Guest Columns

Industry Issues

A successful journey

Connie Tipton

Connie Tipton is president and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association. She contributes this column exclusively for Cheese Market News®.

As I embark on the beginning of a second decade as the president and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association in January 2014, I am excited for a future with a thriving dairy industry. I’m also reflective about the journey we take to get there and how important it is to our ultimate success. Priorities and goals are essential, but it is the striving for them that completes our achievement.

The dairy industry is poised to continue growing in the new year, even surpassing our incredible attainments in export markets this past year. New trade agreements are being hashed-out that could provide even greater market access, and companies are innovating with many new and improved products to boost dairy sales.

While all of that activity is exciting, we still face our challenges with keeping milk in the fridge and on the table, as well as in school meals. And we still face enormous market interference that creates friction in going to market as nimbly as possible. Things like federal milk marketing orders and product standards of identity still bog us down.

So we must set our sights on the next steps to take, but keep in mind that the entire journey is really what it’s all about — staying true to a principled approach and working hard on each and every goal along the way. Colin Powell once said, “There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure.”

During my career with the dairy foods industry, I have been fortunate to work with many industry leaders and to have built great relationships and friendships with so many interesting people. It is an awesome honor to represent the many fine companies in IDFA’s membership and to work collaboratively with the leaders of those companies. The competencies, skills and advice shared with me and with IDFA have made an enormous contribution to the industry’s betterment and to me personally.

While those industry relationships are invaluable to keeping IDFA’s programs and activities (and our staff) on track, I have benefitted equally by building relationships with congressmen, senators, other government officials and colleagues in similar advocacy jobs in our nation’s capital. These relationships have paid off over and over again in achieving successes for IDFA, but they also have been broadening and rewarding in so many ways, making me realize that my journey has not been just about meeting goals but also about sharing talents and giving back to the community where I live and work. Honesty, trust and reliability are important guideposts along that journey and make it so much richer an experience.

It is all too easy to simply focus on what’s next, what’s the closest threat or opportunity. But the successful journey is ultimately the accomplishment, not any one goal along the way. As Vince Lombardi said, “The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that, whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.”

And as I reflect on this, I realize how difficult and messy the democratic processes are in Washington, D.C. It’s not a simple structure like a company where the CEO gets the first and the last word, maybe with some input and even a little push-back, but not likely with harsh rhetoric or personal accusations. Legislative goals drive members of Congress and outside advocates alike, but often the policy objectives get lost in the political process and no one wins.

That’s why it is so important for all of us to strive to be honest brokers in representing and pursuing policy objectives; ethical advocates whose principles drive policy direction and whose word can be trusted; advocates who want a workable solution to the problems facing us, whether it’s on dairy policy, a federal budget, entitlement programs or revamping our tax code.

As the first session of the 113th Congress is wrapping up (and that will include the first weeks of the new year), I am hopeful for completion of a workable farm bill that forms a path for prosperity in the dairy industry. Looking beyond that, I hope for a journey in policymaking that returns our country to its path toward greatness and for a journey that gives us a world at peace.

As we face a new year, it is a good time to make sure we are all on track for a successful journey, not just checking off the goals on our to-do list.


The views expressed by CMN’s guest columnists are their own opinions and do not necessarily reflect those of Cheese Market News®.

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