A nonprofit that’s supposed to promote dairy pays its leaders millions — while the farmers who fund it are going out of business

Friday, January 3rd, 2020

Dairyland in Distress Cary Spivak, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Updated 10:50 a.m. EDT Sep. 24, 2019

As the number of dairy farms nationwide has plummeted by nearly 20,000 over the past decade, there’s one corner of the industry doing just fine:

The top executives at Dairy Management Inc., who are paid from farmers’ milk checks. 

The Illinois-based nonprofit is charged with promoting milk, cheese and other products — spending nearly $160 million a year collected through federally-mandated payments from dairy farmers.

In 2017, a year in which 503 dairy farms closed in Wisconsin and 1,600 were shuttered nationwide, IRS records show 10 executives at the organization were paid more than $8 million — an average of more than $800,000 each.

Pay for Thomas Gallagher, the group’s CEO, has topped $1 million three times from 2013 to 2017, the most recent year for which data is available, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation into spending by the group found. His compensation included access to first-class travel and money to cover part of his taxes.

Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack, the group’s executive vice president, was paid $800,557 in 2017. (MORE)