Barbara O’Brien, president and CEO of Dairy Management Inc. and the Innovation Center for US Dairy, said agriculture has an “open door of opportunity” amid increasing pressures and expectations for feeding a growing population in a sustainable and responsible manner during his opening remarks at the Sustainable Agriculture Summit, November 17-18.

The summit, held under the theme “Regeneration and Resilience,” brings together the collective food and agriculture value chain each year to learn, develop and advance a shared vision of a sustainable and resilient American food system.

O’Brien cited recent events including the United Nations Food Systems Summit and COP26 (26th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) as examples of how the conversation reached a global summit. She said it’s time for American agriculture to collectively lead and demonstrate its vital role in the health of people and the well-being of the planet. She cited a recent global survey that found agriculture to be the third most trusted industry when it comes to acting on climate change, overtaken only by the renewable energy and tech sectors.

“And yet, while confidence in agriculture is high, consumers want to know more, with 65% of people saying they don’t know much – or nothing at all – about solutions to climate change.” , O’Brien said. “They want to be better informed but say they can’t find information that they trust or understand easily. And overwhelmingly, they want to know less about the problem, and more about the solutions.

“This means that American agriculture has an open door to the opportunity to demonstrate our determination to innovate and lead the way by being good and responsible stewards of the land. While we know there are no easy solutions, we also know that we are stronger together. “

Kelly Bengston, senior vice president and purchasing manager at Starbucks, was the keynote speaker at the summit and highlighted how the coffee company values ​​the contributions of farmers, including the 31,000 dairy farming families nationwide. Bengston said dairy remained an integral part of its business and featured in more than half of Starbucks’ staple drink offerings.

“For 50 years, Starbucks has been dedicated to inspiring and nurturing the human spirit – one person, one cup, one neighborhood at a time,” said Bengston. “And during that time, we also learned an important fact: our future is linked to that of farmers, their families and the health of our planet. Right now, from the impacts of the climate crisis to rising costs, we know it has never been so difficult to be a farmer.

Bengston said dairy products and coffee account for more than a third of the company’s carbon emissions. This led Starbucks last year to announce 2030 goals to halve its carbon, water and waste footprint. Starbucks has also joined the U.S. Dairy Net Zero (NZI) Initiative, working with industry on research, pilot projects and on-farm programs to make the adoption of sustainable practices and technologies more accessible and affordable for farms of all sizes.

To this end, Bengston announced that Starbucks has partnered with Alliance Dairy in Trenton, Florida to apply and measure innovative technologies and regenerative agricultural practices that create an economically viable pathway to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. (GHG) and improve the efficiency and quality of water use.

As part of this pilot project, technologies such as nutrient recovery by evaporation will be explored with the aim of helping Alliance Dairy become a source of renewable and organic fertilizers and reuse water, while significantly reducing waste. GHG emissions.

“At Starbucks, we are focused on innovation at scale to support people and the planet,” said Bengston. “This includes identifying new ideas and technologies with our partners that are important to farmers, and then working hard to help them integrate their farms. “

The summit included various breakout sessions and panel discussions, including one that brought together a group of industry leaders examining the implications of the United Nations Food Systems Summit (UN FSS) for U.S. agriculture, which had held on September 23. The UN FSS has brought together international stakeholders from across the food system with the goal of transforming the way the world produces, consumes and markets food. The event served as a call to action to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

Over 2,000 ideas were submitted during the UN FSS, including several game changers offered by the US dairy and other agricultural sectors. Coalitions have been announced to take action on the priorities after the summit. Organizations such as the Innovation Center, the US Dairy Export Council, and the National Dairy Council have been involved throughout the UN FSS process, as have several other US farm organizations.

“The US dairy industry determined early on that the UN FSS provided an important opportunity to participate, demonstrate industry leadership and share with the world our commitments to sustainability and continuous improvement,” said panel moderator Janice Giddens, vice president of sustainable nutrition for the United States. Dairy products export board. “We wanted to ensure that the American dairy supply chain, from farmers to processors, retailers and exporters, was recognized for the contributions it makes to creating healthier, more sustainable and better food systems. resilient for all. ”

Dairy Sustainability Alliance holds fall meeting

The Dairy Sustainability Alliance Fall 2021 meeting followed the November 19 summit. The alliance is a multi-stakeholder initiative of the Innovation Center for US Dairy and includes more than 150 companies and organizations. Representatives exchange ideas, best practices and tackle common challenges on issues affecting the industry in order to accelerate progress towards common sustainable development goals.

O’Brien kicked off the meeting by praising the 34 co-ops and processors – representing 75% of US dairy production – who have adopted the US Dairy Stewardship Commitment . Engagement enables companies to demonstrate and document how they responsibly produce milk and dairy products, reporting on key priorities such as animal care, the environment, food safety and community engagement. She also referred to the dairy community last year when setting the 2050 environmental stewardship goals.

Despite the disruptions from the pandemic, O’Brien said the industry has launched a cascade of environmental work at the food, farm and processing levels that includes:

  • Pilot and research projects to identify and scale win-win solutions for farmers and the environment
  • Transparent reporting on progress at the processor level, first included in aggregate form in the 2020 US Dairy Sustainability report
  • Communication efforts to share practices and available resources that make a significant difference in improving the environmental footprint of dairy products
  • Baselines are established for future goals where U.S. dairy products can have a positive impact

“In a world where hundreds of companies, countries and global organizations set net zero goals for the public, leadership of U.S. dairy products is essential to keeping dairy products – and animal protein in general – positively positioned. in global discussions about what constitutes sustainable food systems that can feed both people and the planet, ”said O’Brien.

“It has taken a lot of work to get to where we are as a dairy community, and yet we know we can do more to ensure that dairy continues to gain a place in homes and communities around the world. whole. “

Other highlights of the meeting included:

  • Donald Moore, Executive Director of Global Dairy Platform, and Jim Mulhern, President and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation, assessed the potential policy and market impacts that the UN FSS and COP26 will have for dairy products. . They expressed their perspective on how these events will influence global expectations not only for exports but for sustainable businesses in all markets, as well as what US dairy products need to provide solutions and stay competitive. .
  • Dairy farmers Sam Schwoeppe (Indiana), Matt Freund (Connecticut), Tara Vander Dussen (New Mexico) and Jim Werkhoven (Washington) participated in a discussion to share their approach to sustainability and what the value chain means large can do to support their efforts.
  • Author and sustainability strategist Dan Esty gave a keynote address in which he explored the place of dairy products in a rapidly changing business landscape. Esty explained how almost all aspects of the business are viewed from a sustainability perspective, and investors incorporate environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles into their approach, pressuring companies to demonstrate how they will work in a net zero economy and a world of limited resources. He said the US dairy industry has taken steps that position it to be part of the solution.

For more information on the industry’s sustainability work and milk levy, visit the Undeniably Dairy website.

—Extract from a press release from the Innovation Center for US Dairy

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