Center Focus Column

Finding Faith in the World

The holiday season is my favorite time of the year because it’s the season when we are all reminded to simply believe.  Whether it is in the greater good of humankind or in a little babe in a manger, this season is the one time in the year when we are willing to look beyond our own frustrations and have faith in what we do not see.

As dairy farm families and those working in agriculture, faith is what pushes us forward despite the challenges we face. Each year we plant crops with faith that the rain will come, the sun will shine and the crops will grow. Every time a calf is born, we feed her and care for her in faith that she’ll one day grow into a productive member of our herd. We have all experienced years when it doesn’t happen that way. And yet, we continue to believe with faith in what the future holds.

So, when you look the dairy environment right now, is it realistic to continue to have faith when milk prices remind at low levels and dairy farms struggle to find a home for their milk? How can we be optimistic about our industry’s future here in Pennsylvania when farms in other parts of the country are growing exponentially and we struggle to find new market access here in the Commonwealth?

President Abraham Lincoln once said, “The Best Way to Predict Our Future is to Create It.” That is what we are doing with the Pennsylvania Dairy Study the Center for Dairy Excellence commissioned with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture earlier this year. Although key recommendations resulting from the study are still to be released, I believe this study could be a platform that we can use to set the direction for our future here in Pennsylvania.

Finding Opportunity

Pennsylvania remains a key dairy state, ranking sixth in total milk production and second in total number of cows. We are fortunate to have a strong infrastructure committed to helping dairy farms succeed despite the increasing market volatility. Our farms are located with a day’s drive from more than 50 percent of the US population, and we offer some of the highest quality milk and dairy products available. We are unique from other states, and our dairy farms are different. This study will help us identify ways to capitalize on those differences and find pathways to new opportunities for dairy here in the Commonwealth.

The study is taking a detailed look at all aspects of Pennsylvania’s dairy industry, including farm demographics, milk flow and product demand, processing capacity, key resources and the regulatory institutions impacting the industry. From their analysis, the three economists working on the study – Dr. Mark Stephenson, Dr. Andy Novakovic and Dr. Chuck Nicholson – will provide recommendations on key action items that could help move our dairy industry forward.

Findings of that dairy study are going to be shared over the next couple of months, with a broad industry discussion planned for the Pennsylvania Dairy Summit on February 21 – 22 at the Penn Stater Conference Center in State College, Pa. Anyone who interested in the future of dairy here in Pennsylvania is encouraged to come to the Summit to join us in that discussion. Or if you can’t come to the Summit, you can find more information about the study and opportunities to provide input on our website at

Have Faith

As we look forward to the holiday season, remember at the core of the Christmas story is our faith. As we look at the challenges we face, it is even more important to have faith in our industry and in what is to come. As our industry becomes more global, it will require dairy producers to continue to look harder for ways to strengthen their businesses and work through the highs and lows of the marketplace.

But we also need to have faith. The world will always need to eat, and we will always need our farmers to provide that food. There are seven billion people in the world, and the population continues to grow. There is no doubt that we are in the midst of a very challenging time in the dairy industry. However, tremendous long-term opportunities exist in agriculture, and those who stay focused on working through this downturn will be able to take advantage of the opportunities to come.

At the Center for Dairy Excellence, we are thankful to serve Pennsylvania’s dairy industry, We want to be a resource for dairy farm families. If you’re looking for solution, I would encourage you to make a resolution in 2017 to call the Center and ask how we can help. Our resources may help you uncover options that you may not have realized otherwise.

In the meantime, take this holiday season to reflect on what is most important and celebrate the blessings in your life. From all of us at the center, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and blessed New Year. May the birth of Jesus bring joy to your family and keep you safe in His care throughout the coming year. May it renew your faith in the world.

Editor’s Note:This column is written by Jayne Sebright, executive director for the Center for Dairy Excellence, and published monthly in the Lancaster Farming Dairy Reporter