Ben & Jerry’s, Burlington, Vt., and Migrant Justice said they reached a historic agreement to implement Migrant Justice’s worker-driven Milk with Dignity (MD) program in Ben & Jerry’s Northeast dairy supply chain.

Over the past two years, the parties have worked tirelessly to accomplish their shared goal to bring together farmworkers, farmers and dairy buyers to ensure just and dignified working conditions in Ben & Jerry’s northeast dairy supply chain. Work will begin this fall on a multi-year plan, with the goal of eventually sourcing 100% of Ben & Jerry’s milk through the MD program and a holistic dairy program that addresses all key aspects of dairy farming, Ben & Jerry’s said.

The MD program, modeled after the world-renowned Fair Food Program, enlists the resources of food industry leaders such as Ben & Jerry’s to provide a premium for dairy ingredients to participating farmers who agree to work toward compliance with the labor standards in the Milk with Dignity Code of Conduct. The premium paid to farmers helps offset farms’ costs of compliance with the code, rewards farms that comply and allows farmers to pass through a portion of the premium as a bonus paid to workers, Ben & Jerry’s said.

In the MD program, compliance on the farm is achieved through a unique partnership and problem-solving approach among farmers, farmworkers and the Milk with Dignity Standards Council (MDSC). The MDSC is an independent non-profit that works with farmers and farmworkers to understand, participate in and achieve compliance with labor standards in the code, Ben & Jerry’s said.

Jostein Solheim, CEO of Ben & Jerry’s, acknowledged how key the farmers and the St. Albans Cooperative are to making the next steps of program implementation possible, sharing that this program will result in a win-win for all involved.

“Vermont’s farmers can continue to set the tone for the dairy industry,” he said. “Today, whether it is for animal care, environmentally sound operations, and now, enhanced labor practices, Vermont’s farming community will continue to lead the nation.

“We are proud of our partnership with the St. Albans Cooperative, and these farmers have our full commitment,” he continued. “We recognize the many challenges facing the Vermont dairy farmers today, and we need to do what we can collectively to support the farmers moving forward. We can’t do this without them.”

Both organizations put pen to paper at the Ben & Jerry’s scoop shop in their shared hometown of Burlington, Vt. The plan now is to put the buyer’s agreement into practice by recruiting farmers from St. Albans Cooperative to join the program as soon as possible, the company said. Moving forward, The MD program will be one of the focused “pillars” of Ben & Jerry’s new dairy sourcing to address the full farm ecosystem.