Checkoff employee salaries are in the spotlight again, and this time it’s Tom Vilsack, CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC), facing scrutiny.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Vilsack, who served as agriculture secretary during President Barack Obama’s administration, was paid $999,421 in 2018. It was his first full year leading USDEC.
In Journal Sentinel article, Joe Maxwell, former executive director of Organization of Competitive Markets, questioned the checkoff program’s effectiveness, as USDEC is checkoff-funded organization. Maxwell said checkoff CEOs are overpaid “considering the (lack of) success dairy farmers are seeing in the marketplace.”
Milk prices were at record lows the past three years. However, in 2018 U.S. dairy exports totaled $5,585.2 million, compared to $5,480.9 million in 2017 and $4,815.3 million in 2016. Dairy farmers are exporting more milk now than before Vilsack accepted his current job, 9% more on an aggregate volume basis, according to export data.
Earlier this year the Journal Sentinel published Dairy Management Inc. CEO Tom Gallagher’s salary.
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