Covering Ag since 1981. The faces, places, markets and issues of dairy and livestock production. Hard-hitting topics, market updates and inspirational stories from the notebook of a veteran ag journalist. Contributing reporter for Farmshine since 1987; Editor of former Livestock Reporter 1981-1998; Before that I milked cows. @Agmoos on Twitter, @AgmoosInsight on FB #MilkMarketMoos
In that same June 2019 hearing, animal scientist and greenhouse gas emissions expert Dr. Frank Mitloehner of University of California-Davis explained the methane / CO2 ‘biogenic’ cycle of cows.
He said that no new methane is produced when cow numbers are “constant” in an area because methane is short-lived and converts to CO2 in 10 years time, which is then used by plants, cows eat the plants, and the cycle repeats.
Dr. Mitloehner also said that this cycle changes when cattle concentrations move from one area to another.
The milk produced and bottled in the Northeast and Southeast milksheds is not just carbon neutral, it’s already carbon negative, producing not just no new methane, but less than prior-decades’ methane.
Bear in mind, these new dairy-‘based’ — blended — beverages are NOT Class I products. I have been informed that the 50/50 blends, for example, do not meet the standard of identity for milk, nor do they meet the milk solids profile that requires Class I pricing. This means that even though milk is part of a fluid dairy-‘based’ beverage, it is not priced as Class I.
The milk used in these emerging products that combine ultrafiltered solids with water, additives and maybe an almond or two, fall into Class IV, some are Class III if whey protein is used. Examples include products like DFA’s Live Real Farms ‘Purely Perfect Blend‘ that arrived recently in Pennsylvania and the greater Northeast after its first test-market in Minnesota.
Think about it. Unity is great on many levels, and is to be encouraged in an industry such as dairy, but when it comes to marketing, who is calling the shots for future viability within the DMI integration strategy, otherwise known as unity?
Pre-competitive alliances and ‘proprietary partnerships’ working on food safety are wonderful because all companies should work together on food safety. But animal care? Environment? Climate? Why not just offer quality assurance resources and pay farmers certain premiums for investing as companies would like to see and pay them for providing the consumer trust commodity — instead of implementing one-size-fits-all branches in programs like F.A.R.M.?
These so-called voluntary programs have the power to negate contracts between milk producers and their milk buyers even though consumer trust is a marketable commodity that producers already own and are in fact giving to milk buyers, and their brands, without being compensated.
Instead, producers are controlled by arbitrary definitions of the consumer trust commodity that the producers themselves originate. This goes for Animal Care, Worker Care, Environment, and Climate.
The pre-competitive model used in food safety is applied to all four of the above areas today. This is exactly the supply-chain model World Wildlife Fund (WWF) — DMI’s ‘sustainability partner’ — set in 2010 to “move the choices of consumers and producers” where they want them to go.
In the 2019 Senate hearing referenced at the beginning of the above op-ed, Dr. Mitloehner stated that the mere fact there are 9 million dairy cattle today compared with 24 million in 1960 and producing three times more milk shows that dairy producers are collectively not only emitting zero new methane, they are reducing total methane as old methane and carbon are eradicated by the carbon cycle and less new replacement methane is emitted.
The problem may be this: Year-over-year cow numbers for the U.S. are creeping higher. While still much lower than four to five decades ago, the issue emerging for DMI’s Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy is how to accommodate growth of the new and consolidating dairy structures to attain the checkoff’s expanded global export goal and to accommodate massive new dual-purpose plants if dairy farms in other areas remain virtually constant in size, grow modestly, or decline at a rate slower than the ‘designated’ growth areas are growing.
DMI is at the core of this, you see, to reach it’s new collective net-zero goal, cow numbers would have to decline in one area in order to be added in another area, or they will all have to have their methane buttons turned off or the methane captured because now the emissions are being tracked in order to meet one collective “U.S. Dairy” unit goal under the DMI Innovation Center and F.A.R.M.
At that 2019 Senate hearing,Dr. Frank Mitloehner testified that dairies already create zero new methane but this can be tricky when cattle move from one area to another (as we see in the industry’s consolidation).Then we have DMI’s Dairy Scale 4 Good claiming the dairies over 3000 cows can be net-zero in 5 years and ‘spread their achievement’ over the entire milk footprint. Do we see where this is going?
Will all dairy farms have to meet criteria — set by organizations under the very umbrella of the checkoff program they must fund — to get to a ‘collective’ net-zero using the GHG calculator developed by the checkoff-funded Innovation Center in conjunction with its partner WWF (12 year MOU)? This GHG calculator has been added to the FARM program. These are the big questions.
Frankly, it’s neither. Let’s go behind the mirror, shall we?
In the rule, yogurt is defined as: “Cream, milk, partially skimmed milk, skim milk, and the reconstituted versions of these ingredients that may be used alone or in combination as the basic dairy ingredients in yogurt manufacture.”
The rule states: “Yogurt is produced by culturing the basic dairy ingredients and any optional dairy ingredients with a characterizing lactic acid-producing bacterial culture.”
In its response, NMPF pointed to this language as “reinforcing the concept that where food comes from, and how it is made, matters.
“Logic matters. Consistency matters. That’s why the new FDA rule that defines what is and isn’t yogurt has much broader, and potentially very positive, implications in one of the most contested consumer issues of the day — the proper labeling of milk and dairy products,” NMPF states.
However, given the fact that FDA is still working on the standards of identity (SOI) for milk and dairy within its larger NIS framework, the biggest questions are still unanswered, and FDA indicated their guidance on milk and dairy SOIs won’t come until June 2022.
The yogurt rule simplifies FDA’s books and offers processors more flexibility, to a point. It revokes the previous individual SOIs for low-fat and non-fat yogurt, making one SOI for yogurt, in which low- and non-fat become labeling modifiers.
The intent of this, according to FDA, is to “modernize SOIs for technological advances while preserving the basic nature and essential characteristics.”
In the 22-page rule, FDA writes: “Any food that purports to be or is represented as yogurt, must conform to the definition standard of identity for yogurt.” — That’s the enforcement piece.
The thrust of FDA’s NIS is explained in documents as moving toward both revoking and modernizing standards so foods can compete on a nutritional basis, and to remove barriers to innovations. This includes determining how plant-based and synthetic alternatives are labeled.
New genetically-altered yeast excreting proteins are being made by companies like Perfect Day Foods, and they are pressuring FDA to designate them as dairy proteins, saying they are identical to casein and whey found in milk. They don’t want these proteins labeled as bioengineered because even though the yeast is genetically altered with bovine DNA, the protein excrement is used, not the yeast itself.
This is a bit of what’s under the surface on the dairy SOIs.
In January 2020, IDFA had Perfect Day CEO and co-founder Ryan Pandya on an industry panel at the IDFA Dairy Forum in Arizona. During that IDFA Forum, Pandya told Food Dive in an interview that, “Every major multinational (company) is talking to us.”
Pandya pitched the bioengineered yeast excrement to processors during the IDFA Forum, noting that they work through The Urgent Company, under the leadership of former Glanbia VP of product strategy in a business-to-business model, touting climate impact reductions by ‘partnering’ with the dairy industry to replace just 5% of dairy protein with their analog.
In fact, the January 2020 Food Dive article goes on to quote Monica Massey, an executive vice president and chief of staff for Dairy Farmers of America (DFA), as she told Pandya from the audience during the IDFA panel that she purchased the limited-edition Perfect Day ice cream last year.
“We sat down in a dairy cooperative headquarters and ate it, and I said ‘Oh, we’re screwed’ because it tasted just like ice cream,” Food Dive quotes Massey’s exchange with Pandya during the IDFA Forum.
“In the industry we get hung up on ‘You can’t call it dairy.’ … (Perfect Day’s) not focused on the cow, you’re focused on the consumer, and we are so hellbent on focusing on the cow, the milk,” said Massey.
(Author’s note: Working for a cooperative owned by dairy farmers does kind of make it about the cows and the milk, but it can still be about the consumers, using the milk from the cows.)
An article posted publicly on the day of the new yogurt rule, July 12, gives us a good idea why IDFA is protesting the new SOI for yogurt, and why the big unanswered questions of milk and dairy identity — that the FDA expects to propose a year from now in June 2022 — are so important as the undergirding for individual SOIs like yogurt.
The July 12 article in Dairy ProcessingbyDonna Berry (who is also a contractor on the payroll of DMI — the national dairy checkoff every dairy farmer must pay into, by law), quotes a representative of Perfect Day talking about the so-called ‘animal-free milk proteins,’ saying they are identical to casein and whey. They are excreted from microorganisms such as bacteria, yeast or fungi, that have been genetically altered with bovine DNA and are grown in fermentation vats on sugar substrate.
(The current, though unenforced, FDA SOI for milk is: “Milk is the lacteal secretion…obtained by the complete milking of one or more healthy cows.” Of course, goat milk would be a consistent qualifier in source, characteristics and nutrition, but almond, oat, soy, bioengineered yeast, are not consistent with that legal definition.)
Without FDA guidance and enforcement of real dairy SOIs for milk, and 80 other products with FDA SOIs that come from milk, what’s to stop “seamless” swapping of bioengineered yeast-excrement in place of dairy protein in standardized dairy products and no bioengineered labeling? What ensures that consumers know what they are consuming, and dairy farmers aren’t put out of business by captive supply in the market and?
Yes, deciding what is and isn’t ‘milk’ and ‘dairy’ is still a huge item on the FDA to-do list.
IDFA is protesting what it says are ‘overly prescriptive’ process requirements in the new yogurt rule they claim are “not current with today’s innovations,” such as requiring cream to be added before, not after, lactic acid fermentation to meet standardized 3.25% fat levels. (That’s a bit of a monkey wrench for Perfect Day.)
Just a few of the other things IDFA is objecting about include the requirement for yogurt that contains ‘non-nutritive’ sweeteners be labeled as ‘reduced calorie’, and how high the vitamin A and D levels are set for processors choosing to voluntarily fortify the yogurt.
The rule does offer the industry a peek into where milk and dairy standards could be headed since former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb made the now-famous “almonds don’t lactate” statement at the very same time that the FDA NIS was launched in July of 2018.
Tied-in with the NIS are the stated purposes of addressing chronic diseases like obesity and heart disease by modernizing all 280 standards of identity, updating food labeling rules to educate consumers on nutritional choices, clarifying standards for new innovations (including lookalikes), and developing a voluntary ‘healthy symbol’ for foods so consumers get a ‘quick signal’ to make choices lower in sodium, saturated fat, and calories via the Dietary Guidelines, while including the nutritional quality consumers expect.
Rob Post, with yogurt-maker Chobani, was a presenter that day, and he expressed concerns that the current yogurt standards made it difficult for Greek yogurt to be offered in schools and other institutional feeding situations to accurately quantify the protein levels. Strained Greek yogurt is 52% protein, twice that of regular yogurt, he said.
He asked for a better process that keeps pace with innovation, but he was very quick to defend the current definition of milk and dairy — and its enforcement.
“It’s important to have options,” said Post. “But words matter to consumers and dairy means something specific. It means nutrient dense, minimal processing. It is important that this standard is preserved. Standards are important because they assure the consistency of the product, its authenticity and nutrition.”
Meanwhile, FDA’s new yogurt rule “expands the allowable ingredients in yogurt, including sweeteners such as agave, and reconstituted forms of basic dairy ingredients.”
This simpler, more flexible statement means ultrafiltered (UF) milk solids and even dry milk protein concentrate, can be used in formulation as ‘optional functional dairy ingredients.’ As milk-derived ingredients, these examples don’t reconstitute to the properties of the basic ingredients listed in the yogurt SOI, and must be labeled.
The new rule also “establishes a minimum amount of live and active cultures yogurt must contain to bear the optional labeling statement ‘contains live and active cultures’ or similar statement.” And, if the yogurt is treated for extended shelf life in a way that inactivates viable microorganisms, the yogurt must now include a statement ‘does not contain live and active cultures’ on the label.
“The final rule is already out of date before it takes effect,” wrote Joseph Scimeca, Ph.D., senior vice president of regulatory and scientific affairs for IDFA in a statement. “For the most part, FDA relied on comments submitted 12 or more years ago to formulate its final rule — as if technology has not progressed or as if the yogurt making process itself has been trapped in amber like a prehistoric fossil.”
Scimeca added that the yogurt rule is “woefully behind the times and doesn’t match the reality of today’s food processing environment or the expectations of consumers.”
On the other hand, there were numerous industry comments seeking a more traditional rule in terms of milk and cream vs. ‘milk-derived’ or ‘reconstituted’.
FDA responded in the rule, stating: “Technological advances in food science and technology allow for a wider range of milk-derived ingredients developed with advances in membrane processing technology in the dairy industry. The final rule permits the use of emulsifiers and preservatives to prevent separation, improve stability and texture, and extend the shelf-life of yogurt.”
While the rule, in effect, “permits optional functional dairy ingredients,” and “modernizes the yogurt standard to allow for technological advances,” it also requires the 3.25% milkfat and 8.25% solids not fat threshold at a point in the process before bulky flavorings are added. That’s helpful.
Calling the new rule “a robust defense of standards of identity,” NMPF cited its citizen’s petition filed with FDA in 2019, saying: “With the yogurt rule complete, our petition should be answerable in much less than 21 years.”
“We are continuing our efforts to revoke or amend certain standards of identity — from frozen cherry pie and French dressing to yogurt — especially when the standard of identity is inconsistent with modern manufacturing processes or creates barriers to innovation,” states FDA about its process.
As pieces, like this yogurt rule drift out of that process, a thought emerges: FDA is cleaning its books full of hundreds of SOIs to consolidate and simplify them — before tackling the really big questions of legally defining what the broader SOIs will be.
Still on deck are the all-important SOIs defining and enforcing core milk and dairy terms, even as pressure from plant-based, cell-cultured, yeast-cultured and other lookalikes push for SOIs that simply set nutritional standards for analogs to meet.
The cover story of a recent Junior Scholastic Weekly Reader — the social studies magazine for elementary school students — was dated for school distribution May 11, 2021, the same week USDA approved a Child Nutrition Label for Impossible Burger and released its Impossible Kids Rule report. This label approval now allows the fake burger to be served in place of ground beef in school meals and be eligible for taxpayer-funded reimbursement. Meanwhile, Scholastic Weekly Reader and other school ‘curricula’ pave the marketing runway with stories incorrectly deeming cows as water-pigs, land-hogs, and huge greenhouse gas emitters, without giving the context of true environmental science.
Is USDA complicit? Or ring-leader? One Senator objects
By Sherry Bunting
WASHINGTON – It’s appalling. Bad enough that the brand of fake meat that has set a goal to end animal agriculture has been approved for school menus, fake facts (brand marketing) about cows and climate are making their way to school curriculum as well. The new climate-brand edu-marketing, and USDA has joined the show.
“Schools not only play a role in shaping children’s dietary patterns, they play an important role in providing early education about climate change and its root causes,” said Impossible Foods CEO Pat Brown in a May 11 statement after Impossible Meats received the coveted USDA Child Nutrition Label. “We are thrilled to be partnering with K-12 school districts across the country to lower barriers to access our plant-based meat for this change-making generation.”
U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), who was born and raised on a rural Iowa family farm, has called on U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to ensure students will continue to have access to healthy meat options at schools. The Senator’s letter to the Secretary asked that USDA keep political statements disincentivizing meat consumption out of our taxpayer-funded school nutrition programs.
Food transformation efforts are ramping up. These are political statements where cows and climate are concerned, not backed by science, but rather marketing campaigns to sell billionaire-invested fake foods designed to replace animals. (World Wildlife Fund, the dairy and beef checkoff sustainability partner, figures into this quite prominently.)
As previously reported in Farmshine, Impossible Foods announced on May 11 that it had secured the coveted Child Nutrition Label (CN Label) from the USDA. The food crediting statements provide federal meal guidance to schools across the country. The CN label also makes this imitation meat eligible for national school lunch funding.
“This represents a milestone for entering the K-12 market,” the CEO Brown stated, adding that the use of their fake-burger in schools could translate to “huge environmental savings.” (actually, it’s more accurate to say it will translate to huge cash in billionaire investor pockets.)
Concerned about ‘political statements’ made by USDA and others surrounding the CN label approval — along with past USDA activity on ‘Meatless Mondays’ initiated by Vilsack’s USDA during the Obama-Biden administration — Sen. Ernst wrote in her letter to now-again current Sec. Vilsack: “School nutrition programs should be exempt from political statements dictating students’ dietary options. Programs like ‘Meatless Monday’ and other efforts to undermine meat as a healthy, safe and environmentally responsible choice hurt our agriculture industry and impact the families, farmers, and ranchers of rural states that feed our nation.”
No public information has been found on how Impossible Foods may or may not have altered its fake-burger for school use. My request for a copy of the Child Nutrition Label from USDA AMS Food Nutrition Services, which granted the label, were met with resistance.
Here is the response to my request from USDA AMS FNS: “This office is responsible for the approval of the CN logo on product packaging. In general, the CN labeling office does not provide copies of product labels. This office usually suggests you contact the manufacturer directly for more information.”
I reached out to Impossible for a copy of the nutrition details for the school product. No response.
It’s obvious the commercial label for Impossible is light years away from meeting three big ‘nutrition’ items regulated by USDA AMS FNS. They are: Saturated Fat, Sodium, and Calories.
As it stands now, the nutrition label at Impossible Foods’ website shows that a 4-oz Impossible Burger contains 8 grams of saturated fat. That’s 3 more grams than an 8-oz cup of Whole Milk, which is forbidden in schools because of its saturated fat content. The Impossible Burger also has more saturated fat than an 85/15 lean/fat 4-oz All Beef Burger (7g).
Sodium of Impossible Burger’s 4-oz patty is 370mg! This compares to an All Beef at 75g and a McDonald’s Quarter-pounder (with condiments) at 210 mg. Whole Milk has 120 mg sodium and is banned from schools.
The Impossible Burger 4-oz. patty also has more calories than an All Beef patty and more calories than an 8 ounce cup of Whole Milk. But there’s the ticket. USDA is hung up on percent of calories from fat. If the meal is predominantly Impossible Burger, then the saturated fat (more grams) become a smaller percent of total calories when the fake burger has way more calories! Clever.
In her letter to Vilsack, Sen. Ernst observes that, “Animal proteins ensure students have a healthy diet that allows them to develop and perform their best in school. Real meat, eggs, and dairy are the best natural sources of high quality, complete protein according to Dr. Ruth MacDonald, chair of the Department of Food Science & Human Nutrition at Iowa State University. Meat, eggs, and dairy provide essential amino acids that are simply not present in plants. They are also natural sources of Vitamin B12, which promotes brain development in children, and zinc, which helps the immune system function properly.”
She’s right. A recent Duke University study goes behind the curtain to show the real nutritional comparisons, the fake stuff is not at all nutritionally equivalent. But USDA will allow our kids to continue to be guinea pigs.
In May, Ernst introduced legislation — called the TASTEE Act — that would prohibit federal agencies from establishing policies that ban serving meat. She’s looking ahead. Sen. Ernst is unfortunately the only sponsor for this under-reported legislation to-date.
Meanwhile, within days of the Impossible CN approval from USDA, school foodservice directors reported being bombarded with messaging from the school nutrition organizations and foodservice companies, especially the big one — Sodexo — urging methods and recipes to reduce their meal-serving carbon footprint by using less beef for environmental reasons, and to begin incorporating the approved Impossible.
The Junior Scholastic Weekly Reader for public school students across the nation — dated May 11, the same day as the USDA CN Label approval for ‘Impossible Burger’ — ran a cover story headlined “This burger could help the planet” followed by these words in smaller type: “Producing beef takes a serious toll on the environment. Could growing meat in a lab be part of the solution?”
The story inside the May 11 scholastic magazine began with the title: “This meat could save the planet” and was illustrated with what looked like a package of ground beef, emblazoned with the words: “Fake Meat.”
Impossible Foods is blunt. They say they are targeting children with school-system science and social studies (marketing disguised as curriculum) — calling the climate knowledge of kids “the missing piece.”
In the company’s “Impossible Kids Rule” report, they identify kids as the target consumer for their products, and how to get them to give up real meat and dairy.
Toward the end of the report is this excerpt:“THE MISSING PIECE: While most kids are aware of climate change, care about the issues, and feel empowered to do something about it, many aren’t fully aware of the key factors contributing to it. In one study, 84% of the surveyed young people agreed they needed more information to prevent climate change. Of the 1,200 kids we surveyed, most are used to eating meat every week—99% of kids eat animal meat at least once a month, and 97% eat meat at least once a week. Without understanding the connection between animal agriculture and climate change, it’s easy to see why there has been so little action historically on their parts. Kids are unlikely to identify animal agriculture as a key climate threat because they often don’t know that it is. Similar to adults, when we asked kids what factors they thought contributed to climate change, raising animals for meat and dairy was at the bottom by nearly 30 points.“
After showing the impressionable children Impossible marketing, they saw a big change in those “awareness” percentages and noted that teachers and schools would be the largest influencers to bring “planet and plate” together in the minds of children, concluding the report with these words:
“When kids are educated on the connection between plate and planet and presented with a delicious solution, they’re ready to make a change. And adults might just follow their lead,”the Impossible Kids Rule report said.
USDA is right with them, piloting Impossible Burger at five large schools using the Impossible brand name to replace ground beef with fake meat in spaghetti sauce, tacos and other highlighted meals. This allows brand marketing associated with the name — free advertising to the next generation disguised as “climate friendly” options with marketing messages cleverly disguised as “education.”
In the New York City school system, one of the pilot schools for Impossible, new guidelines are currently being developed to climate-document foods and beverages served in the schools.
Impossible doesn’t have a dairy product yet, but the company says it is working on them.
Impossible’s competitor Beyond Meat is also working on plant-based protein beverages with PepsiCo in the PLANeT Partnership the two companies forged in January 2021. PepsiCo is the largest consumer packaged goods company globally and has its own K-12 Foodservice company distributing “USDA-compliant” beverages, meals and snacks for schools.
How can this brand-marketing in school meals be legal? Dairy farmers pay millions to be in the schools with programs like FUTP60 and are not allowed to “market”. In fact, dairy checkoff leaders recently admitted they have a 12-year “commitment” to USDA to “advance” the low-fat / fat-free Dietary Guidelines in schools, top to bottom, not just the dairy portion.
Pepsico has a long history of meal and beverage brand-linking in schools. Working with Beyond, they will assuredly be next on the Child Nutrition alternative protein label to hit our kids’ USDA-controlled meals.
Like many things that have been evolving incrementally — now kicking into warp speed ahead of the September 2021 United Nations Food System Transformation Summit — the taxpayer-funded school lunch program administrated by USDA is a huge gateway for these companies. Ultimately, will parents and children know what is being consumed or offered? Who will choose? Who will balance the ‘edu-marketing’? Will school boards and foodservice directors eventually even have a choice as huge global companies mix and match proteins and market meal kits that are guaranteed to be USDA-compliant… for climate?
WASHINGTON — Long on transformation framework and short on meaningful details, USDA announced this week (June 8) that it will invest more than $4 billion to strengthen critical supply chains. This follows the June 4 announcement of over $1 billion for ‘healthy food’ and security infrastructure.
What these words mean is still the subject of USDA gathering input through public comments due June 21 and a series of stakeholder meetings. The first one was a 30-minute webinar attended virtually by over 3000 people representing food and agriculture organizations the day after the funding announcement (June 9).
These announcements are billed by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack as part of the “Build Back Better” initiative to be funded by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (passed by the 116th Congress and signed by President Trump in January) and the American Rescue Plan Act (passed by the 117th Congress and signed by President Biden in March.)
Vilsack will co-chair, along with Secretaries of Commerce and Transportation, the Biden administration’s new Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force for a “whole of government response.”
According to USDA, its investment announcements will include a mix of grants, loans and “innovative financing mechanisms” for the food production, processing, distribution and market access priorities that will “tackle the climate crisis and help communities that have been left behind.”
It has been six months since CAA funds were appropriated and three months since ARPA funding was authorized. These relief and support funds passed by two sessions of Congress and signed by two Presidents are now sitting in wait of a task force establishing supply chain transformation priorities after public comments and industry stakeholder meetings.
Meanwhile, dairy producers and other sectors of agriculture are still waiting for details about relief that was to some degree spelled out in the prior congressional language of these Acts.
This includes waiting for USDA’s implementation of what was supposed to be an expanded base option for dairy producers in the Dairy Margin Coverage program; waiting for participation details for the Dairy Donation Program that is supposed to be retroactive; and waiting for a response from USDA to the bipartisan request by Senators seeking relief payments for dairy farmers for the first half of 2021 retroactive to January 1.
In the detailed request for public comment, USDA is making it clear that the CAA and ARPA funds will be spent on transformation, not relief. Guiding the transformation is President Biden’s February Executive Order 14017 America’s Supply Chain.
USDA says it is interested in comments spanning everything from animal, soil, plant and climate health, traceability, monitoring and technologies to agricultural inputs, energy, markets, storage, distribution, and digital security.
“We always knew this, but the pandemic really highlighted it for the rest of the country: Our food system is brittle, and any shock to it can have devastating effects down the chain. Now is the time — not to go back to normal — but to build a new normal,” said Mae Wu, Deputy Under Secretary of Marketing and Regulatory Programs during the first stakeholder webinar this week.
“Before we dealt with the pandemic, we had a food system in which nearly 90% of our farms did not generate the majority of the income for the farm families operating those farms. We had a food and farm system in which soil erosion was occurring at 10 times the rate that soil was being replenished,” said Vilsack as the first stakeholder webinar kicked off.
“We all know we have a substantial number of waterways that are currently impaired, and we also appreciate the fact that we had a food system that was prepared to address climate change but not yet fully embracing the opportunity side of that claim,” Vilsack continued. “So we had a system that needed help. We had a system that also was seeing rapid consolidation and a lack of competition. Then Covid hit and by virtue of Covid we learned that what we thought was a resilient system, really wasn’t resilient at all and had a difficult time shifting from food going into foodservice to going into food assistance.”
Citing the President’s February Executive Order, Vilsack said the focus of the new task force, he co-chairs, is to strengthen supply chains by “beginning the process of transformation.”
In the Federal Register document, USDA states: “(Our) initial thinking includes, but is not limited to, funding, through a combination of grants or loans, for needs such as: supply chain retooling to address multiple needs at once (i.e., achieving both climate benefits and addressing supply gaps or vulnerabilities concurrently), expansion of local and regional food capacity and distribution (e.g., hubs, cooperative development, cold chain improvements, infrastructure), development of local and regional meat and poultry processing and seafood processing and distribution, and food supply chain capacity, building for socially disadvantaged communities.”
In one subsection, USDA notes that it is interested in comments on “the availability of substitutes or alternative sources for critical goods and materials…” For example, USDA says it “encourages commenters to consider agricultural products that could be domestically grown but are not practically available today for various reasons, and to describe whether and how such products (or their alternatives) could be made available through supply chain resilience efforts.”
To-date, there are 297 public comments on the docket. A quick look through 55 that are viewable presently includes many food banks and feeding programs, some mentioning dairy, but few comments are logged from dairy organizations to-date.
For its part, the National Farmers Organization attached a document and stated: “The farmer dumping milk needs a market today, not in the long run. The person standing in a food line needs something to eat today, not in the long run. We need to look more carefully at what is going on if we are to understand, and effectively address, the dilemma of too much milk on one end of the supply chain and not enough dairy products on the other.”
Vilsack (who worked as a dairy checkoff executive for the four years between being Ag Secretary in the Obama and Biden administrations) also referenced milk dumping, saying the dairy industry had bottlenecks as foodservice demand shut down while retail demand for consumer-packaged goods skyrocketed.
In fact, in a recent Fortune magazine interview, Vilsack said the cost of $1.50 per gallon to put milk in a jug created a disincentive to donate excess milk instead of dumping it.
However, in reality, there was more to it than that in parts of the country where Governors brought the curtain down on the economy to strict degrees of people ordered to stay home, while also scolding them in public service announcements for buying too much food. Retailers hit the brakes by putting purchase limits on milk, butter and other dairy products, just as processors loaded up the silos with milk for the retail surge, only to find their retail orders came to a screeching halt as the purchase limits contributed to backing milk up from plant storage into farm pipelines faster than donation efforts could get organized or find facilities to bottle or process.
Facility issues were also cited at the time, in terms of separated cream filling storage silos with nowhere to go as butter capacity was busy switching to pull bulk butter from storage and convert it to print butter, and butter imports skyrocketed. It took a while to unwind the institutional governance of low-fat milk into making more whole milk available as consumers could choose. And it took a while for governments to allow institutions (like schools) to temporarily give whole milk. The result, in the Northeast especially, was a huge volume of dumped milk.
Among the viewable comments to USDA at the Federal Register, so far, are groups citing industry concentration and consolidation.
In its comments, the Montana Cattlemen’s Association pointed out that Secretary Vilsack, along with then Attorney General Eric Holder, held concentration and antitrust listening sessions across the U.S. during the Obama administration, and nothing ever came of it. One of those USDA / DOJ national listening sessions was on dairy, specifically, in Madison, Wisconsin in 2009.
The National Grocers Association echoed these concerns, detailing the way a few global companies already control food retail, foodservice, food processing and distribution, and how this affects farmers and ranchers, independent retailers and restaurants, and thereby affects regional food supply chains, and ultimately consumers and America’s security.
Both the cattlemen and grocers call for specific actions that would increase competition, regional processing and market access and thereby make the U.S. food system more secure and critical supply chains more resilient.
During the stakeholder webinar, Vilsack addressed a question on market competition by saying USDA will “first make sure the markets that do exist are as open and transparent as possible” by looking at the current rules along with other federal agencies and taking any steps to rectify. But he also pointed to developing new markets.
At the other end of the public comment spectrum, groups like the Good Food Institute, a lobbying organization for plant-based and cell-cultured replacements for animal-sourced foods, paint a picture of how their streamlined lab-style production through pop-up bioreactors and fermentation vats in rural, suburban and urban areas can be built to provide supply chain resiliency and food security. GFI also claims that their models would be a climate mitigation strategy.
GFI addressed each of the USDA bullet points on supply chain resilience, climate action and new market opportunities to describe why the CAA and ARPA funds should be used for research and infrastructure that shifts away from animal agriculture to plant-based and cell-cultured through digital and genetic technologies that are already within the USDA Agricultural Research Service wheelhouse.
GFI lays out their description of how recombinant proteins and GMOs, along with the storability of frozen cells and dry plant-based powders, can be turned into food quickly, and in exact amounts needed, and can be grown and manufactured anywhere — without waiting for animals to grow — leaving land available for so-called ‘climate strategies’ and biodiversity.
But, they say, research and infrastructure are needed to make their science-fiction novel come true. This, despite the huge investments of tech industry billionaires in these replacement technologies, and the way the largest meat and dairy processors are diversifying, to brand – and blend – such alternatives to look, taste, and feel like the real thing.
Interestingly, the food economy is, right now, dealing with supply chain disruptions and inflationary price hikes on animal-sourced products from eggs and milk to bacon, beef, and chicken wings. The price squeeze is having a big impact on independent grocers, independent restaurants, and consumers. At the same time, prices paid to dairy and livestock producers are turning lower just as farmers and ranchers were hoping to get back on their collective feet.
That paradox is not sustainable nor resilient for producers or consumers, but growing cells in bioreactors or harvesting yeast-excrement from fermentation vats — instead of animals on farms —simply gives even more control of food to even fewer entities that would control the genetic alterations that make it scientifically possible.
USDA states in its press release that it wants to address competition and small and medium sized processing capacity and that it wants fairness, competition, equity, and access for producers and consumers, while accomplishing climate mitigation at the same time.
The question is: What do these buzz words actually mean? The June 9 stakeholder webinar gave a glimpse.
Vilsack explained that USDA is putting the series of funding announcements into a series of four supply chain ‘buckets’: production, processing, distribution / aggregation and markets / consumers.
He said USDA will begin by providing assistance for beginning farmers and socially disadvantaged farmers, including the debt relief for farmers of color.
“We’ll look for ways to provide assistance for those who work on the farms and those who work in the processing facilities. We’ll look for how we can encourage those transitioning from conventional to organic agriculture if they choose to do so,” said Vilsack. “All of this will be designed to create greater resilience in terms of the number of people available to farm and the types of farming systems that we have. You’ll also see investments in urban agriculture.”
Vilsack said on the food processing side, USDA is “very focused” on ways to create more options for farmers by “shoring up and expanding” existing small and medium size processing to create more markets for farmers.
He highlighted “food hubs” in the distribution bucket and “access to healthy foods” in the consumer bucket.
Answering a question later about how government grant-writing is beyond the scope of most farms, especially small farms, Vilsack said: “One way for folks to get expertise and capacity is to join with others who are similarly situated to form a food hub to aggregate products. There is money for food hubs in this.”
Calling the Dairy Donation Program an investment in the production / producer bucket, and referencing it four times in the webinar, Vilsack said the DDP “will enable producers to more quickly shift in the event of a disruption from foodservice or retail that might not be available for whatever reason into food assistance mode.”
He identified the need to “significantly invest in storage and refrigeration infrastructure to accept significant quantities of food to be stored for a period of time and distributed over a period of time. Right now, we are not equipped to handle a great influx of meat, and produce all at one time, and as a result, animals were destroyed and milk was dumped,” he said.
Vilsack said another way to look at USDA’s incremental roll out of the CAA and ARPA funds is that it reflects “how we are going about the transformation of our food and farm system. We need to continue to invest to make sure there are multiple ways for people to get into the farming business and to stay in business.”
To be profitable, he said, “means we need to develop more new and better markets to be invested in. We want to make sure it is sustainable, circular, regenerative in its approach. We want to make sure it is equitable in its application so that people of all races, ethnicities, gender and so forth are able to access the programs completely at USDA,” said Vilsack.
For producers, allied industry, consumers and organizations, now is the time to visit the USDA Federal Register Docket at https://www.regulations.gov/document/AMS-TM-21-0034-0001 to read the guidelines for commenting and submit a “Supply Chain Comment” referencing Docket AMS-TM-21-0034-001 by June 21, 2021.
Comments may also be sent to Dr. Melissa R. Bailey, Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA, Room 2055-S, STOP 0201, 1400 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20250-0201. For further information about how to comment and the guidelines for commenting, contact Dr. Bailey by phone at 202-205-9356 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
(Author’s Note: The pandemic revealed that the institutional feeding models replete with anti-fat rules based on un-scientific Dietary Guidelines are part of the supply chain disruption problem. Governmental and non-governmental organizations continue to try to systemize food distribution into dietary lanes that don’t reflect the science or consumer attitudes about healthy fat and animal protein. Now ‘climate’ is being used as a potential animal-dilution driver. When someone wants to give families a gallon of whole milk (instead of fat-free or low-fat) when they pick up the school lunches for their children during a pandemic, the last thing any governmental or non-governmental organization should be telling them is “you can’t do that, it’s against the rules,” or pushing them into an adjacent parking lot so they aren’t “next to” the institutionally rule-inundated food. That is just one aspect I plan to write about in commenting to the USDA. Loosen those dietary restraints that give all the power to the global consolidators in foodservice, processing and distribution. Let free-enterprise and good will work for good.)
‘Grant’ will start ‘measuring’ air, soil arounddairy cropping practices in nine U.S. regions
This is the third and final part of the multi-part series about DMI’s Net Zero Initiative and Dairy Scale for Good implementation. Parts one and two in Farmshine covered some of the 12- to 13-year history, the ‘scale’ approach for getting the industry to net zero faster, and the impact of manure processing, digester models, and renewable energy policies and technologies in the NZI scheme.
By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, May 7, 2021
ROSEMONT, Ill. — How dairy feed and forage are produced are the “biggest hammers” that are “ripe for innovation in dairy emissions reduction,” said Caleb Harper, executive director of DMI’s Net Zero Initiative (NZI) Dairy Scale for Good (DS4G) implementation.
He and Dr. Mike McCloskey, chairman of the DMI Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy’s Sustainability Initiative, presented information about the Net Zero Initiative (NZI) and ‘implementation on the farm’ during last month’s Balchem real science lecture series.
Much of the presentation used the ‘spreadsheet exercise’ of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) white paper laying out the “business case for getting to net zero faster”, based on a 3500 cow dairy (a Fair Oaks site with 3000 milking and 500 dry). In fact, Harper’s DS4G work will exclusively pilot and model on dairies about this size.
After explaining that the DS4G goal is to make maximum impact on the entire supply of milk in the short-term using “the consolidation going on in the industry” and the idea of “scale to drive down the risk … and spread the benefit across the industry,” Harper dug into each area and showed how the models tend to work best when multiple areas are combined.
Harper said no till farming, cover crops, innovative crop rotations, renewable fertilizer, precision agriculture all fall into this feed production area of emissions.
“It all boils down to measuring the emissions,” he said, showing a slide of boxes in potato fields in Idaho, where USDA ARS has a project that monitors the air around the crop to show the emissions from a field and mitigation that can be attributed to cropping practices. He said DMI has a grant to do the same thing with dairy cropping practices beginning this year.
The key, according to Harper, is to show that the emissions are being reduced. In addition to boxes in fields measuring emissions around crops, Harper said soil core samples will be taken to determine carbon sequestration of dairy feed cropping strategies.
“This is open science, (meaning still in the proving stage),” said Harper, known for his Open Ag science project growing food in computer controlled boxes at M.I.T. That project ended amid controversy last April a few weeks before Harper was hired by DMI to lead its NZI DS4G.
During the real science lecture in April, Harper said DMI has a grant program starting this year, along with Foundation for Food and Agriculture, to do this type of field box emissions monitoring and soil core sequestration monitoring across nine different U.S. geographies to test conservation tillage practices in terms of carbon emissions and sequestration over the next five years.
Harper said he sees this area as “huge” for innovation and for generating carbon credits that are valued by markets and for reducing one-third of dairy’s ‘field to farm’ emissions while improving soil health and the ability of soil to hold water.
He projects the bottom line potential annual farm revenue on this at $70,000, saying the industry will have to combine this with other strategies, like manure processing, renewable energy generation and such to get the combination of environmental impact toward ‘net-zero’ GHG and the economic revenue stream impact for the dairies.
“Some strategies are more impactful than others,” he said about the WWF models.
In this diagram, which was also shared by DMI leaders in a Pa. Dairy Summit breakout session about what dairy checkoff has done for producers lately, Harper illustrated how WWF models show farms will have to combine areas to merge emissions reduction potential with revenue potential. This shows feed production represents 26% of field to farm emissions reduction potential but just 3% of farm revenue potential; Cow care encompassing feed additives, efficient rations and genetics represents 33% of emissions reduction potential and just 5% of farm revenue potential; but conversely, renewable energy production on the farm represents just 5% of emissions reduction potential and 23% of farm revenue potential.
The ‘hammers’ on the emissions side do not line up with hammers on the revenue side, and the question remains, where will individual dairy farms sit in terms of decision-making as supply chains scale these combinations.
Yet again, the question arises around selling or monetizing the carbon credits generated by the farm once these cropping practices are “measured” and added to models. How does the sale of these credits, or bundling with sales of milk, then change the carbon profile of the farm selling the credits vs. the buyer in the dairy supply chain. Again, as mentioned in Part II on manure technologies and energy generation, this is an important detail that the WWF, NZI and DS4G modeling has not dealt with or worked through.
So, while discussions have already progressed to model how carbon credits and milk could be bundled to milk buyers, with pilots funded by supply chain grants to model how scale can spread impact over the industry and the entire milk supply, the holes in the value proposition are more obvious in this area where farms are already doing great things for land, air and water, by keeping something green and growing on the land as part of dairy feed production: How do farmers get credit for what they are already doing?
Harper also said “amazing things” are happening in the feed additive aspect of reducing enteric emissions, but he acknowledged “it’s early” on the carbon credit side for that.
This area of feed production and feed additives in the DS4G ‘value proposition’ has been spreadsheet-modeled to account for one-third of dairy’s field to farm CO2 equivalent emissions, and yet, at the same time, carbon credits based on this area are still in the research and measurement stage, needing documentation to be ‘monetized.’
Harper cited an example paper from University of California-Davis showing significant reductions in enteric emissions in beef cattle with certain feed additives.
As this work in the area of feed production and feed additives continues, said Harper: “Continuing to optimize rations (for production efficiency) remains important, while feed additives and selecting genetics for lower emissions will become important.”
The WWF Markets Institute released the dairy business ‘case study’ for scaling to net-zero faster on Jan. 27, 2021. A mid-February Farmshinereport revealed the WWF mathematical error that had inflated the magnitude of CO2 equivalent pounds contributed by all U.S. milk production. WWF on Feb. 25, 2021, corrected its baseline to show the much smaller collective impact of 268 billion pounds CO2 equivalent (not 2.3 trillion pounds).
Both Harper and McCloskey serve on the WWF Market Institute’s Thought Leadership Group.
DMI confirms that dairy checkoff had a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with WWF from the inception of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy around 2008 through 2019. McCloskey has chaired the Innovation Center’s Sustainability Initiative since 2008.
In 2008-09, two MOU’s were signed between DMI and USDA via former U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack — the Sustainability Initiative and GENYOUth. At the end of the Obama administration, Sec. Vilsack was hired by DMI dairy checkoff to serve as president and CEO of USDEC 2016-2021, and earlier this year he became Secretary of Agriculture again after President Joe Biden said Vilsack ‘practically wrote his rural platform and now he can implement it.”
Aside from both serving on the WWF Market Institute’s Thought Leadership Group, McCloskey and Harper have another connection. According to the Sept. 2019 Chronicles of Higher Education, Caleb Harper’s father, Steve Harper, was a grocery executive. He was senior vice-president of marketing and fresh product development, procurement and merchandising from 1993 to 2010 for the H-E-B supermarket chain based in Texas. According to a 2020 presentation by Sue McCloskey, H-E-B was their first partner in the fluid milk business in the 1990s, followed by Kroger. According to the Houston Chronicle, the McCloskeys also partnered with H-E-B in 1996 during Steve Harper’s tenure to produce Mootopia ultrafiltered milk, an H-E-B brand. This was the pre-cursor to fairlife, the ultrafiltered milk beverage line in which DMI invested tens of millions of dollars in checkoff funds through the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy partnering with the McCloskeys, Select, and Coca Cola.
Author’s Note: This is part two in a multi-part series about DMI’s Net Zero Initiative and Dairy Scale for Good implementation. Part one previously covered some of the 12- to 13-year history as well as the ‘scale’ approach for getting the industry to net zero faster.
By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, April 30, 2021
ROSEMONT, Ill. — The official launch of DMI’s Net Zero Initiative (NZI) in October 2020, and World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) dairy net zero case study published in January 2021 (and corrected in February for a math error that overestimated the industry’s total CO2 equivalent emissions) are two of the mile-markers in farm visits and partnership development since Caleb Harper was hired by checkoff in May 2020 as executive director of Dairy Scale for Good (DS4G).
In those 11 months, Harper reports visiting 100 dairy farms representing over 500,000 cows in 17 states, processing 350 manure samples, and gathering over 8000 ‘data points.’
Earlier this month, Harper, along with Dr. Mike McCloskey, presented a “value proposition” for the dairy industry during a Balchem real science lecture about ‘net zero carbon emissions implementation on the farm.’
McCloskey of Fair Oaks Farm, Fairlife and Select Milk Producers has chaired the DMI Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy’s Sustainability Initiative since inception 12 to 13 years ago.
In short, DS4G pilots are setting up through “sponsorships” from large dairy-buying partners on large farms within their own supply chains. DMI’s former MOU sustainability partner, the WWF, makes the case in its report that “achieving net zero for large farms is possible with the right practices, incentives and policies within five years (by reducing) emissions in enteric fermentation, manure management, feed production and efficiency, and energy generation and use.”
“This value proposition for dairy cuts two ways,” said Harper. Farms of 2500 cows or more can go toward digesters tied to renewable fuel production, while farms 2500 cows and fewer can move toward a digester model that handles food waste, receives tipping fees and generates electricity.
Both models will depend on a combination of government subsidies, low carbon renewable fuel standards, electrification of the U.S., supply chain sponsorship and sale of resulting carbon-credits, according to information presented by Harper and McCloskey.
NZI aligns with climate policies announced and anticipated from the Biden administration, which mirrors what is coming out of the United Nations’ Food Summit, and World Economic Forum (WEF) Great Reset.
WWF has long been tied closely with WEF setting a global agenda and with the World Resources Institute (WRI) that evaluates science-based targets for companies making net zero commitments to “transform” food and agriculture.
“Innovative models are just now starting to bear fruit,” said Harper, citing McCloskey as a forerunner of “building out” the anaerobic digester concept.
For his part, McCloskey said they “counted on incentives” back in 2008 to be able to grow and “be the catalyst.” He talked about a future sustained by marketing the new products created as substitutes for fossil fuels, mined fertilizers and other products, as well as continuing to take in other carbon sources instead of landfills.
“We have the vision to set this all up, to perfect the technology and get it cheaper… so when we’re all doing the same things, incentives won’t be needed,” said McCloskey looking 10 to 20 years down the road when he sees this “surviving on its own.”
Harper described distributive models from the WWF report. One “being born” in California incorporates separate large scale dairies in a cluster – up to 20 or 30 farms within a 20-mile radius — each with its own digester that can “drop compressed methane into a transmission line to a centralized gas cleaning facility.” In this model, dairies either have a manure or land lease contract or an equity position in the operation.
This model, he said, relies on “societal values of green energy.”
Another distributive model being born in Wisconsin is described as a central digester with adjacent gas cleaning and upgrading. In this model, the manure from multiple farms is sent to the centralized digester by pipe or truck.
“These dairy clusters become ‘green’ clusters,” Harper elaborated. “So, it’s not just about the milk. They become a primary source of green energy inside of a state or nation.”
Food waste co-digestion is part of a different DS4G model driven by states adopting regulatory policy to keep organic material out of landfills. Harper said dairy farms can take advantage of such policies by centralizing waste collection for co-digestion.
“As we think about reducing emissions… a big part of that is bringing things grown off farm on farm, destroying their greenhouse gas potential, and taking credit for that ‘sink,’” Harper explained.
However, in this example, the co-digestion is what gives the dairy its carbon credits, so technology that can handle higher waste-to-manure ratios and state / local regulations allowing farms to handle the off-farm waste are necessary. Such details were not discussed by Harper, and are presumed to be what large scale dairy pilots address.
The WWF case study showed bottom line profit and loss of $500,000 annually for a 3500-cow dairy. Harper believes this is a “conservative” estimate based on electricity production. With the right policies in place, the renewable natural gas value proposition would produce higher returns, according to Harper.
The renewable natural gas market will still be building over the next five to 10 years, he said, so these models also rely on renewable fuel credits and other fixtures they expect to be part of the Biden administration’s climate policies.
Manure handling technologies apart from the digesters were also discussed, which according to the WWF case study, represent one-third of both emissions-reduction and income potential.
Harper is actively engaged in studying the differing chemical profiles of manure between farms, regions, and states — saying he wants to “understand manure” — with and without digester.
Looking at scale, Harper talked about adapting municipal human waste treatment systems for processing manure on large dairies. He highlighted what is called the “omni processor” — a Bill Gates investment to separate small scale municipal waste and create drinking water using a spindle with multiple discs heated to where nonvolatile solids are in the dry matter and the rest are captured as they volatize.
One “off the shelf technology” Harper is focusing on is already in use to produce discharge quality water. It is the membrane system of ultrafiltration (UF) and reverse osmosis (RO) — the same UF RO technology McCloskey pioneered in milk processing to remove water from milk for transport and refine elements for value-added products.
Stressing the large amount of water in dairy manure, Harper said UF RO “is a process designed exactly for de-watering.” Whether this process occurs before or after the digester, he said it is part of “the technology train, so whatever you are tagging onto is working more efficiently, processing less water and more nutrients and refining more things to find value in.”
All of these technologies, according to Harper, can build on each other and tie together with “electrifying” the United States, strengthening low carbon renewable fuel standards, adopting renewable fertilizer standards, and monetizing carbon.
One unsettled aspect in this regard, however, appears on page 9 of the WWF case study and was not mentioned by McCloskey or Harper in their presentation.
What happens to farmers when their carbon reductions and removals become part of the supply chain in which they sell their milk, or are sold to companies as part of a milk contract?
The WWF report makes this observation: “There could be significant interest from large dairy buyers in reducing embedded carbon in their products by purchasing value-added carbon ‘insets’ directly from farmers or cooperatives within their supply chains. Were companies to work closely with the dairy industry to advance these initiatives and enable greater GHG reductions, they could potentially use these measures toward meeting their own reduction targets … and incentivize dairies to embrace net zero practices through long-term contracts or other purchase or offtake agreements.”
That’s an aspect of the tens of millions of dollars in dairy pilot partnerships pledged by Nestle, Starbucks and potentially others for their own supply chains through DMI’s NZI DS4G.
WWF explains further in its report that, “Such agreements could provide stability and collateral as dairies consider investing in technology like anaerobic digesters. Some of these companies might even be interested in finding ways to bundle and purchase carbon credits produced on dairy farms where they buy milk.”
Such incentives, contracts and bundling – starting with DS4G pilots — leave dairy farms exactly where in the supply chain?
The WWF report states it this way: “Such purchases would shift the emissions reductions from the farmer to the company. This would result in the dairy essentially selling the credits that would enable its net zero status, as the emissions reductions cannot be double counted.
“So, if the reductions are sold, the farmer can no longer be considered net-zero. This is a conundrum that is beyond the scope of this paper,” the WWF report admits.
This important detail in the NZI DS4G implementation was not mentioned by Harper or McCloskey.
Meanwhile, these initiatives also rely on climate policy, with former DMI executive Tom Vilsack now having crossed back over into government as U.S. Ag Secretary just 20 months after seeking pilot farm funding and Net Zero target policies when he testified before the Senate Ag Committee in June of 2019 while employed by checkoff as CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council.
President Joe Biden has said USDA is a key department in his administration’s climate action policies.
EAST EARL, Pa. – At a time when dairy producers are in the fight of their lives to prove how sustainable they already are in providing nutrient-dense milk and beef from the much-maligned bovine, they can ill-afford publication of overblown climate data on total U.S. milk production. And yet…
Dairy producers have unknowingly paid to applaud, promote and contribute to inflated baseline greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions data via their own national dairy checkoff.
So egregious is the mathematical error inflating dairy’s baseline GHG emissions, that the entire WWF / DMI Net Zero Initiative ‘Dairy Scale for Good’ case study is now questionable in the significance of its reductions because the significance of the starting-point — the ‘problem’ — is overblown.
Since receiving the DMI press release and copy of the 14-page white paper on Feb. 1, we have been reviewing it. The WWF Markets Institute ‘white paper’ entitled An Environmental and Economic Path Toward Net Zero Dairy Farm Emission” has been widely promoted by DMI.
Its case-study model was concerning to us initially because of its narrow representation of comparable dairy farms and grand claims about what is needed for large farms to be “net zero in five years” and selecting pilot farms for the industry to prove-out the model.
Yes, the report was produced by WWF, but in a recent Pa. Dairy Summit breakout session on “What dairy checkoff has done for you lately,” DMI president Barb O’Brien confirmed that the WWF report is being promoted because it supports the Net Zero Initiative launched by DMI’s Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy.
More importantly, she said the report is a “spreadsheet exercise” that will now be piloted on large farms by Dairy Scale for Good executive director Caleb Harper to see if the exercise can be “proved out.” An exercise, mind you, that has inflated the significance of the problem it is purporting to solve.
In the same “What has dairy checkoff done for you lately” session at Dairy Summit, O’Brien said the data for the WWF white paper came from DMI input!
This emperor has no clothes. This dog doesn’t walk. This math does not “add up.”
We are talking about the math that established the baseline GHG for all U.S. milk production used to determine the significance of the reduction from the ‘Net Zero’ dairy case study, a 3000-cow Fair Oaks-style dairy, that does not represent reality for many large and small dairies in various geographies. But at the same time overblows the level of the problem everyone else contributes to.
We weren’t the only ones struggling to make sense of the WWF / DMI white paper. A Pennsylvania dairy producer did the math using his bulk tank calibration conversions and brought the “immense blunder” to Farmshine’s attention.
He was concerned about what this means for all dairy farms, stating in an email: “Why would anyone set a specific reduction amount when it can be demonstrated that the starting amount is wrong? DMI may wish to partner with someone with better math skills.”
The producer who wished to remain anonymous pointed out to us in his email – and we agree – that DMI may want to get their facts straight with a Net Zero Initiative that shows this level of baseline blunder. In fact, as the producer observes: “If the objective (as indicated in the WWF report) is for a 10% reduction from the inflated number, then hallelujah! The EPA numbers show a 90% reduction (already — across all milk production).”
Could the inflated GHG baseline have been intentional? After all, that inflated number is instrumental in bolstering the significance of a prescribed ‘case study’ reduction for which pilot farms are being selected to ‘prove out’.
An inflated baseline harms all dairy farms because it does not reflect the truth about how small the GHG emissions really are – already — for all milk produced on all U.S. dairy farms, under sustainable dairy farm conditions, right now!
In fact, when the Pa. dairy farmer who alerted us to the math error supplied his figuring for the CO2 equivalent (CO2e), his figures put the inflation error at 8.6 times greater than reality.
We sent a media inquiry asking GHG expert Dr. Frank Mitloehner of University of California-Davis CLEAR Center to review the WWF report and let us know what we might be missing in our calculations.
Dr. Mitloehner agreed that the starting point for GHG emissions in the WWF / DMI report was off by “an order of magnitude”.
We asked him for his expert review and on Wednesday, we received a copy of a letter Dr. Mitloehner sent to WWF. In it, Mitloehner references the white paper’s value of 2.3T pounds (trillion pounds) of GHGs as the emissions from total U.S. milk production (page 7 of the WWF white paper).
“When I went over your calculations, I noticed some potential errors. My own estimate arrived at GHG emissions that are about 10 times lower than the number you reported,” Mitloehner wrote in his letter to WWF.
“Assuming the conversion of the annual milk production in 2018, using Thoma’s equation, into kg fat-and-protein corrected milk (FPCM) and then changing to gallons of FPMC, my calculated values come out to be 287,453,374,279 (287 billion) pounds (not 2.3 trillion pounds),”
GHG expert Dr. Mitloehner writes. “Using GHG emissions of 10.6 lb CO2e per gallon FPCM, the total GHG come out to 2.87453E+11 lbs CO2e. To simplify the number using the Tera unit prefix, the GHG would be 0.287T pounds CO2e, which differs significantly from the aforementioned value (in the WWF white paper) of 2.3T pounds.”
In his letter, Mitloehner emphasized that the WWF / DMI report was “very informative and points toward solutions that are attainable and scalable, both of which are considerations desperately needed as we look at feeding people in a sustainable manner.”
However, he adds, “I do worry that if the calculations are incorrect, it could lead to misinformation and confusion.”
Along with a copy of his letter to WWF, Dr. Mitloehner included in his email reply to Farmshine the WWF response thanking him for bringing it to their attention.
“There is indeed an error and we are in the process of fixing it and will have an updated PDF soon and will share it with you, and we will fix the links on the website,” wrote Katherine Devine, director of business case development for WWF Markets Institute.
Once again, a climate-focused NGO with global goals against animal agriculture overblows GHG emissions from cattle, in this case dairy cattle. But this time, it happened within the full purview of mandatory producer-funded dairy checkoff.
The reason this is a big deal is that it is being used to set policy. The DMI and WWF press releases point to this report as being based on “stakeholder” data that can “demonstrate what is possible with the right practices, incentives and policies within five years.”
For the four weeks, this WWF report has been applauded and promoted by DMI, using case study data that was contributed by DMI.
The question now is how did this happen and what will the retraction look like?
Will anyone stand up for the sustainability of dairy farms as they are – today – for an accurate baseline of their real contribution to GHG emissions, especially per unit of nutrition provided? Where is logic in the overall equation?
Dr. Mitloehner indicated in his email reply that the overblown GHG baseline does not completely jeopardize the paper’s ideas about strategies that can position dairy as a climate solution. However, when the starting math is off by 10 times the true amount, it becomes obvious the larger truth is that dairy is a small emitter and should already be paid for so-called ‘ecosystem services.’ Why is checkoff not pounding that message?
While dairy farms across the U.S. should be applauded and promoted for the reality of how small their emissions are while producing nutritious food for all of us – already – every day, DMI got its focus set on spreadsheet modeling to tell one story when the truth is they could have used accurate numbers to tell a better story.
Instead, the baseline GHG math error undermines the current sustainable performance of all dairy production while putting on a pedestal the Net Zero model based on a 3000-cow Fair Oaks-style dairy with no heifers on site, 80% of forages grown on site, a ration that is 70% forage, and a methane digester mix made up of more than 50% co-digestion of other waste streams.
In fact, some producers of similar size who have inquired about this model, have hit brick walls in having their sustainable practices even considered to show levels of reduction. No wonder! The starting math for the WWF / DMI model is inflated and banks on that inflation to achieve the “significant” reduction in farmgate pounds of CO2 equivalent (CO2e).
While the math is muddy, the problem here is clear. Cattle as contributors to climate change continue to get a black eye by those inside and outside the industry overblowing the problem to push a marketing agenda that fits a global transformation narrative.
(POSTCRIPT NOTE: Just this morning after Farmshine went to press, we notice the PDF file at the WWF link (previously called ‘version 9’) has been quietly replaced with a file noted in its name as ‘v.10’. In it, on page 7, the total U.S. milk production GHG baseline of 268 billion pounds CO2e now appears where 2.3 trillion pounds once stood. No other change or discussion. We’ll be following up to do comparisons of how the smaller baseline impacts the significance of sweeping transformation, including calculations per unit of nutrition vs. other foods in next week’s Farmshine.)
— The January 27, 2021 WWF white paper uses a Fair Oaks-style 3000-cow Net Zero dairy case study. The WWF report was produced by the WWF Markets Institute and was written by WWF Markets Institute senior vice president Jason Clay, Ph.D.
— Clay heads the WWF Markets Institute Thought Leader group. According to the WWF Markets Institute website, the Thought Leader group members include DMI Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy Sustainability Alliance chairman Mike McCloskey of Fair Oaks fame, along with May 2020 DMI hire Caleb Harper serving as Dairy Scale for Good executive director.
— Harper started with DMI a few weeks after his departure from the MIT Media Lab under a cloud of press reports raising questions about aspects of donations, performance and environmental compliance within his digital food research project at MIT. For three years prior to being hired by DMI, Harper served on the board of directors for New Harvest, an organization that supports research and promotion of cell-cultured fake animal protein with the tagline ‘meat, milk and eggs without animals.’
— According to a Sept. 2019 Chronicles of Higher Education article, Harper’s father Steve was a grocery executive, senior vice-president of marketing and fresh product development and procurement from 1993 to 2010 for the H-E-B supermarket chain in Texas and northern Mexico and stayed on part-time through 2012 before retiring.
— During that time, H-E-B became the first and longstanding partner of Mike and Sue McCloskey when they were dairying in New Mexico and founded Select Milk Producers. Sue explained this in her presentation at the 2020 Pennsylvania Dairy Summit, that the H-E-B alliance was instrumental and painted a picture of how it progressed to dairy’s future as seen by DMI’s Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and its food industry partners, with Mike serving as chair of the Sustainability Alliance.
— According to a June 15, 2014 Houston Chronicle article, the McCloskeys worked with H-E-B, supplying their milk and in 1996 producing Mootopia, the ultrafiltered milk H-E-B store brand and pre-cursor to fairlife, now solely owned by Coca Cola.
— During a February 2021 zoom presentation at the 2021 Pa. Dairy Summit, DMI’s vice president of sustainability Karen Scanlon confirmed that DMI had an MOU partnership with WWF from the inception of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy in 2008-09 and that this partnership opened doors with companies on shared priorities over the past decade. The MOU between DMI and WWF expired in 2019 and was not renewed, but Scanlon confirmed that a close relationship and exchange of information continues.
EAST EARL, Pa. — Bill Gates gave hair-raising interviews last week with the Feb. 16th release of his new book: How to Avoid a Climate Disaster. In it, Gates lays out what he says it will take to eliminate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to ‘save the planet’.
Grabbing headlines is the Microsoft founder and software developer’s proclamation that ‘rich’ nations should move to 100% synthetic animal protein, while ‘poor’ nations, like Africa, can keep consuming animal-sourced proteins — if they reduce animal GHGs and environmental footprint by “merging-in” the meat and milk genetics and other technologies that have made U.S. cattle herds so productive.
Specifically, in a published interview with MIT Technology Review, Gates was asked: “Do you believe plant-based and lab-grown meats could be the full solution to the protein problem globally?”
Gates replied: “No, I don’t think the poorest 80 countries will be eating synthetic meat. I do think all rich countries should move to 100% synthetic beef. You can get used to the taste difference, and the claim is they’re going to make it taste even better over time. Eventually, that ‘green premium’ is modest enough that you can sort of change the (behavior of) people or use regulation to totally shift demand.”
That’s a mouthful.
Gates laments the “politics” of animal-sourced foods being a challenge for his fake-food-based climate goals and investments. “There are all these bills that say it’s got to be called, basically, ‘lab garbage’ to be sold,” Gates said. “They don’t want us to use the beef label.”
He goes on in the interview to explain why poor countries will continue to animal-source protein.
“For Africa and other poor countries, we’ll have to use animal genetics to dramatically raise the amount of beef per emissions for them. Weirdly,” says Gates in the MIT interview, “the U.S. livestock, because they’re so productive, the emissions per pound of beef are dramatically less than emissions per pound in Africa. And as part of the (Bill and Melinda Gates) Foundation’s work, we’re taking the benefit of the African livestock, which means they can survive in heat, and crossing-in the monstrous productivity both on the meat side and the milk side of the elite U.S. lines.”
Here’s the thing. A month before his book release, Gates made headlines as “the man who is about to change the way America farms.” In January, the 2020 Land Report 100 featured Gates as “America’s leading farmland owner with 242,000 acres of productive farmland in more than a dozen states.”
According to the Land Report map, Gates’ swaths of farmland, amassed through front-company Cascade Investments, are located mainly near water and ports across 19 states.
Gates is also a founding member of an investor group (Leading Harvest), setting a sustainability standard for over 2 million farming acres in 22 states and another 2 million in 7 countries, according to the Land Report.
Furthermore, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (separate from Cascade Investments and Breakthrough Ventures) has a farmland initiative called Gates Ag One, based in St. Louis. According to the St. Louis Business Journal, its focus is research to help farms in low- and middle-income countries adapt to climate change by becoming “more productive, resilient and sustainable.”
Gates also chairs the investment fund called Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV), mentioned in various ‘fake-meat’ and ‘fake-dairy’ articles published in Farmshine over the past three years.
The BEV fund is mentioned throughout Gates’ new book as a ‘philanthropic’ fund with a climate strategy. Digging into the website, one sees the fund’s climate investments described as “patient, risk-tolerant capital” that will recoup return on investment years down the road once the global supply chains, government policies, and other strategies move consumers toward the various sector outcomes the BEV billionaires are investing in.
The BEV investor list includes significant interests based in China; Democratic party candidates and/or donors like George Soros, Tom Steyer, and Michael Bloomberg; big tech billionaires like Gates, along with Mark Zuckerburg, founder of Facebook, and Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.
The two-pronged approach to animal protein in Gates’ book reflects the two-pronged investments of Gates, BEV, Leading Harvest and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. On the personal and fund investment side, Gates and friends have put billions of dollars into ‘replacement ag systems’ featuring fake-animal-protein for ‘rich’ countries, while on the foundation side, the focus is on research for efficient animal ag systems in poor countries.
In fact, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – which has endeared itself to Big Ag by supporting biotech research for developing countries — was among 11 top-level sponsors in the $100,000-plus donation category for the American Farm Bureau Federation’s virtual convention in January.
During the 2021 convention, Farm Bureau president Skippy Duvall and Land O’Lakes CEO Beth Ford — together — provided a joint keynote discussion under the ‘stronger together’ 2021. Ford spoke of Land O’Lakes’ 2020 partnership with Microsoft to build an “artificial intelligence” ag-tech platform to automatically gather data from farms and trade carbon credits. The discussion ended with a focus on climate-smart technology and a more “inclusive” advocacy platform less cluttered by production identity labels.
For his part, Duvall stated that, “There’s room in the marketplace for everyone, every type of production — organic, conventional, plant-based meat, whatever it might be — there’s enough room in the market for all of us,” he said. “We have to stop throwing ourselves under the bus and work together as one united family.”
This sentiment dovetails with the global food transformation agenda of companies and investors wanting to mix-match-and-blend in a way that melts-away protein identities in favor of planetary diet standards, labels and symbols. Walmart’s director of sustainability talked about this during a World Economic Forum virtual event reported in Farmshine in January, and it is showing up in Walmarts today with big name frozen entrées in lookalike packaging, featuring BE’F, CHICK’N and DAI’Y. How clever.
On the fake-animal-protein investments, Gates and friends are working with global mainline agriculture companies like Cargill, Tyson, ConAgra and ADM, as well as global food supply chains like PepsiCo, Nestle, Unilever, and Coca Cola, along with ‘replacement’ plant-based and cell-cultured fake-meat and fake-dairy manufacturers like Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods, Memphis Meats, BioPrint, and Perfect Day.
All of this ‘replacement’ or ‘alternative’ ag push is setting the stage for a massive land grab to meet the 30 by 30 executive order of President Biden that dovetails with United Nations goals to have 30% of U.S. and global lands in conservation protection by 2030. That would double the current 15%.
With billions in ‘patient capital’ invested, Gates and friends want to see U.S. consumers ‘herded’ toward the ‘herdless’ imposter-foods they’ve invested in.
The USDA-HHS Dietary Guidelines have the facilitating low-fat diets positioned and ready. The FDA Nutrition Innovation Strategy is a multi-year effort underway to modernize standards of identity and develop a universal ‘healthy’ symbol for ‘approved’ foods.
Meanwhile, Gates and friends are pushing for polices and pricing that shift diets more quickly from the ‘climate’ side. For example, wholesale boneless wing and tender prices, as well as beef, are rising rapidly (but not to producers). This effectively narrows the gap between real and fake to help with the transition. Even the dairy industry is moving to ‘dual purpose’ processing.
Digesting Gates’ book interviews, hearing him talk about carbon markets during a World Economic Forum Davos Agenda 21 livestream, and seeing the ‘who’s who’ board of the BEV investment fund – it is clear Gates and friends are politically well-positioned to push policies that can shift diets based on their investments.
They are also getting help from within the animal-sourced food industries to corral Gen Z as ‘agents of change’ that will embrace these China-sourced pea-protein concentrates and lab-created franken-foods as they scale up across household name brands. In its recent joint-venture announcement with Beyond Meat, PepsiCo admitted their alternative snack and beverage rollouts must be “effortless” so consumers don’t have to think about making the “right choices for the planet.”
Food transformation is unfolding rapidly as Big Ag, Big Food, Big Tech, Big Money players align with governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and globalized supply chains.
To affirm the identity of real, local, U.S.-produced animal-sourced foods from farms will require a direct appeal to consumers and accountability for industry leaders and policymakers.
Overblown climate propaganda about dairy and livestock fuel policies that gradually undermine food production identity. Gates is not a food fortune-teller, but rather he is fixing to be a food fortune-maker believing he and his billionaire big tech cronies can ‘software program’ food and behavior to enrich their own outcomes.
We need to follow the money and wake up the public to see the garbage the elites are selling for what it really is. Some of us are ready to pick this food identity hill to die on.
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.
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 knowingly or unknowingly participating in a scheme to move consumers to where these entities want them to be? (See WWF strategy model above).
Look for more DMI umbrella categories covered as this series continues.
EAST EARL, Pa. – Some are calling it the worst commercial of this year’s Super Bowl, others say it was so bad, it could be the most memorable. The 30-second ad aired over most of the nation in the second quarter of the game. It was filmed in Sweden in 2014 and ultimately banned from airing in Sweden, where the Oatly brand of fake-milk beverage originated.
The ad seen by millions during the Super Bowl depicted Oatly CEO Toni Petersson singing in the middle of a field of oats (some believe the crop looked more like soybeans but that is beside the point).
Donning a T-shirt with the words “No artificial badness,” Petersson played an electric piano with a carton of Oatly and a poured glass of the oat beverage atop, singing: “It’s like milk, but made for humans. Wow, wow, no cow. No, no, no. Wow, wow, no cow.”
At another point in the Super Bowl, TurboTax ran its #taxfacts ad showing a man on a computer screen atop a rolling desk going from one scene and tax-related question to another. As the singing computer face atop the desk rolls through a herd of beef cows, we hear the words: “In some places they tax flatulence, like the kind that comes from cows,” (followed by the sound of a fart). Just a couple seconds of the 30-second spot completely unrelated to cows and reality subtly reinforces and normalizes the myth that cow flatulence is taxable because it’s a climate-thing, when it is actually, factually and mathematically insignificant as a climate thing.
Seriously, stop the madness. And, as always, the lack of a television presence for milk and dairy farmers leaves silence as the answer.
One thing is clear: Dairy farmers once again find themselves on the losing end of a long-term ‘partnership’ with the National Football League.
Over those past 12 to 13 years, the direction of promotion has moved off-radar through partnerships. This began with DMI’s creation of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy (known officially to the IRS as the Dairy Center for Strategic Innovation and Collaboration). Within the Innovation Center is the Sustainability Initiative headed by Mike McCloskey over the past 12 to 13 years and known officially as listed on IRS 990 forms as Global Dairy Platform.
Yes, it is all so very confusing. An entire new structure for the dairy industry and its farm-to-table supply chain has been created, along with sustainability parameters and promotion partnerships, within these non-profits under the DMI umbrella.
Cutting through to the point here is this: Dairy farmers have continually asked their dairy checkoff leaders over the past 12 to 13 years why television ads are seldom, if ever, seen; why those that are seen air at off hours; why the NFL’s reference to Play 60 never includes the “Fuel up” part. The milk is always absent from the promotion on the NFL side.
Whenever these questions are asked at meetings or on conference calls, dairy checkoff leaders say – in unison – “television ads don’t work” and “the NFL owns Play 60, but we own the Fuel Up and can use the Fuel Up to Play 60. Yes, the flagship program of GENYOUth.
Meanwhile, milk’s competitors are using television ads. All the beverage competition is using television ads. Granted, the checkoff budget is not large enough to put all of its eggs into the television ad basket, but surely a few well-placed prime time ads – like in the Super Bowl – would generate ongoing exposure. Those ads get rated, replayed and talked about for weeks.
Here’s the thing: Each year, DMI lists the NFL among its top five independent contractors on its IRS 990 form showing $4 to $6 million annually in checkoff funds is paid to NFL Properties for “promotion.”
In the recently acquired 2019 IRS 990 form, DMI listed just over $6 million to NFL Properties.
By comparison, the cost of a 30-second television spot during the prime-time Super Bowl for 2021 was $5.5 million. Perhaps the over $6 million handed over to the NFL would have been better spent buying 30 seconds of airtime to promote milk and dairy.
After all, DMI can’t even answer the question asked by farmers or media who have inquired about what the money paid to the NFL is actually for. This question was asked face-to-face last March at a Q&A meeting on a farm with DMI chair Marilyn Hershey and UDIA executive vice president Lucas Lentsch. They did not answer it. They scratched their heads and acted as though they didn’t know that kind of money was paid to the NFL. They said they would ask. This reporter has also asked the question. No answers have been forthcoming.
Here’s the other deal. It was 12 to 13 years ago that GENYOUth was created with the official name as it appears on tax forms: Youth Improved Incorporated. That saga began with a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by then USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, the NFL and the National Dairy Council, along with GENYOUth CEO Alexis Glick. She was suggested for the spot by worldwide communications firm Edelman. (Edelman does the PR work for Oatly, is engaged with the NFL and also with PepsiCo. Edelman also received over $16 million for promotion from DMI in 2019 and similar amounts in each of the previous four years as DMI’s all-in-one PR firm, creator of Undeniably Dairy.)
Since that 2009 MOU signing, we have seen fancy New York City Gala events explained as a way for GENYOUth to raise funds for school breakfast carts and to give dairy farm checkoff leaders the chance to rub elbows and talk with ‘thought leaders.’ Meanwhile, GENYOUth is the vehicle to make students ‘agents of change’ for ‘planetary diets’.
We have seen PepsiCo – the NFL’s real long-term beverage partner – come on-board the GENYOUth bus, even receiving a major GENYOUth award in 2018, with just a $1 million one-off investment next to the over $4 million spent every year since inception by DMI to keep the GENYOUth vehicle running — not to mention salaries and other soft costs not parsed-out on tax forms. We have seen a proliferation of PepsiCo branded products on breakfast carts and in school cafeterias next to fat-free and low-fat milk and dairy offerings.
And at this year’s Super Bowl pre-game festivities, DMI excitedly reported that GENYOUth would have the honor of hosting the “Taste of NFL” in the virtual pandemic environment and using the event to “raise money for children to get their school meals.”
Throughout the Taste of NFL pre-game session last week, GENYOUth CEO Alexis Glick was promoting the PepsiCo-product-filled thank you boxes for donators. In one video appearance, she stated, offhand, that she’ll have to go get her milk, but never did. There was no milk in the scene, just a small plate of cheese and fruit off to the side and a large zoom lens focused on the PepsiCo Super Bowl box.
Promotion time – and money — wasted.
But checkoff leaders say it’s okay because all of this is for a good cause! The GENYOUth bus full of boarders focused on one thing, raising money for hungry children.
While it’s true that the NFL ran an ad this football season talking about partnering with America’s dairy farmers to raise money to feed hungry kids. Those commercials were only seen by this reporter during pre-game interviews, not during actual games and nothing of the sort ran on Super Bowl night. The closest thing to it was the NFL’s celebration of essential workers at the start of the game, where glimpses of farmers, truckers, and store staff stocking shelves were included among the photos and videos of medical personel.
Dairy transformation has been in the works for 12 to 13 years through the proprietary partnerships working ‘pre-competitively’ within the vehicles constructed with mandatory farmer funds under the DMI umbrella.
It is all smoke and mirrors. So much of what has gone on for these 12 to 13 years is just now becoming evident as the smoke clears, and producers can see they have indeed been funding their own demise.