Discussing dairy checkoff dollars

During a visit to the Nebraska State Dairy Association annual meeting, we talked with CEO Molly Pelzer. She says the meeting is an opportunity for the dairy farm community to gather and share information. "It's a chance to learn from vendors and presenters as well," Pelzer said.

We asked Pelzer about the dairy checkoff, and how it helps the dairy industry. "The dairy checkoff is a farmer-funded promotion and research endeavor," Pelzer said. "Every time a farmer sells milk, they are assessed a fee that is used for generic promotion and research. We do promotion of milk, cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products to consumers so they have trust in dairy, and so that they purchase more dairy. The other thing we do is we fund research so there is evidence-based information that dairy is important for the health of people, the planet, and the cows as well."

One message that Pelzer is sharing with producers is that farmers need to meet consumers 'where they are.' "Consumers are changing, because the world is changing, and we need to stay relevant to consumers. They are very interested in learning about where their food comes from, so we are excited to share with our dairy fans, as well as those who have questions. We've tried to step away from the term 'education'. We are now trying to 'engage' the consumer, and connect on shared values."

Pelzer says there are always challenges, but there are reasons to be optimistic. "We have wonderful research that's showing whole milk, lactose-free milk, and value-added milk like high protein milk is really capturing consumers' attention. Those sales are increasing," Pelzer said. "We also know that for the first time ever, cheese and butter sales are actually at their highest point. Per-capita consumption of dairy is at an all-time high."