Foundation series

Celebrate the Dairy Foundation — Wisconsin Farmers | Dairy

Editor’s note: This article is part of a series featuring Wisconsin dairy cooperative farmers. The following article features Duane, Tina and Ann Hinchley. They own Hinchley’s Dairy Farm near Cambridge, Wisconsin. They are members of Dairy Farmers of America.

When did you start farming and why?

Duane Hinchley: I started farming in 1980 after graduating from high school; I have always had a passion for agriculture. My father was my mentor; he retired in 1992. Tina and I got married in 1997. Anna is the sixth generation on our family farm.

How does being a member of Dairy Farmers of America help you?

Duane Hinchley: It is a member-driven cooperative and as such, our voice is heard. I sit on the central board of the cooperative. Tina sits on the resolutions committee and Anna is a delegate. She is looking forward to participating in the Young Couples Leadership Program. We are fortunate to have six representatives from Wisconsin who sit on the committees and provide input.

We are excited to see new innovations and new products. Dairy Farmers of America has worked to create more value-added products that use milk. We must continue to have this creativity and develop more uses for our milk to increase our dairy prices.

Tina Hinchley: The cooperative supports research that allows the development of sustainable practices in dairy production. This helps to maximize farm profitability. The cooperative has proactive resolutions that support the application of identification for all dairy products.

Dairy Farmers of America has supported local food banks, helping families in all of our communities. This connection helps our farms as well as families in need.

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What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the dairy industry?

Duane Hinchley: Consumer perception of dairy farming – social media gives too much attention to negative images of dairy farms as well as complaints that they are unsustainable and unfriendly to the environment.

ESG – environmental, social and governance – is a new acronym that is becoming commonplace among credit institutions. It will determine which projects will be built in the future when the public spends money on sustainable, environmentally friendly and socially accepted products. There are future investments that farmers need to consider and diversify into other businesses – such as on-farm processing, agri-tourism and carbon sequestration, as well as providing green energy with solar power, wind turbine or other farm by-products. Farmers need to reduce their environmental footprint.

Tina Hinchley: Agriculture is affected by global situations. The war in Ukraine, the oil market and the uncertainty of trade dictate many decisions on the farm. Rising input costs such as fertilizer, fuel and animal feed are also a challenge. Farmers are dealing with very thin margins.

What do you see as the biggest opportunities in the dairy industry?

Duane Hinchley: Innovations – the Dairy Research Center, for example, is developing a variety of new products to increase customer interest and create greater export potential. Trade missions organized by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Commerce and Consumer Protection connect buyers with our dairy products.

Tina Hinchley: The future of niche products, such as flavored butter and specialty cheeses, is bright for our industry. Diversification has helped our farm. In addition to dairy farming, we have a farm tour business and raise cash crops. There are many opportunities with government programs that help farmers, such as the on-farm storage facilities loan program. It provides low-interest financing for on-farm grain storage. This helps us set our grain prices and make profitable decisions.

Dairy Farmers of America is headquartered in Kansas City, Kansas. The cooperative is owned by more than 11,500 dairy farming families across the United States. Dairy Farmers of America manufactures dairy products for retail, food service and dairy ingredient customers. It owns a number of regional brands such as Alta Dena Dairy, Borden Cheese, Plugra Premium Butter and Kemps.

This is an original article written for Agri-View, an agricultural publication of Lee Enterprises based in Madison, Wisconsin. Visit AgriView.com for more information.

Lynn Grooms writes about the diversity of agriculture, including the latest industry ideas, research and technology as a reporter for Wisconsin-based Agri-View.