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Checkoff Watch: ‘Dairy Transformation’ gives us opportunity to lead in food and beverage industry

Contributed by Tom Gallagher Published on 19 April 2021

Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) has always had the responsibility of bringing the long-term needs of the consumer into a near-term focus to benefit U.S. dairy. We have a 25-year history of doing this:

  • It was the dairy checkoff that 20 years ago understood the need to research the nutritional value of full-fat dairy products to help tell the story of the importance of whole milk as a nutritional powerhouse for adults and children.

  • In 1995, when exports were barely 1.5% of our total production, it was the dairy checkoff that created the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC), which opened the door to 16% of production today going overseas. If it weren’t for USDEC, where would this additional production go?

  • In 2008, it was the dairy checkoff that brought the industry together to create the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy to focus on sustainability to correct the record on U.S. dairy’s environmental footprint and to bring emerging technologies to the forefront faster.

These are just some examples of how the dairy checkoff has adjusted our strategy to address emerging challenges and opportunities. This is the reason we began an initiative called Dairy 2030 more than 18 months ago. Dairy 2030 brought together dairy farmers from across the country, along with futurists, senior leaders throughout the dairy value chain, leaders from outside of dairy including Fortune 500 companies, the world’s largest pizza chain, technology experts and others to answer this question: “How can we create inspiring new futures for U.S. dairy that ensure relevance to global consumer needs and preferences, drive innovation, contribute to a healthier planet and create a profitable and agile U.S. dairy value chain?”

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Through research and planning sessions, Dairy 2030 identified key areas of focus to transform the U.S. dairy industry for the future. As we continue to meet with stakeholders across the industry, we are determining what futures might be possible for the U.S. dairy industry. Things that are being discussed include:

  • Farmers finding new ways to increase revenue on and off their farms – through manure management, new products, etc.

  • Dairy companies helping consumers understand the connection back to the farm and the people behind the products to increase trust in farming overall

  • Increasing use of dairy milk and manure globally

Possibilities such as these and others are what we now call “Dairy Transformation.” Dairy Transformation is the dairy value chain, including farmers, driving change now to create a clear and actionable vision for the future. A vision that, as one farmer recently said, includes “farmers having another way to extract more value to their bottom line without putting another pound of milk in their bulk tank.”

The good news is: Dairy farmers and the U.S. dairy industry already are focusing on some key areas identified through our research. These areas will let dairy not only meet consumers in the future but provide the opportunity to lead and be ahead in the food and beverage industry:

  • Sustainability has always been a priority for dairy farmers and is essential to being able to pass the farm to the next generation. Farmers continue to find new ways of using resources responsibly to help correct the record of dairy’s environmental impact.

  • Innovation, which includes developing products how and where the consumer wants them, has become even more important over the last year as COVID-19 has impacted how people buy and eat. It is essential for the checkoff to continue to work with dairy companies on innovation and consider capabilities that take products and services through commercialization and funding.

  • Industry research and development capabilities need to become cutting-edge and futuristic.

  • Technology is increasing in importance, and U.S. dairy needs to understand data, provide interconnectivity, develop machine learning analytics, artificial intelligence, improve our processes and monetize technology products and services.

  • Consumer-centric – focus on Gen Z consumers (born in the mid-to-late 1990s) and those who influence them.

The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy is committed to these areas of change, allowing your dairy checkoff to move further and faster with co-ops, dairy companies and dairy farmers having a seat at the table. If the last year has taught us anything, it is that the world can change on a dime – and we have to be prepared to not just change with it but to lead that change in a way that benefits the entire industry.

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This is the goal of Dairy Transformation – the unity of the U.S. dairy industry to move into the future together, to grow trust and sales, and to demonstrate the possibilities for farms of all sizes and geographies.

You will see more on Dairy Transformation in the coming months – the things we can do quickly and the plans we have for the future. Change is upon us and, as always, dairy farmers are more than ready to meet it. end mark

To learn more about your national dairy checkoff, visit U.S. Dairy or send a request to join our Dairy Checkoff Farmer Group on Facebook. To reach us directly, send an email to Talk to the Checkoff.

Tom Gallagher
  • Tom Gallagher

  • CEO
  • Dairy Management Inc.

Your Dairy Checkoff in Action – The following update is provided by Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), which manages the national dairy checkoff program on behalf of America’s dairy farmers and dairy importers. DMI is the domestic and international planning and management organization responsible for increasing sales of and demand for dairy products and ingredients.

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