Over the past few months, I’ve heard a variety of questions from farmers about the role and impact of dairy promotion (checkoff). A couple of examples include: Does dairy promotion set retail milk prices? Does dairy promotion have any impact on dairy farmers’ milk checks? The answer to both questions is “No.” However, let’s take a look back and revisit our history in order to know what we can say “Yes” to.
Back in 1982, warehouses were bulging with surplus cheese, butter and dried milk, with the federal government purchasing more than 40 million pounds of dairy surplus at that time, every week. With production outpacing consumption, the Dairy Promotion Program was created by Congress in 1983 to allow dairy producers to fund their own promotion, research and nutrition education efforts, and to grow demand for dairy foods over time.
When it comes to the question, “Are we better off today than 35+ years ago?,” many of us may have differing opinions. However, the statistics tell a powerful story. As shown in the accompanying chart, in 1983, dairy farmers were producing almost 140 billion pounds of milk annually, resulting in a surplus of 18 billion-plus pounds. By 1996, thanks to a unified dairy industry and dairy promotion activities, consumption began to exceed production. Today, U.S. dairy farmers are more productive than ever, producing 80 billion more pounds of production than in 1983.
What’s exciting is the trend of increased consumption over this ever-expanding production has continued through 2017* when U.S. dairy farmers produced and impressive 215.5 billion pounds of milk.
It’s also important to point out that today we are part of a much more complex and integrated global food supply, exporting one out of every seven days of total U.S. production and growing. In a day and age where information is literally at our fingertips, we can look at the data and hopefully agree in the success of the Dairy Promotion Program. The vision in 1983 still holds true as the need for promoting dairy foods and building demand, both domestically and globally, has no end in sight.
Even through challenging times, you can be proud of what dairy farmers have done to provide the vision and leadership on your behalf.
Your Midwest Dairy farmer leaders and staff continue to focus our joint efforts on what we can do to drive dairy demand and increase sales in a wide variety of new and creative ways. The conversation around food and beverage will continue to change; we believe, as your dairy promotion stewards, we will continue to evolve as well. Thank you for your commitment to feed our communities, our nation and our world.
*Data shown is the most current available. 2018 data will be available March 11.