The Dairy Industry’s New Sustainability Tools

Dairy cowsThe dairy industry has a few new tools to become more sustainable. The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy recently announced that the draft of the “Stewardship and Sustainability Guide for U.S. Dairy” is available for review for a 60-day open stakeholder consultation period.

The review period began on May 15, 2013, and ends on July 14, 2013. The Innovation Center also announced the release of the 2012 U.S. Dairy Sustainability Report, the third annual report by the industry regarding sustainability. Both the guide and the report were developed under the leadership of the U.S. Dairy Sustainability Council.

In 2011, the Innovation Center launched the development of the guide, which identifies the important indicators for assessing sustainability and communicating results in the dairy industry. The guide includes Guiding Principles, which express the dairy industry’s sustainability values. The U.S. Dairy Innovation Center Sustainability Council has endorsed the Guiding Principles. The Guiding Principles include supporting “socially responsible, economically viable and environmentally sound dairy food systems.”

The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy suggests ways that dairy producers and processors can use the guide, which include:

  • Enhancing their leadership in sustainability by identifying and communicating sustainability performance to stakeholders
  • Tracking progress toward the voluntary industry-wide goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for fluid milk by 25 percent by 2020
  • Tracking progress over time and identifying opportunities for efficiencies and improvement
  • Comparing themselves against industry averages

The 2012 U.S. Dairy Sustainability Report points out a few important facts about the importance of the dairy industry. Dairy is the third-largest agricultural commodity. In 2011, the dairy industry had revenues of $39.5 billion at the farm level, accounting for 10.6 percent of U.S. agriculture’s total value. Dairy production and processing occurs in all 50 states. Dairy is the number one agricultural product by income in 10 states: Arizona, California, Idaho, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont and Wisconsin.

The report includes the 2012 energy results of Innovation Center projects, which help meet the GHG emission reduction goals. One of those projects is called Farm Energy Efficiency. This project promotes the use of energy audits to help producers plan for and achieve significant energy use reductions, plus reduce operating costs. Last year, 169 dairy farms completed energy audits with associated energy cost savings estimated at over $660,000.

Another project is the Dairy Plant Smart and U.S. EPA Energy Star Challenge. It promotes industry participation in the USA EPA Energy Star Challenge for Industry, which is a national call to action for commercial and industrial operations to improve energy efficiency. The specific goal for the dairy industry is to reduce energy intensity by 10 percent in five years. The dairy industry is one of the leading sectors in the Energy Star Challenge, making up 23.5 percent of participating plants. Through 2012, 148 dairy companies signed up for the challenge, and 25 processors already met the goal, saving 1,041,860 million British thermal units of energy in 2012, which is enough energy to power 23,899 homes for one year.

Photo: Flickr user, Jrubinic

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by

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