Farmers bring questions to DMI chair

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, April 19, 2019

GORDONVILLE, Pa. — “You are hearing the negatives, not the positives,” said Marilyn Hershey about the dairy checkoff during a meeting requested by Lancaster County dairy farmers hosted here in Gordonville on Friday, April 12.

Hershey has a dairy farm with her husband Duane in neighboring Chester County, and she serves as the national chairperson of the Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) board.

Approximately 12 of the expected 30 farmers attended the meeting with a range of topics on their minds, in particular fluid milk sales and whole milk promotion.

Hershey got involved in dairy promotion eight years ago, serving first on the National Dairy Board, then becoming vice chair of DMI, the board that combines various boards, before becoming chairperson two years ago. National Dairy Board has term limits, whereas the DMI board does not.

Accompanying Hershey for the discussion was Harold Shaulis of Somerset County, who served 25 years on state, regional and national checkoff boards. Having sold his cows, he is no longer a board member, but helps with promotion.


After a Q&A session with farmers, DMI chairperson Marilyn Hershey supplied this graphic of how dairy consumption has increased while product share has changed from 1985 through 2018. The chart represents National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) analysis of USDA commercial disappearance. According to USDA, the agency’s commercial disappearance figures include imports and most exports.

Shaulis said the bottom line in dairy promotion is to sell more milk. He said total per-capita dairy consumption has grown since the 1980s, even though fluid milk sales have declined (Fig. 1). He also talked about trade missions to China and Southeast Asia.

“We are in a global market. One out of six loads of milk a day is exported, and we want to see that grow,” he said.

In addition to exports, Hershey said consumers are eating more dairy products, overall. “The National Dairy Council has funded 20 years of research on butter to get it back in the mainstream. We got butter into McDonalds in place of margarine, and 80% of McDonalds’ sales have a dairy ingredient in them,” she explained as an example of DMI’s partnership strategy.

By email, after the meeting, Hershey furnished the previously requested list of National Dairy Council research we will explore for a future edition.

However, a perusal of the science summaries section of National Dairy Council’s own website, where a few summaries are available, each download is prefaced with these words: “Low-fat and fat-free dairy foods are part of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) and American Heart Association (AHA) dietary recommendations. You can download our full report, which shows further support for consuming low-fat or fat-free dairy foods as recommended in the 2015 DGA.”

The website also talks about “nourishing communities,” about farm animal care and sustainability measures (FARM program) adopted and funded by checkoff dollars that tie in with the low-fat and fat-free dietary theme.


This screenshot of the landing page for the Undeniably Dairy campaign’s website (https://www.discoverundeniablydairy.com/) illustrates the nourishing communities theme that DMI chair Marilyn Hershey says targets “conflicted health seekers.” She also said: “We want Undeniably Dairy to replace the Real Seal. That is the goal.”

Undeniably Dairy replaces Real Seal

Cross-referenced to the National Dairy Council website is the Undeniably Dairy campaign. Hershey said this promotes positive messages to targeted audiences with school curriculum and through social media.

At this website, the “nourishing communities” theme continues as well as the reinforcement of low-fat and fat-free dairy.

Hershey provided a handout on Undeniably Dairy and said: “We are targeting the ‘conflicted health seeker’ with four messages: Responsibly produced, nutrient rich, locally driven, real enjoyment.”

More interesting is where DMI wants to take the campaign.

“We want Undeniably Dairy to replace the Real Seal. That is the goal,” said Hershey. “We are combining MilkPEP’s ‘Love What’s Real’ campaign with our Undeniably Dairy campaign.” 

The Real Seal was previously owned by UDIA / DMI, but it is now the property of National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF). The Real Seal can only be used on milk and dairy products that contain real dairy ingredients, no imitation dairy ingredients and are made with milk produced and processed in the USA.

This posed a problem for DMI, since importers must pay a small checkoff fee for dairy promotion, so the dairy checkoff stopped promoting the Real Seal and came up with Undeniably Dairy two years ago.

Hershey fielded questions about the requirements for using the Undeniably Dairy Seal. How might those requirements differ from the Real Seal? She did not have the specifics and promised to get back with those details.

In the schools

Fielding questions on the school breakfast carts, Hershey explained that GENYOUth is the umbrella organization, and Fuel Up to Play 60 (FUTP60) is the boots on the ground.

“We don’t just have a foot in the schools, we are IN the schools,” said Hershey. “Companies would love to have what we have in the schools.”

The Northeast program is strong because there are seven football teams here so the program can affect a large number of kids in the Northeast, according to Hershey.

Asked what is on the breakfast carts, she said: “Yogurt, cheese, milk, fruits and vegetables, and some have smoothie machines.”

She said the Grab N Go Breakfast Carts have ice packs to keep the milk cold. She also stated that every dime ADA Northeast sends in to GENYOUth is returned to the Northeast region to fund FUTP60 and breakfast carts as well as other foodservice equipment grants to schools. (See ADA Northeast 2017 Annual Report here)

Hershey confirmed that the GENYOUth Gala raises more money than it spends by getting funds from other donors to buy more carts. She explained, as previously reported in Farmshine, that PepsiCo gave $1 million to translate FUTP60 into Spanish and pay for more breakfast carts. She said PepsiCo made a large 2018 commitment to the program, and that’s why PepsiCo recognized with the Vanguard Award at the 2018 Gala.

“We buy the carts, and we have multi-year contracts with the schools to keep milk on the carts,” said Hershey.

Acknowledging that the milk provided is fat-free or 1%, she stressed that, “As independent dairy producers, we can advocate for whole milk, but DMI, FUTP60, and GENYOUth cannot influence policy,” she explained.

“You have to go to your co-ops and Farm Bureau and G.T. Thompson to get that done. We can’t do it,” said Shaulis.

What we can do is put out our research and promote research,” said Hershey.

Shalis said the FUTP60 breakfast carts “absolutely sell more milk.”

He reported that 95,000 more children participated in school breakfast in 2018 compared with 2017. “That’s 95,000 more servings of milk since they have to take a milk.”

“But do they like it?” asked one farmer.

Hershey quickly replied: “It doesn’t matter if it’s 3%, 1%, 2% or 0%, they are getting the same nutrition. Even though they are not getting the fat content, they are getting the nutrients.”

A discussion of fat-soluble nutrients and bioavailability of nutrients ensued.

When asked if DMI, yes or no, believes 1% and fat-free milk are equal to whole milk, Hershey said: “We have no control over what we serve or promote in the schools. With that carton of 1% milk, we want children to know they are getting the nutrition, we can’t address the fat.”

When asked what DMI can do about 20-plus years of having the low-fat diet-heart hypothesis “forced on us,” Hershey’s reply was that, “It took 20 years to get here and it will take a while to turn it around.”

She informed the group that the American Heart Association has already written a letter to Congress signed by 18 health organizations protesting the House Bill 832: Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act.

“They are against the bill, so there is a battle in front of us,” Hershey said.

On the positive side, Hershey said farmers can thank Dr. Greg Miller, global chief science officer for the National Dairy Council, for his use of the research on full-fat dairy. She also said dairy farmers can thank the dairy scientists in each partnering company’s kitchen as DMI develops new products for Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Domino’s and McDonalds.

Beyond the fat

“Lots of things with school milk need changing, not just the fat,” said Hershey as she dove into the innovations side of DMI’s strategy.

“I appreciate that the fat content is your focus, but it has to be the right temperature, delivered correctly and packaged correctly,” she said. “We are working on this with processors.”

She said that giving high school teens the same packaging as kindergarteners doesn’t fly. She cited research showing that when schools switched from paper cartons to plastic bottles, milk sales grew by double-digits in the first year, and waste was down by 20% in those schools.

“Kids want to drink their milk from a bottle because that’s how they drink everything else,” said Hershey, noting that Rick Naczi, executive director of ADA Northeast, pointed this out at a fluid milk meeting DMI had in Chicago in February.

“School milk got a lot of discussion there,” Hershey reported. “But, let’s not get lost in this whole milk point. There is a huge price difference (between whole milk and 1% or fat-free), and school contracts are lost by one-quarter of a penny per carton.”

Some of the farmers in attendance said that didn’t matter unless other beverages can compete for those contracts. The bottom line would be whole milk going into the schools.

Time was also spent talking about the trend toward smaller containers and ultra-high temperature (UHT) pasteurization. “All the milk in Europe is UHT, and it tastes good,” said Shaulis.

Some of the farmers in the room disagreed, sharing their concerns that UHT leaves a less valuable product nutritionally and in flavor. To which, Hershey and Shaulis said the entire food industry is going that way, and there’s nothing they can do about that.

“What we have to try to do (in promotion) is stand by the value milk has and promote what we are able to promote,” said Hershey.

She shared figures showing that overall fluid milk sales represent 18% of total milk production: “79% of consumers are not eating meals as a family. Everything is grab and go. That’s where we need to be,” said Hershey. “We have to meet consumers where they are with our innovation and packaging.”

Citing fairlife, she explained how “that product came through our fluid milk committee, and now others are following. Darigold has a new high protein ‘fitness’ drink. DFA has a couple things coming out under the Live Real Farms label. Kroger and Shamrock are coming out with beverages – all this year. These products have a lot of milk in them,” she said.

Farmers learned that these new products are not Class I products. They are largely Class II.

“We partner on these products,” said Hershey. “We give money for research. They do the product research. We only contribute to the research to try and get the innovation out there in order to survive.”

“We gave up on selling milk. ‘Got Milk’ did nothing,” Shaulis added. “Generic milk advertising doesn’t work.”

Farmers wanted more statistics to back up this claim, and they referenced the overwhelming reaction among consumers to the 97 Milk Baleboards and campaign done voluntarily at a grassroots level, starting in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania with signs and baleboards now in five states and spreading nationwide and internationally through the website and social media.

Hershey did share the news that retail data show whole milk sales grew more in the first quarter of 2019 than the already higher whole milk sales in 2018.

She later sent an email stating that in the Northeast, retail sales data show 40% of fluid milk sales are coming from whole milk sales. She also reported that, nationally, whole milk sales as a percentage of total fluid milk sales rose from 29.7% in 2014 to 39.3% currently.

As one farmer noted, “DMI has done a good job promoting cheese, what we are asking for is more focus on fluid whole milk than we are seeing now.”

Farmers were concerned that if they continue to be forced to pay into a checkoff program that represents their market less and less, what does the future hold for them?

Hershey had explained that the national checkoff boards are represented geographically by milk volume.

Some wondered if making the checkoff voluntary would allow them to put money into promoting local whole milk, and to take on the imitations head-to-head without the restrictive oversight of USDA.

“It’s all or nothing. That’s how the whole world of checkoff programs work,” said Shaulis. “These farmers on the board look at every penny spent, and they look at what is best for the industry while regions look at what is best for their region.”

To be continued.


DMI chairperson Marilyn Hershey and former board member Harold Shaulis met with dairy farmers for a question-and-answer session in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania on Friday, April 12. Hershey explained that DMI, the board she chairs, combines the National Dairy Board and the UDIA board. In this way, DMI brings together the national 5-cent spending with the portion of the 10 regional cents that is brought into national efforts under the unified marketing plan.

Peeling back layers of dairy checkoff report to Congress

The 2016 report touts a $5 to $1 return, but here is a deeper look. More transparency needed, sought

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, April 5, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. — USDA released the 2016 Dairy Checkoff Report to Congress on April 1, and it focuses on quantifying the return dairy farmers received for their 15 cents per hundredweight — over $320 million collected annually — in mandatory checkoff investment.

Well, not really.

The headliner is that farmers received a $5 to $1 return on their promotion dollars. But let’s look a little deeper.

The $5 to $1 return is an evaluation made by the independent analysis of Texas A&M based on the dollars spent on “demand enhancing” and “promotion” activities, not a return on investment calculated on all dollars mandatorily invested by dairy farmers.

Digging into the charts, this puts the evaluated dollars at around $250 million, and that includes the processor funds in the MilkPEP program. The total dairy farmer checkoff of 15 cents per hundredweight amounts to $320 million annually and the MilkPEP processor funds are close to $94 million annually, according to the report.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate to bring transparency to checkoff programs for all farm commodities. The bill — Opportunities for Fairness in Farming (OFF) Act — was reintroduced a week ago by U.S. Senators Mike Lee (R-Utah), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

According to an advocate of the bill — the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) — the OFF Act would put an end to the “most egregious abuses” committed by the boards and contractors of the federally mandated commodity checkoff programs.

OCM states that, “Checkoff programs have fallen under the control of commodity trade organizations representing global agribusiness interests,” noting that “farmers are struggling amidst increasing consolidation, low commodity prices, and excess supply. Net farm income is at a 19-year low. Along with recent trade disruptions and natural disasters, such as the flooding in the Midwest, the last thing farmers want or need is their tax dollars working against them.”

The OFF Act is intended to “rein-in conflicts of interest” and “stop anti-competitive activities” by forcing checkoff programs to publish their budgets and undergo periodic audits so that farmers and ranchers know where their mandatory checkoff dollars are going. It would also stop federally-mandated checkoff dollars from being transferred to parties that seek to influence government policies on ag issues and increase the transparency of the individual boards’ actions by shedding light on how these funds are spent and the purpose of the spending.

In light of this new bill, let’s look at the 2016 Dairy Checkoff Report to Congress released on April 1.

According to the 2016 Report’s executive summary, “… the combined effects of 2016 promotion activities on the consumption of fluid milk, cheese, butter, all dairy products, and dairy exports includes benefit cost ratios (BCRs) for dairy producers, dairy importers and fluid milk processors. For every dollar invested in demand-enhancing activities, the BCRs for producers were: 1) fluid milk $4.11, 2) cheese $4.81, and 3) butter $22.74, 4) exports $8.10. The BCR for fluid milk processors attributed to fluid milk promotion activities is $3.73. And the aggregate BCR on every ‘demand-enhancing’ dollar spent was calculated at $4.78.

Putting those BCR’s in perspective, the 2016 Report totaled the mandatory dairy promotion contributions at $415 million, of which $94 million was contributed by the Milk Processors Education and Promotion Program (MilkPEP), which are the funds paid by fluid milk processors for fluid milk promotion.

When looking at the graphs accompanying this report — since the report does not include the raw data points for 2016 — the total amount of domestic dairy demand-enhancing funds from which the BCRs (aka returns on investment) were calculated, comes out to around $250 million for the year. And a large chunk of that came from the fluid milk processors (over $80 mil).

From 1996 through 2016, the amount of money collected topped $7 billion, according to the report.

During those 20 years, the dollars spent on “demand-enhancing” activities for fluid milk have declined, and the fluid milk sales have declined also. Of the roughly $110 million spent on fluid milk demand-enhancing activities in 2016, most of those dollars came from MilkPEP generic promotion.

Also, keep in mind that the fluid milk sector is the sector held most notably to the standard of “government speech” in its “allowable” promotion i.e. the low-fat and fat-free USDA Dietary Guidelines that have precipitated the decline in fluid milk consumption.

In fact, whole milk sales rose in 2016 while the entire fluid milk category fell. But whole milk was not promoted with any of the producer or processor promotion funds overseen by USDA and evaluated in this report. Consumers chose whole milk based on external factors that are driving the discussion of fats and proteins in the diet.

The fastest growing demand-sectors in recent years include butter. The 2016 Report to Congress states that farmers received a $22 to $1 benefit cost ratio (BCR, aka return on investment) in that category.

That looks really great, right?

But again, this is based on the amount of “demand enhancing” funds actually spent on butter promotion in 2016 — right around $8 million for the year — the lowest category of all product promotion sectors to receive promotional funding, but the fastest rising in demand and value.

Put simply: Very little of the dairy farmer’s promotion funds (less than 2% of total checkoff funds) were used to promote butter, but sales have risen so fast in that category that the return on investment seems to be quite impressive. The “return” may have nothing to do with the “investment” under this scenario.

Meanwhile, Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) has continued consolidating the way it uses its national share of individual farms’ mandatory checkoff funds through business-to-business (B2B) partnerships where the goal is to influence the amount of dairy utilized by the top restaurant chains, pizza chains, and other foodservice companies in what they offer to consumers. This may become increasingly important as the government dietary guidelines and other factors pressure companies to use more plant-based options. But the drawback is that this B2B use of dollars feeds into further consolidation of the industry in terms of geographic winners and losers.

The key to looking at the 2016 Report’s BCR (returns on investment) calculations is the choices consumers are making where they actually have choices. Consumers are choosing whole milk and full-fat dairy at rising rates. Where they don’t have a choice, the low-fat and fat-free versions are enforced and offered. So while $110 million might have been spent by farmers and processors to enhance fluid milk demand, precious little, if any, has been used to promote the whole milk message due to USDA oversight of all advertising messages.

Part of the other half of checkoff funds not included in the “demand enhancing” and “promotion” BCR (return on investment) calculation is in dollars funneled toward the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy.

What is the Innovation Center, farmers wonder?

The Innovation Center is the part of DMI that is considered “pre-competitive.” This includes new product development, like fairlife.

The Innovation Center also includes the FARM program that governs animal care standards and is increasingly seen as a methodical tool to control and cull dairy farmers by management style. Dairy producer checkoff funds have paid for the FARM program through DMI’s Innovation Center even though National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) implements and administers FARM with DMI paying NMPF for certain services and NMPF paying DMI for other services.

The Innovation Center also includes the “sustainability” standards being set for FARM in conjunction with World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to streamline the dairy “industry” for WWF’s sustainability stamp-of-approval.

This alliance is clear when spending a little time browsing the WWF website at https://www.worldwildlife.org/industries/dairy. The DMI “partnership” with WWF through the checkoff-funded Innovation Center is also at this link https://www.worldwildlife.org/partnerships/innovation-center-for-us-dairy

Both links are housed by WWF’s website and WWF is also working in alliance with the beef checkoff to set sustainability parameters for U.S. cattlemen as well.

Meanwhile, HSUS is among the proponents of the OFF legislation introduced by Senators a week ago. This is the counter we here, how farm organizations seeking competitive markets are working on the same side with HSUS.

For the record, Dairy Checkoff and Beef Checkoff are working with WWF, and WWF is barely one step away from HSUS in terms of having an anti-animal-use agenda.

Both organizations seek to greatly decrease, or end, the use of animals for food, work, etc., and they seek the re-wilding of lands where farmers and ranchers have gone out of business to accumulate massive sanctuaries for wild animal proliferation while working in close partnership with EAT Lancet-supporting companies to shift the U.S. diet away from animal products to plant-and-laboratory-based-imitations.

What is missing in the “sustainability” discussion that farmers are helping to pay for with their checkoff dollars through their dairy and beef boards is the truth that the plants need the animals and the animals need the plants and we humans need them both for healthy bodies and a healthy planet.

What is also missing is the food security and regional economics of the food industry consolidation that is occurring in the name of “sustainability” through the very checkoff-funded “sustainability” programs that are being developed to appease groups like WWF.

If companies want to consolidate and streamline this way, that’s free market enterprise. They are free to do so. But should farmer checkoff funds be helping to pay for it?

For example, dairy farmer checkoff funds were used — according to the 2016 Report to Congress — to develop a variety of programs aimed at transforming the industry. This has been going on since 2009, according to the Report.

This means a portion of the dairy farmer checkoff funds collected from all dairy farmers on all milk from 2009 through 2016 has gone into developing programs that are not considered demand-enhancing and that are — in effect — picking winners and losers within the dairy farming sector.

These funds have been used to implement aspects of FARM in animal care and environmental sustainability.

These funds have been used to launch programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the dairy supply chain, including a “fleet smart” program that touts its ability to help processors and cooperatives transform their trucking and distribution.

Read that sentence again. What does it mean?

Dairy farmers have funded — through mandatory checkoff — the development of the very programs that are streamlining and consolidating their industry in the name of so-called “sustainability.” As proprietary and co-op processors adapt the transportation and distribution ‘fleet smart’ modules, farmers are, in essence, paying for that with checkoff funds and other assessments put on them by their cooperatives, and in turn, those transformations make some farms desirable and others undesirable simply by size or location.

The invisible hand of the free market picks winners and losers. But in this case, should mandatory dairy farmer checkoff funds be the helping hand to pay for that? To pay for their own demise, in some cases?

It is interesting also to know that USDA is paid for its extensive time and costs to do all of this oversight – paid by these funds to keep the troops in line on toting government speech, among other things.

Here is how the 2016 Report to Congress describes USDA oversight:

“USDA has oversight responsibility for the dairy and fluid milk promotion programs. The oversight objectives ensure the boards and qualifying partners (QPs) properly account for all program funds and administer the programs in accordance with the respective acts and orders and USDA guidelines and policies. USDA reviewed and approved all board budgets, contracts, and advertising materials. USDA employees attended all board and committee meetings, monitored all board activities, and were responsible for obtaining an independent evaluation of the programs. Additional USDA responsibilities include nominating and appointing board members, amending the orders, conducting referenda, assisting with noncompliance cases, and conducting periodic program management reviews. The boards reimbursed the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, as required by the acts, for all of USDA’s costs of program oversight and for the independent analysis.”

To be continued.

Is mandatory dairy checkoff funding real milk’s demise?

Through futuristic lens: Is it time to end USDA control of dairy promotion?

No matter what innovations they come up with in the future, real dairy milk will always be the completely natural, minimally-processed, clean-label product with the superior combination of complete protein, healthy fat, and long list of essential natural nutrients, not additives. Treating real dairy milk like a cheap commodity must end. Innovative marketing may be more important in today’s times than innovative manufacturing processes. Government rules make it difficult to truly promote real dairy milk. It’s time to re-think the government oversight of the mandatorily farmer-funded milk promotion business so that truly competitive promotion can happen. (Istock photo).

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, March 29, 2019

“It’s not that the bad guy came and took it (fluid milk sales), it’s that us, the dairy industry collectively, did not keep growing and innovating and doing what we should do. Instead of getting in a lather about plant-based food companies, let’s do what we are supposed to be doing as an industry. Let’s do marketing. Let’s do innovation. Let’s have dairy-based protein in 3-D printers and whatever comes next. That’s where we need to be.”

These were the words of Tom Gallagher, CEO of Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) to his dairy checkoff board recently as shared here, and in the March 20, 2019 edition of Farmshine from a video of his comments.

A glimpse into what that might mean was revealed at the IDFA (International Dairy Foods Association) convention in January, where DMI’s vice president of global innovation partnerships, Paul Ziemnisky told attendees that 95% of households have milk and buy milk, but that these households engage in “fewer consumption occasions”, according to a recent convention report in Dairy Foods magazine.

To increase ‘consumption occasions’, DMI has been investing checkoff dollars toward innovations in “milk-based” beverage growth, he said.

Through its Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, DMI has invested checkoff dollars in these types of “pre-competitive” innovations in the past — an example being fairlife.

It is interesting that in both Gallagher’s comments to the DMI board and in the presentation by DMI’s Ziemnisky’s to processors, the term dairy-based or milk-based is used.

As we’ve reported previously, the direction of dairy innovation over the past 10 to 20 years has not been lacking in its drive to pull out the components of milk for inclusion in a variety of products — taking milk apart and putting it back together again — in a way that is new and different or in a way that presents milk and dairy as a new product.

Expect to see this type of innovation increase via these investments of dairy checkoff dollars into developing combination beverages that include pieces of milk in entirely new beverages.

This is what is meant by innovation.

At the IDFA convention, DMI gave processors a glimpse into some of the innovations they are working on to address four consumer targets that DMI has identified:

1)      A milk- and nut-based combination beverage,

2)      A milk with lavender and melatonin to promote sleep,

3)      A yo-fir product (kefir plus yogurt) beverage,

4)      A milk beverage that provides just a hint of flavor,

5)      More concepts in high-protein milk-based beverages,

6)      A ‘plosh’ blend of tea, coffee and milk, and

7)      An all-natural concept of milk blended with fruit.

As the overall beverage sector is exploding with new beverages of all kinds every year — some winners and some losers — DMI is looking to do more in the re-creation of dairy in the beverage space with new combination beverages that include milk, or components of milk, but are not identified as milk. These beverages will compete with non-dairy beverages, but in a sense, this track would further compress real dairy milk into its age-old commodity posture. Of course, those who are engaged in promotion of real dairy milk can position it as the wholly natural choice in a beverage sector of further processed combinations and concoctions.

Something to watch and be aware of is that PepsiCo – a company the dairy checkoff organizations are forming stronger bonds with — is on the frontier of turning drink dispensing machines into a hybrid of 3-D printing and multi-source create-your-own beverage dispensers. On the CNBC’s early-morning Squawk Box business news a few months ago, this concept was discussed showing a prototype where consumers can create their own unique beverage by pushing buttons for a little of this and a little of that. Millennials look for unique and “personalized” foods and beverages — we are told. And we see this trend in the “craft beer” category, for example.

A caveat to follow in this trend is the importance of labeling by USDA and FDA as the new gene-edited cell-cultured animal-based proteins and genetically-altered vat-grown yeast-produced dairy-based proteins move from the lab to the market in the next 12 to 24 months via partnerships between the billionaire-funded food technology startup companies and the world’s largest agricultural supply-chain companies. 

While everyone is watching what happens in the cell-cultured fake-meat category and the partnerships there with Cargill, most of us do not realize how close the dairy versions are to scaling-for-market — since Perfect Day company partnered last fall with ADM (Archer Daniels Midland). That partnership is predicated on ADM providing the facilities and mechanisms to ramp up the production of ‘cow-less’ so-called dairy proteins, and USDA research labs do the gene-altering to provide the seed-source of yeast for the process.

As these other proteins are introduced into the food supply, it is yet unclear how – exactly – they will be identified and differentiated in the marketplace. While the dairy and livestock sectors pushed hard to soften the distinctions of proteins in food from animals that have been fed GMO crops, the downside of USDA’s new Bio-Engineered (BE) food labels is that these fake proteins that are on the horizon may not be labeled or differentiated when they are a part of the final food or beverage product.

On the bio-engineering side of animal-based cell-cultured fake-meat protein production (cell-blobs grown in bioreactors), USDA and FDA are still working out the details of their combined food safety requirements.

But on the bio-engineering side of the yeast that have been genetically-altered to possess bovine DNA snips to exude ‘milk’ protein and perhaps other components (grown to exude dairy protein and components in fermentation vats), there is far less discussion of inspection or oversight.

As for the labeling of both types of bio-engineered protein, there is little discussion of how foods containing them will be labeled.

Just three months ago, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced the new National Bio-Engineered Food Disclosure Standard that will be implemented in January of 2020. It is the result of the July 2016 law passed by Congress that directed USDA to establish one national mandatory standard for disclosing foods that are – or may be – bio-engineered.

USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has developed the List of Bio-Engineered Foods to identify the crops – and foods – that are available in a bio-engineered form throughout the world and for which regulated entities must maintain records that inform whether or not they must make this bio-engineered food disclosure.

Some are voluntarily complying already, as I have seen this BE statement in very small print on small containers of some Kraft ‘cheese’ spreads.

The bottom line in this mandatory BE labeling requirement is that it only pertains to the main ingredient of the further-processed food or beverage and only if there is “detectable” genetically-altered material in that food. This means that the BE labeling may not apply to fake meat or fake dairy. In the case of the fake meat, the bio-engineering is the editing of DNA to grow muscle (boneless beef for example). In the case of fake dairy, the bio-engineering is yeast altered to include specific bovine DNA, but the resulting cow-less ‘dairy’ protein would have no detectable difference, its creators say.  

All animal protein checkoff programs have a tough road ahead. If farmers and ranchers continue to fund promotion of the foods and beverages that come from dairy and livestock farms, these fake iterations of the real thing will benefit unless promotion can be targeted to the real thing and consumers see the difference on a label in order to make a choice for the real thing.

This all sounds so futuristic and like science-fiction, but in foods today, this is where we are headed and our checkoff programs should be aware and should be able to stand up for the real thing. They should be allowed to lobby regulators for fair treatment and distinct labeling because the government requires farmers to pay these checkoff deductions to promote their products. Thus, if the government does not provide a clear path to distinguish fake from real, then the fairness of requiring a checkoff should no longer be considered valid.

As for dairy farmer checkoff funds, specifically, the future is here and DMI is already moving down that road to innovate dairy-based or milk-based products that dilute the meaning of dairy and milk in the marketplace – in effect paving the way to new innovations and products in which real dairy-farm-produced milk components can be replaced by fake-dairy components from genetically-altered yeast grown in ADM fermentation vats.

Perhaps checkoff funding should be directed in these difficult and changing times toward true promotion of what is real. We see that starting to happen with the “love what’s real” campaign, launched by the Milk Processors Promotion and Education Program (MilkPEP) and supported by DMI’s Undeniably Dairy social media campaign.

More than ever, the future of our dairy farms will rely upon promotion of what is REAL – moreso than using dairy farmer checkoff funds to find ways to put pieces of milk into other products or into 3-D Printers. Profile those components. Provide the benefits of real dairy components for the manufacturers that are moving into 3-D printing of personalized foods and beverages, but keep the powder dry for a full-out real dairy campaign. If USDA does not allow real dairy farmer checkoff funds to talk about why they are so much better than the fake stuff that is here and that is coming… then it is time to get the government out of the promotion business and return these funds to dairy farmers so they can voluntarily use them to promote their real products, their true dairy brands.

In a future of murky food sources – farmers must be able to stand up for what they produce. They must be able to promote Real Milk that is unfooled-around-with, that is from the cow they have fed and cared for.

With the food revolution here, dairy promotion will need a marketing revolution to welcome people back to what’s Real — especially as more household decisions are made by people growing up without knowing what Real Whole Milk tastes like.There’s an idea. Real Whole Milk is tastier, healthier, with a truly cleaner label than about anything else that is here or that is coming to compete with it in the beverage sector.

Ditto for Real Yogurt and Real Cheese, etc. in the food sector. Undeniably Dairy – the dairy checkoff program – has a nice ring to it. Love what’s Real has a great message to it. But if dairy farmers can’t use their mandatory funds to take the fake stuff head-on, then it’s time to stop taking mandatory checkoffs and allow farmers to use their money to promote their product – no holds barred.

When the competition is funded by Silicon Valley billionaires, has the backing of major food and agriculture supply-chain companies, is sourcing genetically-altered material from USDA, and does not have government requiring distinctive labeling – then dairy farmers need a level playing field to use their hard earned $350 million plus to put a stake in the ground to promote why Real is better. Checkoff staff often say the competition is doing brand advertising and “we can’t.”

That being the case, perhaps give the money back to the farmers so they can form voluntary promotion groups or voluntarily give the funds to the brand that receives their milk to get in the game of head-to-head advertising instead of, in essence, funding a path to their own substitution and demise.

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DMI CEO on fluid milk

‘Let’s have dairy-based protein in 3-D printers and whatever comes next.’

Schools represent more consumer touch-points for milk than all other sectors, combined

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

CHICAGO, Ill. — The fluid milk category is receiving much attention after a decade of rapid declines in sales. What does the CEO of the national dairy checkoff organization DMI have to say on the topic?

For starters, he says the dairy industry should stop blaming the alternative beverages and start looking at its own failures.

In his CEO’s Report, delivered at the February DMI board meeting, DMI CEO Tom Gallagher addressed the fluid milk question. While no press release or public statement or copy of the CEO’s Report was provided to Farmshine, a video was posted to the private Dairy Checkoff facebook page and was subsequently provided to Farmshine by a dairy farmer participant.

Since Gallagher states while giving his “CEO’s Report” that this information is ‘public’ and that “we want you to take pictures of it and share it, do what you want with it, it’s yours.” So we are sharing with Farmshine readers what was shared with us by dairy farmers what was shared with dairy farmers via the closed facebook group.

Gallagher began his report talking about farmer engagement. 

“The power of the industry is within the industry, it’s the farmer,” he said. “We can commit to activating the dairy farmer at the local and national levels, then we can have a big voice, especially, on what it is that your checkoff really does.”

He talked about the changing world of consumer influence, saying that, “When you think about the things we need to do, more and more they are moving away from the things we are familiar with.”

From there, he referenced a presenter for the following day who would be talking about the future, about 3-D printing of food.

“Well, it’s not the future because you can go on Amazon today, and for $2000, buy a 3-D printer that will print dessert for you,” said Gallagher. “We think, why would people eat that? They don’t like processed foods. But the people who make those and the food production people — and hopefully dairy protein will be in that, not plant protein — they don’t need the 90% of people consuming your product. They just need 5 or 10 or 4% to have a very successful business. If that’s what people are going to be doing, we need to be there.”

Gallagher announced that DMI will be buying a 3-D printer, a few of them. “We’ll buy one, and we’re going to figure it out and we’ll figure out how to approach these 3-D printing companies with dairy-based proteins in foods to be used in them,” he said. “We can’t afford to be nickeled and dimed with 4% of consumers here and 5% there.”

He went on to observe that just 4% of consumers identify as vegan and that vegetarians are also a small number. “What is really driving plant-based foods and beverages is not predominantly the vegan movement, it’s because these companies are investing  hundreds of millions of dollars and are getting really good at taste, are phenomenal at marketing and great at innovation.”

He referenced diets that promote being vegan or vegetarian before 6:00 and other consumer trends.

“I think our goal is it is not either-or, it can be both… We have to be honest with ourselves, there will be plant-based beverages out there, and people will buy them, and they will gain share, not because people are vegan or concerned about sustainability… it’s because the food and beverage companies are doing a great job at what they do,” Gallagher said.

“If we do the same job in the dairy industry, we will be just fine. But if we sit back like we did with fluid milk, we will be where we are with fluid milk,” he added.

Referencing a report in the 1980s before the checkoff was authorized by Congress, Gallagher said: “That report laid out everything that needed to be done for fluid milk, and that same report would be valid today because none of it was done — not until fairlife and a few other things.”

“It’s not that the bad guy came and took it (fluid milk sales), it’s that us, the dairy industry collectively, did not keep growing and innovating and doing what we should do,” said Gallagher from a marketing, not policy, standpoint. “Instead of getting in a lather about plant-based food companies, let’s do what we are supposed to be doing as an industry.

“Let’s do marketing. Let’s do innovation. Let’s have dairy-based protein in 3-D printers and whatever comes next. That’s were we need to be,” said Gallagher. When it comes to policy, nutritional values and sustainability discussions, that’s another discussion we need to enter into.” 

In the breakdown on sales, he said foodservice milk is up slightly even though retail and other sectors are down. The data was by servings, and he explained how sales figures are pieced together and how program evaluations fit into those.

He also talked about a meeting DMI had with the top persons from the five top coops for packaged fluid milk salesn — DFA, Select, Prairie Farms, Darigold and Maryland-Virginia — along with Jim Mulhern of NMPF, Tom Vilsack of USDEC, Rick Naczi of ADANE, Marilyn Hershey, president of DMI, along with a former CEO of fairlife with some insights. 

“We came out of that meeting as positive about fluid milk as ever on how the industry can work together to change the trajectory,” said Gallagher, explaining that they looked at how much of fluid consumption is really pushed down into Class II, and to see if getting and including that number, what that would do to the per-capita fluid milk consumption numbers. 

“The group focused on kids. Kids is the deal — at 6 billion containers a year, when everything else is 5.3 billion,” said Gallagher. “So while schools only represent 7.7% of consumption, it represents more touch-points with consumers than everything else combined. So, they, on their own, quickly came to the conclusion that we have got to deal with the kids for a variety of reasons — sales and trust. And they 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.

Depending on the results of the next meeting, the circle could be expanded. And regulatory, legislative and standards of identity issues were brought up that DMI can’t be involved in, but NMPF can. 

Author’s note: Meanwhile, all of those kids in school, those 6 billion touch-points for milk every year that surpass all other touch-points for milk, combined, are forced to consume (or discard) fat-free or 1% milk. The simple answer would be to give them whole milk that tastes good so they know what milk is vs. trying to re-invent the wheel. As an industry, we can’t know what the per-capita fluid milk consumption figures would look like today if the 60 billion touch-points over the past 10 years had been permitted by the government to consume whole milk. Before reinventing some pre-competitive proprietary wheel, shouldn’t those touch-points (schoolkids) have an opportunity to try real whole milk?

To be continued

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

Dietary Guidelines among the factors plunging us deeper.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But folks, this is real. 

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

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

As an ag journalist, I’m appalled. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, March 8, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Purpose driven marketing is their thing.

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

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

So which is it? And who is representing whom?

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

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

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

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

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

That’s pretty clear, isn’t it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’ve been zigging with the ziggers long enough.

Maybe it’s time to zag.

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


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

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The need for more digging is even more obvious

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

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, March 1, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

As for our unanswered questions? We are still waiting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it will. 

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