From DMI to NZI to DS4G: Harper, McCloskey explain how scale will drive dairy to net zero

Author’s Note: This is part one in a multi-part series about DMI’s Dairy Scale for Good piece of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy’s Net Zero Initiative.

By Sherry Bunting, updated from publication in Farmshine, April 23, 2021

ROSEMONT, Ill. — “Looking at the past 50 years of impressive achievement, everything ladders up to milk efficiency. It’s less land. It’s less manure. It’s less water and less carbon, but it’s all about that milk,” said Caleb Harper, executive director of the Dairy Scale for Good (DS4G) piece of the DMI Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy’s Net-Zero Initiative (NZI).

“For the next 50 years, what if it was all about everything other than the milk. As we continue to advance toward yield of milk… you’ll start to see a rise in the importance of everything else,” said Harper, posing a “value proposition” for the dairy industry.

Harper, along with Dr. Mike McCloskey, of Fair Oaks Farm, Fairlife and Select Milk Producers, talked about NZI and DS4G in an online Balchem ‘real science lecture series’ earlier this month. McCloskey is an officer on the board of National Milk Producers Federation and has chaired the DMI Innovation Center’s Sustainability Initiative since inception.

The future being created, according to Harper and McCloskey, is one of dairy being recognized as an “irreplaceable ecosystem asset — an environmental solution — inside a comprehensive management plan for emissions reduction inside of animal ag livestock.”

Citing the Nestle and Starbucks sponsorships and others coming on near term, Harper said the pilot projects associated with each company will be located in separate supply chains. The sponsorships are being made, he said, because these companies have made big commitments to reducing carbon.

“As checkoff, one of our limitations is the ability to do on-farm work, especially around technology acquisition or measurement, so we need these third-party dollars to come in and be the catalyst to get living laboratories set up,” Harper explained.

Before Harper’s presentation about how the Net Zero Initiative builds-out the ‘everything else’ pieces, McCloskey gave historical context about the birth of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy in 2007.

“The trajectory (since 1940) is just phenomenal when you lay out the statistics,” said McCloskey. “We came together – National Milk, DMI, USDEC – and had a great meeting of the minds (in 2007). We said this natural sustainability progress will continue, but we need to accelerate it and be catalytic in how we can become the organization to drive this at a faster speed to net-zero.”

According to McCloskey, 80% of the nation’s milk is represented at this NZI table, and the dairy industry is the one to “really come out of the gate on this.”

The whole value chain from distributors to processors to retailers and companies that create packaging (are represented), so we have a really good understanding of the entire value chain and can focus on how to eliminate carbon footprint to bring it to net-zero,” he said.

The baseline life-cycle assessments (LCA) were the first steps 10 to 13 years ago to figure out “exactly where” the carbon was coming from, and the April lecture discussion focused field to farm, noting that the processors have a separate working group looking post-farm through consumption.

McCloskey said the LCA categorized carbon in 4 areas:

1) Farming (feed production) practices
2) Manure management
3) Enteric emissions from cows
4) Energy intensity of the operation (including renewables)

“Once we knew where the carbon was coming from, we started initiatives to find processes and technologies to innovate and accelerate the process to net-zero even faster,” said McCloskey, explaining the heavy participation from companies serving on committees and through initiatives these past 13 years.

Then, a year and a half ago, “we committed to the term net-zero,” he said. “That was a big jump.”

This bit of history set the stage for Harper to talk about the part of the Net Zero Initiative he heads up: Dairy Scale for Good (DS4G).

Harper was hired by DMI last May for the DS4G position just weeks after exiting M.I.T.’s Media Lab April 30th, after his OpenAg Initiative there came under scrutiny and was quietly closed.

“Caleb is looking at the four areas and how we can take technologies and processes and innovate them into DS4G,” said McCloskey.

Harper noted that dairy and agriculture are not operating in a vacuum. He said the first “bold commitments” to net-zero time frames between now and 2050 were made by big tech companies like Facebook, Amazon, Google, followed by food brands, companies across the food value chain, and then the agricultural input sector.

Throughout his presentation, Harper referenced the Biden administration policies the work hinges on, using much of the same coordinated language that surfaces via the World Economic Forum Great Reset and United Nations Food Systems Summit and what is called “The Fourth Industrial Revolution” in which technology is already rapidly accelerating.

“We’re seeing a shift in philosophy and it’s being driven by all of these commitments,” said Harper, insisting that, “It’s being driven, of course, by consumers.”

He showed pre-Covid poll statistics from the Hartman group. One in particular noted that 88% of consumers surveyed “would like brands to help them be more environmentally friendly and ethical in their daily lives.”

“Dairy has made the commitment to being an environmental solution,” said Harper, which means becoming carbon neutral or better, optimizing water use while maximizing recycling, and improving water quality by optimizing utilization of manure and nutrients.

Three working groups or initiatives were formed within the field-to-farm Net Zero Initiative: 1) Research, analysis and modeling; 2) Viability study, which is DS4G headed by Harper; and 3) Adoption for collective impact.

The Adoption piece will distill and disseminate across the industry what is learned through research, modeling and Harper’s DS4G work.

It is all about driving consumer choices under this net-zero mantra. Industry consolidation also figures into this equation to “scale the process and drive out the risk,” said Harper.

Many of the numbers in Harper’s presentation were taken directly from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) white paper An Environmental and Economic Path Toward Net Zero Dairy Farm Emission.”

Harper cited environmental pressure and animal activism pressure on the U.S. dairy industry. He said: “This program (Dairy Net-Zero) is being supported by the World Wildlife Fund and others in the environmental space as a path towards a solution on all of these issues.”

Insisting that the Net Zero Initiative and DS4G operate with a “counter-balance” of environment and economics, the examples discussed by Harper included estimates for what producers may expect as returns for various environmental products and services.

Illustrating carbon footprint for a gallon of milk across all sectors from field to consumer, Harper and WWF maintain that the field-to-farm portion represents the largest potential (70%) for reducing CO2 equivalent emissions more than retail, consumption, processing and distribution combined. Harper said he sees this as work and opportunity. McCloskey had noted earlier that the processors have their own working group looking at emissions from farm to consumption.

The WWF white paper lays out the “business case” for the Net Zero Initiative, based on a 3500 cow dairy (a Fair Oaks site with 3000 milking and 500 dry). In fact, Harper’s DS4G work will exclusively pilot and model on dairies of this size.

“This is to make maximum impact on the supply of milk in the short-term,” he said. “If we look at the kind of consolidation going on in the industry, the herd sizes above 1000 cows are a small percentage of the total herd; however, (they account for) 55% of the milk production.”

Harper explained the DS4G concept this way:

“The idea is to use scale to address these (net-zero) issues so we can drive down the risk of adoption, the risk of market-building, the risk of technology… to bring that down to a level and spread it across the industry, across the milk.”

Walking through the technologies and processes that the checkoff-funded DS4G is “thinking about,” Harper indicated that this is “evolving”, and all revenue potential figures are “approximate”.

He mentioned a billion dollars of investment in digesters over the last few years from private equity funds, pension funds, and venture investors, with digesters representing — “rule of thumb” — one-third of the revenue potential of net-zero going forward. The new market opportunities driving that revenue potential, he said, are natural gas prices and the increasing value of the low-carbon renewable fuel credit price. The combination is what is attracting investors, according to Harper.

Harper said he has visited 100 dairy farms in 17 states in his first 11 months as the dairy-checkoff employee heading up DS4G. Of the dairies he has visited with more than 2500 cows, he said not one did not either have a digester or was breaking ground for a digester or in the process of planning a partnership around one.

He also talked about feed additives to address enteric emissions, cropping practices, and manure management technology, including ultrafiltration of manure as part of a “technology train” for the future. To be continued

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(Author’s Notes: The WWF Markets Institute released its dairy white paper Jan. 27, 2021. A mid-February Farmshine report revealed the WWF mathematical error that had inflated the magnitude of CO2 equivalent pounds contributed by all U.S. milk production. WWF on Feb. 25, 2021, corrected this baseline to show the much smaller collective impact of 268 billion pounds CO2 equivalent (not 2.3 trillion pounds). Both Harper and McCloskey serve on the WWF Market Institute’s Thought Leadership Group. Harper also served as a board member of New Harvest 2017-19, a global nonprofit building the field of cellular agriculture, funding startups to make milk, meat and eggs without animals. DMI confirms that dairy checkoff had an MOU with WWF from the inception of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy around 2008 through 2019. McCloskey has chaired the Innovation Center’s Sustainability Initiative since 2008. In 2008-09, two MOU’s were signed between DMI and USDA via former U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack — the Sustainability Initiative and GENYOUth. At the end of the Obama administration, Vilsack was hired by DMI dairy checkoff to serve as president and CEO of USDEC 2016-2021, and earlier this year he became Secretary of Agriculture again after President Joe Biden said Vilsack ‘practically wrote his rural platform and now he can implement it.” McCloskey and Harper also have another connection. According to the Sept. 2019 Chronicles of Higher Education, Caleb Harper’s father, Steve Harper, was a grocery executive. He was senior vice-president of marketing and fresh product development, procurement and merchandising from 1993 to 2010 for the H-E-B supermarket chain based in Texas. According to a 2020 presentation by Sue McCloskey, H-E-B was their first partner in the fluid milk business in the 1990s, followed by Kroger. According to the Houston Chronicle, the McCloskeys also partnered with H-E-B in 1996 to produce Mootopia ultrafiltered milk, an H-E-B brand. This was the pre-cursor to fairlife, the ultrafiltered milk beverage line in which DMI invested checkoff funds through the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy partnering with the McCloskeys, Select, and Coca Cola.)

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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Net Zero Initiative will ‘shape future of dairy,’ say leaders

Editor’s Note: Part one provided some details on the “official” launch of the Net Zero Initiative, which according to DMI’s Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, “signals bold climate action” as “an industry-wide effort that will help U.S. dairy farms of all sizes and geographies implement new technologies and adopt economically viable practices.”

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, October 27, 2021

CHICAGO, Ill. — The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy — formed in 2008-09 by the national dairy checkoff via Dairy Management Inc (DMI) — unveiled the Net Zero Initiative earlier this month along with Nestlé’s announcement pledging up to $10 million over five years as the first ‘legacy partner’ to fund research, pilot farms and provide expertise to scale technologies and practices to achieve carbon neutrality, optimized water usage and improved water quality by 2050.

Innovation Center chairman Mike Haddad noted in a DMI media call Oct. 14 that the Environmental Sustainability Committee “has been in place a very long time – many, many years.

‘Mature effort’

“Mike McCloskey has always chaired this committee. This is quite a mature effort for us,” Haddad explained, adding that the committee decided a couple years ago that dairy can become carbon neutral, and many dairies can sequester carbon.

“We felt like there was enough evidence already with existing technology and practices, that by scaling them, we can achieve this over time, and we have been working for years to build out this framework,” he said.

As chairman of Schreiber Foods, Haddad said suppliers, companies like Schreiber, “already see this requirement from our customers who want to have our sustainability efforts feed into their sustainability efforts. They want to know that we are taking care of the earth in making our dairy products, and we have to prove it to them with our measurements along the way.”

Environmental ‘mapping’

In 2007-08, just as the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy was being formed, the mapping of dairy’s environmental footprint began.

“We were the very first ag sector to establish life cycle measurement of greenhouse gas emissions, showing U.S. Dairy at 2%,” said Krysta Harden, DMI executive vice president of global environmental strategy and former USDA undersecretary of Tom Vilsack when he was ag secretary.

“Through modernization and innovation, the environmental impact of producing milk uses 30% less water, 21% less land and manure, and has a 19% smaller carbon footprint today than in 2007,” she said. “It’s amazing where we have come since 2007.”

Harden explained that Net Zero Initiative (NZI) was started as “a dairy organization that represents farmers, cooperatives, processors, and includes DMI and the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, NMPF, IDFA, U.S. Dairy Export Center and Newtrient.

“All of these groups came together to establish NZI,” she said. “This really is the pathway for how to get there, how to break down barriers and make it more accessible and affordable for dairy farms of all sizes and all places.”

‘Piloting’ underway

Pilot farms are already being identified throughout the country, and 2021 is set as the year to move them forward.

Next, the constant focus will be on “scaling up to accelerate progress over time to our 2050 goals,” Haddad said.

“Largely these technologies already exist but need operational improvement,” Harden added. “We can see how we can get there, but the barrier is the significant investment needed by farmers to get there. We want to knock this out by scaling, to lower the investment by farmers and generate new revenue streams for farmers. This will be critical to a self-sustaining future.”

Bottom line, said Harden: “Dairy is committed to being an environmental solution.” She said the key, at the heart of it, is the dairy farmers.

According to the Innovation Center’s official statement, the 27 dairy companies that make up its board, represent 70% of the nation’s milk production and have voluntarily adopted the U.S. Dairy Stewardship Commitment and contribute to the industry’s ability to track, aggregate and report on progress.

“We know dairy farmers are leaders, and they care about what they are producing and how they are producing it,” said Harden. “They are passionate first-adopters, embracing how the world is changing.”

Sustainable profit?

DMI vice president and California dairy producer Steve Maddox shared his thoughts from the producer perspective.

“When we first started talking about sustainability efforts by the Innovation Center, most dairy farmers viewed this with a jaded eye because it often means requiring more of them, and not of others,” said Maddox. “But this effort focuses on improving profitability and efficiency that is also environmentally sound.”

He said farmers know the importance of being as efficient as possible. Early-on, Maddox said the Innovation Center started down the road of environmental sustainability to fight claims by anti-animal-ag groups by doing the scientific measurements in 2008, to show how dairy has reduced its footprint since 1944.

“That is a significant date near the end of World War II when some of America’s greatest generation went to college, and extension — through our land grant universities — taught us to maximize production and take better care of the land,” said Maddox. “That led us to continue improving.”

As that generation retired, and with government budget cuts to research and extension, a dropoff in improvement was seen, according to Maddox. He said this signals the need for the industry to pick things up to “shape the continuous improvement of the industry at the farm level.”

During media questions, Harden stated that the $10 million from Nestlé is specifically geared toward on-farm improvement — not changes in processing or new dairy products.

However, the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy is also looking at the processing and transportation aspects of achieving the NZI goals.

In fact, the climate impact of transportation and refrigeration of milk and dairy products is already a big part of the entire shaping process through innovations such as ultrafiltration, microfiltration, and aseptic packaging for shelf stable beverages and products. These are other pieces that come from precompetitive Innovation Center collaborations.

As for the farm-level impacts of NZI, Maddox stressed how the 2007-08 life cycle analysis on milk and cheese showed that the industry reduced its use of feed, land and water through collaboration on animal care, improved genetics and the FARM program.

Shaping dairy

In other words, through FARM and NZI, companies will shape dairy’s “continuous improvement” instead of relying on extension education for those gains — mainly because, they say, the industry is at a point where these future gains will cost money. Since farms will need to invest in those gains, NZI is banking on industry and government to step up and help pay for it.

Something that often gets lost in discussions about climate change and sustainability, said Maddox is: “Cows, being ruminants, are miracles onto themselves. They convert byproduct to nature’s most perfect food.”

At his California dairy, over 50% of the cow feed on a dry matter basis is byproduct that would have gone into landfills.

“This, too, is a major part of it. We can feed all sorts of things, bakery waste, Doritos, sunflower meal… There are 400 different commercial crops grown in California, and all of them can be fed to cattle,” said Maddox.

He painted a picture of farmers learning from each other within the NZI framework.

Maddox observed that cow care and breeding to have more efficient cows is a big part of reducing dairy’s environmental impact to meet the ambitious new industrywide goals. 

“All of these sustainability practices will have a bottom-line impact,” he said.

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DMI’s NZI fits globalist agenda; How are ‘life cycle assessments’ developed? What do they value?

As Stewardship Commitments and Net Zero Initiative flow through to the FARM program’s Environmental Stewardship module, a user guide developed by NMPF covers what has already begun in terms of data collection. A farm’s cattle inventory of various classes and milk production, component production, feed ingredients, crop inputs and other data will be used to figure the farm’s GHG emissions relative to a regional average and relative to a national average. The guide can be read here, and additional information is available here 

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, December 4, 2020

Where do the life cycle assessments come from that are being used to benchmark progress on U.S. dairy’s impact on climate and environment? How might this “collective” method of measurement affect dairy diversity and geography in the future?

When dairy leaders talk about the Net Zero Initiative goals, they are using analysis by well-known animal scientists comparing data over time to benchmark industrywide collective progress using a determined scope of collective measurement that fits the controlling globalist view.

The idea is to peg dairy’s progress at one value that the global supply chain can then plug into their own brand impact measurements. Yes, this is both simple and complicated.

DMI leaders are quick to point out that this pathway was decided upon by dairy farmers, dairy cooperatives, and dairy processors and that dairy checkoff is simply providing the science. But it is also clear that DMI provides the staff and structure for implementation. The national dairy farmer checkoff organizations provide the science, the staff and the structure so that the entire dairy industry can be described as one unit – not multiple units competing with each other on the aspect of ‘sustainability.’ That’s the point, they say.

Along with the Net Zero carbon neutrality goal by 2050, DMI’s Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy offers this report on a decade of progress:  “The effects of improved performance in the U.S. dairy cattle industry on environmental impacts between 2007 and 2017,” was published in the January 2020 edition of the Journal of Animal Science

This report showed dairy used 30% less water, 21% less land, produced 21% less manure nutrients and produced 19% less greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions — referred to in press statements as carbon footprint — per metric ton of energy-corrected milk over the decade of 2007 to 2017.

The research by Jude Capper and Roger Cady, along with other animal scientists, observed that, “As dairy systems become more productive, efficiency improves via the dilution of maintenance effect (Bauman, VandeHaar, St. Pierre) and both resource use and GHG emissions are reduced per unit of milk.”

The researchers indicated that monitoring changes in food production processes, yields, and environmental impacts is a time-consuming and expensive undertaking, which they took to a higher level in this study as compared to 2006 and 2009 studies that looked at how efficiency gains reduced the environmental footprint of dairy from 1944 to 2007 based completely on animal productivity gains.

In the 2007 to 2017 study, researchers only looked at dairy’s impact from the manufacture and transport of crop inputs to milk at the farm gate. Excluded from the scope of collective farm progress are the impacts of milk transportation, processing and retail.

Dairy systems were modeled using typical management practices, herd population dynamics and production data from U.S. dairy farms (USDA NASS and Dairy Records Management System-DRMS). Crop data were sourced from national databases, including NASS. Modeling and training ration formulation software was used as well as a host of data from public sources to determine water recycling, electricity and other energy usage, for example.

“The U.S. dairy industry has made remarkable productivity gains and environmental progress over time,” write Capper and Cady. “To maintain this culture of continuous improvement, dairy must build on gains and demonstrate commitment to reducing environmental impacts while improving both economic viability and social acceptability.”

At the same time, Dr. Frank Mitloehner of University of California-Davis CLEAR center has been instrumental, mainly in evaluating – and putting into perspective – accurate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for dairy and livestock as well as participating in research on how various technologies could further reduce U.S. dairy’s current contribution of just 2% of total GHG emissions.

Progress to reduce GHGs is measured per unit of milk production, but as Dr. Mitloehner frequently points out, a better way to pinpoint it would be to incorporate the nutrient density of milk and meat in calculating the impact of dairy and livestock industries per nutritive value.

For example, almond beverage might have a smaller footprint, the experts say, but what is the nutritive value of selling water with the equivalent of two almonds per serving? Much of the climate impact discussion around food is not an apples to apples comparison in terms of nutrition and calories delivered.

The FARM program’s Environmental Stewardship guide prepares dairy farmers for collection of energy use data to compare a farm to a regional and national average for energy use as a part of its carbon footprint per unit of milk production. The guide can be read here, and additional information is available here.

There are other positive aspects of “environmental impact” at local levels that fall outside of the collective global method of impact measurement. How far food travels within local or regional food systems versus national and global supply chains is not part of the farm-level Net Zero Initiative.

Meanwhile, the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy is working on product innovations at the processing level from a centralized or global supply chain perspective to reduce environmental impacts on a global scale. How do these ‘global’ vs. ‘local’ pathways intersect in the future in terms of a farm’s real contribution to the surrounding community vs. its contribution to a global impact model?

Where do the 2007 to 2017 gains from this research come from? First off, milk production increased 16% over that decade, and the number of dairy cows increased 2.2%.

Researchers explain the environmental impact was assessed using “a deterministic model based on animal nutrition, metabolism, and herd population parameters founded on life cycle assessment (LCA) principles.”

Those principles first establish the scope (in this case the scope was from crop input to milk output and did not include processing and distribution to consumers). Then inventory is established (input and output). Then the impact is established (input versus unit of output). Then the relative change is figured (improvement or reduction).

The researchers attributed a large portion of the gains to the continued dilution of ‘maintenance’ requirements per head of cattle and milk volume via these measurements: 

1) A 22.3% increase in energy-corrected milk production per cow as the 12% increase in fat yield and 10% increase in protein yield were factored in, 

2) Lifetime milk yield was figured to have increased 18.7% as a combination of shorter calving interval, shorter dry periods, increased replacement of mature cows with heifers, shortened days of life, and earlier calving age, 

3) increased productive-animal-days across the cattle population, 

4) reduced SCC as a proxy for reduced milk waste, 

5) How animals are fed, how water is used, and how inputs factor into the land and carbon footprint equation, collectively.

The research showed that even though total cattle numbers have increased slightly from 2007 to 2017, the number of productive-animal-days and lifetime milk increased by more during that time due to the way all of these factors combine to show reductions in environmental impact by reducing the inputs for non-productive cattle that are counted against the productive cattle population at points in time.

Life cycle assessment of environmental impact is all about data modeling and allocation. The age at first calving is a prime example. Until a dairy animal calves, she is using resources without delivering a product. Growth rates can improve these impacts in the modeling by getting cattle to production, faster. Once the animal has a calf and begins producing milk, she is now contributing to reducing carbon footprint by supplying milk yield and component yield in the national figures against the resources she is consuming. Length of dry period, calving interval, and other reproductive efficiency also affect this. Longevity, oddly enough, has less of an effect because of how the data are assembled and used.

As for land use and manure production, researchers looked at dairy rations without full consideration of the wide range of commodity byproducts. They included some common byproduct feeds like distillers grain for both 2007 and 2017. More could be done to show the relative feed value vs. environmental impact of many byproduct commodity feedstuffs, particularly if credit could be given for keeping fiber and carbohydrate from the food processing sector out of landfills.

Double-cropping (cover crop forages) are common practice on dairy farms today, which reduce environmental impact of milk production, but are not really quantified in this life cycle assessment research at this point.

In pasture systems, the intensive rotational grazing methods used today reduce the land to milk ratio within the context of grazing-based production, but may have a smaller positive impact on the industrywide collective figure if production per cow is below benchmark. That will need to be considered because there are clear sustainability benefits to these grazing systems that fall outside of this collective model.

All of these factors being analyzed and allocated to one U.S. dairy figure are calculated to paint one picture of reduced environmental footprint. This includes water recycling. Water that is used to cool milk is also used to wash down parlors and milking equipment and in some cases, a third time in manure flush systems before being recaptured as nutrient-rich effluent to irrigate crops. In some regions and some management styles, water recycling is not measured, but natural. Take grazing operations in rainfed rolling hills. Their recycling isn’t measured, but it’s happening.

Unfortunately, when it comes to all of these measurables, including the impact of productive-animal-days vs. animal population vs. energy-corrected milk volume, it is the increased consolidation of milk production to fewer and larger farms from 2007 to 2017 that has had, perhaps, the most significant positive impact on the collective industrywide dairy environmental footprint calculations.

Why? Because as more milk production is brought into heavily controlled confinement environments, it becomes easier to measure to directly influence the model. On the other hand, pasture and drylot systems offer other sustainability and animal care positives that consumers care about but are not as easily measured by this global supply chain model of environmental footprint.

The elite globalist view seeks to control every aspect of food, agriculture, and energy. It’s important to keep sight of other sides of the ‘sustainability’ equation. Local and regional food systems provide benefits to local economies, local land use and local ecosystems that are not reflected when we measure a national or global model.

As the industry moves toward controlled environments where inputs and outputs can be precisely measured, smaller less concentrated dairy farms may not be fully appreciated for what they contribute to a community’s environmental footprint in terms of how far food travels or how local economies and ecosystems are affected. This divergence needs to be addressed.

Remember, Net Zero Initiative fits the globalist view and aligns with World Economic Forum’s Great Reset. It also aligns with language in the Green New Deal.

Viewing footprint progress on a national or global scale across all cattle and all milk volume brings positive messages but also the aforementioned concerns.

It’s important to see ‘industry’ progress, and most dairy farmers welcome the opportunity to talk to consumers about what their industry has done collectively to be good stewards. However, when the dairy leaders at DMI and all of its organized underlings tell us that food safety, sustainability and animal care are NOT areas in which brands should compete, what they are really telling us is that these are areas that will be controlled by one message using their one collective measurement method in scope and calculation.

Farm size and geography will be considered, and they say diversity is a strength, but the bottom line is measurement toward a national model seeking to meet a global goal.

By their own admission, the dairy checkoff has pursued globalization since 2008, implemented FARM to keep animal care from being a marketing factor, and they admit they are implementing Net Zero to be sure dairy comes completely into alignment with the globalist view having collective measurement that fits the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, while discouraging other forms of ‘sustainability’ marketing between brands.

Case in point, cattle longevity has little if any positive bearing on the life cycle assessment for water use, land use, manure produced and greenhouse gas emissions in the context of total-industry-collective measurement of inventory input vs. output.

In fact, the research cited in this article that is the basis for the DMI Innovation Center life cycle assessment actually shows a benefit for continual throughput of cattle with faster growth rates for calves and earlier age at first calving being more significant on the front end than the age of the cattle on the back end when applied to a collective industrywide measurement.

That’s because the total inventory of cattle in the dairy industry at any given time includes non-productive animals. Research models focus on the collective data about productive animal days vs. total cow numbers vs. milk production for input and output at given points in time — not over the lifetime of animals in the herd. Logic doesn’t always apply in this scenario.

In short, the way the industry looks at collective industrywide progress on environmental impact may differ from how an individual dairy producer or community of producers view their contribution by other equally valid measurements.  

Both methods can be supported by sound scientific data, but the industrywide collective method fits the global supply chain perspective. Thus, it is the approach for the Net Zero Initiative embraced by DMI’s Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and the 27 companies that represent its board and the over 320 companies that are part of its Sustainability Alliance. 

The companies at the forefront are the largest global dairy companies and food retailers. They are also positioned as leaders and drivers of the World Economic Forum’s Great Reset, seeking to have food, technology, finance and energy sectors of the global economy work together to transform food, farming, energy, and our lives.

It will be important for individual dairy producer ideas, regional food systems, and their positive impacts on a more local scale to have a voice in how they are measured and evaluated within this truly global agenda. Speak up and stay tuned.

This document composed by the DMI Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy in November 2019 shows the “Stewardship Commitment” at a glance for each sector of the dairy supply chain involved in the Sustainability Alliance. Interestingly, under processing, there is a line item to quantify gallons of water captured from milk for use within the facility per pound of production output. 

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Nestlé pledges $10 mil., becomes DMI’s first Net Zero ‘legacy partner to transform dairy’

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, October 23, 2020

CHICAGO, Ill. – On October 9, Dairy Management Inc (DMI) and Nestlé made big announcements. DMI’s Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy officially unveiled the Net Zero Initiative it calls “an industry-wide effort” to meet 2050 goals for carbon neutrality, optimized water usage and improved water quality.

On a DMI media call last week, Innovation Center chairman Mike Haddad and others discussed the Net Zero Initiative and the simultaneous announcement of a $10 million commitment and multi-year partnership by Nestlé to support the “scaling” of “access” to environmental practices and resources on farms across the country.

As clarified by Karen Scanlon, senior vice president of sustainability initiatives for DMI, this investment by Nestlé will have a “farm and field focus” and represents a five-year partnership.

Haddad suggested that other companies are looking to invest, including companies from the financial and technology sectors.

Although the press statements talk about the Net Zero Initiative (NZI) as supporting “access” for all farms of all sizes and geographies to meet the industry’s 2050 climate and environmental goals, the details are still sketchy in how this all will translate at diverse farm and industry sector levels.

California dairy producer and DMI vice president Steve Maddox noted that when times are good and producers have a good margin, they like to experiment and invest and test new ideas. He acknowledged that it’s “hard to go green when you’re in the red.”

Maddox said for 2050 goals to be met, technologies and practices have to positively impact the dairy’s bottom-line.

Krysta Harden, executive vice president of global environmental strategies for DMI and former undersecretary of agriculture under Tom Vilsack, noted that the Net Zero Initiative helps with this “affordability.” NZI will identify the pilot farms and test the ideas, the technologies and practices on those farms to show what pays.

She said Nestlé’s $10 million investment make “Nestlé our first legacy partner to come on board to really transform dairy.”

Harden explained that the funds will be used in three key areas: Foundational resources, new products (clarified as manure products), and on-farm practices.

Haddad noted that the financial and tech sectors are reaching out also, and Nestlé has pledged its expertise as well as the financial investment.

“We need capital and technology to do this,” he said. “We also need the experience and expertise of others. We believe Nestlé’s commitment is huge and hope it is the first of several.”

While the nuts and bolts are not clear, it does appear that investments, such as the $10 million from Nestlé, will help pay for the testing and development of technologies and practices on pilot farms.

What happens around that piece is called “scaling up” and “providing access” and “improving profitability,” but without a disclosed road map of how that ‘scaling’ will look to the rest of the non-pilot farms in the U.S.

“We are already talking to pilot farms,” Harden acknowledged. “We like to say that every farmer can do something, and they are already doing a lot. We talk about this at DMI board meetings to see where we are at, and the hands go up, we see that our farmers are already working on the list of things. They are already committed.”

Scanlon gave a little bit of a road map when she noted that there are three “buckets” that the Net Zero Initiative will need investment in order to address the barriers to meeting the 2050 goals:

1) Data and research gaps, the need for more dairy research with quantifiable outcomes,

2) Affordability, the need for economically viable technology and practice solutions so that farmers can make the choices that drive industry success, and

3) Accessibility, to reach scale across the diverse industry in terms of dairy size and geography, to enable farms of all sizes to access the technology and have the support to implement it successfully.

Harden explained there is “no one solution,” that technologies and practices will have to be “adapted” and “make sense.”

She listed the four areas Net Zero practices and technologies are divided into: 1) Feed production, 2) Manure handling and nutrient management, 3) Cow care and production efficiency, and 4) On-farm energy efficiency and renewable energy

According to Harden, “Net Zero is already possible on certain farms. The purpose of NZI is to expand our knowledge and adoption of policies to reduce GHG and water use.”

A bit of history

Haddad, chairman of Schreiber Foods, has been chairman of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy for two years and a member for 10. 

He explained how the Innovation Center got started first as a “globalization initiative” followed by safety and social responsibility initiatives, but that “sustainability” was one of its main active committees from the start in 2008. Haddad said that the Sustainability Committee has operated 12 years under the continuing leadership of its chairman Dr. Mike McCloskey of Select, Fair Oaks and Fairlife.

“The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy was created by DMI (in 2008-09) at the urging of farmers,” said Haddad. 

“DMI wanted to bring together a forum of many stakeholders — dairy farmers, processors, NGOs (like WWF), retailers and foodservice — to function as a voluntary board. Farmers wanted to be connected at the middle level to collaborate with those that sell milk and milk products,” Haddad related.

Today, 27 companies have representation on this board, and over 300 companies are “engaged in the journey, along with our shoppers, citizens and neighbors around the world,” he said.

Globalization first initiative

“It started initially with a globalization initiative,” Haddad explained, adding that even though the current talk in the industry since Covid is about “re-shoring” and local, “we do not exist in an island,” he said.

According to Haddad, the original globalization initiative of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy back in 2008-09 started with the Bain Study. Back then, the Bain Study was touted as showing opportunities for trade.

However, Haddad said Wednesday that the Bain Study — as part of the original Innovation Center globalization initiative — “showed us that we could be informed and enlightened together and raise all boats together pre-competitively.

“The globalization study showed we need to go together. This got into our blood that we can work together on certain platforms and go farther, together than we can go alone,” he said.

By 2015-16, the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy had evolved into a “social responsibility platform,” and Haddad said food safety was among the next pieces. Once the industry could see how to collaborate on food safety, the “pre-competitive” techniques were applied to animal care and sustainability.

In other words, the members of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy wanted the industry to first “go together” toward globalization, then food safety, now animal care, for which FARM is the driver, and sustainability, for which Net Zero Initiative is the driver.

“We don’t want to compete with each other in these areas,” said Haddad. “We should only compete on the attributes of our products. We should not be saying ‘mine is safer than yours’ (or more sustainable than yours), because that undermines confidence and trust in dairy.”

Haddad explained that the Innovation Center works closely with National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA).

Part two continues next week in Farmshine.

DMI integrates the dairy industry through its unified marketing plan and the various nonprofit organizations, alliances, committees and initiatives — beginning with the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. The IC was formed in 2008-09, launching the industry’s structural drivers beginning with the globalization initiative (Bain Study 2008), then social responsibility (FARM program 2015) and now ‘sustainability’ (Net Zero Initiative 2020). Graphic by Sherry Bunting, source USdairy.com