Dairy Industry Aims to Cut GHG 25% by 2020

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy have agreed to work jointly in support of the U.S. dairy industry’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25% over the next decade.

In a memorandum released shortly before press time, the USDA and the industry-wide dairy group identified a variety of projects that can help the dairy industry achieve those greenhouse gas reduction goals and increase its financial and environmental sustainability.

The agreement was signed by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Thomas Gallagher, chief executive officer of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and Dairy Management Inc., which manages the national dairy checkoff program on behalf of the nation’s dairy farmers. DMI was one of the founding organizations of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, which was created to foster precompetitive collaboration and innovation on strategies designed to increase sales of milk and milk products.

“This memorandum came about because of the commitment of U.S. dairy farmers and the dairy industry to a sustainable future that includes both environmental and economic viability,” Gallagher said. “Sustainability goes hand in hand with our heritage of taking care of the land and natural resources while producing nutritious products that consumers want.”

Under the agreement, USDA will take a number of steps to help farmers, including supporting a strategic research plan to help the industry further reduce environmental impacts. Other initiatives would help the industry develop future technologies, advance nutrient management, support renewable energy and improve energy efficiency.

“These efforts build on the Innovation Center’s U.S. Dairy Sustainability Commitment, which includes projects designed to reach the greenhouse gas reduction goal of 25% by 2020,” said Jerry Kozak, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation.

Potential outcomes include accelerating opportunities to adopt livestock manure processing systems that capture methane gas from livestock manure and convert it into electricity, coordinating research information on life cycle assessments, and supporting the industry’s efforts in energy audits, feed management and energy conservation. 

Gallagher noted that the Innovation Center is nearing completion of an unprecedented life cycle assessment of fluid milk from farm to table. Initial estimates by the Applied Sustainability Center at the University of Arkansas show that the entire dairy supply chain, from cattle feed ingredients through packaging and transportation to the consumer’s table, accounts for less than 2% of the nation’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

The agreement may help accelerate adoption of methane gas digesters for all sizes of dairy farms, making it easier to connect digesters to electricity grids and help digester operators capture potential carbon offset payments.

“We are very pleased to be working with Secretary Vilsack and the entire USDA,” said Connie Tipton, president and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association. “The additional cooperative efforts and assistance spelled out in this agreement will help the dairy industry move forward with its greenhouse gas reduction roadmap and further its role as a leader in sustainability.”

For more information, visit USDairy.com.


Dairy Groups Urge Senators to Expand Food Safety Regulations

The International Dairy Foods Association and the National Milk Producers Federation have asked senators planning to mark up key food safety legislation to rectify certain omissions.

In a letter to Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, and Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.), the committee’s ranking member, the dairy groups called for requiring all facilities producing raw or unpasteurized milk products for direct human consumption to register with FDA and adhere to the tried-and-true food safety requirements that are followed by all other facilities producing milk products.

IDFA and NMPF support the proposed “FDA Food Safety Modernization Act” and urge senators to expand the regulations to include facilities producing raw milk products for direct human consumption. In addition, the dairy groups would like the bill to recognize that state inspections of dairy facilities under the PMO already meet necessary food safety requirements and no duplicate functions are warranted.

Although unpasteurized, or raw, milk products are considered to pose a significant food safety hazard, facilities producing these products are not covered by any of the food safety regulations proposed so far this year by Congress. These facilities also remain exempt from existing regulations enforced by all states, which are known as the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance, that set the standard for maintaining the safety of the nation’s milk and milk product supply.  Cheeses made from unpasteurized milk that have been aged to eliminate the risk of foodborne illnesses are not considered raw milk products.

PMO also covers all aspects of hazard analysis, planning and monitoring from farm to plant to delivery of finished milk products to retail outlets. These extensive requirements are enhanced and updated every two years through a coordinated program between FDA and state regulatory departments, resulting in very low numbers of food safety problems for pasteurized dairy products.

Raw milk products intended for human consumption have been associated with a much higher incidence of food-related illnesses. But the products and facilities producing them are not required to comply with food safety plans, record keeping and access, and other regulations that are triggered by registration with FDA.

Because facilities following the PMO already pay fees for state licensing and inspections, IDFA and NMPF recommend that these state fees be credited against any new FDA registration fees if such fees are added to the food safety bill.