Environmental Sustainability

U.S. dairy farmers have a strong track record of taking care of their animals, air, land and water, and are leaders in agricultural stewardship efforts. The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, founded by dairy farmers, brings leadership from across the dairy value chain together to align on social responsibility priorities, drive progress and speak with one voice. 

All food production comes with an environmental footprint. Responsible food production works to minimize that footprint. Dairy farmers constantly innovate to produce the same amount of food using fewer natural resources, yet still provide all the same great nutrients. Thanks to increasingly modern and innovative dairy farming practices, the environmental impact of producing a gallon of milk today involves 30% less water, 21% less land, 21% less manure and a 19% smaller carbon footprint than it did in 2007.

U.S. dairy contributes 2% of all U.S. GHG emissions, and the dairy community is committed to conserving natural resources and making further progress. Together, U.S. dairy will build on its longstanding commitment to continuous environmental improvement, embrace new technologies and build economically viable pathways to environmental solutions. 

These 2050 goals support a vision that dairy can be an environmental solution. They have been set in the areas where U.S. dairy can collectively have the greatest impact and where dairy companies and farmers have demonstrated leadership and impact through new technologies and on-farm practices in feed production, cow care, energy efficiency and manure management. Specifically, the goals are: 

  • Become carbon neutral or better: Both the goal and 2050 timing align with what we believe is achievable based on today’s science, technology and innovation.

  • Optimize water use while maximizing recycling: This encourages dairy farms and businesses to make the best water management decisions, including using each gallon of water as many times as is appropriate, for their individual operations. This approach is intended to help account for regional differences in water sources and use, and incorporates recycling, which is a practice at both the farm and processor levels.

  • Improve water quality by optimizing utilization of manure and nutrients: This goal highlights the interconnectivity of manure/nutrient management, soil health and water quality.

While it will take the entire value chain to help reach our vision of dairy as an environmental solution, these goals are targeted toward the field, farm and processor levels because it is where we believe we can make the most direct impact.

We do not yet have all the answers on how the dairy community will reach these ambitious goals, but we do know that now is the time to take this next step in our social responsibility journey.


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