Dairy Checkoff CEO shares ‘bold moves’ with leaders
March 4, 2022
Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) Chief Executive Officer Barbara O’Brien provided an overview of four “bold moves” the checkoff has made with farmer and importer directors representing DMI, United Dairy Industry Association and National Dairy Promotion and Research Board at their recent meeting in San Antonio, Texas.
O’Brien, who assumed the CEO position in October, spent the last four months gathering input from hundreds of farmers and other stakeholders about the checkoff’s vision and strategy. She said this feedback helped direct these four moves.
“We’re looking through the windshield, not the rearview mirror,” O’Brien said. “I used the input as inspiration and guidance in crafting our vision and priorities. With farmer leadership and strong support, I feel empowered to define what’s next for checkoff and what checkoff needs to be over the next 10 years.”
The four moves focus on:
Dairy 2030 and transformation: O’Brien described future-focused initiatives that will move from concept to research and development. O’Brien said DMI will “double down” on two market-changing areas, including metabolomics, which includes the science that analyzes the molecules in milk in discovering future health and wellness benefits and claims. The other is encapsulation, which is a new technology that has the potential to deliver concentrated dairy ingredients and nutrients in products.
“Bringing technology to our work and digitizing the science will accelerate the claims process, messaging, and new product development,” O’Brien said.
GENYOUth strategic focus: O’Brien said many farmers don’t understand GENYOUth’s role or how its work benefits them and dairy. She met with incoming GENYOUth CEO Ann Marie Krautheim to review strategies to determine the organization’s future focus.
Krautheim has spent 10 years with American Dairy Association Mideast and 10 more with National Dairy Council before becoming GENYOUth’s Chief Wellness Officer for the last decade. “Let me assure you, dairy flows through Ann Marie’s veins,” O’Brien said. “This is about the right leadership at the right time. I am excited about Ann Marie bringing a renewed focus and keeping dairy farmers and dairy front and center in the work she does every day.”
Growing importance of exports: While O’Brien said exports is certainly not a new checkoff priority, “we’re taking steps now to ensure we’re positioned to win in the future.” Part of that effort includes creating a fifth operating committee of the DMI board that consolidates oversight the U.S. Dairy Export Council, DMI’s Global Innovation Partnerships team and the “Next 5%” plan to increase exports.
“There are numerous checkoff, non-checkoff and proprietary entities that assure the success of U.S. dairy in the global marketplace,” O’Brien said. “The key now is to make sure that work is quantified and coordinated to ensure a positive, consistent U.S. dairy experience for international customers and consumers.”
Move to three-year planning, budget cycle: O’Brien said moving from a one-year cycle will allow the checkoff to be “more intentional” in the planning and execution of the Unified Marketing Plan with other checkoff companies.
“We’ll be more focused, and spend less time planning and more time doing,” O’Brien said. The three-year plan “allows us to be strategically patient, and tactically nimble based on learnings that come from our execution of in-year programs.”
Farmer priorities drive industry focus
O’Brien shared DMI’s engagement with other organizations, including the International Dairy Foods Association and MilkPEP, as well as the checkoff-founded Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. She said a shared set of priorities, including health and wellness, environmental stewardship, innovation and technology and workforce, is moving U.S. dairy into the future and redefining its place in people’s lives and in society overall.
O’Brien, who also serves as president and CEO of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, said the unanimous endorsement of its strategic plan refresh by the 30-plus board directors in late January is testament to the commitment of dairy farmers, cooperatives, companies and organizations to work against these areas of shared importance.
“This is truly a moment on our timeline to be noted and celebrated,” said Innovation Center Chair Mike Haddad. “This is a milestone meeting and a direct reflection of farmer priorities being driven through the industry. It’s clear dairy farmers’ priorities are the dairy industry’s priorities.”