Catastrophic losses in wake of blizzard, flooding in Midwest

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, Friday, March 22, 2019

LINCOLN, Neb. — The losses are heartbreaking and the devastation staggering from the violent March blizzard meteorologists described as a “hurricane over the Plains” on March 13 and 14. It brought rain, then heavy snow, high winds and low temperatures from Colorado to Wyoming and western South Dakota, wreaking havoc with flooding throughout the state of Nebraska and the region.

Superstorm Ulmer arrived on the heels of warmer temperatures that had begun melting significant snow and ice pack from the series of snow storms and low temperatures that had preceded it. Part of the problem was there were few periodic melts of this accumulation over the course of the winter.

The result of the storm and the snowmelt has been historic flooding of catastrophic proportions throughout central and eastern Nebraska and western Iowa, as well as portions of Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

While those to the west were digging cattle out of 7- to 10- foot drifts of heavy wet snow, those to the east were trying to find ways to get feed to cattle stranded by floodwaters or to give them a route to safety as some of the ranchers themselves were forced to evacuate the high waters.

In fact, Becky Long Chaney, who grew up on a Maryland dairy farm and now lives on a cattle ranch near Elwood, Nebraska with her husband and their twin daughters, reports that they are okay, but around them is much devastation.

“The more I hear, the more shocked and saddened I become,” she said telling of a ranch 30 minutes from them losing 45 calves and another trying to cut fence to save a group, but seeing the wall of water take over 40 pairs away.

Ice chunks several feet thick and as large as cars and trucks were propelled by the heavy rain and snowmelt-fed waters — smashing through homes and barns, breeching and damaging dams and levees. Damage to dams resulted in unexpected levels and areas of flooding. Becky notes that five-generation farms in the region have seen property and livelihoods destroyed with little notice.

Like in the Storm Atlas tragedy in South Dakota in 2013, it is difficult for producers to talk of these losses. The guilt they feel, though not deserving of such guilt, is that they could not save them all. Some reports indicate losses of one-quarter to one-half of affected herds. Some lost nearly all. No official numbers of cattle losses are yet released, but the financial cost of all livestock losses was estimated at $400 million in Nebraska, alone, according to the Governor’s office.

“It takes a great deal of faith to be involved in agriculture. It takes a great deal of faith to deal with Mother Nature,” said sixth generation farmer and radio host Trent Loos, talking about the blow his home state of Nebraska was dealt this past week.

The Nebraska Farm Bureau pegs agricultural economic losses approaching $1 billion, with their estimate of livestock losses at $500 million and crop losses at $440 million. Crop loss estimates include the losses to stored grain as well as fields that will likely be left unplanted this spring due to the severity of the flood damage and debris. The state’s emergency management officials say public infrastructure impact in damaged and washed-away bridges and roads will exceed $200 million, and that does not include bridges that must be inspected due to being still intact but perhaps compromised by the force of the flood.

Trent’s March 19 Loos Tales added heartfelt perspective to these losses, as he remembered the farmer many are calling a hero. James Wilke of Columbus, Nebraska was one of four to lose their lives in the flood. James was called home this week when a bridge gave way as he was rescuing a stranded motorist with his tractor during the brunt of the historic flooding.

It had already been a brutal winter in the Midwest and West before Ulmer came to town, and now the warmer temperatures and more moisture this week are aggravating the situations.

Three weeks earlier, Washington state dairy farms reported losses of over 2000 cattle from a late winter storm. In the Upper Midwest, the unending snowfall and frigid temperatures led to over 100 dairy barn roofs caving-in, with structural damage, cattle losses, and milk dumping reported in the two weeks ahead of Ulmer.

Last week, as Ulmer developed its cyclone pattern in the Southwest, straight-line winds above 70 mph spawned tornadoes south of Roswell, New Mexico producing severe damage to some dairy operations. One dairy reported having to euthanize 150 dairy cows.

In eastern New Mexico, Ulmer’s straight-line winds over 80 mph blew a train from a bridge into a ravine, according to commercial cattle manager and livestock analyst Corbitt Wall. A former USDA market reporter in Lancaster County, Pa. before returning to his roots now in the Texas Panhandle, Wall said Monday that the locomotive made it across the bridge but the dozen railcars in tow did not.

On the situation in Nebraska, Wall said it is a “real bad deal” and will impact the cattle industry there for months and years to come.

The term “bombogenesis” is used by meteorologists to describe the phenomenon of Ulmer’s hurricane-like rotation that had intensified as the warm and cold air masses collided over land, with dropping pressures that produced what they call a “bomb cyclone” over the Plains — bringing two inches of driving rain and sleet that turned to 12 to 24 inches of blizzard snow.

But it was the unrelenting hurricane-force winds of up to 70, even 80 mph, that created the 7- to 10-foot drifts, trapping cattle and other livestock. Those trying to tend cattle during the blizzard report becoming disoriented and unable to do much more than wait it out and rely on any preparations they were able to make in the short time beforehand.

As the winds began to let up after 24 to 48 hours, ranchers got out to find cows, calves, pairs and other livestock, alive and dead, beneath the pristine white prairie.

What’s worse is the timing. Most cow/calf operations in the region are in midst of calving season.

As for the flooding, reports from TriState Livestock News indicate that the rising water pushed large icebergs into dams in north central and northeast Nebraska that were then breached with water overtopping the ice to create the widespread flooding moving south into unprepared areas with damage to infrastructure making evacuations difficult.

In fact, the town of Fremont, Nebraska, just west of Omaha, was completely cut off by destruction of bridges and roads, and it was several days before evacuations could happen or convoys could be routed in with supplies.

In a press release, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts declared a state of emergency to deal with both the blizzard in the west and the flooding throughout the state. On Monday (March 18), he said FEMA would be in the state to work on expediting federal disaster declaration paperwork, and the White House reported that Vice President Pence would visit Tuesday (March 19) to survey the damage.

“We are going to be far over what is needed to declare a federal disaster,” said Gov. Ricketts in a statement. “We’ve got bridges out and levies broken, lots of roads, utilities, everything.”

While scenes of the blizzard and flooding have circulated widely via social media, some even making it to various news stations, most of the devastation in America’s heartland is just beginning to reach mainstream media six days after the storm.

In a Brownfield Ag report Monday, Pete McClymont with Nebraska Cattlemen said the flooding has hit the state’s livestock industry hard, noting “horrific stories where some cow/calf pairs have gotten caught up in the rising flood waters and been washed away.”

Columbus, Nebraska is one of the hard hit areas. This photo was taken a week after the flooding during cleanup. Low lying areas, including many grazing areas and farm fields will have standing water for quite some time. Photo by Sherry Bunting

Social media posts, photos and accounts from those affected depict towns, farm buildings, grain elevators and other structures under water, and as the waters begin to recede, the primary issues are getting feed out to the surviving stranded cattle, locating feed resources, and digging surviving cattle out of debilitating mud.

In the west where wind and snow were the issue, producers told of having barns and calf shelters buried. Photos and videos showed people using backhoes or shoveling teams from the top of the heavy wet snow to get down to the shelter openings. Finding live cattle was the reason to gratefully rejoice, while wary of what future impact the ordeal may have on the calf crop.

“That moment when your calf shelter is buried deep. You shovel and shovel and can hear some calves bawling, their mothers are going crazy. You finally get down to the opening and everything in there looks back at you and they are all alive. Made this ol’ girl bawl like a baby, thank you Jesus,” posted Jodi O’Bryan of Belvidere, South Dakota on the farm’s facebook page.

One rancher reported loading newborns into trailers, trucks, anything, to weather out the storm. Another told of canoeing calves across a river with the cows in tow.

But where the flooding has struck, there was little ability to prepare. These areas received little precipitation from Ulmer, but the snow melt and ice jams moving along the various rivers from the west brought disaster.

The Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) map shows how widespread the flooding is. Agency photo

The magnitude is best realized this way: When a tragedy hits, neighbors help neighbors and communities rescue each other, but when three quarters of a state are hit and 31 communities are under water, with bridges gone, roads wiped out and utilities affected, rescue and recovery are challenging.

President Trump approved a Major Emergency Declaration for Nebraska and Iowa, where a majority of counties are affected by floods and other natural disaster associated with Storm Ulmer and the excess snowmelt from the series of storms before Ulmer. This has helped mobilize government disaster aid and assistance more rapidly. However, there are so many needs on the ground that these programs can’t possibly cover. (In fact, as I drove through portions of Nebraska impacted by the flood, I passed countless trucks hauling large equipment and large dump trailers going both ways in-and-out of flood-stricken areas as the cleanup and restoration is beyond comprehension.)

  • Both the Nebraska and Iowa Department of Agriculture are assisting farmers and ranchers, as well as extension and USDA Farm Service and Natural Resource Agencies. A list of disaster relief resources is also available online. This website includes links to the USDA FSA programs including the Livestock Indemnity Program and information from the state university extension.

HAY NEEDS AND DONATIONS

Operation Prairie Hay Drop was underway this week by the Nebraska Air National Guard. And the outpouring of offers and help is coming in from around the nation.
Last Sunday (March 17), Chuck Fleeman of Columbus, Nebraska thanked those from Presho, South Dakota who donated and hauled almost 200 bales to the Columbus drop-off center, and the youth who came out to unload. This Sunday (March 24), a trucking firm in Utah is working with a group of producers in Kentucky to bring hundreds of bales of hay to the areas of Nebraska and Iowa in need. And on all the days in between, convoys of hay have come into the region from midwestern states all around them, as well as from Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania to the east.

— The Nebraska Department of Agriculture is asking those in need of hay, feedstuffs, fencing materials and other assistance and those who are willing and able to donate these items to call the department at 1.800.831.0550. They’ve also set up a Hay and Forage Hotline at 402.471.4876.

The Nebraska Farm Bureau has created an Agriculture Disaster Exchange (ADE), which is an online clearinghouse to connect producers in need with those offering help, hay, hauling, equipment and other supplies at https://www.nefb.org/ag-disaster-exchange.

Photo of hay headed to Nebraska, from the Nebraska Governor’s facebook page. See more about hay drop off locations and other ways to help below.

HAY Drop Off Locations

Initial hay drop-off locations were set up at the Columbus Sales Pavilion and the southwest end of the Lancaster Event Center fairgrounds’ exhibit hall parking lot east of Lincoln, off I-80 exit 409 on North 84th street. (If bringing hay to the Lincoln drop-off location, please call or text Amy at 402.429.1950 about type and quantity of hay coming, round or small square; grass or alfalfa. She says they have secured a trucking offer and will determine best locations that can be reached from Lincoln as waters recede.)

The Lancaster Event Center fairgrounds in Lincoln is also temporarily stabling animals. Go here and scroll to the second page to find out how to help with livestock shelter needs.

** More hay drop points were set up since this Farmshine report ** The Nebraska Department of Agriculture has a list of additional Hay Drop Off Points, here. Also a Veterinary Supply Drop-Off Point has been set up at Tyson Dinslage Clinic, West Point, Nebraska for Veterinary supplies only, call 402-450-8007 for details.

In Iowa, Hay Net and Grazing Net is helping to connect farmers who either need hay or have hay available, or need grazing land or have grazing land available.

Here are some other important ways people can help:

The Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation’s Disaster Relief Fund is accepting donations to provide emergency aid to Nebraska farmers, ranchers, and rural communities affected by recent storms and flooding. They state that 100% of the donations will be distributed to those affected by the disasters. There is a donation tab at nefb.org/disaster or checks can be made to Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation and mailed to: Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation Attn: Disaster Relief Fund, P.O. Box 80299, Lincoln, NE 68501-0299.

Nebraska Cattlemen Association established the Nebraska Cattlemen Disaster Relief Fund, receiving donations at 4611 Cattle Drive, Lincoln, NE 68521. Donation forms are available online at https://nebraskacattlemen.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/donation-form.pdf

The Salvation Army, Mennonite Disaster Service and Samaritan’s Purse are already in action in northeast Nebraska and western Iowa, along with the American Red Cross. Churches, Community Foundations and Chambers of Commerce have set up disaster relief funds as well.

At the Nebraska state government’s website, information is available for donating specifically needed personal items and cleanup supplies at http://www.nebraska.gov/nebraska-strong/

Ag Community Relief has continued its efforts and are compiling feed, fencing supplies and other needs in a truck-run that left Michigan Thursday evening and arrived here Friday. They have a facebook page @agcommunityrelief and website agcommunityrelief.com

— Another facebook page keeps a running record of efforts to participate in from auctions and fundraisers to work crew and supply convoys. That page is Nebraska Strong Disaster Relief (@NEStrongforPilger)

— The facebook posts that led to hashtags #NebraskaStrong have become T-shirt sales through online stores. Examples include this one donating proceeds to Salvation Army and Nebraska Farm Bureau Disaster Fund https://www.customink.com/fundraising/nebraska-flood-relief.

Look for future updates here and in Farmshine.

-30-

Dairy data show shifting sands

Pa. production, cow numbers plunge into 2019

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, Friday, March 15, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. produced 1% more milk in 2018 compared with 2017 and did so with roughly the same “average” number of cows for the year. But there were 2,731 fewer U.S. dairy farms (-6.8%) selling milk during 2018 as the average number for the year fell to 37,468 according to USDA.

USDA is still catching up on its delayed milk production reporting after the government shut down earlier this year, the January 2019 figures were released Tuesday (March 12) along with the 2018 annual totals for production, cow numbers and licensed dairies. The data show shifting sands in the dairy industry even as producers, states and regions fight for their place in a consolidating pipeline.

The January portion of the report did show milk production up 1.3% over year ago after being only 0.8% higher in December. January cow numbers were down by 52,000 head, nationally, from a year ago, but up 2000 head from December.

Like a shot between the eyes, Pennsylvania came into 2019 with a whopping 25,000 fewer milk cows (-4.8%) producing 5.5% less milk in January compared with a year ago.

Licensed dairies, other 2018 data

In the 2018 portion of Tuesday’s report, it’s important to note that USDA describes its licensed dairy numbers as the “average number of dairy farms licensed to sell milk during the year, based on counts collected from State and other regulatory agencies.” This means the number of 2018 dairy farms nationally and by state is more along the lines of a rolling average for the year, not a tally of farms in operation at the end of the year for a tracking comparison.

Changes in cow numbers and production for fourth quarter 2018 vs. fourth quarter 2017 is more telling in terms of what it suggests about the rate of exits, consolidation and geographic shifts in the dairy industry. The figures continue to reflect big milk production and cow number gains with a stable number of farms in growing western states, stable production in the face of dairy farm exits and cow losses in some midwestern states, and falling milk production that directly mirrors farm and cow losses in most eastern states.

PA numbers concerning

For Pennsylvania, the figures are quite concerning as the state falls into this last category – right along with the Southeast. In fact, New York was the exception in the East, as the Empire State had stable production in the face of significant farm and cow losses.

Just 11 years ago, Pennsylvania was the fourth largest dairy production state. It then hung on to fifth place until 2016-17 when Michigan — and then Texas — pushed Pennsylvania to seventh.

USDA reports the average number of licensed dairy herds in Pennsylvania fell from 6,570 in 2017 to 6,200 in 2018. Again, this is an average number of dairy farms selling reported milk during the year, not an end-of-year number of remaining operations.

In July (2018), we asked the Center for Dairy Excellence for a handle on the number of licensed herds operating in Pennsylvania at that point in time. What we learned was that the state does not have a good tracking system for licensed herd numbers and that the state is working with the Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board to get a better handle on these numbers.

The number we were given by the Center in July 2018 was 5,787 licensed dairy farms, but we were told that we “cannot compare this number to the USDA numbers because it is not the same data set.”

Still, the USDA notes in its report that it relies on state agencies for the numbers it uses to find the “average” number of licensed dairy farms state by state, for the year.

The difference between the number of dairy farms that exited the business in 2018 and the net number of dairies selling milk throughout the year is unknown in Pennsylvania.

Did Pennsylvania lose 370 dairy farms as the year over year “average” reported by USDA suggests? Or is that number closer to 700 if the state could provide end-of-year numbers for comparison?

End-of-year comparisons would be more helpful for policymakers to track the health of the dairy industry, whereas the average numbers reflect the type of information the industry wants to use in “sustainability” or “carbon footprint” claims because a certain level of milk production for the year would be produced by an average number of farms and cows during the year — not by just the number remaining at the end of the year.

Even using the USDA average for the year, Pennsylvania dairy farm numbers were down by 370 (-5.6%) and the average number of cows for the year was down by 6,000 head (-1%). Total annual milk production was 10.6 bil lbs (-2.1%) for 2018.

However, fourth quarter production in Pennsylvania was 4.6% lower than Q4 2017. This shows a deeper rate of decline, which was confirmed by the steep loss in cow numbers and production recorded for January 2019 in which USDA reported 25,000 fewer cows were milked in Pennsylvania, making 5.5% less total milk production for the state.

To put this into perspective, Wisconsin state officials estimate that over 700 dairy farms were lost in 2018, but the USDA report pegs the average number of dairy farms in the Dairyland State at 8500, down 590 (-6.5%) from 2017.

Production in Wisconsin, on the other hand, moved higher, reaching 30.5 billion pounds (+0.8%) for the year. The average number of milk cows in Wisconsin fell by 4,000 head (-0.3%).

With Wisconsin and Pennsylvania being the number one and two states for the number of dairy farms, the data differences are illustrative. While communities sustained high dairy farm exits in Wisconsin affecting community-wide dairy infrastructure, the state is still maintaining national average milk production growth and smaller losses in the number of cows relative to the losses in the number of farms.

This suggests that as farms exit the dairy business in Wisconsin, others have growth making up for it. In fact, January’s production in Wisconsin was up 2.9%, according to USDA, despite 5,000 fewer cows reported. That one is a bit of a head-scratcher.

In Pennsylvania, the situation is much different. As the Keystone State loses farms, the cows and production are leaving also. Those losses are not being replaced with in-state growth.

This means Pennsylvania’s entire dairy infrastructure is at risk, and we are seeing more dairy herd liquidations slated for this spring – just like last spring – both nationally and in Pennsylvania. The question is, will Pennsylvania’s ranking in the top 23 milk-producing states continue to decline or can it be stabilized?

Case in point, 2018 annual milk production for Texas was 12.8 bil lbs (+6.1%). That’s 21% more milk than the 10.6 bil lbs produced by Pennsylvania in 2018. Not quite two years ago, Pennsylvania was producing more milk than Texas.

Another comparison to be made here is with Minnesota. Ranked eighth and nipping at the heels of Pennsylvania. Minnesota saw the average number of licensed dairy farms fall by 230 to 2,980 (-7.16%) in 2018, and cow numbers fell by 5,000 (-1.1%). However, Minnesota’s annual milk production in 2018 was unchanged from 2017 at 9.87 bil lbs. Minnesota came into January with 1.6% more production, still down by 5,000 cows.

Northeast milkshed mixed

Back to the Northeast Milkshed, the USDA figures for New York show a similar pattern to Wisconsin and Minnesota as the average number of farms selling milk in 2018 was down by 280 (-6.3%) at 4,190 while cow numbers were down just 2000-head (-0.3%) and production for the year was stable at 14.88 bil lbs (-0.3%). Milk production in New York came into 2019 at levels 3.4% higher in January with 2000 added milk cows compared with a year ago.

Vermont followed a pattern more like Pennsylvania, with the average number of dairy farms selling milk in 2018 down by 90 farms (-10%) while the average number of cows was down by 2000 head (-1.6%), and annual milk production was 2.68 bil lbs (-1.8%). Vermont’s production stabilized a bit into the new year, with January’s production just 0.8% below year ago.

In Virginia, USDA reported 565 dairy farms (-3.1%) sold milk during 2018 with annual milk production down by 5.4% from 4,000 fewer cows (-4.5%). Virginia came into 2019 with a whopping 9,000 fewer cows producing 11.5% less milk in January compared with a year ago.

These data illustrate a couple of things. First, some cooperatives, including national footprint cooperatives like Land O’Lakes and DFA, are enforcing some type of base/excess or seasonal base penalties. In the case of Land O’Lakes, farmers in the East, namely Pennsylvania, have had three to four months out of each of the last three years where milk was penalized for being over base, and the base the company gives the entire eastern region as its individual base trigger has been reduced over those three years. Meanwhile, the members in Minnesota report they have not been penalized to-date.

The data also illustrate that as fluid milk sales decline in the East where Class I sales have been historically more relevant to milk handling, pooling and pricing, the “balancing” costs are reportedly increasing, and those costs are passed back to the farm level through more milk check deductions.

In some ways, the fluid milk market is diminishing to the point where it could be seen as a balancer for manufactured dairy products — even though that’s not the way the USDA Federal Order pricing works.

Coinciding with these market shifts is the rise in documented incidence of supermarkets being randomly short or depleted of available whole milk and cream products throughout the East and Mideast at intervals during all of the past 12 months.

Meanwhile, tolling agreements with cream separation facilities in the East, especially through Land O’Lakes, bring milk from as far away as west Texas to states like Pennsylvania, where the cream can go into butter and the skim is often what pushes the Federal Order One skim dumping requests. There are a number of methane digesters dotting the Northeast and Midatlantic landscape, and this dumped skim milk can put another drag on the Class I sales pool for the region.

Mideast dynamics interesting

Interesting dynamics are also occurring in the Mideast states of Michigan, Ohio and Indiana, where farm losses as a percentage of total farms were also steep in 2018, but milk production was comparatively stable.

Michigan had grown rapidly in 2014 through 2017. For 2018, however, USDA reported 230 fewer farms (-13%) selling milk while annual production was off by just a fraction of one percent (-0.6%) at 11.17 bil lbs. Michigan milked an average number of cows that was down by 3000-head (-0.7%) in 2018. And yet, Michigan came into 2019 with 6,000 fewer cows but 1.1% more milk in January compared with a year ago. Another head-scratcher.

Ohio lost 180 dairy farms on average in 2018, according to USDA, declining to 2200 dairy farms (-7.5%) while average cow numbers for the year fell by 6,000 head (-1.9%) and production fell to 5.5 bil lbs. (-1.5%). When comparing fourth quarter cow numbers in Ohio, 2018’s total was 10,000 head less than Q-4 2017. January 2019 production in Ohio was 3.8% below year ago.

Indiana’s production was 4.16 bil lbs in 2018 (-2.2%) with 95 (-10%) fewer dairy farms selling milk during the year and 3,000 (-1.6%) fewer cows. Indiana came into 2019 with 6,000 fewer cows and 3% less milk production in Jan. 2019 compared with a year ago.

Southeast slide continues

In the Southeast, Florida had 15 fewer dairy farms in 2018 and Georgia was down by 20. Annual production was down 4.6% and 4%, respectively, in 2018 with an average of 4,000 fewer cows milked in Florida and 2,000 fewer cows in Georgia during the year.

Kentucky had 60 fewer dairy farms selling milk (-10%), an average of 1,000 fewer cows being milked (-1.8%), and annual production fell by 3.2% in 2018, according to USDA.

In Tennessee, the picture was especially tough, but consistent across all categories of figures. Annual milk production in the Volunteer State was down by a whopping 8.5% in 2018, while the average number of cows was off by 3,000 head (-7.5%) and 20 fewer farms sold milk (-7.5%) during the year, according to USDA.

Western gainers gain big

On the growth side of the ledger, Colorado stayed unchanged in the number of dairy farms at 100, milked 14,000 more cows and produced 8.8% more milk during 2018. By January 2019, production was up by 6.7% over year ago. Kansas lost 10 farms but produced 6% more milk with 10,000 more cows in 2018. Kansas also came into 2019 with 6.2% more milk in January.

Texas came into 2019 with 18,000 more cows than a year ago in January, producing 7.3% more milk and South Dakota had 4,000 more cows producing 6.3% more milk.

Look for more milkshed milk math analysis when pricing and other data become available in April and May.

-30-

Should dairy farmers be forced to fund ‘government speech’?

Dietary Guidelines among the factors plunging us deeper.

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, Friday, March 15, 2019

Many are confused about what the dairy checkoff organizations can and can’t do. There is nothing in the Order that says the checkoff programs must promote according to the USDA Dietary Guidelines.

So where did this idea come from and how does it look today and what might it look like tomorrow?

To stave off challenges brought by folks questioning the government’s authority to require farmers to fund private speech, USDA defended the checkoff programs as “government speech,” which is a protected form of speech. This was explained in more detail in part 6 of the GENYOUth series in the February 22, 2019 edition of Farmshine.

Here’s why it matters. Government speech on dietary concerns has become increasingly restrictive, and by the looks of the recently-named USDA Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, it could get worse.

With so much control by USDA, how will dairy farmers fully defend their position — even when rigorous science is on their side? They can’t count on government speech because rigorous science is all too often ignored by government bureaucracies and the advisory committees with links to foundations and corporations that have other ideas for that money.

The proof is in the long trend of using mandatory farmer funds to promote the low-fat / fat-free government speech that has become their own undoing, not to mention detrimental to health, especially for our children.

Here’s a glimpse of where we are headed with this dairy-farmer-funded government speech.

Separation of Church and State, for example, seems to apply only when convenient for politicians. Could a religious doctrine of animal rights and vegan diets become even more embedded into the government Dietary Guidelines that dairy farmers are forced to promote?

I was told by more than a few people that Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue is a scientist and would not allow this to happen to his formation of the current committee, but the composition of this Dietary Guidelines Committee takes us further down this wrong road.

In fact, could the U.S. guidelines be on the brink of cowtowing even more toward the Adventist-funded EAT Lancet Global Food Transformation Agenda?

Some scoff, saying not to take this report seriously because it’s not gaining traction.

Unfortunately, they are not paying attention. This track has been laid and the wheels are in motion, and plenty of bargains with the devil have been made behind closed doors.

Our dietary choices are poised to be further corrupted. Just writing about these topics makes my blood boil and causes me to second-guess my own sanity. 

But folks, this is real. 

We can be proactive, or we can sit with our heads in the sand and be run over. This is happening, and our own leaders don’t want us to see it, hear it or speak of it. 

People can criticize the series of articles on this topic all they want, but the truth is that alliances formed — most notably over the past 10 years — are poised to plunge us even further into dietary guidelines, labeling, look-alikes and standards that have the potential to remove even more animal-based dietary choices from Americans — especially our children. 

As an ag journalist, I’m appalled. 

As a grandmother, watching the effect it is having and will have on our children, I am angry. 

What I see coming is a dietary future that will be a mix of fake proteins, grains, legumes, vitamin/pharmaceutical cocktails and high fructose corn syrup fashioned into whatever you want it to be or taste like from your 3-D printer.(Even the venerable Dr. Kohl talked about it at a farmer meeting and how much this “spooks” him out.)

In the beginning, these 3-D printer options may use dairy or meat proteins, but they are set up for not just plant-based proteins, and what some in the industry call “dairy-based” proteins. What does ‘dairy-based’ mean? (more on that later). The 3-D printer technology is the handmaiden of the gene-edited cell cultured fake-meat proteins and the gene-altered yeast sourced by USDA to a company growing them (with the commercial assistance of ADM) in fermentation vats to produce fake-dairy protein without the cow.

Here’s the deal: The co-author of the 2013 report favoring epidemiological studies of the vegan/vegetarian Adventist communities vs. rigorous scientific evidence was put on the USDA Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee in the capacity of weighing the scientific credibility of evidence to be considered by the committee in shaping the 2020-25 guidelines.

His name is Dr. Joan Sabate, and he was placed on the committee in this role instead of Stanford professor John Ioannidis — despite over 1000 letters supporting Ioannidis being sent to Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue by the public that included medical doctors, dieticians, veterinarians and other experts, including specialists in oncology, heart disease and endocrinology (diabetes, etc).

Not only is Sabate Chair of the Nutrition Department at the Seventh Day Adventist institution, Loma Linda University, he also constructed the vegan food pyramid and co-authored a book on Adventist doctrine for global change, called “The Global Influence of the Seventh Day Adventist Church on Diet” where this playbook is well laid out.

It’s pretty clear that Sabate has been given an influential position and has spent his career promoting a religious-dietary-doctrine with undue influence now in a government dietary advisory capacity.

Also, an article co-authored by Sabate in 2011 talked of how the Adventists praised the 2010 dietary guidelines that took the destruction of school lunch under the Obama / Vilsack administration to new lows. That report said the 2010 Guidelines “confirmed” the findings of Sabate’s predecessor at Loma Linda University.

Last Friday, while doing a Rural Route Radio show as a guest of Trent Loos, I learned from him a piece I did not know — that the Wellcome Trust, which wrote the check for the EAT Lancet Commission, is the trust of Henry Wellcome. He passed away in the 1930s, and was the founder of what is today a Big Pharma player.

Remove whole milk, full-fat dairy and red meat from our diets and we’ll all need more drugs for a panacea of ills. Yes, the EAT Lancet report calls for just a little over one ounce of meat per day, the equivalent of one 8-oz cup of milk per day and 1 and ½ eggs per week. See the picture?

Our kids are already drinking fat free or 1% milk in school, eating fake butter, skim processed cheese, non-fat yogurt (if you can call it yogurt) and a host of other real-food-replacements when they should receive the best nature has to offer.

Yes, there it is: The religious doctrine. Mr. Wellcome was an avid Adventist, and his legacy lives on through the EAT forum and initiatives that have pulled-in not only governments across the globe (through their respective bureaucracies setting diet standards) but also 41 major corporations that are poised to profit — including the Edelman PR and marketing firm,which provided their Amsterdam account director to that effort until she went to work for the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and its EAT FReSH Initiative the very month that the EAT Lancet report was released (as detailed in part 8 in last week’s Farmshine).

Yes, Edelman is the same PR and Marketing firm that has worked for dairy checkoff for 20 years and increasingly in the past 10 years and was instrumental in the GENYOUth formation (2010), a non-profit with a pretty face that is also tied in with the Clinton Foundation of the same persuasion, and the Obama / Vilsack administration’s heavy hit to school milk and the school lunch program parameters, which also happened in 2010.

This really is one big thing connected, moving gradually to where we are today amid several key converging factors.

Call me “negative” or “unhinged” or whatever name you have for this investigative reporting, that is your choice. Meanwhile, some of our own organizations are tied in, and it is disturbing. 

The dairy and beef checkoff organizations — whose budgets are funded mandatorily by the farmers and ranchers whose livelihoods and contributions to human and planetary health are in jeopardy — have aligned on the sustainability side with the noted anti-animal organization World Wildlife Fund (WWF). This is detailed on website documents and power point slides bearing the WWF emblem.

The template is set for a sustainability footprint that is focused on streamlining the food industry with rapid consolidation to get the WWF stamp of approval for the largest and most vertically integrated animal food producers.

Recently, other organizations that challenge these institutions have put farmers on a new HSUS ag-advisory board to try to influence that particular anti-animal organization to get a similar stamp of approval for small farms and regional food supplies. 

Meanwhile, the anti-animal heavy-hitters are laughing all the way to the bank as their strategy as kindred NGOs is to divide and conquer — while raking in hundreds of millions of dollars. Their strategy is working because there is division. Not because I’m writing about it, but because none of our organizations and institutions have the backbone to stand up for what’s right.

The mode of operation is to work quietly through alliances and advisory boards and non-profits — to paint a pretty face on these alliances, hoping to come out of the internal fray with a few crumbs for a surviving streamlined industry.

If you dare question these alliances or dig into them, you are attacked.

You must remain politically correct at all costs! Don’t touch the third rail! Shame on anyone who dare question! If you question, dig, report, enlighten (all while said organizations refuse to answer interview questions), then you are “negative”, “unhinged”, “divisive”, “harming farmers” and a journalist who has “an agenda” or is just trying to “sell newspapers.”

Not in the least. I would much rather be spending all of my time writing the positive stories, and I have quite a few lined up! But I can’t discard the concern for the people whose stories I’ve written as I watch one after another sell their cows and/or their farms, and as I’m deeply concerned for the health and well-being of our children.

It’s time for Congress to revisit the law authorizing the dairy checkoff. I don’t say this lightly. The dairy checkoff budget dwarfs all others at $350 million a year. That’s a huge budget of dairy farmer funding under increasingly detrimental USDA control.

Maybe government speech is “protected” under the law, but the law  should no longer require dairy farmers to pay for it.

-30-

Are we going to keep zigging? Or is it time to zag?

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, March 8, 2019

BROWNSTOWN, Pa. — In Part 7 last week, we looked at some of the questions still unanswered by DMI regarding GENYOUth. As noted, a copy of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) created in 2009-10 and signed in 2011 by USDA, National Dairy Council and the NFL has not been provided.

Data requested on the “before” and “after” purchases of dairy by FUTP60 schools has also not been provided.

The question about total funds provided by DMI in addition to what appears on the GENYOUth 990 form has also not been answered. However, the 2016-17 DMI audit reflects amounts that are almost double what appears on the GENYOUth 990s.

And the question about Edelman’s role in the formation of GENYOUth and any knowledge or concern DMI may have about Edelman’s role in the EAT FReSH Initiative was simply not been acknowledged, let alone answered.

This is the concern that is perhaps most vexing, and here is the what the public record tells us.

Richard Edelman sits on the board of GENYOUth and as previously mentioned, he is credited with recruiting GENYOUth CEO Alexis Glick in a marketing publication’s story about her taking this position.

The Edelman firm is listed as a corporate sponsor of GENYOUth, including the board seat held by Richard Edelman, but the firm is not listed as a donor of funds on the GENYOUth IRS 990s, except that Richard Edelman, himself, is on record donating $25,000 in both 2016 and 2017.

Edelman is widely considered the world’s largest and leading public relations and marketing firm with offices worldwide. Based in Chicago, the firm, according to the writings of Richard Edelman himself, has been involved in work for DMI (Dairy Checkoff) for 20 years.

The firm is listed among the 41 corporate sponsors (logos pictured below) of the EAT FReSH Initiative. This Initiative is an extension of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).

And, in Edelman’s own words in a May 2018 blog post, “Edelman has partnered with FReSH to help accelerate transformational change in global food systems.”

As reported in Part 6 of this series, Danone and PepsiCo are just two companies among the 41 corporate sponsors that are Edelman clients, and both companies planned new plant-based non-dairy “look-alike” product launches to coincide with the EAT Lancet Commission and EAT FReSH launch in the first quarter of 2019.

Edelman is best known for its annual Edelman Trust Barometer shared with the world’s leading business CEOs each year at the World Economic Summit in Davos, Switzerland.

Purpose driven marketing is their thing.

DMI will not acknowledge our question about Edelman’s role in the formation of GENYOUth. Our question about the link between Edelman and the marketing of the EAT FReSH Initiative was also not acknowledged.

However, on the secret Dairy Checkoff facebook page, we have received screenshot copies of answers given to farmers who have asked the checkoff staff questions about this. In those one-to-one facebook group replies, DMI staff are stating on the one hand that “Edelman is not involved in EAT Lancet.” On the other hand, stating that, “we should be glad we have someone representing us there.”

So which is it? And who is representing whom?

What we found in the public record is that Edelman is not, technically, on record as “the” marketing firm for EAT Lancet. The situation is far more subtle, and clever, because Edelman “loaned” their Amersterdam office account director, Lara Luten, to the EAT FReSH initiative for at least one year prior to 2019’s EAT FReSH launch.

This was confirmed in Richard Edelman’s blog post at the company website in May 2018 where he did a series of questions and answers about the work Luten was doing with the EAT FReSH Initiative during her second 6-month “secondment” with EAT FReSH.

A “secondment” is defined as the detachment of a person from his or her regular organization for temporary assignment elsewhere. 

In the blog post, Richard Edelman asks the firm’s Amsterdam account director on loan to the EAT FReSH Initiative what has been most interesting in her work with FReSH.

Her answer: “The current (2018) preparations for the EAT Stockholm Food Forum and the EAT Lancet Commission Report. But also: Setting a basis for communications for the FReSH team.”

That’s pretty clear, isn’t it?

He asks her what she has learned from this partnership that can be applied to other work, and Luten replies: “Working in a pre-competitive environment on a project (EAT FReSH) that is driving impact by leading the change. I’m also gaining in-depth knowledge about the food system (its topics and stakeholders) that will definitely be useful for other projects.”

So not only was the Edelman firm involved, but their involvement is “leading the change.”

In mid-January 2019, at precisely the point in time when the EAT Lancet Commission report was released and the EAT Forum and EAT FReSH Initiatives were launched, Luten left her employment with Edelman to take the job as manager of communications for the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).

What is the WBCSD? It is described at its website as “ a CEO-led organization of forward-thinking companies that galvanizes the global business community to create a sustainable future for business.” It is made up of the 41 corporations, including the Edelman firm, that have launched the EAT FReSH Initiative.

In her new employment as WBCSD communications manager, Luten now carries on the public relations, social strategies and marketing she began planning, organizing and laying the groundwork for during the time that she was employed by Edelman “on secondment” to this 41-corporation group now launching the EAT FReSH Initiative.

It all fits together with how Edelman does business. This is not in any way a question of ethics. Plenty of marketing agencies work for competing accounts in the world of advertising and public relations. There’s nothing new about that.

There’s also nothing new about this concept of working in “pre-competitive” environments where products and marketing are developed in a way that all corporations involved can utilize in their own new product campaigns.

This is, in fact, a signature way that DMI has also functioned over the past 10 years. In addition to GENYOUth, the Sustainability and Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy began similarly with an MOU between DMI and the USDA, and it also includes the participation of dairy processors in a pre-competitive environment to develop and initiate innovations and sustainability measures. One example to come out of that pre-competitive environment is the innovation of ultrafiltered milk known as fairlife. Another example is the F.A.R.M program.

The goal of these pre-competitive collaborations is to give all corporate participants something they can use in a way that takes away a competitive edge.

What is concerning for dairy producers — who are mandatorily funding DMI — is that this has folded dairy promotion into a broader setting of corporations working in pre-competitive environments to pass back through the supply chain requirements about how things are done on the farm.

Toward that end, Edelman has actually played an even larger role in DMI projects over the past 20 years and especially in the past two years in coming up with the design of the Undeniably Dairy campaign. Again, purpose-driven marketing is an Edelman specialty.

And it seems noble to drive marketing with a social purpose. More companies today engage in purpose-driven social marketing, aiming to win consumers by showing what they are doing to address social concerns, such as the environment. In fact, they create problems to fit the solution they want to market.

In its own way, each corporate member of pre-competitive collaborations then capitalizes by introducing products that solve a real or “created” need in this realm of social purpose.

Here’s where it gets cloudy for dairy farmers. The government mandates that dairy farmers pay 15 cents per hundredweight for education, research and promotion. DMI administrates the use of the national portion of these funds and even sets the direction for regional funds — under the ever-more-micro-managing-oversight of USDA via two key MOU’s (GENYOUth and Innovation and Sustainability Center for U.S. Dairy).

DMI’s association with Edelman over 20 years has increased its alignment with purpose-driven marketing via pre-competitive environments with food supply chain corporations. On its surface, that doesn’t sound so bad.

But here’s another way to look at this trend. As one creative strategist, Zac Martin, stated recently in his opinion piece for an ad agency publication, “purpose” was 2018’s “most dangerous word.”

Martin defines “purpose” in marketing in the context of “brands aligning with and promoting social causes, almost always seemingly out of nowhere.”

This is most definitely the road we are on. We are being told that consumers don’t want to know what you know, they want to know that you care. We are told that consumers make brand choices based on the “why” not the “what.”

Some of this comes from the annual Edelman Trust Barometer and other research where consumers are surveyed about who they trust in their buying decisions.

But what information do consumers actually use when they buy? Price, flavor, freshness, perceived nutrition. 

Are we part of the problem? Are these alignments helping or hurting the promotion of actual milk?

Think about this. EAT FReSH is just the newest and most transformational example of how a “why” – climate change and the environment – are being used to sell new food products based on their fulfillment of a created “why”.  

What could be more perfect than to use unsubstantiated “science” to make untrue claims about certain food and agriculture impacts and then use that as a selling point for a whole new product answering the “why” that has first been created?

The EAT Foundation even has the new “planetary” diet patterns outlined (1 cup of dairy equivalent a day, a little over 1 ounce of meat/poultry/fish a day, and only 3 ounces of red meat per week, and 1 ½ eggs per week for examples). Within that context, the participating corporations are now coming out — simultaneously — with a whole bevy of new beverages, snacks and staples that do not contain any animal protein. Protein is played down and favors plant protein (incomplete proteins) and refined sugar or high fructose corn syrup is just fine.

They’ve created the “why” (planetary boundaries that they have set) and now they can sell consumers the products (fake meat and fake dairy) that fulfill that social planetary purpose that they themselves have convinced us we need!

Looking at this ‘social purpose’ trend in marketing, Zac Martin states the following: “The fad (of purpose-driven marketing) seems to driven by the likes of Simon Sinek, who notoriously said: ‘People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.’ But Simon is wrong. It’s a claim made without substantiation.”

In fact, Martin observes that purpose-driven marketing to is made up of “feel good” stuff that promotes and aligns with social causes while doing little as a sound marketing strategy.

Undeniably Dairy feels good. Telling our “why” feels good. Do consumers need to understand more about what happens on a dairy farm, why we do what we do? Of course! But this does not substitute for sound marketing of the dairy farmers’ product: Milk.

Martin says this trend amounts to “brand noise” that is “a sign of desperation”.

He defines purpose-driven social marketing as “fabricating an experiment, presenting pseudoscience disguised as research,” and all the while appearing “authentic.” (Think EAT FReSH).

He makes the point that when everyone is zigging, maybe it’s time to zag. I could not have said it better myself.

This series of articles is not meant to question the good intent of good people doing what they believe is good for their industry. Rather, the point is to show the direction dairy promotion dollars have taken since 2009 and some of the guiding principles that are not working.

Going back to part one, the graph showing fluid milk consumption trends could not be more clear. What we are doing is not working — unless the objective is to sell less fresh fluid milk, especially whole milk, that returns the highest value to farmers and keeps dairy farms relevant in communities, especially in the eastern states, while selling more global dairy commodities, at cheaper prices, fueling rapid expansion of more consolidated and integrated dairy structures in the western states.

Dairy Checkoff has been aligning more closely to USDA/HHS Dietary Guidelines when nothing in the Congressional Act establishing the Checkoff states that it must. Dairy Checkoff has been aligning in pre-competitive environments with corporations that turn around and push us right out of the dairy case with non-dairy alternatives that fill a social purpose of their own creation.

Dairy Checkoff has partnered with fast food chains that help sell more cheese, and yet one pre-emptive cheese company is a primary beneficiary, and rapid milk production expansion in certain states follows with that.

Dairy Checkoff has bought-in to the idea that rapid expansion of exports is a primary mission, when that actually lowers the farm-level milk price because the focus of those sales is the lower-value commodity dairy.

Meanwhile, the marketing largely ignores the best selling point we have: Nutrition and Flavor in the domestic market.

Now the pressure is on for Dairy Checkoff promotion to draw more farms into “telling our story.” As noble and wonderful as this may be, what’s the 15 cents doing to actually sell milk, to win back the milk market we’ve been losing in the process?

We have a simple product. It doesn’t have a list of additives to make it look, feel and sort of taste like milk, it IS milk.

We have a nutritious product. Nothing else on the market comes close.

We have a delicious product. But we have to market the tasteless version and train our children to dislike milk by doing so… because somehow we have ended up in a place where the government’s dietary police are in charge, and we either must obey, or we just think we must.

Telling consumers our ‘why’ can be a good thing, but with 15 cents per hundredweight forked over by farmers by government mandate, the question remains, what is being done to truly sell the “what” — the actual milk that comes out of the cow because of all the good things farmers do. 

Consumers don’t know squat about milk. That’s being proven over and over again, despite over $300 million a year in mandatory promotion funds deducted from farmer milk checks for promotion.

We’ve been zigging with the ziggers long enough.

Maybe it’s time to zag.

(The graph below shows us what has happened to per capita real fluid milk consumption since 2010 while we increased the amount of zigging, suggesting it is time to zag.)


This graph illustrates what has happened to fluid milk consumption and the steep drop-off since 2010 while the dairy industry has increased the amount of zigging with the ziggers. It may be time to zag, especially when we see that consumers — where given a choice — are CHOOSING whole milk more frequently since 2014 even though the checkoff message is still fat-free / low-fat.

-30-

The need for more digging is even more obvious

Delays, diversions and disregard for specific questions keep the investigation rolling.

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, March 1, 2019

BROWNSTOWN, Pa.– The public record is clear on Dairy Checkoff alliances of the past decade through GENYOUth, and the financial side of the picture is coming into even sharper focus. 

Meanwhile, important questions were only partially answered last week while other questions were outright ignored.

This is especially true about the questions concerning the firm doing public relations and marketing for DMI over the past 20 years. 

Instead of answering those questions, we saw diversions. We saw DMI chairperson Marilyn Hershey, in her letter on page 17 of Farmshine last week (and at the end of the article at this link, here), give Dairy Checkoff the credit for changing the conversation on milk fat! Hard to believe!

While it is true that Dairy Checkoff has moved a bit in that direction since 2014, the change in the conversation can be attributed to independent science writer Nina Teicholz and her 10 years of exhaustive investigation that led to her book The Big Fat Surprise, which led to the interest of Time magazine on this topic.

As for our unanswered questions? We are still waiting.

Last week, we referenced some of the questions that had been sent to DMI three weeks ago. One being the MOU between USDA, Dairy Checkoff and NFL.

In previous installments of this series, we had mentioned the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by USDA and other government agencies, along with GENYOUth, National Dairy Council (NDC / DMI) and National Football League (NFL), and we included a photo of the original 2011 signing found on a Flickr photo stream link at a USDA blog post that year.

There had been no press release about this development at the time. But that’s water under the bridge.

After examining the public record, we reached out to DMI via chairperson Marilyn Hershey, and her letter, of course, was published on page 17 in the Feb 22 edition of Farmshine and at the end of the report at this link. Instead of answering each of our questions, she chose the option of writing a letter for publication, unedited, in Farmshine.

Most of the questions, however, remain unanswered. While there are vague glimpses here and there of something to hang a hat on, it is the outright silence on some questions that is so telling.

First and foremost, we have not received the requested full copy of the MOU. Our request to DMI was ignored. Our request to USDA has been referred to Public Affairs. And we wait.

Hershey maintained in an email response that the MOU is nonbinding and has nothing to do with how milk is promoted in school. In her letter, she said,“MilkPEP and DMI programs are limited to promoting school milk as governed by the Dietary Guidelines set by USDA.”

As mentioned last week, there is nothing in the Checkoff Order that requires this, just a progression in that direction over the past 10 years, and no sign of the MOU that was in development 10 years ago and officially signed eight years ago.

Another question we asked was: “What role did Edelman (the longtime public relations firm for DMI) play in the creation of GENYOUth as some public articles say Richard Edelman, on the GENYOUth board played a significant role?

This question was completely ignored in both the DMI letter published last week and in any other correspondence with Hershey or DMI staff. It was not even acknowledged. When pressed, it was ignored further.

We also asked: “What role does Edelman continue to play and are you at all concerned that Edelman and other aligned partners in GENYOUth are aligned with the EAT Forum, specifically the FReSH initiative which seeks to accelerate global transformation of the food system to plant-based diets for “healthy people and a healthy planet”?

This question was also completely ignored in both the DMI letter published last week and in any other correspondence with Hershey or DMI staff. It was not acknowledged.

Meanwhile, after these articles were published, the information has come under heavy criticism by DMI staff and board members in discussions with questioning farmers on the private facebook page where farmers can join to ask checkoff-related questions and DMI staff and board members engage in conversation. 

There, farmers who ask are told on the one hand that Edelman is “not involved” in the EAT Lancet Commission or EAT FReSH initiative, and on the other hand that it’s “good to have representation on the inside”. 

But again, no public statement or answers to these questions are forthcoming. This seems odd given that DMI is funded by dairy farmers through an Act of Congress and the questions are being asked by a dairy farming publication.

When asked if a particular statement made by DMI staff on the private Checkoff facebook page is considered an official public statement answering a question for which we have not yet received an answer, the staff reply by email was that these statements are only for the private facebook participants, not official public statements.

To this point, we have information from the public record,  questions for which we have received indirect answers, at best. Many questions that have been completely ignored. And we have a letter of response that contains plenty of diversions.

I find it puzzling that Hershey attempts to position DMI in the letter as the champion of changing the conversation on milk fat, that checkoff would be credited with the Time magazine “Eat Butter” cover in 2014, when that was through the independent work of science writer Nina Teicholz! 

I find it puzzling that I was promised a long list of all the whole milk and full-fat dairy research DMI has done for years to change the conversation, but I am still waiting for that list.

These are more diversions. Look over here, not over there. 

We’ll look at some of the other unanswered questions next week and see if we can press for more information about the Edelman PR firm regarding the EAT FReSH initiative.

As the public record is clear on some of the Dairy Checkoff alliances of the past decade, and as the financial side of the GENYOUth connection comes into sharper focus with additional documentation that is surfacing, and as specific important questions about the Edelman firm doing public relations and marketing for DMI over the past 20 years are ignored, it’s obvious to me that the digging needs to go further. 

And it will. 

-30-

With science-fiction, they socially herd us like cattle to ‘alternative’ squeeze chute

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, February 22, 2019

All circles lead back to marketing, which is on display right now with the EAT Lancet report in January and the EAT Forums and social marketing that are hitting us in rapid succession, having already filtered into the Green New Deal in Washington and other legislation proposed in California.

Dr. Frank Mitloehner, a greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions expert from the University of California, Davis is not the only one questioning the GHG findings in the report.

He offered proof this week that the science director for the EAT Foundation, in an email (below), admitted the report’s dietary recommendations are not based on environmental considerations, they are based on – you guessed it – a hyper-charged version of the flawed dietary guidelines that have been making us, especially our children, fatter and sicker through ever-increasing government control of food choices!

This is a clear admission that the GHG figures being peddled are, as Mitloehner put it in Lancaster recently “without a single leg to stand on.”

This brings everything back to the common denominator in the ongoing social engineering project: USDA Dietary Guidelines.

In the pages of Farmshine for years (through two dietary guideline cycles, 10 years to be exact), we have warned about the Dietary Guidelines.

For months, we’ve sounded alarms about the genetically-altered yeast making ‘dairy without the cow’.

For weeks, we’ve been tracing the alliances of the Edelman company that has done the marketing and PR for DMI for 20 years and is also doing the social marketing and communication strategies for EAT Lancet.

That story was laid out here last week.

This week the EAT Lancet Commission’s desire for drastic reductions in meat and dairy consumption grew major legs as the Edelman social marketing machine — via staff loaned and now working as employees of EAT’s corporate initiative — have been in full artillery mode with our nation’s dairy and beef cattle in the crosshairs.

The right hand has been telling us we have a seat at the table, while the left hand has been working overtime to pull out the rug.

I’ll borrow this term: Resist! The Science Fiction EAT Lancet report is slowly but surely being spoonfed without a transparent airing in the press.

The EAT Lancet Commission had little actual press since 2019 launch, but not to worry! The global food tranformation effort (EAT Lancet, EAT FReSH) is coordinated by the world’s largest marketing and PR firm — spawning the seemingly random and unconnected legislative and marketing campaigns from the Green New Deal and new global diet ‘wisdom’ (flexitarian / reducitarian) to the outright lies about cows in foundation versions of prominent news organizations like Reuters, Bloomberg, The Economist, The Guardian and positioning of the new PepsiCo’s Quaker Oat beverage launch inprime dairy case real estate this week, to the unveiling of Danone’s new non-dairy yogurt plant in Dubois, Pennsylvania geared to “take plant-based products to the max.”


PepsiCo and Danone are two of the 41 corporate sponsors of the EAT Lancet global food transformation propaganda, and they are launching their ‘solutions’ right now. PepsiCo launched it’s Quaker Oat beverage this week, and it’s showing up prominently in dairy cases like this one. Danone unveiled the largest ‘dairy free’ yogurt plant in the world in Pennsylvania a few weeks ago, with its new ‘sustainable’ yogurt products reaching store shelves also in time to capitalize on the EAT FReSH social marketing campaign. Photo submitted by a Farmshine reader in northwest Indiana 

A convergence of the elite. It’s really one big thing, connected. The funding corporations are rolling out their food ‘solutions’ as we speak, hoping unwitting consumers will jump on the food-transformation-train.

I am resisting any brand that participates in this tomfoolery. 

EAT FReSH corporate sponsor Danone launched their marketing campaign for the new “dairy free” yogurt now made in Pennsylvania, and it has EAT Lancet taglines written all over it.

Of course, Danone is also a client of Edelman. So is PepsiCo.

Follow the money, folks.

Inside this high-stakes game is the world’s largest marketing and PR firm coining elite catch phrases about “eating within planetary boundaries” — you know — to save the planet, and other such “purpose-driven marketing” they are known for.

(Technically, the account director of Edelman Amsterdam planned and organized for two years as employee on assignment with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), which is the organization launching the EAT FReSH initiative with the 41 corporate sponsors, including Edelman. When the EAT Lancet Report and EAT Forums did launch in mid-January 2019, Lara Luten left Edelman’s employ at that point to become the full time director of the communications and social marketing plans that have been laid).

Boil it down. The nobles are telling the serfs: Forget animal protein, ‘Eat cake!’

I’m not against dairy alternatives, they should be available. We are omnivores. Plants need animals and animals need plants and we need them both.

What I am against is global propaganda that positions itself as science and is being used to socially herd us like cattle to the plant-based chute without the integrity to tell us it’s a bridge to genetically-altered-laboratory-designer-proteins (aka fake-meat and fake-dairy) grown in vats and bioreactors. 

Roughly 70% of the available land for food production is grasslands and marginal lands. It is these lands that cattle can graze or where forages for cattle are harvested in systems much different from row crops and vegetable plots. 

Cows upcycle low quality feedstuffs and plant byproducts that we can’t use, and they turn it into nutrient dense, delicious milk and beef. (Those grasslands and forages sequester carbon too!!)

Animal Ag emits less than half of the total greenhouse gas emissions for all of agriculture, and if we look at this per unit of nutrition, it’s amazing.

Animal Ag (dairy, beef, pork, poultry all combined) are responsible for just 3.9% of the U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory, but EAT Lancet tells a different story, and the lies are being exposed.

Just imagine how much stress will be on our so-called “planetary boundaries” if science fiction and social purpose-driven marketing prevails and more of us are “herded” or fooled into replacing more of our animal-based dietary nutrients with plant-based sources. It can’t be done. 

This is a Silicon Valley bridge to the billionaire-funded bioreactor factories to grow (3-D print) replacement protein from gene-altered yeast or gene-edited cell blobs. In fact, Microsoft founder Bill Gates was on CNN with Fareed Zakaaria Sunday talking about “cow farts being one of the world’s biggest problems” and the need for lab-cultured animal protein … to save the world. (Let’s be all the dumber for watching that interview clip here)

What Mr. Gates forgot to mention is his considerable investment in this disrupter technology of fake-meat, and that Microsoft is a corporate sponsor of EAT FReSH / EAT Foundation.

Yes, more science-fiction propaganda in the form of so-called purpose-driven marketing is coming from all sides and hyping up fast because the billionaire investors and food supply chain corporations need this social herding process to launch their new products. It’s not about people and it’s not about the planet, it’s about profit — at our expense!

No thanks here. I’m jumping the gate. The social-herders have gone too far.

-30- 

Top photo credit Michele Kunjappu

Gov. speech rules; producers have little say

Creation of GENYOUth in 2010 brought Dairy Checkoff and USDA into closer alignment

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, February 22, 2019

BROWNSTOWN, Pa. — Examining the public record over the past six weeks, we find no specific language in the Dairy Research and Promotion Order requiring commodity checkoff organizations to promote USDA Dietary Guidelines. Legal and other challenges may have fostered this association as the federal government’s defense of mandatory checkoff programs in the 2006 time frame offered protection as “government speech.”

A slippery slope, but the shoe fit as Congress authorized these programs in 1983, and USDA oversees them, appoints the boards that manage them and enforces the assessments paid by producers to fund them.

With the government declaring checkoff advertising to be “government speech” as a defense to challenges, producers cannot claim they are forced to support private or commercial speech with which they disagree. Instead, they are said to be supporting “government speech,” which is protected from such challenges, according to a scholarly articles published by Parke Wilde, a Cornell-educated professor of nutrition science and policy at the Friedman School at Tufts University. 

Wilde is the author of several editions of “Food Policy in the United States.” His 2010-12 article, entitled Federal Communication about Obesity in the Dietary Guidelines and Checkoff Programs explored this relationship, with special focus on dairy and meat checkoff programs. In fact, he wrote in 2018 about diet as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions late in 2018 previewing the EAT Lancet Commission’s report released officially in January 2019.

While Congress has never acted to require checkoff promotion within the boundaries of USDA Dietary Guidelines, the path to align the two was chosen by dairy checkoff in 2010 to protect it from external and internal challenges.

Dairy collects, by far, the largest pot of money among all checkoffs – approximately $350 million annually. Much of this money over the past 10 years has been spent through various partnerships in pre-competitive environments to potentially drive category demand, particularly for cheese.

The creation of GENYOUth in 2010 brought Dairy Checkoff and USDA into closer alignment. 

Unanswered questions remain. On February 11, specific questions and document requests were sent by email to Marilyn Hershey. A Chester County, Pennsylvania dairy producer with her husband Duane, she has served on the DMI board for almost seven years and has been chairperson for almost two years.

We asked specific questions about GENYOUth and Fuel Up to Play 60 (FUTP60) and other aspects of DMI alliances, including a request for information about the role of Edelman in the founding of GENYOUth.  As mentioned last week, Edelman is the world’s largest marketing, communications and public relations (PR) firm, and they have done social marketing and communication strategies for DMI for 20 years, including the 2017 creation of the Undeniably Dairy social ‘trust’ campaign.

We also asked if DMI had knowledge or concern about Edelman’s simultaneous involvement as social marketing and communications strategist for the EAT Lancet Commission, EAT Forum, and in particular the EAT FReSH Initiative — funded by 41 corporations, many of them Edelman clients.

We asked what specific entities received the more than $2 million paid annually in 2014-17 for “professional services” from the GENYOUth fund, which is by DMI’s own 2016-17 audit, described as being primarily funded by DMI “as the primary source of unrestricted funds for administration and operations” to the tune of more than $2.5 million annually.

We asked why the audit shows those numbers funding GENYOUth, which are much larger amounts than the $1.5 million listed annually as DMI contributions on the GENYOUth 990 forms filed with the IRS.

We asked for a full copy of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by National Dairy Council, USDA and the NFL in 2011 after the agreement for GENYOUth was solidified in 2010.

We asked for specific dairy sales tracking data from FUTP60 schools before and after receiving a grant for implementation, since we have learned from current and former board members and staff of DMI that this information is available and in fact part of the grant process.

We asked for comments about the benefits of GENYOUth programs to dairy farmers, such as what has been mentioned in the articles already in terms of breakfast carts containing dairy offerings, asking for specific information about recorded dairy sales via the breakfast carts.

And we asked for comments about the GENYOUth alliances being formed, and how they are beneficial for the dairy farmers funding the checkoff, which remains the foundation’s primary sponsor for operations – given the example of PepsiCo’s specific goals to be a leader in plant-based diet transformation through the incubator and ‘oat milk’ the company CEO touted when receiving the Vanguard Award at the 2018 GENYOUth Gala.

These questions were presented, and two options were offered — answering the questions point-by-point or providing a letter of response.

Marilyn Hershey chose the latter, providing Farmshine with a letter of response on Feb. 18, which was published on page 17 of the Feb. 22 edition (see it included at the end of this report).

As an editor’s note, the DMI letter of response by Hershey highlights the June 23, 2014 Time Magazine “Eat Butter” cover story, by Brian Walsh, as a checkoff accomplishment that changed the conversation on fat. However, Walsh in fact wrote the revealing cover story one month after his May 14, 2014 review of The Big Fat Surprise, by Nina Teicholz, which made the New York Times Best Sellers List at that time.

Walsh had reviewed her book before his “Eat Butter” story, stating: “It’s nutrition dogma: saturated fat is bad for you. But a new book makes the case that our obsession with low-fat diets has made us, and he went on to tell of the “6 facts about saturated fat that will astound you” as revealed in Teicholz’s book.

In fact, the checkoff-funded full fat dairy research mentioned by Hershey in her DMI response is said to be within the past five years, which would be since the publication of Teicholz’s book, which lays out the 10 years of investigation Teicholz conducted as an independent investigative science journalist, beginning in 2004. She accepted no industry funds for this work.

Walsh in his Time cover story retraced the steps of Teicholz’s book, leading with: “The taste of my childhood was the taste of skim milk. We spread bright yellow margarine on dinner rolls, ate low-fat microwave oatmeal flavored with apples and cinnamon, put nonfat ranch on our salads. We were only doing what we were told” (And what we are still told).

He then retraced the history Teicholz laid out in her book, beginning at the point in the book where a Senate committee, led by George McGovern in 1977, codified the Dietary Guidelines by 1980.

And, like today with the EAT Lancet Forum unfolding before our eyes, the food industry jumped in step – overnight — filling shelves with lowfat offerings and effectively replacing fat with sugar and carbs.

“… beef disappeared from the dinner plate, eggs were replaced … and whole milk almost wholly vanished,” Walsh wrote in the 2014 Time article patterned from the work of Teicholz he had reviewed a month earlier. “We had embarked on a vast nutrition experiment… Nearly four decades later, the results are in: The experiment was a failure.”

We will leave it to readers to determine whether the letter of response (below the chart) answers these questions.

———————————————————-

DMI chair Marilyn Hershey responds

Marilyn Hershey

I am thankful that Farmshine gave me the opportunity to comment on the series of recent articles that have been published about the work of the checkoff.

Let me introduce myself, I’m Marilyn Hershey, a fourth-generation dairy farmer from Pennsylvania and have been Chairman of Dairy Management Inc., for a little more than a year.

As a dairy farmer, like all of you, I’m experiencing the same economic difficulties and challenges. I invest in the checkoff just like every dairy farmer in the U.S. does. And just like everyone else I expect a solid return on my investment. Like you, I too want to ensure that my checkoff investment is used effectively to increase sales and trust. So does every member of both the DMI Board and the State and Regional Promotion Boards.

My fellow board members and I take great care in knowing and watching how every penny is spent by the checkoff to improve sales and trust on behalf of all dairy farmers. And we take program measurement and accountability seriously.

I have recently read Farmshine articles where GENYOUth and other checkoff related matters are discussed. Many of the statements and conclusions are out of context. 

As a dairy farmer, I am extremely proud of the programming that has been put into place to help raise healthy and high-achieving youth for decades. While my aim is not to provide a counter to each point, I do want to share a few key facts about the achievements we’ve made through farmers’ investments in dairy promotion and youth wellness.    

First, the fact is, dairy processors’ milk promotion board MilkPEP and DMI programs are limited to promoting school milk as governed by the Dietary Guidelines set by USDA. But we have had a laser focus on bringing full fat milk, and its benefits, back to the diet.

As you are aware, the benefits of milk fat are finally being recognized in the public health community as essential in the diet. Why? The checkoff. The checkoff research on the value of dairy fat was an important foundation for the health professional community to rethink the role of dairy fat in the diet, ultimately leading to the Time Magazine cover headline, “Eat Butter.”

This change in thinking, plus the powerful voices of leaders like Nina Teicholz, are why full-fat dairy products such as whole milk are enjoying a resurgence with consumers. For more on farmer-funded NDC research over the last five years, people can visit  http://researchsubmission.nationaldairycouncil.org.

Given all that has been accomplished in this arena, we are hopeful that the next round of Dietary Guidelines will include whole milk. I am also hopeful that the new Dietary Guidelines Committee will include voices around the table that support and stand behind whole milk.

Second, GENYOUth, just like the Gala it hosts, brings a net return of other organizations’ resources and money well above any farmer expenditure.

Through the Fuel Up to Play 60 program, the money coming from other companies has been used to fund school breakfasts and breakfast carts, which always include milk along with rotating options like yogurt, whole grain granola bars, string cheese, oatmeal, and fruit. The resources have also helped translate Fuel Up to Play 60 into Spanish for the increasing number of Hispanic students in America’s schools.

Through our efforts, we have increased millions of school breakfast meals each year consumed by kids, all of which include servings of milk and possibly yogurt and cheese. As a farmer, I’m very proud of this achievement.

As we look at our American Dairy Association North East specifically, we served 104,226 additional breakfasts in 2018. The new dairy occasions were over and above 2017’s numbers. Dairy is optimized in the breakfasts. We calculate that three-quarters of the kids choose milk as their drink of choice in this breakfast opportunity. 

Another recent example of unlocking GENYOUth’s network in partnership with the local promotion group includes securing funds from five new benefactors leading up to Super Bowl 53 — Georgia Power, Delta, The Home Depot, Arby’s Foundation and WellCare. These companies contributed $400,000 to get 53 breakfast carts into Atlanta schools, increasing access to 5.3 million breakfasts over the course of a school year.  

Being a part of GENYOUth, gives us the ability to work with other companies and health professional organizations to extend the message of dairy’s role in the diet. It also gives us the ability to educate others on the exceptional things dairy farmers do on their farm and in their communities.

What’s more, when we need coalition partners to address things like plant-based diets, attacks on dairy farmer practices and/or on animal agriculture in general, we benefit by having partners who speak on our behalf. For example, Domino’s, who sits on the GENYOUth board and funds GENYOUth, has been a strong proponent for dairy farmers. Domino’s has donated $1 million to the future of farming through FFA.

It’s unrealistic to expect to combat animal agriculture detractors without allied partners in health and wellness, environment and agriculture across a wide range of industries. This is a fact.

Since the articles have been published, I am not going to address each point. However, I contribute posts to a checkoff blog at www.dairy.org/blog where I will include more information about GENYOUth and youth wellness programming, as well as keep you informed of other activities the checkoff is implementing locally, nationally and internationally on dairy farmers behalf. Thank you for listening.

-30-