For more than 20 years, Doug Nuttelman has been serving in leadership roles in cooperatives. A strong believer in the cooperative structure, Nuttelman has served as chairman of Dairy Farmers of America’s Central Area Council since 2006 and on the Cooperative’s Board of Directors since 2000. He also serves on the Board’s Executive Committee.
What is your role as Area chairman?
I think one of the main roles, and one I take seriously, is to make sure everyone on the council is receiving good, accurate information that they can take back to their members. It’s important that we have open communication with each other, between members, and between members and management. I also help make sure the council understands management decisions and that they are able to use that information to make better decisions and answer producers’ questions.
One of my main goals is to grow my council. I make sure that we get the proper DFA staff to our meetings to answer questions and provide information. I work with the council and management to make sure that our members and our farmer leaders are exposed to DFA and the Cooperative’s processes to make sure everyone understands how their Cooperative works. I think that’s very important.
How do you work with Area management?
Part of my role is to help with the farmer focus in management. I work closely with Randy McGinnis, chief operating officer of the Central and Southeast Areas, in helping him and other senior management understand how decisions affect farmers and what’s best for farmers. DFA’s management has a very strong farmer focus, and I think it’s because the staff works so closely with the farmer leadership of the Cooperative.
Some people might think we work with management to run operations, but that’s not what we’re there for. We have a solid management team in place that has experience in running dairy plants and marketing milk. We’re there to help keep the focus on farmers and weigh in on what’s best for our members.
How do you think DFA’s elected farmer leadership contributes to the strength of the Cooperative?
We call ourselves a grassroots organization, and when you look at the grassroots structure, there are more than 800 people, from delegates and resolutions committee members to Area councils and the Board, who serve in leadership roles. When you have that many people giving input, they’re not all going to have the same opinion. But, we’re all dairy farmers who want the same thing in the long run. We’re working together toward a common goal, and I think that makes us strong. If it’s the right thing for dairy farmers, it’s going to be the right thing for DFA. A strong co-op will always be able to provide value for farmers.
Why did you decide to take on a leadership role in the Cooperative?
In the 1980s, I was a member of my local farming cooperative. We had a young board who hired a CEO who led us down the wrong path. I ended up losing $54,000 of equity because of bad decisions by the co-op, which eventually went bankrupt. I made the decision then that if I’m going to be a member of a cooperative, I needed to learn the cooperative structure and be involved in the organization that I owned part of. Since I’ve been involved, one of my main focuses is to protect member equity.