U.S. Dairy Sustainability Commitment — A Review

Dairy cows out at Pt. ReyesThe U.S. Sustainable Dairy Commitment is a collective effort involving the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, and dairy farmers, processors, retailers and businesses. The purpose of the commitment is to work together to “provide products that are nutritious, produced responsibly and economically viable for all.” [1]

The original sustainability commitment, signed between the Innovation Center and USDA in 2008, provides that the dairy industry will be proactive in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Specifically, the industry-wide, voluntary goal is to reduce U.S. dairy’s GHGs by 25% by the year 2020. Additionally, dairy producers have seen the following benefits [2]:

  • More than 6,000 producers received a total of $287 million through USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentive Program to implement conservation practices
  • USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program invested more than $53 million to install anaerobic digesters on dairy farms (anaerobic digesters basically break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen, and thus reducing the amount of landfill gas emission into the atmosphere)
  • Over 350 on-farm and in-plant energy audits were conducted, and nearly $640,000 in cost-share grants were provided for energy efficiency equipment

It is exciting that the dairy industry has accepted the challenge to reduce GHGs and make dairy processes more efficient, both for the sake of the environment and the economy. As an animal lover, I do wish there was some language about also incorporating humane practices, however it appears that humane practices are included in the requirement to produce dairy products responsibly. I’m sure that’s already written down somewhere in the industry guidelines, but it would be nice for this sustainability commitment to also include a pledge to engage in practices that are healthier for the environment, more efficient for the economy, and more humane in the treatment of animals in the dairy industry.

Are there are dairy buffs out there who’ve had any experience with this Sustainability Commitment? After reading a few articles from various news sources, and of course, the Innovation Center’s website, I’m very curious to see what impact this is having in the diary industry, and if dairy producers/processors are seeing a difference.

To learn more from the folks at the Innovation Center, you can visit their website at www.usdairy.com.


* Please note, I am not an expert in anything dairy, except for the fact that I love the products. All views expressed in this article are my personal opinions and do not reflect the views of any organization with which I am affiliated. Please forgive any ignorance to practices or industry standards. Any comments are welcome!

[1] See Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy website at www.usdairy.com/sustainability

[2] Gallagher, Tom, “U.S. dairy’s sustainability commitment realizes benefits for dairy producers”, June 4, 2013,  http://dairybusiness.com/seo/headline.php?title=u-s-dairy-s-sustainability-commitment-realize&date=2013-06-04&table=features.  Gallagher is the C.E.O. of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy.