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Checkoff Watch: Sharing U.S. dairy’s sustainability story and progress

Contributed by Lisa Watson Published on 11 March 2019

Consumers today are seeking more from the companies and industries that produce the food they purchase. They want assurances the land, animals and employees are taken care of and the products they purchase have a positive societal impact.

This is the reality of the marketplace in which we operate, which is why we must transparently provide information to ensure a strong future for U.S. dairy, domestically and globally. Doing this successfully will take collaboration from across the dairy community.

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Farmers had the foresight 10 years ago to create the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. This forum enables leaders from across the value chain to align on pre-competitive issues and opportunities that build trust and address consumers’ evolving expectations.

By working together, the dairy community has made significant progress in areas important to consumers, such as the environment and animal care, which reinforces the positive and important role dairy plays in global sustainable food systems.

The opportunity now is to aggregate the good work happening on farms, within dairy companies and the community so consumers and customers have a clear picture of our collective progress and commitment to sustainability. Dairy leaders through the Innovation Center are rallying around a U.S. Dairy Stewardship Commitment to do just that.

The Stewardship Commitment will enable the U.S. dairy community to aggregate and collectively report progress and impact in areas important to consumers and customers, including:

  • Caring for animals
  • Producing safe and nutritious food
  • Taking care of the environment
  • Giving back to communities

Last fall, members of the Dairy Sustainability Alliance met at Quail Ridge Dairy in Colorado to learn how the community is working through the Stewardship Commitment to demonstrate positive social, economic and environmental impact.

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Made up of representatives from across the dairy community and representatives from nonprofits, trade organizations, government and academia, the Dairy Sustainability Alliance provides a pre-competitive forum for member organizations to collaborate on issues affecting the industry at large and accelerate progress toward common sustainability goals.

This alignment doesn’t happen without the vision and initiative from farmers, cooperatives and processors, and others who are active in the Dairy Sustainability Alliance, are engaged with the National Dairy FARM (Farmers Assuring Responsible Management) program and who play leadership roles within the Innovation Center. Their voices and perspectives are critical to the progress dairy has made and to how we will go forward with the Stewardship Commitment.

Below are perspectives from dairy farmers instrumental in leading the community and developing the Stewardship Commitment.

Suzanne VoldSuzanne Vold
Dorrich Dairy, Glenwood, Minnesota

“The Dairy Sustainability Alliance shows the power of our industry and what we can accomplish together and how we can harness many dairy stakeholders to lift our message higher, faster and stronger.

Farmers already are doing many sustainable, good stewardship practices. We just need to do a better job of telling the rest of the world about it. The Stewardship Commitment gives us a stepping stone to go forward together and share how we take good care of our people and our land while also being good stewards of our environment and a thriving part of our communities. All of these things have to work together in order to be truly sustainable.”

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Stephen MaddoxStephen Maddox
Maddox Dairy, Fresno, California

“The Stewardship Commitment focuses on those aspects of sustainability that coincide with our values and make the most sense for us to make a real difference. This is hugely important to our customers and, in turn, to their consumers.

For example, we have a great advantage in that our FARM animal care program achieved certification from the International Organization for Standardization. This is the first animal care program in the world to achieve this status, and it builds credibility for U.S. dairy in trade negotiations. The advantages that come from a single initiative like the Stewardship Commitment are important for the whole industry to move forward and make progress together.”

Abbey CopenhaverAbbey Copenhaver
Ivy Lakes Dairy, Stanley, New York

“Being a fifth-generation farmer running a first-generation farm with my husband, I have seen the commitments farmers make on the individual and community level. But consumers want transparency.

We’re humble in nature but need to be more vocal with the efforts we take in being responsible stewards and share that story with the consumer. Farmers are partnering with people across the value chain, thanks to the convening nature of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy.

It gives us an infrastructure beyond our farms to have a national and global platform and a seat at the table with leaders to show them what we’re doing on our farms. The Stewardship Commitment will extend the invitation to even more people who share our goals and values.”  end mark

To learn more about the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and the U.S. Dairy Stewardship Commitment, visit Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy.

Your Dairy Checkoff in Action – The following update is provided by Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), which manages the national dairy checkoff program on behalf of America’s dairy farmers and dairy importers. DMI is the domestic and international planning and management organization responsible for increasing sales of and demand for dairy products and ingredients.

Lisa Watson
  • Lisa Watson

  • Social Responsibility Officer
  • Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy

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