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USDA Ag Sustainability Framework Will Further US Dairy Sustainability Efforts

March 4, 2020

At its annual outlook conference in February, the USDA announced a new Agriculture Innovation Agenda intended to improve the productivity and reduce the environmental footprint of farming in the coming decades.  Agriculture Secretary Perdue said that the Innovation Agenda is a department-wide initiative to align resources, programs, and research to increase farm output by 40%, while reducing by half the environmental footprint of U.S. agriculture by 2050. This effort will focus on cutting nutrient runoff and carbon emissions, reducing food loss and waste, and increasing renewable energy production and use.

The USDA’s outline for achieving those sustainability targets are aligned with U.S. dairy sustainability goals. This will help leverage what the dairy producer community is already focused on through our collective efforts in the Innovation Center for US Dairy’s Environmental Stewardship goals, Newtrient, the Net Zero Initiative, and the FARM Program’s Environmental Stewardship module. These efforts are all designed to continue the global leadership of the U.S. dairy industry in environmental stewardship through voluntary efforts by dairy farmers through market-based incentives.

In a related development, NMPF joined with a coalition of farm organizations this week to announce the formation of Farmers for a Sustainable Future. Part of the mission of this group, which also includes the American Farm Bureau, the National Farmers Union and the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives,  is to help set the record straight about the impact of farming and food production on the environment.  It’s no secret that cattle farming in particular receives a disproportionate amount of blame for its greenhouse gas emissions, when our own dairy lifecycle assessment indicates that milk production is less than 2% of the national total.  Fortunately, the dairy sector is well-positioned as a leader in American agriculture in addressing sustainability issues and harnessing resources to further mitigate our environmental footprint.