A recent headline in The Farmer asked, “Are commodity checkoffs still worth investment?”
As a Minnesota dairy farmer and a Dairy Management Inc. board member, I’ll answer that question with a resounding “yes.”
DMI, which manages the national dairy checkoff, has been in the headlines recently following a newspaper story questioning the salaries of the executives who lead the organization. The reporting does not accurately reflect the entire scope of DMI and how its operations are managed.
Less than 5% of DMI’s budget is spent on general and administrative expenditures, as mandated by USDA. The DMI board is comprised of more than 80 farmers who are responsible for running farms of all sizes across the country. The board annually reviews the performance of CEO Tom Gallagher and approves his salary. This salary is within competitive levels of compensation for comparable positions, and we take this decision and oversight very seriously.
The mission of today’s checkoff has changed from the years when we focused on advertising. We all loved “Got milk?” but the truth is, it didn’t move the needle with sales. Fluid milk consumption declined, even during the campaign’s peak years.
Now, we work with leading global partners such as McDonald’s, Domino’s, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell that are putting more dairy in more places than ever — nationally and globally. While fluid milk has declined, I ask that you look at per capita consumption of all dairy. It has been on a steady annual increase, growing by 73 pounds since 1983 — the year the dairy checkoff began.
Much of this success can be attributed to the leadership changing the business plan and engaging partners, who bring their resources to the table. In fact, for every dollar dairy farmers invest in strategic partnerships, our partners are investing more than $10.
Working with companies of this magnitude requires someone who can walk into a CEO’s office and represent our business needs. It is said you should never send your junior varsity into a game against the varsity team. We as farmers need high-end talent who can negotiate deals and build relationships for the long run in the corporate world.
There was a time when I wasn’t as up to speed on checkoff activities, but then I got involved as a board member. I understand not everyone can serve on a local or national board, but I’m asking that you contact me or another board member if you have questions about the checkoff.
I want you to know the checkoff staff that represents us nationally and locally understand who they work for. They share our beliefs and values, and take pride in working on our behalf. They are some of the most talented and dedicated people we can hope to have striving to make a better life for those of us on the farm.