Dairy checkoff programs partners, strengthen farmers' voice

  • 4 min read September 28, 2018

National Dairy Council, Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and U.S. Dairy Export CouncilFor farmers and other members of the dairy community, the current environment is challenging. From unpredictability facing our global markets and competition from non-dairy beverages to seasonal weather conditions and surplus dairy products and ingredients, there’s a lot of uncertainty facing U.S. dairy.

Over the last several months, I’ve visited with many farmers across the country to learn more about the realities you face, as well as discussing solutions your national and local dairy promotion organizations can lead, help support or rely on others representing U.S. dairy to take the lead.

Dairy Management Inc. (which manages the national dairy checkoff) works in partnership with state and regional promotion organizations to protect and grow sales and trust in dairy, and to help find a home for your milk via product development, nutrition and consumer research, and marketing.

This national/local partnership maximizes your 15-cent investment and broadens the reach of your programming to more consumers, customers and grass-roots farmers.

We also work with and through the broader dairy community to accomplish more together on your behalf than any one single organization or program could do alone. That is why farmer leadership has created or works with other entities to help ensure your perspective is heard across the value chain on the issues impacting your business. This includes:

National Dairy Council
Dairy farmers established NDC in 1915 to be the credible voice for dairy science and education through its team of registered dietitians, nutrition researchers and communication experts. NDC provides science-based education about the nutrition and health benefits dairy foods provide.

NDC’s work includes longstanding relationships with leading health and nutrition thought leaders, including members of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, American Academy of Pediatrics and School Nutrition Association, among others, to impact sales and help establish advocates for the positive nutritional role dairy plays in our nation’s communities and schools.

NDC’s collaboration with partners to accomplish shared goals to improve health and well-being has helped gain momentum for programs such as Fuel Up to Play 60 and the Great American Milk Drive as well as advance the conversation about dairy’s role in sustainable food systems.

Additionally, having dialogue around emerging science such as the role of dairy foods and health – regardless of fat level – helps grow understanding and acknowledgement for how whole-milk dairy foods can fit within an overall balanced diet.

Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy
Founded by dairy farmers through the checkoff in 2008, the Innovation Center gives farmers a voice in the marketing chain on pre-competitive opportunities and issues impacting the dairy community. The overarching goal is to foster industry alignment on best practices and to unite to share dairy’s story with consumers.

The Innovation Center is comprised of dairy cooperatives, farmer organizations, companies and brands to address sustainability and environmental stewardship, food safety, animal care, sustainable nutrition and other issues important to consumers and that ultimately can impact dairy sales and trust.

Dairy farmers’ voice is carried throughout the Innovation Center – more than half of the board member companies are farmer-owned or farmer-led, and farmers are active members of committees and working groups to ensure your perspective is shared throughout the value chain.

U.S. Dairy Export Council
USDEC was created in 1995 to give dairy farmers a voice in the international marketing chain by bringing the U.S. dairy community together to grow global exports. Funded in part by the checkoff, along with more than 120 dues-paying member companies and organizations, USDEC helps guide dairy suppliers to innovate and become a consistent supplier globally.

Under the leadership of president and CEO Tom Vilsack, USDEC collaborates with others to ensure a unified voice on trade policy and to position U.S. dairy positively around the world.

And, with current trade policy discussions affecting farmers, USDEC uses non-checkoff resources to collaborate with National Milk Producers Federation and other organizations to ensure dairy’s perspective is shared with government and international officials.

National Milk Producers Federation
National Milk Producers Federation develops and carries out policies that advance dairy farmers and the cooperatives they own. NMPF member cooperatives represent most of the U.S. milk supply, which positions NMPF as the leading dairy farmer voice on Capitol Hill and with government agencies.

For example, NMPF is the farmers’ lead voice on issues regarding plant-based beverages and standards of identity with legislators and policy-makers. Checkoff organizations (NDC) can then focus efforts on providing nutrition research and science-based resources that reinforce the important role dairy plays in plant-based diets.

Milk Processor Education Program
MilkPEP represents U.S. milk companies to help educate consumers and influencers on milk’s positive nutritional benefits and to increase fluid milk consumption. Often referenced as the “processor checkoff,” MilkPEP has USDA oversight.

The goals of MilkPEP and the farmer checkoff are aligned, and we create and coordinate marketing plans to ensure a consistent, unified approach to consumer and thought leader outreach. This includes collaboration on MilkPEP’s “Milk Life” and the Undeniably Dairy campaign, plus efforts to reach children through Fuel Up to Play 60 and other youth-focused programs.

Partnering with others who carry your voice and share your goals has been – and will remain – our priority as we work to create a better future for dairy. For information or to share your perspective, contact me at talktothecheckoff@dairy.org or leave a comment below.

This article originally appeared in Progressive Dairyman