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IMHA does milk industry good

Oct. 2, 2023
Growing milk haulers association celebrates 2023 Annual Convention, looks ahead to second Leadership Summit Sept. 26-27 in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan

Milk does a body good. The International Milk Haulers Association (IMHA) is helping nourish the entire dairy industry.

Got time to learn why?

Well, just ask Brandon Johnson, president of the association, and the Hagen Johnson Group, who has helped grow IMHA’s membership during his tenure, and last year oversaw the debut of a new Leadership Summit, which held its second meeting Sept. 26-27 at the Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.

“Our mission is to better the milk-hauling ecosystem, and that includes the milk haulers, but also the plants, the equipment, the regulations, and our communities,” he said. “So from all those perspectives, the focus is on coming together to address the challenges we’re facing today—and look ahead to the opportunities of tomorrow.”

The association’s 2023 Annual Convention in April drew 270 attendees to Chandler, Arizona, with a symmetrical split of milk haulers and allied members, such as vendors and cooperative shippers. IMHA presented fleet safety awards, provided tours of area dairy plants, and spotlighted critical industry topics and technologies.

The next Annual Convention is April 21-23, 2024, in Charlotte, North Carolina. The convention also provides networking, vendors displaying new technology and equipment, education and regulatory sessions, and endless connections. One attendee from the convention said “This is the first convention I have been to where everyone was friendly and willing to talk about their business. I enjoyed it all. Thank you!”

IMHA increased membership benefits with the addition of a Fleet Safety Contest in 2022, recognizing member fleets in good standing with the best records of safe operations. The program breaks down into three categories of miles driven for the previous year, and reviews each applicant’s accident records, safety efforts, and programs implemented, demonstrating the continual commitment to safety. The 2023 Fleet Safety Contest winners were Byrne Dairy (Lafayette, New York), Maher Milk Hauling (Bliss, New York), and Idaho Milk Transport (Burley, Idaho).

“If you’re a milk hauler, or anyone associated with the industry, having a voice in a community built around what you’re doing is the best way to collectively focus on how we can all level up the ecosystem we’re a part of,” Johnson said.

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Cooperative collective

The milk-hauling association, which will celebrate its silver jubilee as the International Milk Haulers Association in 2025, traces its roots to the 1970s, when it was founded as the National Federation of Milk Hauler Associations. IMHA today represents about 300 members, who include dairy haulers, cooperatives, processors, suppliers, and state associations in the U.S., Australia, Canada, Ireland, and New Zealand.

The association provides an academic scholarship each year. The scholarship was created in honor of past president and avid advocate, Bruce Johnston (Morval LaLone, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan). Each year, donations provided through sponsorship of the annual golf outing and the website directly contribute to the scholarship fund. Since its inception in 2003, IMHA has awarded 21 scholarships to IMHA family members or employees.

Johnson, whose companies include Hagen Johnson Trucking, Hagen Tank Wash, and Liquid Freight, joined the association in 2016. He has served as president the last two years. The board of directors, which is led by Cherie Hime, Executive Director, includes Skyler Sherrod (Western Dairy Transport), Barney McConnell (Dairy Farmers of America), Dennis Gavin (Caledonia Haulers), Curt LaLone (MLT Transport), Jim Miller (Wabash), and others.

In addition to education and awards, IMHA provides members with an amplified voice within the biennial National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments (NCIMS), which recently held its 38th meeting in April in Indianapolis, Indiana. Currently, the executive director holds a seat on the Hauling Procedures Committee.

“The [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] has allowed our industry to play an active part in how we manage the milk supply chain, and the rules we must follow when we’re picking up, delivering, or processing milk,” Johnson explained. “They only do that with the oversight of the biennial conference, where any rule changes are discussed. So IMHA plays a key role in that conference because we’re a critical part.”

Leadership Summit

The first Leadership Summit, held in Burlington, Vermont, focused on attributes of an effective leader, communication skills, trends in people strategies, increasing company appeal; and included a dairy plant tour, a ride and drive in an electric truck, and intentional networking. This year’s summit continued in the same vein with strategic communication, networking, and organizational effectiveness that included helping rising leaders in today’s dairy transportation industry develop core skills. Special guest speakers included Dr. Brenda Grettenberger, an animal doctor; Robert Schimmenti, former senior vice president of electric operations at Consolidated Edison; Prof. John Spink, Michigan State University; Dan Erikson, Harold Wainess & Associates; and local law enforcement. Topics included leadership, transportation trends and compliance, and company culture.

“It’s really focused on leveling up our leadership,” Johnson said.

The two-day event also featured a session on food-grade tank compliance, a manufacturing panel featuring representatives from MAC LTT, STE, Tremcar, and Wabash, a roadside inspection demonstration with the Michigan Department of Transportation, and a tour of the nearby MAC LTT stainless-steel division plant in Mt. Pleasant.

The closing reception included a keynote on food safety by Roger Hauck, a member of the Michigan State Senate who grew up on a dairy farm.

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About the Author

Jason McDaniel

Jason McDaniel, based in the Houston TX area, has more than 20 years of experience as an award-winning journalist. He spent 15 writing and editing for daily newspapers, including the Houston Chronicle, and began covering the commercial vehicle industry in 2018. He was named editor of Bulk Transporter and Refrigerated Transporter magazines in July 2020.