Sustainability is top of mind for dairy farmers and the dairy industry overall. There are several things happening to ensure dairy is part of the global solution to protecting our people, planet and communities for the future:

1. Industry-wide commitment – In 2020, the U.S. dairy industry committed to greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) neutrality by 2050 as well as to reduce water use and improve water quality. Even before this commitment, the dairy industry brought together groups from across the supply chain – from dairy farmers to dairy processing companies to grocery retailers -- to discuss coordinated efforts for a sustainable future. In 2008, wanting to understand its impact, dairy farmers conducted a lifecycle assessment research project to learn just how much the industry contributed to greenhouse gas emissions. That project indicated 2% of US greenhouse gas emissions are attributable to dairy.

2. Progress – a commitment is great, but how do we get there?

    1. Partnerships – Working with groups like US Farmers and Ranchers in Action, the goal is to share resources and scale innovations to activate on a cohesive plan together. One of those is declaring 2020-2030 the Decade of Agriculture, which emphasizes the importance of all of agriculture to identify vibrant solutions to some of our current threats and challenges. Other partnerships with groups such as the Nature Conservancy and American Farmland Trust can also help reach shared goals quickly.
    2. Research – Learning how various technologies can work on a variety of farms is helpful in determining practical solutions for farms of varying geographies, sizes and types. Instead of searching for a one-size-fits-all solution, farmers need options. Current research includes:
      • Reducing methane – the industry is approaching this in two ways, first by researching how to reduce the methane production of dairy cows (i.e., reducing the amount of methane produced when cows digest their food and belch, and second, by looking at the opportunity to use methane as a renewable energy source.
      • Manure management – manure is a valuable resource that can improve soil health and be used as an energy source. Learning how to best manage manure can help reduce emissions and better inform its utilization.
      • Cow nutrition – cows are natural recyclers and can turn byproducts from other sectors of agriculture (think beet pulp, almond hulls, cottonseed) into high quality nutrition. Animal nutritionists study the impact of various feed on a cow’s diet to determine health, quality and impact.
    3. Crop Science – techniques like double-cropping, low/no till and cover-cropping can help improve soil health and reduce emissions. Not every practice works on every farm or with every crop, so a variety of technologies should be considered.

    3. Dairy processing – the stewardship commitment provides a transparent way for dairy companies to collectively demonstrate positive social, environmental and economic impact through collaboration across the value chain. Here’s an example of what one processor is doing in our region.

      For more, visitCan Dairy Be Sustainable? Yes, and Here’s Why