Friday, September 06, 2019

Executives at dairy-promotion nonprofit get huge salaries from farmers' milk checks even as dairy farms go bankrupt

Thousands of dairy farms have gone out of business in recent years, but 10 top executives at Dairy Management Inc., a nonprofit meant to promote dairy products, were paid a combined $8 million in 2017, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. Some even took trips to the Super Bowl. The salaries are paid for out of farmers' milk checks: 15 cents for every hundred pounds of milk sold.

"DMI is funded by one of the nearly two dozen federally mandated checkoff programs overseen by USDA, covering crops from pork and soybeans to popcorn and mangoes. The commodities are taxed and pooled for research, advertising and other promotional efforts," Catherine Boudreau reports for Politico's "Morning Agriculture."

A DMI spokesperson told the Journal Sentinel that the CEO's salary is reviewed annually to make sure it compares to peer companies, and that executive salaries are likewise competitive with similar roles in the public and private sector.

Sarah Lloyd, a dairy farmer who served on the DMI board from 2013 to 2016, told the Journal Sentinel that she would often cry on her way home from the meetings: "These high-priced marketing people sitting in fancy offices in suburban Chicago were driving up to the meetings in luxury foreign SUVs. They were using my money and [other] farmers' money when farmers' kids are on free and reduced lunch. The contrast was just maddening."

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