The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, Syngenta and The Nature Conservancy announced the next phase of a cross-industry collaboration with dairy farmers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve water quality and strengthen farm resilience.The collaboration aims to develop a replicable program and toolset to scale the adoption of best management practices in feed/forage production and feed efficiency. Since launching last spring, the group has been working with Wisconsin-based dairy farmers who belong to the Foremost Farms USA® dairy cooperative, which has approximately 1,000 member-owners across seven Midwest states, with support from Nestlé. The team is actively working to expand to more states, with the goal of increasing the number of participating farms each year.
This work is part of the U.S. Dairy Net Zero Initiative (NZI), a five-year, collaborative effort launched in 2020, which includes research, on-farm pilots and partner-based strategies to develop a pathway on-farm to reaching the 2050 environmental stewardship goals set by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. NZI seeks to accelerate voluntary action to reduce environmental impacts by making sustainable practices and technologies more accessible and affordable to U.S. dairy farms of all sizes and geographies.
“Innovative by their nature, U.S. dairy farmers have made great progress in reducing their environmental impact,” said Barbara O’Brien, president and CEO of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. “Powerful collaborations like this provide essential support and increased knowledge and tools to help farmers in their efforts to further benefit the environment.”
“Foremost Farms is proud to be part of this collaboration to advance sustainability in our industry,” said Greg Schlafer, president and CEO of Foremost Farms. “Foremost Farms has a long-standing commitment to sustainable practices, and we are dedicated to building and evolving environmental stewardship.”
Syngenta uses ground-breaking innovation and science to protect crops and improve seeds. The company supports farmers with technologies, agronomic expertise and digital services, so they can sustainably provide the world with better food and feed.
This collaboration includes opportunities to incorporate hybrid feeds that can improve the digestibility of starch in cattle feed. From a lifecycle analysis perspective, the potential environmental savings and benefits from increasing feed efficiency are significant for climate-impacting greenhouse gas emissions, as well as land, water and energy use.
Farmers also will be offered a toolkit of other recommended practices, including cover crops and reduced tillage, to implement with support from the collective team of experts.
“Farmers are looking for choice, both in the inputs they’re using in their operation as well as the technologies and services they’re adopting,” said Val Dolcini, Head of Business Sustainability and Government Affairs North America for Syngenta. “Ultimately, we want to help provide solutions that are not only better for the environment but also maintain a high production output for farmers, helping ensure their operations are profitable and sustainable for the next generation.”
The Nature Conservancy is a leading global conservation organization that supports farmers to adopt and test cutting-edge, science-based management practices that contribute to land and water stewardship. It also is among the founding members of the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance launched last year to help guide federal climate policy.
“The recent swell of enthusiasm for the many solutions the agricultural community can bring to the planetary crises we face is encouraging and inspiring,” said Kris Johnson, interim director of agriculture for The Nature Conservancy in North America. “We all know how critical agriculture, including the livestock sector, is to stewarding our natural resources for the health of our communities and our planet. This collaboration advances innovation that can drive real, tangible and scalable solutions for climate and biodiversity benefits.”
By expanding science-based research and data collection, NZI closes knowledge gaps, improves analysis and advances practices and technologies that reduce environmental impact in four key areas of dairy production: feed production, enteric methane reduction, energy efficiency and manure management.
Many technologies and practices are in place to reduce on-farm environmental impacts and some already are widely used. NZI looks to break down barriers to accelerate more widespread adoption, such as addressing the economic viability of technology and practices. This can be achieved by realizing the untapped on-farm value of sequestering carbon, converting manure and waste into nutrient-rich fertilizer, renewable energy and other valuable products, and contributing to ecosystem markets.
“Dairy foods are an important source of nutrition,” O’Brien said. “The positive sustainable impacts of pioneering efforts like this provide one more reason to feel good about choosing dairy.”