COW TALK: Thoughts inspired by cows’ breath on cold morning

By Sherry Bunting, republished from Farmshine, November 18, 2022

These cows are wondering what’s going on. Five days ago, they enjoyed balmy 70-degree temps. This morning, they could see their own breath freezing in mid-air.

They’ve been listening to their farmer’s radio this week and heard that President Biden pledged to give $11.4 billion ANNUALLY to other countries for a climate transition. They heard that climate pledges were being made at COP27 that could make what is happening to some of their friends in Europe happen here in the U.S. to them too.

This got their attention because they’ve also been hearing how the methane in their burps is being overblown by a whopping 3 to 4 times its actual warming potential over 20 years.

(They could have told you that if they could talk).

Yep, they know they are getting a raw deal here. Even the world’s foremost authorities on what units of measure to use for methane agree that the GWP100 is overblowing the cow problem, whereas the GWP* they hear Dr. Frank Mitloehner talk about when their farmer has a zoom webinar airing within earshot is more accurate and gives them a chance to be the SOLUTION they know they are instead of the PROBLEM they know they are not.

But cows can’t talk, so they can’t stick up for themselves. Are we sticking up for them?

Bessie and her friends have heard that their farmer must pay 15 cents for every 100 pounds of milk they make to an organization in Chicago that is content to use the inflated unit, content to keep driving their net-zero talking points even though net-zero GHG is impossible because, well, because cows continue to breathe and burp, so getting the unit of measure correct may literally save their lives some day.

Even their tiny cow-sized brains are smart enough to know that inflating a problem to make a buck is not a good idea.

What is a good idea for the cows and their farmers, and for the world, is for the 15-cent-takers to change their narrative and talk about true warming potential and climate neutrality instead of net-zero, ad-nauseum.

One can sense these cows wish they could speak up to say: “Stop overblowing our burps please! It’s impolite!”

They might even say something like this: “Our ‘hot air’ is nothing compared to the steam rising off the loads of bull coming out of Washington, D.C. and COP27 in Egypt!”

These cows have also heard on their farmer’s radio station that the mid-term elections are still undecided as to what party will be in leadership of the People’s House. And yes, they’ll admit that over the past eight days, they’ve placed a few bets on the outcomes between mouthfuls of TMR at the feedbunk where they discuss current events.

They’ve even wondered if they should start a new political party of their own: the COW-MP party, which stands for Commonsense Organization of Whole Milk Producers. After all, some people think skim milk is their product. That one really gets them mooing.

This Thanksgiving, we’re thankful for our dairy farm families and the people of this industry who work hard every day to feed the world. But this year, we’re giving a special ode of gratitude to the bovine beauties, themselves, that make it all possible. Where would we be without the cows?

While the climate policy wonks, activists, even industry organizations perpetuate or allow this verbal abuse of our cows to continue, we’re thanking God for providing the essential irreplaceable cow.

We’re pretty sure He knew what He was doing a whole lot better than those in the ivory towers making policy, devising hoops for cows to jump through in order to exist and funding startups to make fake protein from fermentation vats in labs and factories under the mantra of saving the planet from the inflated overblown warming potential of our burping cows.

Even those of us with tiny cow-sized brains are smart enough to realize it’s really all about making money and controlling food.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving, and let’s think more about how we should be standing up for our cows.

Dairy checkoff is ‘negotiating’ your future: Train wreck ahead. Stop the train. Correct the track. (DMI Net Zero – Part One)

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, Sept. 16, 2022

Dairy farmers are being used without regard. Their future ability to operate is right now being negotiated, and they are paying those negotiators through their 15-cents-per-hundredweight mandatory checkoff with no idea how the negotiations will ultimately affect their businesses and way of life.

Inflated baselines and an inflated methane CO2 equivalent assigned to cows is setting the stage for a head-on collision, a train wreck on the misaligned track laid by DMI’s Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy.

In fact, the Net Zero Initiative has been designed to help everyone but the dairy farmer. It sets up a methane money game for carbon traders at the expense of those dairy farms that have long been environmentally conscious with no-till, cover crops, grazing, and other practices already on their farms.

Such farms will be of no use in what is shaping up to be a focus on harvesting reductions, not attaining neutrality, in DMI’s Net Zero Initiative (NZI).

Small and mid-sized dairy farms that are already at or near carbon-neutral could show smaller reductions for the industry to harvest. 

Conversely, the largest dairies installing the newest biogas systems are realizing even this route could become a dead-end because the credits are signed over and sold for big bucks, a few bucks get kicked back to the dairy, but the methane capture becomes the property of other industries outside of the dairy supply chain.

If the industry does not act now to stop the NZI train for a period of re-examination, adjustment and correction, then the current trajectory may actually move food companies clamoring for reductions ever closer to alternatives and analogs that boast their climate claims solely on the fact that they are produced without cows.

This is a big money game that is operating off the backs of our cows, and the checkoff has been at best complicit as a driver.

RNG (renewable natural gas) operators are signing up large (3000+ cows) dairies left and right for digesters and covered lagoons to capture methane piped to clustered scrubbing facilities to be turned into renewable fuel for vehicles or electricity generation. Meanwhile dairy protein analogs are being created without cows by ‘precision fermentation’ startups partnering with the largest global dairy companies.

In turn, millions if not billions of dollars in carbon credits are generated while farmers and their milk buyers will be left figuring out how to show their reductions when they are left holding the inflated methane bag.

Six organizations, four of them non-profits under the DMI umbrella, officially launched the Net Zero Intitiative (NZI) in the fall of 2019, five months after Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack made headlines talking about it in a Senate hearing while he was pulling down a million-dollar salary as a DMI executive in 2018.

NZI is the proclaimed vehicle for negotiating the terms for U.S. Dairy to continue, terms based on showing carbon reductions that many family farms may find difficult to meet — especially if the farm is already at or close to carbon neutral.

As DMI’s sustainability negotiators data-collect all previous reductions into farm-by-farm comprehensive baseline estimates, where will those farms find new reductions? 

According to DMI staff, over 2000 dairy farms have already gone through their environmental stewardship review via the FARM program to establish their “comprehensive estimates.”

The six organizations, four of them filing IRS 990s under the national dairy checkoff, that launched NZI are: Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) and Newtrient, along with the other two organizations being National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), and International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA).

They have collectively bought-into the global definition that inflates the CO2 equivalent used for methane, effectively committing the cow to perpetual GHG purgatory. 

Because the NZI structure is based on continually showing GHG reductions, no farm is insulated with a get-out-of-jail-free-key — not even the largest farms with the most advanced biogas systems.

Why haven’t checkoff funds been used to defend the cow – to get the numbers right, to get the current practices farmers have invested in counted toward reductions not baselines, and to get the methane CO2 equivalent correct — instead of giving in to this notion that feels an awful lot like ‘cows are bad and we are committed to making them better?’

Perhaps it was ignored or embraced because this inflated methane CO2 equivalent gives the suite of tech tools being assembled by DMI’s Newtrient a bigger runway to show reductions — a money maker for the RNG biogas companies and others that will in many cases end up owning the carbon credits after paying the farmer a nominal fee. 

Carbon trading rose 164% last year to $851 billion, according to a Reuters January 2022 report. A big chunk of this is coming from the methane capture and fossil fuel replacement of RNG biogas projects, mostly in California but popping up elsewhere at a rapid rate and mostly traded on the California exchange.

Farmers are getting some money for these projects, but they don’t own the carbon credits once they are sold or signed over. When they are sold outside of the dairy supply chain, this reduction becomes someone else’s property, so it is no longer part of the dairy farm’s footprint nor the footprint of their milk buyer. 

Likewise, this inflated methane equivalent — along with the emphasis on reductions, not neutrality — has some processors wondering if they’ll be able to come up with the Scope 3 reductions they need in ESG scoring.

They are facing upstream pressure from retailers and consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies as well as asset managers to show reductions, and they have counted on big numbers from their Scope 3 suppliers, the dairy farms.

The problem for dairy processors and dairy farmers comes down to the central definitions of methane equivalent and carbon asset ownership — the rights of farmers to own their past, present and future reductions, whether or not they’ve signed them over as offsets to a milk buyer or a project investor and whether or not they’ve sold the resulting credits on a carbon exchange, and whether or not they’ve installed new practices that are now part of a baseline but represent a new investment every year as they operate their businesses.

Back in June, the American Dairy Coalition added this concern to their list of federal milk pricing priorities because of the impact this climate and carbon tracking will have on milk buying and selling relationships and contracts — and the lack of clarity or fairness in this deal for essential food producers at the origination point that is closest to nature, the farm. 

ADC worded their “carbon asset ownership” priority this way: “No matter where a dairy farm’s milk is processed, that farm should be able to retain 100% ownership at all times of its earned and achieved carbon assets, even if this information is shared with milk buyers to describe the resulting products that are made from the milk.”

For its part, IDFA took a swing last Friday, going one step farther to recommend global accounting methods that would allow the dairy supply chain (farmers and processors) to retain carbon credits even if they are sold on a carbon exchange or signed over to an asset company that invested in an on-farm technology. 

IDFA executives penned the Sept. 9 opinion piece in Agri-Pulse laying out the concerns of their members who are starting to realize the future consequences of the rapid and inflated monetization of methane — and the race to sell carbon credits — leaving dairy processors unable to get those credits they were counting on from the farms that supply them with milk, while at the same time being stuck facing the cow’s inflated methane CO2 equivalent in their downstream Scope 3 even while they try to get reductions in their own controlled areas of Scopes 1 and 2.

When dairy farms no longer own their reduction or cannot show a large reduction because they are already virtually neutral, processors become concerned about how they will gain the Scope 3 reductions that are part of the ESG scoring the large retailers and global food companies are pushing. 

All of this has come down through the non-governmental organizations like World Wildlife Fund (WWF), investment and asset management sector via the World Economic Forum (WEF), the global corporate structures through the Sustainability Roundtable and through government entities via the United Nations Agenda 2030. DMI has been at those tables for at least 14 years.

“It is becoming clearer every day that the global accounting standards underpinning GHG measurement and reporting are biased against the very people making the (GHG) reductions,” the IDFA executives wrote in their opinion.

In other words, while some farmers are beginning to profit from GHG-reducing practices that are turned into offsets and traded on the carbon markets, the system is tilted against them because it leaves them without the offsets they traded and leaves them in a position of having to continually reduce in order to secure a position in the value chain.

IDFA points out that under the current rules, once the offset is sold outside of the value chain as a carbon credit – it is gone. The current GHG accounting system says only the buyer of that reduction can claim ownership.

Those farms can no longer claim their own reduction, and it means the company buying milk or other commodities from a producer cannot integrate the reduction into the description of their final product.

This weakens U.S. Dairy, the IDFA opinion states, and it makes dairy farmers less competitive sources of pledge-meeting carbon reductions for retailers and manufacturers – setting real dairy up for fake dairy dilution with the inclusion of whey proteins and other pieces of milk that are being produced in fermentation vats by genetically modified yeast, fungi and bacteria, as well as other analogs.

A bigger problem not mentioned in the IDFA opinion may be the inflated baselines that leave farms that have implemented best practices years ago positioned to show smaller reductions.

While the American Farm Bureau earlier this year lobbied against proposed SEC accounting intrusions for quantifying ESG scoring, it has been silent on the issue of carbon asset ownership for food producers. AFBF has also said little about the recently signed climate bill (Inflation Reduction Act).

National Milk Producers Federation, on the other hand, as reported last week, sang its praises for being right in line with where the industry’s Net Zero Initiative is going.

DMI voices its pride to have been leading the way, positioning its Innovation Center as founded by dairy farmers. They have conceded that dairy farms impact the environment and launched NZI as a collective pledge to reduce that impact.

In other words, DMI submitted to the idea that cows impact the environment, but never fear, through NZI, the Innovation Center and Newtrient, farmers will make them better, and turn them into a climate solution.

This is a fool’s errand given the inflated methane equivalent and the movement of carbon reductions to entities outside of the dairy supply chain such as paper mills, bitcoin miners, and the fossil fuel industry.

Did dairy farmers have a say in any of this? Not really. They were kept in the dark as this was developed over the past decade or more, and the boards representing them on the six organizations that launched NZI (four of them under the checkoff umbrella) have been duped.

Farmers are largely unaware of the NZI train, and their silence as it runs down the track becomes a further signal to the industry and to the government that they approve of the track they are on.

As the industry sits at this crossing, the Net Zero train full of dairy farmer passengers is barreling high speed down the track DMI has laid.

This train must be stopped because the future-bound track needs to be re-examined, adjusted and re-aligned so that the passengers are not ejected by the train wreck – the accelerated consolidator — that lies ahead.

Fundamentals must be vigorously revisited. Every passenger on that train, every dairy farm, must be recognized as an essential food producer, get credit for their prior investment in current practices, and be able to retain ownership of their carbon assets as part of their farm’s footprint — even if these assets have been provided, sold or signed over as offsets to milk buyers or project investors or traders on an exchange.

Furthermore, this train – built with farmer dollars – should protect the so-called founding farmers from being denied a market based on the size of their GHG reductions. If a carbon neutral farm can’t show reductions to its milk buyer, will that buyer look for other downstream vendors who can fulfill their Scope 3 reduction needs?

Will those vendors be other farms with larger perceived GHG reductions or will they be alternative analogs created without cows?

Nestle announced this week it is partnering with Perfect Day toward that end. In fact, the proliferation of plant-based, cell cultured, DNA-altered microbe excrement analogs for dairy protein and other elements are entering the market on big GHG reduction claims based on being made without the cow and the inflated methane CO2 equivalent she has been assigned!

The current standard for methane CO2 equivalency is inflated by orders of magnitude. Dr. Frank Mitloehner has addressed this repeatedly and other researchers back his view with efforts to change it.

As Mitloehner and others point out, climate neutrality should be the goal, not net-zero. Furthermore, the current methane CO2 equivalent is calculated based only on the much greater warming effect of methane vs. CO2. However, the current calculation does not account for the fact that methane is short-lived in Earth’s atmosphere — about 10 years compared with 100 to 100 years for CO2 and other GHG. It also does not account for the cow’s role in the biogenic carbon cycle.

Remember, DMI and company have ignored or embraced this definition. At the same time, the Innovation Center’s data collection of progressive accomplishments are included in the baselines from which new reductions (opportunities) must be found.

These two trains run in opposite directions for a future head-on collision on a mis-aligned track. 

The bigger the perceived GHG problem, the bigger the reduction through technology, and the bigger the monetization of that reduction outside of the dairy supply chain. At the same time, this creates an even bigger problem for farms that are unable to participate in biogas projects, farms that don’t fit the Innovation Center’s 3500-cow-dairy-as-solution template, farms that may be carbon neutral or close to it already.

DMI and company have played fast and loose with the truth. 

Farmshine readers will recall the glaring error reported more than a year ago in the white paper written by WWF for DMI. It showcased these biogas projects and the 3500-cow dairy template it proclaimed could be Net Zero in five years, not 30. 

That paper inflated U.S. Dairy’s total GHG footprint by an order of magnitude! A Pennsylvania dairy farmer brought the error to Farmshine’s attention. In turn, the magnitude of the error was confirmed by Dr. Mitloehner who then contacted DMI. A corrected copy of the white paper magically replaced all internet files with no discussion from DMI or WWF. That number was changed, but all of the assumptions in the paper were left as-is.

Put simply: DMI does not appear to be concerned about inflating the size of dairy’s perceived GHG problem. The bigger the perceived problem, the bigger the reduction that can be monetized, but that is now happening outside of the dairy supply chain. 

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Deals with the devil at Davos; it all comes down to money… and land

WEF panel at Davos on redirecting capital in agriculture. (screen capture)

NEWS / ANALYSIS

By Sherry Bunting, published in Farmshine Newspaper, June 10, 2022

DAVOS — Let’s follow your checkoff money all the way to Davos, where Klaus Schwab and friends, known as the World Economic Forum (WEF), gather annually in Switzerland. This is where globalist elites have been plotting and planning the net zero economy, complete with food transformation maps.

On May 26, your message was delivered and your future was signed up, with your money through your checkoff programs — a plan 14 years in the making under the DMI umbrella of multiple so-called non-profit foundations and alliances.

Some of the same global actors in the WEF food transformation movement are also represented in the various non-profit alliances that were created by your checkoff in the 2008 through 2012 time-period.

At Davos, the May 26 panel on “redirecting capital in agriculture” is where “farmers voices were heard for the first time,” they said.

Don’t worry, the purpose was to get you the money from Davos billionaires to do all the things they will be requiring you to do to be part of the new net zero economy they are creating with the net zero goal DMI has set for you — despite the fact you didn’t vote on it or sign up for it, and experts can’t even agree on what it means or how it will be measured.

But that’s okay, your checkoff created surveys, sustainability platforms and strategic alliance non-profits to bring the largest processors together “pre-competitively” to set the timelines, plan the parameters, and craft your messages.

DMI “thought leaders” often talk about getting ahead of “societal issues” such as animal care and the environment via the Innovation Center — to avoid regulation. That is the basis of the FARM program, for example.

But the reality is the regulatory side has at least some accountability — a process via our democratic republic if we still have one. 

What democratic process was used to determine the rules your farm will live by — as decreed by the corporations buying what you produce, and now also the access to capital you will need to continue?

Consumers have not asked for this, and neither have you. But your checkoff has done it for you and will help you navigate.

DMI issued a press release just a few days before Davos about how the Sustainability Summit they held state-side to help you, the farmer, navigate this new future they have been creating with your checkoff money.

“Never has the opportunity been greater for us to come together and demonstrate our collective impact,” said DMI CEO Barb O’Brien in opening the pre-Davos Summit. “And frankly, never has it been more urgent as we work to meet the growing demands and expectations of both customers and consumers around personal wellness, environmental sustainability and food security.”

These are pretty words.

The press release cites the U.S. Dairy Stewardship Commitment as having 35 companies representing 75% of the milk market signed on. The four pieces DMI is working on were listed in a vague way: 1) utilizing new ‘digital frontiers’ for point-of-purchase ‘strategies’, 2) promoting a new definition of ‘health and wellness’, 3) fulfilling an ‘impact imperative’ they say exists among consumers positioning U.S. Dairy as the leader in addressing societal challenges such as climate change, and 4) targeting ‘inclusive relevance,’ which O’Brien said Gen Z is the driver as the most diverse generation to-date with societal expectations for companies and brands.

Two weeks later, the thought leader representing you in Davos told the gathered elite, the billionaires, the power-centers, that your soil has “perpetual societal value” and should be invested-in and traded as an “asset class,” that farmers are the “eco workforce to be deployed,” and that investors and lenders should “redirect capital” to “de-risk” the investments farmers must make as “climate warriors that are planting the future.”

We missed that memo. Lots of buzz terms here, so let them sink in.

Here’s the reality: Farmers’ voices were NOT heard in Davos. Instead, what was heard was the voices of the WEF billionaires, the WWF supply-chain leveraging model, the string-pullers (thought leaders), and the plan-developers. 

The World Wildlife Fund 2012 “Better Production for a Living Planet” identifies the strategy depicted in this graphic on biodiversity (30×30), water and climate. Instead of trying to change the habits of 7 billion consumers or working directly with 1.5 billion producers worldwide, WWF stated that their research identified a “practical solution” to leverage about 300 to 500 companies that control 70% of food choices. By partnering with dairy and beef checkoff national boards in this “pre-competitive” strategy, WWF has essentially used farmer funds to implement their priorities in lockstep with the World Economic Forum. Image from 2012 WWF Report

We don’t even know all the tentacles behind the pretty words used to describe what you have already been signed up for. Rest assured, DMI will roll them out gradually through the Innovation Center and FARM, and investors, lenders and others will put them in the fine print of farmer access to capital and markets.

It’s more truthful to say the farmers’ voice is being stolen in this process.

Your autonomy, independence and decision-making is being overridden. Your permission is being granted for the WEF Davos billionaires to step right up, help themselves, and determine your options, your future through their investments in a soils asset class — because, climate.

During the WEF panel, it was Erin Fitzgerald who carried “the farmers’ voice” to Davos.

Erin Fitzgerald (USFRA photo)

Fitzgerald is CEO of U.S. Farmers and Ranchers in Action (name changed in 2020 from the previous U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance). She became the USFRA CEO in 2018 after spending the previous 11 years working for DMI as Vice President of Sustainability and several other roles and titles while the FARM program and net zero framework was being developed. She spoke “for farmers and ranchers” in four sessions at the WEF annual meeting in Davos, including one panel about redirecting capital in agriculture, where she talked about soil as an “asset class” and farmers as the “eco workforce.”

During her comments on the Davos panel about “redirecting capital,” she made it clear that your consumer is “no longer the person at the checkout” in the grocery store. She said it’s the pension fund investors looking for low-risk investments. 

Even that is not entirely accurate. The truth is that DMI — in the creation of its many precompetitive alliances — has its sights set on bigger fish: the billionaires at Davos, the venture capitalists, the global corporations investing in climate. 

In fact, this is being driven behind the scenes by Edelman, the global PR firm that receives $16 to $18 million in checkoff funds annually as the contractor for DMI over the past decade of plotting and planning. Edelman is a key player at Davos. GENYOUth was the Edelman brainchild, and outgoing CEO Alexis Glick was originally tapped by Richard Edelman, himself, to lead GENYOUth as a former financial analyst who made Davos a high point of her itinerary.

Back to the WEF panel on May 26 — the messages that have been crafted were touted, along with a narrative about what you will do in the next 30 harvests as the “eco workforce” of the “new global net zero economy.”

Listening to some of the livestreamed sessions, other panels highlighted the future of food, energy and financing to all be rooted in carbon impact.

Some panels noted the fast pace of the WEF global transformation is creating inflation pain, but the globalist elites are not concerned, even saying “that’s a good thing.”

Other panels delved into individual carbon tracking, to measure, record and score what each one of us eats, where we go, how we get there.

Truth be told, consumers are also being signed up for the net zero economy, although most don’t even know it yet. In a free America, I’m not sure we voted on this global-control-fast-track either.

Fitzgerald, whose role is described as “building sustainable food systems of the future,” laid it out for the crowd of investors, corporations, regulators, and government officials.

On the Davos stage, she said she brought the farmers’ message and referred specifically to the DMI board chair as “my chair Marilyn, a farmer from Pennsylvania.” (Marilyn Hershey also sits on the USFRA board.) 

In the ‘redirecting capital’ discussion, another layer of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) model of leveraging the few players in the middle of the food supply chain to move consumers and producers at both ends was very much in play.

This is not surprising. The DMI alliance with WWF also spanned a 12-year period from 2008 to 2020 when all of these non-profit alliances were formed under the DMI umbrella to bring global processors together as a platform for “pre-competitively” determining how all farms will operate in the future.

Your innovation and hard work were mentioned, but no credit was given to where you are, what you already accomplish, as farmers. It is all forward-looking to annually “make progress” over “the next 30 harvests.”

The stage was set for farmers to see capital “redirected” to de-risk certain types of operations and to make the soil you farm an “asset class.”

“We officially have our first solution,” declared the Davos panel moderator, turning to the panelist sitting beside Fitzgerald, saying “that’s your area, let’s do it.” Who was this panelist? None other than David MacLennan, the board chair and CEO of Cargill, and a former member of the Chicago Board of Trade and Board of Options Exchange.

Think about this for a moment. Soil as an asset class dovetails nicely with the 30 x 30 land grab, another WEF / WWF / Great Reset / Build Back Better invention.

Lured by money or financing, the soil you farm — if it becomes a tradable asset class with financing channeled to certain practices begs this question: Whose land does it become and what will be your accountability through the Security and Exchange Commission or the Commodity Futures Trading Commission for disclosures? Farm Bureau is already sounding the alarm on proposed rules about supply chain producers being an open book to the SEC for claims made by companies buying their raw commodities.

More importantly, who will make the decisions on your farm? Fitzgerald asked the audience to “put aside the term ‘farmer’ and think about ‘these people’ as the “eco workforce.’”

Your voice, through your checkoff, just went into the den of thieves to offer your land, your future, your autonomy — as a farmer, rancher, landowner, generational steward of God-given resources in your community — and put it on a silver platter for the Davos global elites under the feel-good message of farmer as climate warrior, an eco workforce planting the future in the net zero economy.

They said your voice was heard, your story was told, and they’ll get you the investment funds for projects. In  “thinking about soils as a perpetual asset to society,” Fitzgerald said investors can do what was done for the renewable energy sector in 2008 to “prop it up and get it moving.”

“This eco workforce has boots on the ground,” she said. “They have every bit of capability, but they’re going to be battling the real effects of disrupted markets and climate change, and they also have unbelievable talent. Our farmers are doing amazing work as climate eco warriors. Are we as business agents of change here at Davos really creating the finance models to de-risk their investment to let them plant the future and be the eco warriors they can be in the fight on climate change?” 

More pretty words that might sound inspiring to some, until we pull back the layers and realize deals are being made with the devil.

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‘Carbon-negative milk?’ Northeast, Southeast milksheds can already claim it

EDITORIAL – OPINION

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, July 16, 2021

Farmshine readers will recall coverage of the U.S. Senate Ag Committee’s climate hearing in 2019, when Tom Vilsack, then president and CEO of U.S. Dairy Export Council, lobbied the Senate for climate-pilot-farm-funding. Remember, he announced DMI’s Net Zero Initiative at that hearing – five months ahead of its formal unveiling.

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.

Nationally, dairy cow numbers are rising after decades of declining. However, in the Northeast and Southeast milksheds, cow numbers are declining — and by a wide margin. 

This should indicate net methane reductions in the biogenic cycle or negative carbon milk for the fluid milk regions of the Northeast and Southeast.

As USDA and the industry coalesce around DMI’s unified approach through the Net Zero Initiative and the work of DMI’s Dairy Scale for Good with partner WWF — stating large integrators can be net zero in five years to spread their climate ‘achievements’ across the footprint of all milk in the dairy supply chain — I have to wonder what this means for the areas of the country beyond the ‘chosen’ growth areas.*(see footnote at the end)* 

Looking at the work of DMI’s Innovation Center and it’s fluid milk revitalization committee, sponsoring the launches of various diluted dairy-‘based’ beverages, something occurred to me from a marketing standpoint.

Here is a thought that could be helpful in the future for whole fluid milk bottled regionally to compete with emerging climate claims of dairy-‘based’ beverages that are made with ultrafiltered solids shipped by centralized cheese and ingredient facilities (without the water) to be reconstituted as mixtures with plant-based alternative beverages for population centers on the coasts.

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.

*footnote

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.

DMI’s NZI DS4G eyes climate policies, supply chain partners in net zero fastlane: but who gets the carbon credits?

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.

To be continued

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Transformative words, policies, what will they mean for farms, families?

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, April 9, 2021 (expanded)

Resilience and Equity are the two words of the year when it comes to almost every legislative policy discussion and presidential executive order, and filtering down through the briefings given to members of organizations by those who represent them, walking the halls of Congress.

Great words. Great ideals. But a little thin on definition.

That’s par for the course on many of the terms used in the USDA press release announcing the newly-named programs under USDA from stimulus legislation — Pandemic Assistance for Producers (PAP) — as well as details on the held funds for 2020’s CFAP 2.

It is difficult to make sense of much of the language in the press release because of terms thrown about and not defined. “Cooperative agreements” are mentioned as the way to grant nonprofits (yes, DMI would qualify), funds to help “support producer participation” in the assistance being offered. Broadened assistance for ‘socially-disadvantaged’ producers is mentioned, but no definition is given.

What will be attached in this approach within the context of transforming agriculture and food under the auspices of climate action, given the administration’s 30 x 30 plan, widely referred to as a “land grab”?

The 30 x 30 plan is part of a climate action executive order signed by the President within hours of inauguration. It aims to protect 30% of U.S. lands and oceans by 2030.

Specifically, Section 216 of the executive order states:

Sec. 216.  Conserving Our Nation’s Lands and Waters.  (a)  The Secretary of the Interior, in consultation with the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Commerce, the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, and the heads of other relevant agencies, shall submit a report to the Task Force within 90 days of the date of this order recommending steps that the United States should take, working with State, local, Tribal, and territorial governments, agricultural and forest landowners, fishermen, and other key stakeholders, to achieve the goal of conserving at least 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030.

The Lincoln Sentinel in Nebraska reports that meetings are taking place in April in the western U.S. to explain to landowners what 30 x 30 entails.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, currently the U.S. protects 12% of its land. “To reach the 30 x 30 goal, an additional area twice the size of Texas, more than 440 million acres, will need to be conserved within the next 10 years,” the Lincoln Sentinel reported this week.

A bill in the U.S. House would create new “wilderness” declarations, land that will not be managed or accessed — including a complete ban and removal of all agricultural use from these “conserved” land areas taken to meet the 30 x 30 goal.

A push is happening in Washington to incorporate 30×30 ‘land grab’ principles into the massive infrastructure bill and in the COVID-19 relief stimulus package that was passed.

The slippery slope toward larger and hotter wildfires and against private property and generations-old land use rights has begun. And the Nature Conservancy, already a large land owner / controller, is already looking ahead to the 2023 Farm Bill to include certain conservation provisions in the final product. They also look to the National Defense Authorization Act to include public land designations.

Tom Vilsack — whom President Joe Biden stated upon nomination to the post of Agriculture Secretary — helped develop the Biden rural plan for rural America and now has the job of implementing it, is on record pledging to use every opportunity within existing and new USDA programs to meet transformative sustainability goals.

This is all aligned and consistent with the Great Reset. Farmshine readers may recall several articles over the past year pointing out the ‘land grab’ goals of World Economic Forum’s Great Reset and with the United Nations’ sustainable development goals (SDGs) ahead of this summer’s UN Food System Transformation Summit. The UN documents use the same “resilience” and “equity” buzz words without much definition.

Remember the awkward moment at a Biden town hall meeting in Pennsylvania during the presidential campaign when a potato farmer and Farm Bureau member asked about his positions on environmental regulation, such as the Obama-era Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) implementation.

Then candidate Biden’s telling response described “the transition”:

“We should provide for your ability to make a lot more money, as farmers, by dealing with you being able to put land in land banks and you get paid to do that to provide for more open space, and to provide for the ability of you to be able to be in a position so that we are going to pay you for planting certain crops that in fact absorb carbon from the air,” he said, also referencing manure and setting up industries in communities to pelletize it.

“That’s how you can continue to farm without worrying about if you are polluting and be in a position to make money by what you do in the transition,” then candidate Biden said.

Though Biden stated at that time that his climate policy was not the Green New Deal, the overlaps in language were hard to deny. The Green New Deal included such references to “land banks”, described as government purchasing land from “retiring farmers” and making it available “affordably to new farmers and cooperatives that pledge certain sustainability practices.” (The short way of saying the answer he gave above).

The $2.2 trillion infrastructure plan includes land use and protection provisions as well as the STEP Act to help pay for it. That’s a proposal to raise estate and capital gains taxes to begin taxing asset transfers between generations during the estate-planning ‘gifting’ process and lowering the amount exempted on land and assets of estates transferred before and after death. This could have a big impact on how the next generation in the farm business pays the taxes to continue farming.

As one producer put it in a conversation, the plan is tantamount to selling one-fourth or more of a farm in order to pay the ‘transfer tax.’ (But, of course, the government then has the perfect setup to come in and pay the farmer to land-bank it, and then give it to another entity that contractually agrees to grow what the government wants, or to re-wild it.

Think about this, as we reported in October, most of us don’t even know what’s being planned for our futures. Big tech, big finance, big billionaires, big NGO’s, big food, all the biggest global players are planning the Great Reset (complete with land grab and animal product imitation investments) in which globalization is the key, and climate change and ‘sustainability’ — now cleverly linked to pandemic fears — will turn the lock.

The mandatory farmer-funded dairy and beef checkoffs — and their overseer USDA and sustainability partner World Wildlife Fund (WWF) — have been at this global food system transformation table since at least 2008 when DMI’s Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy was formed and Tom Vilsack was starting his first eight years as Ag Secretary before spending four years as a top-paid dairy checkoff executive and is now again serving as Ag Secretary.

So much of the groundwork for this pattern is consistent with the work of DMI and its sustainability partner WWF toward the Net Zero Initiative, and key WEF Great Reset global companies have joined in with funds for NZI piloting.

Perhaps what brings it home for me is reading what National Milk Producers Federation’s lobbiest Paul Bleiberg includes and omits in his piece for Hoards online Monday, where he talks about how fast things are moving in Washington and how the Biden administration and the 117th Congress are advancing ambitious plans to stimulate the U.S. recovery that, “encompasses key dairy priorities, including agricultural labor reform, climate change, child nutrition, and trade.”

He notes that as Congress and the administration have begun to dive into climate and sustainability, NMPF has outilined a suite of climate policy recommendations. He writes that “primary among (NMPF’s) goals is for Congress to consider modernizing conservation programs and provide new incentives to dairy farmers to build on the significant sustainability work they are already doing.”

For those paying attention to the WEF Great Reset and WWF’s role in food transformation, it is obvious that the anti-fat Dietary Guidelines are a key cog in the food and agriculture transformation wheel.

Bleiberg mentions childhood nutrition as a key dairy priority, but puts all of his emphasis on “urging the Senate Ag Commitee to maintain the flexibility for schools to offer low-fat flavored milk.” No mention is made of expanding flexibility to include the simple choice of whole milk. This, despite citing the DGA Committee’s admission that school-aged children do not meet the recommended intake for dairy.

Giving schoolchildren the opportunity to choose satisfying whole milk would certainly help in this regard, but that choice would interfere with the long-planned food transformation goals of the global elite — the Great Reset.

We all need to be aware of the transformational elements within policy discussion, find out the definitions of terms and nuts and bolts of program changes, be aware of how our youth are being used as change-agents, and be prepared to speak up for farmers, families, and freedom.

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