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Crisis Planning for Your Dairy, Part 4

Joan Sinclair Petzen, Farm Business Management
Northwest New York Dairy, Livestock & Field Crops

March 23, 2016
Crisis Planning for Your Dairy, Part 4

"Differentiating between an ‘issue' and a ‘crisis' is an important first step in crisis planning," according to Telling Your Story - On-Farm Crisis Preparedness by American Dairy Association and Dairy Council (ADA/DC). Farm businesses deal with issues from equipment breakdowns to protocol slip or animal health challenges on a regular basis. A crisis might involve an unforeseen death, cause an abrupt halt or disturbance of operations, unexpected safety or health concern to your animals, bioterrorism, danger from consuming your milk or loss of confidence in your product, a sudden lack of trust in your farm or extensive damage to your facilities by fire, explosion or natural disaster.

ADA/DC outlines a five step process for crisis preparedness:
  • Develop your crisis response team
  • Identify stakeholders
  • Assess vulnerabilities and develop crisis scenarios
  • Identify spokespersons and communicate
  • Know the resources available to you
Be sure to develop an appropriate plan for different crises your farm might encounter. Putting plans in writing provides a guide for reacting more objectively during a time when emotions may be running high. The response team can use a written plan to communicate with family members, employees, stakeholders, neighbors, media or enforcement agencies.

The crisis response team should be a small group ideally of managers, who have the authority to make decisions and provide leadership. People intending to have a long term role in the farm business are best suited to be part of the response team. Some team members might be different for one type of crisis than another. Documenting team members' complete contact information in your written plan will make it easier to respond quickly if needed. Meeting twice a year to review the crisis plan prepares your team for rapid response and keeps the plan current.

Another group it is important to identify in advance are stakeholders. Be certain to gather contact information for each one and the best way to reach them. Appoint a response team member to communicate with stakeholders when a crisis arises.

Assessment of your vulnerability to a list of potential crises is a critical step. Develop a list of events that could result in a crisis. Estimate the probability of each event occurring from unlikely to it has happened and could again. Then determine the level of damage the event might cause ranging from devastating to very little damage. ADA/DC's workbook offers a scoring process for ranking potential disasters based upon likelihood of happening and potential damage. This helps you focus your planning on the most likely and highly damaging crises. For the top few, use your response team to work through each crisis scenario and thinking about the steps to take to address the situation and appropriate communication lines for addressing the situation.

Selecting your spokesperson is a vital aspect of the plan. They must represent your beliefs and mission. Select someone who is well spoken and in a position of authority with respect to the crisis at hand. It is key that your spokesperson is able to be empathetic, sincere and able to relate to affected parties. They must be able to think on their feet and be pleasing to the eye of the camera. Having a list of media prepared will help you to get your message out. If the media contacts your farm be certain to get a contact you can follow up with if the situation changes or new information is learned.

Media outreach goes beyond traditional print, radio and television. Think about how you are going to use social media and the internet. We live in the era of instant communication and having your message prepared in advance will help you to communicate proactively in the event of a crisis.

Finally, know your resources. Both industry and agency resources are available to assist you with messaging and appropriate communication techniques. Industry promotion organizations, the New York Animal Agriculture Coalition, Farm Bureau, government inspectors, Extension and the professionals you work with regularly in your business operations can be called upon to help you respond in a crisis. As you develop a plan for each scenario include a list of resources to call on to help your team respond proactively.

We hope no farm ever has to deal with a crisis. But being prepared can help lessen the blow of a crisis to your family and business. Dealing with a crisis can be emotionally charged and consume a tremendous amount of energy. Having a team in place and a plan for dealing with the most likely and damaging crises can help limit the fallout and reduce the disruption caused when one comes up. Identify your response team and stakeholders and prepare a written plan of action to be ready if crisis strikes.

This article concludes the series on crisis planning and preparedness. We've given you some tools and ideas for ways to handle a crisis. Now it's time to get started on a plan for managing crisis for your farm business.











calendar of events

Upcoming Events

Beginning Farmer/Hobby Farmer Workshop $5/pp, class size is limited, so pre-register by April 15th!

April 27, 2019
9:00 am - 1:00 pm
Canandaigua, NY

This hands-on workshop is for beginning or part-time farmers who would like to improve their farm machinery skills, learn to properly and safely maintain their equipment to protect their investment. If you have been thinking about buying a tractor, new or used, two-wheel or four-wheel drive, compact or utility or more come join us. Topics include: selecting the right size/type tractor for the job; basic maintenance; staying safe around tractors and equipment; attaching implements properly; and information about ROPS and SMV's. There will be time for questions.

Pre-registration requested by April 15, 2019 email Amy with your name, address, and phone number or call 585-394-3977 x 429.
Fee: $5.00/person. Class size is limited.

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2019 Pastured Poultry Seminar, lunch included so please register by May 10th! $25/person

May 18, 2019
Registration begins at 8:00 a.m.w/ coffee & donuts with the Program running from 9:00 a.m. - 5 p. m.
Attica, NY

The main speaker this year is Eli Reiff of Mifflinburg Pennsylvania. Eli raises broilers, turkeys, sheep, and beef, all on pasture. Topics to be covered will include the pasture, feed and nutrition, marketing, costs, and much more. As we grow as farm operators and get bigger, we may not pay as much attention to the basics as we should. So those areas are where we will start, and then expand to cover the group's interests.

Mike Badger, Director of the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association will also be available for a round-table discussion. Plans are to have representatives from Farm Bureau, NYCAMH for farm health and safety, Wyoming County Chamber of Commerce, and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Wyoming County, as well as others.

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Calling all 9th-12th graders! 4th Annual Precision Agriculture Day at Genesee Community College

May 21, 2019
9:00 am - 1:30 pm Register by Friday May 10th! $15/per person includes lunch
Batavia, NY

Calling all 9th-12th graders!  We have an exciting new program for students interested in technology, science, engineering, and agriculture!
Would you like to:
  • Learn about how Drones collect information
  • Check out some potential career opportunities that have new and ever-changing technology
  • Learn how these technologies can be used in our own backyards in WNY
  • Discover potential and exciting career opportunities

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Producers Previously Enrolled in the LGM Program Now Eligible for MPP

Dairy Producers Previously Enrolled in the Livestock Gross Margin Program Now Eligible for 2018 Margin Protection Program
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced that dairy producers who elected to participate in the Livestock Gross Margin for Dairy Cattle Program (LGM-Dairy) now have the opportunity to participate in the Margin Protection Program for Dairy (MPP-Dairy) for 2018 coverage. Sign-up will take place March 25 through May 10, 2019.
Eligible producers can enroll during the sign-up period at their local USDA service center. To locate your office, visit

Smart Farming Team Technical Assistance Grant Application

The Labor Ready Farmer Project is offering grants to provide up to 12 hours of Technical Assistance (TA) consulting services to farms who want to make improvements to their farm's processes in hiring, training, managing or evaluating employees. Applicants will choose from one of the following four areas for TA assistance and identify a specific project. If selected they will be matched with a "Smart Farming Team" of consultants who will provide one on one technical assistance.
Please complete this application and send to Nicole Waters, Beginning Farm Project Coordinator for the Cornell Small Farms Program. The form can be submitted by email, mail or in-person at the address listed below. Please feel free to call or email with any questions.

Nicole Waters - Beginning Farmer Project Coordinator
Plant Science Building, Room 15b
Tower Road, Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853
Phone: 607-255-9911

Applications accepted on a rolling basis.

USDA Announces January Income over Feed Cost Margin Triggers First 2019 Dairy Sa

WASHINGTON, March 6, 2019 ? The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency (FSA) announced this week that the January 2019 income over feed cost margin was $7.99 per hundredweight, triggering the first payment for eligible dairy producers who purchase the appropriate level of coverage under the new but yet-to-be established Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program.

DMC, which replaces the Margin Protection Program for Dairy, is a voluntary risk management program for dairy producers that was authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill. DMC offers protection to dairy producers when the difference between the all milk price and the average feed cost (the margin) falls below a certain dollar amount selected by the producer.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced last week that sign up for 
DMC will open by mid-June of this year. At the time of sign up, producers who elect a DMC coverage level between $8.00 and $9.50 would be eligible for a payment for January 2019.

For example, a dairy operation with an established production history of 3 million pounds (30,000 cwt.) that elects the $9.50 coverage level for 50 percent of its production could potentially be eligible to receive $1,887.50 for January.

Sample calculation:
$9.50 - $7.99 margin = $1.51 difference
$1.51 times 50 percent of production times 2,500 cwt. (30,000 cwt./12) = $1,887.50

The calculated annual premium for coverage at $9.50 on 50 percent of a 3-million-pound production history for this example would be $2,250.

Sample calculation:
3,000,000 times 50 percent = 1,500,000/100 = 15,000 cwt. times 0.150 premium fee = $2,250

Operations making a one-time election to participate in DMC through 2023 are eligible to receive a 25 percent discount on their premium for the existing margin coverage rates.

"Congress created the Dairy Margin Coverage program to provide an important financial safety net for dairy producers, helping them weather shifting milk and feed prices," FSA Administrator Richard Fordyce said. "This program builds on the previous Margin Protection Program for Dairy, carrying forward many of the program upgrades made last year based on feedback from producers. We're working diligently to implement the DMC program and other FSA programs authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill."

Additional details about DMC and other FSA farm bill program changes can be found at

New Guidance for Mortality Disposal Issued

NYS Department of Ag and Markets has posted guidelines on disposal of livestock carcasses, in response to reports that some rendering companies have halted pickups from farms.|1