The "three a day" nutrition recommendation and eight-ounce plastic containers of milk in schools and fast-food restaurants are two high-profile results of the 15-cent per hundredweight dairy checkoff.
"For farmers, the 15-cent checkoff is key," says Joe Bavido, Dairy Management Inc., industry relations director, talking to producers at the American Farm Bureau Federation's 87th annual meeting.
Since the national dairy checkoff began, annual per capita consumption of milk in the U.S. has increased to more than 590 pounds, compared to 522 pounds in 1983, when the program was created. From 1970 until enactment of the mandatory checkoff, consumption was flat, according to Agriculture Department data.
"It is a lot more than a coincidence that consumption started to increase as the mandatory check off kicked in," Bavido says.
The effort to boost consumption is currently focused on school-age children.
"It starts with young people liking your product and wanting your product," says Eric McClain, industry relations manager for the Southeast United Industry Association, Inc.
"The dollars that producers have invested in research have really paid off," McClain says. A recent research study showed that 94% of kids preferred single-round eight-ounce bottles of milk compared to gable-topped cardboard cartons.
Local organizations need to promote the nutritional at value of milk and then follow up by showing that consumption will increase if milk is offered in single-serving plastic bottles, Bavido says. "Nutrition is our strongest message to leverage with school boards for them to change to the new look of milk in their food services," he says.
Another benefit of checkoff funding, noted by Bavido and McClain, is the assistance developed for producers who are becoming more heavily scrutinized by their neighbors and the government. Bavido says protecting the image of producers and products is extremely important.
Maintaining sales of products nationwide is necessary to maintain the livelihood of diary producers.
"The goal of any crisis plan is protecting the product," Bavido says.