Annual observances reflect the circumstances that surround them. 2021 is a unique moment, with light at the end of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. and excitement for the future, mixed with apprehension and nervousness about what may lie ahead. World Milk Day on June 1 provides a moment to celebrate -- for all the difficulties -- dairy’s many impressive achievements of the past year and to consider how those accomplishments can be a springboard for whatever the next year brings. So, on this World Milk Day …
- Celebrate that the COVID-19 pandemic brought with it a renewed appreciation for nutrition that can be counted on. That was reflected in robust sales of milk and dairy products in grocery stores that outpaced the overall gain in grocery spending. When times turned tough, Americans turned to … baking. And glasses of milk for their children, and cheese and yogurt for their deliciousness, and cream for the coffee brewed before another day of workplace Zoom. Dairy has been part of the resilience that’s seen people through.
- Celebrate that U.S. dairy is increasingly nourishing consumers around the world. Hundreds of millions of people each day gain the nutrients critical to preventing and addressing malnutrition and promoting a healthy diet, including high-quality proteins, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, iodine, and vitamins B2 and B12. As of early this year, the U.S. share of the global milk market has risen to 21 percent, up from 19 percent a year earlier. That gain equals roughly 3.4 billion pounds of milk – equal to a month of production from California, the biggest U.S. milk-producing state. Dairy’s global presence – and benefits – are only growing.
- Celebrate that dairy is asserting itself not just as a global food choice, but as a global sustainability leader. It’s often easy in the day-to-day to forget dairy’s genuine progress in responding to long-term, profound challenges such as climate change. But 2020’s launching of the Net Zero Initiative, along with the voluntary adoption of the U.S. Dairy Stewardship Commitment by companies representing three-quarters of the nation’s milk production, positions the industry well for generational leadership on one of the era’s most crucial concerns.
- Celebrate that dairy is also rising to immediate challenges. Dairy farmers are recognized leaders in facing society’s most pressing need – to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. By leading vaccination efforts in rural areas and small towns across the nation, dairy farmers and their cooperatives are playing a key role in the return to normal, a leading light after more than a year of masks, lockdowns, and traumas borne by millions.
- And celebrate that, in times of intense political division, dairy works across party lines for widespread benefit. From playing a prominent role in the first agricultural labor bill to pass the U.S. House of Representatives in more than a generation, to backing measures that will support rural communities, and from providing necessary farm disaster assistance to crafting programs that serve historically underserved communities, dairy is unfailingly an agent of bipartisan progress, which strengthens the nation and keeps it moving forward.
That’s another thing that annual celebrations do – they reflect on the past, but they help keep people moving forward. There are many reasons, this World Milk Day, to be excited about what’s ahead. May your glass of milk help brace you for the journey. Raise it!