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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Food system transformation: DMI at globalization table where big players plan Great Re-set ‘land grab’ targets

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By Sherry Bunting (Updated as published in Farmshine, Oct. 1, 2020)

Most of us don’t even know what’s being planned for our futures. Big tech, big finance, big billionaires, big NGO’s, big food, all the biggest global players are planning the Great Re-set (complete with land grab and animal product imitation game) in which globalization is the key, and climate change and ‘sustainability’ — now cleverly linked to pandemic fears — will turn the lock.

The mandatory farmer-funded dairy and beef checkoffs — and their overseer USDA and sustainability partner World Wildlife Fund (WWF) — have been at this global food system transformation table since at least 2008 when DMI’s Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy was formed and put together the Sustainability Alliance for U.S. Dairy.

DMI says there is a difference between WWF-US and WWF-EU, but it’s really one big thing connected to these same global corporations that are driving the emerging government policies of the Great Re-set — like the Green Deal in Europe and the Green New Deal in the U.S.

DMI leaders say WWF is ‘helping’ farmers by providing a seat at the table to be sure sustainability will be profitable.

It will be profitable, for sure, but for whom?

The answer to that question came into focus after listening to more than a half dozen livestreamed sessions of the World Economic Forum’s Sustainable Development Impact Summit Sept. 21-24 as part of the Great Re-set.

More light was shed on the ‘we will pay you’ carrot-before-club concept of ‘land banks’ in the U.S., when listening to former Vice President Joe Biden answer a farmer’s question about environmental regulations during CNN’s Town Hall in Moosic, Pennsylvania Sept. 18.

More illuminating yet is the flurry of global food company press announcements in recent days as they position themselves ahead of the Sept. 30 United Nations Biodiversity Summit in New York City. That’s where global leaders and the global business community will adopt targets to “restore” (re-wild) 30% of the earth’s land as Protected Areas by 2030 and 50% by 2050.

That’s half the world’s land by mid-Century, and leading this charge is WWF, along with companies like Walmart, Amazon, Nestle, Danone, Unilever and others involved in checkoff-funded pre-competitive collaboration through DMI’s Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy.

According to Survival International, an organization defending indigenous people and smallholder farms, these 2030 and 2050 sustainability targets of the Great Re-set “will be the biggest land grab in world history and will reduce hundreds of millions of people to landless poverty.”

The new narrative is that this massive target of land transfer is needed not just to “restore a trillion trees” as carbon sinks to cool the earth, but to end the Covid-19 pandemic and prevent future pandemics by creating more separation between humans and animals to avoid zoonotic disease transfer. These land targets call for a “critical overhaul of the food production system,” according to the summit agenda.

Even as California wildfires burn out of control — collectively emitting more GHG than tens of millions of cars annually and largely influenced by environmental policies that have led to neglect of the forests in terms of land management — re-wilding of more land is big on the Great Re-set agenda.

Meanwhile, as consumers prioritize health and economics over the ‘planetary diets’ hatched by the Silicon Valley billionaires funding fake meat and fake dairy, the ‘biodiversity’ angle on these land targets is the new hook linking pandemic fears to climate action and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through diet.

Some of the themes are familiar in dairy industry discussions about DMI’s Sustainability Framework and Net Zero Initiative — both rooted in the Great Re-set they have been participating in planning for over a decade through alliances with WWF and its World Resources Institute doing the benchmarking for the global corporations driving it.

(Remember Starbucks’ announcement earlier this year? They are a DMI partner, and so is WWF, but after their WRI benchmarking, they announced ‘moving consumers away from dairy and toward plant-based options’ in their coffee beverages as the biggest of four areas of action! They even borrowed the ‘flat white’ name reserved for their lattes made with whole milk instead of default reduced fat milk to launch a new signature almond-‘milk’ latte. Talk about confusing the customer into making a choice desired by the diet-and-sustainability-elite-ruling-class.)

During a recent DMI ‘open mic’ call, CEO Tom Gallagher stated that these are the rules today and globalization is the world we live in. On the same call, president Barb O’Brien revealed dairy checkoff’s 13-year alliance with Walmart, a two-year partnership with Amazon, and on the Net Zero Initiative, she frequently mentioned Nestle, Unilever, Danone and Starbucks.

What do they all have in common?

They are the key global brands ramping up into plant-based and cell-based dairy and meat alternatives, and they are among the top global corporations that have set goals to ‘move consumers to planetary diets’ and to change the way food is produced.

During the WEF livestream Tuesday Sept. 21 on 2030 land targets, Walmart’s Chief Sustainability Officer Kathleen McLaughlin described it this way:

“What we are talking about is massive transformation of societal systems — financial services, retail consumer goods, the things we bring into our home to eat or to wear or to decorate our homes with. Changing the way all of that gets produced is a massive systemic undertaking that will take business action. It will take philanthropy. It will take government action,” she said.

McLaughlin cited Danone, Nestle and Unilever as the suppliers “in the lead” on this.

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“This is total ecosystem transformation,” said McLaughlin. “Our suppliers have stakeholders wanting this, and if there isn’t alignment among their stakeholders (for instance dairy), they are glad to be able to say: ‘Hey, Walmart wants us to do this so we have to do it.’ We help them figure out what to do and how to go faster on some of these things.”

She referenced Walmart’s Sept. 18 announcement that it will be net-zero by 2040 and will become a “regenerative” company “restoring” land to meet 2030 and 2050 targets.

“We will work at the landscape level with suppliers and philanthropy to restore 50 million acres of land — to change the way it gets managed, to decarbonize the supply chains, and change the way consumer products work in retail, as an industry, with traceability and transparency tools,” said McLaughlin.

She talked about Walmart having projects already for all three scopes of the Environmental, Social and Governance reporting (ESGs) that are being mainstreamed into financial markets in 2021. This is how the flow of capital will go to companies progressing toward these global targets.

McLaughlin talked about working with WWF to implement more standards and more certifications for suppliers and to move away from “segregated commodities” to “blended approaches” that use global traceability and transparency systems and document ESG reporting and progress on the SDGs each step of the way.

“It is clear we are exceeding boundaries of the planet, and as a company that sells food and apparel made of cotton, the business case is clear for the SDGs, said McLaughlin.

Asked what is Walmart’s ‘why’? McLaughlin revealed: “The benefits are clear: cost reductions, supply security, risk management, so that’s why we’re doing it.”

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Speaker after speaker and company after company throughout the WEF Forum talked about how all business sectors will be collaborating on these global ESGs (capital) and SDGs (land).

Kristina Kloberdanz, Chief Sustainability Officer for MasterCard even talked about using their platform of over 3 billion customers interacting with retailers and merchants to “inform, inspire and enable consumers to take action, themselves, against their own carbon footprint.”

What is clear is that consumers will be led to where global companies want them to go. These global business leaders stated that “moving consumers” (not just suppliers) toward these goals is what they are working on.

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Bank of America’s CEO Brian Moynihan (top, center), who is also chair of the International Business Council, sat with heads of the four big accounting firms in one of the WEF livestream sessions about the launch of Stakeholder Capitalism Metrics, which they affectionately refer to as “accountant as activist” or “warrior accountants.”

Moynihan said that financial accounting for the investment sector — even lending — will be predicated on progress toward carbon-neutral and carbon-negative goals.

A glimpse of how land targets would be set in the U.S. was seen in former Vice President Biden’s response to a farmer’s question at the CNN Town Hall in Pennsylvania about environmental regulation, referencing the Obama-era WOTUS rules and the Green New Deal.

“We will have land banks,” said Biden. “You will be paid to put your land in land banks to create open space and be in a position where you will be paid to grow certain crops we want you to grow to sequester carbon from the air.”

He talked about his home state of Delaware with a $4 billion poultry industry and stated that, “manure is a consequence of chickens and it is polluting the bay. But we recently found out we can pelletize the manure and remove the methane,” said Biden.

Though Biden states that his climate policy is not the Green New Deal, the overlaps are there. The Green New Deal includes such references to “land banks”, where government will purchase land from “retiring farmers” and make it available “affordably to new farmers and cooperatives that pledge certain sustainability practices.”

Analyses of the Green New Deal’s land policies suggest rented ground — which comprises up to 40% of agricultural land — would be targeted first because environmentalists assume the active farmers renting this ground don’t care as much about its stewardship because they don’t own it.

Landlords who rent ground to active farmers and ranchers for cropping and grazing are easy targets for such a plan.

However, on the production side, rented ground is incredibly important to active farmers in many dairy states, like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, for example, and it is how new and beginning farmers get a start.

The Great Re-set driven by climate goals and sustainability linked to pandemic fears and the Covid-19 impact on the global economy holds significant impacts for food and agriculture production. The “solutions” we see discussed are things former Secretary of Agriculture and current DMI executive Tom Vilsack has worked on for at least 13 years, maybe longer.

DMI leaders tell farmers that they are the reason farmers have a voice at the table to keep regulations from coming in that are unprofitable. But more apparently, DMI leaders are at the table helping to shape the dairy re-set that mirrors the global Great Re-set as pursued by WWF and global corporations like Walmart, Amazon, Nestle, Unilever, Danone. They are driving food system transformation in the Great Re-set — a one-world-order clothed in climate goals.

DMI has longstanding alliances with these partners, including WWF. But whose interests are counted at the table where the food system transformation game is being played? The global companies that partner with checkoff through DMI’s Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and its Sustainability Alliance? Or the farmers mandatorily funding DMI’s existence?

Are farmers and ranchers really at the table? Their powerful integrator (checkoff) and buyers (global processors) most certainly are.

Who will stand for farmers and consumers at the grassroots level? What happens when food production is fully integrated and digitized under globalized control by fewer entities? The role of USDA’s Dietary Guidelines is just the tip of the iceberg, facilitating dietary control of the masses through institutional feeding — working to move us all to the pre-ordained ‘planetary diets.’

The public at large has no idea what’s coming and how their food choices are being manipulated.

Given DMI’s alliances with the big players in food system transformation, the answers should be clear.

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