Some dairymen and women have raised questions as to whether or not the Dairy Promotion and Research Program still delivers value for the 15-cent investment each of us makes for every 100 pounds of milk that leaves our farms. It’s a valid question that deserves an answer 37 years after the dairy checkoff’s inception.
Before delving into the matter, its important to establish the metrics for which to judge the program. By its charter signed into federal law and governance overseen by USDA, the Dairy Promotion and Research Program should “develop and implement programs to expand human consumption of dairy products by focusing on partnerships and innovation, product positioning with consumers, and new places for dairy product consumption.”
Given that edict, the program must concentrate on dairy product promotion. The dairy checkoff cannot develop local, state, or federal policy solutions. It cannot work on milk price solutions, and it most certainly cannot buy dairy products.
Has the Dairy Promotion and Research Program grown demand for dairy products?
At its creation, per capita dairy product consumption, on a milk-equivalent, milkfat basis, stood at 573 pounds. Said more plainly, every American consumed 573 pounds of cows’ milk in the form of dairy products in 1983. That’s according to USDA data.
Over the next 37 years, per capita consumption gradually climbed to 646 pounds by 2018. That means every American now consumes 73 additional pounds of milk when compared to one generation ago. Even more telling, dairy product consumption is at a 56-year high.
That’s significant progress.
This report card doesn’t even factor in the work done by the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC). Those checkoff efforts create demand for U.S. dairy products beyond our borders. These days, roughly 14 to 15 percent of all milk produced by U.S. dairy cows leaves our shores. That number was a meager 2 to 3 percent when USDEC was formed by Dairy Management Inc. in 1995.
Let’s look at total value.
According to third-party research at Texas A&M University . . . every $1 spent on dairy promotion returns:
- $4.11 for fluid milk
- $4.81 for cheese
- $8.10 for dairy product exports
- $22.74 on butter
Based on this evidence, the Dairy Promotion and Research Program is more relevant than ever. Quite frankly, we must ask ourselves, “Where would dairy product consumption be without it?”
We fear dairy would be in the sales’ dumpster.