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August 16, 2016

New Group Forms to Tell Dairy’s Story of Social Responsibility

 |  By: Jim Dickrell

A new group, The Dairy Strong Sustainability Alliance, was debuted this week on Endres Berryridge Farm near Waunakee, Wis. to demonstrate and document the dairy industry’s commitment to the environment, food safety and animal care.

Berryridge Farm, celebrating a century of continual operation and sustainable milk production in the rolling, glacial landscape just north of Madison, was the perfect backdrop for the announcement. The Dairy Strong Sustainability Alliance combines the expertise of the Dairy Business Association (DBA), the Nature Conservancy, Yahara Pride Farms, Peninsula Pride Farms, the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association.

“This is a historic day for the Wisconsin dairy industry,” says Tim Trotter, DBA executive director.  “Ultimately, it's about how we tell our story to the customer, and it is inclusive with everyone involved for the long term.”

The initial focus is on Wisconsin, and will foster pre-competitive collaboration to keep both dairies in business and dairy foods available to consumers, he says.

The Alliance hopes to bring all aspects of dairy sustainability together, from farm to table, to position Wisconsin and the Midwest as a global leader in dairy sustainability. It hopes to involve everyone in the dairy food chain, from farmers, processors, packagers, vendors and service providers, transporters, conservation groups, retailers, government and universities.  The goal: To show continuous improvement in land use, soil conservation, nutrient management, water quality and use, energy use, animal welfare, food safety, greenhouse gas emissions, economic health and social responsibility.

To demonstrate what has been already done and to show continuous improvement, the Alliance will use already accepted metrics and tools that have been embraced by retailers, ag groups and farmer organizations to measure results. Water quality and quantity, both surface and ground water, will be an emphasis along with reducing phosphorus losses from fields.

“To make a significant difference at the scale of the state, or ultimately the region, we need the active leadership of the dairy supply chain and dairy farmers. Farmers can drive the biggest impacts and take beneficial practices to scale the fastest way,” says Steve Richter, director of conservation programs in Wisconsin for The Nature Conservancy.  “We are excited to find the common ground with the Dairy Strong Sustainability Alliance doing on-the-ground projects that benefit our lands, water and the dairy community.”

The Alliance is now seeking additional collaborators. Farmers are also being recruited to participate in a pilot program next year to scale up some already proven conservation programs. To learn more about the Alliance, go to dairystrong.org/sustainability