Dear Members of Holstein Association USA:
This year is like no other.
While COVID-19 has stripped much of our ability to travel and meet face-to-face, your board of directors and staff have stepped up communication. In the wake of this global pandemic, senior leadership converses daily to work through each day’s new challenges in order to just keep business operations moving. It’s as if we are in a constant daily battle against an unseen enemy.
I’m sure each of you faces many of the same challenges on your dairy business.
While I have been very determined to have an in-person annual meeting, the stark reality set in on Monday, May 4, 2020, an in-person convention will be nearly impossible. That was my personal conclusion, and that of staff on the planning call, after yet another meeting with potential hotel sites for a “bare bones” annual meeting to merely conduct essential Association business. That was a hard pill to swallow from someone who just served as the co-chair for the 2019 National Holstein Convention.
Here’s the reality . . . Hotels will require social distancing throughout the summer and likely into the fall. Each delegate would have to be seated at his or her own 2-foot by 6-foot table. Meals would have to be served in the same fashion at single tables or via boxed lunches. The potential to have a banquet is almost nonexistent. There can be no hallway conversations with less than six feet of space.
That’s the scenario if one can even travel to the convention location. On top of that, some of our colleagues have expressed reluctance to board a plane during this health crisis.
Then there’s the juniors.
The same before mentioned social distancing would apply to all the contests our juniors have come to enjoy. They would have to maintain 6-foot social distance and juniors from non-related families would be required to have their own hotel rooms based on advice from hotels and their insurance carriers. There would be no dance. No fun night.
Put even more succinctly, hotels have shown little interest in having delegations of junior members assemble due to policing social distancing guidelines.
On top of all that, the vigorous in-person dialogue we’ve come to appreciate between candidates and delegates cannot happen this year. Caucuses would be nearly impossible. Online options, in which everyone can converse given limitations of our nation?s rural broad band network, would make an online election unlikely if we want to ensure every delegate can cast their ballot. Should we proceed with a paper ballot by mail, there likely would need to be multiple votes given that we have an open seat for an at-large director position.
If we could do all that, we have no means to onboard new directors through on-site interaction at 1 Holstein Place. On top of that, all our board meetings may be virtual for the remainder of the year and communicating on multi-hour conference calls is laborious to say the least. I know firsthand after 44 hours of conference calls on behalf of our Association since mid-March. To say the least, communication and decision making just isn’t the same on phones and video conferencing when compared to an in-person meeting.
Given all of the triage management we must do each day, the Holstein Association USA board of directors voted unanimously to endorse the actions detailed in the enclosed “Postponement of the 135th Annual Meeting and Announcement of a 2020 Virtual Member Update Meeting.” Please forgive the formalness of that notice as it’s a governance matter that must be firmly detailed by our leaders.
We do not take this request lightly. But the current conditions leave us with little choice.
We need to navigate our Association through this crisis. We also need to maintain the director rotation and its all important transfer of knowledge system intact. Those guideposts established years ago has served us so well.
Rest assured, should the COVID-19 pandemic persist into 2021, we will exercise every means necessary to hold an election. However, this year, we believe our time and energy should be spent sustaining critical business functions. We owe that to every member.
On behalf of the Holstein Association USA Board of Directors and the staff of Holstein Association USA, we appreciate your continued support during these dire times.
Humbly, your President,
Holstein Association USA