Marilyn Hershey, Chair at Dairy Management Inc tells us about the organization’s comprehensive strategy to assist US dairy farmers to improve their environmental footprint.

Marilyn Hershey, Chair at Dairy Management Inc

How does Dairy Management Inc support dairy farmer efforts to actively take part in the sustainable transition?
We are providing market trends and consumer research to US dairy farmers to build the case for “why” this transition is so critical.

Additionally, we lead research efforts to identify and validate tools and technologies that can help farmers address environmental challenges in an impactful and cost-effective manner and share the learnings broadly with our farmer stakeholders.

Partnerships across the industry, food value chain and with other key stakeholders are critical to identify and help fund solutions and scale up for success and document progress.

DMI is one of six dairy organizations that lead the U.S. Dairy Net Zero Initiative (NZI), an ambitious learning journey and a catalyst toward the industry’s collective 2050 environmental stewardship goals -achieve greenhouse gas (GHG) neutrality, optimize water usage, and enhance water quality. NZI converges sound scientific methodology with pragmatic on-the-ground action to advance essential pathways and collaborative networks and to support continued improvement of a resilient and sustainable dairy industry.

And how is the checkoff helping to support the next wave of products and practices that help reduce emissions on-farm?
We are investing in research to evaluate practices and technologies that support dairy farmer priorities, including herd health and feed efficiency, and to better understand the ecosystem benefits and economic feasibility. This includes significant research on enteric methane mitigation, manure management, enhancing water quality and use, and renewable energy. The research will also be used to develop resources that will highlight practices/technologies appropriate for different regions and farms of different sizes to support farmers and farmer-owned cooperatives as they explore practice implementation.

Some of the research is early-stage discovery, with the goal of enabling the development of new technologies.

We are also conducting on-farm pilots on commercially operating dairies that are regionally representative of approximately 80% of U.S. dairy production to test and verify practices and technologies that have potential to significantly reduce GHG emissions and improve water use and quality, while increasing diversification of on-farm revenue.

What can be done to connect farmers with the wider sector and help incentivize further improvements in the sustainability of farming operations?
Through the U.S. Dairy Net Zero Initiative, the U.S. dairy industry is working collectively to take the culmination of knowledge and insight gained from research, analysis and on-farm pilots to support widespread farmer adoption of environmentally sustainable practices and technologies. The dairy supply chain is working together to share critical data and guidance to support the broad use of the most effective practices and technologies. There are a variety of initiatives that fall under the category of Scaling Impact, including tools and informational resources, supply chain implementation projects and advocacy work. Together, these contribute to providing more information, increasing technical assistance and addressing economic challenges for accelerating voluntary adoption.

We work closely with NGOs and other organizations to enhance opportunities for farmers to benefit from their sustainability improvements.

At the Animal AgTech Innovation Summit, you will discuss ‘Tools for the Climate Crisis: Accounting for Emissions and Environmental Impact in Meat and Dairy Production.’ What are you looking forward to sharing?
As a US Dairy farmer, I know that farmers are taking action and are willing to do more but need investment and partnership to do so.  Measurement and reporting are a critical part of the process.  I am looking forward to sharing the tools that US dairy has created, such as the GHG measurement tool FARM ES, and to learn about what others are doing.

Hear more from Marilyn at the summit and join her panel session on ‘Tools for the Climate Crisis: Accounting for Emissions and Environmental Impact in Meat and Dairy Production’ on Monday March 18 at 11.05am PT.