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  • Let's go Global With our Sustainability Message

    By Tom Vilsack May 24, 2018

    The announcement of the U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards is a good time to reflect on progress made and to proactively share these messages globally.        

    The U.S. dairy industry has a great story to tell so let’s use our collective voices to go global with it.

    sustainability5-945552-editedWe have in the past talked about how stable our year-round supply is and how we are prepared to produce more. That's obviously a positive story.  We've also emphasized the safety of our product, which is incredibly important. 

    Another important point to emphasize more as part of our global message is that we sustainably produce this product as well.

    We're using a lot less water and a lot less land with fewer inputs to produce way more milk.  We are sensitive to reducing greenhouse gases and we have the FARM program that's focused on sustainability and animal welfare. These are incredibly important points for us to emphasize as we continue to market our exports. 

    Innovation to be proud of

    Last week, the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy recognized Sustainability Award winners for their commitment to improving the well-being of people, animals and the environment.  
     2018 Sustainability Awards WinnersThe winners of the 2018 U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards are, from left to right, Austin Allred of Royal Dairy, Sarah Beaubien of Tillamook County Creamery Association, Brett Reinford of Reinford Farms, Ted Sniegocki and Bob Joblin of Magic Dirt, Mike and Edie McMahon of E-Z Acres, and Lisa Zwack and Erin Sharp of The Kroger Co.

    You can see the winners above. A complete list is at the bottom of this article. 

    These people represent farms and dairy companies that show the kind of innovation and creativity that can spark ideas in others and help the industry continue down the road to greater sustainability and efficiency. 

    Our amazing efficiency

    Thanks to advanced cow care, genetics and nutrition, our dairy farmers produce more milk from fewer cows—requiring a lot less water and less land—than they did 60 years ago. 

    In fact, more milk is produced today with only 9 million cows than with 26 million cows in 1944. According to Cornell University, the dairy industry reduced its "carbon footprint" (methane and carbon dioxide emissions) 63 percent between 1944 and 2007.  

    It's about a healthy balance

    A lot of people think that “sustainability” relates mainly to resources such as water, land and energy, and while that is an important component there is more to it than that.

    It’s really a healthy balance between using resources efficiently while meeting a societal need (i.e., food production). We must make it economically viable for dairy farmers and processors. Invariably, dairy farmers have found that when they commit to sustainability, there is a positive economic return because they are using resources more efficiently.

    sustainability8Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy at

    Quite simply, sustainability boils down to producing food more efficiently so there is enough to go around. For example, I'm talking about more bushels of corn per acre with less water, fewer chemicals and other inputs. It's all about getting more production out of each acre of land.

    We address a growing global need

    Continued improvement will be needed for the U.S. dairy industry to expand milk production — and exports — to feed a growing world population. The current world population is 7.6 billion and the United Nations projects it will be 9.8 billion by the year 2050. Higher living standards will increase demand by a higher percentage than just population growth alone. Food production must increase by 50 percent or more to feed that many people.  

    U.S. dairy is part of the solution. As Greg Miller, chief science officer for the National Dairy Council, points out in a guest commentary for The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, "The health of future generations is linked to the health of our planet, so sustainable diets must be at the core of the global response."  

    As we salute the U.S. Dairy Sustainability Award winners listed below, let's work together to communicate our positive story to the world. For more details on this year's winners, click here. Download the news release here.

     Outstanding Farm Sustainability

    • E-Z Acres Farm, Homer, New York
    • Reinford Farms, Mifflintown, Pennsylvania
    • Royal Dairy, Royal City, Washington

     Outstanding Dairy Processing and Manufacturing Sustainability

    • The Kroger Co., Cincinnati, Ohio

     Outstanding Supply Chain Collaboration

    • Magic Dirt, Little Rock, Arkansas

     Outstanding Achievement in Community Impact

    • Tillamook County Creamery Association, Portland, Oregon


    Tom Vilsack is president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council.  He is a former U.S. Agriculture Secretary and governor of Iowa. 

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    The U.S. Dairy Export Council fosters collaborative industry partnerships with processors, trading companies and others to enhance global demand for U.S. dairy products and ingredients. USDEC is primarily supported by Dairy Management Inc. through the dairy farmer checkoff. How to republish this post.  

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