NMPF Sustainability Priorities Gain Traction with Congress, USDA
March 3, 2022
NMPF’s producer-led climate and sustainability leadership is gaining attention from key members of Congress as well as the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
NMPF Board of Directors member and California dairy producer Melvin Medeiros testified before a House Agriculture subcommittee on Feb. 3, touting dairy sustainability gains farmers have already made and outlining a path forward for further progress. Medeiros at the virtual hearing cited research showing that producing a gallon of milk in 2017 required 30% less water, 21% less land, had a 19% smaller carbon footprint, and produced 20% less manure than in 2007. He also cited dairy’s Net Zero Initiative as an example of proactive, producer-led agricultural leadership in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
“U.S. dairy farmers are environmental stewards. We tend with great care to our land and water to improve the resources on our farms and ensure future generations can carry on our important work of feeding the nation and the world,” said Medeiros, a member of the Dairy Farmers of America cooperative who serves on NMPF’s Executive Committee, in a hearing of the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture.
“We value a proactive approach to sustainability, which can take many different forms, and we have adapted as agricultural practices and technologies have evolved and improved over time,” said Medeiros, who owns and operates a 1,600-cow dairy in Laton, CA.
Medeiros, also featured in the latest NMPF Farmer Focus, asked lawmakers to support policy improvements that would assist producers in sustainability efforts, with examples including:
- Enhanced funding for conservation programs with greater emphasis on areas like feed and manure management
- An investment tax credit to cover the upfront capital costs of digesters to help reduce methane emissions, and
- Expedited approval of innovative animal feed additives that can significantly diminish enteric emissions.
“NMPF and the dairy producers it represents are grateful to the House Agriculture Committee for inviting Melvin to highlight dairy’s commitment to a more sustainable future,” said Jim Mulhern, President and CEO of NMPF. “But as he noted, improving sustainability will also require improving public policy to aid farmers in their critical stewardship mission. We stand ready to partner with Congress to get the job done.” NMPF worked closely with Medeiros and DFA to help strongly spotlight the dairy industry’s priorities during the hearing.
The week after the hearing, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Feb. 7 announced USDA’s Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities Initiative incorporating several key NMPF recommendations. The new initiative, using $1 billion from the Commodity Credit Corporation, will provide grants to partners through a competitive process to implement pilot projects that incentivize farmers to adopt production practices that ensure their commodities have climate smart properties.
The partnership is emerging after months of NMPF efforts, including joint comments to USDA with Newtrient LLC as the department formulated the initiative. NMPF is pleased the program reflects key dairy priorities, emphasizing manure management as well as feed management to reduce enteric emissions among its targeted climate-smart ag practices. USDA has also highlighted the need to make the program work effectively for producers of all sizes, which is essential for meeting the U.S. dairy sector’s needs.
The first round of program applications will be due on April 8 to fund larger projects, defined as those seeking grant funding ranging from $5 million to $100 million. The second round of applications will be due on May 27 for smaller projects, defined as those seeking grant funding ranging from $250,000 to $4,999,999.
“We applaud Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and his team at USDA for working to fashion the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities initiative in a way that will provide significant opportunities for U.S. dairy producers of all sizes to build on their proactive sustainability work. NMPF looks forward to working with USDA to make this program a success —and a springboard for additional achievements,” Mulhern said.