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  • 9 Strategies to Showcase Dairy's Economic Impact in Your State

    By USDEC March 14, 2019

    Dairy supports nearly 3 million U.S. jobs and a new study shows more than 45 million jobs are connected to the food and agriculture sectors. 

    When three Washington-based dairy organizations joined forces last year to tell dairy's economic impact story, we agreed on a unified message: "Dairy creates jobs, exports create more."

    That was a start, but a huge challenge remained.


    How could we deliver that educational message so it resonated in a swirling sea of conflicting economic claims made by academics, think tanks, industry groups and others?

    Solution: We divided and conquered and found strength in numbers.

    Those numbers included research-based economic data and amplification of content by dairy organizations across the country. 

    Amazingly, the campaign accomplished all of its quantifiable goals in just five months, seven months ahead of schedule. Key performance indicators as of March 2019 include:

    • More than 1,900 social media mentions and 483 news articles of "dairy" appearing within five words of "jobs," according to monitoring by Meltwater News.
    • Nearly 400 pieces of content ranging from fact sheets to videos created by the three sponsoring organizations. 
    • More than 50 dairy groups beyond Washington utilizing these resources to tell dairy's economic impact story in their states and local communities.

    Stories -- backed by data

    The dairy industry has always had compelling stories to tell about hard-working producers, processors and others in a supply chain that starts on the farm and can end up with exports of cheese and other dairy products to faraway places like Southeast Asia hungry for what U.S. Dairy offers.

    What made this effort particularly effective was data sliced and diced into accessible economic fact sheets, infographics, photos and videos at, a portal created and managed by the U.S. Dairy Export Council, the National Milk Producers Federation and the International Dairy Foods Association.

    IDFA's economic impact tool, Dairy Delivers®, is a significant research project that quantifies our industry's economic ripple effect. Most important for dairy state and regional organizations is the ability to drill down for granular data on economic outputs like wages, tax revenue and GDP for every state and congressional district. 

    Clearinghouse of reliable info has turned into a clearinghouse of information educating consumers, taxpayers and the U.S. public about the dairy industry's economic impact. 

    Got Jobs Logo 1

    In an article, "How Three Associations Partnered to Tame the Content Beast," Associations Now magazine praised the campaign as a prototype for other organizations want to collaborate.

    Even more gratifying for USDEC, NMPF and IDFA are increasing reports from dairy organizations across the country that they are utilizing these resources at the state and local level. 

    "When people see how many jobs the dairy industry contributes to their local communities, it really speaks to them,” says Carol Hardbarger, consumer member of the Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board. "Anyone with a job, whether in agriculture or not, can relate to this. Everyone wants those jobs to remain in the state—and even grow in number."

    How can you use data to showcase dairy's economic impact in your state? Here are nine effective strategies we have seen:

    1. Distribute one-page state fact sheets.

    The Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board's Carol Hardbarger is a tireless advocate for the dairy industry.

    Hardbarger has found the one-page state fact sheets downloadable from invaluable for:

    • Listening sessions between PMMB and dairy farmers in the state.
    • PMMB’s newsletter that goes to milk processors, dairy farmers, state legislators, staff members in the state department of agriculture, ag lobbying organizations, county extension offices and others.
    • A list-serve email that includes the state secretary of agriculture and staff members on state Senate and House Ag and Rural Affairs Committees.

    Government officials in Minnesota picked up fact sheets displayed at  a recent ice cream social hosted by Midwest Dairy at the State Capitol.  

    Got Jobs Sharing20Dairy farmer Mary Arendt, shown at left, staffed a table at the Minnesota State Capitol, offering ice cream and state fact sheets. One of the fact sheets explained the impact of dairy on the Minnesota economy, while another described the economic benefit of dairy exports from the Gopher State. Looking over the offerings, at right, are Minnesota Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan and State Auditor Julie Blaha. 

    How do you get these fact sheets? At, you can download a "state bundle" of three fact sheets providing:

    • A visually appealing overview with three data points about your state.
    • A breakdown of key economic indicators in your state. 
    • An explanation of "dairy exports by the numbers" in your state. 

    GotJobs sharing6

    2.  Create your own infographic.

    The American Dairy Association Mideast, an affiliate of The National Dairy Council, created this graphic published in a Columbus, Ohio, business publication. 

    GotJobs sharing4

    “The `Got Jobs?' information was perfect to share with our business leaders," said Jenny Hubble,  senior vice president of communications at American Dairy Association Mideast. "We appreciate having it as a resource,” 

    Barb Williams, dairy processing specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension,  shared "Got Jobs?" data with colleagues who developed the infographics below and shared with state legislators.

    New York2

    “Due to the fact New York State funds some extension programs directly, it is important for legislators to understand the impact of these (dairy-related) jobs on the local economy,” Williams said.

    Similarly, the Iowa State Dairy Association (ISDA) included economic impact data in a document handed out to state legislators on March 12. 

    Associate Director Jenna Finch said that when ISDA communicates with policymakers, "we really hone in on the economic impact numbers and the number of jobs."

    A national trade publication,  Dairy Herd Management, published this eye-catching infographic with "Got Jobs?" data. 

    Dairy Herd Management infographic

    3. Connect dairy to agriculture's job-creation story.

    Putting dairy's economic impact into a broader context makes for an even better, more textured, story.

    On Wednesday, a nationwide economic impact study was released that gives dairy organizations new ability to do just that. The study found that more than one-fifth of the nation’s economy is linked, either directly or indirectly, to the food and agriculture sectors.


    More than 45 million jobs, one-fourth of all American jobs, are similarly connected. 

    The research is available at

     GotJobs sharing3

    4. Embed, play and share videos.

    Videos for the top 10 dairy jobs-generating states—California, Wisconsin, New York, Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Minnesota, Illinois and Michigan—are available at the Got Dairy Jobs site.

    A video is also available showing dairy's national economic impact.

    Videos can be played at meetings, embedded into websites and shared by email. 

    5. Amplify, amplify, amplify on social media. 

    A smart social media strategy is how "Got Jobs?" has flown "under the radar" to make an impact with no advertising budget. 

    Many but not all of the 1,900 social media posts to date originated with NMPF, IDFA and USDEC, all using the #GotDairyJobs hashtag for easy tagging and tracking. Amplification occurs when people "like," "retweet" and "share" what they see with people in their respective social media tribes, who in turn share it with their networks. 

    The end result is a mushrooming effect.

    For example, Sheri Allen, a certified cheese professional from West Point, Utah, retweeted the following post from USDEC to her followers. “I’m happy to spread the word!” she says.


    Another amplifier is Theresa Sweeney, special projects coordinator at the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.

    “Dairy is obviously a priority for our Department, as it accounts for 50 percent of agriculture in our state (by sales). We promote dairy farms and/or processors on our social media platforms at least every other week,” Sweeney says.

    6. Weave data into websites and newsletters.

    Last May, Stephanie Cundith, of the Midwest Dairy corporate communications team, wrote a 520-word article that appeared in the organization's electronic newsletter. 

    Got Jobs sharing21 (3)

    Scott Higgins, CEO of the American Dairy Association Mideast, wrote this article that appears on the Association's website. 

    7. Offer the research to hungry journalists.

    Journalists are constantly looking for ways to provide local examples of national trends. Your state economic impact resources are a gold mine for media. 

    Let them know by calling, emailing or communicating via social media, always providing an easy link to the resources.

    Through a partnership between American Dairy Association Mideast and Columbus Business First, this article appeared in the Cincinnati Business Courier


    8. Write guest editorials and letters to the editor.

    The U.S. Dairy Export Council offered this opinion piece by President and CEO Tom Vilsack to The Sacramento Bee newspaper. The article quantified the importance of dairy to California’s economy and explained how free-trade agreements support jobs in California by giving exporters a level playing field to compete with global competitors.


    While placing an op-ed can be difficult getting a letter to the editor published is easier, especially if you make a point backed up by data.

    9. Show faces of real people working real jobs, thanks to dairy.  

    Karianne Fallow, CEO of Dairy West, used photos and video to put  a "face" on families—and jobs—in this article showing the Teunissen family from Caldwell, Idaho. 


    The article points out that more than 95 percent of American dairy farms are family-owned businesses, not Fortune 500 corporations. What’s more, unlike many industries, dairy is decentralized, boosting the economies of every rural community, city and state.

    Showing real people working real dairy jobs connects dairy faces to our data points. It's memorable local, state and regional storytelling like this that drives home our industry's unified message: "Dairy creates jobs, exports create more."

    Mark O'Keefe is vice president of editorial services at the U.S. Dairy Export Council. He helps manage the ongoing "Got Jobs?" campaign. Have you tapped into the "Got Jobs?" resources? Let Mark know at

    Learn more about dairy's economic impact story:

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    The U.S. Dairy Export Council fosters collaborative industry partnerships with processors, trading companies and others to enhance global demand for U.S. dairy products and ingredients. USDEC is primarily supported by Dairy Management Inc. through the dairy farmer checkoff. How to republish this post.  

    Got Jobs? Next5% Dairy checkoff
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