2021 WWF / DMI ‘Net Zero’ report inflated GHG baseline for total U.S. milk production

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, Feb. 26, 2021

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.

The Jan. 27 report, produced by DMI’s former MOU partner World Wildlife Fund (WWF), established a GHG baseline that has been confirmed and admitted as being mathematically wrong by an order of magnitude — 10 times greater than reality.

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 a factor of 10, 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.)

Connecting dots:

— 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.

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Vilsack reveals ‘Net-Zero Project’ in Senate testimony, Climate policy table set

Vilsack lays out plan for USDA to partner in ‘Net Zero’ pilot farms, using results to set governmental policies and incentives

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, May 24, 2019

(Above) DMI’s checkoff-funded Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy was formed in 2008, the year Tom Vilsack became U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. This timeline shows the events from 2008 to 2019 around the Innovation Center, sustainability programs, FARM program and various MOU’s with USDA while Vilsack was Secretary and after he became president and CEO of U.S. Dairy Export Council in 2017. 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — FARM program evaluations over the past few months have yielded reports from dairy producers on new questions they are being asked about their feeding practices and usage, nutrient management plans, manure management systems and cropping practices, feed rations by class of cattle, livestock and feed inventories on the farm and heifer inventories raised off the farm, milk receipts and receipts for cattle sold for beef purposes, energy and fuel usage and costs, specific questions about wetlands on farm properties as well as new questions about human resources.

Over the past two years, the National Dairy Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) has added new ‘silos’ to the 4-part program. In addition to Animal Care, the newer portions are Environmental Stewardship, Antibiotic Stewardship, and Workforce Development. With all four in place, virtually every management aspect of a dairy farm falls under the FARM umbrella.

The FARM program is funded by the mandatory dairy checkoff through DMI’s Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. FARM is administrated by National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF).

98% of milk enrolled

According to its 2018 Report, 98% of the milk produced in the U.S. is enrolled in FARM. The Animal Care silo is mandatory for all 115 participating cooperatives and processors, and 20 of the 115 adopted the Environmental Stewardship module by the beginning of this year.

Development of the Environmental Stewardship (ES) module began at FARM’s inception in 2009 but did not become a ‘silo’ in FARM until 2017. The FARM website states that this portion is currently “voluntary for program participants.”

This simply means that the 115 cooperatives and processors that are participating in FARM can voluntarily add the ES module. When added by the participating cooperative or processor, the components of the module become — in effect — mandatory for the farms.

The FARM materials clearly state that FARM is not a legal document. And yet, its modules have expanding levels of authority beyond a milk shipper’s legal milk contract obligations, without expanding compensation.

FARM’s Environmental module was developed, according to the 2018 annual report, as “a tool participants (co-ops and processors) can use to communicate progress towards reducing their carbon and energy footprint.”

The report says further that the Environmental portion of FARM is geared toward assuring dairy customers and consumers of the dairy industry’s commitment to “ongoing environmental progress (by) asking a set of questions to assess a farm’s carbon and energy footprint and then providing farmers with reliable, statistically robust estimates.” It also “tracks advances in dairy production efficiency.”

The questions and data are evaluated based on a life-cycle assessment (LCA) of fluid milk conducted by the Applied Sustainability Center at the University of Arkansas, incorporating modeling piloted on 500 example dairy farms across the country.

Checkoff-funded GHG calculator

This LCA development was launched in 2009 at the inception of FARM. By 2010, the greenhouse gas (GHG) LCA was completed, and by 2012, the comprehensive environmental LCA was completed. The program’s ‘Farm Smart’ tracking tool was piloted on the ‘model’ farms in 2013-14.

Farm Smart became a transitional tool in 2016 during a period of analysis, replication, system testing and piloting. In 2017, the FARM program added the Environmental module and began using this ‘Farm Smart science’ to establish the GHG calculator.

FARM environmental audits

For those producers who are being asked these new questions during their FARM evaluations in the past few months, their answers are recorded, and farm data are entered into a spreadsheet, from which annual Environmental audits will be randomly selected.

A video at the FARM website explains the process evaluators use to enter the farm name, zipcode and most recent daily milk shipment in pounds of fat and energy-corrected milk.

The spreadsheet automatically groups these farms by 3-digit zipcode and automatically ranks them within their geographic area by production quartiles — the top 25% of farms with the largest daily milk shipments are in quartile 1 and the smallest 25% are in quartile 4 with the other two quartiles automatically segregated.

Another built-in formula then sorts the farms by 3-digit zipcode and then by production quartile to break out ‘subset’ lists from which 33% of each subset will be randomly selected for annual audits.

Evaluators are told in this training video that the information they are collecting is “purely informational and will be used by National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) at a later time.”

So, as FARM evaluators come to the dairy farm, ask new questions and record new information to develop profiles of farms to run through a Farm Smart GHG calculator, the tracking of the milk supply is well on its way.

This tracking eventually becomes a point of oversight and internal regulation to reach the goals set by the checkoff-funded DMI Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy.

Checkoff sets GHG goals

During a Senate hearing on Agriculture and Climate Change this week (May 21), former USDA Secretary and current president and CEO of the checkoff-funded U.S. Dairy Export Council stated that “U.S. Dairy” is “on pace” to meet its goal (set while he was Secretary in 2009) of reducing GHG by 25% by 2020.

Vilsack also announced that the new benchmark set by DMI’s Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy is net-zero emissions (by 2030).

When introducing Vilsack at the hearing, the Senate Ag Committee leadership referred to him not only as the honorable Secretary, but as president and CEO of the dairy “exports and innovation.”

The former Ag Secretary in his current role is instrumental in DMI’s Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy as this entity partners with multi-national corporations operating global supply chains sourcing dairy products and ingredients.

In fact, Vilsack spent much of his time in front of the Senate Ag Committee Tuesday pressing for government support and partnership in setting up pilot farms where all technologies for meeting the net-zero benchmark can be “measured, verified, cost-assessed and then marketed.”

He said the dairy industry needs a “showcase” of pilot farms and ecosystem markets, and he said business opportunities and jobs will follow. Vilsack also indicated that a net-zero achievement is necessary so “U.S. Dairy has a marketing advantage to be competitive in global markets.”

In the past, the ‘showcase’ dairies for the various pursuits of DMI’s Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, have included Fair Oaks, and Mike McCloskey of Fair Oaks, based in northern Indiana has been a key driver in DMI’s Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, headquartered an hour or so north in Chicago. The Innovation Center also provided funding for fairlife as a startup over the past decade of these developments.

Vilsack involved from inception

The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy was implemented by DMI in 2008. The FARM program came under that umbrella in 2009. Both the GENYOUth and the Sustainability Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) were signed by DMI and USDA in 2009 and 2010 near the beginning of Vilsack’s 8-year tenure as Secretary. And, in 2010, DMI’s Innovation Center set a goal to reduce the already tiny carbon footprint of dairy by 25% by 2020. As now DMI employee Vilsack testified Tuesday, the Innovation Center’s new goal is net-zero by 2030.

In fact, in the final days of the Obama administration, on January 13, 2017, former Secretary Vilsack stepped from the office of the USDA Secretary on Independence Avenue, Washington D.C., and just 11 days and 4 miles later on January 24, 2017 stepped into his current office as president and CEO of the checkoff-funded U.S. Dairy Export Council, sharing offices with National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) on Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, Virginia.

As noted, the dairy checkoff — under the increased guidance of the Edelman public relations and marketing firm — started down this road in 2008 with the formation of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and the close working relationship with Vilsack while he was Secretary of Agriculture.

Through the MOU’s signed with USDA at that time, it is clear that DMI and its fledgling Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy was working closely with the USDA for all eight years Vilsack was Secretary and has carried the same direction and workload over to his employment with DMI in continuing to set benchmarks for dairy ahead of the current anti-cow discussions that have percolated over that same time within federal agencies through the influence of activist non-governmental organizations.

The DMI Innovation Center partnership with World Wildlife Fund became solidified in 2016, as Vilsack’s term as Ag Secretary was expiring.

Barely two years into his employment through dairy checkoff, Vilsack is back before the Senate Ag Committee talking about net-zero emissions, pilot farms, ecosystem markets and other concepts that align with the Green New Deal outlook on cows as a problem that needs to be solved by meatless Monday and have its methane button turned off in order to be acceptable in the EAT Lancet world where billionaires have invested in the replacement technologies of fake meat and fake dairy while simultaneously investing in U.S. global policy initiatives that were initiated while Vilsack was Secretary and were referenced by Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa.) during Tuesday’s hearing (that’s another story).

Again, instead of partnering with the private sector and organizations that understand the already small emissions of cattle when looking at the complete carbon cycle, dairy checkoff has aligned with groups like the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and companies with technologies that are geared toward capturing methane and achieving net-zero GHG emissions.

This all sounds good, right? But what does it really amount to?

Net-zero by the numbers

The current benchmark set by DMI and USDA via the MOU in 2009-10 set the goal of reducing U.S. Dairy’s GHG by 25% by 2020. U.S. GHG inventories — according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — show that total agriculture accounts for 9%. Dairy and livestock, combined, account for half of agriculture’s contribution at 3.9%. Dairy, alone, is at 1.9% on its way, presumably, to 1.5% by 2020.

Even at that point, 25% of 2 is a savings of 0.5% of total U.S. GHG. Part of the FARM program’s tracking of GHG is to look at the number of animals culled for beef so that a portion of their GHG calculation can be pushed over onto the beef footprint and out of the dairy footprint. Can we see how the minutia goes on and on over tiny fractions of impact vs. standing tall to tell the true story about how small the cow’s impact really is?

Vilsack (above): ‘It’s time to get to net-zero’. Mitloehner (below): ‘Cattle do not increase global warming’.

Methane facts vs. fiction

Scientists are pointing out how the methane focus on cattle is being misplaced, or at least not evaluated properly. They point out in a new report that methane is a ‘flow’ emission, not a ‘stock’ emission. In other words, it doesn’t stick around or build up.

Slightly muted Tuesday was the expert testimony given by Dr. Frank Mitloehner, world renowned GHG expert and professor at University of California – Davis. He separated fact from fiction on the carbon footprint of livestock and dairy.

More importantly, he described methane, which is the main GHG of concern for agriculture and especially livestock and dairy. He explained how methane differs from the other two greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide – that together make up total GHG.

“For example, carbon dioxide lives for 1000 years, once we emit CO2 with our vehicles, let’s say, it stays there for 1000 years, same for nitrous oxide,” Mitloehner testified. “But methane is very different… with a lifespan of only 10 years.”

He described how a 1000-cow dairy after 10 years, for example, is no longer an emitter of new methane because the methane emitted is also being destroyed at the same rate, becoming part of the carbon cycle through plant photosynthesis, ruminant consumption of these plants and so forth on a continuum.

He explained this destruction process – hydroxyl oxidation – that “occurs constantly,” saying that, “Any kind of discussions that I am part of is a discussion where that fact is left out, and it shouldn’t be left out because it’s critical.”

In fact, Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa said “Some of us are pretty struck today because we have heard that methane is horrible, we need to reduce our livestock herds, and we should have meatless Mondays. We’ve heard that time and time again. It’s been done in various federal agencies in past administrations.”

Mitloehner pointed out that while methane is an important climate pollutant and almost 30 times more potent than CO2, “If we maintain constant livestock herds and flocks, then we are not increasing methane and therefore not increasing global warming as a result of that.”

In that context, mitigating methane becomes a tool to counteract global warming, which is a different discussion and one that gives the methane mitigation a valuation for potential compensation.

Surprisingly, Mitloehner’s contribution received far fewer questions from Senators than one would expect. Most of the Senators gave Vilsack multiple opportunities to come back to his theme of driving dairy and agriculture to net-zero and the business opportunities and marketing advantages this would provide for “U.S. Dairy” in global markets.

Meanwhile, a growing number of scientists are agreeing with a more realistic perspective on methane, that a more ideal approach would be aimed at zero emissions for stock pollutants that are long-lived such as carbon dioxide (through a combination of energy efficiency, more food per lower energy inputs and carbon sequestration through crops, grasses and forages) while aiming for flow pollutants like methane to be low and stable instead of zero because methane is short-lived and part of a continuous sun-powered carbon cycle in which cows are already an integral part on the positive side.

GHG tracking

With dairy farms representing 1.9% of total U.S. GHG and the transportation sector representing 80%, who is then calculating the GHG impact of transportation in a consolidating industry where the new term coined by Vilsack of ‘ecosystem markets’ substitute on a larger scale for the ‘environmentally-friendly’ concepts of regional food systems and eating ‘local.’

On the methane tracking in this deal, a split in thought processes is beginning to emerge.

Meanwhile, the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy — and its birthing of the FARM program — provide the vehicle to meet the net-zero benchmark this checkoff-funded entity has set. The pilot farms the former Secretary wants the government to partner in supporting would develop another template of practices and technologies farms can implement to meet new Environmental FARM criteria so the net-zero benchmark can be met and marketed over the next 10 years.  

While achieving, marketing and capitalizing on net-zero emissions sounds great, what does it mean for all of the farms being forced to pay into the dairy checkoff with expectations that this money is for promotion and research of the milk they produce and the care they have always taken of the resources they steward?

When benchmarks, streamlining vehicles, government cross-over specialists, evolving science, assumed needs and fuzzy baselines, converge and align, where does this leave the single-family farm of 50 to 200 cows or multi-generational dairy farm of 300 to 1500 cows?

Will they be credited for destroying as much methane as they produce by keeping their herds fairly stable in size?

Without the financial incentives or compensation to implement template technologies to achieve net-zero, how will their tiny profiled-and-tracked GHG emissions be handled in FARM Environmental Stewardship audits and mandatory correction plans in 2020, 2025, 2030?

The drive toward installation of methane digesters to actually capture the methane is great science, and it works for some farms, but not others. It’s a pathway to net-zero, and yet it is unclear whether these other factors regarding methane will be highlighted in the Farm Smart GHG calculator developed by the DMI Innovation Center for the NMPF FARM implementation. Once in place, this GHG calculator will track dairy farm GHG progress as their cooperatives and processors add the Environmental ‘silo’ to the FARM requirements of shippers.

From Innovation Center documents and USDA MOU’s and WWF partnerships documents, the descriptions of the work done between 2010 and 2016 on the GHG calculator have a tracking focus on the same thing the anti-cow folks are focusing on, and that is methane’s 30-times greater heat-trapping capabilities compared with carbon dioxide, and totally ignoring the fact that the methane is short-lived at 10 years vs. carbon at 1000 years so the livestock and dairy industries have already dramatically reduced methane by having fewer animals producing more food today than 30 and 40 years ago.

Will appropriate credit be given to small and mid-sized dairy farms that have had modest growth rates over decades or generations putting them in a place of zero new methane? Or will they need to capture methane to satisfy the net-zero benchmark their checkoff program has set in order to make space for new cows to be added in the rapid growth and industry consolidation areas of the country?

In fact, as part of a flow pattern that involves plants (feed) and cows in reducing the GHG heat-trapping potential of carbon dioxide and methane, combined (see fig. 2), what’s newsworthy is  science does support more accurate modeling to credit the sequestration of long-lasting carbon and accounting for short-lived methane destruction.

On methane, Dr. Mitloehner stated that the mere fact that 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. creeped higher from 2014 to 2018 before backing off a bit in 2019. While still much lower than three or four 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 expanded global export goal if dairy farms in other areas remain virtually constant in size or are grow modestly by comparison.

To reach the Innovation Center’s new net-zero goal, cows would have to leave 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 NMPF / FARM. 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).

Will all dairy farms have to get to net-zero to survive over the next 10 years under the GHG calculator developed by the checkoff-funded Innovation Center, which has now been added to the FARM program? That’s the big question.

Before the Senate, Vilsack repeatedly went back to his main premise that the Net Zero Project is  “critical for U.S. dairy.” His written testimony specified that the Net Zero Project comes out of the collaborative work of several dairy checkoff-funded entities along with various global dairy food companies, including DMI’s Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy in combination with DMI-funded U.S. Dairy Export Council, and checkoff-supported Newtrient LLC, as well as an industry consortium called the Global Dairy Platform.

According to Vilsack, the Net Zero Project presents a  “global marketing advantage for U.S. dairy,” he said.  “This is how U.S. Dairy will compete.”

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With science-fiction, they socially herd us like cattle to ‘alternative’ squeeze chute

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, February 22, 2019

All circles lead back to marketing, which is on display right now with the EAT Lancet report in January and the EAT Forums and social marketing that are hitting us in rapid succession, having already filtered into the Green New Deal in Washington and other legislation proposed in California.

Dr. Frank Mitloehner, a greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions expert from the University of California, Davis is not the only one questioning the GHG findings in the report.

He offered proof this week that the science director for the EAT Foundation, in an email (below), admitted the report’s dietary recommendations are not based on environmental considerations, they are based on – you guessed it – a hyper-charged version of the flawed dietary guidelines that have been making us, especially our children, fatter and sicker through ever-increasing government control of food choices!

This is a clear admission that the GHG figures being peddled are, as Mitloehner put it in Lancaster recently “without a single leg to stand on.”

This brings everything back to the common denominator in the ongoing social engineering project: USDA Dietary Guidelines.

In the pages of Farmshine for years (through two dietary guideline cycles, 10 years to be exact), we have warned about the Dietary Guidelines.

For months, we’ve sounded alarms about the genetically-altered yeast making ‘dairy without the cow’.

For weeks, we’ve been tracing the alliances of the Edelman company that has done the marketing and PR for DMI for 20 years and is also doing the social marketing and communication strategies for EAT Lancet.

That story was laid out here last week.

This week the EAT Lancet Commission’s desire for drastic reductions in meat and dairy consumption grew major legs as the Edelman social marketing machine — via staff loaned and now working as employees of EAT’s corporate initiative — have been in full artillery mode with our nation’s dairy and beef cattle in the crosshairs.

The right hand has been telling us we have a seat at the table, while the left hand has been working overtime to pull out the rug.

I’ll borrow this term: Resist! The Science Fiction EAT Lancet report is slowly but surely being spoonfed without a transparent airing in the press.

The EAT Lancet Commission had little actual press since 2019 launch, but not to worry! The global food tranformation effort (EAT Lancet, EAT FReSH) is coordinated by the world’s largest marketing and PR firm — spawning the seemingly random and unconnected legislative and marketing campaigns from the Green New Deal and new global diet ‘wisdom’ (flexitarian / reducitarian) to the outright lies about cows in foundation versions of prominent news organizations like Reuters, Bloomberg, The Economist, The Guardian and positioning of the new PepsiCo’s Quaker Oat beverage launch inprime dairy case real estate this week, to the unveiling of Danone’s new non-dairy yogurt plant in Dubois, Pennsylvania geared to “take plant-based products to the max.”


PepsiCo and Danone are two of the 41 corporate sponsors of the EAT Lancet global food transformation propaganda, and they are launching their ‘solutions’ right now. PepsiCo launched it’s Quaker Oat beverage this week, and it’s showing up prominently in dairy cases like this one. Danone unveiled the largest ‘dairy free’ yogurt plant in the world in Pennsylvania a few weeks ago, with its new ‘sustainable’ yogurt products reaching store shelves also in time to capitalize on the EAT FReSH social marketing campaign. Photo submitted by a Farmshine reader in northwest Indiana 

A convergence of the elite. It’s really one big thing, connected. The funding corporations are rolling out their food ‘solutions’ as we speak, hoping unwitting consumers will jump on the food-transformation-train.

I am resisting any brand that participates in this tomfoolery. 

EAT FReSH corporate sponsor Danone launched their marketing campaign for the new “dairy free” yogurt now made in Pennsylvania, and it has EAT Lancet taglines written all over it.

Of course, Danone is also a client of Edelman. So is PepsiCo.

Follow the money, folks.

Inside this high-stakes game is the world’s largest marketing and PR firm coining elite catch phrases about “eating within planetary boundaries” — you know — to save the planet, and other such “purpose-driven marketing” they are known for.

(Technically, the account director of Edelman Amsterdam planned and organized for two years as employee on assignment with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), which is the organization launching the EAT FReSH initiative with the 41 corporate sponsors, including Edelman. When the EAT Lancet Report and EAT Forums did launch in mid-January 2019, Lara Luten left Edelman’s employ at that point to become the full time director of the communications and social marketing plans that have been laid).

Boil it down. The nobles are telling the serfs: Forget animal protein, ‘Eat cake!’

I’m not against dairy alternatives, they should be available. We are omnivores. Plants need animals and animals need plants and we need them both.

What I am against is global propaganda that positions itself as science and is being used to socially herd us like cattle to the plant-based chute without the integrity to tell us it’s a bridge to genetically-altered-laboratory-designer-proteins (aka fake-meat and fake-dairy) grown in vats and bioreactors. 

Roughly 70% of the available land for food production is grasslands and marginal lands. It is these lands that cattle can graze or where forages for cattle are harvested in systems much different from row crops and vegetable plots. 

Cows upcycle low quality feedstuffs and plant byproducts that we can’t use, and they turn it into nutrient dense, delicious milk and beef. (Those grasslands and forages sequester carbon too!!)

Animal Ag emits less than half of the total greenhouse gas emissions for all of agriculture, and if we look at this per unit of nutrition, it’s amazing.

Animal Ag (dairy, beef, pork, poultry all combined) are responsible for just 3.9% of the U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory, but EAT Lancet tells a different story, and the lies are being exposed.

Just imagine how much stress will be on our so-called “planetary boundaries” if science fiction and social purpose-driven marketing prevails and more of us are “herded” or fooled into replacing more of our animal-based dietary nutrients with plant-based sources. It can’t be done. 

This is a Silicon Valley bridge to the billionaire-funded bioreactor factories to grow (3-D print) replacement protein from gene-altered yeast or gene-edited cell blobs. In fact, Microsoft founder Bill Gates was on CNN with Fareed Zakaaria Sunday talking about “cow farts being one of the world’s biggest problems” and the need for lab-cultured animal protein … to save the world. (Let’s be all the dumber for watching that interview clip here)

What Mr. Gates forgot to mention is his considerable investment in this disrupter technology of fake-meat, and that Microsoft is a corporate sponsor of EAT FReSH / EAT Foundation.

Yes, more science-fiction propaganda in the form of so-called purpose-driven marketing is coming from all sides and hyping up fast because the billionaire investors and food supply chain corporations need this social herding process to launch their new products. It’s not about people and it’s not about the planet, it’s about profit — at our expense!

No thanks here. I’m jumping the gate. The social-herders have gone too far.

-30- 

Top photo credit Michele Kunjappu

‘Cows are solution, not problem’

Dr. Frank Mitloehner (@GHGGuru) speaks out : “Cows are the solution, not the problem.’ He is a GHG expert and professor at University of California, Davis. Photo by Sherry Bunting

Livestock and Climate Change: Fact or Faked?

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, February 15, 2019

LANCASTER Pa. – “Our cows are the solution, not the problem,” said greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions expert and animal scientist Dr. Frank Mitloehner as he methodically went through GHG emissions research over the past 12 years as well as talking about dairy and livestock producers having the high ground for an essential role in sustainably feeding the world’s growing population.

He spoke in Pennsylvania recently on Livestock and Climate Change: Fact or Faked?

Dr. Mitloehner touched on the EAT Lancet Report (eatforum.org) released in January and the global EAT Forums that arrived in the U.S. the day before the Green New Deal was put forward as a resolution in Congress.

“EAT Lancet is full of inaccuracies, and we are working on exposing them one by one,” said Dr. Mitloehner, air quality specialist from the University of California, Davis.

In fact, Dr. Mitloehner said candidly that, “The EAT Lancet Report hasn’t a single leg to stand on, and ‘your special friends’ are beginning to feel the pressure now.”

The EAT Lancet Commission on Food, Planet and Health, is centered on a well-funded and pretty much anti-animal ideal about how to transform food and agriculture to “feed a future population of 10 billion people a healthy diet within planetary boundaries.”

EAT Lancet brought together more than 30 scientists, which were subsequently revealed to be mainly vegan researchers, to reach a scientific consensus that defines a healthy and sustainable diet. What they came up with is a plan to “transform the global food supply system” with a new dietary framework that is based on flawed GHG assessments — a more plant-based diet with drastic reductions in dairy and meat consumption by 2030. (1 1/4 ounces of meat per day of which only 1/4 ounce can be beef, the equivalent of one 8 ounce cup of milk a day and 1 1/2 eggs per week)

In fact, while Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasia-Cortez was in New York City last week telling schools to drop dairy for one meal a day, the 80 investor groups in EAT Lancet, representing $6.5 trillion last week called on the largest fast food companies, including McDonald’s and KFC, to set targets for cutting GHG emissions from meat and dairy supply chains.

Dr. Mitloehner is confident that he and other scientists will successfully challenge their benchmarks where dairy and livestock production are concerned and are showing how this move to replace dairy and meat nutrients with plant-based alternatives would use more of the earth’s limited land and water resources and result in increased GHG per unit of nutrition.

He also said that U.S. dairy and livestock producers will continue to improve, and their efforts to further increase their sustainability measures are key parts of the “cows as solution not problem” approach.

Some history was in order. In 2006, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released a similar assessment of animal agriculture’s impact on climate change with their Livestock’s Long Shadow Report.

That report pegged animal agriculture’s GHG’s at 18% and stated livestock account for more GHG than the entire transportation sector.

Mitloehner said the process for this assessment was skewed, and when he publicly criticized it, suddenly he was getting calls from media around the world, and the FAO and report’s original authors refigured the GHG’s for animal agriculture with the revised numbers at 3.9% for animal agriculture (lower than the original report) and 26% for transportation (higher).

But even today, activists cite the original Long Shadow Report numbers, which requires constant rebuttal to get the corrected and real numbers in front of the public.

With EAT Lancet, here we go again.

“What happened with the Long Shadow Report is that they included the GHGs for the entire lifecycle approach for livestock from the soil to the mouth of the consumer, which included transportation,” said Mitloehner. “They did not use this approach for the transportation sector, which looked just at tail pipe emissions.”

Mitloehner credited the UN FAO for responding and retracting. This event led to the formation of a group of scientists collaborating on climate change, emissions, alternatives and solutions with a globally-accepted process for benchmarking the numbers. Mitloehner is part of this group.

Dr. Frank Mitloehner shows the U.S. GHG percentage for dairy (according to EPA) on the left as 2% of TOTAL GHG. Animal Ag accounts for 4% total and all of agriculture accounts for 9% (more recent figures have decreased all of these amounts via EPA). On the right, a slide showed the global GHG in 2017, and we can see how very small the amount is for agriculture with plant-based agriculture at 0.6% and Animal Ag 0.5%.

“Your special friends (EAT Lancet and others) use the following trick: they use the retracted global livestock figure of 18% and apply that to U.S. animal agriculture,” said Mitloehner. This is a double-whammy.

In other words, not only are they using the retracted global figures, they are not giving U.S. producers credit for gains in efficiency far outshining even the real global numbers.

This means they are pegging U.S. animal agriculture at 15% vs. the real number of less than 4% because they have “conveniently forgotten the little detail that these figures have been disproven,” he said.

Think about what happens when dairy and other animal foods are substituted. The GHG, water use, soil micronutrients — everything changes. Land used for cattle forages does not easily convert to vegetable crops. Cattle feeds, largely forages, are grown and harvested in a way that sequesters carbon. There are so many pieces that are left out of the picture painted by those who seek to make cows the problem, when they are in fact the solution..

And as the world population has grown, U.S. dairy farmers, for example, have produced more milk and dairy products while lowering their carbon footprint by two-thirds between 1945 and today! That’s astonishing.

Take water use as another example, dairy farming accounts for 5.1% of the U.S. water draw. The use of water for cattle to drink and for washing the milking parlors and milking equipment combine to account for 0.2% of the U.S. water draw — that’s less than half of one percent of total U.S. water draw for all uses.

The remainder of that 5.1% water-draw attributed to dairy is mainly irrigation of forage crops and pasture. If those grasslands and hayfields are converted to grow plants for human consumption, more irrigation draw would be needed on those lands, particularly when factoring-in the high level of nutrition we get from animal protein in a balanced diet. (Whole milk for example is nutrient dense, containing 8 grams of complete protein per 8-ounce glass. This high-quality protein contains all 9 essential amino acids.)

Seeking environmental balance, there’s one inescapable conclusion when it comes to recycling nutrients in a world of finite resources: Plants need animals and animals need plants and we need them both!

Dr. Mitloehner also talked about the GHGs from food waste. This is where cattle shine too!

With 40% of all food produced in the U.S. and globally going to waste, he said the largest sector of waste is fruits and vegetables at 50%, while the dairy and meat sectors are at 20%.

“The fact is that waste in animal agriculture is far less than other food sectors,” he said, adding that food waste is a huge environmental problem and cattle actually are a model. They provide a solution .

“Nutrients that normally go to waste are fed to ruminant animals,” said Mitloehner, giving the example of 20% of food byproducts in California fed to cattle. “They have this fabulous digestive tract that allows them to upcycle nutrients that are nonedible for humans (both byproducts as well as forages and grasses on lands not suited for tilling).

“It drives me crazy that we are not telling this story of how our cattle are upcycling low quality feed sources to high quality nutrient dense foods,” he said, adding that the comparisons of dairy protein, for example, to plant-based alternatives do not give credit to milk and dairy having higher quality protein with twice the bioavailability in our diets.T