California Milk Advisory Board float in the Tournament of Roses Parade

Getty Images photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez.

California Milk Advisory Board's award-winning float

A well-deserved kudos goes out to the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) for its award-winning entry in the recent Tournament of Roses Parade.

For the first time in the parade’s 127-year history the CMAB entered a decorative float that captured the attention of parade announcers and judges alike by earning the Tournament Special Trophy for “exceptional merit in multiple classifications.”

I bring this up in part because some time ago I compared the national dairy industry’s marketing efforts to that of the Almond Board of California. In short, I wondered how milk prices might be different if milk producers aggressively marketed themselves like the almond industry.

Little did I know when I wrote this in late 2013 that the Federal Order Class 3 (cheese) milk price would soon rocket past $20 per hundredweight and stay there for a full year before crashing back to unprofitable levels. Even California dairymen saw their state order price for similar milk jump above $20 for much of 2014; though it lagged behind the level their federal order counterparts were paid.

Not only did the colorful float catch my attention, the lengthy commercials during the parade with footage of California dairy families interspersed with tempting images of dairy products and pastoral scenes of cows and dairies were interesting. So tempting was the commercial that featured a grilled cheese sandwich that I responded accordingly and made my two of my own from a couple types of cheese and real butter.

The commercials, the Rose Parade float and the CMAB’s latest website were all masterfully done. The spots that feature real California dairy producers tug at the heartstrings like the Paul Harvey voiceover commercial for Dodge that we first saw during a recent Super Bowl.

The Rose Parade float was a first for the state’s dairy organization that since 1969 has promoted California dairy products in an ever-growing and competitive marketplace. The CMAB is funded by dairy producers through a special assessment based on milk production. Its programs and administration are supervised by the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

It’s no secret that the Almond Board of California has done a remarkable job keeping demand ahead of supply for a product grown largely in the Golden State. Perhaps that’s the biggest difference between it and milk as dairy products are produced in many states and U.S. almonds are only grown in California.

It’s also important to note that milk prices are set by convoluted formulas regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture while almond prices are not government-controlled.

Maybe that’s where the sustainable success of the U.S. dairy industry is hiding, behind a bunch of government regulation that a busload of lawyers can’t define for the layman.

I personally hope that the national dairy industry and its state counterparts can find a solution to their wild price swings and oftentimes unprofitable prices. Perhaps a new marketing program like the CMAB looks to have started can be the beginning of something positive for the industry.

It’s not just the milk producer who suffers when milk prices are unprofitable; those who grow the forages that feed the nation’s milk herd rely heavily on a profitable dairy industry to remain in business.

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