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  • The Need for More Dairy Sustainability Partnerships

    By USDEC June 9, 2022

    At Economist conference, USDEC President and CEO Krysta Harden explains the strides U.S. dairy has made and the help farmers and processors need to do more.

    Economist pic7At a panel discussion at The Economist’s sustainability conference this week, USDEC President and CEO Krysta Harden emphasized the importance of public-private sustainability partnerships. "The stakes are higher now," said Harden, shown at right, with fellow panelist Caroline D’Angelo and moderator Vaibhav Sahgal.

    How can the promises of a green future be kept?

    That was the broad question The Economist asked this week at its U.S. sustainability conference in Washington attended by more than 400 sustainability and business leaders, with another 6,000 registered participants online.

    U.S. Dairy Export Council President and CEO Krysta Harden represented U.S. dairy in a panel discussion on Tuesday titled “Reaching Net Zero Through Public-Private Partnerships.” Harden shared the stage with moderator Vaibhav Sahgal of The Economist and the U.S. State Department’s Caroline D’Angelo, deputy chief sustainability officer, office of management strategy and solutions.

    Harden shared the U.S. dairy industry’s ambitious 2050 Environmental Stewardship goals to achieve greenhouse gas (GHG) neutrality, optimize water use and improve water quality. She emphasized, “This cannot be done solely on the backs of farmers. They are willing. But they need partners.”

    Harden was part of an impressive list of conference speakers, including CEOs, presidents, chief sustainability officers and environmental directors spanning industries and disciplines.

    “The stakes are higher now,” said Harden on the need for more collaboration. “We have so much to gain, yet so much to lose if we don’t drive improvement and show results from public-private sustainability partnerships.”

    In recent years, U.S. dairy has established several partnerships with the private sector, environmental NGOs and the government, such as: 

    • Nestlé has committed up to $10 million in a multi-year partnership to support U.S. Dairy’s Net Zero Initiative. The resources will help scale access to environmental practices and resources on farms of all sizes across the country.
    • Starbucks is investing $10 million to provide more farmers access to effective and economically viable practices to reduce environmental impact – from feed production to manure management, cow care and on-farm energy efficiency.

    When asked what the U.S. dairy industry needs most from the government, Harden said support that drives innovation, “groundbreaking resources done in a precompetitive way to help farmers and to help our entire industry have more solutions on things like genetics and feed rations.”

    A vital component of a successful partnership is measuring results. “When someone is investing millions of dollars in our process, they want to see results,” said Harden. That, however, raises issues about how to collect and share data.

    “Who owns the data is a big question when you are working with individual businesses,” said Harden. “How available is that data? Who is it available to? I'm not just talking about dairy manufacturing but 30,000 farms across the United States. Finding the right balance between what is important to share, what can be shared, and how it can be used is something our industry is still figuring out."

    The panel's moderator asked Harden what the public sector could do in the near term to "supercharge" U.S. dairy's sustainability initiatives.

    “The first thing is an understanding of what it takes to farm and to grow food and to provide nourishment,” said Harden. “Dairy is a very different kind of business. It’s 24-7. You don't take vacations; you can’t just decide to go somewhere and close up shop. This is where we start. Do you really want to work with agriculture? Do you really want to work with farmers? If you do, we're on your team. We want to work with you.”

    The U.S. dairy industry has zeroed in on keeping its commitments to a greener future and more sustainable food system through public-private partnerships that drive innovative practices, continuous improvement, and collective impact. For this work to be truly successful, now and into the future, partners must come to the table willing to roll up their sleeves, work within the realities of what it requires to produce nutritious food and drive scalable solutions that benefit producers.

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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.  

    Innovation Sustainability
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