DMI’s WWF connection

This DMI-funded ‘Sustainability’ timeline includes some of the proprietary partnerships and ‘non-profit’ organizations under the DMI umbrella, as well as supply chain and NGO alignments. It has been updated from the one that ran in the May 10, 2020 edition of Farmshine. Compiled by Sherry Bunting

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, February 19, 2021

HARRISBURG, Pa. — A question dairy farmers have long asked their dairy checkoff leaders pertains to the history and details of DMI’s relationship with WWF. That question was finally answered during a “What has dairy checkoff done for you lately?” session at the virtual 2021 Pennsylvania Dairy Summit last week. 

There were many parts to this more than two-hour session where submitted questions were also fielded spanning everything from sustainability, Net Zero Initiative and FARM program to youth wellness, hunger channel coordination, nutrition science and dietary guidelines, to the supply chain and NGO partnerships and social media investments that have built dairy checkoff into today’s business-to-business model that views itself as the ‘gateway’ to trust so that farmers can continue to farm and “grow dairy” as compared with past promotion and education strategies aimed directly to consumers.

Last week, we learned that the partnership between Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF, also known as Worldwide Fund for Nature), goes all the way back 12 to 13 years to DMI’s formation of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. We learned that WWF helped design the Smart Tool collecting farm environmental data through the FARM program. We learned that blended products are the future and that manufacturing plants will become “dual purpose” to create beverages with milk in them vs. milk bottling, per-se. We learned that checkoff invests farmer funds in working with the middle of the supply chain to make new products that are focused on meeting consumer changes in the future.

We learned so much that this is part one of a three-part series. This week, we focus on the Net Zero Initiative and the DMI / WWF connection.

A picture emerged from the discussion of how WWF and DMI have worked together to transform dairy promotion, to set sustainability parameters, to work on the very ‘Smart Tool’ that is now gathering dairy farmer environmental, energy use and emissions data via the FARM program, and placed DMI into the very food transformation committees of the upcoming United Nations food summit sponsored by the World Economic Forum (Great Reset) and – you guessed it – WWF – and how the stage is set to transform the face of the dairy industry, voluntarily of course.

The Farmshine timeline published last summer has been updated in this edition. Originally, our investigations placed the start of this DMI / WWF partnership at 2014 when Innovation Center Sustainability Alliance chairman Mike McCloskey and current Dairy Scale for Good director Caleb Harper became part of the WWF Thought Leadership Group and we could find evidence of WWF working with DMI on the FARM program ‘Smart Tool’.

But no, the truth learned last week from Karen Scanlon, DMI’s vice president of sustainability, answered this reporter’s submitted question about the DMI / WWF relationship. That history goes back to a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by DMI and WWF in 2008-09 when DMI formed the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and Mike McCloskey started his 12 to 13 year tenure as chairman of the Innovation Center’s ‘Sustainability Alliance’ (also known as Global Dairy Platform).

This was the same point in time when MOUs were signed between DMI, USDA (Vilsack) and the NFL to create GENYOUth, and the same point in time when the MOU on sustainability was signed by DMI and USDA (Vilsack).

DMI president Barb O’Brien was quick to interject that WWF-US is “much different” from WWF-International. Dairy producers have heard this line before. However, it is clear from the WWF organizational structure that it has always been global in its goals and aligned on reducing animal-sourced foods along the lines of the EAT Lancet diets and the World Economic Forum Great Reset and United Nations Food Transformation goals.

DMI board chairwoman Marilyn Hershey explained that DMI will be involved in the United Nations Food Transformation Summit to be held this summer. She said DMI has people on some of the Summit’s committees.

“Up until a few years ago, the UN was making decisions without us at the table. We are going into that Summit at a lot of levels — top, middle and bottom — and we have farmers involved, bringing the farmer story,” said Hershey.

The question is, what farmer story will be told? The one that is coming out of the WWF study that exaggerates the dairy industry’s GHG emissions ‘starting point’ while advocating the solution for investment in what is essentially a 3000-cow Fair Oaks model, which many producers in many sizes and geographies can’t replicate?

From the comments made by Scanlon, it was clear that WWF “opened doors” for DMI’s involvement, and, in essence, held their hand into the food transformation movement. This lends to what Paul Ziemnisky, vice president of global innovation partnerships, spoke of in terms of blended beverages and the future being “dual purpose” milk plants, producing the blended beverages that are “relevant.”

Hershey railed against the way animal-rights organization HSUS is causing “internal disruption” in the dairy industry.

“That is their plan,” she said. “We have to be aware that there is a plan to get rid of the checkoff so that the checkoff is not there anymore to serve as the gateway protecting farmers so they can continue to farm. We can’t pit farmer against farmer. There has to be unity.”

And yet, many would put WWF in the same category with HSUS in terms of end-game goals. Even checkoff leaders admit that the “international” WWF is an organization to be wary of, but they somehow believe WWF-US is different, even though they are all part of the same global structure and strategy.

What does it matter if dairy is led by the hand with doors opened by WWF to be part of food transformation that reduces the role of animals, or if this transformation is internally disrupted by concerned producers of all types and sizes as they strive to find their place in that future painted in part by WWF?

The WWF end-game as a partner with the WEF Great Reset and UN Food Summit is to transition American and European diets to more plant-based and lab-created alternatives and blends, while helping developing countries like Africa use the efficient technologies of those transitioning ‘rich’ nations to improve the environmental footprint of their ‘poor nation’ cattle herds. This dovetails with the announcements by Microsoft founder Bill Gates as he released his new book on climate change this week — complete with hair-raisihng interviews talking about rich countries moving to 100% plant-based and cell-cultured diets, while poor countries continue to eat animal-sourced products using U.S. advancements to reduce their GHGs. (see related story).

There was so much to learn about how the dairy checkoff arrived to where it is today in terms of direction and structure. This part of the multi-part series focuses on the relationship with WWF, the Net Zero Initiative and the new WWF “independent” study highlighting how “large dairies can be net zero in five years.” 

Not only is this recently-released study promoted by DMI based entirely on the 3000-cow Fair Oaks model – with a methane digester that includes over 50% co-digestion of other waste products, 70% forage ration fed to cattle, 80% of cow diets grown on-site, and zero heifers on-site – it is also riddled with mathematical inaccuracies that exaggerate the “starting point” for collective greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. dairy farms, making the problem appear to be worse than it really is perhaps in order to make a pre-competitive ‘solution’ seem better than it needs to be. (see related story)

“What has your checkoff done for you lately?” According to the so-named session during the Pa. Dairy Summit, O’Brien stated: “We know who we work for in all of these partnerships is the dairy farmer, to bring your voice forward for growth in the marketplace and protecting your freedom to produce…”

There was emphasis placed on how the Net Zero Initiative (NZI) is central to DMI’s work and its partnerships as the ‘voice of producers for growth.’

“Consumers want to feel good about, and have trust in what they buy,” said Scanlon, explaining how NZI addresses this.

She displayed a slide showing the many investor groups in climate and sustainability efforts that are setting their own goals and expectations throughout their supply chains, as well as countries making legal commitments to be carbon neutral by 2050 or sooner.

“The consumer piece is to meet people where they are,” said Scanlon, adding that the NZI was an 18-month process of stakeholder input with the results announced last April when the new dairy sustainability goals were released. However, we learned in later questioning that this has been in the works for 12 to 13 years since WWF and DMI began their MOU-signed formal relationship at the start of the Innovation Center.

“We are flipping to dairy as a climate solution,” said Scanlon. “The goal is 2050, and these are the ways we can reach them.”

Scanlon stressed that the NZI goals are “aggregate,” meaning they are collective industry goals. She said the processors have their own working group developing their own strategies from farm to consumer, and NZI is the field-to-farm portion through DMI’s Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy.

“We have formed specific work streams related to waste, water use, packaging and greenhouse gas emissions, and we (DMI) have been investing in the reporting tool to track them,” she said.

“This is completely voluntary. It is not immediate. Not everyone will do all the things, and there are pathways for all to contribute with a long runway (to 2050),” she said. “We are meeting consumers where they are and matching environmental benefits with economic benefits to make voluntary adoption happen to avoid regulation.”

She referenced the WWF study as a “viability study” that Dairy Scale for Good, headed by Caleb Harper, can use to track and implement. She called the study a “spreadsheet exercise” that Harper, as director of Dairy Scale for Good, can put out on pilot farms to “prove out through a combination of practices that in the real world, we can see net-zero emissions with improved economic viability.”

Scanlon noted that the “collective impact” of NZI will be driven by “broad voluntary adoption” through four environmental footprints on the farm.

Right now, what is underway through the FARM program “Farm Smart Tool” (developed with WWF), is to “quantify ecosystem services that are being provided by farms and to accelerate new income from providing these ecosystem services,” Scanlon explained.

With this becoming part of the FARM program, voluntary would, by default, become mandatory when member cooperatives and milk processors begin to expect their producers to show improvement on the data currently being collected. Yes, it is voluntary for the milk buyers and cooperatives. But once they sign on with that module in FARM — as it is developed through pilot farms ‘proving out’ the  ‘spreadsheet exercise’ – this would potentially translate as mandatory through the milk buyer or cooperative.

When asked what NZI could mean for those farms with methane digesters, Scanlon said the purpose is to “knock down barriers for farms to invest and for those already invested, so they will potentially see a return.” 

In addition to farms providing for “ecosystem service markets,” the other pathway mentioned is farms meeting low carbon fuel standards.

“NZI is focused on how to take on the barriers that prevent more farms from affording or using more technologies,” said Scanlon, noting many farms with digesters could be “pretty close to net-zero already.”

Bottom line? The DMI / WWF decade-plus partnership is now culminating with data collection that will be used to “help farms understand where they are today on their own journey to net-zero, and where we are today as an industry on that journey,” said Scanlon.

In response to a question on the good work already being done on dairy farms, how it is tracked and counted toward this model, Scanlon said that during 2019 into early 2020, two studies were done. Both concluded that U.S. Dairy and the North American continent decreased their overall carbon footprint by 19% over a 10-year period.

“The tool available through the FARM program is the environmental stewardship module,” Scanlon explained.

Karen Scanlon, DMI vice president of sustainability, acknowledged the 12 to 13 year relationship between DMI and WWF at the very beginning of DMI’s formation of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy working on tools and strategies leading up to the Net Zero Initiative (NZI) launch last fall. She explained NZI’s four focus areas, the outcomes that are planned and the Farm Smart Tool WWF helped design that is already collecting on-farm environmental data via the FARM program. Screenshot during virtual Pa. Dairy Summit session

The Farm Smart Tool in that module is the tool to assess farms for a “snapshot of their emissions and energy intensity, and we are working to make it more clear on the four focus areas. This will evolve and improve over time,” she said.

“What’s important in 2021 is to work with our partners — the cooperatives and processors — to do the inventory of current practices on farms. We would like to catalog what you are doing on your farms today so that we (DMI) can tell that story,” Scanlon stressed.

As has been seen with the FARM program, to-date, ‘the devil is in the details.’ Producers asked whether this will be like the other modules being monitored through cooperatives and third-party auditors.

“Our intention is to support the voluntary and progressive actions of dairy, and we already have major dairy customers asking farms to document how they are sustainable,” Scanlon replied. “We are working globally and nationally to streamline this and to reduce the burden down at the farm level, to have a way to document and have assurance that our tools and metrics and reporting will satisfy what they are looking for.”

Scanlon noted that the FARM program’s on-farm assessment tool (Smart Tool developed with WWF) is how the industry will move toward its 2050 Net Zero Initiative goals.

So, back to WWF. Why is DMI working with WWF?

O’Brien stated: “First, we see (WWF) as two different organizations. There are two operations of WWF — domestic and international. They are two very different organizations in terms of their positioning and tenor toward agriculture and animal agriculture, with a different level of activisim within their own strategies.”

She stressed that the recently-released WWF white paper describing how large dairies can be net zero in five years was “an independent report published by WWF and done with no checkoff funding, but it drew on our modeling and science,” said O’Brien. “We feel it is important for WWF to put that forward. They are viewed by other non-governmental organizations (NGOs), businesses and consumers as being an important voice around climate change.”

While O’Brien stated that, “We (DMI) do not currently have an MOU with WWF, we did have a very positive partnership with WWF going back 5 to 6 years and this was about bringing additional third-party credibility to what we are doing.”

Scanlon gave a more detailed answer – perhaps more detailed than DMI would have desired. She stated that, “WWF was around from the beginning of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy (2008-09). WWF was one of the initial NGOs coming together with dairy around the table for precompetitive planning.”

Scanlon went on to say that, “WWF gave us support and felt there was a lot of value in sitting down with dairy farmers and companies. They contributed to the development of the FARM model, provided third-party credibility and have been a longtime reviewer and supporter of those farms receiving annual innovation awards.

“Through WWF, we (DMI) had access to expertise and doors opened to companies… to use that relationship to better inform them about what dairy is actually doing,” said Scanlon. “The agreement expired at the end of 2019. We have not renewed that agreement. We have continued our conversations and exchange of information, but with no formal relationship with WWF at this time.”

No formal relationship at this time? After a 10-plus-year formal relationship, WWF has helped DMI set the stage for dairy transformation that converges perfectly with the agenda set by big tech, billionaire faux food and climate investors, World Economic Forum’s Great Reset, the back-and-forth USDA / DMI musical chairs of Tom Vilsack and the Green New Deal approach, and the billing that the UN Food Transformation Summit is the focal point of the Great Reset to meet climate goals set in the background by billionaires like Gates and his Breakthrough Ventures colleagues George Soros, Tom Steyer, Michael Bloomberg, Mark Zuckerburg, Jeff Bezos (Amazon) and others as Walmart, Bank of America, MasterCard, PepsiCo, Nestle, Unilever and others file in.

Yes, DMI is at that table, according to staff and leadership. Yes, WWF helped them get to that table and helped develop the very tool to collect, track and catalog on-farm climate and environmental data. But, who is leading whom, and while at that table, with middle-of-the-supply-chain partnerships, who is DMI really working for? 

And while all this planning and scheming is going on at the global level, who is communicating with consumers about some of the realities? Are we really meeting consumers where THEY are? Or are we participating in a scheme to move consumers to where these entities want them to be?

Look for more DMI umbrella categories covered as this series continues.

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