Dairy farmers told of promotions

Friday, January 21, 2011

When a McDonald's customer drinks one of the hamburger chain's coffee beverages, introduced in recent years, they're drinking more of a dairy product than a cup of coffee.

Eric McClain, director of industry relations for the Southeast United Dairy Industry Association, made the point in Lewisburg this week when he met with about 65 dairy farmers, friends and relatives in the First Cumberland Presbyterian Church.

"McCafe drinks average 80 percent" dairy products - mostly milk and, for many, whipped cream, McClain said, explaining the association's goal is to increase the sale of milk.

"And it's going very well," he said. "It's milk in a different format. The dairy farmers made that possible with McDonalds. We work with Starbucks, too."

Domino's and Subway restaurants have programs to increase the sale of cheese, another dairy product, McClain said.

McClain was in town for an annual area meeting to keep dairy farmers informed.

And they have good reasons to want that information.

"Dairy farmers pay 15 cents per 100 pounds of milk for promotions," said Tony White, a former county commissioner here who left the panel to spend more time being president of the Tennessee Dairy Producers Association.

The promotional programs described by McClain are "overseen by the federal government," White said. "It's highly regulated. We don't have a choice."

The Dairy Association and Tennessee Agriculture Enhancement Fund provided money to replace coolers for milk in six Marshall County schools, White said, reminding the public of a step taken last year.

McClain emphasized the dairy association is only a promotional group. Most of its work is in school programs, including the Fuel Up to Play 60 promotion advocating dairy products as good food to power youngsters for 60 minutes of physical activity each day.

"Nothing political," White said.

His group, the Dairy Producers Association, does lobby state lawmakers.

The Tuesday night dinner in the Presbyterian Church also reflected the teamwork of those associations with the Farm Bureau and the Tennessee Beef Industry Council. The dinner was one of five meetings across the state, starting in Paris and ending in Greenville.

The Dairy Producers Association annual meeting will be on Feb. 22 at the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association offices on North Ellington Parkway.

The 2012 Farm Bill and milk pricing stabilization are to be discussed, White said.