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-

1 thought on “Gov. speech rules; producers have little say

  1. Pingback: The need for more digging is even more obvious | Ag Moos "Growing the Land"

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s