Dairy farmers commit their lives to feeding the world.
DFA family farm-owners care for their herd 365 days a year and produce real, fresh, nutritious dairy for families around the world to enjoy. They also take pride in caring for the land. From regenerative agriculture practices to implementing new technologies, they continue to innovate to help their farms run more sustainably and efficiently.
In 2020, DFA became the first U.S. dairy cooperative to set a science-based target to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
As a Cooperative invested in the dairy supply chain from farm-to-table, we are taking a strong position by setting a science-based target to reduce GHG emissions, both on the farm and throughout the supply chain, by 30% by 2030 from a 2018 baseline. This target also aligns with the work of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and its goals for the U.S. dairy industry to become carbon neutral or better by 2050.
The entire dairy industry, from farm to manufacturer, contributes less than 2% of total U.S. GHG emissions.
The dairy industry is actively leading the way for environmental solutions for our communities. DFA continues to make progress toward reducing U.S. GHG emissions through new projects and pilot programs, including using renewable energy methods, utilizing anaerobic digesters, implementing regenerative agriculture pilot programs and more.
We’re proud to support the U.N.’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries — developed and developing — in a global partnership.
DFA’s progress with the SDGs includes:
- 2 End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
- 3 Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
- 7 Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
- 8 Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
- 12 Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
- 13 Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
- 15 Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
- 17 Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development
See more about our progress here:
Anaerobic digesters transform manure from cows into energy for use on dairy farms and in the towns and cities around them.
An anaerobic digester works by using cow manure from dairy farms as fuel for the biodigester. Cow manure can also be combined with food waste from local businesses, such as restaurants and stores. Energy produced from the biodigester can go back to the power grid or pipeline for local communities. Fertilizers from the biodigester complete the sustainability circle. Liquid fertilizer produced from the biodigester fertilizes dairy farms’ fields, while the solids can be used as cows’ bedding.
100% of DFA family farms participate in our Gold Standard Dairy Program to affirm their commitment to animal care, milk quality, land and environmental stewardship and workforce development.
DFA’s Gold Standard Dairy Program, our on-farm evaluation program, takes place every three years. Critical information is collected related to animal care and wellness, water use and conservation, soil management, workforce development practices, wildlife and natural habitat conservation and energy efficiency, to name a few. Participation in the Gold Standard Dairy also includes participation in the Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) program, which are the industry-leading animal care standards. FARM is a science-based industry standard, internationally recognized and compliant with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) — one of the first livestock animal care programs in the world to gain this recognition.
DFA can’t tackle food sustainability alone. In taking on this challenge, we have formed a series of partnerships and collaborative commitments
Some of these synergies include:
- U.S. Dairy Stewardship Commitment enables us to benchmark our progress through shared industry metrics that are reported every five years. We are aligned with the U.S. dairy industry’s goals to:
- Become carbon neutral or better
- Optimize water use while maximizing recycling
- Improve water quality by optimizing utilization of manure and nutrients by 2050
- Sustainable Dairy Partnership (SDP), a business-to-business alliance, provides a results-oriented approach to hold affiliates accountable. Instead of creating new guidelines, SDP builds off the 11 criteria for impact established by the Dairy Sustainability Framework (DSF), which provides overarching goals and alignment of the dairy industry’s actions globally on the path to sustainability. See more here:
- CDP™ runs a global disclosure system for environmental reporting. Through this reporting platform, we provide transparency and accountability on our sustainability goals. See more here:
- Farm Powered Strategic Alliance (FPSA) is led by Vanguard Renewables with major food industry leaders such as Unilever and Starbucks. FPSA is accelerating long-term commitments to avoid food waste first and repurpose what cannot be eliminated into renewable energy via Vanguard Renewables farm-based anaerobic digesters. FPSA members also commit to begin exploring the process of decarbonizing their thermal energy usage by exploring the process of decarbonizing their thermal energy usage by converting to farm-derived renewable natural gas
Cows have special stomachs that allow them to digest plant matter that humans can’t digest.
Part of a cow’s diet includes food processing byproducts such as sugar beet pulp, almond hulls, canola seed pulp, citrus pulp, potato peels, culled vegetables, bakery waste, corn stalks, tomato pulp, grape skins, cottonseed, soy hulls and more. They turn products we’d throw away into delicious dairy that everyone can enjoy.
92% of DFA member farms have a soil management plan to maintain or improve soil health.
Over 60% of farms plant cover crops, an important practice of regenerative agriculture that helps maintain and enhance soil health now and for years to come. It includes timeless concepts that our family farm-owners have used for decades coupled with new technology and practices. These practices help to replenish soil nutrients, reduce runoff, increase the longevity of the soil’s quality and maintain soil carbon stocks.
There are five principles of regenerative agriculture.
- Increasing soil cover through integrating cover crops, especially where those crops can be integrated into forage for dairy cattle
- Maximizing biodiversity through growing crops that help to improve the organisms present in the farm ecosystem
- Enabling living root systems through methodical inclusion of perennials that maintain root presence in the soil for longer periods
- Minimizing soil disturbance through no-till or low-till field practices
- Integration of organic fertilizers, like manure, in a precise manner such that soil nutrients are prudently used for maximizing crop growth