As new chairwoman of the National Dairy Promotion and Research Board, Amber Horn-Leiterman’s first order of business will be to spread the word about the board and what it does to boost milk sales.
“I feel as though we’re kind of not well-known,” she said. “I want to bring attention to the board itself. We forget to do that a lot when we talk about promotions. There are ways for more dairy farmers to get seated on these promotional boards.”
Amber Horn-Leiterman, who farms with her family near Brillion, was elected board chairwoman during the organization’s recent meeting in Scottsdale, Ariz. She is only the second Wisconsin dairy farmer to chair the NDB. The first was the late Roger Rebout, who farmed in Janesville, and served in 1999-2000. She also is the third female chair, following Kimberly Clauss (Hilmar, Calif., 2008-09) and Paula Meabon (Wattsburg, Pa., 2009-10).
The NDB is part of the Dairy Management Inc. Board, which also includes the United Dairy Industry Association Board. The NDB was established under the Dairy Production Stabilization Act of 1983 to develop and administer a coordinated program of promotion, research and nutrition education. The 37-member board is authorized to design programs to strengthen the dairy industry’s position in domestic and foreign markets. Members are appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture.
Horn-Leiterman first was nominated for the NDB in 2012 by her cooperative, Land O’Lakes. She is in the last year of her second term, set to be completed Oct. 31. She said she was nominated for chair and won in a paper-ballot vote.
Her fellow officers include Brad Scott from San Jocinto, Calif.; Joe Kelsay of Whiteland, Ind.; and Carol Ahlem of Hilmar, Calif.
“I was really honored,” Horn-Leiterman said. “It came as very much a surprise. I didn’t go looking for it.”
She said her year as chair likely will be extended to next winter, and she could be elected to another term.
Representation on the board is determined by milk production levels in a dozen regions. Horn-Leiterman is one of five representatives from Region 6 (Wisconsin).
“It feels like a family,” she said of the NDB.
Horn-Leiterman, along with her parents, Brian and Lori Horn, and brother, Thomas, milk 800 to 850 cows at Hornstead Dairy. Another brother, Michael, drives milk truck and helps on the farm as needed.
The herd mostly includes Holsteins, with a few Jersey crossbreds. The farm recently completed a new heifer facility and feed pad. Horn-Leiterman said they’re working to build the herd and revamp the milking parlor.
The family operates 1,500 owned and rented acres of corn and hay and grows cover crops that they harvest for heifer feed, she said.
A self-professed “cow person,” Horn-Leiterman oversees herd management and the farm’s public relations, manages employees and handles the farm records. She’s the sixth generation on the farm, founded in 1863.
Horn-Leiterman’s husband, Kevin, works off the farm as an electrician. The couple has four young sons, ages 11, 10, 6 and 9 months.
Horn-Leiterman said she wouldn’t be able to fulfill her duties with the NDB, which include some travel and teleconferencing, if it weren’t for her family.
“I have a very good support system at home between my parents and Kevin’s parents and Kevin himself,” she said. “I’m going with the flow.”
Horn-Leiterman credits her education at UW-River Falls, along with the networking opportunities she was given there, with helping her achieve her goals.
“The courses and being involved on campus, that really set me up really well,” she said.
Horn-Leiterman pursued a degree in agricultural finance and planned to go into banking. She worked in the meats lab on campus and was an intern with AgStar before accepting an internship with a large custom calf raiser in eastern Wisconsin.
Shortly after college graduation, she got married and returned to work on the calf farm while also working part time at her family’s farm. While pregnant with her first son, a more permanent job opened up at home.
“The opportunity was there, and I took it,” she said, adding that her position has since evolved quite a bit to include more responsibility.
Farming suits her, she said. “I love production ag because I didn’t want to do my hair and wear makeup all the time.”
Funded by checkoff dollars from America’s more than 45,000 dairy farmers, as well as dairy importers, DMI was created to help raise demand for and sales of dairy products through research, education and innovation.
Dairy farmers pay 15 cents and dairy importers pay 7.5 cents for every 100 pounds of milk (or the equivalent thereof) that they sell or import into a generic dairy product promotion fund that DMI manages, along with state and regional promotion groups.
“This money itself cannot be used for anything except the promotion of dairy products,” Horn-Leiterman said.
The funds also promote milk in all its forms, whether produced conventionally or organically, by a large farm or a small one.
“That’s the great thing I like about the board,” she said. “What’s so unique is that we represent all dairy farmers, no matter your size or how your milk gets pooled.”
Stay tuned for “some big things” from DMI this year, Horn-Leiterman said, including a new campaign to re-focus consumers’ attention on milk.
“We hope we can activate and use all those means necessary” to get people to drink more milk, she said.
By: Heidi Clausen
Source: The Country Today