President Taft's cow
A view on dairy sustainability from the White House

It’s a rare day when a colleague doesn’t ask me about the dairy industry’s sustainability commitment.

The Council on Environmental Quality asks how they can further support dairy’s sustainability efforts. My associate on the Energy and Climate team is always asking “how are we doing on the biogas roadmap?” The National Economic Council is interested in new sources of on-farm revenue. The Science and Technology Policy folks want to know about innovations related to the energy grid and digester technology. And the First Lady’s team is interested in how sustainability relates to health and wellness.

The dairy sustainability effort is something we’ve supported since its very beginning, and you all have had an impact well beyond what you could even imagine here in Washington, D.C.

What dairy farmers are accomplishing is a testament to how united the industry is. I come from a rural part of western Pennsylvania and I’ve always observed how well the agriculture community sticks together. I think dairy families really stick together as a team.

Many people may not know that the White House has a bit of a dairy legacy. President Taft had such a strong appetite for dairy that he had a cow named Mooly Wooly produce fresh milk and butter. Well, she could not meet the demands of Taft’s sizeable family, so Wisconsin Sen. Isaac Stevenson gave Taft a Holstein named Pauline Wayne.

She grazed on the South Lawn outside of what is now the Executive Office Building and was productive until Taft’s term ended in 1913. She made her way home to Wisconsin, following a job well done.

We no longer have cows at the White House, but dairy is not without representation. First, it’s worth noting that the Oval Office furniture and sculptures generally stay in the same place and the pictures rarely change from administration to administration. However, President Obama added two paintings by Edward Hopper to his office wall on February 7, the date that he signed the Farm Bill. The 1933 “Barns of South Truro, Massachusetts” paintings include three dairy cows and are visible to anyone walking past the Oval Office.

I see these paintings as a symbolic reminder of how far dairy farmers and the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy® they created have come. These efforts paint a brand new picture of dairy sustainability throughout the food and supply chain. This work is something that all dairy farmers should be proud of. It’s something that the White House is proud to be a part of and will continue to support.

I want to congratulate dairy farmers and the sustainability group for their work and let them know they have a friend and a partner in Washington D.C.

Photo: President Taft's cow

About Our Guest Contributor
Doug Mckalip
Senior Policy Advisor for Rural Affairs
Doug McKalip counsels the President on issues involving farm, ranch and trade policy as well as coordination of the White House Rural Council. view more
Posted: 7/10/2014 8:03 PM
Construction Financing is the bottleneck for implementing digester and biogas energy systems. A low interest term loan from a revolving loan fund could accelerate this action. USDA and Ag banks are reluctant to lend money and loan guarantees are not as effective to get the loan to build the system. Even when the project has reimbursement grants, Farmer needs money to build it first and then get reimbursed. catch 22?
Tim Gieseke
Posted: 7/14/2014 2:06 PM
Doug - thanks for a White House perspective on dairy sustainability; an industry that has made great strides in the last decade. I envision, ecocommerce [] as the next plateau in ag sustainability. After we have picked the low hanging fruit, you know the stuff the dairy and other ag producers should/will do anyway, we will still have to negotiate up a sustainability level - not just to be more sustainable, but to gain access to the sustainability data for corporate sustainability claims and for government agencies to assist in landscape/watershed management. And surprisingly it is quite cost-effective as my business has applied this platform six times in the last decade. More info if interested.
Tim Gieseke
President, Ag Resource Strategies, LLC
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