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Dykes emphasizes diverse employment base for IDFA

Michael Dykes delivers his annual speech to the International Dairy Foods Association membership at the 2023 Dairy Forum in Orlando. Photo by Jerry Hagstrom, The Hagstrom Report
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ORLANDO, Fla. — In a wide-ranging speech, International Dairy Foods Association President and CEO Michael Dykes on Monday emphasized the importance of recruiting a diverse employment base in the industry’s future.
“We know workforce is our No. 1 challenge,” Dykes said.
“Most of you are down 10% to 20% in workforce, and that’s true across our industry. It’s especially clear at the dairy farm level, but also, in the processing plants, the retail institutions, it is clear across the board.
“We have efforts in place to attract and retain a diverse, skilled workforce. We’re going after the best and brightest, and we need to foster a culture that makes all of our people feel included. We all like to feel included.”
Dykes also noted that IDFA’s women in dairy effort has more than 600 women.
“We’re doing mentoring circles, dairy diversity, equity inclusion,” Dykes said.
He also said that he thought “the best chance” at immigration reform was in the last Congress, and told reporters he is not sure how it will proceed in the new session of Congress.
But he added, “We’re working closely with the National Milk Producers Federation on that, and others in food and agriculture, but we won’t give up, and we will keep going. We need to make sure that we are using all the visa programs, that we’re making visa holders feel welcome in our organizations, and we need to be working closely with aspiring Americans.”
On nutrition issues, he said, “Politicians, the Congress, is an echo chamber of what they hear from constituents. We need to be focused on bringing our very best science forward so that policymakers can hear that.”
Discussing the new Congress, he said, “We have about 35 or 40 members of Congress that come from rural America and we need 218 votes to pass things. I often say, ‘Food is produced in Red America, consumed in Blue America.’ We need to merge the two groups.”
Of dairy production, Dykes told his members, “Today, we are exporting more of your milk product than we are drinking. And as we move forward, we’re going to need to export more. But 2028, we’ll probably need to be at 22, maybe even 24% of our production in the export markets. We need market access. We need opportunities.”
“And as we think about a move toward more populism and a move toward de-globalization, China will loom large if we think about populations.
“Another thing to think about, five of the 10 largest countries in the world by 2100 will be in Africa. So we need to put some eggs in the longer term play around Africa and be ready for that.”
Michael Dykes delivers his annual speech to the International Dairy Foods Association membership at the 2023 Dairy Forum in Orlando. Photo by Jerry Hagstrom, The Hagstrom Report
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