Comments sought on dairy sustainability indicators

Stakeholders invited to provide feedback on framework by March 10.

The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy — established under the leadership of America's dairy producers and importers — announced Jan. 11 a 60-day stakeholder consultation period for the review of proposed indicators in the "Stewardship & Sustainability Guide for U.S. Dairy."

Launched in 2013, the guide provides a voluntary, science-based framework for the dairy value chain to measure and communicate sustainability progress.

The proposed indicators are the result of a multiyear, science-based effort led by the innovation center's Sustainability Alliance to identify and define the sustainability indicators that matter most. The new indicators for farms as well as processors and manufacturers have been through an extensive review process by members of the dairy community, including farm cooperatives, dairy processors and manufacturers. They are now available for review by other key stakeholders, such as dairy retailers, government agencies and non-governmental organizations.

The document can be viewed and comments submitted online at USDairy.com/SustainabilityGuide through March 10.

"Consumers, customers and other stakeholders are increasingly interested in understanding where their food comes from and how it is made," said Barbara O'Brien, president of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. "The guide delivers on our commitment to work collaboratively, from farm to retail, to advance and communicate dairy's environmental stewardship and social responsibility."

Farm indicators address soil health, landscape stewardship, resource recovery, feed management and water quality and quantity. For crop- and field-specific topic areas, the innovation center proposes adopting the metrics developed by Field to Market, the leading U.S. initiative focused on the sustainability of row crops. The new processor and manufacturer indicators include resource recovery and air emissions.

"'The Stewardship & Sustainability Guide for U.S. Dairy' provides a unified and standard system for measuring and communicating dairy's sustainability progress," said Joan Behr, senior director of communications and brand management at Foremost Farms USA. "The indicators allow us to support our customers' sustainable sourcing goals, and the industry-wide alignment is essential to remain competitive."

The guide's initial indicators, released in 2013, included greenhouse gas emissions, energy intensity and animal care at the farm level and greenhouse gas emissions, energy intensity, water quality and quantity, labor management and community contributions for dairy processors and manufacturers.

The new indicators are expected to be released in May 2016.

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