(Natural News) What comes to mind when you hear the question “Got Milk?” If you’re like most Americans, you’re probably picturing someone famous with a milk mustache. It’s one of the most memorable ad taglines of recent times, a remarkable feat for a product that is so inherently boring. The dairy industry has surely profited handsomely from it, right?
It might have cemented a place in pop culture, but the campaign hasn’t sold more milk over the years. From its launch in 1993 to the time it was dropped in 2014, per capita fluid milk consumption actually fell 24 percent! Unfortunately for dairy farmers, it’s just one of many endeavors they are forced to pay for that aren’t really boosting their bottom line.
The campaign was funded in part by Dairy Management, Inc. (DMI), which is the biggest recipient of funds from the Department of Agriculture’s dairy checkoff program. Each year, farmers are forced to pay into the program, and it amounts to a one percent tax on the raw milk sold at today’s prices. Dairy farmers paid a collective $332 million into the program in 2016, and they’re not seeing any return on their investment.
In fact, an exposé by the Daily Caller reveals where their money is going, and it’s safe to say their outrage is justified. DMI’s top executives receive cushy compensation packages, with CEO Tom Gallagher making around $1,361,753 in 2015. If you think that’s pretty typical compensation for the CEO of a nonprofit with a budget in the $50-million-plus range, you’re wrong; the average for such executives is actually less than half of that at $634,217, according to GuideStar. It’s a similar story for other top execs in the group, whose excessive salaries are bankrolled by dairy farmers who are struggling to stay on top of their own bills.
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One dairy farmer told the Daily Caller that she can’t pay for her utilities, feed bills, or health insurance, and it’s frustrating to have to fund these lavish perks for executives. The farmers are federally mandated to fund the group, and those who refuse face heavy fines and interest charges. Farmers never voted on the process, and they’re simply not seeing the benefits of it.
DMI used checkoff payments to help develop the cheesy Quesalupa from Taco Bell. Although it’s supposed to feature five times the cheese of a standard crunchy taco, the dairy farmers forced to pay for its development don’t get any of the profits from it, nor do they earn anything from the many other fast food products their group is funding.
Dairy farmers feel scammed
One Pennsylvania dairy farmer, Brenda Cochran, told the Daily Caller that her mid-sized farm has suffered greatly in recent years, racking up more than $600,000 in losses since 2014 due to the 40 percent drop in the price of milk. Having to shell out $4,000 for these payments isn’t helping matters; she said the organizations are doing a “pretty piss poor job” of supporting farmers and called the payments a scam. While she struggles to cover vet bills and feed for her animals, she has to finance the research for products that major fast food chains will benefit from.
Cochran said: “This is special interests targeting dairy farmers to contribute to our own demise.”
She’s not the only one feeling the pinch; dairy farmer suicides are on the rise, and around 17,000 dairy farms have been forced to close in the last ten years. Most businesses would stop investing in marketing that isn’t paying off for them, but dairy farmers don’t have a choice in this situation. They are clearly getting milked here, and there’s nothing they can do about it.
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