Milk is moving at the Dairy Farmers of America’s newest gem.
The Fallon plant was official christened Wednesday with about 100 members from around the country to witness the DFA’s flagship’s ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Fallon DFA officials provided tours and a catered lunch to its members as excitement for the plant was once again on display.
“I think back to the first meeting that we had with DFA,” Fallon Mayor Ken Tedford Jr. said. “It actually followed a meeting we had with another company that was thinking about relocating. When we got done with the meeting with DFA, it was just a lot more comfortable. The reason why it was more comfortable was because it was people who are more like us.”
The DFA, a leading dairy cooperative owned by nearly 9,000-member farms, went online with the plant April 5 and can produce as much as 2 million pounds of powdered whole milk per day when running at full capacity.
Although the plant is operational, it has not reached capacity, according to DFA officials. However, the facility is expected to reach capacity in the coming weeks and months.
Tedford, in a previous interview, said state economic forecasters have reported the DFA facility, once it is fully operational, could generate as many as 11,000 jobs throughout Northern Nevada.
“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for this area,” said Perry Tjarada, director of Westernary Council on the DFA Board of Directors and dairy farmer in Shafter, Calif. “There are several dairy farms here already, so there was no plant to take the milk. They had to haul their milk across the hill in California.”
He added it made sense for DFA to construct a plant on the West Coast due to the rising demand of dairy products around the world. With access to numerous ports, specifically the Port of Oakland (Calif.), DFA has improved its logistics to transport its product to foreign markets.
“The rising demand of dairy products around the world just made sense to have something on the West Coast,” Tjarada added. “It was our understanding, that the process to get something accomplished would probably be a little faster and a little smoother. It opens the door to so many other potential partners and customers.”
But the enormity of the plant and the options it brings to DFA is immeasurable, said Jay Woldvogel, director of strategy of international development.
“This is the key plant in the total setup of DFA, so it’s not just a standalone,” he said. “This has implications for the wider DFA. We are using this plant to reflect to customers around the world that we are looking at you differently.”
At the ceremony emceed by Churchill County Commissioner Pete Olsen, a member of DFA, Rick Smith, president and chief executive officer, said safety and a world-class product is what the plant will bring to the marketplace.
The plant is in pristine condition and cleanliness is a top priority. In addition, the production and packaging of the milk is another way for DFA to grow its customer base.
“It’s a game changer, not tomorrow, it’s a game-changer in terms of a long-term commitment to be No. 1, a world-class producer of dairy nutrition ingredients, but also a committed long-term supplier to the world market,” Woldvogel said. “We are making a world-class product. We are using this as a new way to source customers. It’s the front-end of the spear, so to speak.”
Currently, the Unites States is fifth in global whole milk powder exports, supplying 3,776 metric tons in 2013, the U.S. Dairy Export Council says. New Zealand, in comparison, provided 175,199 metric tons of whole milk powder to global customers last year. China imported 84,142 metric tons of whole milk powder in 2013, up 94 percent from 2012. Venezuela and Algeria each imported roughly 10,000 metric tons of powdered milk in 2013.
There are 19 dairies in Fallon that are supplying about 40 percent of the raw milk entering the plant (the rest currently is coming from dairies in California’s Central and Sacramento valleys). Some dairies in Churchill County have expansion plans underway and are expected to eventually supply more than half the plant’s needs.