Earlier this spring my son, a junior in high school, started a new job on a farm not too far from our home. The family milk cows, raise chickens, and grow fruits and vegetables. In his initial days working with the farm owner, my son asked questions to learn more about the operation and its business model. During the conversation, he mentioned that his dad worked for farmers, too. He asked his supervisor what he knew about dairy promotion and the promotion organizations that represent him, including Dairy Management Inc. and Midwest Dairy. To his surprise, the farmer wasn’t familiar with either.
This story was very familiar to me as I reflect on the conversations I’ve had with farmers around the country over the last several years. And, it really isn’t a surprise. With the many decisions and considerations that farmers make numerous times throughout the day on the farm, it’s not a surprise that the investment in the checkoff isn’t top of mind. But, based on personal observation and conversations with colleagues who work on behalf of dairy farmers and importers locally, nationally, and internationally, your checkoff staff definitely keeps you, our funders, top of mind!
What do I mean by that statement? I mean that your staff, under the direction and guidance of those dairy farmers and importer leaders who are elected (United Dairy Industry Association) or appointed (National Dairy Promotion and Research Board) to represent your interests, continually strive to identify priorities and implement strategies and programs that will help dairy thrive now and for future generations.
This happens in large part through a partnership and commitment among 15 state and regional dairy promotion organizations and DMI that brings staffing, program creation, and other efficiencies to help checkoff dollars work harder and smarter nationwide.
These organizations provide grassroots input into national programs through the federation of organizations that form the United Dairy Industry Association (UDIA), whose members represent roughly half of the Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) Board of Directors. UDIA, along with the National Dairy Research and Promotion Board (NDB), provides funding to DMI.
As someone who’s represented farmers nationally while at Midwest Dairy (representing farmers in 10 states throughout the Midwest) and in my current role with DMI, I’ve seen this collaboration from both sides over the last several years. This federation-wide approach (created, funded, and implemented by 15 state and regional organizations and DMI) ensures that checkoff programs are unified in their direction with a focus on four core priorities:
- Accelerate dairy sales here and around the world.
- Secure dairy’s place with the next generation of consumers.
- Demonstrate dairy’s leadership as an essential, sustainable food source.
- Lead long-term, industry-wide transformation to help ensure the next generation of dairy farmers, manufacturers, processors, researchers, and other dairy community leaders.
These priorities come to life locally in many ways, such as in-school programs like Fuel Up to Play 60 and relationships with health professionals and other leaders that influence consumers and decision-makers. Nationally, this happens through food service, industry, media, and thought leader partnerships; science-based nutrition, product, and environmental research; and much, much more. For example, the staff working for you leans on the expertise and relationships across the federation to bring voices to support dairy around given moments in time (including Earth Day, June Dairy Month, and more) to amplify dairy’s voice locally, nationally, and globally.
These are just a few examples. To learn more about the federation of checkoff organizations, please leave your questions and comments below, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or join our Dairy Checkoff Farmer Facebook group. You also can ask to receive the weekly Dairy Checkoff Newsletter through any of these channels.
Until next time!
Lucas Lentsch grew up on a South Dakota dairy farm and has dedicated his 25-year career to dairy and agriculture. Lucas is a former South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture and CEO of Midwest Dairy. He currently serves as Chief Federation Officer for Dairy Management Inc., which is the planning and management organization for the national dairy checkoff. For more information about the checkoff, visit www.usdairy.com/for-farmers.