Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Where is the dairy checkoff report to Congress? (Update)

Despite a requirement in federal law to submit an annual report to Congress, the dairy checkoff program has not yet produced the report for July 2010 or July 2011, both of which are now long overdue.

Because earlier requests for a copy of the July 2010 report had been turned down by USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), I filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in September for the two most recent missing reports.  However, AMS turned down the request today, saying that the material was classified as "pre-decisional" and "deliberative."  The AMS response said that the reports were still in USDA clearance, and that the 2010 report will be released shortly.

The Dairy Production and Stabilization Act of 1983 (.pdf) says:
Not later than July 1, 1985, and July 1 of each year after the date of enactment of this title, an annual report describing activities conducted under the dairy products promotion and research order issued under this subchapter, and accounting for the receipt and disbursement of all funds received by the National Dairy Promotion and Research Board under such order including an independent analysis of the effectiveness of the program.
Likewise, USDA's Dairy Promotion and Research Order (.pdf) requires the agency:
To prepare and make public, at least annually, a report of its activities carried out and an accounting for funds received and expended.
The dairy checkoff program uses the federal government's power of taxation to collect a mandatory assessment of more than $390 million per year from farmers, in order to support research, promotion, and advertising activities, such as the "Got Milk" campaign.  The checkoff program promotes increased high-fat cheese consumption through support for fast food pizza marketing campaigns.  The program's management corporation, Dairy Management Inc., boasts of the fast food collaborations.  Notwithstanding the tension between these advertisements and healthy dietary guidance, every checkoff program message is endorsed by the federal government (in legal terminology, the advertisements must be approved as "government speech").

I think dairy farmers and the public deserve more timely transparency in this federal program, which is vastly better funded than anything the federal government does to promote healthy eating.

2 comments:

Ed Bruske said...

Parke, is any that money used to buy off groups like the American Academy of Pediatricians, School Nutrition Association, American Dietetic Association, or are those dairy funds from other sources.

Please let us know when you get a copy of the reports.

Parke Wilde said...

The dairy checkoff program provides lots of funding to these professional associations. The last report to Congress (in 2009!) explains how these professional associations are used to raise the alarm about the nation's "calcium crisis":

"Health professional outreach remained a critical component of the 3–A–Day™ program. The American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Dietetic Association, and the National Medical Association all continued their support and partnership with DMI and 3–A–Day™. The National Hispanic Medical Association and the School Nutrition Association are the latest health professional organizations to partner with dairy to educate the public about dairy’s role in a healthy diet and the need to consume three servings of milk, cheese, and yogurt daily.

"By working with key health professional partners like these, DMI continued to provide a clear, practical message to the public on the importance of dealing with the Nation’s calcium crisis.

"Combined, these organizations represent more than 250,000 health professionals nationwide. DMI’s 3–A–Day™ advisory panel, comprised of leaders from these organizations along with other nutrition experts, continued to help guide the overall campaign as well as nutrition philosophy and principles."