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Checkoff Watch: Today’s crisis won’t deter us from tomorrow’s goals

Contributed by Krysta Harden Published on 26 May 2020
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We’re living through some of the most challenging, unprecedented times in our lives as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic. To help farmers nationwide weather this crisis, Dairy Management Inc.

(DMI) temporarily shifted our business plan to prioritize getting dairy foods into the hands of the growing number of food insecure by addressing supply chain challenges and working collaboratively with foodservice, retail and industry partners.

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And yet, as challenging as the times have been, they have also presented an opportunity for us to further reflect and perhaps be even more ready once a sense of normalcy returns. There will be lessons learned for everyone, like how shelter-in-place guidelines, fewer cars on the road and reduced manufacturing, among other factors, impacted the environment.

And we will have the opportunity to show that not only does U.S. dairy play an essential role in sustainably feeding people around the world but also in being an environmental solution to many of the challenges we face.

That’s why the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy worked with farmers, co-ops, processors and other stakeholders to establish a new set of voluntary environmental stewardship goals for the U.S. dairy community. These goals build on the environmental work farmers and companies have been progressing for decades to further demonstrate dairy’s positive impact from farm to table. They will advance dairy’s role in building a sustainable future and include ambitions to achieve neutral or better carbon emissions, optimized water usage and improved water quality by 2050.

The original plan was to publicly and proudly share the 2050 environmental stewardship goals in April in advance of the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day. Little did we know when plans were drafted how dramatically different the world would look in the midst of a global pandemic. So while plans for sharing the goals with thought leaders, the media and consumers were put on hold, continuing to move forward with our collective plan for how we will make progress toward the goals was not.

We focused on discussions with dairy producer trade organizations and co-ops. We talked about our journey to these shared goals and discussed ways we can collectively work together to achieve them with the Innovation Center’s U.S. Dairy Sustainability Alliance, which includes more than 40 farmers and 120 member companies representing cooperatives, processors, brands, retailers, academia, government and advocacy organizations.

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Once the dust settles on this crisis, people will pick back up conversations on the importance of the environment and the need for sustainable ways to feed a growing population. In fact, conversations around the connection between sustainability, climate change and global pandemics have already started, and we must ensure that dairy farming, and agriculture and food production in general, are recognized for being a key part of the solution and not the problem. Now is not the time to stop the momentum farmers and others have been building for so many years.

I have listened to farmers and have heard their fears, the uncertainty about what the future holds. And as a daughter of a farmer, I empathize and remain even more committed to sharing farmers’ stories of perseverance and bringing to the table new partners, new resources and technologies that can help secure a bright future for dairy. A key aspect of that future will be U.S. dairy’s ongoing leadership and commitment to sustainability … to responsibly producing nutritious foods that nourish people and communities while also ensuring care for the planet.  end mark

PHOTO: Getty Images

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.

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