While some dairy farmers would still like to see highly visible dairy advertising spots, those initiatives had become feel-good campaigns yielding little in the way of new product sales. The revamped, partner-based approach that leverages our precious dairy checkoff investment by having like-minded businesses put financial skin in the game has yielded more dividends. How does this strategy compare to other agricultural groups?

Among the 27 promotion and research organizations for food commodities, each $1 investment yielded returns ranging from $1.24 for mushrooms to $27.73 for watermelons. Dairy stands at $4.97. However, outside of beef, eggs, lamb, pork, and poultry, none of the 21 other commodity programs must deal with the complexities of animal agriculture. This presents greater challenges for livestock products.

Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), the organization that manages the national dairy checkoff, has grown dairy sales via a number of traditional and nontraditional avenues. DMI created collaborative relationships with McDonald’s, Domino’s, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell to bring more dairy ingredients to menu items.

In 2008, DMI brought forth the concept that created the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy as agriculture’s first organization to foster precompetitive collaboration within an industry. It now facilitates thought-leading conversations in sustainability, health and wellness, food safety, globalization, and other pressing matters. That collective synergy has developed workable solutions to many of dairy’s pressing issues. Fuel Up to Play 60 and the GenYouth Foundation have extended the synergy even further by developing collaborative efforts with the National Football League, USDA, and schools across the country.

Our checkoff contributions also fund the U.S. Dairy Export Council. USDEC in turn plays a vital role in helping to sell 15-plus percent of our milk production abroad. Recently, state and regional budgets grew USDEC’s budget even further by reallocating regional promotion dollars.

Not all checkoff investments yield the same $4.97 return for dairy. For instance, every promotional $1 spent on the export initiatives returned $5.59 to dairy farmers. That number falls to $2.99 for fluid milk, a more robust $7.72 for cheese, and an impactful $32.06 for butter.

While the dairy checkoff has done well with our investment, there is always room for improvement. That’s because some ag promotion groups still outperform dairy’s $4.97 return on investment.