Say Cheese! Or Not

Today’s example of why government needs to get out of the business of business comes from the right-wring rag known as the New York Times:

Dairy Management, which has made cheese its cause, is not a private business consultant. It is a marketing creation of the United States Department of Agriculture — the same agency at the center of a federal anti-obesity drive that discourages over-consumption of some of the very foods Dairy Management is vigorously promoting.

Urged on by government warnings about saturated fat, Americans have been moving toward low-fat milk for decades, leaving a surplus of whole milk and milk fat. Yet the government, through Dairy Management, is engaged in an effort to find ways to get dairy back into Americans’ diets, primarily through cheese.


[I]n a series of confidential agreements approved by agriculture secretaries in both the Bush and Obama administrations, Dairy Management has worked with restaurants to expand their menus with cheese-laden products.

Consider the Taco Bell steak quesadilla, with cheddar, pepper jack, mozzarella and a creamy sauce. “The item used an average of eight times more cheese than other items on their menu,” the Agriculture Department said in a report, extolling Dairy Management’s work — without mentioning that the quesadilla has more than three-quarters of the daily recommended level of saturated fat and sodium.

Dairy Management, whose annual budget approaches $140 million, is largely financed by a government-mandated fee on the dairy industry. But it also receives several million dollars a year from the Agriculture Department, which appoints some of its board members, approves its marketing campaigns and major contracts and periodically reports to Congress on its work.

I have previously addressed how the government’s interference involvement in the US dairy markets causes problems, but this takes things to another level.

Since the government has taken responsiblity for dairy production by both subsidizing it as well as setting production norms, among other things, it has an interest in selling the resulting product. At the same time, we have been told that we are too stupid to manage our own diets–as a result of which the government has an interest in setting diet criteria for us. The difficulty in this particular situation is that these competing functions of government puts it on both sides of the same issue.

This is what happens when one takes a functioning system and mandates a change which the market did not ask for–one then needs to keep adjusting other variables to compensate.

HT: Betsy’s Page