Gov. speech rules; producers have little say

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

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, February 22, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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DMI chair Marilyn Hershey responds

Marilyn Hershey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Good news about milk is spreading rapidly

Milk Baleboard message reaches over 1 million people in first 7 days online (www.97milk.com, @97milk on facebook, @97milk1 on twitter)

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, March 1, 2019

RICHLAND, Pa. – It has taken off with overwhelming response on social media, and consumers reading and sharing the posts from “97 Milk” are expressing their surprise at how much they are learning about the goodness of milk while farmers are enthused to have a vehicle of grassroots promotion that sticks to the basics — promoting the healthy wholesomeness of dairy and helping consumers make informed choices about milk.

The big news this week is that the 97milk.com website and its corresponding facebook (@97milk) and twitter (@97milk1) accounts, have been very active, very quickly since launching last Friday evening, Feb. 22. Facebook, alone, had reached 1.2 million people by midnight Wednesday, just six days after launching.

What is 97 Milk, you ask?

Last week’s Farmshine had a feature story on page 19 about the launch of the website www.97milk.com as a grassroots offshoot of the Milk Baleboards that are popping up on farms and business properties across the countryside.

Those round bales painted with the message: Drink Local Whole Milk – 97% Fat Free were the idea of Richland, Pennsylvania dairy farmer Nelson Troutman. We have been following the development of his idea in the pages of Farmshine since Nelson made his first Milk Baleboard, pictured on our January 4, 2019 cover.

In fact, Nelson reports as of Wednesday morning, nearly two months after he made his first Milk Baleboard, he has made 26 — including one that was delivered to Farmshine on Feb. 27. He has delivered to many farms and businesses.

In addition, Dale Zimmerman of Zimhaven Holsteins in East Earl, made Milk Baleboards for his farm as well as for Shady Maple Smorgasbord just down the road. And other farmers are joining in.

Nelson continues to receive phone calls and has become somewhat famous in his community, attracting shoppers when he visits the grocery store in his home town.

“No one. Not one person, has said to me that, yes, they knew milk is virtually 97% fat free. No one, not young, nor old, nor in between,” Nelson stated in a follow up email with Farmshine early Wednesday morning, Feb. 27. “Since the bales and the website, I had people say to me that when their kids were small, the doctor told them to drink 2% milk, and now the kids are grown, and they were still drinking 2% milk — until this information came out. Now, they tell me they are drinking whole milk.

“This is all 100% education,” Nelson relates.

This overwhelming response has gone to the next level with the online presence that began Feb. 22 through a website, facebook page, instagram and twitter account for 97 Milk as the educational effort of grassroots dairy farmers. Through social media, the good news is spreading well beyond the Lebanon, Lancaster and Berks County region of Pennsylvania where the first Milk Baleboards were made and placed by Nelson on farms and businesses in the area.

How can this be?

Judging by the facebook page, there is an obvious consumer thirst for milk knowledge and an obvious farmer passion to deliver knowledge simply — without the dietary politics.

Within the first 72 hours, the @97milk facebook page had over 1000 likes and had reached over 100,000 people with the good news that whole milk is virtually 97% fat free.

Over the next 36 hours by mid-morning on Wed., Feb. 27 — not quite five days after launch — the facebook page had nearly 1,650 likes and follows, and the informational posts had reached a whopping 700,000 people. (By Thursday, Feb. 28, less than 7 days after launch, the page had over 2000 likes and had reached 1.2 million people.)

Even more important, these posts had — in less than 7 days — “engaged” nearly 100,000 people via likes, comments and shares of the educational information posted on the page. This does not include those who downloaded the informational images and shared them without sharing directly from the facebook page!

A post over the weekend (see image) illustrated the essential nutrients in milk and its composition as a hydrating beverage made up of 88% water, 5% carbohydrate, 3.5% protein and 3.25% fat, showing the long list of essential nutrients by their percentages of daily recommended values. This illustrative glass of milk reached nearly 100,000 facebook users by Wednesday morning and had engaged over 7,000 in likes, comments and shares.


Consumers are thirsty for knowledge about milk. Here is one simple example of how 97 Milk keeps the good news going. This visual facebook message was posted Wed., Feb. 27, reaching 3,300 people with nearly 300 interactions within its first three hours. Facebook image from @97milk

Another post that explained the fat percentages of milk had reached 45,000 people with 3200 interactions.

Another post giving comparisons of Real Whole Milk, 1% Real Milk, Soy, Almond and Coconut beverage reached over 17,000 people with over 1700 interactions within 24 hours.

And another post sharing the good news that all milk is tested free of antibiotics reached a whopping 608,000 facebook users and resulted in over 44,000 interactions, including over 9,000 direct shares!

Meanwhile, the posts have brought in questions and discussion in the form of public comments on the facebook page and in the form of questions sent by private message. In fact, these interactions are coming from far and wide — local, national, even international.

On Tuesday morning, the 97 Milk facebook page posted this explanation of why the Milk Baleboards have expanded to online 97 Milk communications:

“97 Milk was created to be a voice for our local dairy farmers. This is a place where people can get information on nutritious dairy products. It’s a place where farmers can tell their story, a place where our community can get information on how to support local dairy farms. There is so much confusing information regarding dairy, and there are always two sides to every story. 97 Milk tells the story of the many farms that love and care for their cows, the passion that many dairy farmers have, the many proven research-based facts on milk nutrition. This is our side that our community deserves to hear.”

The website is mentioned on every post, and it is a simple place to direct people who see the Milk Baleboards and the social media posts and want to learn more of the basics about Real Whole Milk.

Planned in the coming weeks are posts for social media that continue to provide bite-sized fact nuggets about milk, including how to learn where milk was bottled, why milk protein is called a complete protein, quotes from farmers about why they love what they do, and other inspirations. Check it out.

If you have a Milk Baleboard on your property, or have seen one displayed, please let us know the location (agrite@ptd.net) in order to help create a map of how the good news is spreading by these grassroots efforts.

If you would like a Milk Baleboard, check out last week’s page 19 feature story giving tips from Nelson on how to make one, and contact Nelson at 717. 821.1484 or Bernie Morrissey at 717.951.1774.

Jordan Zimmerman of East Earl is making and selling bumper stickers through the Lancaster County Holstein Association, and Morrissey has ordered magnetic signs.

To learn more about the online efforts, and to help spread the good news, check out the website at 97milk.com, facebook page @97milk and twitter account @97milk1.


Nelson Troutman of Richland, Pa. has made 26 Milk Baleboards for other farms and businesses in the area. Two weeks ago, he began painting them in his shop with the 97milk.com website! Photo by Sherry Bunting

‘Milk Baleboards’ are a ‘thing’, with a website!

Producers unite to send clear message to policymakers and consumers, website takes it to the next level.

Nelson Troutman (above) is a dairy farmer. He has made 20 Milk Baleboards and offers these DIY Tips with illustrations at the end of this story.

By Sherry Bunting, from Farmshine, Friday, Feb. 22, 2019

RICHLAND, Pa. — Nelson Troutman has been making the ‘Milk Baleboards’ since January. The Berks/Lebanon County dairy farmer came up with the idea after the Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board listening session in December.

“It’s very important that the bales all have the same message: ‘Drink Local Whole MILK — 97% FAT-FREE.’ Don’t try to get funny with it. You could take the ‘local’ off and just focus on the ‘whole milk,’ but mainly to have impact, we want the bales to have the same message,” he said while painting bales in his shop during my visit last Saturday morning to the farm where he and his wife Mary live and which is now rented to a young couple for their dairy herd.

He still farms the land he has lived on his entire life, and he makes the feed for that herd and his son’s herd nearby. (In fact his daughter in law Renee wrote about whole milk recently, with a historical twist!)

Nelson has made 20 Milk Baleboards so far (check out his DIY tips at the end of this story). And he has seen new ones pop up from others following suit.

He has had 10 phone calls from fellow farmers as far away as New York, and has talked to so many more at meetings — out and about. He tells them: “Put a bale out… unless you are satisfied with your milk price.”

Did he think it would take off like it has? “No I didn’t,” he says. But he’s glad to see others joining in and hopes to see it catch on even more.

Retired agribusinessman Bernie Morrissey of Robesonia has been doing all he can to get other agribusinesses to put them out. In addition to Morrissey Insurance having one on their property along Rte 272 north of Ephrata, the Milk Baleboards are popping up along other main routes like 23, 322, and 422, to name a few.

“Our advertising checkoff dollars just didn’t seem to be doing a very good job these past 10 years. They have been promoting fat free and low-fat 1% milk and the fat free yogurt — not much whole milk,” Nelson relates.

“After the listening session with the PMMB, some of us were talking. We thought it was time to do something different, something like letting consumers know whole milk is 97% fat free,” he said further. “We didn’t come up with a plan that day. We were thinking about a billboard, but that was far too expensive. We thought about portable signs.”

Then over the weekend after that December meeting, he looked around. “I thought to myself that I already have the perfect thing: A wrapped hay bale! So, I painted one. I set it in the pasture at our crossroad. We farmers have silos, wagons, barns and sheds we can paint signs on.”

Lots of feedback has come in, and it seemed no one knew whole milk was 97% fat free. Some said “why are we drinking 2% milk, when whole milk tastes so much better?”

Nelson observes that young and older people said they never thought about how much fat or nutrition is in milk. “It seems so sad how people are misled by our checkoff dollars, our doctors and medical people — and our federal dietary guidelines committee.”

He admits that people are easily confused. To be sure, the bales are attracting attention, leading to questions.

While it started out as a way to send a clear and unified message to consumers and especially policymakers, Nelson said the information is so surprising to people that it offers educational opportunities.

That’s why R&J Dairy Consulting invited Nelson and Bernie to a meeting of dairy farmers last Friday to see what could be done to use this teachable moment.

The group decided to purchase a website domain — 97MILK.com, and direct people there to learn more: What is whole milk? How does it compare? What is Real Milk, Local Milk?

The website can help unite these efforts, and bring additional excitement to the project. For example, at the meeting organized by R&J Consulting, their marketing manager Jackie Behr said when she asked peers what questions they have about milk, she ended up with a whole list.

“Let’s use this opportunity to educate consumers and help them make a good choice,” she said. The group decided to start out with key simple answers to frequent questions. Many businesses and people are pulling together in various ways that it is impossible to name them all here. That will come in a future Milk Baleboard update.

Jackie at R&J, with some help from others, got the website 97milk.com up and running within seven days. This includes a facebook page @97Milk, so check it all out!

Want to make a Milk Baleboard? Here are Nelson’s DIY tips:


1) Keep the message the same: Drink Local Whole MILK — 97% FAT FREE (or now that there is a website, omit ‘Drink’ on a Round Bale and put the website 97MILK.com top or bottom.)

2) Get the right paint! Rustoleum Ultra Cover 2X paint and primer.

3) Use the small foam brushes and buy extra. This paint doesn’t wash out, so they can’t be re-used. Foam brushes can be turned for thick or thin letters.

4) Wear gloves, this paint will be with you a while if you don’t.

5) Before painting, sketch out a guide with a pen.

6) 97% is the largest and in making the percent-sign, put the circles parallel to each other and the slanted line in between to keep it straight.

7) Find the middle and that’s where the “I” in Milk goes, then build on that.

8) Letters are placed every 2.5 inches for “Local Whole,” and adjust others accordingly.

9) Spray paint onto foam brush, then apply to bale in strokes from the bottom to the top of each letter.

10) Alternate between colors (Blue/Red or Black/Red).

11) Make the letters broader and thicker for the word MILK, in all capital letters.

12) Follow your guide and use paint to even things out as you go.

13) Paint will dry faster and better, with fewer runs (in winter) if painting in sunshine or with a heater running in the shop.

14) Sit them on a pallet for better visibility on property you have along roads and set back from intersections.

‘Consumers are smarter than us, they are buying more fat.’

Covington more optimistic for dairy in 2019

(Above) Calvin Covington is the retired CEO of Southeast Milk, Inc. and formerly with American Jersey Cattle Association and National All Jersey. He has published many articles in Hoards Dairyman and other publications and is respected for his insights on milk marketing. Covington came to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania from his home in North Carolina on Jan. 29 to talk about dairy markets — from the Northeast perspective — at the R&J Dairy Consulting winter dairy meeting. The previous week, Covington spoke at the Georgia Dairy Conference in Savannah, giving the Southeast outlook and perspective there. He also shared with producers that butterfat is driving milk check value because consumers are smart, they are choosing whole milk, butter and full-fat natural cheeses. He urged producers to hold their industry organizations accountable on selling and promoting fat and flavor. He encouraged farmers to focus on pounds of components to improve milk prices at the farm level.

By Sherry Bunting, from Farmshine, February 1, 2019

EAST EARL, Pa. — Bringing a bit of good news, along with good understanding, of dairy markets, Calvin Covington kicked off R&J Dairy Consulting’s winter dairy seminar Tuesday (Jan. 29) talking about what needs to happen for milk prices to improve.

He had the full attention of the 300 dairy producers who gathered at Shady Maple Smorgasbord in East Earl for the meeting, where they learned that Covington anticipates 2019 Federal Order blend prices in the Northeast to improve by $1.00 to $1.50 in 2019 compared with 2018.

“But it’s going to be a walk, not a run. they will move up gradually,” he said. “Last year, I was pessimistic. This year, I am a lot more optimistic.”

Covington also talked about the “4 C’s” that need tochange as the major factors to improve farm level milk prices: Consumption, Cow numbers, Components and Cooperation.

“The most important is consumption,” said Covington. “What is the consumer telling us?”

He showed a graph of how overall dairy consumption has steadily increased on a solids basis from 2000 though 2018, and he displayed a chart (above) showing that the consumer is telling us they want the milkfat — that it’s the solids in the milk — the bufferfat and protein — that give milk value.

“Exports are growing. That’s where most of our growth in demand has been coming from… but we export commodities — milk powder, whey, lactose,” he said. “We export very little butter and cheese.”

While he said exports are of course important to the milk check, he emphasized the need to focus on domestic demand, which has been overlooked and “presents real opportunity. What can we do to lift domestic demand and make that happen?”

In a word, said Covington: “Milkfat. That’s number one. We in the dairy industry need to talk about milkfat and not hide behind it not wanting things to change. Consumers are a whole lot smarter than we are. They are figuring it out. They are buying more fat… and we need to sell thatt.”

He said that the average fat content of all types of fluid milk sales from fat-free to whole milk — nationwide — is 2%.

“If that moved up by just 1/4 to 1/2 of 1 percent, the difference in farmer milk checks would be substantial. Fluid milk sales have been declining (in total), but whole milk sales are up three years in a row,” Covington explained.

“Consumers want that taste, and we’re not talking about it.”

He also pointed out how per capita butter consumption is at its highest point in over 10 years.

“That’s big, and that’s why the butterfat price in your milk check is double the protein price,” said Covington, explaining that in addition to butter, natural cheeses are one-third fat, that we forget about.

“Natural cheese consumption is higher, but it’s the processed cheeses, that contain less fat, that are moving lower,” he said.

He noted that for many years, the research said fat is bad for us.

“Now smart people are showing this to be false and we have books and articles about how butter, cheese and whole milk are good for us.”

Covington noted that what the industry needs to focus on is giving consumers more of what they want and not being afraid to “sell more fat. That will up your milk price,” he pointed out, encouraging producers to focus on pounds of components because this is the majority of how their milk price is determined.

He shared a story about meeting Queen Elizabeth in England with one of the oldest Jersey herds in the world. Those cows produce more than 6% fat, and that’s what she drinks and she’s 92 years old.

He also observed that the Queen knows as much about cows and agriculture as about anyone he’s met.

Look for more highlights and details from Covington’s fascinating discussions and his 2019 market outlook for the Northeast and the Southeast in a future Farmshine.

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It’s 4th and 40 with 4 seconds on the clock, backed up to our own endzone…

Web-based FUTP60’s branding is long on NFL, short on dairy, while funding is long on dairy, short on NFL

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, Feb. 8, 2019

BROWNSTOWN, Pa. — Since 2010, Fuel Up to Play 60 (FUTP60) has been GENYOUth’s flagship program, a marriage between the NFL’s Play 60 initiative for students to participate in 60 minutes of exercise daily and the Fuel Up portion touted by DMI and underpinned by USDA, focusing on healthy eating, defined as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, including fat-free and low-fat dairy. This is a program where dairy checkoff outspends the NFL $4 to $1.

In its 2016-18 report “Building the Evidence Base for FUTP60,” published in January 2018 and available here, the FUTP60 program is called “the nation’s largest in-school wellness program with over 73,000 enrolled schools.” The report states further that, “FUTP60 aims to improve K-12 school nutrition and physical activity environments using a student-centered approach and social marketing tactics along with promising practices for creating positive, incremental environmental changes.”

The team regularly tracks key indicators of program reach, effectiveness, adoption, implementation and maintenance, according to the report.

An illustrative infographic documents progress through educator surveys, reporting in January 2018 that of the 38 million students in the 73,000 enrolled schools, 13 million were “actively engaged” in the program.

Under healthy eating, the report states that “because of FUTP60, 14 million students are eating healthier, consuming vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese) and that 18 million students are more physically active.” 

But there are no surveys tracking actual food selections as the impact data are self-reported as “educator insights.”

In fact, all of these numbers are self-reported as the fine print states: “Data are based on a combination of annual FUTP60 Utilization Survey of almost 10,000 educators nationwide, funds for FUTP60 reporting and program enrollment data.”

So, just 10,000 educators are surveyed for the report, but 73,000 schools are said to be enrolled.

According to the Jan. 2018 report, the GENYOUth funding supported the following items in 2016-17: 2333 breakfast carts, 2,338 school kitchen equipment upgrades, 1833 projects to create active classrooms, 244 projects to improve physical education, 1984 school-wide walking clubs, and 741 cafeteria makeovers.”

The report describes the funding as “generously donated by America’s dairy farmers, U.S. corporations, non-profit organizations and philanthropies.” (Table 1).

FUTP60 was founded in 2009. GENYOUth was licensed as a non-profit in 2010, and a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed by the National Dairy Council, NFL and USDA in 2011. IRS 990 forms for 2014-16 available at guidestar.org show dairy farmer checkoff organizations are the single largest contributor to GENYOUth – outspending the NFL $4 to $1, while bound by the MOU signed with USDA to not use the platform to advertise. Meanwhile, the entire program is clothed in NFL branding and USDA dietary dogma. Table compiled by Sherry Bunting with available 990s for 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Peer-reviewed articles mostly studied the design of the program. However, a 4-year (2011-15) review of the impact of FUTP60 was published in the March 2017 edition of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, available here.

The authors studied participants in schools within the 32 NFL franchise markets, including a range of 50,000 to 100,000 students from just 497 schools (not 10,000 nor 73,000 schools). These 497 schools completed FitnessGram assessments annually for 2011-2015. Program participation was not required, and its implementation was evaluated each year through self-reported school surveys. 

The study measured the main outcomes of aerobic capacity and Body Mass Index (BMI) of students. Results showed that about 19% of the 497 schools were “classified as FUTP60 programming schools.”

Annual improvements in aerobic capacity were “significantly greater in schools that participated in the programs for both girls (3%) and boys (2.9%) compared with non-program schools. The annual improvements in BMI Healthy Fitness Zone achievement were also higher in girls (1.3%) and in boys (1.2%) from schools that participated in the program vs. those that did not.”

The report stated that schools implementing the programs for the entire 4-year period tended to have better improvements in aerobic capacity than schools enrolled for only 2 or 3 years.

Still, the study authors concluded that, “The results … support the utility of the NFL Play 60 physical activity promotion programs for improving youth aerobic capacity and potentially helping to reverse the prevalence of overweight / obesity. However, the overall program adoption rate is low.”

Most of the FUTP60 program is web-based, with toolkits for lead educators at participating schools. In fact, IRS Form 990s for 2014-16 show that of the $7 to $10 million in funds received annually through checkoff and other organizations, roughly $3 to 4 million was used annually in the form of grants to qualifying schools and of the remaining $4 to $6 million, an average of just $109,000 (roughly 1%) from 2014 through 2016 was used for printing or publishing materials.


FUTP60 is mainly a web-based program where a playbook and toolkits are available for schools to choose one healthy eating play and one physical activity play to implement to qualify for up to $4000 a year for physical activity or foodservice equipment or projects. The playbook branding is long on NFL branding, short on dairy. DMI cites the mobile breakfast carts as a ‘prime mover’ for students to consume more fat-free and low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese that are among the breakfast options offered.

The detailed website is augmented by NFL ‘Play60’ apps that students can download and use on electronic devices to participate in ‘virtual challenges’ relating to movement and activity.

The less than $1 million contributed by the NFL and the larger number Commissioner Goodell articulates based on ‘services’ can be considered as furthering the advertising value for the NFL — attracting future generations to the game while attracting schools to participate in FUTP60. The FUTP60 infographic explains how the NFL “brings excitement to school wellness”… with these 2016-17 statistics: 2700 NFL players, mascots and cheerleaders visited schools, 4200 local events were held, 12,000 flag (football) kits were donated to schools to get over 6 million students moving more, and over $1 million in hometown grants were donated to schools.”

It is certainly true that there is plenty of NFL branding in this program under the auspices of “bringing NFL excitement to physical activity” — even though…

America’s dairy farmers — through their mandatory checkoff organizations — outspend the NFL $4 to $1, according to available 2014, 2015 and 2016 IRS 990s at guidestar.org

Even the video spots created by DMI for this year’s social media lead-up to the 53rd Super Bowl were long on NFL branding and short on dairy messaging. Read more about that, here.

Again, the Youth Improved Incorporated Foundation, doing business as GENYOUth, is short on dairy and long on NFL.

FUTP60 is largely a program focusing on physical activity, and there are other areas of youth wellness that are being added each year.

This year’s new foray for GENYOUth is sleep studies. The new big thing in weight-loss is getting enough sleep.

As it grows, GENYOUth’s founding and primary funding is by dairy farmers who see their message diluted – just like the flavor of their milk at the school lunch counter or mobile breakfast cart.

The thinking is that fat-free and low-fat dairy can be quietly positioned for the future within this overall youth wellness effort. Insiders put stock in the mobile breakfast carts that schools can earn using FUTP60 healthy eating and physical activity ‘plays’ to score ‘touchdowns’.

DMI staff point to these breakfast carts as opportunities for children to consume more fat-free and low-fat milk and yogurt and skim-processed cheese.

Should dairy farmers be investing in youth wellness? That feels like a good idea. But when there are so many questions about how ‘well’ kids are permitted to eat at school, one has to wonder where this is all going.

In terms of truly promoting dairy, this all has the feel of a hope-to-catch, hail-Mary-pass that is destined to be intercepted vs. a game plan that earns a win for the home-team that sits at 4th and 40 with 4 seconds on the clock — backed up to their own endzone.

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My view: Money spent, points missed.

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, Feb. 8, 2019

Even the video spots created by DMI for this year’s social media lead-up to the 53rd Super Bowl were long on NFL branding and short on dairy messaging. After all, America’s dairy farmers have this relationship with the National Football League (NFL) via GENYOUth and Fuel Up to Play 60 (FUTP60), why not advertise it, right?

But DMI’s “Dairy Rules” videos leave the viewer wondering what the point is.

The “Dairy Rules” content series represents a $100,000 media buy, alone, with production costs on top, according to Edelman, the agency doing creative and public relations work for DMI over the past 20-plus years. They say the two videos prepared for play on social media sites Feb. 1-4, “apply football rules in the context of dairy products to humorous effect.”

Honestly, I found them to be more annoying than humorous, maybe I didn’t get the point?

DMI sources say the “dairy replay booth” videos were viewed 6 million times on social media platforms. You can view them for yourself here and here .

(The number of views logged at these YouTube links as of February 4 is more like 200 and 500. And the embedded Facebook version showed 6,200 views. The Twitter platform counts were around 600 each.)

While the tagline is a good one: “Real Dairy is always the right call,” the substance of the skits is rapid-fire, dairy-name-dropping clothed in football jargon.

Except for this brief 1-second and chaotic glimpse at the “dairy replay” screens, the viewer is in the dark over why “Real Dairy is always the right call.”

In fact, “Grace under pressure,” the female referee in the first 30-second “dairy replay booth” video, reviews dairy-use fouls. Speaking rapidly and displaying a large 1% emblem on the back of her hybrid cow-print/referee-striped shirt, she points to screens the viewer can’t see saying: “That’s mom delaying ice cream night to answer a text. That’s parfait interference, too much fruit in the yogurt. That’s conduct unbecoming of an ice cream sandwich, inappropriate use of fondue forks, a butter block below the waffles… asiago more than 5 seconds on the floor and incomplete use of milk in the chicken tetrazini.”

From the front we see the “Undeniably Dairy” logo on her shirt. Cute. Funny, sort of. But what’s the message? 

The viewer is all set up for “Real Dairy is always the right call,” but no real substance emerges to sink their teeth into, even if the average person could understand half of the jargon.

The second video with a male referee takes the same approach. “All day, every day, dairy infractions are being committed. We’re here at the dairy replay booth to make the final call,” he says as the dramatic NFL-style intermission music plays.

He peruses a wall of screens. “The call is roughing the queso,” he nods, followed by a few more phrases that are hard to decipher — something about a ruling on the fontino? That’s a type of cheese.

And then, a perhaps redeeming line: “Okay Seattle, Dad’s drinking straight from the chocolate milk container, making it ineligible… again.”

Okay, that one at least creates a word picture of Dad swigging chocolate milk straight from the jug instead of taking time to pour a glass – because it’s that good. 

Disjointed and hard to follow, there’s plenty of NFL branding in these videos, and the creators for DMI made sure to display the 1% and 2% subliminal low-fat messages on uniforms and props.

But apart from a glimpse of the replay refs tapping the water cooler (containing milk instead of water with bright red lettering of 2%), there’s just no dairy visible in these Undeniably Dairy, Dairy Good spots.

Decision made, faith shared as his beautiful Lancaster County farm auction is set for Feb. 9

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, February 1, 2019

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Picture postcard perfect in Tuesday afternoon’s snow, Rusty Herr’s 71-acre farm, including the all wood construction dairy and heifer barns (shown here), designed to showcase Golden Rose Genetics, as well as the restored historic home (not shown) in the Andrews Bridge historic district of southern Lancaster County will be auctioned by Beiler-Campbell on Feb. 9.

CHRISTIANA, Pa. – “It was a gut feeling, more than anything — an inner sense of knowing something had to happen,” says Rusty Herr about his November decision to auction the 71-acre farm and its most unique dairy facility that is home to Golden Rose Genetics and its elite herd of 40 cows, 25 of which are related to the Oakfield Pronto Ritzi cow he purchased as a yearling in 2009 at the New York Spring Sensation Sale.

Beiler-Campbell Auction Company will conduct the public auction at the 3 Sproul Road farm in the Andrews Bridge historic district of southern Lancaster County near Christiana, Pennsylvania next Saturday, February 9 at 1:00 p.m. In addition to the farm, and it’s not quite four-year-old dairy and heifer barns, the sale includes the family’s restored historic home.

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Rusty with his foundation cow Oakfield Pronto Ritzi EX93, in front of the dairy facility at Golden Rose Genetics. The facilities and renovated farm house are part of the auction Feb. 9 of the 71-acre farm. Pronto Ritzi’s is from a genetic line that is now 19 consecutive generations EX with the most recent four generations bred here at Golden Rose and a potential 20th generation EX — a red and polled first calf heifer — waiting in the wings to be scored.

Rusty will determine his options for the cattle and equipment after the sale of the farm. He’s hoping to be able to keep some of his best animals and some heifers for his children to show.

The beautiful all-wood construction Canadian-style barn, complete with indoor wash rooms and a show case entryway was built so that Rusty could give his small herd of high-scoring cows the individual attention and as a show place to merchandise the genetics he has been developing.

In fact, his Golden-Rose Ladd Glory-Red (below), both Red and Polled, has not yet been classified and has the potential to be a 20th generation EX in Oakfield Pronto Ritzi’s line.

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Oakfield Pronto Ritzi EX93 is the foundation cow at Golden Rose

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Golden-Rose Ladd Glory-Red is a polled first-calf heifer that will be professionally photographed in February. She is not yet classified, and Rusty has high hopes for her as a potential 20th generation EX from the Oakfield Pronto Ritzi line. Rusty will make plans and choices for his cattle after the public auction of the farm.

Good cows and good genetics, along with a love of marketing and the training and skill-set for reproductive work — these are the things Rusty has learned and will continue to love – even if the path forward right now is like opening a book of blank pages.

While it was a gut feeling and months of deliberation that led to the decision to sell the farm, it all comes down to the financial strain he and other dairy producers are enduring.

“Each of us has to know how much longer we can tread water before losing everything,” he says. “We also have to look at how the financial strain may be impacting on other areas of our physical, emotional and family life. If the dairy industry was in a good place, financially, it is obvious we would not have all of these farms going out of business.”

In kitchen table discussions with other dairymen who’ve crossed this bridge over the past several months, one thing is apparent, our industry’s young farmers and transitioning families do not have the cash flow to finish transitions or move into later stages of having started as beginning farmers. They also don’t have the peace of mind that the markets will cycle high enough to pull them up from four years of losses. This is concerning for the future as we are not just seeing the older generation retiring out of the business, we are seeing unprecedented numbers of young people who have a passion for dairy in these tough decisions.

For Rusty, it means walking away from the farm and most unique dairy facility he had spent years dreaming, planning, preparing for and then in 2015 building for his Golden Rose Genetics.

He had been sharpening his skill-set in embryo transfers, ultrasounding and IVF work, building a line of Excellent cows from the Oakfield Corners yearling he had purchased. He methodically built up the genetics side of his business, ultimately downsizing his prior herd with a 2015 auction to fund the new barn and intimate setting for a smaller herd where he could specialize in genetics.

What he didn’t plan on — what nobody could have — is that the milk price would abandon its three-year cycle to tumble low for four straight years, beginning in 2015 when he moved his smaller herd into their new quarters at Golden Rose.

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With a rough-cut pine exterior and the interior smooth pine tongue-and-groove construction, clear-coated to protect the wood against moisture, the 40 tie-stalls and four box stalls were designed for the individual care of high-scoring cows. They currently produce 75 pounds/cow/day of milk with 4.2 fat and 3.3 protein and somatic cell counts 160,000 and below. They are fed a forage-based TMR of mainly corn silage and double-cropped triticale, along with some dry hay.

“Without one good year in the dairy markets (since 2015), it’s been an uphill battle,” Rusty reflects. “We were treading water, but then the outlook sealed it. If it looked like markets would be a lot brighter going into 2019, maybe we could hunker down a bit longer, but we felt like we have already hunkered down and pushed it.

“Obviously it has not been an easy decision to make,” but he says that it is the right one for his family to move on from dairy farming as they have known it.

Looking back, he has no regrets.

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The entryway to the cow barn is part of what make this property a unique opportunity for many types of buyers. The location and beauty of the property and its wood-crafted dairy facilities designed for a small elite dairy herd could easily be converted for horses or for a farm to retail business.

“Life has a way of teaching us valuable lessons that we would have never learned if we didn’t go through certain things. When things get difficult, when the pressure is high and the pain is great, those are the times when we learn the most, when we figure out who we really are and come out better and more prepared to handle what is to come,” he describes the perspective that leaves him with peace about stepping towards whatever God has in store next for him and his family.

With the decision made, the marketer in him has Rusty feeling excited about the upcoming auction on February 9.

He and his wife Heather feel a sense of relief knowing the financial strain will ease, and he believes that any number of options could be in front of him.

He says the whole experience has taught him patience and to trust God for His perfect timing.

“This wasn’t how I would have planned it, having just purchased the farm and begun construction on the dairy less than four years ago, but it’s how the script is unfolding,” he notes.

“The dairy industry is changing in many ways, and to think that anyone could have predicted the markets would be moderately to severely depressed going on a fifth year in a row would have been unimaginable.”

But he adds that, “This is the reality of where we are with a high debt load, input costs from all angles and a very uncertain outlook. It’s just not sustainable to continue with the farm and small dairy herd.”

He and his wife Heather and their four children have put the future in God’s hands. He loves the work he has been doing both on and off the farm.

If a buyer wants to keep the dairy going and keep him working with it, he is open to that potential.

If the farm sells to a buyer completely unrelated to dairy, his path could change dramatically, and he’s ready for that.

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The foyer has a comfortable and historic sitting-room feel where milk quality certificates, pedigrees and ribbons and banners won by his daughters showing cattle at the local fairs are displayed. You can see the cows behind the double doors in the tiestalls. A visitor from the Netherlands surprised Rusty with a cow decal on the wall, a signature he leaves at every farm he visits, worldwide.

“We chose to auction the farm. This is not a forced auction,” Rusty affirms. “I have always loved cow auctions and after meeting with Beiler-Campbell, we decided this is how we would handle the farm sale.”

True to form, Rusty finds himself seizing the opportunity to learn about marketing real estate through this whole experience. Just another way to embrace circumstances and decisions even if they are completely opposite of earlier dreams and plans.

RustyHerr-AuctionSign.jpgIn fact, Rusty penned these words in a Facebook post 10 days before Christmas just after the auction signs went up, thanking their network of family, friends and church family and offering to others a glimpse of the hope and faith that remain strong – knowing so many farmers are wrestling with similar difficulties and decisions.

“Yes, it is sad to walk away from something I have worked my whole life to get to, but in other ways I can be so happy to have been given the opportunity to do it. So many people can never say that,” Rusty wrote, and reiterated during a Farmshine visit to Golden Rose Monday evening. During the visit, Rusty confided that the rollercoaster has not been the markets — they’ve been down with no relief. The rollercoaster he and other dairy producers deal with every day is an internal up-and-down in the mindset of whether they can move forward, or how.

“We can control a lot of things, but not the market,” he explains that they have done all they could to increase income and cash flow amid the perfect storm of lower prices for milk, cattle and beef. He stepped up his ET, IVF and other reproductive services to dairy producers in the region –pulling him away from the very farm he was bringing income back to keep going.

“What’s the family farm going to look like in the future?” Rusty wonders aloud. “That question, I think, is being answered. We are disappearing.”

“I don’t want sympathies and people feeling sorry for us…” he wrote in that mid-December post announcing the sale of the farm. “There are dairy farm families right now who are grieving over the loss of a loved one who thought that ending their life was the best way to cope with their overwhelming situation. They are the ones who need our prayers and support. There are others who have no idea how they are going to get through the coming months and years if things don’t dramatically improve. They might be retirement age and have just watched all of their net worth get eaten up while trying to ride out the storm. I would like this post to be about them.”

Rusty is grateful for family, friends and faith. He urges everyone in the dairy community to “Reach out to your neighbors and friends. Let them know that you care and are praying for them.”

In short, he says, “2018 has been the most difficult year in modern history to be a farmer. Farmers are strong people and can deal with more than most will ever have to, but we all have a breaking point. Pay attention, listen when someone just needs to be heard. Be a shoulder to cry on if needed. Be kind — you never know how much someone might be dealing with. People are good at hiding their struggles and pain.”

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It’s milking time, and Daisy Herr, 13, gets started Monday evening at Golden Rose.

As Rusty and one of his daughters, Daisey, 13, began milking Monday evening, younger daughter Maddie, 12, fed the cats and prepared to join in. Their dad started a pot of coffee and prepared to feed.

“It’s a bittersweet thing,” he said as we concluded the interview as night fell. “The decision was difficult, but we’re all looking forward to what’s next, even if we don’t know what that looks like at the moment. For now, I’m focusing on the auction on Feb. 9, and trusting God has our back.”


“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

 

Jeremiah 29:11

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Rusty pushes up and gets ready to feed while daughter Daisy milks and daughter Maddie helps with other chores. He says Alli, 15, Daisy, 13, and Maddie, 12, have been taking turns with the milking. Son Jeremiah, 9, helps Heather’s mom with feeding calves.

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