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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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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Animal Ag is in globalists’ crosshairs

DMI’s longtime PR firm is link to EAT Lancet

Decade of ‘players’ and ‘playbooks’ drive youth toward global food transformation endzone

(Left) This is a screenshot of the corporate partners in the EAT FReSH Initiative as displayed at the eatforum.org website on January 15, 2019. (Right) This is a screenshot of the corporate partners of GENYOUth as displayed at genyouthnow.org on January 15, 2019

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, February 15, 2019

BROWNSTOWN, Pa. — Edelman, a communications marketing and public relations company, which has been called the world’s largest global public relations firm, figures prominently as a herd-dog bringing non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and corporations together in the launch of the EAT Lancet forum last month.

Edelman also figures prominently in its similar work for DMI and GENYOUth. Richard Edelman, CEO and president of the company, sits on the board ofGENYOUth. According to a 2011 MarketWatch article, Edelman was instrumental in recruiting Alexis Glick to be CEO of GENYOUth.

He and his company have had a working relationship with DMI for 20 years, according to Edelman. The company most recently crafted and launched DMI’s Undeniably Dairy campaign.

None of this is, by itself, alarming, until peeling back the layers to see that Edelman is the core asset for the EAT FReSH launch as part of its move toward working with clients to build social values into business communication goals. The company is known for its annual Edelman Trust Barometer that monitors and interprets societal shifts.

So, what is EAT Lancet and what is EAT FReSH?

Dairy producers who attended the Pennsylvania Dairy Summit recently in Lancaster may have heard Dr. Frank Mitloehner, a climate and air quality expert from the University of California, Davis, talk about climate change and how cows are the solution, not the problem. (click here to read about that)

Dr. Mitloehner talked about how he found the flaws that led to retractions in the 2012 United Nations FAO report on Livestock’s Long Shadow. His discovery led to a substantial change in the report’s original assessment that animal agriculture accounted for 18% of green house gas (GHG) emissions, when the real number “corrected by the authors” is 3.9%.

The EAT Lancet Commission’s report released in January recycles portions of the old and discredited ‘longshadow’ report — and its flawed process — with a new approach to drive global eating patterns toward vegan goals for what it deems to be the pathway to healthy people and a healthy planet.

Mitloehner was confident last week that this EAT Lancet report is full of inaccuracies where milk and meat production are concerned. He outlined them methodically.

So what’s the connection of all of this to checkoff? In a word: Edelman.

In a May 2018 blog post at the company website, CEO and president Richard Edelman wrote about the company’s involvement in the EAT Lancet Commission. He wrote about the EAT FReSH initiative initially involving 25 food and agriculture supply-chain companies, which has since grown to 41. Some of the logos on the accompanying graphic reveal further cross-over alliances with GENYOUth

PepsiCo is one example. (And PepsiCo — recently honored by GENYOUth for buying 100 school breakfast carts at a reported cost of $7000 each – has detailed on its website its health and sustainability goals to be focused on plant-based diet leadership, which they’ve pursued this year with the launch of Quaker Oat beverage, a milk alternative, and with their nutrition “greenhouse” incubator program working with startup companies on non-dairy cheese and non-dairy yogurt).

Another cross-over alliance is Corteva Agriscience / DuPont / Dow as Dupont is part of the corporate EAT FReSH alliance and Corteva now has representation on the GENYOUth board via Krysta Harden, who served as Deputy Secretary of Agriculture under Secretary Vilsack.

Back to the EAT Lancet report and the EAT FReSH Initiative (see eatforum.org), Edelman writes in May 2018 – eight months before the EAT launch: “Food Reform for Sustainability and Health (FReSH) was launched at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the EAT Foundation (EAT). The alliance of 41 global food and agricultural companies aims to create new pathways to reach healthy, enjoyable diets for all, produced responsibly within planetary boundaries.”

Richard Edelman continues in his blog post, stating: “Edelman has partnered with (EAT) FReSH to help accelerate transformational change in global food systems.”

These two paragraphs, alone, signal what has occurred since January 2019 in the form of internal media launches, even though the first EAT Forum in the U.S., held at the United Nations last week, had a small media presence on site to “cover” it. In fact, dairy farmers and leaders listening to Dr. Mitloehner at the Pa. Dairy Summit last week breathed a collective sigh of relief because there had been little media coverage of the EAT Forum at the UN on the day before.

Instead, the PR campaign is in full swing. Videos about what the world would be like if it all went vegan were released a few weeks prior by the internationally-renowend magazine, The Economist.

Stories picking up portions of the report signaling animal agriculture in various separate ways as threatening the planet’s ecosystem have been circulating and published in media such as The Guardian.

Democrats, led by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, launched the Green New Deal resolution for which the original “FAQ” included a statement about “eliminating farting cows” and transforming the food system.

A high-profile interview with 2020 presidential hopeful Rep. Cory Booker, a vegan, this week quoted his thoughts. Here’s a sample: “The tragic reality is this planet simply can’t sustain billions of people consuming industrially-produced animal agriculture because of environmental impact.”

These are but a few examples of the insidious PR campaign that has erupted from all angles in the span of a few weeks on the one hand while the actual media coverage of the details of the EAT Lancet Report, itself, have been ‘light.’  

Back to Edelman’s May 2018 blog, where he talks about Lara Luten, who is the account director for Edelman, Amsterdam. In that blog post prior to the EAT launch, Edelman wrote that Luten “will be helping the (EAT FReSH) partnership build communications and marketing plans in preparation for the Stockholm Food Forum and the upcoming (EAT) Lancet Commission Report.”

This EAT deal has a marketing plan underway. Meanwhile, the science behind it needs to be tried in the press with transparency on its significant shortcomings. A marketing campaign is  guiding the public discussion instead.

The EAT Lancet Report calls for drastic reductions in dairy and meat consumption, globally. It mentions a carbon tax on foods derived from cattle. It positions a more vegan diet as the only way to feed 10 billion people seeking to transform the food supply to exist “within planetary boundaries” by 2030 – all based on science that is far from being settled on a dietary or planetary level — while completely overlooking science showing cows to be the solution, not the problem.

Going back to Edelman’s May 2018 blog post again for a moment, he describes his company’s work in the EAT launch as “working in a pre-competitive environment on a project that is driving impact by leading change.”

This same sort of pre-competitive environment has been used by DMI in the formation of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy eight to 10 years ago, which works on new products for checkoff grant funding as well as establishing sustainability and stewardship parameters for dairy farms to follow that are then incorporated at program-and-enforcement-levels by milk buyers and cooperatives down through the supply-chain to the farms that fund the checkoff.

What’s all this got to do with GENYOUth and helping kids be healthier in school?

GENYOUth has emerged as an alliance of corporations, government, NGOs and other ‘thought leaders’ on various areas of youth as change agents.

Here, too, Edelman is the prime mover on public relations that one can argue has morphed into NGO social-engineering.

GENYOUth describes its view of youth as “change agents”. Throughout its program layers, youth are educated and ‘herded’ toward the plant-based, low-fat, global-sustainability platforms that form the foundation for the very food-system transformation that the EAT Lancet Commission advocated in its report.

The wheels for this global agenda were set in motion 30 years ago by progressively more restrictive iterations of USDA Dietary Guidelines. Over the past 10 years, the progress toward this end was hastened under the Obama/Vilsack administration, in part through an alliance with Dairy Checkoff and others to educate and feed America’s youth along the lines of these transformational food choices – in the name of fighting obesity — even as obesity and diabetes levels worsened among America’s youth.

In the name of fighting obesity and diabetes, the Clinton Foundation has also been actively involved for at least 10 years, according to former President Bill Clinton’s remarks during his YouTube-televised speech at the 2017 GENYOUth Gala, where Clinton, a vegan, presented the Vanguard Award that year to his friend, former Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

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How did we get here?

OPINION

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

It’s like whack-a-mole. So many converging things are happening rapidly related to a ‘herding’ mechanism for the masses in terms of what we will eat in the future. 

Where did it all come from? How did we get here? Why is the science so flawed and against us?

What we see unfold via the EAT Lancet Commission and the Green New Deal over the past few weeks — not to mention the currently ongoing FDA and USDA deliberations on dietary guidelines and labeling for fake dairy and fake meat — has been a disaster gradually in the making. 

The wheels were set in motion 10 years ago, or more, and Dairy Checkoff was at the table in more ways than one.

Trouble is, until now, no one really knew about the seat at the table, the foundations, pre-competitive environments, memorandums of understanding and so forth. 

The connections, directions and alliances were unclear and clothed in happy talk about breakfast carts that put a half-pint of milk on every plate and maybe some fat-free yogurt and skim-processed cheese, excited talk about helping kids move more to lose weight, enthusiasm about putting farmers face-to-face with school children to teach them how they care for cows and environment (we all know that there are plenty of these efforts paid for by voluntary organizations and farmers themselves, FUTP60 can’t claim the ground on this part). 

What we did not see, due to lack of transparency, was the deeper layers of direction where dairy farmers have, in a sense, been funding their own demise.

This is not meant to attack people in the checkoff system working with good intention on behalf of dairy farmers or our nation’s young people. This series of articles I have been involved in has been a peeling of an onion that should have been diced on the table to pass the sniff test from the beginning — but it was not.

In part one of the GENYOUth series in January, we showed the steep nosedive in fluid milk sales from 2010 to the present. There is no shortage of experts who now point to the school milk changes as precipitating this decline and in fact costing dairy farmers a whole generation of beverage decision-makers who have and are now graduated into the New World Order on “healthy diets for a healthy planet” — despite the lack of rigorous science to support either in terms of milk and meat production.

There was no transparency in which primary dairy checkoff stakeholders could question the direction as the track was greased for where we are today. 

There was no transparency about alliances developed over the past 10 years — never mind the rather small detail of who paid whom for what and how many football players showed up to christen a school’s new breakfast cart. The IRS 990 figures reported in parts three and four of the GENYOUth series pale in comparison to the lack of transparency in Dairy Checkoff’s role as a participant educating and leading a whole generation of consumers, tied by an MOU to tote the government’s diet message.

There are two crossroads in front of us, and our dairy cows are standing in that intersection — mooing loudly for assistance, I might add.

Dairy Checkoff has taken the dairy industry down both roads — diet and sustainability — without transparency to its funding dairy farmers. 

Now, today, these two roads are converging at regulatory, legislative, corporate, media and cow-less protein innovation levels.

And the industry is splintering over what to do about it.

This conversation is at least 10 years past-due, and it is why farmers are fragmented, why they can’t come together.

You see, the template for the future is written for some, not all. 

It is written to be complicit in dietary goals that are not supported by rigorous science for our human health or our planetary health. 

It has been written, in part, with money taken mandatorily under USDA oversight from dairy farmers of all types and sizes to streamline “U.S. Dairy” into the New World Order of food choices that are on the cusp of substantial change with Silicon Valley in the picture with its billionaire-funded cell and yeast cultured startup companies needing this propaganda to launch their cattle-less dairy and beef protein. 

The FDA and USDA are poised to decide (and in the case of some labeling have already decided) how and IF consumers are going to be informed about what they are eating in the future.

As the deeper layers of the past 10 years of GENYOUth and Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy are revealed — with their separate memorandums of understanding (MOU’s) signed with USDA during the Obama/Vilsack era, and in ‘pre-competitive’ alliances with the world’s largest food and agriculture supply-chain companies — anyone publicly revealing or questioning the direction of checkoff on this road, is now cast as a character of division, a spoiler of profitability, a misinformed stakeholder reading the writings of a ‘yellow’ journalist.

In fact, DMI has created a secret facebook group for discussion of Dairy Checkoff questions and concerns. Participation is by invitation. Checkoff staff — hired by all dairy farmers through their mandatory checkoff dollars — are the gatekeepers, deciding who can join the group-think.

To understand where this is all leading, the crossover alliances between GENYOUth and the EAT Lancet Commission are known. (See related story here).

Dairy Checkoff is smack dab in the middle and has been for some time. That’s where you want to be if you want to influence a debate. But thus far, the direction of influence is questionable, naive and opaque at best, and has at worst created winners and losers among our nation’s dairy farmers, individually and regionally.

The global agenda unfolding right now has been years in the making. The deeper layers of the work at that table where Dairy Checkoff has had a seat — and its impact on the dairy farmers who collectively funded that seat — has been quietly pursued… until now.

Consumers have been telling us what they want: simple, flavorful, natural, real food. That’s what dairy and livestock producers do best!

But instead of marketing to that desire, instead of bolstering our consumer ranks by feeding that desire, the industry and checkoff have aligned us with government and corporate and special interests who want to shape and restrain those choices for future generations, by using our children as change agents for an agenda that has not been transparent, nor adequately discussed, by its funding stakeholders… until now.

Now, the global agenda has hit play in the public domain, and many of us are trying to find the rewind button.

Stay tuned. We’re not done.

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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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Are dairy farmers funding their demise? USDA ‘straight-jackets’ promotion; GENYOUth alliances suspicious

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is Part 2 of an investigative report on GENYOUth, which began with USDA contacting National Dairy Council in Sept. 2009, National Dairy Council contacting National Football League in 2009/10 and an official signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between NDC and NFL with USDA in February 2011. 

By Sherry Bunting, from Farmshine, Friday, January 18, 2019

They call it “the dairy farmers’ youth wellness program,” but GENYOUth is under the thumb of USDA with some questionable corporate alliances and trends underway.

This multi-part series looks at GENYOUth’s founding, its alliances, its mixed-messages, intended and unintended consequences, its partners and the new alternative products they are and will be introducing into the nutritional vacuum paved by low-fat and fat-free promotion, the winners and losers, and the impact on our dairy farms, and our children.

Let’s pick up where we left off from last week’s Part One.

Helping America’s youth lead better and healthier lives is a worthy pursuit, and there is no intention here to blame good-hearted people trying to do good within the straight-jacket of USDA control. What is being questioned is the direction. What is being exposed is the roots of the oak tree and its impact on our dairy farms and our children.

The problem with the GENYOUth model is that it is primarily funded by mandatory dairy check-off dollars and the government control of it.

The anti-animal and environmental NGO’s (non-governmental organizations) are driving decisions by Big Food, Big Ag, Big Government (and the World Health Organization). And there are new billionaire corporate “sustainability” alliances poised to profit on this main course, while dairy farmer GENYOUth “founders” hope for crumbs.

GENYOUth began in 2010 as a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between National Dairy Council and National Football League with the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Education, and Health and Human Services. This six-way MOU was officially signed on Feb. 4, 2011 during the Superbowl that year (below).

GENYOUth-MOU(2011).jpg

This 2011 USDA photo found on a USDA flickr stream shows lots of cameras, but few, if any, dairy farming publications were notified. The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed Fri., Feb. 4, 2011 during Superbowl week in Dallas Texas. It had been under development since Sept. 2009. The MOU outlined the joint commitment of the NFL, USDA, National Dairy Council, GENYOUth Foundation, to end childhood obesity. Signing from left were NDC President Jean Regalie, Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, GENYOUth CEO Alexis Glick.

According to Guidestar, the non-profit is listed under the name Youth Improved Incorporated (aka GENYOUth) with the tagline ‘exercise your influence.’ It refers to itself as an NGO. (NGO is defined as “a nonprofit organization that operates independently of any government, typically one whose purpose is to address a social or political issue.”)

GENYOUth was launched to increase physical activity among schoolchildren as well as to encourage healthy eating with emphasis on school breakfast and then mobile breakfast carts. The 2014 (most recent) progress report noted that 73,000 schools and 38 million children had been reached by Fuel Up to Play 60 (FUTP60), affecting the health and wellness of an estimated 14 million students’.

The only reference to dairy in the FUTP60 message pounded home about fruits, vegetables and whole grains is the inclusion of low-fat and fat-free dairy.

A year ago at a bank meeting in front of 500 farmers, then U.S. House Ag Committee vice chair G.T. Thompson of Pennsylvania said he wanted his healthy school milk bill to bring the standard up to 2% or whole milk, but, he said “producers and processors came to me and told me to go slow, to keep it at 1% and take baby-steps.”

Who were the “producers” and “processors” coming to him with that request? National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and the check-off MOU under the thumb of USDA.

Those same entities then turn around and tell grassroots farmers that they are forced to work within the confines of what USDA will allow. And so, the circular argument continues. Round and round we go.

Which brings us back to the Nov. 27, 2018 GENYOUth Gala in New York City and the Vanguard Award to PepsiCo.

PepsiCo has been a GENYOUth partner for seven years. In 2018, PepsiCo not only paid its “hero” sponsorship of $150,000 for the event, they gave an additional $1 million for the purchase of 45 additional mobile breakfast carts and the Espanol version of FUTP60.

According to the only piece of the 2011 MOU that can be found, the NFL, NDC, and GENYOUth have agreed not to use FUTP60 “as a vehicle to sell or promote products or services.” But it is clear that the NFL and other corporate partners, like Pepsi, have brand recognition.

How is dairy’s brand recognized? Hats are tipped at the Gala to “America’s dairy farmers” as the founders who launched the platform. But they are hog-tied by generic promotion and exclusion of the full nutritional value of their product — whole milk, real butter and real cheese — within the government straight-jacket.

GENYOUth was created while Tom Vilsack was Secretary of Agriculture (below). According to cross-posted blog entries between DMI and USDA near the end of 2009: “The USDA discussed in September (2009) a plan to develop the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between USDA, the NFL and DMI to allow USDA programs and Fuel Up to Play 60 to collaborate and collectively tackle the critical issue of children’s health.”

VILSACK-FUTP60(2011).jpg

Former Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who is currently CEO of the check-off funded U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC), is photographed in 2011 with young people during Superbowl week in Dallas, Texas, after the signing of the 2011 GENYOUth MOU — 18 months after USDA first discussed the plan for the MOU with the National Dairy Council and a year after NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says Tom Gallagher of DMI approached him. 2011 USDA photo

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

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

Meanwhile, the more the government’s direction squeezes healthy fat from the diet, the more the obesity figures in children continue to grow.

This year, at the 2018 Gala, GENYOUth CEO Alexis Glick thanked each partner. “We give a heartfelt thank you to our founding partners America’s dairy farmers and the National Football League and the players association,” said Glick in a YouTube video of the November Gala. She had previously thanked longtime partners Land O’Lakes and Domino’s while also acknowledging Mike and Sue McCloskey (fairlife) as well as Leprino and Schreiber.

“I say to our farmers: You had a dream. And we have been blessed to be part of that dream. You gave us life. You believed in us. And can you believe we are standing here today on the cusp of the 10-year anniversary of FUTP60?” she said.

“And we extend an extra special thank you to PepsiCo,” Glick continued. “The generosity of your vision, your resources, your team, time and talent have changed our organization.”

In accepting the Vanguard Award on behalf of PepsiCo, CEO Albert Carey said: “We’ve had a wonderful partnership with the NFL over the years… doing things together like the Pepsi half-time show and Gatorade sidelines. We have had ads and retail programs for both of our brands,” he said.

“But the one NFL program our team noticed probably 10 years ago, or maybe 9 years ago, is one we have admired and wanted to be part of and that was Play 60,” said Carey, careful not to include the Fuel Up (dairy) part of the Play 60 tagline.

Carey said “you guys are doing a fantastic job inspiring kids… using football role models.”

He went on to say that PepsiCo wanted to be part of the program because of the importance of kids being active.

“But we also believe at PepsiCo that we need to provide healthy products for our consumers,” said Carey. “Some of you may be familiar with our mission ‘performance with purpose.’”

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

Carey said he thought PepsiCo had done a pretty good job at this over the past several years, “but we haven’t talked about it much. You see some obvious things like Pepsi zero sugar, Gatorade Zero,” he said. “But you don’t hear much about Bubbly Sparkling Water, Life Water, Quaker oat milk, and we just bought a company called Bare Snacks and our Kevita Kombucha products (probiotic drinks).”

He mentioned that the Quaker oat beverage, which he personally called “oat milk” but in reality this product is labeled “oat beverage for cereal, smoothies, coffee and more”. It is being launched this month and will be in stores by March.

The PepsiCo website mentions these products as part of the company’s commitment to further the World Health Organization goals of alternative products to reduce saturated fat consumption and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, thereby improving global environmental and nutritional sustainability.

Carey said the “oat milk” and bare snacks and probiotic drinks are part of PepsiCo goal of “converting its portfolio to healthier foods for the future.”

In fact, PepsiCo is also in development of so-called non-dairy ‘cheese’ and ‘yogurt’ snacks through its “Nutrition Greenhouse Accelerator program, including the purchase of Health Warrior, which PepsiCo said in an October 2018 Food and Beverage article “is a nutrition-forward trailblazer that can provide great insight into high value categories and consumers while benefiting from our expertise and resources to bring plant-based nutrition to more people.”

Meanwhile, the GENYOUth program bestowed the 2018 GENYOUth Vanguard Award on PepsiCo for its seven years of partnership and its commitment to give an additional $1 million, which PepsiCo’s Carey said would fund Play 60 in Espanol as well as 45 new mobile school breakfast carts, bringing PepsiCo’s cart total to 100.

It will be interesting to see what may appear on these carts in the future, given the new oat beverage, plant-based probiotic drinks, and other “Nutrition Greenhouse” products emerging in the PepsiCo portfolio.

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