By Jeff Strassburg, WMMB Board Member - District 9
Society's relationship with modern agriculture is much different today than in the past.
There are people who criticize modern animal farming practices, while others appreciate aspects such as low food prices and food safety measures, which make our food supply the safest in the world. Both negative and positive perceptions about modern dairy farming will continue to be a challenge for Wisconsin dairy farmers in an ever more urbanized world. While some consumers want the nostalgic traditions of dairying, they also want progressiveness, which has allowed us for example to reduce our carbon footprint by 64% over the past fifty years and high quality choices for their food.
Much has been written about changing consumer attitudes, a topic our checkoff has been addressing for years. The Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board's Dairy Impact initiative has been, an education campaign about the financial importance of the dairy industry in Wisconsin. At the time of the campaign's introduction in 2001, Wisconsin's dairy industry contributed $18.6 billion to the state's economy. Now 15 years later, this same industry generates $43.4 billion in economic impact to Wisconsin's economy.
The campaign at that time had three goals: to showcase the role everyone in our dairy industry plays in Wisconsin's economic future; to demonstrate why a strong, growing dairy industry is important to Wisconsin citizens; and to generate a better understanding among state residents of how the dairy industry fits into our daily lives.
Our checkoff program has been researching, tracking and monitoring what drives consumers in their purchasing decisions, specifically in the dairy aisle. Food has become a way of self-expression and identity, but consumers want more- they want transparency. They want to know exactly where their food comes from, how it has been grown and who is behind it.
Recognizing there is such a demand for transparency and opportunity for education, WMMB has really taken the initial Dairy Impact program and evolved it to include a strong consumer trust initiative.
While our checkoff program develops and carries out some really influential programs, we as dairy farmers have to go beyond our monetary investment and we NEED to get involved. In today's society it is critically important to share what you and I do on our farms and go beyond the general pro-dairy messages in protecting our social right to dairy farm.
Here are a few ways you can get involved:
- Host a farm tour, WMMB has developed the Wisconsin Dairy Farm Tour Booklet to be a quick reference for helping you give a successful farm tour. wmmb.com/producers/farm-tour
- The Amplification Center, provided by our National checkoff program provides great content for your farm or personal social media accounts. Contact WMMB for more information.
- Utilize "Speak up for Dairy", WMMB's web page and training seminars to help you talk about key issues, help with social media and media tips as well as up-to-date facts and figures. http://www.wmmb.com/producers/speak-up-for-dairy
- Connect with America's Dairyland on social media, participate in the conversation and help WMMB bridge the gap from the farm to fork. facebook.com/AmericasDairyland
- Reach out to your elected directors or WMMB staff to find out what other additional resources are available, spokesperson trainings or County Dairy Leader Group involvement opportunities.
As much as we want to be able to make the anti-dairy messaging go away, we need to remember that 96% percent of Americans buy our products. We just need to be actively involved in the conversation to reassure them that dairy should be part of their healthy diet.