What did Checkoff do for Dairy Farmers in 2023?

  • 4 min read December 27, 2023
  • Marilyn Hershey
  • DMI Chair

Like most folks, I reflect back on all that has been accomplished this time of year.  I also wonder where the time went. I’ve come to realize this is a sign of a busy year both on the farm and with checkoff.

My highlight from 2023 is relationships – existing ones we’ve strengthened and new ones we’ve built. Farming is a business built on relationships, and checkoff is no different.  We aim to bring value to every relationship, so dairy is top of mind.

Heading into 2024, that won’t change. We also want consumers to have dairy top of their minds. We don’t only want to move more product, but we want dairy to be a food and beverage category of choice domestically and worldwide.

It is the holiday season, so indulgence is front and center. I can’t help but notice my non-dairy farmer friends have increased their ice cream consumption and are buying more butter for baking. But we also know real dairy has incredible health benefits and the checkoff team will continue working on product innovation to meet consumer preferences and promote dairy as part of a healthy diet.

This isn’t just about my highlights from the year. I also want to address some of the most frequently asked farmer questions.  

What is dairy checkoff doing to reach youth, both locally and nationally, in schools?

In 2023 we took a new approach to how we’re reaching youth with dairy’s story. We transitioned to our new Fuel Up program and our partnership with the NFL is now a no-cost collaboration. This provides greater flexibility in programming both nationally and locally with the state and regional checkoff organizations. The local checkoff teams have great programs in place to reach youth in new, exciting ways.

Nationally, we are also working with teachers and curriculum-writers through dairy-based STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).

We know today’s youth are not only dairy consumers but will be decision makers down the road, and they will remain a key area of focus for your checkoff team.

Is checkoff still working with Raising Cane’s to get cheese on their chicken sandwiches?

Yes, we are still working closely with Raising Canes as one of our restaurant partners. I mentioned relationships as my highlight from this past year. Our relationship with Raising Cane’s has grown stronger over the past year as we learned about their growth opportunities and how we can better support bringing more dairy to their menu offerings.

In short, there is still a BIG opportunity here. There are approximately 2 billion chicken sandwiches sold in the U.S. each year that do not have cheese on them. I don’t think I’m sharing a controversial opinion by saying those sandwiches would taste even better with cheese on top.

We took a deep dive into our restaurant partners, including Raising Cane’s, on the Your Dairy Checkoff podcast – you can tune in below at the 4:58 mark to hear more. We talk about the positive, but we also dive into the challenges. Sometimes work doesn’t go the way you plan so you ask questions and adjust course. I encourage you to listen to the video through 11:30 as we dive into the challenges and how we’re planning to adjust heading into 2024.


How can dairy farmers stay informed on what checkoff is doing on their behalf?

We try to reach all generations of farmers where they’re at. I know my 30-something kids never pick up a newspaper, so we’re reaching new generations of farmers through digital platforms. But we haven’t gone away from traditional media. We know there are still a lot of farmers who appreciate seeing our ads and written columns in the industry publications that show up in their mailboxes.

For those who want even more information on checkoff activities, here are the ways I encourage you to connect:

More Checkoff Highlights

This is just an overview of what your dairy checkoff team has been up to in 2023. If you want to dive deeper into our year in review, tune in to the video podcast below.