If not your checkoff, who?

CEO and President / Dairy Management Inc.

The checkoff structure is unlike any other in our industry. Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC), National Dairy Council (NDC), the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, and our state and regional teams were created in a unique way that positions us to do things others cannot, or will not, do.

We convene. We partner. We innovate.

The checkoff provides research-based solutions and expertise, thanks to a staff of highly talented and dedicated professionals who work every day to deliver results and represent the best interests of farmers and importers.

We also protect dairy’s reputation with a state-of-the-art issue and crisis system when anti-dairy sentiment is pushed by groups who oppose what you do every day to feed a global population.


So, it begs the question – if your dairy checkoff wasn’t driving these priorities, who would be?

We head into this new year with checkoff teams globally, nationally and locally deep into strategies designed to drive trust and sales on behalf of the farm families and importers who make our mission possible. Here are some examples:

  • The partnership model with globally recognized quick-service restaurants, which began in 2008, continues to deliver strong dairy volume growth while offering domestic and international consumers new ways to enjoy our products. Specific results include:
    • At Taco Bell, your checkoff team transformed cheese from a garnish to the center of the plate. A key moment in 2023 came when Taco Bell elevated its grilled cheese burrito, which uses more than 10 times the amount of cheese than its regular crunchy taco, to be a permanent menu item. The checkoff’s onsite food science team drove this innovation, as well as the grilled cheese dipping taco and extensions of the frozen beverage line, which use real dairy creamer. All told, Taco Bell projected dairy volume increases of up to 7% last year.
    • McDonald’s continues to elevate dairy on its menu and has revitalized its dairy desserts and shakes. Last summer, McDonald’s unveiled the Grimace shake, which became a viral hit and led to shake sales doubling during the campaign. The checkoff also assisted with new McFlurry flavors and supported preventative maintenance testing of ice cream machines that ultimately will help keep them running.
    • In addition to ongoing pizza strategies, a checkoff-led program with partners expected to drive an additional 12-plus-million pounds of cheese last year. The bulk was used internationally through an effort with a major quick-serve restaurant pizza chain and a U.S. cheese company. Domestically, Domino’s added pepperoni-stuffed cheesy bread to its lineup of stuffed cheesy bread. The oven-baked breadsticks are stuffed with cheese and pepperoni, covered in a blend of cheese made with 100% real mozzarella and cheddar, and seasoned with Parmesan and garlic.
    • Tremendous growth potential exists for cheese in the quick-serve chicken sandwich category, as only 20% of offerings include cheese. This is why the DMI board approved a partnership with a fast-growing player, Raising Cane’s, which also opens the door to using more dairy in their sauces, side dishes and beverages. While the chain focused on store expansions in 2023, we are excited about menu and product expansion using more dairy this year.
  • The model of working with and through others stretches beyond restaurants. One of the most pivotal moves is our Mayo Clinic collaboration. We have a shared vision and values with Mayo and are working to accelerate dairy nutrition research, education, outreach and transformation.
  • Thanks to USDEC-led efforts, the U.S. has become the world’s third-largest dairy supplier, with customers in 150-plus countries. We exported a record 2.4 million metric tons (milk solids equivalent) with an export volume of 18% of milk production in 2022. And there is potential for more, as 95% of the world’s population lives beyond U.S. borders.
  • The checkoff’s school-based strategy has adapted to new realities in the post-pandemic environment and the complex needs and expectations of the next generation. This led to evolving Fuel Up to Play 60 to a more focused Fuel Up platform and ending our 15-year partnership with the NFL in favor of a no-cost memorandum of understanding. Fuel Up allows us to work with a broader cross-section of partners and delivers schools and families solutions and resources that increase access to dairy. We also created a dairy-focused STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) curriculum to better educate students on the many ways farmers and dairy support overall wellness and planetary health.
  • The industry unites through the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, which farmers founded through their checkoff in 2008. This platform engages hundreds of supply-chain leaders to address shared priorities and outcomes in areas such as the environment, nutrition and health, animal care, food safety and community contributions. The U.S. Dairy Stewardship Commitment was developed by the Innovation Center to support farmers, cooperatives and processors who voluntarily choose to work across the industry to advance sustainability leadership and transparently report progress. Thirty-nine companies, representing 75% of U.S. milk production, adopted the commitment.

There are understandably great expectations placed on the checkoff. We thrive in our unique capabilities and leadership roles, driven by an unwavering commitment to grow trust and sales for America’s dairy farm families and importers.

I’ll finish how I started by asking again – if not for the checkoff, who?

To learn more about your national dairy checkoff, visit us online or, to reach us directly, send an email.