Southeast Milk, Inc., was created on October 1, 1998, with the merger of two Florida dairy cooperatives, Florida Dairy Farmers' Association and Tampa Independent Dairy Farmers' Association, Inc. The two predecessor cooperatives developed separately, but the growth of the two moved in parallel lines. TIDFA's original group of dairy farmers formed a cooperative in 1948, with incorporation as TIDFA in 1967; FDFA's was first chartered in 1956, but the aim of both cooperatives was to more efficiently market their members' milk. Each cooperative formed its own trucking department to haul the milk, TIDFA in 1969 and FDFA in 1973. Through the years, both cooperatives merged with other cooperatives and expanded their membership. In 1998, it was agreed that the future of the Florida dairy farmers could best be served by merger of the two cooperatives. SMI presently markets 3 billion pounds of milk annually.
SMI is a full-service cooperative operating for the benefit of its members. SMI's members are now in four states. Most dairies in Florida and approximately half in Georgia are SMI members. SMI also is pleased to have members in Alabama and Tennessee. Size of member herds range from under 100 to over 3000. There are 25 members of the Board of Directors. The Board meets monthly in open meetings where any member can attend and participate. It offers dairy supplies and feed mill services to its members and others, the "profits" of which operations are returned to its members.
Other business ventures that benefit members are an ultra-filtration plant and a dairy processing plant. In an effort to produce enough milk for the growing population of the Southeast, particularly Florida, the winter months see excess production with milk shipped out of the state. Conversely, the summer's heat and humidity reduce production levels and create a milk deficit situation, and SMI procures and moves milk into the state. One of SMI's biggest expenses is the cost of moving milk. To curb the expense, SMI undertook construction and operation of an ultra-filtration plant. In times of excess, three loads can be shipped to this plant in Baconton, Georgia, where milk is forced through a series of filters in a maze of pipes, and is reduced from the original three loads down to one. This one load is then shipped to distant markets, rather than having the expense of shipping the original three. This reduction in transportation cost results in increased returns to members.
In April 2004, SMI purchased Gustafson's Dairy. Gustafson's was a family-run business with a loyal following. It, too, has proven to be a successful venture for SMI. 60 loads of milk per week are processed at the plant, and customer base has increased since the purchase.
SMI currently handles most of the milk marketed in the state of Florida. The growth of SMI rests upon the reputation of its predecessors, FDFA and TIDFA, for providing the highest quality product available at a cost that is fair and equitable to both the farmers and the processors who service the consuming public in Florida. It is our job to balance the needs of the two customers, farmers and processors, so that they are both satisfied. We depend on our employees working as a team to attain that goal. – less–ZoomInfo