The word "sustainability" is being bandied about by a wider range of groups and individuals these days, but what can that mean for the dairy farm? Looks like farmers that sell to Land O'lakes or Bel Brands are going to find out. The member-owned cooperative announced today, March 11, new on-farm sustainability commitments to be adopted by its more than 1,600 member-dairy farms by 2025.
The goal, in the next four years is for all Land O'Lakes dairy farmer-owners to complete an intensive, on-farm sustainability assessment aligned with the U.S. Dairy Stewardship Commitment. The work will comply the National Milk Producers Federation's National Dairy Farmers Assuring Responsible Management program. The cooperative notes this announcement is the next step in its enterprise wide approach to on-farm sustainability.
Tim Leviny, Land O'Lakes senior vice president of global dairy ingredients, explains: "This new commitment will help us measure our member-owners' on-farm sustainability footprint to meet our customers' sustainability goals."
Early in 2021, the cooperative launched a large-scale measurement project that will yield more than 250 data points per farm across more than 1,600 farms all over the United States. The effort collects on-farm sustainability data from the largest number of farms from any single supplier in the U.S. dairy industry, according to Land O'Lakes. The assessment measures actionable information on fuel, electricity and water usage, nutrient application, crop rotation and manure management.
To support the effort, Land O'Lakes created a new Dairy 2025 Commitment team dedicated to collection of the on-farm data. The team will also develop measurable ways for its farmer members to improve on-farm efficiency and further reduce their environmental footprint.
Projects are underway
Pete Kappelman, Land O'Lakes senior vice president of member and government relations, explains that farmers are the original conservationists. "This initiative is us putting a stake in the ground around on-farm sustainability measurement, and more proactively telling our story to our valued customers and consumers," he says. "Our commitment is focused on measurement and continuous improvement, which we believe can help achieve specific reduction goals and lead to lasting change."
Many dairy farmers working with the cooperative are already participating in sustainability initiatives. This assessment is intended to provide a cooperative-wide understanding of members' collective impact and set baselines for future goals. Examples of projects farmers are carrying out with Land O'Lakes current customers, which are driving results include:
- Land O’Lakes and Bel Brands have initiated a project to increase the use of cover crops and other sustainable agricultural practices among the Land O’Lakes member-owners who ship milk to Bel Brands’ facilities.
- Land O’Lakes is working with The Hershey Company and the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay to implement best management practices to reduce GHG emissions and help improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay and other watersheds in the region.
The Dairy 2025 Commitment shows the cooperative's sustainability work and dovetails with action from Truterra and the development of the Truterra Insights Engine and the TruCarbon program.
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