Commitments to action

U.S. Dairy Net Zero Initiative

Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, Dairy Management Inc., International Dairy Foods Association, National Milk Producers Federation, Newtrient LLC, U.S. Dairy Export Council, Nestlé, Starbucks, Syngenta, Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research, The Nature Conservancy, Soil Health Institute, Ecosystem Services Market Consortium, Cornell University, University of California at Davis, University of Wisconsin, The University of Vermont, Texas A&M

Building on the long history and commitment of dairy farmers as stewards of the land, in 2020, the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy pledged to address its total greenhouse gas footprint and set aggressive new environmental sustainability goals that focus on the areas where U.S. dairy could have the greatest impact, as prioritized in the 2019 materiality assessment. By 2050, U.S. dairy collectively commits to become carbon neutral or better, optimize water use while maximizing recycling, and improve water quality by optimizing utilization of manure and nutrients.

The U.S. Dairy Net Zero Initiative (NZI) is a five-year, industry-wide effort to accelerate progress toward the goals. Through foundational research, on-farm pilots, and development of new product markets, NZI aims to make sustainable practices and technologies more accessible and affordable for U.S. dairy farms of all sizes and geographies, recognizing there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

By expanding science-based research and data collection, NZI closes knowledge gaps, improves data analysis and measurement, and advances practices and technologies that reduce environmental impact in four key areas of dairy production: feed production, enteric methane reduction, energy efficiency, and manure management – which together represent the total footprint of a farm.

Many proven solutions are already in place to reduce environmental impacts on farms. NZI looks to break down barriers to accelerate more widespread adoption, such as addressing the economic viability of technology and practices.

This effort is comprehensive and collaborative – bringing together the U.S. dairy community, corporate partners (e.g. Nestlé, Starbucks, Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research), land grant and research institutions (e.g. Cornell University, University of California Davis), nongovernmental organizations (e.g. The Nature Conservancy, Soil Health Institute) and other stakeholders. Farmers have and continue to invest in their farms. Partners bring expertise, leadership, and financial support to advance the work.

The primary expected outcomes of NZI include the following:

  1. the collective U.S. dairy industry advances to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and significant improvements in water use and quality,
  2. in addition to nutrient-dense foods and beverages, dairy farms provide products and services that enable other industries and communities to be more sustainable, and
  3. farmers realize the untapped value on-farm, making the system of continuous improvement self-sustaining.

This is a pioneering effort – if solved for dairy, the learnings can be transferred to other parts of agriculture, becoming a catalyst for broader change.

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