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Dairy Producers Can Shape Their Future Using Your Farm – Your Footprint

JUNEAU, Wis. (Feb. 29, 2024) – It’s tough to show progress without a starting point or a scale of measurement. That dilemma has been a roadblock for those tasked with reducing the environmental impact of milk production. Professional Dairy Producers® (PDP) provides a solution with a new initiative, Your Farm – Your FootprintTM.

The first-of-its-kind, farmer-led sustainability initiative empowers dairy producers to know and easily understand the environmental footprint of their farms. It gives farmers the opportunity to measure carbon and methane emissions so they can make informed decisions and shape their farms’ futures while retaining control of their data.

Your Farm – Your Footprint empowers farmers with these tools and support:

  • Sustainability score that gives credit for current practices.
  • Customized road map of recommendations with practical steps for bettering that score.
  • Peer-to-peer sharing of ideas and best practices.
  • Cost share grants to help offset the expense of getting your environmental numbers and reports.

Last year, PDP conducted a Your Farm – Your Footprint pilot program with nearly a dozen dairy farmers in Wisconsin. The organization plans to expand the initiative this year with more producers from around the country.

“As dairy producers, we work every day to achieve sustainable milk production. But when it comes to demonstrating progress, the industry has been handicapped by the absence of standardized metrics,” says J.J. Pagel, PDP board member and owner and operator of Pagel’s Ponderosa Dairy, who participated in the 2023 pilot. “Your Farm – Your Footprint fills that gap and puts producers in control of an important asset — their farm’s environmental footprint score.”

Retaining global dairy markets

Pagel says that Your Farm – Your Footprint is a proactive move to continue to position U.S. dairy as a preferred supplier of global dairy customers who hope to reduce carbon emissions and cut methane emissions by one-half by 2030. “Dairy farmers across the country take great pride in our ability to continually improve in all aspects of our operations, including sustainability. But you can’t manage what you can’t measure,” says Pagel. “Your Farm – Your Footprint brings clarity to the sustainability conversation. It helps dairy farmers get their baseline environmental farm footprint numbers and an understanding of how various practices impact those numbers. Ultimately, knowing your baseline number is empowering. It puts us as farmers in a position to decide what will work best for our individual farm operations. This initiative helps farmers lead the industry from an informed position,” Pagel adds.

Support for Your Farm – Your Footprint

The first two sponsors to join with PDP are Nestlé, one of the world’s leading users of milk for its consumer food products, and Dairy’s Foundation, which supports education efforts to help dairy producers be proactive and prepared for the future.

“The Your Farm – Your Footprint program is a key part of our journey to reducing emissions in our U.S. dairy supply chain and will include as many of our dairy producers as possible,” says Daniel Peerless, Nestlé’s global dairy sustainable sourcing lead. “We believe every farmer should know their farm’s environmental footprint so they can effectively tackle their emissions, and programs like these can help make that happen.”

The power of a number

A third-party expert, Sustainable Environment Consultants (SEC), will work with participating dairy producers to collect and analyze data that is readily available for most farms.

SEC will use resources like Cool Farm ToolCOMET-Farm and FARM Environmental Stewardship, which take into consideration farm-specific information like location, soil type, crop rotation, energy use, nutrient management, milk production, cow numbers, field yields and other farm-specific data. Analyses include existing practices a farm may already be implementing to reduce emissions and improve carbon sequestration.

Farm-specific sustainability reports include a carbon footprint score — calculating carbon emissions per unit of fat and protein-corrected milk. This score is an asset to producers, providing a baseline for measuring and demonstrating progress. Most importantly, the individual farm score is confidential and will not be shared unless the producer chooses to do so.

“The process was easy and straightforward. I didn’t have to do a lot of digging or any complex calculations,” says Janet Clark, vice president of PDP, owner and operator of Vision Aire Farms, and a participant in the 2023 pilot. “Seeing our farm’s data took the mystery out of all these sustainability discussions. It helped our family pinpoint where are we today and motivated discussions on how to continue to improve.”

A road map grounded in reality

Each farm’s sustainability report also includes a customized road map for improvement. Your Farm – Your Footprint will incorporate education on best practices and provide technical and financial support to producers implementing carbon and methane reduction plans.

“I was impressed how easy the report was to understand. It made all the generalities about sustainability tangible for our farm,” Clark says. “Many of the report’s short- and long-term recommendations would benefit our farm in ways beyond sustainability, such as saving energy costs. Your Farm – Your Footprint made me more confident about the path forward.”

Peer groups support learning in confidential environment

Your Farm – Your Footprint also leverages farmers’ most trusted source of information — fellow farmers — by inviting participating farmers to join peer groups. PDP will support peer groups with education, enabling producers of all sizes and geographies to compare experiences, learn from one another and brainstorm in a safe, confidential environment. Program sponsors help enable farmers to make decisions based on their own data and do not receive individual farm level information.

In addition to seeking program sponsors, PDP is seeking dairy producers from around the country to participate in the Your Farm – Your Footprint national initiative in 2024. Participants will not only get a leg-up in their own sustainability efforts, they also will help shape the industry’s sustainability discussion as Your Farm – Your Footprint continues to expand in the future.

Visit https://pdpw.org/your-farm-your-footprint/ to sign up or learn more about Your Farm – Your Footprint.

Professional Dairy Producers (PDP) is the nation’s largest dairy producer-led organization of its kind, focusing on producer professionalism, stakeholder engagement and unified outreach to share ideas, solutions, resources and experiences that help dairy producers succeed.

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