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Family Dairies, MMPC & Milwaukee Milk Planning Merger
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 11/02/2012

Three Wisconsin-based milk cooperatives have taken the first steps to unify their organizations into one. The board of directors of Family Dairies USA, Manitowoc Milk Producers Cooperative and Milwaukee Cooperative Milk Producers have each voted to recommend a merger of their three groups to become the largest Midwest dairy marketing cooperative.

If approved by members of each of the separate companies, the newly created entity would be called Farm First Dairy Cooperative. During a conference call with farm reporters on Friday morning, FDUSA General Manager David Cooper said the move is in response to a need to become more efficient within an industry that has a smaller number of players.

"This is a unique opportunity for all of us to find new efficiencies, which in turn will allow us as a unified group, to offer more services to our members," Cooper told Wisconsin Ag Connection.

Dennis Donohue of Manitowoc Milk added that the timing of such a merger is ideal.

"The current, individual financial status of all three cooperatives is outstanding," Donohue said. "This allows the new organization to start out on very strong footing, so that we can immediately focus on growing and improving member benefits."

Jim Bird, general manager of Milwaukee Milk, says the combine efforts of the three businesses will also allow their group to put more resources into critical member areas that could see some improvement.

The next step in the process would be to allow members to vote on the merger, which will take place between November 20 and December 16. If all goes as planned, the new changes will take effect on January 1.

The newly created Farm First Dairy Cooperative, to be headquartered in Madison, would have 20 directors within nine districts made up of seven existing board members from Family Dairies, seven from MMPC and six from Milwaukee Milk.

There will also be two main divisions of the company: lab testing, which is currently operated by Milwaukee Milk's Fox Valley Quality Control Lab in Nenah; and the Family Dairies' milk program, which specializes in marketing milk products throughout Wisconsin and Michigan.

Cooper says the new group will serve around 5,100 patrons and 30 individual dairy plants.

Milwaukee Milk is the oldest of the three cooperatives. They began in 1916 and currently have 500 members, mainly in southern Wisconsin. MMPC has been in business for nearly 80 years and serves about 2,700 patrons. And Family Dairies, which began as the Farmers Union Milk Marketing Cooperative in 1971, is the largest of the three groups. They currently work with 2,800 dairy patrons in six Midwestern states.

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