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Got Milk?
February 25, 2004 8:01 AM   Subscribe

Should dairy farmers be forced to contribute to the "Got Milk?" campaign? At this point, all dairy farmers contribute a per-unit fee to help fund the dairy marketing campaign. Is this just? A recent court decision does not think so. What do you think?
posted by SandeepKrishnamurthy (29 comments total)

 
I think if you are part of an industry where everyone contributes the something that will help the industry, and you don't want to contribute, then there should be some sort of penalty.

For example, business taxes help provide sidewalks and infrastructure to help deliver consumers. If you don't want to pay business taxes then you shouldn't be able to run a business.

And "because dairy prices and distribution are tightly regulated, a joint marketing campaign is the only effective way to compete with other beverages."
posted by y6y6y6 at 8:12 AM on February 25, 2004


Yeah, y6 has it about right. It's a more socialist take on the whole thing, but, infrastructure doesn't grow on trees.
posted by jon_kill at 8:24 AM on February 25, 2004


I think the more I can force people to do things for what I perceive to be their own good, the better. But then again I'm just a dyed-in-the-wool RepubliCrat.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:24 AM on February 25, 2004


"I think the more I can force people to do things for what I perceive to be their own good, the better"

The difference here is that this isn't one person, or even an external body, imposing their will on the majority. This is one person trying to get special treatment from peers.
posted by y6y6y6 at 8:36 AM on February 25, 2004


This is a good decision.
posted by rushmc at 8:47 AM on February 25, 2004


y6y6y6, you're using a bogus argument. Advertisements are not necessary to sustain the dairy industry. They are used to promote it, instead. Further, advertisements are not guaranteed to work, as opposed to subsidies or tax-relief.

Why is the government in the ad business, anyway? Why not let the dairy industry decide how to promote itself?
posted by SeizeTheDay at 8:52 AM on February 25, 2004


Be-lactactedly I have to cowcur, udderly even, with y6y6y6 and jon_kill .

You cannot resist the UberCow !
posted by troutfishing at 8:53 AM on February 25, 2004


SiezeTheDay- people may choose to advertise their brand as opposed to milk itself (e.g. Horizon Organic Milk as opposed to "Got Milk?").
posted by SandeepKrishnamurthy at 8:57 AM on February 25, 2004


But I'm wondering if I should milk this cash-cow :

Goat Milk ?â„¢

Goatherds everywhere will tremble before and pay obeisance to my copyright. I'll demand, in tribute, payments of the finest pygmy and Tennessee Fainting Goats.

Hah!

/derail
posted by troutfishing at 8:57 AM on February 25, 2004


Or - to quote Billy Bragg quoting somebody else - "There is strength in a union."

But - I'm not into the compulsory aspect of this. I don't think the dairy farmers themselves should shoulder the burden of government regulation of the dairy industry - I think this cost should be paid from general federal tax revenue.....this ruling, then, is udderly unfair.

What of individual farmers - those marketing to, say health food stores - who do not benefit much, if at all, from the "Got Milk" campaign for the fact of their very specialized buyer demographic ?

The close regulation of the dairy industry - at least of distribution - seems suspect to me. I can see the rational for insuring against funky milk supplies, but is tight regulation of distribution necessary for this ?

And - if so - this is a general public good. Should the dairy farmers shoulder all the financial burden ? On the same note, I would suggest - in the case at hand - that a compromise might be wiser. Individual farmers should be able to opt out of the forced ad program at least.

I doubt the program benefits my local dairy (which is not organic, per se, but does not use hormones or antibiotics) which survives strictly by word of mouth. The really huge milk companies will not tolerate their milk being sold alongside the milk from my little local dairy - the industry giants such as "Hood" demand dedicated freezer space. So - at my local corner package goods/lotto/luncheonette/grocery store - the local dairy milk lives at the very back of the store in it's own refrigerator case. This seems unfair to me - it's much better than the hormone and antibiotic (probably pesticide too) laced milk available from the mainline dairies.

This local dairy milk is sold everywhere in town though, in the oddest places - package stores, hardware stores......It's the only milk I buy. The dairy does not, as far as I can tell, conduct it's own advertising - except by way of the forced ad campaign in question.
posted by troutfishing at 9:24 AM on February 25, 2004


Essentially, a dairy producer like the one troutfishing mentions is paying for his competitor's advertisements.

The big milk producers want you to think of milk as a commodity item. There are lots of small producers who disagree with this, for good reason.

All milk is not the same - until it hits the major distribution network. Then it is "balanced," which is a really polite way of saying that it is analyzed, then modified with additives to meet national balance standards which are updated monthly, I believe, by the USDA. This results in making the milk in Georgia the same, by all analytical methods, as the milk in Montana.

So what you buy at the store, from the major producers, is an artificially enhanced product, originating from large feedlot dairies which rely on pesticides and antibiotics to keep their cattle "healthy."

What you can get from a small producer is milk that comes from well-managed cattle, which may have been bred for the quality of their milk, and not just the quantity.

No, all milk is not the same. And the producers who don't want to participate in the commodity market shouldn't have to pay to advertise that commodity.
posted by yesster at 9:47 AM on February 25, 2004


"Why is the government in the ad business, anyway?"

Hmmmmm.......

On further reading it appears you are correct. I am full of shit.

Somewhere along the line I got it stuck in my head that the agency collecting the fees, and spending the money, was a private industry based organization. But it's actually the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Which, for me, changes everything. In fact I'm now doing a total 180 on this issue.

Why is the government in the ad business, anyway? Why not let the dairy industry decide how to promote itself? If the $1 per head had good ROI why isn't some dairy advocacy group doing it? And it seems likely that my tax money is getting mixed in here as well. I had no idea I was helping pay for these ads.
posted by y6y6y6 at 10:10 AM on February 25, 2004


I'm siding with Troutfishing here. On the one hand, the farmers who don't want to pony up their share of the national advertising Got Milk advertising budget are sponging off the increased product awareness.

On the other hand, milk is not the dietary cure-all that the Milk Board would have you believe. Hmm, maybe the Milk Board should come up with a trademarked term for official Milk Board milk. "Ultramilk" or something. Then if farmers wanted to sell their production in the general ultramilk supply, they'd have to cough up the ad money.

The rest of us would then be able to buy from higher quality local producers, and would have an easier time avoiding the hormone / antibiotic laced product coming out of the major feedlots.
posted by bshort at 10:12 AM on February 25, 2004


And - if so - this is a general public good. Should the dairy farmers shoulder all the financial burden ?

I think you'll find that the consumer or the taxpayer shoulders the financial burden, as in most regulation.
The important questions: (1) Is the regulation increasing the overall public good? This question should underpin all regulation. (2) Is spending the money on advertising its most effective use.

Advertisements are not necessary to sustain the dairy industry. They are used to promote it, instead.

But what happens without promotion? If the answer is that it declines, then advertising is fundamental to sustaining the industry.
posted by biffa at 10:24 AM on February 25, 2004


y6y6y6 - why not do a 180 ? I did, earlier up the thread.....and I went for your original position for exactly your original reasons - I'm a strong union supporter.

Anyway, I'm sticking with my local milk, especially for that main-distribution system "mixing" - blech.

Yo Big Milk ! - I'll take my hormones and antibiotics on my own time, thank you very much....and I always thought those "Got Milk?" ads sucked too.
posted by troutfishing at 10:31 AM on February 25, 2004


The important questions: (1) Is the regulation increasing the overall public good? This question should underpin all regulation.

(aside from dairy farmers) who says sustaining the milk industry is a good thing? does anyone actually still think that milk is good for you? seriously.

i'd love to see some research. there certainly seem to be respectable people who think otherwise, and research seems to back them up.

however, i admit that, as a vegetarian, my input sources are definitely prejudiced. i am curious as to any additional independent (i.e. not industry-supported) research.

shut up and drink it, you son of a bitch. (sorry)
posted by mrgrimm at 11:29 AM on February 25, 2004


Has anyone else seen the Real California Cheese television ad. It is probably funded by a similar mandatory initiative within California. It shows the cows frolicking in a sprinkler on a hot day. The field they live in is as wide open as the ocean and as green and full of clover as any cow could want. Blue skies, sunny days, and a relaxing happy life making cheese for you and your belived tow-headed offspring.

I am sure few dairy cows in California llive this life. Most are probably indoors in cramped quarters. Injected full of antibiotics and BGH. Sickly looking. Since their milk is so valulable their calves are taken away and fed cows blood from the slughterhouse as a milk substitute. Once their milk production reaches some statistical threshold below max, they are whacked and made into ground round.

Doesn't this disparity betwen reality and the commercial make it false advertising?

I am sure that an organic dairy in California probably would prefer to fund ads that tell the truth and pitch why its products are a better alternative.
posted by jester69 at 11:34 AM on February 25, 2004


Doesn't this disparity betwen reality and the commercial make it false advertising?

ROFL!

ask yourself your own question before, during and after every ad you see. there is no such thing as false advertising when you live inside a giant lie.
posted by quonsar at 11:47 AM on February 25, 2004


And having been around several dairy farms in the course of my life I can confirm that many, though certainly not all, dairy cows live in green pastures. Travel through milk country in CA, MT, or WI and you'll see cows in green pastures, happily munching grass with butterflies dancing about with flowers and trees in the background.
posted by y6y6y6 at 11:55 AM on February 25, 2004


jester69, PETA is way ahead of you. it's been filing lawsuits (without any success) since 2002. apparently, the state government is exempt (!) from false-advertising laws. and PETA is a bunch of crackpots. gotcha.

as the world spins ...
posted by mrgrimm at 12:01 PM on February 25, 2004


quonsar is the voice inside my head!
posted by jpoulos at 12:10 PM on February 25, 2004


[ I wrote this about an hour and a half ago, then Explorer crashed ]

biffa - doesn't this whole forced advertising cartel system artificially pump up public consumption of a food which has questionable merits, especially for the hormones, pesticides and antibiotics in main distribution system milk?

"I think you'll find that the consumer or the taxpayer shoulders the financial burden, as in most regulation." - this does not necessarily follow unless the required milk cartel payments - for ads, etc - are exquisitely tailored : a perfect balance between what the dairies pay into the cartel system and the financial benefit they derive. And I rather doubt that they are. I suspect that the small dairies suffer most from this system (though I don't know enough to prove it). But I DO know that "organic" milk is not subject to the same price controls as is non-organic milk. So organic milk is exempt from the cartel system.

I suspect the small dairies suffer from the cartel system purely because of the economy-of-scale and lowest cost producer factors at play - these penalize quality producers who have any ethic of community responsibility and/or concern for the welfare of their animals. Because of the price controls, the lowest cost producers will benefit most and so will tend to slowly drive small dairies out of business - unless these opt to go organic (which may be their best bet for long term survival).

Giant companies which treat their dairy cattle in a manner which makes me shudder to think about will benefit - as lowest cost producers - the most. By the same token small, higher cost producers - especially those who give a damn about the welfare of their cows - will benefit the least (or be harmed the most) from the cartel system.

The logic is simple.
posted by troutfishing at 12:17 PM on February 25, 2004


We buy milk from the local dairy as well. It's not "Oregon Tilth" organic standards, but I can see the cows grazing on my way to the store if I take the long way...so I know how healthy the herd is and know where and what they eat.
posted by dejah420 at 12:35 PM on February 25, 2004


troutfishing: its not necessarily a bad thing for the consumer that smaller firms go out of business. It depends upon how any resulting reduction in competition effects price, and whether the regulation acts to keep prices down. I don't know enough about the particular industry to comment, which is why I kept my previous comment to generalisations.
One key problem sounds like whatever regulation is in place doesn't give any value to benefits within the system other than volume production so there's little (or no) space for product differentiation, but would the smaller concerns be able to stand up to 'big milk' anyway, if the system was openly competitive and with some labelling system to allow some degree of product differentiation based on, for example, animal welfare? If there's no market demand (and note that this already excludes organic) its difficult to justify changing regulation to take it in to account. The best approach would probably be via forcing the raising of cattle welfare standards across the board.

Regarding your concerns over distribution, in many industries this is a key area for monopolisation (indeed is clearly a natural monopoly in many sectors) and if this is the case in the milk sector, then tight distribution is essential.
posted by biffa at 12:37 PM on February 25, 2004


if the system was openly competitive and with some labelling system to allow some degree of product differentiation based on, for example, animal welfare?

That "if" should be in 48 point type.
posted by jpoulos at 12:51 PM on February 25, 2004


Wow. That's a very big if.
posted by zpousman at 2:57 PM on February 25, 2004


I'm interested in a bigger question: what kind of twisted economic food culture puts the delicious wonder that is milk in the same competitive "space" as a chemically flavored, corn sweetened water? Not that I think we should be drinking more milk, but we should be making better cheese. :)
posted by Dick Paris at 4:13 PM on February 25, 2004


I don't think it does need to be a big if, competition isn't the default cure all that some imagine it is. Some resource systems can be better without it.
posted by biffa at 2:10 AM on February 26, 2004


Frankly, I think the bigger question is "who drinks more milk as a result of viewing these commercials?"

Seriously.

a. They're not advocating a specific brand of milk - that would make sense. They advocate milk in general, which leads to the question:

b. Are there people who sit down and go "Got Milk? Got Milk? What is this 'milk' of which these plebians speak? Is it some kind of face-paint?"

The ads in magazines are what I don't understand - I'm sure most of the money goes to indoctrinating the youth in schools, but damn...
posted by Veritron at 6:28 AM on February 26, 2004


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