Q&A: Jim Bylsma

Written by Marjie Knust
1 of 1

Jim Bylsma, Western Area and Corporate Resolutions
Jim Bylsma Dairy, Escalon, Calif.

Jim Bylsma has spent 33 years on the farm he took over from his father in Escalon, Calif. Milking 600 cows and raising four children has kept him busy, but Bylsma still finds time to serve on Dairy Farmers of America’s Western Area and Corporate Resolutions Committees, a position he’s held since DFA’s formation in 1998. DFA’s resolutions are guidelines used by the Board of Directors and Cooperative management to lead and govern DFA. Each Area has a resolutions committee, which considers resolutions submitted by members, then makes recommendations to the Corporate Resolutions Committee. The corporate committee reviews and debates the Area contributions and narrows down the resolutions to a final slate, which is voted on by elected delegates during DFA’s Annual Meeting in March. Area Resolutions Committee meetings begin in January.

“Since my time chairing the committee, I can always count on Jim to lead by example in how he debates important issues with passion, all the while showing respect for opposing views,” says Jerrel Heatwole, chairman of the Corporate Resolutions Committee. “The Western Area is lucky to have him representing the Cooperative in this process. Now is the time for members to think through changes they would like to see in the Cooperative’s policy and get involved.”

What is your responsibility as a Corporate Resolutions Committee member?

I make an effort to get local input from members in my Area, so I can bring issues and resolutions from our Area Resolutions Committee to the corporate committee and Annual Meeting to try and get things done and local issues addressed. A lot of the job is just keeping your ear to the ground and talking to people about what is going on. We have a meeting in early January that helps us prepare for our Western Area Resolutions meeting. After that, I spend some time preparing to submit resolutions that come from Area producers. I want to understand where everyone is coming from if they have a resolution to submit so I can fairly present it. So, I do some research, get some background and make sure I understand the issue.

How do you ensure you’re representing your Area producers fairly?

Whether I agree with a proposed resolution or not, I have to present it fairly. You don’t go in as a committee member to push your own agenda. It helps to learn the process first. Once you see how the system works, you know that presenting fairly is the right way to do it. You present a proposed resolution, then let it be discussed among everyone on the committee.

How does the resolutions process strengthen the Cooperative?

It’s truly the grassroots foundation of DFA. The process has a lot of integrity to it. The Cooperative takes it very seriously; it’s not just a formality. Everyone involved in the process respects the system, and it does make a difference. I’ve been on the committee since the beginning, and I’ve seen it evolve and improve. The first few years after DFA was formed were pretty rough, but the resolutions process persevered, and I think it’s served us really well.