Guest Editorial:Wanted: Dairy Champions

Published on Mon, 06/20/2016 - 1:28pm

 By Kathleen Cuddy

 One of the things the dairy checkoff does for dairy farmers is to capture information about what drives consumer trust in dairy. What we’ve learned recently is that people make their decisions about food purchases very differently today than in the past. Food has become a statement of personal identity, and consumers want transparency from farm to fork.

Because of that, Midwest Dairy Association and other checkoff groups across the country have really stepped up our Consumer Confidence programs. We’re being loud and proud about dairy and working to win the public’s trust and ultimately make sure we have a market for our products.
While we can develop and carry out great programs, dairy farmers need to be involved. Each and every dairy farm family has roles as what our organization calls “Dairy Champions.” That involvement can range from very simple but proactive conversations with friends and neighbors, to being part of events and outreach conducted by the checkoff.

We can’t make anti-dairy activism end, but the vast majority of people want to enjoy dairy as part of their diet, and they want to support farm families. They just need the reassurance you can provide by being visible, available and ready for conversation.

Here are a few examples of what you might consider doing:
• Checkoff groups have wonderful tools to do great farm tours, and Midwest Dairy has added a guide for doing a virtual farm tour using technology to make it easier to connect with schools.

• Reach out to your state or regional checkoff group to see if they offer communications workshops or additional training. Each group wants to feature farmers in events where consumers are present, or where we can provide dairy information to people who influence consumers.

• Nationally, Dairy Management Inc. offers an online Amplification Center that’s easy to use and provide great content for farm Facebook pages or social media accounts your family members may have. You may not be the one who is active online, but there may be someone else in your family or among your farm employees who is; get them involved. Reach out to your checkoff organization for information.

• Participate in Consumer Confidence webinars or other online events offered by your checkoff organizations, or invite other Dairy Champions to participate.

• At, we offer toolkits in our For Farmers and Resource Center sections. They can help you talk about sustainability or other topics. Other state and regional checkoff groups likely have similar tools.

• If you haven’t done so, we invite you to personally pledge during Midwest Dairy’s campaign, Dairy 3 for Me. We’re taking pledges online at, and counting selfies on Twitter with the hashtag #Dairy3forMe. Our Producer Service Center has tools to do even more, like set up a selfie booth at a local event.

And finally, remember your dairies and your families are the face of your products for the people who purchase them. It matters to all of us that dairy farmers do the right things for the right reasons on the farm.

Every dairy that ships milk has a license to do so. You hold other licenses for activities critical to your business. In today’s world of consumers who want to know more about their food, sharing what you do is increasingly more important in protecting one less commonly recognized license — your social license to dairy.

Kathleen Cuddy is Senior Vice President of Integrated Communications for Midwest Dairy Association, which manages the dairy checkoff in 10 Midwest states. She leads Consumer Confidence efforts for the organization and serves on the Common Voice group for the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy.