Ten Years of Delivering Results for U S Dairy Farmers

  • 4 min read July 17, 2018

Barbara O'BrienFor the past 10 years, the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy has helped to advance dairy farmer interests throughout the value chain.

In 2008, dairy farmers founded the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, bringing together for the first time a wide range of cooperatives, processors, retailers and others to discuss and address issues and opportunities of common interest to succeed as a united dairy community.  The goal: to ensure an economically viable and socially responsible U.S. dairy community from farm to table.

As lead conveners, farmers have always had a strong voice and a seat at the table within the Innovation Center, both at Innovation Center board meetings and in the various committees that have been formed around key priorities, including animal care, environmental stewardship and community impact.

Here are some highlights of the work the Innovation Center continues to lead on your behalf:

Dairy Sustainability Forum

More than 200 key stakeholders, including dairy farmers, companies, suppliers, customers, conservation groups, academics and other industry experts came together May 16-17 for the Innovation Center’s Dairy Sustainability Forum. This twice-yearly meeting provides a forum for members of the Sustainability Alliance – farmers, the broader dairy community and third-party/non-government organizations – to engage in dialogue and to provide input on next and best practices and programs that will advance U.S. dairy’s social responsibility efforts. This year, 25 farmers shared their perspectives with processors, dairy companies and global organizations. Check out the 2018 U.S. Dairy Sustainability Award Winners.

Food Safety Leadership

Recent U.S. and European recalls have driven increased emphasis on dairy food safety. The Innovation Center has helped to assure the safety of U.S. dairy by providing resources and training in all dairy categories.  Most recently, more than 50 attendees representing dairy processors and experts participated in the 6th Dry Dairy Plant Food Safety workshop, adding to the more than 3,000 industry employees who have participated in safety trainings to date.  In addition, the Innovation Center made improving traceability a priority in 2009 because of the important role it plays in dairy trade. Now, more than 80 percent of the U.S. milk supply is covered by voluntary traceability guidelines, thanks to the pledge of 26 dairy processors.

Third-party Validation for Animal Care Program

This month, McDonald’s publicly stated on their website their alignment with the Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) program: “We have aligned with the National Milk Producers Federation’s Farmers Assuring Responsible Management program. By 2020, 100% of all supplying farms will participate in FARM and have completed the second-party assessment.”  This is just the latest third-party validation for FARM, which also became the first animal care program in the world to achieve certification from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). FARM’s international status builds credibility of U.S. dairy with customers and global organizations as well as in trade conversations.

Unified Voice in Sharing U.S. Dairy’s Story

Now in its second year, the Undeniably Dairy campaign has unified the community in loudly and proudly sharing dairy’s social responsibility story with consumers.   Two years ago, the Innovation Center board recognized that the time had come for the dairy community to be more united and proactive in building trust with consumers.  Since the campaign launch one year ago, nearly 300 companies and organizations have participated, amplifying dairy farmers’ stories and reaching consumers in relevant ways.  Just last month, we saw the community come together to celebrate those who are undeniably devoted to dairy.  On June 1, more than 135 companies, organizations and influencers created 1,000-plus social posts celebrating World Milk Day.  And special time-lapse videos capturing the creation of dairy devotion murals at high-profile dairy locations have generated nearly 12 million views on You Tube.
What the Future Holds

Over the last 10 years, the Innovation Center has proven the community – with farmer voices at the center – can work together for the betterment of the whole. From farmers and processors to brands and retailers, diverse voices and perspectives have established a set of commitments that reinforce dairy’s responsibility and relevance and meet consumers’ changing needs.

As we look ahead, we must continue to come together as a unified community – from farm to table – to further strengthen our commitments with measurable goals that ultimately reinforce the positive impact and the role dairy and dairy farmers play in today’s world. By continuing to demonstrate unity and results proactively, we can and will advance U.S. dairy’s global leadership in the next decade and beyond.

If you have any thoughts or questions, please reach out to us at TalkToTheCheckoff@dairy.org.

The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy is a forum that brings together the dairy community to address the changing needs and expectations of consumers through a framework of shared best practices and accountability. Initiated in 2008 by dairy farmers through the dairy checkoff, we collaborate on efforts that are important both to us and our valued customers – issues like animal care, food safety, nutrition and health, the environment and economics. The Innovation Center is committed to continuous improvement from farm to table, striving to ensure a socially responsible and economically viable dairy community. Visit USDairy.com for more information about the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy.

This article originally appeared in Dairy Business.