Saturday, November 13, 2010

Got Facts? The New York Times article about Dairy got it Wrong

Our cows strolling to the milking parlor
Recently, the New York Times published a story claiming the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is the funding source of Dairy Management Inc. (DMI). The mission of DMI is increasing sales and demand for U.S. dairy products and ingredients. The article implies there’s a conflict of interest with the USDA funding cheese promotions and providing nutrition guidance.

The New York Times article is wrong. DMI was created by producers, for producers and is funded by America’s dairy farm families, not by the government. Dairy farmers fund and oversee state and federal promotion efforts known as “dairy check off” programs. As a dairy farmer, I invest $.15 per 100 pounds of milk to these programs; $.10 goes to the state promotion program (in Ohio that’s American Dairy Association Mideast) and $.05 goes to the federal program administered by DMI. Dairy farmers sit on the board of directors that oversee these programs.

As dairy farmers, we have established this dairy check off program to promote the products we
produce including milk, cheese and yogurt. This allows us, as individual farmers, to pool our money
with other farmers to create meaningful promotion and research programs. As a group of farmers,
we employ professionals to administer these programs so we can continue doing what we do best,
produce wholesome milk.

Dairy farm families are struggling making little to no profit over the last two years. I support promoting
dairy products because I produce milk and want consumers to purchase dairy products. I’m proud
to produce safe, quality, nutritious products that consumers enjoy. I have the right to fund a program
that promotes the product I produce. Dairy farmers are doing the right thing, funding their own
promotion program. We don’t look to the government to do it for us. Dairy is a part of a healthy diet
and 3 daily servings of dairy are recommended by the Dietary Guidelines of Americans.

Dairy producer funded DMI not only promotes dairy products, over half of their budget is spent on
health and wellness programs. Such as nutrition and product research, the Fuel Up to Play 60 program which promotes healthy eating and exercise to children, and efforts to build a sustainable U.S. dairy industry.

The New York Times article is inaccurate, I wonder about the author’s true agenda. Why doesn’t
he believe I have the right to promote the product I produce? The reporter acts as if he’s uncovered
a big scandal – dairy producers are working with restaurants and grocery stores to sell more dairy
products. Can you believe it! Outrageous! Yes, dairy producers work with companies who use dairy
products to promote their products. Domino’s pizza and McDonald’s milk and coffee drinks are two
examples of these partnerships. I’m disappointed other media outlets, The Columbus Dispatch and
CBS’s Katie Couric to name a few, haven’t bothered to check the facts. They simply regurgitate the
incorrect information.

The New York Times author quoted a representative from the Physicians Committee for Responsible
Medicine who says people are fat due to the rise in cheese consumption. This Washington D.C. based group promotes a vegan diet and has close ties to extreme animal rights activist groups with
the goal of ending the consumption of meat, milk and eggs. Not exactly an unbiased source.

Americans eat an average of 33 pounds of cheese each year. People in other countries consume
more; Greece 66 lbs/year, France 54 lbs/year, Iceland 52 lbs/year, Germany 48 lbs/year, Switzerland
47 lbs per year and the list goes on. At least a dozen countries have greater per capita cheese
consumption then the U.S. Yet these countries don’t have the rate of obesity and health issues
American’s experience. Cheese isn’t making American’s fat.

Consumers have many food choices and that’s the way it should be. It’s not up to the government,
the media or anyone else to decide what’s best for you and your family to consume. Dairy is a part of
a healthy diet and I will continue doing everything I can to promote the product I’m proud to produce.
All this talk about dairy is making me hungry, on tonight’s menu for my family – pizza loaded with


  1. Dairy producers want to promote dairy? Shame on them for wanting to promote what they produce! *eye rolls* What a stretch the NYT reporter makes!! I can see the *flawed* logic they used to make that claim, but if you apply the same logic to other situations then that means the government funds most any promotion, as it seems very few industries are not subsidized in today's day and age. When will the agenda-based news reporting stop?? Give the people ALL the facts (not just the ones that serve a specific agenda) and let them think for themselves already!

  2. Very well said! Isn't it just sick how the media can distort and report misinformation and NEVER be accountable for it. THAT is the real problem. We pay for promotion and they think it's a goverment handout. The media should be accountable for getting the facts if not have a penalty...not going to happen...beside they like to pick on the little guys to cover up the real waste and corruption in out government system. Great job Brenda!

  3. Very well written! Totally agree.

  4. Did you submit this in a letter to the Dispatch editor? It should be printed on the oped page as you are an expert on the topic and its a subject they already brought up in the news. Or, can an agency head of an ohio dairy organization submit a letter with this information and include the sources of the facts.

  5. I did not submit this as a letter to the Dispatch editor. It's a great idea and I think it would be good for an ODPA board member from the Columbus area to send a letter to the editor. Feel free to include a link to this blog.

  6. Thank you so much for educating the public on farming. We have been producers for 10 years and proud to be milking cows. If it wasn't for our girls we would not be able to pay for our land and raise our kids in such a wonderful environment. Over the last ten years I have came in contact with people of walks of life and I am still amazed on how ignorant people are. Keep up your good work!!!!! We need as many people educating as possible.

    Martha from Virginia

  7. Brenda,
    Well written! Keep up the good work!
    Paul Haskins

  8. I just came back from touring dairy farms in California with a team of mommy bloggers. It was fascinating to see how passionate family owned dairy farmers are. It's too bad the media is typically so one sided and distorts the truth in so many cases.

    Great post. I (also from NEOhio) look forward to more.

  9. Awesome work Brenda! You continue to be a great spokesperson for dairy... thank you for the time commitment you make in sharing your passion and story!!

  10. It is so important to educate the public with the actual facts of the dairy industry and I applaud your approach in responding to this nationally recognized article. I am proud to work in the dairy industry and professional responses like yours to inaccurate publications is SO important. Keep up the good work!

  11. The USDA is responsible for overseeing commodity checkoff fees and the development of nonprofit checkoff programs, such as DMI. This is a result of the aspect of the US agricultural policy known as Agricultural Marketing Services, a program for which the USDA is responsible. Yes, you are correct in saying that dairy producers pay for the promotional programs of DMI. But DMI is a creation of the USDA, checkoff fees are a result of governmental policy and are funneled through the USDA to check off programs. USDA is responsible for the creation of the country’s nutritional guidelines, DMI also has a strong influence on the outcome of those guidelines, as can be read on DMI's annual reports and Dairy Checkoff Highlights. Same goes with the school lunch program. So yes, unfortunately, a conflict of interest does arguably exist.

  12. National dairy check-off/DMI is funded by dairy farmers. The funds are collected via state and federal programs, but funded and administered by dairy producers. The country’s nutritional guidelines are established by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee which reviews science to develop nutrition-related recommendations. Public comments are also accepted and reviewed during the process of developing these guidelines. Milk contains 9 essential nutrients therefore earning a spot at the table.

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Thank you for reading my blog and taking the time to comment! I’m opening the doors of our farm to share with you and enjoy engaging in discussion. Please be respectful in your comments. I reserve the right to remove posts that include name calling, slander, and vulgar language or contain links to websites that assault animal agriculture.

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