About Agmoos

I am a journalist writing primarily about agriculture for various newspapers over the past 30 years...and before that, I milked cows and tended calves and heifers. I am also a mother and grandmother with three grown children: A teacher, restaurateur and homemaker. Our two sons and one daughter all like to cook and they are food conscious... not paranoid. My "foodographic" Agmoos blog is a place to find stories and photos of the people and places behind the food we eat and for commentary and analysis on food, farm and marketing issues facing producers and consumers.

Dairy checkoff GENYOUth ‘hero’ PepsiCo partners with Beyond Meat to market plant-based alternative protein snacks, drinks

Watch those FUTP60 breakfast carts! Packaged food, beverage giant and faux-meat maker join forces to market plant-based alternative protein snacks, drinks.

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, January 29, 2021

The business news stream was buzzing Tuesday (Jan. 26) as Beyond Meat stock value soared to 18-month highs after PepsiCo announced a joint venture with the fake meat maker to develop and sell plant-based protein snacks and beverages.

“Plant-based proteins are playing an increasingly vital role in modern diets — they’re nutrient-rich and far more sustainable than meat,” states the PepsiCo press release about the joint venture with Beyond Meat, being launched as “The PLANeT Partnership” and billed as being “better for the planet.”

The announcement was complete with ‘clever’ marketing hashtag — #ThePLANeTPartnership — but not much science, of course, nor substance.

“Climate action is core to our business as a global food and beverage leader,” said Chairman and CEO Ramon Laguarta said just one week earlier announcing Pepsico’s ‘bold’ new climate action plan.

Beyond Meat’s global chief commercial officer Ram Krishnan said the PepsiCo partnership “represents a new frontier in our efforts to build a more sustainable food system.”

During the World Economic Forum Davos Agenda 2021 livestream on Transformation of Food Systems and Land Use on the very next day (Wed., Jan. 27), PepsiCo’s Laguarta joined United Nations FAO director, deputy secretary general, special envoy for the food transition summit later this year, CEO of Rabobank and president of Costa Rica. The relationships between these types of partnerships are becoming clear.

Let’s review:

For 11 years, dairy farmers through the mandatory promotion checkoff founded and have predominantly funded GENYOUth, a ‘youth wellness’ non-profit with the dairy checkoff’s Fuel Up and NFL’s Play 60 combined as Fuel Up to Play 60. For nine of those 11 years, GENYOUth has partnered with PepsiCo, bringing this ‘fox’ into the FUTP60 schoolhouse — even awarding PepsiCo North America CEO Albert Carey the ‘hero’ Vanguard Award at the November 2018 GENYOUth Gala event in New York City. 

This, despite the fact that these two GENYOUth partners — the National Football League and its longtime beverage partner PepsiCo — contribute $1 million (or usually less) annually while dairy farmer-funded checkoff pays $4 million or more annually on the non-profit filing tax forms as Youth Improved Incorporated. DMI tax forms also show dairy checkoff payments to the NFL of $5 to $7 million annually as an independent contractor for ‘promotion services’. Amounts potentially paid in proprietary partnerships with PepsiCo are undisclosed.

GENYOUth was created while Tom Vilsack was Secretary of Agriculture during the Obama administration in 2008, with an MOU signed by USDA, NFL and National Dairy Council in 2009. (Mr. Vilsack is President Biden’s pick for Ag Secretary — again. In between his eight years as Ag Secretary under President Obama and the upcoming round-two as Ag Secretary, Vilsack was the top-paid executive hired by the dairy checkoff to head the U.S. Dairy Export Council and provide leadership for the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy)

When former President Bill Clinton was invited to speak about Vilsack at the 2017 GENYOUth Gala — the year that Vilsack was presented with the Vanguard Award — Clinton, a vegan, talked about every entity in the “diverse partnership” that he was celebrating except for America’s dairy farmers.

In the 2017 Gala speech about award winner Vilsack, Clinton talked about how children receive 40 to 60% of their calories from drinks in school. He talked about turning the obesity epidemic around by everyone taking responsibility in that area of beverages. He talked about how Vilsack’s leadership with Michelle Obama, made beverages and snacks abide by the fat-free rules, including school vending machines. Clinton stated that Vilsack was “instrumental under the radar… working for a ‘healthier’ generation of kids before coming to USDA and before the launch of GENYOUth.”

Former President Clinton thanked former Secretary Vilsack at the 2017 GENYOUth Gala for being “the guy” to tackle the beverage issue in school lunches. The year GENYOUth was formed is the year Vilsack’s USDA outright banned whole milk from school property from midnight before the start of the school day until 30 minutes after the end of the school day. The “Smart Snacks” rules went into effect under Vilsack, requiring a la carte and vending machine beverages to meet the Dietary Guidelines fat criteria and be under 60 calories per serving. (Mr. Vilsack and others in charge are still waiting for that elusive ‘preponderance of evidence’)

What happened next? A proliferation of PepsiCo snack and beverage products made their way into schools through PepsiCo’s own school foodservice company – complete with “USDA-Smart-Snacks-compliant” lists of snacks and drinks, including Mountain Dew Kickstart, Gatorade Zero, a host of snack bars, Doritos, and more.

The very next year at the November 2018 GENYOUth Gala, PepsiCo was the Vanguard Award ‘hero’. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sang PepsiCo’s praises, of course, the NFL and PepsiCo have been partners for decades.

“I say to our farmers: They had a dream, and we have been blessed to be part of that dream. You gave us life. You believed in us. And can you believe we are standing here today on the cusp of the 10-year anniversary of FUTP60?” said GENYOUth CEO Alexis Glick just before extending “an extra special thank you to PepsiCo.”

Glick said of PepsiCo’s Carey: “The generosity of your vision, your resources, your team, time and talent have changed our organization.”

That’s a mouthful. 

PepsiCo’s Carey showed his appreciation by plugging the new Quaker “oat milk” they were launching that month. It fell flat in the market, but PepsiCo is at it again with this new joint venture with Beyond Meat to make fake meat snacks and fake milk beverages that are sure to find their way onto the USDA-controlled Smart Snacks menus and FUTP60 breakfast carts in schools — even as the nutritious, delicious whole milk children love is prohibited.

In accepting the GENYOUth Vanguard award in November 2018, PepsiCo’s Carey talked about their “long and wonderful partnership with the NFL” and the way their ads and retail programs boosted both of their brands. He talked about how Play 60 was the NFL program they “most admired and wanted to be part of.” He was careful to leave out the “Fuel Up” part when mentioning the program because that is supposed to belong to the dairy checkoff.

He went on to talk about how PepsiCo “wanted to be part of the Play 60 program because of the importance of kids being active. But we also believe at PepsiCo that we need to provide healthy products for our consumers,” said Carey. “Some of you may be familiar with our mission ‘performance with purpose.’”

He described the mission as “getting great business performance while also serving others… on the part of the environment… or many other ways, but this one particular way is about providing healthier foods for our consumers.”

GENYOUth Gala, New York City, November 27, 2018: Commissioner of the National Football League, Roger Goodell, presents the Vanguard Award to Al Carey, CEO, PepsiCo North America, accepting on behalf of PepsiCo. (GENYOUth Now photo)

Carey took his time at the GENYOUth Gala podium, ‘hero’ Vanguard Award in hand, to tout PepsiCo’s “healthy beverages, including zero sugar soda, Life Water, Bubbly Sparkling Water, Gatorade Zero, Quaker oat milk.” (Yes, the now off-market Quaker oat beverage never put ‘milk’ on the label, but Carey called it ‘oat milk’ in his speech during the GENYOUth Gala as dairy-farmer-checkoff-paid employees of GENYOUth, DMI, NDC, etc. smiled and clapped with partnership euphoria).

Carey went on to tell the November 2018 GENYOUth VIP Gala audience that, “Oat milk, Bare Snacks and probiotic drinks are part of PepsiCo converting its portfolio to healthier foods for the future.”

A December 2018 Farmshine article about the Gala event quoted from the PepsiCo website, where the company touted its purpose-driven mission “to further the World Health Organization goals of alternative products to reduce saturated fat consumption and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, thereby improving global environmental and nutritional sustainability.”

What did PepsiCo do to earn the Vanguard Award from GENYOUth in 2018? PepsiCo committed $1 million that year to fund translation of the Play 60 materials in Spanish and to purchase some additional mobile breakfast carts. While it’s true those school breakfast carts carry fat-free and low-fat 1% milk, non-fat yogurt and non-fat or low-fat cheese, they are also well-stocked with PepsiCo snack bars and beverages.

After this week’s headline-making announcement of the PepsiCo – Beyond Meat joint venture to make alternative plant-based protein snacks and beverages, we see what might be appearing on those breakfast carts and USDA-compliant lunches in the not-so-distant future.

Again, as oft-repeated in this nutrition and promotion saga, the USDA / HHS Dietary Guidelines are the framework that allows less healthful foods to appear more healthful simply because they are devoid of saturated fat and contain artificial sweeteners. 

The government-mandated dairy checkoff deduction from milk checks pays for government speech, which means promoting fat-free and low-fat dairy and funneling ‘change-agent’ ‘sustainability’ curriculum into FUTP60 offerings. The NFL gets logo-emblazoned flag football kits into schools to promote their brand through exercise. Corporate partners like PepsiCo develop entire meal, snack and beverage lists with their products touted as “USDA Smart Snack compliant”.

Meanwhile, dairy farmers foot the main bill for the vehicle and watch as fluid milk consumption declines took a steeper nosedive since 2008, and as a whole generation has been turned away from milk until the recent resurgence of grassroots whole milk promotion. Farmers foot the bill for the vehicle and watch as obesity and diabetes rates rise among children and teens, especially low-income communities most reliant on government feeding programs. They foot the bill and watch as schoolchildren discard large volumes of packaged skim milk only to buy those other beverages, many of them made by PepsiCo.

All because dairy promotion and school offerings are strapped to Dietary Guidelines developed by the federal government that even in this recent 2020-25 round ignore more than a decade of scientific research on dietary fats as well as ignoring the investigative reports that have uncovered the flaws in the original science at the very core of 40-years of failed dietary policy.

You can’t make this stuff up. 

However, it’s not all that surprising when we see what is going on in this week’s ‘virtual’ World Economic Forum ‘Great Rest’ Davos Agenda. More than 60 global food, technology, energy, pharmaceutical, and financial companies made headlines also on Tuesday. They signed an agreement to adopt Environmental Social and Corporate Governance (ESGs), including the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) centering on Net Zero by 2050, including goals to “reserve” and control 50% of the earth’s land surface by 2050.

It is increasingly obvious that the Dietary Guidelines adopted by the U.S. and other countries around the world have little to do with human health but are a framework for using ‘nutrition’ to implement a ‘sustainability’ agenda seeking to dilute and replace animal agriculture while increasing global corporate control of food, and more. 

There’s a connection to China in these convergences of factors, which is also coming to light. Figuring prominently in the WEF Great Reset Davos Agenda this week is China, as evidenced by Xi Jinping, president of the People’s Republic of China being chosen to give the opening Davos address Monday (see related story).

According to the May 20, 2020 edition of Newsweek, Beyond Meat signed a significant deal with Shuangta Foods in China’s Shandong province to provide 85% of the concentrated pea protein for its fake meat products.

Over the past decade, China has built an empire of soy- and pea- protein manufacturing. According to the Good Food Institute — the trade organization representing plant-based and cell cultured meat and milk replacements — China is a “dominant supplier” of soy and pea protein to the world and keeps expanding pea protein concentrate and isolate processing capacity, having already been at 79% of global soy protein isolate production by 2016.

This is a familiar path in the way China dominated and took over the global apple juice market two decades ago, making apple concentrate powder that is reconstituted here to bottle most commercial brands of apple juice sold in the U.S. (a major shelf-stable beverage option already offered at schools and other foodservice settings).

PepsiCo has a 40-year history of building up its presence in China, spending billions in the past decade to build up its beverage processing infrastructure. In February 2020, PepsiCo purchased Be & Cheery, maker of nut, fruit and meat snacks in China. At the same time, PepsiCo announced plans to grow online snacks sales.

Thinking back to the 2007 melamine catastrophe in China involving the addition of melamine to boost protein levels ‘on paper’ for China-produced milk powder that was destined for infant formula production, as well as the periodic recalls of pet foods for melamine levels as many of the concentrated proteins in pet foods are also made in China… 

One has to wonder about the future of food. 


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WEF Davos Agenda 2021 kicks off with China’s view of post-pandemic global ‘reset’

Xi Jinping, president of People’s Republic of China, gives the opening address about China’s role in the post-pandemic global reset during World Economic Forum (WEF) Davos Agenda 21 this week. (WEF Livestream screenshot)

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, January 29, 2021

“History is moving forward and the world will not go back to what it was in the past. Every choice and move we make today will shape the world of the future. It is important that we address the four major tasks facing people of our times, (including Covid-19),” said Xi Jinping, president of the People’s Republic of China, chosen to give the opening address of the World Economic Forum (WEF) Davos Agenda 2021 opening day Monday (Jan. 25).

The annual meeting of world government and business leaders was virtual and livestreamed. It is normally held in Davos, Switzerland.

Jinping identified the four global governance tasks (health, economic, climate and digital), and discussed China’s role in global digital governance and in enhancing global health governance while pledging to get more engaged in global economic governance.

“It serves no one’s interests to use the pandemic as an excuse to reverse globalization and go for seclusion and decoupling of supply chains,” he scolded, using the term “arrogant” to describe any country or region that disrupts globalization. “We are one Earth with one shared future to cope with the current crisis.” (That being the Coronavirus pandemic, which originated in the Wuhan Province of China.)

Citing climate and economic recession as the other crises facing the world, Xi Jinping talked about coordinating macro-economics to determine ‘sustainable’ global growth and to shift the global growth factors and goals to a global economic system.

“In the era of economic globalization, public health emergencies like Covid-19 may very well recur, and global health governance needs to be enhanced,” he said. “The Earth is our one and only home, to scale up efforts to address climate change and to promote sustainable development bears on the future of humanity. No global problem can be solved by any one country, alone. There must be global action, global response and global cooperation.”

Jinping went on to say that the way out of the problems facing the world is through ‘multilateralism’, that there must be ‘openness’ and ‘inclusiveness.’
He defined multilateralism as being about having international affairs addressed through consultation and everything decided for the world together. He gave his opinion that the building of small circles, the starting of  a new cold war that decouples supply chains and disrupts them, the placing of sanctions, and unilateral trade agreements as reasons why the world gets pushed into division and confrontation.

The president of the People’s Republic of China said the world must act on a “shared future for mankind, peace, developmental equity, justice, democracy and freedom, to make policies that are open and inclusive and safeguard an open world economy, by taking down barriers to trade and barriers to technology exchanges.” (China is well known for requiring access to intellectual property as condition of trade).

At its roots, Jinping said the world needs “structural reform and international rules based on the majority of countries agreement.” He also said the United Nations and international law rules — once made — should be followed by all.

Citing the pandemic, Jinping said: “Now is the time for major transformation.”

He said this transformation should stand by core values of multilateralism, improve global governance systems, give full play to the World Health Organization, International Monetary System, and World Trade Organization, including fulfillment of the UN 2030 agenda for sustainable development regarding climate change.

It was at the conclusion of his remarks that the agenda seemed most clear, and chilling.

“China is on course … building the platform for a modern socialist country in a new development stage with a new development philosophy, fostering a new development paradigm with domestic circulation as the mainstay and with domestic and international circulation reinforcing each other,” Jinping said.

“China will work with other countries to build an open, inclusive, clean and beautiful world that enjoys lasting peace, universal security, and common prosperity,” he concluded.-30- 

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What has checkoff done for you lately?

Is now the time for a separate voluntary checkoff to divorce USDA, promote real U.S.-produced dairy, and take back the market value of consumer trust?

A young girl comes face to face with cows at a dairy farm open house in 2011. Since then, questions about checkoff direction beg only more questions. Who will stand up? Children on and off the farm need someone to stand up for their future. The World Economic Forum’s Great Reset tagline is (can you believe it?) Build Back Better, and it includes a plan already well underway to transform the global food and agriculture industries as well as the human diet. Huge global food and technology players say their plan will reduce hunger and disease, protect water and mitigate climate change. The real motive is tighter corporate control of food. The pattern is clear in the path of the checkoff, especially since 2008. Even the trust consumers repeatedly say they have in farmers is being arbitrated, re-designed and outright stolen. File photo by Sherry Bunting

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, January 22, 2021

BROWNSTOWN, Pa. — What has the mandatory dairy checkoff done for you its funders — the dairy farmers — lately? That’s a loaded question.

The short answer? Lots of herding.

One would believe mandatory checkoff promotion would be focused on herding consumers toward dairy products, but it may be more aptly described as herding producers toward certain global food transformation and marketing goals.

In various DMI phone conferences with producers, checkoff leaders have often repeated how they build relationships to ‘move milk’, work hard to ‘move milk’ and pivot through circumstances to ‘move milk’.

What has checkoff done for you lately? Apparently, they ‘move milk’.

Yes, there are several important and functional programs funded with checkoff dollars, mostly by state and regional checkoff organizations, including various ‘point of purchase’ and ‘tell your story’ programs aimed at connecting farmers with consumers. They help, and they also fit the agenda.

Survey after survey shows consumers trust farmers. They do not necessarily trust the global processors, retailers and chain restaurants that put farmers’ products in the consumer space.

This should come as no surprise. When it comes right down to it: Do farmers, themselves, even trust these consolidated globalized conglomerates?

Consumers trust farmers (88% up 4% since June according to AFBF survey), so ‘moving milk’ means connecting farmers with consumers. But the profit in that equation rests with the consolidated power structure – the global corporations – in the middle.

What has checkoff done for you lately? They’ve facilitated corporate use of farmers to dress their windows even as they participate in the World Economic Forum Great Reset for food transformation that seeks to dilute animal protein consumption, including dairy, through ‘sustainability’ definitions and goals.

Even the Edelman company, which receives $15 to $17 million annually in checkoff funds as the DMI public relations firm, is busy promoting a top oat-milk look-alike brand globally, serving as a sponsor and integrator of the EAT forum (EAT Lancet diets), and getting involved in several purpose-driven marketing efforts that dilute dairy around the marketing concept of climate.

Edelman knows consumers trust farmers. They do the annual global consumer ‘trust barometer’ where corporations are told consumers want purpose-driven marketing. They create prophecy and fulfill it.

What has checkoff done for you lately? They have taken what consumers love and trust about farmers and fund programs that make farmers earn what they already have. They tell farmers that consumers demand corporations show how they are improving climate, the environment and animal care. But do they tell farmers that consumers also want corporations to stand up for and improve how they care for the families who farm?

Along with producing the milk to make delicious, nutritious dairy products, dairy farmers possess the trust-commodity the global corporations covet.

One thing the national checkoff has done for you lately (especially since 2008) is to transfer that trust-commodity from farmers to global brands. They treat this trust-commodity as though it is a formless piece of clay they can mold to accomplish goals set by the pre-competitive roundtable of global conglomerates — via the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, formed by checkoff and funded with checkoff dollars since 2008.

DMI CEO Tom Gallagher has called this his job of ‘getting people to do things with your milk.’

While producers are being herded toward goals set by these corporations in concert with NGOs like World Wildlife Fund (WWF) for animal care, employee care and sustainability, consumers are also being herded toward prioritizing these same goals and messages.

Yes, consumers want to know where and how their food is produced. But they TRUST farmers. So farmers are being used to carry the purpose-driven messages of corporations. Shouldn’t these companies be paying farmers for this trust-commodity instead of farmers paying the freight for checkoff to transfer it?

What has checkoff done lately? How often do we hear that checkoff is “building trust”?

The trust is there. Checkoff is using that trust to build marketing, for who? You? The farmer? 

Checkoff launched and funded – through its Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy – the Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) program. What about a Corporations Assuring Responsible Ethics (CARE) program for the treatment of dairy farmers? Shouldn’t there be something like that to balance the scales of power?

Isn’t that what checkoff was originally created for? According to statute, it is to be the producer’s voice in promoting their product.

Repeatedly, we see evidence that consumers care about how farmers are treated. They indicate preferences for locally-produced and U.S.-produced food. Why? Because they trust farmers and want them to be supported by their purchases. The more local or domestic the farms producing the food, the better they like it.

So here is a short and incomplete list of some things checkoff has done for you lately:

1_ Used your farmer-trust-commodity to market brands via the ‘pre-competitive’ work of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy.

2_  Applauded USDA’s Dietary Guidelines every five years and carried the government-speech message on fat-free and low-fat dairy.

3_ Convinced farmers they must do x, y and z to ‘build trust and sales’ via the FARM program as determined by the pre-competitive collaboration of global corporations via the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. 

The FARM program convinces farmers they (checkoff) is building trust by setting requirements for how farmers manage their dairy farms, cows, employees and land. These parameters are agreed to pre-competitively by global corporations via DMI’s Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and then enforced on farms through their milk buyers with the equal weight of a contractual obligation.

The next wave for the FARM program is environmental to fulfill the new “sustainability” platform, the Net-Zero Initiative. Be appreciative, say checkoff leaders, FARM is farmer-led and the Net-Zero Initiative will be profitable.

4_ Used farmer checkoff funds to partner with global corporations buying breakfast carts – and influence – in schools to create ‘change agents’ through GENYOUth. A year ago, we reported that GENYOUth, in its newsletter, admitted using our nation’s schoolchildren and the climate change conversation as leverage for an emerging global vision for food transformation. 

The pre-pandemic spring 2020 GENYOUth ‘Insights’ newsletter put it this way: “What youth know, care about and do might make or break the future for healthy, sustainable food and food systems. The future of sustainability – which includes the future of food and food systems – will benefit from youth leadership and voice.”

The GENYOUth Insights article bemoaned the Edelman-guided checkoff-funded survey revelation: “Youth are twice as likely to think about the (personal) healthfulness of their food over its environmental impact. Teens aren’t thinking too much about the connection between food and the health of the planet.”

That was PRE-pandemic. If anything, the pandemic has only reinforced the consumer focus on health, price and taste, while checkoff actively seeks to move the dietary goal posts and herd farmers and consumers toward marketing terms like: ‘sustainable nutrition’, ‘sustainable health’ and ‘good for you good for the planet.’ These terms will have definitions and requirements set by global corporations. Again, farmers will be told they must do x, y and z to build trust.

5_ Used checkoff funds to develop and promote products that dilute dairy and ultimately subtract value. A prime example is DFA’s ‘purely perfect’ blends, like Dairy-Plus-Almond, a 50/50 blend of almond beverage and low-fat ultrafiltered real milk – not to be confused with a better idea: why not almond-flavored 100% milk?

The rationale? DFA sold the concept for DMI investment as: “This product is not about pivoting away from dairy, instead we saw an opportunity to fulfill a need as people like almond or oat drinks for certain things and dairy for others. This product combines the two into a new, different-tasting drink that’s still ultimately rooted in real, wholesome dairy.”

This fits what CEO Gallagher has talked about in the past projecting the fluid milk future as being ‘milk-based’. 

In terms of milk products in schools, Gallagher put it this way in his 2019 CEO address: “Schools represent just 7.7% of consumption, but… We have got to deal with the kids for a variety of reasons on sales and trust.” He went on to say that the fluid milk committee “asked DMI to put together a portfolio of products for kids inside of schools and outside of schools. What are the niches that need to be filled? What’s the right packaging? What needs to be in the bottle? And we can do that,” he said.

6_ Coached farmers on how to talk to consumers in a way that touches on the Net-Zero sustainability goals of these global corporations and links the farmer’s trust-commodity with global brands.

The bottom line is what the checkoff has done for farmers in the past 12 years is to establish a roundtable of global corporations that determine what dairy innovations to promote for the consumer level and what production practices to audit at the farm level, and then convinces you, the farmer, that they are doing these things to ‘build trust and sales’ and ‘move milk.’

While farmer checkoff funds are the financial side of this effort, farmers themselves are also being used to transfer that trust-commodity to the corporations, ostensibly so checkoff can keep convincing them to ‘do things with your milk.’

If a referendum on dairy checkoff is not possible, then perhaps a new voluntary checkoff is a way for dairy farmers to create an entity that stands apart from USDA government speech and MOUs, apart from global WEF Great Reset influence, apart from corporate decision-making, to stand with and for farmers, to take back their trust-commodity, to define who they are, what they already do, what it is worth to consumers, and create market value for the farmers’ milk and the consumers’ trust.

What has dairy checkoff done for you lately? Did you request checkoff materials or assistance with a project that was denied or approved? Did you participate in a checkoff program that was wonderful or not so much? Do you have examples of programs and ideas you started at the grassroots level that checkoff  ‘took over’ and changed the message? Did you have a dairy donation event for whole milk that checkoff said could not be done at schools? Have your milk buyers ever paid you — or even thanked you — for the premium-consumer-trust-commodity they pick up every time they pick up your milk? Send your observations to agrite2011@gmail.com

To be continued

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Farmers question dairy checkoff leaders during 2020 meeting on Pennsylvania farm

By Sherry Bunting, published a year ago (pre-pandemic), Farmshine, March 11, 2020

PARKESBURG, Pa. — The promotion of fluid milk, especially whole milk, was top of mind for approximately 120 dairy farmers, many of them Amish, who gathered at a dairy farm near Parkesburg, Pennsylvania last Thursday (March 5) for a question and answer session with two top representatives of Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) – Marilyn Hershey, DMI chairwoman and UDIA board member along with Lucas Lentsch, UDIA executive vice president.

DMI manages the national dairy checkoff and is the board that brings together the National Dairy Board and the federation of state and regional promotion boards that make up the United Dairy Industry Association (UDIA) — under DMI’s unified marketing plan.

The farmers came equipped with information, questions and concerns around several key topics with much of the discussion centering on whole milk promotion. This was clearly at odds with DMI’s emphasis on cheese and other dairy products through a decade of “partnerships doing the advertising for us,” as it was explained.

Case in point, at the outset of the meeting, Marilyn Hershey stated that “consumers are not drinking dairy. Today, they are eating more of their dairy.”

Lucas Lentsch, who covers producer relations and oversees the federation of state and regional promotion boards under UDIA, stressed that “consumers can’t be educated to drink something. We have the consumer insights… and we have to move to where the consumers are.”

“These are tense times in the dairy industry, and we need to remain respectful,” said Simeon Beiler as he moderated the discussion. He and Melvin Stoltzfus and Steve Stoltzfus organized the meeting, which lasted nearly three hours and became heated at points when several key questions of fact, as well as questions of direction and board make-up and decision-making were left unanswered.

Also tense, were points at which Hershey and Lentsch — as well as other promotion board representatives in the audience — claimed that whole milk sales have been rising for years because of checkoff-funded efforts in research and in-store stocking and promotion programs. The checkoff leaders even questioned the impact of the Drink Whole Milk 97% Fat Free campaign started by Nelson Troutman’s Milk Baleboards in January 2019 — going so far as to say that while they appreciate these grassroots efforts, the message is “confusing consumers.”

DMI chair Marilyn Hershey and UDIA executive vice president Lucas Lentsch take questions from farmers at the March 2020 meeting in southeast Pennsylvania.

Hershey told the group of her background growing up on a dairy farm and today operating a dairy with her husband in Chester County, Pennsylvania. She said she has enjoyed serving producers and feels DMI “can make a difference so that dairy farmers can do what we do best – produce milk.” She has been involved in dairy promotion for nearly seven years, today serving on the UDIA board, which led to becoming DMI chairwoman almost three years ago.

Lentsch introduced himself as growing up on a dairy farm in South Dakota, serving in the military and coming home to be appointed as the state’s secretary of agriculture. Then, four years ago, he became CEO of Midwest Dairy Association before taking the national job this year with UDIA. He talked about taking seriously “the servant leadership mindset” of “working for real people who make this country great.”

Lentsch repeatedly took note that there are facts and there are perspectives and that the perspectives in the room may be different, but he was “loving the dialog and wanting to do the work that benefits farmers.”

At several points, Hershey shared that the DMI board “doesn’t work that way” or the way people seem to think it does — in terms of how the goals and perspectives of the group of attending farmers could be met.

Lacking throughout the discussion was the ability to answer specific questions on points of fact as Hershey described the relationship dairy farmers have with the National Football League (NFL). For example, she said the NFL players are “invested” in the work of getting breakfast carts to hungry children and that the week spent at Super Bowl venues begins a year in advance raising money from other businesses to fund breakfast carts for schools in the host city.

When asked specifically about what Super Bowl perks and expenses are paid with checkoff funds for board members, Hershey avoided the question and picked up in a different aspect, saying $820,000 was raised for breakfast carts last year when the Super Bowl was in Atlanta.

A follow up question was asked about what the dairy farmers’ checkoff investment is in GENYOUth that leads to those monies being raised. That question was not answered either.

A second follow up question was asked about what the more than $5 million represents, which was paid by DMI to the NFL in each of at least two years of IRS 990 forms (2016 and 2017), listing only the top five independent contract recipients, NFL being one of the top five.

Hershey and Lentsch seemed surprised by the question, and neither could nor would answer it, saying they would find out. However, this question had been asked by farmers in the past and by at least one reporter in a previous meeting as well as in writing, with yet no answer.

Congruent to the Super Bowl and GENYOUth questions were those about why all milk promotion is focused on fat-free and low-fat. Farmers wanted to know why DMI cannot support the choice of whole milk in schools (more on that in a future article).

In fact, the very first question asked by moderator Simeon Beiler — who fielded written questions from the attending farmers as well as calling upon farmers to ask their questions directly – was this one: “Why do we not see DMI-financed promotion of whole milk?”

Lentsch stopped the answering of that question by first asking the group to pause and look at the history of the dairy checkoff, which was legislated as mandatory in 1983 when he said there were 500 warehouses full of cheese and butter bought by the government.

“They weren’t going to keep doing that,” said Lentsch, explaining that dairy checkoff was implemented so that dairy farmers could “be a voice for themselves in promotion and research.”

In those 35 years, U.S. milk production has gone from 140 billion pounds annually to 220 billion pounds, Lentsch said.

As the conversation continued, it became clear that dairy checkoff — rather than being a way for farmers to “be a voice for themselves” — could be more aptly described as a voice for the government and its partners.

Why? Because the answers on the whole milk promotion question were given in contradictory ways as Hershey and Lentsch each explained their understandings of the government’s oversight.

“A few years ago, USDA made a rule not to support whole milk and we (checkoff) are held under that jurisdiction, but we can do research,” said Hershey, adding that there are 63 research papers in support of whole milk. She said that they explain the value of whole milk for children, but that the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association are not wavering, and DMI “can’t get involved in political battles because it’s the preponderance of the evidence” that governs this.

Lentsch stated that it all goes back to the Dietary Guidelines, and he seemed to make a distinction about the difference between what can be promoted in general and what can be promoted in schools.

A follow up question was asked as to why Allied Milk Producers — a qualified milk promotion and research program based in Pennsylvania that can receive the dime for regional promotion nationwide – why they can put up “Whole Milk, whole nutrition, naturally” billboards and DMI maintains that it can’t do something similar.

Hershey stated that she sees these billboards when traveling, but that, “USDA never regulated Allied on this, but USDA could if it wanted to.”

From the audience, Mike Eby, a former Allied board member, stated: “It’s my understanding that Allied is under the same jurisdiction of USDA as any other checkoff organization.”

This is where Lentsch intervened to say there is a difference between whole milk promotion in schools, which he said the dairy checkoff cannot do, and whole milk promotion in general.

“USDA adheres to the Dietary Guidelines, and the science that you have funded (through checkoff) on early childhood nutrition shows whole milk is a huge bright spot,” said Lentsch. “That message is getting out, thanks to you for funding the research.”

But when the topic of the research was probed further by the audience, no specific research papers on whole milk were offered as examples. In fact, Hershey mentioned a CNN headline from that morning about a study showing whole milk reduces the likelihood of children becoming overweight or obese. The headline was about a study done in Australia that was similar to a study completed a few months ago in Canada.

The question was asked, specifically, did DMI fund the study in Australia or the one in Canada? Hershey’s answer was “no.”

Hershey also mentioned the 2015 Time Magazine cover “Eat Butter” as based on checkoff research and efforts to get the full-fat dairy message out, and that this changed the conversation on whole milk.

A member of the audience indicated that the Time Magazine article was explained by its author in the preface as being prompted by his review of Nina Teicholz’s international and New York Times best-selling book that year — “Big Fat Surprise” — and that Teicholz’s extensive bibliography only included two studies related to dairy checkoff on full-fat dairy (i.e. cheese and butter). The book mostly exposed the injustice of academics burying science for decades while the world latched onto the low-fat diet propaganda and made it law, so to speak.

There was no answer. No citing of specific checkoff-funded studies on whole milk – as a beverage.

Lentsch stressed that, “The battleground is the Dietary Guidelines. We have the science and the influence to have conversations at the World Health Organization and those conversations are happening at the global scale, to make sure recommendations are science-based.”

“This is the United States of America,” said one Amish attendee. “We know we could be advertising whole milk. The Dietary Guidelines are not operating on true science.”

Lentsch added that checkoff is “promoting whole milk, just not in schools. We can speak of the science. USDA has oversight so at the national level we can only talk about the science.”

Jennifer Heltzel, a dairy producer from Martinsburg, Pa., rose to introduce herself as “your representative on the national board.” She talked about why farmers don’t see the advertising checkoff is doing. “We don’t see it driving down the road. It’s on social media where the consumers are. The Got Milk campaign was an award-winning campaign and it drove awareness, but it did not drive consumption,” she said.

Lentsch added that there are 80,000 SKUs of beverages now available to consumers. “In the 1990s, we saw an explosion of innovation in the amount of choices consumers have today. But the good news is that milk is in 94% of households. It’s the trip-driver so it is very important,” he said. “We work promotion through brands that are facing consumers.”

“We now work with partners like Pizza Hut, Domino’s, Taco Bell and McDonalds and they do the advertising for us,” said Hershey. “Taco bell wanted to develop a taco made with cheese (a cheese shell in addition to cheese topping that will be launched this spring). We developed it with them in our kitchens.”

She said that $15 billion in advertising has been used by DMI’s partners since this partnership-style dairy promotion began in 2010.

“It’s a way for us to get our message out,” said Hershey, adding that MilkPEP, the fluid milk processors’ promotion organization is one of DMI’s partners. Fairlife is another example, and she said other dairy beverage brands are coming on as partnerships (more on that in a future article).

Berks County dairy farmer Nelson Troutman (right) and retired agribusinessman Bernie Morrissey (second from right) stop for a photo while talking with Chester County dairy producers Stan and Cathy Guest as they arrived at the March 5 meeting organized by dairy farmers with two DMI dairy checkoff representatives on the farm of Levi Stoltzfus near Parkesburg, Pennsylvania.

Milk Baleboard originator Nelson Troutman spoke up: “So the government regulates what we can say in school, but what about our partners like McDonalds? You just try once to buy a whole milk at McDonalds. It’s not available. Why can’t that be something we do with our partners?”

Troutman said further that the milk at the local McDonalds in Lebanon, Pennsylvania is zero fat milk from Upstate in New York. “Fluid milk drives the farmer’s milk check,” he said. “Whole milk really drives it. That’s why we’re not happy. We don’t win until they taste the whole milk.”

Another farmer then asked: “Why are our partners doing our advertising?”

Times have changed,” said Hershey. “This is how we do our advertising now and why it looks different.”

Troutman replied that, “This is why the 97% fat free effort is working.”

He was asked by Lentsch, “What are you basing that on? I do see it in your area. I saw one of the round bales driving in.”

Beiler noted that through various means (including web and social media), the 97 Milk message has become national, even worldwide as the British dairy farmers have a similar effort, and farmers from South America have asked to borrow the idea.

Beiler then redirected to ask point-blank: “Are you asking our fast-food ‘partners’ to serve or offer whole milk?”

Lentsch explained that, “McDonalds targets their Happy Meals to shoot for calorie targets. Everything is predicated on what we are allowed to do. I know that sounds like an excuse, but it is a reality.”

Hershey added that all they can do is put the research in front of their partners. She tried to bring the conversation back to DMI’s positive message on cheese consumption. “That is what is helping us right now. Cheese and butter consumption are outpacing production. America loves cheese. We have to figure out how to deliver the cheese.”

“We are in the business of moving dairy consumption,” said Lentsch, noting that 10 pounds of milk make one pound of cheese, saying cheese uses a lot of milk.

This is the point in which the attendees made it clear that if checkoff was started so that producers could speak for themselves and increase demand to return profitability, then “we need to promote whole milk because it drives our profitability.”

“We don’t have big cheese plants here,” said Troutman. “Pennsylvania is a fluid milk state with 12 million people, not to mention cities in other states in our region. Fluid milk sales are what keep farms in business here. That’s why we are talking about fluid milk.

“I hear you,” Lentsch replied. “We are studying dairy innovation, the value of what you produce, and trying to introduce new products. We have consumer insights, and we do some education, but you can’t just keep telling people that milk has 9 essential nutrients.

“We can be mad about what is not happening, or we can move to where the consumers are,” said Lentsch. “You can’t educate them to drink something.”

To which Troutman replied: “Yes we can. And we are! We tell them whole milk is 97% fat free, and we have consumers confirming with us already that this is something they never knew and they want to know more. This is why they have to know what we are selling, to see the 3.25% fat on the label.”

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Free yard signs offered, grassroots effort continues promoting whole milk’s immune boosting nutrition

Bernie Morrissey has boxes of signs getting a bit of a makeover, assembled and available – free – in the Morrissey Insurance vestibule at 890 North Reading Road, Ephrata, Pa., or by visiting Wenger’s of Myerstown or Sensenig’s Feed Mill, New Holland during business hours. “Take only what you will place. They are free,” says Morrissey.

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, January 18, 2021

EPHRATA, Pa. – Now that elections are over, and five more years of Dietary Guidelines were recently announced with the comment period concluded and thousands of comments disregarded — the Whole Milk – School Lunch Choice – Citizens for Immune Boosting Nutrition yard signs are getting a makeover.

The action word “Vote” on the campaign-style yard signs that began popping up last fall has been changed to “Drink”, but the message and reference to 97milk.com remain the same.

These are signs to make people aware of two things:

1) Whole milk is still not allowed as a school lunch choice under current federal rules, and

2) Whole milk is the best way to get Vitamin D and other immune boosting nutrition for children and elderly, whose diets are most controlled by the fat-free and low-fat rules of yet another round of 2020-25 Dietary Guidelines.

Retired agribusinessman Bernie Morrissey has changed 300 available signs printed with the financial sponsorship of Morrissey Insurance of Ephrata and Troy, Pa.; Sensenig’s Feed Mill, New Holland; and Wenger’s of Myerstown.

“Our main message is the same,” says Morrissey. “News reports increasingly mention vitamin D supporting the immune system in this time of coronavirus pandemic. Even national broadcasts bring on specialists citing research showing the vital role of vitamin D. The best way to get vitamin D is in whole milk, but our children are not permitted to choose whole milk at school. They can only choose fat-free and 1% low-fat milk, according to the federal government’s dietary rules.”

In fact, according to a recent health report aired on several major broadcasting networks, dozens of studies have identified the importance of vitamin D in relation to Covid-19. Even before the pandemic, the medical community identified vitamin D as a nutrient deficiency of concern among Americans.

A huge new study is underway to test causation between higher vitamin D levels and prevention of deaths due to Covid-19 after several smaller studies showed nine out of 10 deaths could have been prevented with adequate vitamin D levels.

Winter and spring are the seasons of concern with Covid-19, and it is the time when vitamin D deficiency is most prevalent, say health professionals in countless interviews.

Vitamin D is one of several fat-soluble vitamins in milk. Vitamin D occurs naturally in the milk fat at some level but is also fortified in milk — and has been for decades because of the longstanding concern about vitamin D deficiency and the importance of vitamin D in conjunction with calcium for strong bones and overall health.

A study at St. Michael’s hospital in Toronto, Canada, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2017, showed children who drank whole milk had up to three times higher absorbed levels of vitamin D compared with children drinking 1% low-fat milk. This study also showed that children drinking whole milk were leaner. They had 40% less risk of becoming overweight than children drinking low-fat milk.

Another study there showed children drinking only non-cow’s milk plant and nut alternatives, which are also fortified with added vitamin D, were twice as likely to be deficient in vitamin D. In fact, the pediatrician researchers stated that, “Among children who drank non-cow’s milk, every additional cup of non-cow’s milk was associated with a five percent drop in vitamin D levels per month.”

“What we are doing with the yard signs and Drink Whole Milk 97% Fat Free painted hay bales and banners and the efforts of the 97 Milk education group with their website and social media is all working. The yard signs focus on the nutritional message for our children and elderly that the Dietary Guidelines ignore, which is the immune boosting nutrition of whole milk,” says Morrissey, also pointing out the benefits of whole milk for maintaining a healthy weight and stabilizing metabolism.

“This is a slow process to get things changed in Washington and Harrisburg, but we’re working on it,” he adds, praising the combined efforts of the Grassroots PA Dairy Advisory Committee and 97 Milk, as well as all the many people and agribusinesses supporting both grassroots efforts initiated by dairy farmers.

Morrissey said the 300 Drink Whole Milk – School Lunch Choice – Citizens for Immune Boosting Nutrition – 97milk.com yard signs are available in the vestibule at Morrissey Insurance at 890 North Reading Road, Ephrata, Pa. Signs are also available at Sensenig’s Feed Mill, New Holland and Wenger’s of Myerstown during business hours.

“These yard signs are free because of the three businesses that paid for them – Morrissey, Sensenig’s and Wenger’s. Come and get them, but take only what you will place,” says Morrissey, wanting to be sure signs are put out for others to see, and learn and question and get involved.

Producers and other businesses wanting to sponsor the continued printing of more yard signs, or those with questions about how to participate from other areas, contact Bernie Morrissey from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. at 610.693.6471.

Find even more good news about whole milk and dairy foods at 97milk.com

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A plea for Eve: ‘She deserves our every consideration. She earned it.’

Eve Project seeks 200,000-pound record for Elevation’s dam: Relocated from Pennsylvania to Canada for trailblazing ET surgery in 1974 left 8th lactation incomplete

For George Miller, Eve is special. He is pictured here at the 2011 National Convention in Virginia. He was recognized in 2019 by Holstein USA for distinguished service, noting his vision, leadership, determination and advocacy for the Holstein cow and the people behind her. Today, at age 94, George is under nursing care, residing with his wife Pippin. (Cards and well wishes can be sent to the Millers at 5675 Ponderosa Drive, Apt. 304, Columbus, OH 43231) Sherry Bunting photo

By Sherry Bunting, published Farmshine, January 15, 2021

BROWNSTOWN, Pa. — Less than 4000 pounds. That’s what separates Round Oak Ivanhoe Eve’s recorded lifetime production from the 200,000-pound mark she is believed to have earned but for the circumstances of her relocation and donor cow surgery at the peak of her eighth lactation.

Aptly named ‘Eve’, the dam of the one and only Round Oak Rag Apple Elevation has touched over 95% of the Holstein breed — given Elevation’s more than 100,000 recorded offspring and around 9 million descendants, worldwide.

In fact, her son’s growing impact was part of the reason she was relocated for several months in 1974 from her last owners in Pennsylvania to Modern Ova Trends, Norval, Ontario, Canada for superovulation and embryo recovery transfer surgery to attempt a multiple repeat of the mating that had produced Elevation a decade earlier.

That move at 12 years of age, in peak lactation, created a lapse in milk recording that shorted Round Oak Ivanhoe Eve’s lifetime record to be 3,970 pounds shy of the 200,000-pound mark at 196,030M 4.1 8070F. 

This shortfall is believed to be milk Eve made, or would have made, in the second part of her eighth lactation had she not been a trailblazer. She was housed several months mainly with beef animals as the only lactating animal in a facility without milk-recording and submitted to embryo transfer, which in those days was major surgery, especially for an aged lactating cow.

Round Oak Ivanhoe Eve EX94 4E was making 100 pounds of milk a day when pictured in September 1971 at Willsholm Holsteins, Berlin, Pa. at around age 8. She had already had at least two lactations over 1000 pounds of fat by that point. Photo courtesy

Bred by the Ron Hope family of Round Oak Farms, Purcellville, Virginia, Eve produced Elevation in 1965 at age 3. She was sold at age 8 in the 1970 Round Oak dispersal to the late Calvin Will of Willsholm Holsteins, Berlin, Somerset County, Pennsylvania. The sale occurred when her son was still a young sire, before his prowess for transmitting that rare combination of production, conformation, fertility, and longevity had the world clamoring for Elevation.  

For 2019 Holstein USA distinguished service award winner George Miller, Eve is special. 

George Miller spent his lifelong career in Holstein genetics, 17 years with Virginia Artificial Breeders Association (VaABA), which merged to become part of Select Sires, Inc., with Miller serving as director of marketing from 1973 through retirement. 

Miller grew up helping at his uncle’s Round Oak farm and had early involvement with his cousin Ron Hope’s development of the Holstein herd, even while earning his Master of Science at Virginia Tech. Recognized as instrumental in directing the development of ‘do-it-yourself’ insemination programs to propel A.I. and genetic progress cost-effectively for dairy farmers, Miller’s keen eye for cattle and knowledge of bulls as a sire analyst in those early days of A.I., led to his participation in a series of decisions at Round Oak.

Key decisions included the purchase of Ivanhoe semen in Lancaster, Pa. in 1958, which led to the mating that produced Round Oak Ivanhoe Eve as well as Miller’s suggested mating of Eve to Tidy Burke Elevation that produced Round Oak Rag Apple Elevation.

The rest, as they say, is history, except for a bit of unfinished business for Eve.

During a December 2020 conversation between two 1974-78 University of Guelph classmates, the Eve Project was born. The Eve Project is a proposal to Holstein Associations USA and Canada, requesting Eve’s legacy be reviewed for special consideration of her lifetime milk record based on her circumstances in 1974.

Not long ago, Miller inquired about Eve’s production record. Miller, 94, has been retired from Select Sires since 1996, but continued active in Holstein genetics. He is currently in nursing care, residing with his wife Pippin at Friendship Village in Columbus, Ohio. Eve is on his mind. 

A close friend Mark Comfort, co-founder of Udder Comfort and founder of Transfer Genetics, which became TransCanada Select Sires, Ontario, discovered last month that there is more to Eve’s story after communicating with classmate John Birks of Modern Ova Trends, Via Pax Corp Ltd., and TRIAD ET Ltd., Ontario.

As a college student, Birks was a weekend herdsman for Modern Ova Trends in 1974. He remembers Eve as the “iron lady” because of her strength, production and easy going, undaunted nature.

Birks also began looking into Eve’s production record, recently finding that almost half of her eighth lactation is missing.

In a December 2020 letter to Holstein Associations USA and Canada, Birks makes the strong case. Unlike many cows that had trouble coming back after what was major ET surgery, Eve not only continued to milk, she went on to breed back and have a ninth lactation at 14 years of age!

The Eve Project is simply a request to respect her legacy and review her production history, “that she may be awarded the 200,000-pound lifetime record, which she deserves,” Comfort relates in an email.

“George and Eve have influenced the Holstein breed,” Comfort explains. He says Miller’s impact on him and others of the Select Sires family “is absolutely appreciated. We are thankful for the influence he has had on our lives, causing us to be better people. His ideals and principles are second to none.”

Gathered in 1979 to commemorate Elevation at Select Sires, Plain City, Ohio are (l-r) Ronald and Marjorie Hope of Round Oak; Robert H. Rumler, executive secretary Holstein Association USA; Richard Chichester, Select Sires general manager; and George A. Miller, Select Sires director of marketing. Photo courtesy Select Sires

At the same time, Miller’s work with Eve touched so many in the Holstein breed.

Nowadays, a breeder can request a ‘special consideration’ waiver from the DHIA company to calculate unrecorded milk for sick cows or traveling cows for up to two milk tests of up to 75 days each. If Eve were alive today, relocating for surgery or traveling on extended show circuit, a qualified waiver could be requested and potentially approved.

In retrospect, this is all that would be needed to account for her time off-test during the ET work in Canada; however, Eve lived almost half a century ago.

“George thinks the Eve project is a long shot, but his love for this cow is undeniable,” Comfort says, relating a recent conversation in which Miller recalled visiting Eve at Willsholm after she returned from Canada.

He had been impressed with her care and how beautiful she looked at 14, how she had thrived after the surgery, breeding back with a Fond Matt bull calf.

“This is a testament to her iron will. All we want is a chance to be heard, to plead our case. In my letter to the associations, I emphasized that Eve had a major surgical procedure. Few people today realize how challenging surgical embryo recovery was then,” writes Birks in an email, listing several top-of-mind examples of high-profile Holsteins that died shortly after this surgery.

Birks observes that Eve’s time under care for ET surgery in Canada easily equates to the special consideration given today to sick cows or show cows away from home for extended periods of time.

“The reality is, Eve did produce these 4000 pounds of milk during her several-month relocation,” writes Birks in his letter. “Please focus on Eve’s eighth lactation starting June 26, 1973, which is recorded as 181 days, 14,949 pounds 4.2% ending January 23, 1974. Obviously, this is an incomplete record, but there is a logical and verifiable reason.” 

Birks explains that in the second half of 1973, two embryo transfer facilities were established in Canada, one being Modern Ova Trends. They were initiated to fill a North American demand to reproduce exotic beef imports from Europe. The technology was equally applicable to dairy cattle, but new.

“The owners of Round Oak Ivanhoe Eve chose to submit her to this ground-breaking, cutting edge procedure. In January or February 1974 at 181 DIM, Eve was sent to Modern Ova Trends… to undergo superovulation and embryo transfer,” Birks writes firsthand as he worked there at the time.

“Eve was attended to by a very capable herdsman, Ron Westgate, a former employee of Romandale Farms Limited. Eve was the only lactating cow at Modern Ova Trends in 1974. Ron and I were hired by Dr. Donald C. Wilson (1941-2020) a veterinarian with G.D Stirk and Associates, Brampton, ON,” Birks recalls, stating that Westgate can “verify Eve was milking during winter and spring. He worked with her daily. I was weekend barn staff.”

Birks goes on to explain that, “Official milk recording was not provided to the embryo transfer industry in Canada until 1977 at Via Pax Corp. Limited Woodbridge, Ontario. It was recognised in 1977 that many seedstock cows were away from home and were absent for two or more official tests leaving gaps in their official records. I know this to be factual because I worked at Via Pax at the time.”

Eve’s ET time in Canada was three years earlier. She arrived in mid-winter 1974, was superovulated in early spring 1974 and inseminated to Tidy Burke Elevation by Modern Ova Trends veterinarian Dr. Casey Ringleberg, now retired, according to Birks, who assisted.

“By today’s ET standards, surgical embryo transfer was a laborious and challenging procedure,” he writes, explaining the procedure in detail in his letter. “Eve recovered and continued to milk. She was also able to return to the U.S…. and completed a ninth lactation starting May 4, 1976. This iron lady finished her career with a 14 year 305-day record of 20,000 pounds and 25,000 pounds in 519 days. With the completion of this record, her official lifetime total is 196,030 pounds.”

Dan Will also has great respect for Eve. He recalls the day 51 years ago when his father paid $11,000 for her at the Round Oak dispersal, where Eve was among 15 Ivanhoe daughters sold.

“That was back when a unit of Elevation was still $1.50 and plentiful. Neighbors thought we were nuts, but she was worth that, probably 20 times over. She helped spark my interest in the registered Holstein business, brought people in the driveway, and made dairy farming very interesting for me. We loved that cow,” Will relates in a Farmshine phone interview this week.

When Elevation earned his Gold Medal on first provings in 1971, Holstein World featured Eve and Elevation on the cover. Courtesy photocopy

From 1970 until 2016, when Dan and his brother John dispersed the Willsholm herd, their North View Farm in Berlin, Pa., was known as “Home of the Eve family.”

Will visited Eve while she was in Canada. “She looked really good and well taken care of,” he recalls.

“She was a tremendous milk cow. She was a strong cow, big framed, a real good eater. The challenge was always to keep the feed in front of her,” Will says. “Eve gave a lot of milk, never kicked, milked out clean in all four quarters. She was a real pleasure to work with. I don’t recall her ever being sick and I don’t recall her ever having mastitis.”

Birks puts the Eve Project into perspective as boiling down to respect.

“Eve left the U.S. at 181 DIM for a procedure that was in the best interests of advancing the Holstein breed. She was absent from her home and official milk recording during the peak of lactation in a country (Canada) and facility (Modern Ova Trends) being submitted to a procedure (superovulation and surgical embryo recovery). Official milk recording was not considered,” Birks explains.

“She was stuck in limbo because she was a trailblazer,” Birks writes. “The stark reality is that the donor population at Modern Ova Trends at the time was almost exclusively European beef imports, many right off the plane or boat, subject to strict quarantine requirements. Eve could not have been sent to an Export/AI herd such as Rowntree Farms Limited for milk recording.”

With a “keen sense of duty to a great cow,” Birks respectfully proposes special consideration for extending the eighth lactation of Eve starting July 26,1973 by a suitable number of tests to “credit this great cow with the additional 4000 pounds. God knows she deserves our every consideration. She earned it,” he writes.

Others have described Eve’s strength in historical writings of the Holstein breed.

During the Century of Holsteins celebration, the Virginia Holstein Association wrote: “No one Holstein animal can claim the impact worldwide as Round Oak Rag Apple Elevation. His dam, Round Oak Ivanhoe Eve (4E-94) was a big, tall, open-ribbed Ivanhoe daughter that traces 20 times to Johanna Rag Apple Pabst.”

Former Loudoun County, Va. extension agent Walter S. McClure, Sr. writes: “Eve was sired by Osborndale Ivanhoe, who was quickly becoming the most exciting bull in the Holstein industry. Over the next few years, I watched her develop into a tremendous cow both in production and type, producing a maternal line 6 generations of Excellent dams.”

McClure was with VABA by 1966 and recalls the day the Holstein Sire Committee agreed to go to Round Oak after the annual field day to see Eve’s yearling son Elevation. “Today, his influence, and that of his dam, is in the pedigree of over 90% of recent Holstein bulls in almost every major dairy country worldwide,” wrote McClure in 2016.

During a 2013 Farmshine interview, Miller recalled the path to Elevation really started for Round Oak with the Hope family’s interest in the line-bred Rag Apple family of Mount Victoria in Quebec. The line descended from owner T.B. Macauley’s purchase of Johanna Rag Apple Pabst in the 1920s.

Eve’s dam came from this line.

“Ivanhoe was the most extreme bull we ever saw,” Miller recalled the stop made in Lancaster at Southeast Pennsylvania Animal Breeder’s Cooperative (which became Atlantic Breeders) on the way to the National Convention in Boston in 1958.

“Ivanhoe was taller and longer, a breed-changer in my opinion. My cousin (Ron Hope) ordered 100 units of Ivanhoe that day for that reason,” said Miller.

Hope had been using two bulls from Glenafton Farms in Canada. One was Glenafton Gaity. “I suggested they breed Gaiety daughters to Ivanhoe. As those Ivanhoe daughters started freshening, they were impressive,” Miller related.

One of those impressive Ivanhoe x Gaity daughters was Eve.

Round Oak’s first significant outcross in 20 years was the mating suggested by Miller of Round Oak Ivanhoe Eve to Tidy Burke Elevation that produced Round Oak Rag Apple Elevation.

In fact, the surgery on Eve at Modern Ova in 1974 was an effort 9 years later to repeat and multiply that breeding. No fertile embryos were recovered.

Eve recovered and thrived according to first-hand accounts of those who cared for and worked with her. The procedures did not keep her from milking. Had she been able to transfer to a facility with milk recording, the remainder of her eighth lactation would have been recorded.

With great respect for George Miller and his love for this beautiful ‘iron lady’, those involved in the Eve Project are hoping the Holstein Association USA and Canada will consider Birks’ letter and proposal. Holstein enthusiasts who are interested or able to provide further details or information are encouraged to contact the association, and/or the Eve Project via John Birks at john.birks@live.com and Mark Comfort at comfort@ripnet.com.  

Fans of Eve are also hoping those associated with the former Pennsylvania DHIA, which Will says did the official milk recording at Willsholm in those days, could posthumously evaluate her eighth lactation for special consideration waiver almost half a century later.

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A Select Sires ad in March 1971 Holstein World featured Eve and Elevation. Volumes have been written about Elevation’s impact, worldwide. Courtesy photocopy
This highway marker in Virginia signifies the birthplace of Round Oak Rag Apple Elevation EX96 Gold Medal, Bull of the Century. Photo courtesy Virginia Holstein Association

‘Elevation’ of Holstein breed is foundation for today’s genetic tools

Looking back, and ahead, with George Miller (2011-13 interviews)
 
ARCHIVE STORY: By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, February 15, 2013
 
RICHMOND, Va. — It has been nearly 48 years since August 30, 1965 when the great bull “Elevation” was born in northern Virginia on the former Round Oak Farm of the late Ronald Hope, Sr. The farm — which has now given way to housing developments and asphalt near Philomont, Loudoun County, Virginia — will be remembered for this indelible mark on Holstein genetics and the overall dairy industry as breeding technology and the cleverness of debating cousins with sharp eyes for cattle converged to produce the “Bull of the Century.”
 
A suggested mating by one cousin — rooted in 25 years of foundation breeding by the other — yielded Round Oak Rag Apple Elevation: The bull’s phenomenal ability to transmit and intensify genetic progress converged with the wave of technological advances in semen collection and storage and the streamlined efforts of regional animal breeder associations working collectively.
 
For Ronald Hope’s cousin — retired breeder and marketer George A. Miller — those days seem like only yesterday.
 
During the 2011 National Holstein Convention in Richmond, Virginia, I sat down with George Miller for a breakfast interview that could most aptly be described as getting schooled in generations of Holstein genetics — past, present and future.
 
Miller grew up in the same Virginia hills as the great Round Oak Rag Apple Elevation. As a child, Miller spent as much time as he could at his Uncle Charles Hope’s farm, which he recalls was at first home to Jerseys and just a few Holsteins.
 
“By 1948, Round Oak was all Holsteins,” said Miller of how his cousin Ronald, Sr., began developing the herd.
 
Twenty-five years later, Elevation — known for that rare combination of superior production, conformation and longevity — ushered in an era of Holstein genetics that received international acclaim and resulted in more than 100,000 recorded offspring and over 8.8 million descendants, worldwide.
 
Miller retired from Select Sires Inc. some 20 years ago, and remains a seasoned fixture of the industry, doing some consulting work part-time. While northern Virginia was his home for over half of his life, Miller lives today near the Select Sires home-base of Plain City, Ohio, which is also where Elevation was laid to rest in 1979.
 
Several years ago, the Virginia Holstein Association erected a marker in Loudoun County to give the bull — and his birthplace — a proper landmark for perpetuity. Included in the inscription are these words: “In agricultural history, no other animal equals Elevation’s impact on the world.”
 
The story of Elevation’s rise to fame had the humblest of beginnings, Miller relates: “Round Oak was a little farmer herd with a solid breeding foundation.   The string of cows was milked on official test three times a day.”
 
Back then, semen was extremely limited as a means of developing a herd’s genetics. Round Oak Farm acquired a number of animals from Clarence S. Harvey Brackel Holsteins, Cincinnatus, New York, and many were Montvic Chiefton 6th daughters. They purchased a Montvic Pathfinder son Prizetaker from the Harveys. 
 
The Hopes made another purchase from the Walkup Holsteins of Daniel Myers: Pinelee Posch Millie Girl made a national production record and graced the cover of the Holstein World for the 1952 National Convention.
 
But it all started with the Hope family’s interest in the line-bred Rag Apple family of Mount Victoria in Quebec, Canada, where they purchased animals, Miller recalls. The line descended from owner T.B. McCauley’s purchase of Johanna Rag Apple Pabst in the 1920s, making him the grandsire of many Holsteins, including Elevation.
 
Miller worked for his elder cousin Ron and attended Virginia Tech with a major in dairy science during these early years in which the Round Oak herd foundation was being developed — 20 years before Elevation was born.
 
Miller also worked for the Virginia Tech dairy and went on to get his masters degree there. He then became a fieldman for Virginia Animal Breeders, and served as the organization’s manager for eight years. By 1969, Virginia Animal Breeders merged with Select Sires, and Miller later became director of market development for this growing federation of organizations — a post he held for over 17 years.
 
But 10 years prior to the merger, Miller recalls the advent of the bull Osborndale Ivanhoe in 1958. He was purchased by the Southeast Pennsylvania Animal Breeders Cooperative (SPABC) before that organization became Atlantic Breeders.
 
“Our group was on the way to the National Convention that year in Boston, and we stopped at SPABC in Lancaster, Pa.,” Miller reflects. “Ivanhoe was the most extreme bull we ever saw. He was taller and longer… a breed-changer in my opinion. My cousin bought 100 units of Ivanhoe that day for that very reason.”
 
Miller explained that his cousin had been using two bulls from the Glenafton farm in Canada. One was Glenafton Gaiety.
 
“I suggested they breed  Gaiety daughters to Ivanhoe,” Miller related. “As those Ivanhoe daughters started freshening, they were impressive.”
 
A result of that mating — Round Oak Ivanhoe Eve — would later be the dam of Elevation.
 
“We were reading most every breeding magazine and became impressed with the kind of cattle they were breeding in Kansas. We also started looking at Tidy Burke Elevation,” Miller said.
 
Tidy Burke Elevation was a descendent of the Holstein line at the Pabst Farm in Wisconsin, where they were experimenting with artificial insemination as early as 1931.
 
Miller recalls that his cousin was very interested in following the Rag Apple bloodlines. “But I convinced him to try Tidy Burke Elevation,” he said.
 
It would be Round Oak’s first significant outcross in 20 years, and it was that suggested mating of Tidy Burke Elevation to Round Oak Ivanhoe Eve – an exceptional dam with that Rag Apple foundation — that resulted in Round Oak Rag Apple Elevation.
 
When the bull was born in the summer of 1965, Miller was manager of the Virginia Animal Breeders. “One of our directors and fieldmen encouraged us to consider the young Elevation calf. Some on the sire committee liked the dam Ivanhoe Eve and they also liked Ivanhoe Lady. This put their attention on Round Oak,” he said.
 
The Virginia Animal Breeders sire committee went to look at the bull, and they ended up buying him. “The organization never paid over $1000 for a young calf from a Virginia breeder,” Miller recounts. “But they purchased Elevation for $2800, and the rest — as they say — is history.”
 
Round Oak retained some semen rights in the deal, and they showed him as a yearling in 1966, according to Miller. In fact, the Bull of the Century, “took second place at both shows, he was never first.”
 
Though he never placed first in a show, Elevation was co-sampled by MD-WVA Bull Stud prior to the Select Sires merger. “They decided they wanted to use him, and it’s been said that Elevation really built the barns at Sire Power and Select Sires.”
 
That may explain why he was laid to rest in the front lawn of the Plain City, Ohio stud in 1979.
 
But in those early days, the new federation of organizations was struggling with the enlarged pool of genetics and young sire programs. Select Sires moved everything to Michigan and Ohio and an organizational structure was created.
 
Miller recounted how industry greats like Dr. Jim Nichols and Dick Chichester steered Select Sires as a federated organization. But it was Round Oak Rag Apple Elevation “that financially pulled Select Sires together and helped solidify it as an organization.
 
“Elevation helped identify who is Select Sires, which was made up of organizations serving 18 states,” Miller explained. “We were working to develop a market throughout the United States.”
 
As the organization expanded its territory, Elevation’s daughters were starting to produce. “They were exceptional for production and type,” said Miller. “His first proof was +800 and his second proof was +1000 and his type and pattern were outstanding, which he was becoming recognized for at that point. This was a great leap for production and uniformity and good type, which brought on the clamor beyond what anyone would have dreamed.”
   
Producing the NoNaMe Fond Matt family, which included Kanza Matt Tippy earning All-American and Supreme Champion at World Dairy Expo, certainly helped with that national name recognition. Several famous sons — Mars Tony, Pete, Sexation, Starbuck and Tradition — added to his noteworthiness .
 
As Select Sires became affiliated with Bill Clark’s Worldwide Sires, Elevation both provided and rode the wave of interest — and the continued improvements in the technology of freezing semen — that took the organization to international acclaim.
 
“I’ve always believed — looking at the genetics end of the dairy business — if we fully use the better sires and have them priced right, every dairyman can profit,” Miller observes.
 
On the subject of genomics – which has exploded since this June 2011 interview – Miller noted that it does “offer dairymen some opportunities today that they never had before… if the genetics are right.”
 
“Genomics have changed the industry practically overnight,” he explained. “We’ve come through an era where a national convention sale had to have animals from the Carnations, Elmwoods and Pabst — the nationally known prefixes. With genomics, the playing field has changed.
 
  “With good management, dairymen can buy genomics and be in business using that pattern,” Miller observed. “But we have to wait a few years to see where the genomics take us. At this point, it’s the ‘in’ thing. it is a new frontier as was embryo transfer and more recently the use of sexed semen. ”
 
That’s why Miller holds true to the belief that “type will always prevail. With good management practices and improved cow comfort, unprecedented levels of production are achieved with the genetic potential made possible by the genetic progress of bulls like Elevation on the breed.
   
Genomics actually began with the sequencing of information toward figuring out how genes work. According to a Smithsonian article on the subject, this is the foundation for understanding complex interactions that result in economic traits and that the cow representing all Holsteins in the early draft of the bovine genome is Wa-del Blackstar Martha , a fourth-generation daughter of Elevation . Elevation is one of 96 bulls from all breeds to have complete DNA sequencing.

The idea that each species has a genome is an “average value” and that in nature all genomes are individual with no two being exactly alike (not even twins). Part of the sequencing that led genomics to this point, according to the Smithsonian Museum’s account, began by “opening livestock husbandry’s greatest treasure chest, in part with the key of America’s greatest animal.”
Miller explains it this way: “We can do this now because we’ve had an Elevation. Breeding registered cattle is often called the romance of the industry, and there is also the bottom line for the future that the upcoming dairymen have to be realistic.”
For Miller, however, a life and career in dairy cattle breeding come down to more than the resulting cows. “It’s the people — so many wonderful people in this industry — I’ve known through three and four generations, and seeing what the new generations are able to achieve… That’s what it’s all about,” said the lifetime member of the Virginia Holstein Association with a broad grin as he cites Virginia’s own Hardesty family of Harvue Roy Frosty fame as an example.
   
Miller appreciates the chance to have worked with Select Sire member staffs and representatives in other regions as the organization grew. “The chances people like my friend Mark Comfort (who founded what became Select Sires / Canada) took to start out; there are so many people breeding good cattle, not just the elite. The opportunities and tools are there now for the aspirations of young people to be involved,” he said.
 
I don’t feel that I have enough analysis to say more at this point. There is no question that most of the better sires that we see at the top were good sires to start with. It looks like we are going in the right direction, and we are at the point, now, where more information will be coming out and more analysis and opportunities to really evaluate it.
 
Miller appreciates the chance to have worked with Select Sire member staffs and representatives in other regions as the organization grew. “The chances people like my friend Mark Comfort (who founded what became Select Sires / Canada) took to start out; there are so many people breeding good cattle, not just the elite. The opportunities and tools are there now for the aspirations of young people to be involved,” he said.
 
I don’t feel that I have enough analysis to say more at this point. There is no question that most of the better sires that we see at the top were good sires to start with. It looks like we are going in the right direction, and we are at the point, now, where more information will be coming out and more analysis and opportunities to really evaluate it.
   
Miller also has appreciated mentors like Professor Paul Reaves and Holstein breeders Leonard Crowgey and Nelson Gardner and Harold Craun — along with his uncle and cousin Charles and Ronald Hope of Round Oak Farm.
 
“I appreciate the opportunities they gave me to become involved in the progress of their expanding herds,” Miller reflects. “It was a great opportunity for a youngster in school.”
 
Apart from seeing the development of Round Oak Rag Apple Elevation, a sire whose ‘career’ was inextricably intertwined with his own, Miller says a very rewarding part of his more-than-a-half-century career in cattle breeding and marketing was to develop these markets for Select Sires.
 
“I have always enjoyed working with the family-sized herds. And I’m proud to have lived long enough to see what is happening in the breed today,” Miller relates. He cites several books that chronicle the progress and history of the Holstein breed very well and are enjoyable to read: Horace Backus’ series of Holstein breed histories, Pete Marwick’s The Chosen Breed and The Holstein History and Phil Hashiders’ Creating Balance Between the Form and Function.
 
Among other recognitions, George A. Miller was the recipient of the National Association of Animal Breeders Distinguished Service Award in the early 1990s and more recently the 2012 Virginia Dairy Industry Achievement Award.
——————-
 
PHOTO CAPTION:
 
George Miller has a lot of Holstein memorabilia, including portraits and catalogs that he continues to market as keepsakes to colleagues in the industry. That includes more than 2000 pictures of Round Oak Rag Apple Elevation’s Excellent daughters, and the portrait of Elevation pictured here on his computer at the Select Sires booth during the trade show when the 2011 National Holstein Convention was held in his home state of Virginia. At age 86, George lives near Columbus, Ohio since retiring after decades as a breeder and marketer first with Virginia Animal Breeders and then with the Plain City, Ohio-based Select Sires after they merged.

 






U.S. ‘Dietary Guidelines’ released in wake of continued failures, Checkoff and industry organizations ‘applaud’

More than a decade of research on saturated fat is again ignored: A look at the reality of where we are and how we got here.

On the surface, the broad brush language of the 2020-25 Dietary Guidelines looks and sounds good. But the devil is in the details.

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, January 15, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. – “Make every bite count.” That’s the slogan of the new 2020-25 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), released Tuesday, December 29 by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS).

In the webcast announcement from Washington, the focus was described as helping Americans meet nutritional needs primarily from nutrient-dense ‘forms’ of foods and beverages. However, because of the continued restriction on saturated fat to no more than 10% of calories, some of the most nutrient-dense foods took the biggest hits.

For example, the 2020-25 DGA executive summary describes the Dairy Group as “including fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese and/or lactose-free versions, and fortified soy beverages and yogurt.” 

Even though the 2020-25 Dietary Guidelines exclude important dairy products from the Dairy Food Group and continue to restrict whole milk and full-fat cheese with implications for school meals, the checkoff-funded National Dairy Council says “Dairy organizations applaud.” Screenshot at https://www.myplate.gov/eat-healthy/dairy

At the newly re-launched MyPlate website, exclusions are listed, stating “the Dairy Group does not include foods made from milk that have little calcium and a high fat content, such as cream cheese, sour cream, cream, and butter.”

In fact, the webcast announcement flashed a slide of MyPlate materials showing consumers how to customize favorite meals for so-called ‘nutrient density’. The example was a burrito bowl, before and after applying the DGAs. Two recommended ‘improvements’ were to remove the sour cream and to replace ‘cheese’ with ‘reduced-fat cheese.’

For the first time, the DGAs included recommendations for birth to 2 years of age. The new toddler category is the only age group (up to age 2) where whole milk is recommended.

The 2020-25 DGAs “approve” just three dietary patterns for all stages of lifespan: Heathy U.S., Vegetarian, and Mediterranean. Of the three, two include 3 cups of low-fat or fat-free dairy and one includes 2 to 2.5 cups low-fat and fat-free dairy. Protein recommendations range 2 to 7 ounces. All 3 dietary patterns are heavy on fruits, vegetables and especially grains. 

In short, the DGA Committee, USDA and HHS collectively excluded the entire past decade of research on saturated fat. Throughout the DGA process, many in the nutrition science and medical communities asked the federal government to add another dietary pattern choice that is lower in carbohydrates and higher in protein with a less restrictive saturated fat level — especially given the government’s own numbers shared in the Dec. 29 announcement that, today, 60% of adults have one or more diet-related chronic illnesses, 74% of adults are overweight or obese, and 40% of children are overweight or obese.

USDA and HHS shared these statistics during the announcement of the new 2020-25 Dietary Guidelines. The next slide stated the reason for the worsening obesity and chronic diet-related disease rates is that Americans are not following the Guidelines. And yet, this progression has a marked beginning with the 1980s start of Dietary Guidelines and has accelerated in children during the 10 years since USDA linked rules for school and daycare meals more directly to the Guidelines in 2010.

Ultimately, the 2020-25 DGAs fulfilled what appears to be a predetermined outcome by structuring its specific and limiting questions to set up the research review in a way that builds on previous cycles. This, despite letters signed by over 50 members of Congress, hundreds of doctors, as well as a research review conducted by groups of scientists that included former DGA Committee members — all critical of the DGA process. 

As current research points out, saturated fat is not consumed by itself. It is part of a nutrient-dense package that supplies vitamins and minerals the DGA Committee, itself, recognized their approved dietary patterns lack. Full-fat dairy foods and meats have complex fat profiles, including saturated, mono and polyunsaturated fats, CLAs and omegas.

But USDA and HHS chose to ignore the science, and the dairy and beef checkoff and industry organizations ‘applauded.’

National Dairy Council ‘applauds,’ NCBA ‘thrilled’

Both the checkoff-funded National Dairy Council (NDC) and checkoff-funded self-described Beef Board contractor National Cattleman’s Beef Association (NCBA) were quick to respond with public statements.

An NCBA spokesperson was quoted in several mainstream articles saying beef producers are “thrilled with the new guidelines affirming lean beef in a healthy diet.”

NDC stated in the subject line of its news release to media outlets that “dairy organizations applaud affirmation of dairy’s role in new Dietary Guidelines.”

The NDC news release stated: “Daily inclusion of low-fat and fat-free dairy foods is recommended in all three DGA healthy dietary patterns. Following the guidelines is associated with reduced risk of chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.”

The dairy checkoff news release also identified nutrient deficiencies that are improved by consuming dairy but failed to mention how fat in whole milk, full-fat cheese and other dairy products improves nutrient absorption.

Checkoff-funded NDC’s news release described the DGAs as “based on a sound body of peer-reviewed research.” The news release further identified the guidelines’ continued saturated fat limits at no more than 10% of calories but did not take the opportunity to mention the excluded peer-reviewed research showing saturated fat, milkfat, whole milk and full-fat dairy foods are beneficial for health, vitamin D and other nutrient absorption, all-cause mortality, satiety, carbohydrate metabolism, type 2 diabetes and neutral to beneficial in terms of cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.

They did not take the opportunity to encourage future consideration of the ignored body of research. Even National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) included a fleeting mention of its hopes for future fat flexibility in its own DGA congratulatory news release.

The checkoff-funded NDC news release did reveal its key priority: Sustainability. This topic is not part of the guidelines, but NDC made sustainability a part of their news release about the guidelines, devoting one-fourth of their communication to this point, listing “sustainable food systems” among its “dietary” research priorities, and stating the following:

“While these Guidelines don’t include recommendations for sustainable food systems, the U.S. dairy community has commitments in place to advance environmental sustainability,” the National Dairy Council stated in its DGA-applauding news release. “Earlier (in 2020), the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy announced the 2050 Environmental Stewardship Goals, which include achieving carbon neutrality or better, optimizing water usage and improving water quality.”

(Remember, DMI CEO Tom Gallagher told farm reporters in December that “sustainable nutrition” will be the new phrase. It is clear that the dairy checkoff is on-board the ‘planetary diets’ train).

International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) also issued news releases praising the inclusion of low-fat and fat-free dairy in the DGAs and upholding the guidelines as ‘science-based.’

According to the Nutrition Coalition, and a panel of scientists producing a parallel report showing the nutrient-dense benefits of unprocessed meat and full fat dairy as well as no increased risk of heart disease or diabetes, the 2020-25 DGAs excluded more than a decade of peer-reviewed saturated fat research right from the outset.

The exclusion of a decade or more of scientific evidence sends a clear message from the federal government — the entrenched bureaucracy — that it does not intend to go back and open the process to true scientific evaluation. In this way, the DGAs dovetail right into ‘sustainable nutrition’ and ‘planetary diets’ gradually diluting animal protein consumption as part of the World Economic Forum’s Great Reset for food transformationEAT Lancet style.

So, while dairy checkoff is applauding the DGAs, dairy producers are lamenting the way the guidelines rip key products right out of the dairy food group.

Saturated fat and added sugars combined

A less publicized piece of the DGA combines saturated fat and added sugars. In addition to no more than 10% of each, the new DGAs state no more than 15% of any combination of the two.

The 2020-25 DGAs limit saturated fat and added sugar each to 10% of calories; however, both are combined at 15% of daily calories.

This detail could impact the way schools, daycares and other institutional feeding settings manage the calorie levels of both below that 10% threshold to comply with USDA oversight of the combined 15%.

These two categories could not be more different. Saturated fat provides flavor plus nutritional function as part of nutrient-dense foods, whereas added sugar provides zero nutritional function, only flavor. 

USDA and HHS fail

During the DGA webcast announcement, Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue said: “The new Dietary Guidelines are focused on nutrient dense foods and are based on a robust body of nutritional scientific evidence to make every bite count.”

However, Perdue failed to acknowledge any role for the robust scientific evidence that was completely excluded from consideration in the process, nor did he acknowledge the stacked-against-fat formation of the DGA Committee, especially the subcommittee handling the 2020 dietary fats questions.

Perdue talked about how the guidelines are there to help Americans make healthy choices. He repeatedly used the term “nutrient dense foods” to describe dietary patterns that are notably lacking in nutrient dense foods – so much so that even the DGA Committee admitted in its final live session last summer that the approved dietary patterns leave eaters, especially children and elderly, deficient in key vitamins and minerals.

(Last summer in their final session, members of the DGA Committee said Americans can supplement with vitamin pills, and one noted there are ‘new designer foods’ coming.)

“We are so meticulous and careful about developing the DGAs because we use them to inform food and federal programs,” said Admiral Brett Giroir of HHS during the DGA announcement.

Part of the screening process used by USDA for science that will be included or excluded from Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee consideration is this curious item shown above: “Framed around relevancy to U.S. Federal  Policy”. Committee members in October 2019 asked for more information on this research screening criteria. USDA explained it to them in the public meeting, stating that this bullet item “refers to including only the research that ALIGNS with current federal policy.”

At least Admiral Giroir was honest to remind us that the DGAs are more than ‘guidelines’, the DGAs are, in fact, enforced upon many Americans — especially children, elderly, food insecure families, and military through government oversight of diets at schools, daycares, retirement villages, hospitals, nursing homes, military provisions, and government feeding programs like Women Infants and Children.

“The 2020-25 DGAs put Americans on a path of sustainable independence,” said USDA Food Nutrition Services Deputy Undersecretary Brandon Lipps during the Dec. 29 unveiling.

Lipps was eager to share the new MyPlate website re-launch — complete with a new MyPlate ‘app’ and ‘fun quizzes and challenges.’ He said every American, over their whole lifespan, can now benefit from the DGAs. In addition, the MyPlate ‘app’ will record dietary data for the government to “see how we are doing.”

Congress fails

In the postscript comments of the 2020-25 report, USDA / HHS authorities say they intend to look again at ‘preponderance’ of evidence about stricter sugar and alcohol limits in future DGA cycles but made no mention of looking at ‘preponderance of evidence’ on loosening future saturated fat restrictions.

The ‘preponderance’ threshold was set by Congress in 1990. Then, in 2015, Congress took several steps to beef up the scientific review process for 2020.

During an October 2015 hearing, members of Congress cited CDC data showing the rate of obesity and diabetes in school-aged children had begun to taper down by 9% from 2006 to 2010, but from 2010 to 2014 the rates increased 16%.

2010 was the year Congress passed the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act to tie the most fat-restrictive DGAs to-date more closely to the schools and other government-subsidized feeding. 

USDA, under Tom Vilsack as former President Obama’s Ag Secretary at the time promulgated the implementation rules for schools, outright prohibiting whole and 2% milk as well as 1% flavored milk for the first time — even in the a la carte offerings. These ‘Smart Snacks’ rules today govern all beverages available for purchase at schools, stating whole milk cannot be offered anywhere on school grounds from midnight before the start of the school day until 30 minutes after the end of the school day.

In the October 2015 Congressional hearing, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle grilled then Secretaries Tom Vilsack (agriculture) and Sylvia Burwell (HHS) about the Nutrition Evidence Library (NEL) that is housed at USDA, asking why large important studies on saturated fat funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH) were left out of the 2015-20 DGA consideration.

That 2015 hearing indicates why we are where we are in 2020 because of how each 5-year cycle is structured to only look at certain questions and to build on previous DGA Committee work. This structure automatically excludes some of the best and most current research. On saturated fat in 2020, the DGA Committee only considered new saturated fat evidence on children (of which very little exists) or what met previous cycle parameters.

This, despite Congress appropriating $1 million in tax dollars in 2016 to fund a review of the DGA process by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. That review was particularly harsh in its findings, and the 2020-25 DGA process ignored the Academy’s recommendations.

Opinion, not fact

During the 2015 Congressional hearing, then Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack was asked why 70% of the DGA process did not use studies funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

“The (DGA) process starts with a series of questions that are formulated and then information is accumulated, and it goes through a process of evaluation,” Vilsack replied.

Answering a charge by then Congressman Dan Benishek, a physician from Michigan who was concerned about the 52% of Americans in 2015 that were diabetic, pre-diabetic and carbohydrate intolerant in regard to the fat restrictions, Vilsack replied:

“The review process goes through a series of mechanisms to try to provide an understanding of what the best science is, what the best available science is and what the least biased science is, and it’s a series of things: the Cochrane Collaboration, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the aging for health care equality, data quality, all part of the Data Quality Act (2001 under Clinton Admin). That’s another parameter that we have to work under, Congress has given us direction under the Data Quality Act as to how this is to be managed.”

Unsatisfied with this answer, members of Congress pressed further in that 2015 hearing, stressing that fat recommendations for children have no scientific basis because all the studies included were on middle aged adults, mainly middle-aged men.

https://www.c-span.org/video/standalone/?c4932695/user-clip-excerpt-preponderance-evidence

Vilsack admitted that the DGAs are “opinion” not “scientific fact.” He explained to the members of Congress how “preponderance of evidence” works in the DGA process.

“In some circumstances, you have competing studies, which is why it’s important to understand that this is really about well-informed opinion. I wish there were scientific facts. But the reality is stuff changes. The key here is taking a look at the preponderance, the greater weight of the evidence,” said then Sec. Vilsack in 2015. “If you have one study on one side and you have 15 on another side, the evidence may be on this side with the 15 studies. That’s a challenge. That’s why we do this every five years to give an opportunity for that quality study to be further enhanced so that five years from now maybe there are 15 studies on this side and 15 studies on this side. It’s an evolving process.”

What now?

What we are seeing again in 2020 is what happens when ‘preponderance’ is affected by structures that limit what research is included to be weighed.

Stay involved and engaged. The grassroots efforts are making inroads, even though it may not appear that way.

For their part, the checkoff and commodity organizations ‘applauding’ the latest guidelines would benefit from drinking more whole milk and eating more full-fat cheese and beef to support brain function and grow a spine.

-30-

Redner’s Markets lead with grassroots 97 Milk education

Dairy category sales are up, Whole milk is the star, up 14.5%

The Drink Whole Milk (virtually) 97% Fat Free dairy case stickers are up, and the “Whole Milk – School Lunch Choice – Citizens for Immune Boosting Nutrition” yard signs are being displayed at Redner’s Markets store locations. Bernie Morrissey (center) and Nelson Troutman (right) appreciate the way Redner’s and marketing director Eric White (left) are out in front as leaders in whole milk education.

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, December 18, 2020

SINKING SPRING, Pa. — “This is an easy message to sell, and sales of whole milk are way up,” said Eric White about the Drink Whole Milk (virtually) 97% Fat Free” grassroots milk education campaign.

White is director of marketing and communications for Redner’s Markets, headquartered in Reading, Pa. with 44 stores, 35 of them in central Pennsylvania, the balance in Maryland and Delaware.

He was not surprised by the grassroots marketing campaign for whole milk: The painted round bales started by Berks County dairy farmer Nelson Troutman, the banners promoted by retired agribusinessman Bernie Morrissey, and the social media and website promotion by 97 Milk. 

When Morrissey visited him some months ago, White was eager to join in.

The “Drink Whole Milk (virtually) 97% Fat Free stickers” are up on dairy cases at Redner’s Markets locations, White had them made with the signature red type on white background. Clover Farms Dairy, the milk bottler in Reading that supplies milk to all Redner’s stores, indicates they will be changing the case strips to promote whole milk too.

White is also putting up the “Whole Milk – School Lunch Choice – Citizens for Immune Boosting Nutrition” yard signs in the store above the dairy case and on the grounds as well.

Both the grassroots stickers and the signs include the 97milk.com website where shoppers can get more information and milk education. The Redner’s Dairy cases also include the Choose PA Dairy signs, featuring photos of local farms, and the chocolate milk refuel signage from the national and regional checkoff programs.

During an interview at the dairy case in the Redner’s Sinking Spring store this week, the impact was clear: Whole milk in the jug is very much the star of the show.

In fact, the Redner’s brand, bottled by Clover, has always been whole milk. Whole milk is the only milk that gets the Redner’s name. It has always been that way, says White.

He confirmed their whole milk sales have increased dramatically. Yes, the Coronavirus pandemic has had some impact, he said: “But when I look at January through March numbers, that is how it was tracking even before the pandemic.

“I pulled the numbers, and we have seen a 14.5% increase in whole milk sales, alone, which is tremendous,” White confirmed. “The consumer message has changed, and we see people coming back to whole milk, knowing that they don’t need to drink the lower fat milk. We give our own kids whole milk at home now. It’s better for isotonic replenishment.”

Sales of whole milk at Redner’s 44 stores are up 14.5%. The entire dairy category sales are up and milk is the star, especially whole milk.

White also reported that sales for the entire dairy case are up. 

“The whole dairy category is higher, with milk being the number one product selling from the dairy category, and whole milk the number one type of milk being sold,” he said.

White also sees how whole milk sales benefit local dairy farms. “There is a confluence in how these sales benefit local agriculture that we need to support more than ever. We are seeing the messages in the media. With digital and social media, the message spreads.”

“We want to thank Redner’s for being a leader,” said Morrissey. “They are pro-farmer, pro-education and pro-consumer. They are completely on the 97 Milk page of educating consumers about whole milk as immune boosting, like our sign says. Eric has been tremendous to work with. If every supermarket chain would start educating consumers about whole milk, we would see even more benefits for consumers and farmers. The secret is education, and Redner’s is the store that is out there in front of the pack, doing it.”

The Redner’s store brand, bottled by Clover Farms Dairy in Reading, Pa., has always been whole milk. 

Eric White has been with Redner’s for 22 years. He notes that they have long partnered with Clover Farms Dairy for their milk. They feature Clover milk in all of their stores, along with other local name brands, and of course, the Redner’s brand — whole milk — is bottled by Clover.

“It’s not that hard to do this,” said White. “We are a local family-owned company, and supporting this message brings it full circle back to the local dairy farms that are the backbone.

“We can underestimate why we are in business, and it is only because of the farms producing the food,” he observed. “Dairy and agriculture are the backbone of everything here in central Pennsylvania. A lot of businesses are here because of dairy. We are here selling food and feeding people because of the farms.”

White notes that as Redner’s expands, they are also expanding the reach of the farms shipping to Clover. More distant store locations also feature brands local to those sites as well. In fact, it is Redner’s practice to work with local farms on in-season vegetables and fruits as well as year-round products like yogurt.

Morrissey agrees, he notes that the Morrissey Insurance business he founded in the 1980s is in multiple states and appreciates grocers with stores in multiple states supporting their local and regional farms. He stresses that one of the best ways to do that is to educate consumers about whole milk.

When Troutman started painting round bales with the “Drink Whole Milk (virtually) 97% Fat Free” message in December 2018, he said he never thought it would go so far.

“This is a dream come true to know all that has happened in the past two years — from the stores to the signs to the website and social media — and how the message has gone to other states and around the world,” said Troutman.

He added that, “When people work with you and work together, that’s the key.”

Troutman recalled a Pa. Milk Marketing Board listening session in Lebanon in December 2018. “I went home frustrated,” he reflected. “I looked around at what I had, and thought, I’ll paint a round bale with the message and put it out.”

The rest, as they say, is history — and it’s a history still in the making.

Morrissey recalls the first time he stopped in at Redner’s main office. “I didn’t know Eric at the time, and I didn’t have an appointment. He saw the banner I brought with me and was eager to talk with me.”

White had seen the message on round bales popping up around the area, and he was seeing the impact on Redner’s whole milk sales.

“The 97 Milk message was not much of a revelation to me because I always knew it. I drank whole milk growing up and through college. But my wife was convinced on fat-free. Now that we know drinking whole milk does not condemn us to a life of Lipitor — especially for our kids — she is buying whole milk for our family,” he says, adding that even their pediatrician recommended whole milk.

White points out that in today’s age of marketing and new products (not to mention government edicts for schools), there are a lot of opportunities for people to get off track in healthy eating — especially for children.

Morrissey, Troutman and White all agree that the beauty of the 97 Milk effort is how it has spread, and the beauty of social media is when the truth gets out, it spreads fast.

While not present for the interview, Gn Hursh, president of 97 Milk LLC, added his voice of appreciation for Redner’s.  “Milk education is a win-win for everyone involved. The biggest winner is the consumer. Thanks to Redner’s for being part of the milk education team,” said Hursh.

“Without Redner’s, without Eric, we could not accomplish this,” added Morrissey. “Redner’s is the leader in educating the public and being very transparent about why whole milk sales are good for consumers and for farmers.”

The importance of whole milk to consumers is evident. During the height of the pandemic last spring, White said consumers showed how much it is a staple they rely on. Even during our interview Tuesday, Dec. 15, with the forecast calling for a record December snowstorm in the area for the next day, the dairy case was very busy with shoppers and constant re-stocking of milk, especially re-stocking the shelves with Redner’s Farm Fresh Vitamin D whole milk – in demand!

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Preposterous ‘preponderance’

While left hand says it’s busy building ‘mountain’ of evidence, right hand has already moved the nutrition definition goal post

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, Dec. 23, 2020

BROWNSTOWN, Pa. — Preponderance of the evidence. We hear that phrase over and over when it comes to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) and the effort to reverse 40 years of increasingly strict rules on dietary fat affecting children in schools and daycares, the military, seniors in nursing care or retirement villages, food-insecure families relying on government feeding programs like WIC, and countless other insidious prohibitions on healthy choices when it comes to whole milk, butter, full-fat cheese, dairy products like sour cream and cream cheese as well as other animal protein foods containing fat.

But the whole concept of ‘preponderance’ is really preposterous when applying the legal definition.

Let’s review.

Last March at a DMI forum on a Chester County dairy farm, DMI chair Marilyn Hershey and executive vice president Lucas Lentsch described the ‘preponderance of evidence’ standard as “building a mountain of evidence.” They said the National Dairy Council is building that mountain, but it takes time to keep pushing more evidence forward “until we have enough.”

When former Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack gave the 2015-20 Dietary Guidelines his stamp of approval, a Congressional hearing took the USDA and HHS secretaries to task, grilling them on science that was not considered then (nor is it now in the 2020 version of the DGAs). Remember, former Ag Sec. Vilsack promptly became the current top-paid dairy checkoff executive for four years (Jan. 2017 to present) and is now poised (again) as President-Elect Biden’s Ag Secretary pick 2021 forward.

During that 2015 congressional grilling, then Secretary Vilsack said “It’s the preponderance of the evidence that is the standard, and we know stuff is always changing so there has to be a cutoff.”

On whole milk (which he helped remove from schools in 2010), then Secretary Vilsack, when confronted in 2015 with what he called “emerging” science on saturated fat — said “the preponderance of evidence still favors the recommendation for fat-free and low-fat dairy.”

Much of the saturated fat discussion during the 2020 DGA Committee work used the 2015 DGA’s body of science, that was one of the screening criteria. The cutoff bar didn’t move.

In 2015, then Secretary Vilsack explained the ‘science’ of the DGAs this way:

“Well, the process starts with a series of questions that are formulated and then information is accumulated and it goes through a process of evaluation,” he said.

Answering a charge by then Congressman Benishek, a physician from Michigan who was concerned about the 52% of Americans who are diabetic, pre-diabetic and carbohydrate intolerant as regards the fat caps and the exclusion of science available — even in 2015 — on low carb, higher fat diets, then Sec. Vilsack stated in 2015:

“The review process goes through a series of mechanisms to try to provide an understanding of what the best science is, what the best available science is and what the least biased science is, and it’s a series of things: the Cochrane Collaboration, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the aging for health care equality, data quality, all part of the Data Quality Act (2001 under Clinton Admin). That’s another parameter that we have to work under, Congress has given us direction under the Data Quality Act as to how this is to be managed.”

On a further point of contention in 2015, Vilsack stated the following as a definition of how “preponderance” works.

Vilsack said (2015): “In some circumstances, you have competing studies, which is why it’s important to understand that this is really about well-informed opinion. I wish there were scientific facts. But the reality is stuff changes. The key here is taking a look at the preponderance. The greater weight of the evidence. If you have one study on one side and you have 15 on another side, the evidence may be on this side with the 15 studies. That’s a challenge. That’s why we do this every five years to give an opportunity for that quality study to be further enhanced so that five years from now maybe there are 15 studies on this side and 15 studies on this side. It’s an evolving process.”

During a recent dairy checkoff yearend news conference with reporters, DMI CEO Tom Gallagher answered a question about consumer health attitudes and checkoff research targets for 2021. Whole milk was never mentioned in the question, but here is Gallagher’s answer as he, too, cites the “preponderance” criteria:

Gallagher said (2020): “Our research plan (for 2021) is very robust at our centers. The primary research that we focus on is whole milk because we are, number one, the only group to be pushing the research on whole milk and taking it to the scientific community so the scientific community does more research because the Dietary Guidelines will never change until the preponderance – not the best – evidence, but the preponderance of the research is in favor of whole milk. We’re helping to move that needle to that point.”

I looked up the legal definition of this ‘preponderance of the evidence’ phrase, this standard for the DGAs as determined by Congressional statute. It is clear that DMI’s assertion of building a mountain of evidence is not needed to achieve a preponderance, according to the legal definition.

According to the law.com legal dictionary, ‘preponderance of the evidence’ is a lower burden of proof than other evidentiary burdens. It only requires a better than 50% chance that it’s true! 

In fact, the law.com definition states “Preponderance of the evidence is based on what is the more convincing evidence and its probable truth or accuracy NOT on the amount of evidence.” An example is given where one credible witness outweighs a pile of other evidence! It’s not the amount of research, then, it is the more convincing in terms of probable truth.

The word preponderance itself means “quality or fact of being greater in number, quantity, OR importance.” Yes, importance and quality can trump quantity to achieve preponderance!

Mountain-building is a stalling tactic by the left hand of industry and government, while their combined right hand is moving the goal post. (In fact, mountain-building is futile because the USDA structure on Dietary Guidelines has not allowed new evidence to be considered on certain dietary fiction it deems as settled science. There are fancy ‘mechanisms’ that have kept credible science out of the equation in 2015 and again in 2020).

Who are the attorneys advising USDA and dairy checkoff as to the meaning of “preponderance of the evidence?” Could it be Mr. Vilsack, an attorney by trade, going from USDA Secretary to top-paid DMI executive and back again potentially as the next Ag Secretary? 

Clearly, Mr. Vilsack and his colleagues at DMI are fond of citing “preponderance” as a stalling tactic for fat flexibility in the DGAs. But contrary to Gallagher’s point during this yearend news conference, the legal definition of “preponderance of evidence,” really does mean the BEST evidence can trump the MOST evidence.

It’s not about which theory has the most evidence, but which one has the best and most convincing evidence. This definition suggests that you don’t need 15 studies on one side to match 15 studies on the other side. To add flexibility on school milk choice or to reverse the saturated fat caps set at 10% of calories, a mountain of evidence is NOT needed, and a lot of good and convincing evidence keeps getting excluded from the process anyway.

The saturated fat question and the casting aside of research feels like being forced to doggy paddle in an olympic swimming competition.

The problem is agenda and bias. Who is standing up for producers and consumers?

Ahead of the 2015 DGA cycle, scientists and investigative journalists, like Nina Teicholz, exposed the weak scientific basis for Dr. Ancel Keys’ diet-heart hypothesis that these DGAs have been built on for over 40 years. Not to mention the many studies back then that were buried, once Keys became the dietary darling, and not to mention all of the newer studies that show saturated fat is not the health demon it has been made out to be, and in fact is necessary in diets to prevent chronic diet-related illness.

Here’s a look at where nutrition science is going next.

Yes, they have moved the goal post via climate change. And yes, they are telling us that consumers are more concerned about climate change after Covid-19.

Basing DMI’s 2021 plan assertions on a Kearney report (April 2020), Gallagher said: “Covid-19 has made people more hyper-sensitive to things, like the environment. 58% of consumers are more concerned about the environment since Covid, and 50% want companies to respond to climate change with the same level of urgency as responding to the pandemic.”

When asked where consumers ranked health in that particular survey — given a recent report on CNBC business news about corporations trying to get consumer ‘buy-in’ on sustainability benchmarks and finding the only way to achieve it is to link sustainability to health.

You guessed it. Gallagher was ready with the answer.

“Sustainable nutrition is the phrase you’re going to hear going forward. You’re going to see those two things inextricably tied,” he replied during the yearend and look ahead news conference by phone.

We recall in October 2019, Gallagher telegraphed a message during the 53rd World Dairy Expo that the dairy checkoff simply accepts waiting another five years until 2025 (not the current cycle) as the year that the saturated fat caps could be reversed. The 2020 DGA committee was only just partway into the process back in Oct. 2019 with a whole year of work ahead — and already the head of dairy checkoff was being quoted in the Oct. 14, 2019 Hoard’s article broadcasting that the fat issue could likely happen by the NEXT DGA cycle (2025), not this one (2020).

Gallagher further indicated in that Oct. 2019 Hoards article that the “forest” must be “populated with more trees.” (Again this idea that preponderance is based on the amount of studies, not the importance or reliability of the studies and not acknowledging that half the trees in that so-called forest are being ignored by USDA and the DGA committee — screened out of consideration at the outset. Not one of the checkoff or ag commodity group was standing up for producers and consumers on this score at the START of the 2020 DGA cycle, nor the finish).

However, we now know that the new goal post will be entrenched by 2025: ‘Sustainable nutrition’ will be the new phrase, the new goal post, according to Gallagher’s response during the December 2020 news conference.

Make no mistake about this: As much as the sustainability overlords talk about farmers being paid to plant cover crops (most already plant cover crops after corn harvest) or to recover nutrients and methane through other practices and technologies, paying for offsets and dilution of animal foods in diets are two strategies already on deck. We heard a little of this also during the December 2020 news conference as Gallagher and DMI president Barb O’Brien talked about how their partners are getting into ‘competitors’ (fake dairy lookalikes) because when a family of four comes in to eat, one may want a new taste experience, and DMI partners have to provide that ‘new experience’ to keep from losing the entire family.

DMI is working for its corporate partners like Nestle and Starbucks, both giving the DMI Innovation Center’s Net Zero Initiative up to $10 million over multiple years to pilot sustainable technologies and practices on dairy farms.

Gallagher described the situation this way: “Health, taste, price – those things are still important, but as more and more companies are offering things that are competitive, what we’re seeing people saying is ‘Well, I’m going to look at sustainability as a difference maker in who I purchase from and what I purchase,’” he said.

“The days of 10 to 15 years ago — where things like sustainability were believed to be made up by retailers for marketing — are over,” Gallagher added.

“Everyone gets it. We are past that. The beautiful part is the U.S. dairy industry has the best sustainability story in the world to tell, and we’re telling it,” he said.

As promised, a follow up email provided more details on Gallagher’s whole milk research assertion, stating: “Dairy farmers have been funding research led by National Dairy Council on the role of whole milk dairy foods and wellness for over a decade. In fact, around 70 studies have been published, adding to the growing body of evidence indicating that consuming dairy foods, regardless of fat content, as part of healthy eating patterns is not linked with risk of heart disease or type 2 diabetes. The paradigm shift to more fat flexibility in the dairy group is already happening in the real world as demonstrated through the many actions of consumers and thought leaders.”

Three research items were specifically mentioned in the email — all published within the past 6 to 24 months:

1) A Science Brief: Whole and reduced-fat dairy foods and cardiovascular disease. Upon following the link published January 17, 2019, we find it begins as a regurgitation of 2015-20 Dietary Guidelines with all references to dairy qualified as ‘low-fat and fat-free’, but then goes on to discuss: “Emerging research also indicates that saturated fat intake on its own may be a poor metric for identifying healthy foods or diets.” A downloadable PDF summarizes this “emerging” research on dairy fat at: Science Brief: Whole and Reduced-Fat Dairy Foods and CVD | U.S. Dairy

2) Posted in Sept. 2019 is this resource where National Dairy Council’s Dr. Greg Miller talks about “landmark shifts” and states that, “As the research continues to grow, a preponderance of evidence (exists linking milk, cheese and yogurt, regardless of fat level, with lower risk of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. This one is found at: Ask Dr. Dairy: Can Whole Milk-Based Dairy Foods Be Part of Healthy Eating Patterns? | U.S. Dairy

3) The third item posted June 2020 in connection with DMI’s Dietary Guidelines comment talks about dairy consumption lowering risk of high blood pressure and diabetes and cites a study that, “indicates there may be room for fat flexibility in peoples’ dairy group choices to include dairy foods like milk, cheese and yogurt – at a variety of fat levels – as part of healthy eating patterns in the U.S. and worldwide.”

We can see the tight rope being walked, hinging everything on this idea of slowly building a mountain of evidence as though this is the definition of what is needed to fulfill the “preponderance” standard. But as we know from the legal definition, the amount of evidence is not what’s important, but rather what is credible and convincing. The available evidence is already preponderant. Whole milk, at 41% of market share, has grown by leaps and bounds over the past two years, and is now the largest selling product in the milk category because consumers are convinced. In the past two years, they have moved toward choosing health instead of allowing the government to choose for them — at least when they CAN choose.

Thinking on the many topics that were part of the fairy checkoff yearend news conference, some clear themes take us into the new year in terms of the 2021 dairy checkoff plans.

Gallagher, O’Brien and Hershey talked about “moving milk” differently because of Covid, of working in Emergency Action Teams to unify the supply chain with these top priorities in mind: 

1) Feeding food insecure people, 

2) Responding to climate change

3) Developing a deeper and closer relationship with Amazon into e-commerce and milk portability, and 

4) Developing tools and promotions for corporate partners.

On the latter, Gallagher was proud to give the example of DMI’s funding for Domino’s “contactless delivery” in Japan during the early days of Covid. He said this partner (named as Leprino, DFA and Domino’s) would not have been in a position to move so much pizza cheese when the pandemic hit the U.S. had it not been for DMI’s funding of that contactless delivery innovation first in Japan and then used here.

(Contactless delivery is used by almost every restaurant doing takeout today in the Covid era. It simply means ordering and paying online, texting when arriving, and having your food placed in your car. Not rocket science.)

Since 2008, DMI and USDA — through Vilsack-era Memorandums of Understanding — have a hand-in-glove relationship on GENYOUth and Sustainability. DMI works for its partners and has adopted a role for itself as global supply-chain integrator — the prime mover of milk.

Increasingly, there is the sense that the dairy checkoff bus has morphed into a ride for its key partners, while rank-and-file producers keep paying the fare, just hoping for a lift.

Look for more yearend checkoff review in a future edition of Farmshine.