Today’s dairy producers recognize that carbon footprints and environmental sustainability are no longer buzzwords; they are expectations. Launched earlier this year by Professional Dairy Producers (PDP), Your Farm – Your Footprint puts dairy farmers in control of their farm’s environmental footprint score and equips them with tools to drive on-farm changes and lead the discussion to reduce milk production’s environmental impact.

"Those of us who are U.S. dairy farmers already know we’re the most productive and sustainable producers in the world,” said Shelly Mayer, a dairy producer and executive director of PDP. “That being said, our global customers want proof of our commitment to environmental sustainability.”

Bridging a longstanding gap in the dairy industry, Your Farm – Your Footprint empowers producers to lead sustainability dialogues worldwide and ensure a prosperous future for generations to come. Previously, the lack of a standardized framework posed a major obstacle to understanding a farm’s baseline and navigating ever-changing market demands.

At the PDP Business Conference, attendees were presented with additional information on the initiative, featuring insights from dairy producers involved in the pilot program. Conference panelists included Mitch Breunig, Sauk City, Wis., a dairy farmer and owner of Mystic Valley Dairy, and JJ Pagel, owner and operator of Pagel’s Ponderosa Dairy in Kewaunee, Wis. Offering industry insights were Carson Dugger, an agronomist at Eocene Environmental Group, and Emily Johannes, director of sustainability and recycling at Nestlé.

As a key partner in the initiative, Eocene Environmental Group is the independent entity tasked with collecting and analyzing farmer data — all of which will remain confidential and owned solely by the dairy producer, with aggregated data shared to facilitate peer group discussions.

"Our aim is to accommodate diverse data formats, ensuring accessibility for all producers," said Dugger. "Each participating farm receives a collection of materials, including comprehensive reports and a carbon footprint score per unit of milk, enabling informed decision-making and benchmarking."

Echoing sentiments from fellow pilot participants, Breunig remarked, "Regardless of farm size, there's always room for improvement. Your Farm – Your Footprint empowers us all to strive for excellence."

“To retain our position as a preferred global supplier, U.S. dairies must measure and reduce the environmental impact of producing their dairy products,” said dairy producer Janet Clark of Vision-Aire Farms in Eldorado, Wis., another program participant. “Farm-level strategies will help the U.S. dairy community remain competitive in both domestic and export markets.”

Participation in Your Farm – Your Footprint includes:

  • Easy-to-understand reporting with technical consulting, where an industry expert will personally review with each producer their farm’s report while recommending customized improvement options.
  • Exclusive opportunity to test-drive three sustainability measurement platforms, including Farmers Assuring Responsible Management - Environmental Stewardship (FARM ES), Cool Farm Tool, and CarbOn Management and Emissions Tool (COMET), which allows producers a glimpse of how each platform works in advance of the industry adopting one as the uniform standard. Presently the Cool Farm Tool is internationally recognized, an attractive bonus given that 18% of U.S. milk and milk products are currently being exported.
  • Practical, continuous learning supported through regular PDP educational programs and peer networking groups specifically targeted to Your Farm – Your Footprint as well as other dairy management topics.

"Engaging with fellow producers enriches our understanding and enhances community engagement," noted Pagel. "It allows us to share our sustainability achievements effectively, bolstering industry reputation."

Participation in the Your Farm – Your Footprint initiative starts with a four-step process, accessible at Beginning with an introductory call with the Eocene team, your experience will include data collection, processing, and delivery of a collection of tailored sustainability tools, encompassing on-farm practices, reports and actionable improvement plans.

Clark noted, “I was impressed by how easy the report is to understand. Your Farm – Your Footprint makes all the generalities about sustainability tangible for our farm, and it makes me more confident about our path forward.”

As inaugural sponsors, Dairy's Foundation and Nestlé are showcasing their commitment to industry-wide sustainability. "We're excited to embark on this journey with dairy producers," stated Johannes. "Empowering farmers to comprehend and reduce their carbon footprint is integral to fostering innovation and responsibility."

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(c) Hoard's Dairyman Intel 2024
May 16, 2024
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