Borden Dairy Sale: New Dairy Opco, LLC (Engles/Capitol Peak & KKR) wins bid, received Court approval June 26

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UPDATE – June 26 2020: US Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware, Approves Sale to Capitol Peak and KKR

Engles, (Capitol Peak, Previous Dean CEO) partners with KKR & Co. for Successful Bid

Borden Dairy, and its beloved icon, Elsie, have new owners.
Early on the afternoon of June 15, 2020, New Dairy Opco, LLC, was announced as the winning bidder for Borden Dairy Company and its assets, 5 months after Chapter 11 was filed on January 5, 2020.  A notice was posted on the website filing the Borden Chapter 11 Documents for the US Bankruptcy Court of Delaware, and is included below.
A Sale Hearing has been scheduled for Thursday, June 18, 2020 by the Bankruptcy Court. A series of hearings and court activity, dictated by Rules of Federal Court, will take place in the following weeks before a sale is final.
New Dairy Opco, LLC, is an entity comprised of  KKR and Co., a US-based global investment firm, and Capitol Peak Partners, founded by Gregg Engles, a previous Dean Foods CEO.  A Declaration entered on the Court’s docket on June 20, Docket #879, lists that Colin Murphy is the secretary of New Dairy Opco, which is commonly referred to as New Dairy.
GH Acquisition, LLC, and Prairie Farms Dairy, LLC, were announced as the next highest bidders.
This is a breaking news story, and more details will emerge going forward.
This change in ownership will set a new stage for dairy co-ops and independent dairy farms selling milk to the Borden plants, and hopefully provide more certainty to farmers of markets going forward.
 

The Sale Notice as it appeared on the Court’s Docket:

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New Dairy Opco, LLC, became official as a Delaware corporation on June 1, 2020.
According to a Bloomberg report by Jeremy Hill and Isis Almeida, which doesn’t name sources, New Dairy Opco, LLC, is a joint effort of Capitol Peak Partners, headed by Gregg Engles (a previous CEO of Dean Foods), and KKR, said to be the world’s 2nd largest private equity firm.  KKR had been prominently mentioned in the Borden bidding per the filings on the court docket.
In the late stages of the Dean Foods Chapter 11 process, KKR and Borden, along with some other financial entities, offered an alternative plan to the sale of Dean Foods to Dairy Farmers of America (DFA).

The Bloomberg story in its entirety, as first published at 2:20 pm on June 15th (the story has since been updated – see link above):

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Background & Additional Resources:

General: Borden Fact Sheet – Summary: Borden has 12 plants, 91 branches, has 3,300 employees. The plants operate mostly in the southeast, somewhat in a crescent from Charleston, SC to Florida to Texas.  The Fact Sheet also lists plants in Cleveland, OH, and London, KY.

17 June 2020, 2:30 pm: KKR, Former Dean Foods CEO win bid to buy Borden Dairy Co. in Bankruptcy Court;  by Colleen Kotke for the Wisconsin State Farmer,
15 June 2020, 6:01 pm:  Capitol Peak Partners, KKR Win Bankruptcy Auction for Bordenposted at Morningstar, provided by Dow Jones
15 June 2020, 6:29 pm:  KKR, Former Dean Foods CEO win Auction for Borden Dairy Five Months After Bankruptcy Filing, by Natalie Walters for the Dallas Morning News
26 May 2020, 7:00 am: For a Second Time in Borden’s 163-year History, A Government Contract Could Propel it Through Crisis, by Natalie Walters, for the Dallas Morning News

Look for new developments as the story evolves.

 

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Dean Foods Sells Majority of Assets to Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) & Prairie Farms

 

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DALLAS  – May 1, 2020  – Dean Foods Company (“Dean Foods” or the “Company”) today announced that is has completed the previously announced sales of substantially all of its assets, including the sale of the assets, rights, interests, and properties relating to 44 of the Company’s fluid and frozen facilities to subsidiaries of Dairy Farmers of America (“DFA”).

Dean Foods also announced that it has completed the sale of the assets, rights, interests and properties relating to eight facilities, two distribution branches and certain other assets to Prairie Farms Dairy. The Company also completed the sale of its facility in Reno, Nevada and its “Berkeley Farms” trademark and related intellectual property to Producers Dairy Foods.

These transactions follow a Chapter 11  process which began with a filing under the official name of Southern Foods Group, LLC, on November 12, 2019 in the US Federal Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of Texas, Houston. As early as the day the Chapter 11 was announced, DFA was named as the leading contender to purchase the company.  The Honorable Judge David Jones has served as  the presiding judge.

At the current time, three additional hearing dates are posted on the Epiq website which has been housing the dockets and filings of the proceeding.

  • May 11, 2020: Governmental Bar Date
  • May 20, 2020: An Omnibus Hearing
  • June 24, 2020: An Omnibus Hearing

The process has taken place during a time of monumental chaos in agriculture and dairy created by shifts in consumer behavior exacerbated by the Covid-10 Pandemic.  As consumers followed “Shelter At Home” guidance issued across the country, fluid milk sales rose astronomically for 2 months.  Although they have leveled off a bit, fluid sales are still at much higher levels than in recent years.

The stage seems to be set for  the new owners to capitalize on consumer sentiment to reinvigorate fluid sales of the Dean brands, which have risen considerably during the past two months.  It is not known if  the new owners will maintain,  consolidate, or alter brands as they assume the reins.

“We are pleased to complete these transactions which maximize value for our stakeholders and will enable substantially all of our businesses to continue operating and serving customers across the country,” said Eric Beringause, President and Chief Executive Officer of Dean Foods.

“Our team has put in considerable work over the last several months to find the right partners for our assets that would enable them to continue to succeed while preserving the most jobs possible and to ensure a smooth transition for our customers and partners.

The completion of these sales is a testament to our employees’ efforts. I also want to thank our entire team for their commitment and dedication to Dean Foods not only over the last several months, but over the past several years.  Their hard work has helped Dean Foods build and grow brands and products that customers love, and I feel fortunate to have had the chance to work side-by-side with this extraordinary group.”

The Company also announced that as part of the US Department of Justice’s (“DOJ”) approval of Dean Foods’ transaction with DFA,  DFA has entered into a Consent Decree with the DOJ under which DFA has committed to hold separate and ultimately divest the dairy processing plants located in DePere,WI, Franklin, MA, and Harvard, IL together with certain assets related to the operations at each plant.

Upon closing of these sales, Mr. Beringause has stepped down from his role as President and CEO.

As previously announced on April 4, 2020, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas (the “Court”) also approved the sale of Dean Foods facility in Miami, Florida to Mana Saves McArthur, LLC, for $16.5 million. The company anticipates completing the transaction early next week.

As previously announced on April 30, 2020, Dean Foods completed the sales of the Company’s Uncle Matt’s business to Harmoni, Inc., and of its Hilo facility and related distribution branches on the Big Island, Kauai and Maui, as well as a license to the Meadow Gold Hawaii brand name and related intellectual property, to MGD Acquisition, LLC.

Additional information is available on the restructuring page of the Company’s website, DeanFoodsRestructuring.com.

In addition, Court filings and other information related to the proceedings are available on a separate website administered by the Company’s claims agent, Epiq Bankruptcy Solutions LLC, at https://dm.epiq11.com/case/southernfoods/dockets, or by calling Epiq representatives toll-free at 1-833-935-1362 or 1-503-597-7660 for calls originating outside of the U.S.

Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP and Norton Rose Fulbright are serving as legal advisors to the Company, Evercore is serving as its investment banker and Alvarez & Marsal is serving as its financial advisor.For Court filings and documents:

To read more about the Department of Justice report – a posted news release:

1 May 2020:   Justice Department Requires Divestitures as Dean Foods Sells Fluid Milk Processing Plants to DFA out of Bankruptcy  – Department Also Closes Investigation into Acquisition of Other Dean Plants by Prairie Farms.

The DOJ news release closes with these words:

As required by the Tunney Act, the proposed settlement, along with a competitive impact statement, will be published in the Federal Register.  Any person may submit written comments concerning the proposed settlement during a 60-day comment period to Eric Welsh, Acting Chief, Healthcare and Consumer Products Section, Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of Justice, 450 Fifth Street NW, Suite 4100, Washington, DC 20530.  At the conclusion of the 60-day comment period, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois may enter the final judgment upon finding it is in the public interest.

Sources: Business Wire, News Releases, and Industry Reports

Did anyone ever ask the Shelf Stocker? (About handling fluid milk, that is)

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Did anyone ever ask the Shelf Stocker?  When it comes to milk cartons, that is.

It’s been a busy past few months for dairy farmers and dairy industry associates all over the United States.  Whether it’s called conference or summit or convention,  dairy folks across the United States have been in session after session in the months from November to March, sometimes (often!) referred to as “Meetin’ Season.”

I can’t remember a session for the past few years where the term ‘innovation’ hasn’t been used.  Sometimes, the term refers to new dairy products, but it is used equally as much in reference in packaging and handling for milk and other dairy products.

Balancing the costs associated with bringing milk and milk products to market along with visual elements which attract consumer purchases is like walking a high-wire across the Grand Canyon.  With dependable fluid milk sales losing market share to the ‘newest and shiny’ dairy toy, every level of the supply chain is in perpetual review.

On the way back to the ‘home office’ after one of those winter dairy meetings,  I stopped by a grocery store to grab some milk. (Whole milk, if you must know, and a brand in a yellow jug which I know comes from many farms in my area).

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As I often do, I just stood there evaluating the dairy case – fluid milk.  There were private label commodity milks from far away (over the ‘within 400 miles “Local” definition’ in the 2008 Farm Bill), a branded local milk, high-margin blended milks, and fake milks which are trying to convince consumers they are better than real, whole, milk.  Additionally, all of the ‘fakes’ (aka plant-based beverages) do nothing for farms and the farm economy in our southeast area of the US;  the crops or products used in them cannot be traced to a farm in the southeast.

While I was looking at the case, a very pleasant young man, the stocker clerk for the evening, brought out several cases of the yellow jug to place in the shelves.  Those yellow jugs are delivered in the plastic, open top milk crates which are as popular for home decor as for milk deliveries.

He then brought out some of the far-away jugs shipped in brown cardboard cases. In many dairy discussions with farmers, industry folks indicate that the brown cardboard is preferable to the traditional crates. Notice I said ‘industry folks.’

So, I just asked the clerk, a young man on the front line of consumer connections and milk sales,  if he would answer a question for me, and he politely said “Sure, if I can, ma’am.”

My question to the stocker:  From your perspective, do you prefer the cardboard carton, or the plastic milk crate?

The stocker clerk’s response was this: “I prefer the plastic crates.  For one thing, they are sturdier than the cardboard.  And also, their open top saves me time – I don’t have to cut open and fold cardboard boxes for bundling. I just reach in and get cartons and put them on the shelf.”

He went on to tell me of several times the cardboard cartons had weak spots in them, and extra care was required in handling.  He even had a cardboard carton break open one time, and jugs of milk fell out, crashed open, and milk went everywhere – including all over him.  (Anyone who’s had milk spill on them can identify with the dilemma, why you want to get it cleaned up quickly, and the extra time it takes to make sure you get all of it!)

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His response made sense to me – lots of sense, actually.  And anyone who has ever figured ‘time as money’ is likely to think it makes sense, too.  Those plastic milk crates actually still have some positives, and we need to remember that. They are appreciated by some folks, and their reasons make common sense. (Not to mention the physical benefits, since you get a bit of a workout while moving those cartons!)

In a society where we far too often see those on the frontlines of any type of ‘work’  never asked what they think about a situation, it is all too believable, too.

Has anyone ever considered the perspective of stocker clerks everywhere who do the actual work of getting milk on shelves, or has anyone ever done a ‘study’ or survey about what they would recommend?  Should their thoughts count on what is best for fluid milk and helping it re-gain traction?

The concept of moving more fluid milk is on smart dairy people’s minds, because it is generally the product which can be brought to market most quickly and at the least cost. For years, it has been the predominant product and ‘cash cow’ of the dairy processing industry – and it is being left behind in promotion and other aspects of cost of bringing milk to market.

Some have predicted that there may be a recession in 2020 at some point, and if that does happen, are we prepared to see dairy product prices decline by 20-40%? 

If comsumer pocketbooks are stretched by a recession, which category of milk sales will decline the fastest?  Will it be those higher priced milks, or even the fake milks / alternative beverages?  Or would such an event drive consumers back to basic milks, which are nutritional powerhouses in their own right?

There are many thoughts and opinions on how to best move more or recapture fluid milk, and there are many thoughts on which of the many attributes of whole milk are the best and should be promoted the most.  (That is another discussion for another post, or yet another convention to attend!)

But for now the question is: How often do we really consider the opinion of those who are actually doing the ‘physical work’ on getting milk to consumers?  If the “Learn by Doing” motto of 4-H is true, then there is much wisdom in all of the clerks who have ever placed milk on a shelf!  And I’m betting they’ve spoken with many consumers along the way, too.

I, like many have more questions than answers, and there are others who will say that other means of milk movement have their own merits.

I’m not suggesting companies which use the cardboard cartons change their way of doing things – that obviously works for them, and any company which sells fluid milk is a benefit to dairy farmers everywhere!  One of those in particular, another which serves a lot of southeast dairy farms, is about an hour from my location.

But I will say that a simple question asked of a pleasant young man sure gave me a new perspective.  I learned a lesson, and the conversation  made me think about things a bit differently.  I hope it’s made you think, too.

And ‘thinking differently’ – on all levels of people along the supply chain – is the first step to a brighter milk tomorrow.  The dairy industry is desperately searching for that brighter tomorrow.

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Dean Foods Files Chapter 11 Bankruptcy: News. Producer Questions. FAQ Sheets

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UPDATE – posted 6:35 pm Tues, Nov. 12:  “Emergency Relief Has Been Requested. A Hearing will be Conducted on this Matter on November 13, 2019 at 2:30 pm [CST] in Houston Tex.”   This information per court documents, TXSB.

Dean Foods, the nation’s largest processor of fluid milk, has filed Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in the Southern District of Texas. According to a company news release, Dean Foods states the company is working toward an ‘orderly and efficient sale of the Company.”

In the same release, Dean Foods also states it is “engaged in advanced discussions with Dairy Farmers of America, Inc. (“DFA) regarding a potential sale of substantially all assets of the Company. If the parties ultimately reach agreement on the terms of a sale, such transaction would be subject to regulatory approval and would be subject to higher or otherwise better offers in the bankruptcy.”

Related to the announcement, Dean Foods cancelled its regular Quarterly Earnings Call, which was scheduled to occur at 9:00 am on the morning of Nov. 12.

Information about the actions and proceedings can be accessed at http://www.deanfoodsrestructuring.com.

The major concern for dairy farm communities – especially the farmers, and  related agribusinesses and community small businesses across the country who serve those farmers – will be how independent dairy farms, who ship directly to Dean Foods plants, will be affected, treated, and compensated during the Bankruptcy proceedings.  Those detailed answers are not available at the time of this initial posting (11:50 am, EST, Nov. 12).

At this time, there are more unanswered questions than answers, and no doubt there will be many anxious farmers and co-ops around the country who depend on milk checks from Dean Foods.  It will take time for accurate answers and solutions to be found as this process works through the reorganizational Bankruptcy process.

For now, here are some FAQ sheets, as posted at http://www.deanfoodsrestructuring.com:

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Here is the related News Release as posted at http://www.deanfoodsrestructuring.com:

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As the news broke on the morning of November 12, here are some additional links from financial news outlets:

From ‘Seeking Alpha’: Initial (breaking) News Release – Dean Foods Files Chapter 11; posted at 7:09 am  – with a link to the news release below:

From ‘Seeking Alpha’: Dean Foods Company Initiates Voluntary Reorganization with New Financial Support from Existing Lenders, a posting with these bullets:

  • Company secures commitments for $850 Million in DIP Financing to Support Operations
  • In Advanced Discussions with Dairy Farmers of America Regarding a Potential Sale
  • Business Continues Regular Operations; Customer Receiving Uninterrupted Supply of Dairy Products as Normal

From ‘Seeking Alpha’: Dean Foods EPS misses by $0.72 – posted at $9.38 am

More information will be posted as it becomes available.

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Eric Beringause named CEO of Dean Foods; brings a Record of Transformation

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Eric Beringause is the new CEO and President of  Dean Foods, the nation’s largest processor and distributor of fresh fluid milk and dairy case products.  He replaces Ralph Scozzafava, who has stepped down.  Beringause’s tenure began on July 29, 2019.

Mr. Beringause brings over 30 years of experience in the dairy, consumer products, and food processing industries to his new position.  Most recently, he was the CEO of Gehl Foods, the nation’s largest processor of nacho cheese.  Through his career, he has worked for a variety of companies such as Nestle, ConAgra, Alcoa, and Pillsbury.  His work portfolio includes private-label and branded products.

As the nation’s largest processor of fluid milk, the performance of Dean Foods in turns affects the fortunes of tens of thousands of dairy farms and regional farm economies across the United States.

It is no secret that the dairy industry itself, as well as Dean Foods, has seen its fair share of difficulties in the past two years;  Mr. Beringause faces daunting challenges in turning the company around.  Jim Turner, non-executive chairman of the Dean Foods Board, expresses confidence Beringause is the person for the job in a news release: “He has a long track record of creating value in dairy and consumer products companies, as well as a unique combination of turnaround and operational expertise.”

Upon the news of the CEO change late on Friday afternoon, July 26, Dean Foods stock rose in off-market trading over the weekend, rolled a bit during the day on Monday, July 29, and at the close of business, closed up 2 cents/share from Friday afternoon’s closing value of $1.25.  On Tuesday, July 30th, the stock had climbed again to $1.36 at closing.

Following is the original news release, along with some additional public information about Mr. Beringause:

The original news release from PR Newswire:

DALLAS, July 26, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — Dean Foods Company (DF) today announced that Eric Beringause has been appointed President and Chief Executive Officer and a member of the Dean Foods Board of Directors, effective July 29, 2019. Beringause succeeds Ralph Scozzafava, who has stepped down as CEO and resigned from his position on the Board.

Beringause brings to Dean Foods more than 30 years of transformational leadership and operational experience at a broad range of blue-chip brands in the food, beverage and consumer products industries, including expertise in food processing and branded and contract manufacturing. Most recently, he served as CEO of Gehl Foods, LLC, a market-leading producer of dairy-based beverages and food products. Prior to that, he served as CEO of Advanced Refreshment LLC, one of the largest U.S. producers of private-label bottled water and water-based beverages, and as CEO of Sturm Foods, Inc., a leader in private-label food products, specialty food brands and contract manufacturing. Earlier in his career, Beringause held various business development, finance, and sales and marketing roles at Alcoa Consumer Products, Gerber Infant & Baby Products, ConAgra, Inc./Grist Mill, Nestle, Inc., Nabisco Brands and The Pillsbury Company.

“We believe Eric is the right leader to drive the transformation of the business as the Company continues to execute on its enterprise-wide cost productivity plan and its previously announced exploration of strategic alternatives,” said Jim Turner, Non-Executive Chairman of the Dean Foods Board. “He has a long track record of creating value in dairy and consumer products companies, as well as a unique combination of turnaround and operational expertise.”

“I am honored to join Dean Foods at this important juncture,” said Beringause. “Dean Foods is the nation’s largest dairy processor and a leader in the industry, and I am excited to work with the Board and management team to leverage our scale and substantial assets to realize the significant opportunities available to transform our company. My top priority will be to ensure we have the right footprint and strategies in place to drive sustainable growth and profitability for the benefit of our shareholders, employees, customers and other stakeholders.”

Turner continued, “On behalf of the entire Board, I want to thank Ralph for his service and contributions to Dean Foods over the past five years. We appreciate his dedication to the Company and we wish him all the best in the future.”

Upcoming Webcast of Second Quarter 2019 Earnings Conference Call
The Company will host a live webcast of its second quarter 2019 earnings conference call on Tuesday, August 6 at 9:00 a.m. Eastern Time. The webcast is expected to last approximately one hour and will be accessible by visiting http://www.deanfoods.com/our-company/investor-relations/ and by clicking “Webcasts.”

The webcast will be accessible on most operating systems and browsers. A webcast replay will be available for approximately 45 days following the event within the Investor Relations section of the Company’s website.

About Dean Foods:
Dean Foods is a leading food and beverage company and the largest processor and direct-to-store distributor of fresh fluid milk and other dairy and dairy case products in the United States. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, the Dean Foods portfolio includes DairyPure®, the country’s first and largest fresh, national white milk brand, and TruMoo®, the leading national flavored milk brand, along with well-known regional dairy brands such as Alta Dena®, Berkeley Farms®, Country Fresh®, Dean’s®, Friendly’s®, Garelick Farms®, LAND O LAKES®* milk and cultured products, Lehigh Valley Dairy Farms®, Mayfield®, McArthur®, Meadow Gold®, Oak Farms®, PET®**, T.G. Lee®, Tuscan® and more. Dean Foods also has a joint venture with Organic Valley®, distributing fresh organic products to local retailers. In all, Dean Foods has more than 50 national, regional and local dairy brands as well as private labels. Dean Foods also makes and distributes ice cream, cultured products, juices, teas, and bottled water. Approximately 15,000 employees across the country work every day to make Dean Foods the most admired and trusted provider of wholesome, great-tasting dairy products at every occasion. For more information about Dean Foods and its brands, visit www.deanfoods.com.

*The LAND O LAKES brand is owned by Land O’Lakes, Inc. and is used by license.
**PET is a trademark of Eagle Family Foods Group LLC, under license.

CONTACT: Investor Relations/External Communications, Suzanne Rosenberg, +1 214-303-3438. Media please contact +1 214-721-7766 or media@deanfoods.com

 

Additional Background Information about Mr. Beringause:

Vassar:  Mr. Beringause serves on the Board of Trustees of Vassar College, from whom he received his undergraduate degree.  A biography can be read on Vassar’s website, or is posted here:

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Giving Back: Related to experiences and friendships which began with a summer job while at Vassar,  Mr. Beringause has been a huge supporter of an effort which builds up the Navajo nation, assists the Student Conservation Association, and involves telecommunications – all at the same time.   And he believes that teaching the ‘why’ is important.  Learn more in “That Vassar Serendipity – Three Alums Find a Common Cause,” a part of the Vassar “Stories” series.

Management Board of CP Kelco / a Division of Huber:  Mr. Beringause is a member of the Management Board of CP Kelco, a consumer products division of Huber, which processes .nature-based’ ingredients for the food industry.

 

From FoodDive – a perspective on the circumstances which led to this change:

Dean Foods Replaces CEO with Eric Beringause amid Continued Struggles; by Lilliana Byington for Food Dive.  Insights from this article’s author describe the company’s struggles, the challenges ahead, and Beringause’s record.

In recent years, opinions about Dean Foods and its future have been offered by every level of the dairy supply chain from dairy farmers to financial outlets to board rooms across the nation.  A change has occurred.  The entire dairy economy will benefit from a healthy and vibrant Dean Foods. We are hoping that Mr. Beringause is indeed, the leader with the skills to build a positive future – many dairy communities will be counting on it.

 

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Georgia hosts 2019 Dairy Challenge – 18th in the Series!

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Source: Renee Smith, Dairy Challenge Publicity

Tifton, GA, March 30, 2019:     Collegiate dairy students – 240 in total – from 29 different states and Canadian provinces traveled to Georgia for the 18th annual Dairy Challenge.® This trip to the Southern Region of the dairy industry was a great chance for students to put to use all they have learned about analyzing dairy farms and learn new things about this unique region for dairy.

Tifton, Georgia, was home base for the 2019 North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge® (NAIDC) held March 28th to the 30th, with eight area dairies participating in the educational event. Dairy students from 44 colleges worked to improve their dairy management and communication skills, networked with other students, and explored industry careers.

“Dairy Challenge represents all that is great about the dairy industry, as we see dairy producers, universities and industry professionals all come together to provide these students – the next generation – be prepared to enter the workforce and make great contributions to dairy’s future,” explained Dr. Maurice Eastridge, Professor and Extensions Dairy Specialist at The Ohio State University and NAIDC Board Chairperson.

Dairy Challenge is a unique, real-world experience where dairy students work as a team and apply their college coursework to evaluate and provide solutions for an operating dairy farm. In Tifton, two programs ran concurrently – the 18th annual Dairy Challenge contest and the seventh annual Dairy Challenge Academy. The events were coordinated by the NAIDC Board of Directors and the Southern Regional planning committee.

This year’s contest participants included 36 universities, whose four-person teams competed for awards based on the quality of the teams’ farm analysis and appropriate solutions. Their farm presentations were evaluated by a panel of five judges, including dairy producers, veterinarians, finance specialists and seasoned agribusiness personnel.

The Academy added another 7 schools to the event, providing interactive training for 96 students from four-year universities or two-year dairy programs. Academy participants were divided into smaller groups including students from various schools, and dairy industry volunteers worked as advisors to coach these less-experienced Academy participants as they assessed the dairy and developed recommendations.

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Dairy Challenge Applies Learning to a Real-world Dairy

Over its 18-year history, Dairy Challenge has helped more than 6,900 students prepare for careers in the dairy industry, dairy production and veterinary medicine.

The three-day event began with learning stations at Pecan Grove Dairy and Grassy Flats Dairy, where students learned from industry experts on cow comfort, milking protocols, feed center management and other key areas. Back at the University of Georgia – Tifton Convention Center, students enjoyed pecan pie and peach cobbler, as they poured over the in-depth dairy records for their assigned dairy.

Day two began with the on-farm analysis, with all students having just two hours to visit their assigned dairy and witness the dairy’s operations. After a question & answer session with the farm owners and advisors, the student teams developed specific recommendations on the areas they thought the dairy should focus on to make the greatest impact on improving their business.  These suggestions are accompanied by an economic assessment of their recommendations.

On Day Three, students presented their assessments and conclusions to the judging panel, visited with sponsors at the Career and Innovation Fair, and learned through dairy technology presentations from top Dairy Challenge sponsors. These talks were presented by:

·         Melissa Redd, Regional Lending Manager, AgGeorgia Farm Credit – “More than a Loan, A Relationship”

·         Jorin Ouwinga, Dairy Specialist, Land O’Lakes, Inc. – “Don’t Limit Your Expectations”

·         Josh Hushon, US Dairy Marketing Communications Lead, Cargill – “Farm Decision Making: Unlocking the Power of Data and Analytics”

·         Kristi Fielder, Director of Production, URUS – “Inside the Bull Barn: The Other Side of the A.I. Industry”

·         Jack Hippen, North American and EU Sales Director, ST Genetics – “Preparing for the Real World in Agriculture”

·         Dave Whitlock, Regional Sales Manager Southern Region, Premier Select Sires – “Don’t Strive to Survive Through Change but Rather Thrive with Change.”

 

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Eight College Teams Earn Top Awards

At Saturday evening’s banquet, the following contest teams and students were announced as First Place winners, with each student receiving a $200 scholarship.

·         California Polytechnic State University: Hank DeVries, Alexandra Gambonini, Elisabeth Regusci, Elise Regusci, Coached by David Vagnoni

·         Michigan State University: Monika Dziuba, Lauren Heberling, Ariana Negreiro, Jared Sanderson, Coached by Roger Thompson

·         Texas A&M University: Haley Hill, John Leibham, Marta Pulfer, William Wolf, Coached by Sushil Paudyal

·         Washington State University: Olivia Brockhaus, Colton Bunyard, Morgan Hawley, Taylor Wilson, Coached by John Swain

Teams and students earning Second Place and $100 student scholarships include:

·         University of Wisconsin – Madison:  Rachel Gerbitz, Zachary Lensmire, Riley Miller, Danielle Warmka, Coached by Ted Halbach and Dave Combs

·         University of Guelph: Julie French, Lauren Westerlaken, David Westerveld, Jenna Wight, Coached by Trevor DeVries and Matt Groen

·         Cornell University: Benjamin Dye, Nolan Feldpausch, Simon Johnson, Christopher Sweeney, Coached by Mike Van Amburgh

·         SUNY Morrisville:  Austin Graham, Janet Hanehan, Kayla Heineman, Katherine Schultes, Coached by Steve Mooney

All Dairy Challenge contest participants received a lifetime membership to Dairy Shrine.

Total Industry Effort

Six dairy farms opened their farms for analysis and in exchange received a wealth of ideas from students and judges. Host farms for the 2019 Dairy Challenge were:

·         Leatherbrook Holsteins LLC, Americus, GA

·         Barrington Dairy LLC, Montezuma, GA

·         BrooksCo Dairy LLC, Quitman, GA

·         Schaapman Holsteins, Abbeville, GA

·         Highbrighton Dairy, Montezuma, GA

·         WestBrook Dairy, Dixie, GA

·         Pecan Grove Dairy, Baconton, GA

·         Grassy Flats Dairy LLC, Pavo, GA

“On behalf of all the students and organizers, we sincerely thank the hundreds of individuals and organizations that made this event possible,” said Jillian Bolan, Co-Chair of the event. “We look forward to interacting with these students as they continue onto careers as dairy owners, managers, consultants and the many other support roles that make dairy possible.”

About Dairy Challenge

NAIDC is an innovative event for students in dairy programs at North American post-secondary institutions. Its mission is to develop tomorrow’s dairy leaders and enhance progress of the dairy industry, by providing education, communication and networking among students, producers, and agribusiness and university personnel. Over its 18-year national history, Dairy Challenge has helped prepare more than 6,900 students for careers as farm owners and managers, consultants, researchers, veterinarians or other dairy professionals. The next national event will be hosted in Green Bay, Wisconsin on March 26-28, 2020.  Four regional events will be held in late fall and winter; details are at www.dairychallenge.org.

 

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A UT National Championship – Born of Corn, with TN Ag!

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A #FlashbackFriday – 20 year Anniversary post looking back at UT’s National Championship Win in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 4, 1999!  Ag was involved! 

[[ Note – this was originally published on 9 January 1999, in a column I contributed to the Kingsport Times-News. ]]

“Corn may not grow at all on Rocky Top, but it had a huge impact on the harvest of college football’s national championship by a Big Orange combine!

Yup, in more ways than one, summer’s slim stalks with big ears mean that we vapid Volunteer fans can at last sigh with satisfaction that a crystal football will now adorn the University of Tennessee’s trophy case! Whoever would have thought that something as humble as a kernel-filled, cylindrical-shaped object born of the soil would give birth to the reality that Tennessee footballs now reigns as pigskin royalty?

This championship born of corn actually took root last January when those corn-fed Nebraska ‘Huskers shucked our fair Vols of all hope of a ’97 championship in the Jan. 1998 Orange Bowl, whenNebraska won 42-17.  Fulmer and staff, although disappointed, made the best of the situation and learned what proper nutrition and conditioning contributed to crossing the Championship line, and they worked harder.

And, as Tee Martin and Peerless Price and Al Wilson entered spring practice with a newfound determination, so farmers entered their fields to plant seeds of corn destined to help pay for a BCS National Championship game.

It took 160,000 acres of prime cropland to grow the specialized white corn which ended up as the primary sponsor of the ‘Tostitos’ Fiesta Bowl!

Since Frito-Lay needs over 300 million pounds of corn to fill America’s demand for Tostitos, these corn fields need to be as proficient at kicking out kernels as Jeff Hall is at kicking points between the uprights!  All told, Frito-Lay utilizes over 1 billion pounds of shelled corn each year to fill all of its corn snack sales!

Tostitos became the Fiesta Bowl sponsor in 1996, and thus began a corn farmer’s contribution to Phillip Fulmer’s tortilla shower on Monday evening!  [Jan. 4, 1998].

Although the corny side of Fiesta activities was courtesy of Illinois farmers, local agriculturists have played a major role in this year’s championship season as well.

Seeing the need for a stable, reliable supply of farm inputs, a team of Tennessee farm leaders had the foresight to form an organized system of stores over 50 years ago.  Now known as Tennessee Farmers Co-op, this agribusiness shifted its marketing scheme a couple of years ago, just as the Tennessee secondary adjusted to contain FSU’s Warrick, their lightning quick receiver.

Since Tennessee’s farming community now includes a large amount of part-time farmers and rural homeowners, the Co-op system saw the need for reaching a broad-based audience with ever-changing product lines.  And what better way to reach millions than through the Vol Network?!?!

Yes, for the past several years, your farm neighbors have helped bring you the familiar resonations of “It’s Football Time in Tennessee!”  Through TFC’s sponsorship of our beloved John Ward and Bill Anderson, football fanatics everywhere have benefitted from the dollars of farmers which brought every moment of the championship march to the radios of all true UT supporters!

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The Tennessee Beef Industry Council, a non-profit organization which educates the public about beef’s benefits in a healthy diet, is responsible for the “Beef, It’s What You Want!” commercials on the Vol Network.  These advertisements are funded through beef check-off funds, collected every time a farmer sells cattle in the state of Tennessee.

[[[ Note: In 2017, The Tennessee Beef Industry Council celebrated its 30th Anniversary as a Vol Network Sponsor, and they celebrate Beef Day every season  at Neyland stadium ]]]

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And who’s to say how beef’s protein contributed to the muscle power of linemen as they protected Tee Martin and sacked opposing quarterbacks?  Would there have been a National Championship without steaks and burgers?

As a farmer’s daughter, I first became a UT fan while riding with my dad in a combine.  John Ward and Bill Anderson kept me posted on the exploits of Dewey Warren and Curt Watson.

As a student at the University of Tennessee, I sat for many long hours in the stadium with John Majors at the helm.  I swung in the Upper Deck to the stadium-wide strains of “Hey Jude” as the Orange finally defeated the “the Bear.”  [Alabama Coach Bear Bryant]

John and Bill have been my connection to Neyland in the past few years as cows had to be milked at gametime, or harvest and crops or cattle had to be tended.

UT Football is almost as much as part of my heritage as agriculture, and my memories of each overlap and become intermingled until the turf of the stadium ripples back into the pasture grasses from which it evolved.

And on a cold January night when ice had to be broken on ponds so cattle could drink, the UT Volunteers were destined to bread through the ice and drink of the joys of a National Championship!

Farming was there – and farming will be there until the next time we hear again “It’s Football Time in Tennessee!”

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Another Ag / John Ward / Vol Network tie – not a part of the original column:  Dairy Farms in Tennessee were an early sponsor of the Vol Network, through an in-state dairy checkoff program.  John Ward was in his early days as a broadcaster, and was helping to figure out a way to help introduce Coach Doug Dickey in his first season as head coach.  Ward sold ads to the Tennessee “Milk People,”  A slogan “For the Lip that Lasts, Drink Milk!”   In Mr. Ward’s Tribute in June of 2018,  Coach Dickey spoke fondly about this relationship during the Celebration of Life.  A video of Dickey’s tribute is here.

And John Ward even did some ads for Milk himself.

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PS – Where has this column been hiding for 20 years?  Kind of ‘old-school filing’  (yet very effective!) with file pocket folders and Rubbermaid tubs!

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Here’s to hoping we’ll hear those Magic Words again in the near future!  Since Coach Jeremy Pruitt has said his favorite food is ‘corn’bread, maybe that’s an omen?!?!

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