Tom Gallagher, CEO of Dairy Management Inc.

Many of us have lived through some of history’s most significant moments; the ones that transformed our country and its people. The September 11 attacks . . . the Gulf War that was televised before our eyes . . . the market crashes of 1987 and 2008.

But we’ve never experienced anything like this, something that poses a collective threat to our health, the health of our loved ones, and our livelihoods.

The hardest part of dealing with the coronavirus crisis may be what is waiting for us around the corner. How bad can it get?

Will the economy and jobs recover?

How long will it last?

It’s difficult finding comfort in the unknown.

During these past few weeks, I am reminded of how much respect I have for our dairy farmers who, despite it all, are doing what they always do. They’re worried about their own families and businesses, yet they remain focused on feeding our nation (and the world) by keeping grocery stores filled with safe, nutritious dairy products.

Playing a role as one of our country’s critical infrastructure industries, the work of our dairy farmers is more important than ever — in their communities and the nation at large. That’s a huge responsibility to carry, and I’m proud of the resilience and hard work I’m seeing from dairy farmers, every day.

Likewise, your checkoff remains focused, delivering on its mission to drive sales and trust in dairy. We’re actively monitoring the situation, making resources available, and providing support wherever needed. Many of the foodservice partners and others with whom we work closely are in a similar situation, yet they are doing what they can to stay the course, too. Some of the product and menu innovation work we do with our partners may be delayed, but it isn’t being canceled.

In times of crisis, it’s important for our industry to work together and speak with one voice. The Dairy Communications Management Team (DCMT) — comprised of experienced communicators across five leading organizations — works around the clock to help protect U.S. dairy and ensure strategic communication and cross-organizational engagement. The ongoing efforts of DMI, National Milk Producers Federation, MilkPEP, International Dairy Foods Association, and our U.S. Dairy Export Council are showing the collaboration and strength of U.S. dairy in the hardest of times.

I’m proud that many checkoff efforts also are focusing on those in need, particularly schools where so many children rely on consistent, sound nutrition through the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs. Our National Dairy Council and GENYOUth staffs and those who work closely with schools through Fuel Up to Play 60 — both nationally and locally — are working hard to determine actions we can take. As of today, nearly 44 million students are impacted by school closures, so we are working with the USDA to make sure these kids have access to the meals and milk they’re used to receiving.

We’re doing the same with another important partner of ours, Feeding America, and working with our state and regional checkoff teams to assess how we might support its network of 200 local organizations. We’re informing some of the nation’s leading foodservice, retail, and consumer packaged goods companies on ways we all can play a role in helping those who face food insecurity.

It is difficult to find the right words to describe what is happening now. We’re struggling for a sense of calm and wanting to get back to the daily routines that we maybe took for granted.

We know there are some who will use this period of uncertainty to drive us apart, but it’s imperative we remain unified and continue working together, as we always do. Division serves nobody’s best interests. It’s a time for unity and solidarity.

I’m confident we’ll get to the other side of this crisis, as we have with previous challenges our country has faced. Life as we knew it will return. When that day comes, we’ll remember how resilient and united U.S. dairy was in the moment.

To comment, email your remarks to intel@hoards.com.
(c) Hoard's Dairyman Intel 2020
March 23, 2020
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