Transparency Drives ‘Making Every Drop Count’ Program

  • 4 min read April 27, 2022
  • Marilyn Hershey
  • DMI Chair

I’m not aware of any dairy farmer who doesn’t make every penny count on their farm.

When I pay my bills, I don’t just randomly pay them. I scour the invoice to make sure it matches up with the work that’s being done or with what I’ve ordered. Everything that comes through the door or goes back out is scrutinized to assure we’re not wasting our hard-earned money.

This means I’m also aware of the 15-cent-per-hundredweight deduction from my milk check that we contribute to our checkoff programs to promote and protect dairy – locally, nationally and internationally.

I’ve been fortunate to have had a front-row seat to the workings of the national checkoff as chair of Dairy Management Inc. (DMI). I also see up close the work being done locally through my role as a member of the American Dairy Association North East (ADANE) Board of Directors.

I know this is not the norm and I understand many farmers across the U.S. may wonder what their 15 cents is doing for them. This is a very fair question and one the checkoff has begun putting resources behind to offer a more in-depth and – more important – transparent response at checkoff priorities, strategies and results.

This is the impetus behind the Making Every Drop Count effort that you’ll see more of in the coming months. This is a first-of-its-kind program for the checkoff because the work isn’t targeted toward consumers or thought leaders. Instead, we are the audience. I think it’s a crucial step to assure farmers that our programs are fulfilling their mission of driving sales and building trust.

Making Every Drop Count is designed for every farmer who contributes to the checkoff to become more familiar with and better understand their program. And, to borrow from my opening line, learn more about how every penny farmers invest is valued by the people who manage the checkoff on our behalf.

Delivering the ‘why’

Many times, our checkoff staff share the “what” of their work, meaning they performed ‘X’ tactic that created ‘X’ result. While results are an important part of our communications, farmers are increasingly asking about the “why” behind it all. Checkoff farmer leaders are privy to these strategic insights, but we haven’t always explained the why beyond our promotion board meetings.

For example:

  • Why do we partner with major foodservice companies such as Taco Bell, McDonald’s and Domino’s?
  • Why don’t we advertise anymore?
  • Why is the Gen Z consumer such a big focus?
  • Why is putting such a strong emphasis on exports so crucial to our bottom line?

We hope Making Every Drop Count shares insights on the “whys” and explains the reasons for a strategy being established, advanced or, sometimes, discontinued.

There are two very appealing aspects of this work, in my opinion. First, you’ll begin seeing Making Every Drop Count content appear in some of the more popular industry magazines we read as well as the websites and social media platforms we visit. Farmers will be front and center in telling this important story as we are the ones who fund, lead and direct our checkoff priorities and strategies. Let’s face it: Farmers turn to other farmers for all sorts of questions or validation.

Second, Making Every Drop Count is a federation-wide effort. This means the initiative aims to tell a full 15-cent story – it’s not just a “national” or “local” message. It’s DMI, our state and regional promotion organizations, along with our international marketing affiliate, the U.S. Dairy Export Council, to show the power of the nickel and dime working together. These synergies are strong, and staffs across the country rely on each other to succeed. My experience has been that when you speak from just a national or just a local perspective, you’re speaking from a silo. When you speak about the whole 15 cents, you’re representing a complete story and a full impact.

Making Every Drop Count is an exciting and natural progression of our desire to deliver more transparency and information in an era when farmers seek it.

All of us work too hard to not understand where every penny we earn goes and how it is being used. This isn’t just true for the money we invest in our farms but in our dairy checkoff.

Every drop of it counts.