Key Issues

Natural Resource Management

Fresh water, clean air and healthy soils are essential to producing high-quality, safe milk, making protecting the environment a top priority for U.S. dairy farmers. While U.S. dairy only accounts for about 2 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, dairy farmers are pushing that figure even lower: Dairy farming used about 21% less land, 30.5% less water, 20% less fuel, and 17% less feed in 2017 than in 2007.

Dairy farmers continue to face regulatory and financial challenges in their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase the sustainability of their resource use. Policy solutions must be flexible and cost-effective to meet the unique needs of each producer and the communities they operate.

U.S. dairy farmers and their cooperatives remain committed to conserving natural resources and making further progress in optimizing water and land use as well as air quality. The industry’s 2050 goals support dairy as an environmental solution, addressing the areas where U.S. dairy collectively can have the greatest impact. The U.S dairy industry’s goals are to become carbon neutral or better, optimize water use while maximizing recycling, and improve water quality by optimizing utilization of manure and nutrients.

Our Position

NMPF supports science-based, economically viable standards to address air and water quality, as well as voluntary, incentive-based programs for dairy farmers affected by the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act and other environmental regulations and legislation.

NMPF advocates for increased funding for the research, education, and technical assistance necessary to help dairy farmers develop effective conservation, nutrient management and air emissions mitigation plans. It also supports policies that streamline regulatory approval of feed additives that can reduce enteric methane emissions and support feed management as a conservation practice in USDA conservation programs.

Key Points

  • Dairy farmers are committed to conserving natural resources and making further progress. The industry’s 2050 goals support a vision that dairy is an environmental solution, addressing the areas where U.S. dairy collectively can have the greatest impact. This includes greenhouse gas neutrality, water use optimization and water quality improvement through the improved use of manure and nutrients.
  • NMPF has been active in advocating for farmers in Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rulemaking, filing comments five times over the past decade emphasizing the need for certainty and clarity in water regulations for dairy farmers through a lasting rule that complies with the law.
  • Dairy farmers have long supported robust conservation funding, but those programs haven’t always emphasized some of the most critical stewardship practices for dairy farmers. Ample and appropriate climate-smart agriculture funding will move conservation programs in the right direction, creating opportunities to recognize dairy farmers for the great work they’re doing and offering incentives for additional efforts.
  • Animal feed additives can reduce the enteric methane emissions of dairy cattle by 30 percent or more. While growing research demonstrates the effectiveness of these additives, current policy classifies them as drugs, slowing their entrance to the U.S. marketplace even though they move solely through the animal’s digestive tract. NMPF supports changes that that would regulate these additives as foods, rather than drugs, speeding their approval and allowing dairy farmers to fully capture the potential of this innovative new practice.
  • NMPF’s National Dairy FARM Environmental Stewardship program details a comprehensive estimate of greenhouse gas emissions and energy use on dairy farms and provides tools and resources for farmers to measure and improve their footprint.

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