During June, weíve celebrated the 80th anniversary of National Dairy Month. First declared in 1937 as National Milk Month, it is a month when we remember that there is no drink more nutritious and essential to the American diet.
I grew up close to the dairy industry. I can distinctly remember my grandparents milking cows ó and delivering fresh milk right to our house. Today, Iím glad that there are men and women committed to the dairy industry, so that the only dairy products I have to concern myself with delivering are those for a grandson and come in a cone.
One thing that has struck me about the last six months in D.C. is that everyone knows Kansas is an ag state, but not as many know that Kansas is a dairy state. Iím doing my best to spread the word, especially as the Kansas Big First is now the fastest growing dairy district in the country. Soon, weíll not just be the nationís breadbasket, but the nationís dairy.
The industryís rapid growth in Kansas comes as no surprise to those of us who live here. The combination of ample feed supplies, available space, enterprising residents, transportation infrastructure and a business-friendly climate come together to make Kansas a dairy destination. And recent investments in processing capacity ensure that Kansas should continue to be a leader in this field.
I had the privilege of touring the new processing capacity earlier this year. The nearly completed DFA dry milk powder plant in Garden City is an impressive facility. At full capacity, the plant will employ at least 66 full-time workers, take in milk from 21 area dairies, annually produce 180 million pounds of dried dairy ingredients and even recycle the water for use by the city. A true success story of Kansansí resolve finding a way to play to our strengths and develop products for new markets while creating economic growth and jobs along the way.
One of the best pieces of this free-enterprise economic expansion is that there is little required of policymakers in Washington, D.C. At the federal level, we really only need to get two things right: first is a workable immigration program that meets our feedlot and dairy industriesí needs for year-round labor. We have seen firsthand the failures of our current system and angst it causes. Second is a federal dairy policy that doesnít encourage surplus production, but rewards efficiency and allows producers to protect themselves against catastrophic drops in milk price, like those we saw in 2009. Our work this Congress on the House Ag Committee has already started exploring both of these topics, and I know they will be on front of mind in our work going forward.
It is easy for much of agriculture to be down at the moment, given our below-breakeven commodity prices and anxiety about overseas markets.
Agriculture is a cyclical business. We will weather these challenging times and come out stronger in the future.
I have never been more clearly reminded of the endless optimism of agriculture than just last week, when I had the opportunity to meet with a group of emerging dairy leaders who were in D.C. as part of National Dairy Month. These individuals were all early in their careers and were bright, inquisitive, young agriculturists that have their eyes set on the future. I pledge to do my small part to make sure the Kansas dairy industry is as bright as they expect it to be.
U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall, R-Great Bend, represents Kansasí 1st District.