In a dynamic industry that is evolving at a rapid pace, International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) president and chief executive officer Michael Dykes views the organization’s upcoming Dairy Forum 2023 not only as an opportunity to connect, but also an occasion for strengthening the dairy industry.

“We always talk about change, but the change has been only accelerating,” Dykes said about Dairy Forum, set for Jan. 22-25, 2023, in Orlando, Fla.

He cited the growing consumption of dairy in the US – up 12 pounds per person in 2021 – as a backdrop for why he anticipates dairy processors and others who work in various areas of the supply chain will benefit from attending the four-day conference at JW Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes.

“All of these leaders are facing a plethora of challenges, but they also are seeing a plethora of opportunities,” Dykes explained. “Demand is up. Consumption is growing.”

Hearing from expert speakers and panels is just one perk of being at Dairy Forum, he said, adding that the networking that takes place with other dairy leaders often proves just as indispensable, because many find they are encountering similar challenges and/or situations.

“They can go home with solutions they can actually implement,” said Dykes. Making it possible for the event’s attendees to take ideas and innovations back to their companies is a key ingredient for planning Dairy Forum.

“We want people to leave inspired. We have an opportunity for the US to become the world’s leading supplier of dairy products,” Dykes said. “We look at what’s happening with the European Union in terms of energy costs, the pressures on sustainability. We think about New Zealand in their limited capacity to grow. We have some competitive advantages in the US that could position us to be the number one leader.”

Furthermore, the goal of the IDFA’s annual event is to bring different sectors of the industry together and find ways to “grow the pie” for everyone involved.

“That’s what we’re so excited about doing,” Dykes said. The forthcoming conference will feature presentations, deep dive sessions, panel discussions and innovative content, covering subjects such as attracting a diverse and inclusive workforce, advancing growth through technology and delivering health and nutrition benefits to consumers.

After the dairy industry navigated through the most difficult aspects of the pandemic “extremely well,” Dykes said the event will zero in on where the industry is going and the key issues it is facing. He pointed out that some of the pertinent topics for dairy now include economic and geopolitical uncertainty, high inflation, workforce challenges, processors integrating the latest innovations, the coming 2023 Farm Bill and supply chain issues with trucks, railroads and ocean vessels.

Some of the featured speakers lined up for Dairy Forum will address those topics and more. Dykes said former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan will provide a view of the political landscape and labor needs. And former US Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman and former chair of the House Committee on Agriculture Collin Peterson will weigh in on food and ag policy and what they see coming for the industry.

“I just think this Dairy Forum will have something in it for everyone,” Dykes said. “I do believe they’ll leave Orlando energized with what they hear.”