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People at SHS ask to work on the account, in part because the Shattos are so friendly and receptive. "It's not like you created this work for some mean person and then you go on your merry way," says Diamond, who left SHS 18 months ago and formed a new agency, Diamond Merckens Hogan.
If a prospective client is based in Kansas City, the SHS principals always show off the work they've done for Shatto. "People talk about this milk," January says.
Leroy says the relationship with SHS "clicked." Since redesigning the bottles, SHS has helped Shatto Milk Company roll out butter, milk soap and ice cream. "Every time we make something, people want it," Leroy says.
January was shopping for groceries in Brookside one day when he saw Shatto milk being mishandled — but in a way that made him feel good about the job SHS had done. He watched a stock boy arrange the bottles so that the backs faced out from the cooler.
"Hey, I think they're supposed to go that way," January told the stock boy, turning a bottle so that the short stories the "cows" told faced the wall.
"No, no," the stock boy said. "People need to read that."
Leroy Shatto used to sell his milk to the Dairy Farmers of America, the nation's largest dairy co-op. As the operator of a relatively small farm, Leroy felt insignificant to the co-op, which picks up milk from 19,500 farmers. "They really don't need us," he says.
Few things seem more innocent than a dairy farm. But the dairy industry is something else entirely. The milk business has had an often controversial, sometimes bloody history. A strike of farmers in New York in 1933 prompted The New York Times to report that the state was "closer to martial law than at any time since the Revolutionary War."
The blockades of FDR's day eventually gave way to influence buying. Until recently, the DFA was run by a minor figure in the Watergate scandal.
President Richard Nixon met with leaders of the dairy lobby on March 23, 1971. Traditionally aligned with Democrats, the dairy industry sought Nixon's favor once he became president. In 1969, dairy officials gave $100,000 in cash to Herbert Kalmbach, Nixon's personal attorney. The following year, a dairy official pledged $2 million to Nixon's re-election campaign.
Nixon recognized the dairy lobby's political consciousness when he met with them in the Cabinet Room at the White House. Tapes running, the president said a lot of businesses "don't do anything about it. And you do, and I appreciate that. And I don't have to spell it out."
The dairy officials left the meeting with presidential cuff links. Two days later, they received a much greater gift: Nixon's secretary of agriculture announced that price supports would increase by 27 cents per 100 pounds of milk.
Gary Hanman, then an executive at Mid-American Dairymen, a co-op in Springfield, Missouri, attended the meeting with Nixon. Hanman would later brag to a member in a letter that the dairy industry's political activity had "played a major part" in the administration's decision to raise prices.
The milk producers' contributions eventually came under the scrutiny of Watergate investigators. Two executives at a Chicago-based co-op went to prison for making illegal donations. Nixon Treasury Secretary John B. Connally was tried and acquitted on perjury and conspiracy charges for his role in the 1971 increase in milk price supports.
Hanman, meanwhile, went on to bigger things. In 1998, Mid-American merged with co-ops based in Colorado, Ohio and Texas to form the Dairy Farmers of America. The merged company set up headquarters in a glass-sheathed office building near Kansas City International Airport.