New Checkoff Chair Focused on Continuing the Momentum

  • 4 min read June 5, 2018
  • Marilyn Hershey
  • DMI Chair

As a member of the farmer board of Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), the organization that oversees the dairy promotion checkoff, I’ve seen some amazing things. The strides we’ve made in moving more of your dairy products here and around the world are long ones. I am dedicated to continuing that momentum for you as the board’s new chair.

I’ve always been a proponent of dairy promotion, so it was natural that I worked to get a seat on the board of American Dairy Association North East (ADANE). ADANE is a member of the United Dairy Industry Association, the federation of local promotion organizations that, along with the National Dairy Board, formed DMI in 1995. Soon, I also was on the DMI board and all of these experiences really opened my eyes.

I thought I knew promotion – but I still had a lot to learn. What was most gratifying was seeing the collaboration between local and national checkoff staffs. Looking at other checkoff organizations, no one has as deep and as experienced a staff, working seamlessly together, covering the entire country. That is a big benefit to dairy farmers.

The video above is an exclusive DairyBusiness News interview with Marilyn Hershey of DMI.

On the DMI board, as with ADANE, I found farmers dedicated to doing the right things for their fellow dairymen. They put co-op and regional issues aside and concentrate on the biggest picture: increasing dairy sales and dairy trust in the U.S. and globally. Dairy promotion boards are made up of inspiring people who know what every other farmer is going through.

One of those is Paul Rovey, who served as chair since 2003 and decided to step down in February. His are some big shoes to fill – figuratively and literally – because he oversaw the checkoff as it moved from a traditional generic advertising company to a more agile and strategic organization that works with partners to overcome the true barriers to dairy growth. That move was unprecedented, but it was necessary, and it’s been a big success. Paul has done a lot for America’s dairy farm families.

Making the Checkoff Work Even Harder

My job, as I see it, is to maintain and accelerate that success. Here are just a few of the areas we’re focusing on in 2018 and beyond.

Our business plan is based on partnerships with category leaders and innovators such as McDonald’s, Domino’s, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and fairlife. Partners are giving us a great return on our investment, including spending their own dollars to promote and advertise our products.

One indirect value farmers don’t always see is how our work with partners impacts other restaurant chains that we don’t work with. For example, you see others copy McDonald’s by shifting to butter instead of margarine, and pizza companies showcasing cheese as the key ingredient, just as Domino’s did. Our partners reach consumers directly and deliver on the single goal of moving more dairy. Now, we are looking overseas to find global partners – because exports are so important to our future.

National Dairy Council teamed with the NFL to develop Fuel Up to Play 60 and bring dairy’s health and wellness message into more than 70,000 schools. This is helping provide youth with nutritious dairy through schools with enhanced breakfast offerings and other programs. As a result, kids are understanding the importance of good nutrition at a young age and seeing the connection between farm and fork – and that’s critical to our industry’s future as well.

Ensuring consumer confidence in dairy and dairy farmers is a must as consumers turn a more critical eye on food production, animal care and environmental issues. The way people are looking at information is very different, so we must continually ask ourselves, “How do we best tell our story and get it out there?” That’s what we’re doing through the checkoff-led, industry-wide Undeniably Dairy initiative developed through the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. It’s a new kind of commercial and a new way to put ourselves in the conversation.
I’m fortunate to inherit a strong foundation from the work so many other dairy leaders have done. My job is to make sure we continue building and seeking new opportunities that make sense for us. Along the way, we want to make sure you understand our strategy and how it’s making a difference for you.

I’m honored to represent America’s dairy farmers and continue the checkoff’s mission of growing worldwide demand for U.S. dairy and building confidence in your products, your farm practices and, of course, you, America’s dairy farmers.

If you have any thoughts or questions, please reach out to us at

This article was originally posted in DairyBusiness.