National Dairy Checkoff
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The national dairy checkoff started in 1983 as an optional program for dairy farmers to contribute to increase demand for dairy products. Today the program is no longer optional; dairy producers must contribute to the program. Fifteen cents per hundredweight of milk is taken from the producers' milk check. Ten cents of this goes to the regional checkoff, and the other five cents goes to the national checkoff. The regional checkoff is within their state or very close to the state. In 1995, the Dairy Management Inc was created as a special department to increase dairy consumption in the United States.
The money can only be used in three ways. The money is used for generic promotion of dairy products, new product development, and nutrition education. Some examples of generic promotions are partnerships with NFL teams, Got Milk?, and 3-A-Day of dairy. New product development involves research to find new products that people will enjoy, and increase the consumption of dairy products. Nutrition education is mostly targeted to elementary and junior high students; students learn where the products come from, how they are made, and are sometimes given samples of the different products. The Dairy Check Off Program also helps create partnerships between dairy farmers and global companies. Examples include Domino's, McDonald's, Taco Bell and Quaker. Within the partnerships, Farmers and the companies work to create more dairy heavy item menus.
The DMI has partnered with many fast food companies to introduce more dairy products to the menu. McDonald's has used over 1.7 billion pounds of dairy between 2009 and 2011 and has introduced 27 new dairy items in 2016. The Check Off Program has also teemed up with Taco Bell to introduce the double steak cheese quesadilla and worked with Domino's to create cheese stuffed crust and push their products into schools, bringing pizza to over 2,000 schools.
Dairy in Schools
The Dairy Check Off Program has increased flavored milk being sold and distributed in school lunches. It promotes flavored milk and flavored milk companies, advertising "Chocolate Milk has Muscles" and "Raise Your Hand for Chocolate Milk". The Dairy Check Off supports "http://www.fueluptoplay60.com/", which is a partnership between the NFL and schools to teach kids to get active and choose healthy food options such as yogurt and other dairy products.
From 1983 to 2004 milk consumption increased from 122.4 billion pounds to 176.3 billion pounds. Some of the ideas that have come from the dairy checkoff are dairy products in vending machines, cheese cubes, and plastic bottles instead of cartons in schools. The dairy checkoff has also encouraged the sale of whole milk products as skim and low fat has become more popular, the need to sell whole dairy has increased. This is done through the partnerships explained above.
The Agriculture Department has recently come under fire for their lack of transparency regarding funding and expenditures. They have not published financial reports on a $400 million promotional and dairy research fund in the past four years. Because of the lapse in publishing of these legally required annual financial reports, a lack of accountability, transparency, as well as oversight by the USDA has been exposed. The agency has declined to explain the multiple year delay for financial reports.
- Boudrea, Catherine. "Missing USDA dairy checkoff reports renew calls for transparency". POLITICO Pro.