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Milk, it does the Valley good

Andy Bourelle

Nevada Milk or Nothin’.

That is the recent message from the Northern Nevada Dairymen, and the focus of a year-long advertising campaign.

“What we’re trying to do is focus the consumer’s attention,” said Craig Witt, owner of Douglas County’s Milky Way Farms and a member of the Northern Nevada Dairymen. “We’re trying to educate consumers that Nevada milk is produced locally. Given the choice, given the proper knowledge, I think Douglas County residents would choose to drink milk produced right here in the Carson Valley.”

Witt said many Douglas County residents may not even realize the Valley has milk cows, and the purpose of the campaign is to inform people they can buy fresh, local milk.

“It doesn’t take much to realize the milk produced closest is the freshest,” Witt said.

Also, Witt said residents typically like to support local businesses and industry – the dairy industry should be no different.

“Supporting local industry makes the entire community more viable,” Witt said. “There’s a huge amount of local business tied into the dairy industry.”

Witt said there is an assessment imposed over the dairy business, where a certain amount of profit must go toward promotion. Fifteen cents of the money made from every 100 pounds of milk goes toward advertising. Five cents of that must go toward the promotion of milk in general. The other 10 cents can stay within an area that has the infrastructure to promote locally.

In October, the Northern Nevada Dairymen agreed to use the 10 cents for every 100 pounds on the Nevada Milk or Nothin’ campaign. Witt said the campaign cannot advertise a specific processor but can encourage consumers to ask their retailers what brands of milk came from Nevada.

The Northern Nevada Dairymen has been putting the money toward the “Got milk?” campaign, which Witt said was considered the second most successful national advertising campaign in 1996, but decided this year to focus more locally.

Witt described the ad campaign as aggressive and unique.

The dairy business, especially in Douglas County, is in trouble, according to Witt.

“We’re struggling for survival,” he said.

Local dairies have continued to close over the recent years and the Valley now has only four dairy farms.

The producer price is how much, or about how much, the dairy farmer makes from 100 pounds of milk. According to the State Dairy Commission, the price now is $14.81.

The price was more than $17 last December, Witt said, because there was less corn available for feed and therefore less milk produced. From January to February, the producer price dropped to $14.31. While the producer price dropped $3 in one month, what consumers pay at stores saw only a slow, slight drop. Milk is a staple food, Witt said, and many people simply buy it, unaware of what the prices are doing.

During August and September, the price was $12.49, the lowest since 1991.

“There’s a lot to it (starting the advertising campaign),” Witt said. “It’s not just ‘that’s a catchy phrase.'”

What county residents can do to help Northern Nevada dairy farmers, Witt said, is to buy Nevada milk. The purpose of the advertising campaign is just to educate Nevada residents, make them aware they can buy Nevada milk instead of out-of-state brands if they choose to.

“We want to increase consumer awareness that there are milk cows in Nevada,” Witt said. “We don’t think it could hurt us.”

Witt’s milk processor and the closest one to the Carson Valley is Model Dairy in Reno.