Who We Are
The Allied Milk Producers’ Cooperative, Inc. was organized in 1950 through the combined efforts of the Sanitary Dairy Company of Johnstown, Pennsylvania and the dairy farmer producer pool supplying raw milk to the company. The cooperative was funded by a three cent per cwt. check off taken from the farmer’s milk check. The cooperative worked with the UDIA to do a modest amount of promotion and advertising. In addition the cooperative was able to be a vehicle for group insurance and other services, especially auto and health insurance for the farmers. An annual meeting was held with reports from the dairy and the cooperative, light refreshments and entertainment were provided. The meetings were well attended, possibly because there were few other diversions for the farmers. In the early 1960s the dairy determined to progress to bulk tanks and recommended to farmers the purchase of only expensive Majonier brand tanks. There was considerable push back from the farmers who resented what they saw as a dictatorial maneuver. The cooperative was able to help smooth the transition.
As time went on group purchasing of services was less utilized by the cooperative member/producers and these services were dropped. Some of the directors of the cooperative had served for a long period of time and a successful effort was made to bring in new directors. The new faces endeavored to increase product promotion by including radio advertising. The directors operated the cooperative literally from the tops of their bulk tanks which they used as a desk. There was no monetary compensation for their time.
With the passing of the Dairy Act of 1983 the board of directors was confronted with the dilemma of whether to close down the cooperative or apply to the USDA to be a qualifying agency. The cooperative bylaws stated from the beginning days that in the event of a national check off the cooperative check off/dues would be reduced to one cent per cwt. The directors believed that the cooperative should easily qualify as they understood the criteria of the Dairy Act and so the decision was made to make application. The cooperative received designation as an approved agency. An immediate search was made for an executive secretary/dairy promotion specialist. An excellent candidate was found in the person of Dorothy Naugle, a retired farm wife and holder of degrees in homemaking and journalism.
The board determined that they would remain organized as a cooperative and become the administrator of the additional ten cent check off money. The cooperative bylaws provided that each county with Sanitary Dairy producers would be an organized county unit with a slate of officers. Each unit would name the president and one other person to serve on a central board of directors. The central board managed the cooperative on behalf of all the members. There is no set number of directors on the central board, that number being determined by the number of counties with one cent members. One hundred percent of the Sanitary Dairy producers advised the dairy that they would remain loyal to the Allied Milk Producers’ Cooperative, Inc. and directed that the additional ten cents be forwarded to the cooperative.
During this period the dairy was purchased by the Penn Traffic Company a New York investment company with interests in department stores, supermarkets and airplane component manufacturing. The dairy’s name was changed to Sanidairy. The conglomerate was miss-managed and began to spiral towards bankruptcy; however the local management of the dairy made a super effort to preserve good producer/processor relations including instituting an advisory committee of producers. This bolstered producer loyalty even though farmers were keenly watching competitor dairy pay prices. Perusal of the Penn Traffic annual report revealed that the dairy was the only component of the company showing a profit. The cash hungry Penn Traffic Company sold their only valuable asset, the dairy, to Deans in the late 1990s. Subsequently Deans later decommissioned the plant and discontinued direct purchase of raw milk. This created a feeding frenzy among other processors as their field men enticed producers to switch to their dairies.
Fortunately for the Allied Milk Producers’ Cooperative, Inc. a large number of these producers regardless of where their milk was being shipped declared their intention to continue their check off to the cooperative, however from this point on the cooperative was no longer a Sanidairy producer pool.
The cooperative recognized that very little dairy promotion was being done in a corridor stretching from the town of Somerset, through Johnstown and Altoona and on to State College. The cooperative’s advertising efforts focused on this consumer area. Dairy farmers recognized the efforts of the Allied cooperative and lauded the bare bones administration of the dairy farmer directors. To this day the boardroom is a table at the Denny’s Restaurant in Johnstown. With little fanfare the cooperative slowly grew in numbers as farmers voluntarily opted to check off to the Allied cooperative.
As income grew the board incorporated additional advertising strategies. A mobile vending booth in the shape of a red barn with a blue silo was put on the road by the Somerset unit. The Red Barn was equipped with a freezer, a milk dispenser and a soft serve machine and made available at very low cost for public events. It became popular at fairs, festivals, community picnics and various other gatherings. Four soft serve machines were purchased and were available at no cost for family picnics and reunions, weddings, dealer open house events and a multitude of other occasions.
Radio time was increased and the farmer-directors became familiar with terms such as drive time, flights, spots, buys and other vernacular. A billboard program was launched with the local Lavely Sign Company; this company became part of the nationwide Lamar Sign Company. With the excellent support of the Johnstown representative of Lamar the cooperative has engaged in an extensive billboard program. TV and printed media are also part of the cooperative’s advertising package.
In defining their mission the directors recognized that consumer buying habits begin to take shape at a very young age and no one makes an impression on youth like a Dairy Princess is able to do. Wearing her sparkly tiara, what the Dairy Princess says to wide eyed youngsters is unimpeachable. A major chunk of the cooperative budget is dedicated to the support of the Dairy Princess program both at the state and local level. Small cash incentives are available to Princesses who complete various promotion activities. A significant financial contribution is made annually to the state program. A $200 dollar stipend is available to Princesses who hail from counties where more than five dairy producers check off to the Allied cooperative. This in house measuring stick was adopted to aid the executive secretary in determining where to apply the cooperative’s limited funds. If the Dairy Princess completes all the activities prescribed by the state program she will receive another $300 at the end of her reign. In no way is a Dairy Princess asked to return anything to the cooperative except to place her winning smile before the public and tell the story of wholesome dairy products.
Allied Milk Producers’ Cooperative, Inc. is an enthusiastic supporter of the Agriculture in the Classroom school teacher seminars conducted on the campus of Penn State University. Scholarships are provided to attending teachers who earn continuing education credits for taking the courses. Teachers invariably return from the course excited to take what they have learned about American agriculture into their classrooms.
The producer base of Allied is expanding and with that the board is extending its advertising efforts over a broader area. Allied is participating in the introduction of milk based sports beverages to the athletic departments of schools and colleges and will partner with processors doing research and development.
As a service to the producers the cooperative conducts a twice yearly cheese and butter sale. Product is sold at cost with a small round up adder included to support the cost of conducting the sale. This sale is solely a function of the cooperative and no ten cent money is co-mingled with the sale. The sale is highly popular with the producers and continues to grow in volume.
The Allied cooperative directors long recognized that there were some deficiencies in their business structure. There was no listed phone number other than the residence number of Dorothy Naugle. Dorothy was getting well along in years and shunned electronic technology. Bookkeeping was done in hand written ledger entries and there was no internet access. Efforts to provide summer interns to assist Dorothy resulted in frustrated interns. The cooperative began to outgrow Dorothy and the board named retired school teacher Eva Strang to join the staff as Allied Education Coordinator reporting directly to the board. Dorothy announced her retirement effective December 2012. In taking over the office responsibilities Eva discovered that a number of items including tax issues were not being addressed. She immediately enlisted Paige Friedline to overhaul the bookkeeping system and outsourced Ridge Communications to get a web site up and running.
Allied Milk Producers’ Cooperative, Inc. arrived at a new threshold when it was approached by Harrisburg Dairy and Rutter Dairy, two small fluid processors well to the east of the cooperative’s focus area. They were disgruntled with the promotion agency that their producers were checking off to. The agency was promoting recapable plastic containers and these processors had determined they could not afford to acquire new bottling equipment along with the increased cost of containers and remain competitive. Therefor they felt their producers were wasting dollars in an advertising program that would not directly benefit them. They wondered, would the Allied cooperative initiate some radio and billboard advertising in their area and they were sure the point made would not be lost on their unhappy producers. Check off money began to trickle in from the Harrisburg and Rutter producers.
On February 22, 2012 representatives of the National Dairy Producers Organization [NDPO] conducted a meeting in Somerset County PA and invited the directors of Allied to attend. Basically they wanted the Allied cooperative to become a vehicle to forward their cause. The Allied directors responded, “No can do, It would violate regulations!” In the cordial exchange during the meeting the NDPO representatives learned about Allied’s promotion efforts and liked what they heard. The NDPO representatives, John King and Mike Eby, returned to Lancaster County empty handed but they began to tell their Plain Farmer [Amish] neighbors that there was another alternative to their present promotion agency which they believed to be remote an ineffective. As John and Mike went about enlisting support for the NDPO they also spread the word about The Allied cooperative. When asked why they were so diligent about promoting the Allied cooperative they responded “We want to send Mid-East [a large dairy promotion agency] a message.” John and Mike both became members of Allied and subsequently became the first two directors from Lancaster County.
Plain farmers began to check off to Allied by the dozens to the point that it was affecting the revenue of Mid-East. Mid-East began training its gun sights on Allied and lodged complaints of malfeasance against Allied to the USDA. Allied had to retain counsel to defend itself against these allegations. The Allied attorney became acquainted with the cooperative and was greatly impressed. He informed a dairy cooperative client in Texas of the existence of Allied and urged their participation in Allied. This coalition has made a tremendous impact on Allied both financially and administratively. One impact is that the old bylaws no longer fit the cooperative and new bylaws are now being written.