Jeff Manning, Executive Director of the California Milk Processor Board, which oversees the "Got Milk?" advertising program, has devised a plan to solicit a small town in his state to change its name to "Got Milk?" in exchange for a "meaningful contribution" to the town and construction of a local "Got Milk?" museum and tourist attraction.Ê "It's all about the ad campaign," Manning beamed to the San Francisco Chronicle.Ê
For many of the nation's dairy producers, it's all about the money.Ê Their money.
So-called "generic" advertising programs such as "Got Milk?" and "Ahh, the power of cheese" are funded, in part, through the congressionally authorized dairy checkoff, which places a mandatory assessment of 15 cents per hundredweight (roughly two cents per gallon) on all milk domestically produced and marketed commercially.Ê Last year, the dairy checkoff raked in more than $250 million in hard-earned dairy producer money. ÊÊ
In April, Pennsylvania dairy farmers Joseph and Brenda Cochran, in conjunction with the Center for Individual Freedom, filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the mandatory dairy promotion program.Ê "We're against having to fork over a huge portion of our bottom line for advertising that says all milk is equal," stated Ms. Cochran.Ê To read more on the dairy suit and ongoing legal challenges to the beef checkoff, click here.Ê
To those dairy producers already upset over what they see as an unconstitutional tax on their product and a squandering of checkoff funds, the plan to pay a town to rename itself "Got Milk?" adds further insult to injury.Ê
At least one town, so far, is considering changing its name.Ê In Biggs, where the mayor seems smitten with Manning's "Got Milk?" marketing strategy, the city council of the nearly 100-year-old northern California town is scheduled to discuss the idea at a meeting on November 18.Ê
With the number of cash-strapped local governments feeling the pinch of budget cuts, more may soon be lining up at the milk board's well-endowed trough. Ê
Manning and the Milk Processor Board have given checkoff opponents another reason to fight the arrogance of program administrators who care more about their precious ad campaign than the ongoing plight of the small family farmer in America.October 31, 2002