants can confidently deliver messages about modern dairy practices and share dairy’s story in today’s changing media landscape.   

Dairy MAX has expanded Telling Your Story by moving into the university environment and working with agricultural colleges across the region. One of the goals is to create college age dairy advocates who connect with consumers in a positive way. This program has been kicked off at Colorado State University, with future trainings slated for Texas A&M and Oklahoma State University.

The Dairy MAX issues and crisis team also conducts drills that combine skill-building workshops with an interactive, fast-paced scenario designed to test crisis readiness. Dairy MAX partnered with Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) and the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy to host the Dairy Industry Regional Crisis Drill on September 11-12 in Arlington, TX, which joined over 70 people from across the supply chain. Farmers, co-ops, processors, retailers, checkoff organizations, state government officials and the FBI gathered in one room to learn and put their skills to work on a food safety scenario.

Breakout sessions were offered, including how to handle media in a crisis, on-farm crisis preparedness, food safety policies and social media crisis response. Speakers from unique segments of the industry also shared expertise and led discussion around food safety. Dr. Jennifer van de Ligt, associate director of the Food Protection and Defense Institute, presented on the risks of food system disruptions and what could make the dairy industry vulnerable.

DMI shared resources that are available at the national level by introducing the Dairy Hub and explaining how it can be used as a tool to prevent and work through a crisis. Attendees identified opportunities to strengthen their organization’s crisis plans, learned new skills to both prepare for and respond to a crisis and built new relationships across the dairy industry.

“The evolution of the crisis drill has helped prepare the industry for success,” says Marty McKinzie, vice president, industry image and relations for Dairy MAX. “Issues and crisis programs are some of the most important work we do.”

With the reputation of dairy products and livelihood of dairy farmers at stake during a crisis, Dairy MAX is prepared with a trained team, powerful partners and tested messages in place. To learn more about these programs, click here.