Episode 17 – Why Is The Dairy Checkoff Involved In Sustainability?

Tune in with our dairy farmer hosts, Missouri’s Alex Peterson and Virginia’s Joanna Shipp, as they talk with Heather Oldani, EVP, Dairy Management Inc. Corporate Communications and, Dan Peerless, Global Sustainable Sourcing Lead For Dairy, Meat, Poultry, and Eggs for Nestle, about how the dairy checkoff got involved in dairy sustainability and why it matters to farmers.

To learn more about the national dairy checkoff and your local dairy checkoffs, please visit www.usdairy.com.

Dairy Farmer Hosts:

Farmer Host – Alex Peterson – Missouri Dairy Farmer

Farmer Host – Joanna Shipp – Virginia Dairy Farmer

Industry Experts:

Guest – Heather Oldani – EVP, Dairy Management Inc. Corporate Communications

Guest – Dan Peerless – Global Sustainable Sourcing Lead For Dairy, Meat, Poultry, and Eggs for Nestle

Transcript (please ignore typos – machine-generated)

Joanna Shipp  0:00 

Can either of you tell me what does sustainability mean? You know, so many times I feel like we get these buzzwords that have no meaning to them. So maybe it needs to come from both of you. What does sustainability mean to nestle? But what also does sustainability mean to DMR?

Alex Peterson  0:27 

Hello, folks and welcome to another episode of your Dairy Checkoff Podcast. I’m Alex Peterson dairy farmer from Missouri, and I’m joined today by Joanna ship, a dairy farmer friend of mine from Virginia. We will be host for today’s discussion on sustainability and dairy farming. Today we’ll be talking to Heather Adani, Executive Vice President for dairy management in corporate communications. And Dan peerless, global sustainable sourcing lead for dairy, meat, poultry and eggs at Nestle as they discuss why checkoff is so involved in dairy sustainability. Dan, tell us about what you do at Nestle, my title

Dan Peerless  1:07 

is kind of long, but it’s a lot simpler than it seems. I’m the global sustainable sourcing lead for dairy, meat, poultry, and eggs. The main responsibility of that on paper is to define what a responsibly sourced ingredient in those categories is for Nestle. So that includes environmental aspects, human rights, animal welfare, all combined together into one definition. So I monitor and report against that progress, we have a commitment, we establish new definitions for this last year. So they’re a little more robust than the previous ones. And so we sort of reset our commitment to have 100% of our supply chain considered responsibly sourced by 2030. And I sit on the team that does that for all the priority ingredient categories for Nestle. So their counterparts for me that work on coffee, cocoa, other things, but I work on the animal ingredients, that is a portion of my time. And then a large amount of the rest of my time is actually working on our climate roadmap projects. So along with the US dairy industry, and a lot of other big corporate consumers of dairy, we said, Net Zero goal for 2015. The US is the most significant sourcing region, for dairy for Nestle. And so I spend a lot of my time focusing on how to work with the Nestle buyers and our suppliers to establish projects for reducing the carbon footprint within our supply chain, and collaborations that involve the whole industry as well like the net zero initiative and other opportunities.

Joanna Shipp  2:40 

Great. So we’ll flip over to you, Heather, can you tell us what you do for dairy Management, Inc?

Heather Oldani  2:45 

Sure. Thanks, Joanna. So I oversee what we call our corporate relations team, which is a key team within our overall marketing and communications function. And my responsibility is simply to build the industry reputation around key areas like nutrition security, like our topic today, environmental sustainability, and what does that exactly mean? It means making sure that we are getting farmer voices and industry voices out into the marketplace. So things like earned media coverage, making sure that we are getting placements with thought leaders and high profile forums that ultimately, we can share the great work that US dairy is doing around environmental sustainability, and ultimately build trust and dairy products, both here domestically and around the world.

Joanna Shipp  3:31 

And one of the things I like to start with is, can either of you tell me, what does sustainability mean? You know, so many times, I feel like we get these buzzwords that have no meaning to them. So maybe it needs to come from both of you. What does sustainability mean to nestle but what also does sustainability mean to DMI

Dan Peerless  3:53 

it’s a little intimidating to claim that I can set the definition or speak for all of Nestle, but we do have our standards and you know, sort of practices that we put in place. First of all, it’s important to recognize that Nestle is at its heart, really an agricultural company that we don’t own land, and we don’t farm directly. But for us, 70 plus percent of our footprint of our greenhouse gas footprint comes from the ingredients that we buy. So that’s what we call scope. Three, our footprint is a majority of it, not under our control. And so for us sustainability, it goes way beyond the factories that we operate and the transportation and the products that we sell, it’s much more about the broader impact and the broader reach that we have out on the world. So in terms of dairy sustainability is enabling and supporting the farmers that provide our ingredients are critical ingredients without which very few Nestle products would exist and provide In direct support that we can bring them along on our journey to these commitments we’ve made the net zero commitments. We also have regenerative agriculture commitments and biodiversity commitments. None of these can be accomplished without the farmers. None of the without the farmers participation, and the farmers participation cannot be expected without direct financial support from downstream in the supply chain. So I think for us, that’s a really long winded way of saying that sustainability is using our resources and our ability to support the supply chain to align with our commitments and, and goals. So it is bringing the farmers along and ensuring their viability to meet these environmental human rights, animal welfare types of goals.

Alex Peterson  5:53 

So Dan, as we unpack that a little bit, and you talk about scope three, which is where in your situation us as farmers says, We’re upstream of Nestle, and you can obviously measure what’s happening at Nestle plants and on down the chain that you have fingers on, how are you measuring what’s happening upstream? Who does Nestle trust to verify what’s going on on farm and in our processing plants and through the cooperatives? Is that something that you obviously have to have partners to accomplish that because Nestle people aren’t coming on my farm. So it’s part of what we are as an industry. Talk to us a little bit about who Nestle trust and who the industry of chess to handle that work upstream.

Dan Peerless  6:34 

Obviously, in terms of trust, we would love to be engaged with every single individual farm and farmer in our supply chain, that would be the ideal, it’s, of course, completely impractical. There’s no way 10s of 1000s farms across many different types of ingredients and commodities 10s of 1000s, just for dairy alone, it could be significantly more if you take in our global sourcing picture, when we initially set our goals and did our scope three we like every other company or government or entity had to accept some assumptions. And a lot of the footprinting was done based upon the best available science. The the LCA that was done for the US dairy industry a number of years ago, sort of stands in for that initial data that we can know how much milk we secure from an area and we know the average footprint for the US or for different country. As we’ve gone down this path since the commitment was launched, of refining our data, the opportunity to work with our supply chain, as I said, you know, provide direct support has given us also the opportunity to understand the level of knowledge about particular farms or milk sheds or suppliers and to encourage and hopefully support development of more granular data that science that scope. Nestle likes to be kind of agnostic, we say don’t have to use this tool, this model this assumption, what we ask is that you be transparent about the choices you’ve made, the tool, the scope, how far you’re going to measure and then explain to us those choices in the US. We can accept a variety of tools. The principal one is the farm YES Program farm yes tool because it has a fairly good reach. It delves into a lot of the main areas of greenhouse gas emissions that we would be looking for it it is continually evolving tool that involves the right partners in science and industry to capture the high quality data that we’re looking for. We don’t require that of any farm or supplier, but we certainly do bring it up. We mentioned it if anybody asks us what we can accept. There are other pathways of course, you can each farm or supplier or unit within the supply chain, can hire a consultant can do their own customized type of work to develop an LCA and again, if there’s transparency and quality in the methodology, we accept it.

Alex Peterson  9:10 

So to follow up on that Heather will height and using Dan’s answer there as a jumping board. Why is checkoff involved in sustainability and for how long have we been involved in sustainability?

Heather Oldani  9:23 

As you’ve clearly heard from Dan sustainability is important to our customers, whether they are global or domestic customers, we know it’s an increasingly important topic for them as they set their own goals. But when I take a step back, our overall mission as the checkoff is to build sales and trust for dairy. And when we look at year over year in the marketplace and the trends that are guiding consumer behavior that are guiding consumer beliefs about dairy and other products, we have seen historically, that sustainability continues to grow in importance for them and this dates back to 2008. So over a decade when we saw that sustainability He was rising in importance in global conversations and countries setting goals and pledges and we said, You know what? US dairy and specifically dairy farmers need to be a part of this conversation. And frankly, we need to probably set the record straight on what US dairies overall contributions are to environmental footprints to climate change. And so we invested in research at that time to do just that, to set the record straight to say that as an industry, we have a footprint. But guess what, it’s only 2% of the total GHG footprint that is out there as an entire industry from farm all the way through, we did a full LCA assessment. And that has enabled us to then start to have conversations to say, You know what, we own the 2%. But here’s what we’re doing. And here’s what dairy farmers have been doing for hundreds of years on their farms every day, to ensure that they leave their farm sustainable for the next generation. And going back to the earlier question, I actually was curious as to when the term sustainability was actually coined. And so I did a little bit of digging, and it went back to 1987, I believe when the UN actually coined sustainability as the ability to meet the needs up today, without compromising the next generations ability to meet their needs. And when I think about the work that you all do on your farms everyday, and farmers do across the country, you’ve been doing that for hundreds and hundreds of years. You want your farm to be sustainable for the next generation. We as checkoff want the dairy industry and our dairy farmers to be sustainable for the next generation. And we want to continue to provide our consumers with sustainable, nutritious dairy for generations. So I think for me, it just comes back to our ability to then make sure that we’re telling that story loud and proud to different industry audiences, while then to Dan’s point, making sure that we’re leveraging our resources and our ability to convene others to invest in the journey with us so that it does become economically viable. And you all as farmers have the resources you need.

Joanna Shipp  11:59 

Heather, thanks for that definition. I have always felt like that my farm was sustainable. Well, my family’s been here since 1839, on the same land, basically doing the same thing. And I foresee that we will be doing that into the future. I’ve always felt like the term sustainable was what I was doing. But it’s nice to have a little definition around that.

Dan Peerless  12:20 

I think the your farm has been sustainable since 1830. And I think that’s very clear. But sustainability since 1987, has broadened beyond the borders of your farms. It’s just reality unpleasant to blindly, it’s just it’s reality that the impacts of one piece of land one industry are scrutinized much more in terms of the impact to the world first farming was you need to produce food, then you need to produce safer food, more food, cheaper food, all these things the farmers responded to rose to. And now we’re saying this gas, this impact that has no real day to day bearing on how you operate your farm sustainably for you, your family now is extremely important. And so that is the difference between the earlier demands that have been placed on agriculture and the new sustainability one, which is that we used to be the product was, you know, the milk, the the other agricultural product, that was the impact on the world, you produced it, it kept people fed and fed affordably and fed safely and all these things. And now, there is something that is entirely separate or in addition to the food product that governments companies consumers are asking farmers to pay attention to. That’s the big difference for me in terms of traditional sustainability, and this new sustainability.

Joanna Shipp  13:49 

Who is bringing the pressure for sustainability? Is it coming from customers or shareholders? Where is this push for sustainability coming from

Dan Peerless  13:59 

every possible angle, we are a Swiss based company with a global footprint and a global supply chain and global customer base. We’re also very, very large, which makes us an attractive first target for NGO and different types of stakeholders. So we have many different regulatory frameworks looking at us, we have laws in Switzerland or laws in the EU that apply to the global footprint. We have customers that may be in areas that pay more or less attention to what we now call sustainability issues that affect the other side of the world because that’s where the ingredient comes from. Like I said, the US is our biggest sourcing region for dairy, but quite a lot of that is not consumed in the US and therefore both the interests of the consumers and sometimes the regulatory framework in the destinations for those ingredients have an impact on what we have to do and How we sourced this, these ingredients. So we need to address those and respond to those shareholders to a large degree are paying much more attention to this than they used to. I think the shareholders may have in the past seen pressures around sustainability as an annoyance, whereas now, they see it as demonstrating your sustainability credentials within a company as evidence of progress and environmental sustainability can tie very much to corporate sustainability,

Heather Oldani  15:27 

Alex and Joanne, if I could build on what Dan just shared, you know, from a consumer perspective, a couple of stats that really has startled me in the last year, which was, you know, we’re coming out and emerging from a global pandemic. And what was interesting in a survey that was done last year is even in the midst of World War, we’re still in the midst of the pandemic, that 75% of consumers were concerned about climate change, and that actually outranked their concern over the COVID 19 pandemic. And so as we’ve seen from this year, with, you know, stories around heat domes spanning the West, here in the United States, as well as into China and other countries, I think this notion of climate change, and planetary health continues to grow for consumers. And one of the things that’s been interesting is, they’re all looking for ways to change their environmental footprint to reduce their environmental footprint. And the one way that they can do that is that they feel is one of the easiest ways is through their food choice. And what we’ve started to see is Google search. So the things that we all go online and google for the Google searches around food and carbon footprints continue to significantly increase in for dairy and carbon footprint, it’s actually increased by a third over the last year, they may not understand the complexities of climate change, or they may not understand all of the the goals and what goes into getting a sector like ours to GHG neutrality, but they they’re just looking for easy ways. They know it’s something that’s out there, they read a lot about climate change. So I think for them, they’re feeling it. They’re seeing it and they’re becoming increasingly wanting companies to take action. So

Alex Peterson  17:08 

Daniel, these consumers that want companies take action, do you ever get input that you just can’t do as a company? That’s not feasible? That’s not even a good process to go about? And how do you handle that? Because I think as farmers sometimes we think that every little thing that gets pitched by customer comes rolling all the way down to the farm, when all actuality it seems like you as a company are taking some arrows for us and saying that we are doing the best we can to bring you the most sustainable, healthy products and good products that we can reliably. And then. So you are that layer and then Heather and checkoff is another layer. For me s is another layer. Our coops are another layer. There’s a lot of layers in between the customer and the farm. And I think it’s important to have that feedback loop. But it’s also important as farmers to know that, that there are pieces of the chain that are saying, that’s not feasible. And we’re not going to do that. But what we can do and what we are doing is this. So how often do you have to be defensive? Versus how often can you get to be offensive about the good things that are going on up chain?

Dan Peerless  18:19 

What I can tell you is in broad strokes, what we do by setting our commitments, time bound, aligned with other companies aligned with parts of the supply chain is we are telling customers and we are telling other stakeholders, what we feel is realistic. So what everybody asks, first off is immediate change, immediate success in whatever element they want to change. If it’s environmental, if it’s animal welfare, these things people ask for 100% conversion, flip a switch, there you go. And either that’s how you demonstrate your sustainable, or that’s how you prove you’re not that is the thing I don’t want to say we have to push back on. But we need to use our knowledge of the industry and the production systems to set the goals and explain to consumers and other stakeholders why that is the correct path forward. If we were going to switch instantly, we would have to stop buying certain types of ingredients, we would have to stop providing certain types of goods and services that people still want. Large numbers of people still want to satisfy unrealistic expectations. So you know, that’s the way that I several steps removed, interact with consumers and interact with other stakeholders is by supporting these ambitious, but realistic goals and timeframes that we have set out and we haven’t set them out in a vacuum. We’ve done it with partners like the the checkoff and with partners like you The UN or other agencies or other stakeholders, explaining, this is the path forward, rapid change to the degree that some people expect would be far more harmful than they appreciate that it would massively disrupt industries and production systems, cause food insecurity, cause all types of things that nobody wants. But it’s hard to understand in a grocery store, making your purchasing decisions, just what it takes to get that food there. And how robust but also fragile these systems can be, as we’ve seen, you know, supply chains lately,

Alex Peterson  20:41 

that’s an incredible thing to know, as a farmer that that buying time is about as good a gift as anybody can give us.

Dan Peerless  20:48 

I don’t want to say you’re buying time, though, because that that makes it sound? Well, I think it’s a little bit we were pacing this, for the benefit of all stakeholders, from the farmer to the consumer. If we didn’t, if it wasn’t paced, appropriately, there somebody and probably a lot of somebodies would not like the outcome.

Alex Peterson  21:16 

Yeah. Something I’ve probably heard Heather say is consumers are good about progress over perfection. And I think that is something is dairy farmers we can really exhibit. Because the beauty of having 30,000 dairy farms across the country is there’s always a decent amount of them making improvements and making capital investments that are looking at what’s the next newest best practice next newest best technology. And I think each one of those is a great testament to sustainability and how we do what we do and how we do it better and better every day. So the dairy industry is not just one business that’s going to retool a certain way on a certain date. It’s one that’s continuously retooling. There’s a new best practices every single day in a lot of different systems across the country. And I think being able to demonstrate in a timely way, those things I know Heather can talk about this, how much work we put into trying to measure what we’ve accomplished to date, as we set the goals for we have this new industry.

Heather Oldani  22:16 

Yeah, absolutely. And I think you touched on exactly what I want to highlight is whether it’s consumer, or frankly, as Dan just said, our customers and even the NGOs that we think sometimes are a little bit more critical. They all are so supportive, that as an industry, we have goals. And Alex to your point, all they want to see is just progress, progress over time against those goals. And in the way that we can do that as an industry is one continuing to showcase the stories, as you mentioned, of all of the great things that are happening on farms, in processors around the country, just the little things that make a positive step forward. And then in the big things that have the potential to scale as well, making sure that we as an industry as checkoff and others that were working with our industry partners to measure our progress through the Innovation Center for us dairy, the processors have actually formed an LLC. So a separate organization that they are now feeding their environmental data into on an annual basis so that they are reporting here’s what we’re doing from a water conservation standpoint, here’s what we’re doing from a GHG emissions standpoint in our production practices. So we are starting to capture the processor side of the equation, and then working with farming as other organizations and entities to start to say how can we as farmers, support you all and capturing the great progress that you’re making on your farms every day? Because it’s happening? I mean, there’s tools and technologies that we can leverage and utilize and work with USDA and others to start to capture that progress and then be able to report that’s the final step of the process transparently reporting out that progress thinking

Joanna Shipp  23:56 

in my farmer hat hearing all these goals, and we can do it and progress over time. Will farm level sustainability efforts translate into more sales? And kind of on the flip side, maybe to Dan, are consumers willing to pay more for that sustainability message?

Dan Peerless  24:17 

That was a tough question. And that also goes a bit outside my expertise. So the brands within Nestle, they have different targets and Zoomers and they have different messages and some have chosen to go for a Climate Neutral goal faster than the net zero by 2050 goal and they do that because they believe that their customer base will pay for it or will it will drive sales or it will increase the value of the products others will come along with our progress and our pacing that we accomplish through just the industry and the production systems exactly the percentage or the relative impact. I couldn’t say what I will say is that now Not showing progress will definitely not drive sales, I would expect that it would drive away sales. I’m just saying that based upon assumptions and not market research, but everybody, every product out there, every food product is now competing for attention and airtime to talk about how much better they are than everything else. And dairy is a big target. Meat is a big target. These things are unfairly to some degree, but they’re big targets. And everybody’s trying to say how much better they are. And if we the customers, or we the industry aren’t able to authentically demonstrate that the environmental impacts of our products are getting better among our best options are to continue to provide the foods that people love. They love dairy products, and just show that it is not something to be guilty about loving ice cream and loving pizza and these things is because you love the quality of the foods and you don’t have to worry about your broader impact because it’s a responsible choice.

Heather Oldani  26:10 

There was a piece of research recently that we’ve looked at, which was what are the reasons why you’re not consuming milk and those personal like taste and isn’t relevant to my lifestyle, those continue to rise to the top for consumers. However, what was interesting as especially for millennials to new entries into that, why am I not consuming milk was animal welfare as well as environmental practices. So it is starting to Dan’s point rise into why I’m not consuming dairy, in this case, milk, it’s an area that is could be right now perceived to be a barrier. I think over time as Gen Z who was really, you know, skeptical and interested in the environmental area as they continue to get more and more purchasing power. My hypothesis is is that it’ll be become a sales driver over time. To Dan’s point, you’re seeing more and more brands using it as a competitive position in the marketplace, kind of that badge of honor. Or, you know, look at me, I’ve got something cool. It’s good for the environment. So I do think it will, over time continue to increase as a purchase driver as well.

Joanna Shipp  27:12 

How is the checkoff telling our story to to consumers about all the things we’ve done in the past what we’re currently doing and our goals for the future?

Heather Oldani  27:23 

Absolutely. So I’ll tackle it from a consumer side, first and foremost. So back when we launched undeniably dairy, it’s been almost six years now. And we actually had a pillar of content that we called responsible production. For the last six years we have historically been putting into our content rotation with consumers. This is how your favorite dairy foods are responsibly produced, whether that was an animal welfare message to show care for cows, or whether that was back in 2019. We had a piece of content that talked about farmers being the original up cyclers, which is a term very popular with millennial Gen z’s in terms of reusing and not letting things go to waste. And so that really talks about the work that you do to partner with others in your community to put into the cows feed almond hauls, citrus pulp spent grains from local breweries. And that piece of content really resonated, they had not thought about dairy farmers as of cyclers, we’ve learned along the way of what messages most resonate with them. It’s make it simple, easy to understand relatable to things that they’re already talking about. The thing that has worked the best is video content, showcasing your farmer stories. And we’re continuing to put those into our undeniably dairy campaign, as well as looking at working with partners like milk pup and others to make sure that we are getting more content into the marketplace on a quicker basis. The other piece that I would say is from a thought leader audience ever since we launched the goals 2050 goals in 2020. We have been making sure to bring high profile media, Washington Post New York Times we’ve taken these reporters who frankly are millennials and Gen Z Gen Z ers themselves. We’ve taken them to dairy farms to see the practices that are happening and they’ve been astounded. They had their own questions and skepticism as well as then continuing to just highlight the different practices, whether it’s soil tillage or dairy feed, the work that you’re doing today doesn’t necessarily always have to be a digester. That’s what the media and others gravitate towards. But there are so many practices that are happening on farms today that are simple turnkey, that are having an impact and the more that we can continue to highlight those through our dairy Sustainability Award winners in media and digital content we are breaking through and it is resonating with consumers.

Alex Peterson  29:39 

I know in my farm that one of the favorite it’s so simple, but even a plate cooler or we cool the milk with water. That is a crowd favorite on tours because it’s something they can wrap their mind around they can understand and they and they see how much oh that is that is an efficient efficient tool is Nestle investing in In ways and putting financial contributions into sustainable practices where the opportunity is back on the farm, and if so how are they doing that?

Dan Peerless  30:09 

Yeah, we absolutely are. So what went along with our net zero by 2050 commitment in the end of 2020, was a an announcement for roughly $3.2 billion fund for direct investments on in climate interventions, which are the activities that result in carbon reduction, the vast majority of that being directed to the production level, the farms, you know, we do have some going to processing sites and factories and things like that. The first and I don’t want to say easiest, but the most obvious was to join the net zero initiative of the US dairy industry, and contribute and get a farm in the Nestle supply chain as one of these Net Zero demonstration farms, while that individual single farm is relatively small, compared to our total global sourcing of quite a lot of milk. And the importance there cannot be overstated is that it’s proving that it’s possible that yes, the technologies work, the economic models will work. Farmers can do this with support, and then we’re continuing to build upon the learnings that have already happened. Some with the direct checkoff participation in some without, it’s not the check offs responsibility to accomplish Nestle’s goals, they work for the farmers. And so we work where it’s aligned, but we will go to our own suppliers, and they will go to their farms and farmers and identify opportunities and projects. And we’ve done quite a lot of cost sharing of anything that comes our way. So we ask the farmers and the suppliers for what they want to do, what they believe in what types of practices if they want digesters, or if they want something entirely different, we will absolutely welcome those proposals and assess them against our goals, and that the impact and the value and we have to be realistic about it, we can’t pay an absolutely enormous amount per pound of carbon or tonne of carbon to come back. But there are a lot of options out there that are certainly in the reasonable range and well demonstrated and accomplishable by the farmers without too much of a burden if they’re supported financially. But I would love to see down the road not having to target individual farms or suppliers with projects and we go through negotiations and have a you know, a legal structure in place to do this. But simply, the milk will be sold in a way that rewards the farmers directly practices on farms that the farmers have chosen, contributes to reduce the greenhouse gas intensity per hundredweight of milk that translates to a premium, just that simple. And so that we don’t have to go and say, go out and find 10 farms that want to do something and come back to us. No, they just say, Hey, we’ve got this milk for you, it’s being produced better than it was 10 years ago, and not that it was bad before but just you know, more efficiency, lower greenhouse gas footprint. And let’s let’s negotiate this as a premium product, which is what it is, at that point. It’s a premium product, because it’s what the consumers are asking for, therefore, what the customers like Nestle are asking for, and therefore it should be paid for as such, I don’t know how to make the market change. That way, that’s, but I keep

Alex Peterson  33:40 

keep working on a damn, I like where your head’s at. So that’s exactly what we need.

Joanna Shipp  33:45 

I agree, I would like to be paid more for my milk and have less specific sustainability projects, I would do more sustainability. If overall, I had the steadier,

Dan Peerless  33:58 

you know, check the people I work with who actually buy the ingredients. So there’s a group down in Panama, and there are global milk buyers. And they’re the ones who call up all the US suppliers and say I need this much powder, this much fresh milk, they would love to do that too. Because instead of being milk commodity buyers, and in charge of dozens of sustainability projects, they would just be buying sustainable milk, that would be a huge burden off of them and off of the coops and off the farmers because again, you just do what you do you make your decisions that are best for you. You put your data into whatever tool demonstrates your lower footprint and the system, you know, the market takes care of the rest. But that’s not here yet, which is why we do these direct investments. Yes, they have administrative overhead, but it is at least recognizing or getting resources to the farms. It’s not the simplest or smoothest way to do it, but it’s what we can do right right now.

Alex Peterson  35:01 

So what resources are available to farmers today that we can go to until we get to you know, Daniels Dreamland, everything works as it should. What can we do today because I applaud farmers that have stuck through to this far into this podcast episode. If you’ve come that far, I’m sure you’re ready to take the next step two, which is to really dig into the resources that are available to absolutely

Heather Oldani  35:24 

you know, there are simple things like sustainability on your farm checklist that we’ve worked together with the farms and things like LED light bulbs all the way up to different technologies and practices. So checklist of here’s one thing that I might be doing today, or here’s one thing more than I might be doing tomorrow. So making sure that you all have access to just turnkey things like that that are easy to do. Coops your co op leadership is also a great resource to start to have conversations about what resources might be available through the specific coops while we as checkoff continue to work with partners like Nestle, TNC, Starbucks and others to bring investment in and dollars in to scale research to look at what are the technologies that are out there today? What happens when we put them on farms of different sizes across different geographies? And then what are the returns and the impact to the farmer themselves? And where are the returns to the progress that we’re trying to make as an industry. So as that research continues to progress over the next several years, making sure that we share out those key learnings with farmers so that you all can understand here’s the return and benefits that can happen on my farm, but depending on my geography, depending on my size, as well as then, you know, working closely with nutrients and others to work and apply for USDA has a significant pot of money investment dollars that they are going to be putting towards sustainable agriculture are so making sure that we’re also then working to apply through our various different partners for additional investments that can come into us dairy and support all of you on the word going forward.

Dan Peerless  37:00 

I would say step forward, what I have encountered as the biggest bottleneck, when we have gone to our supply chain and asked for opportunities to invest is not knowing which farms are ready and which ones aren’t. Because the traditional relationship, you produce the milk, we received the milk, and you get your check. But what we’ve found is when we’ve gone out to our suppliers and other Co Op is they’re not really sure who is ready. If you’re ready, make yourself known. That doesn’t mean necessarily that a project will come your way or funding will come your way. But they definitely won’t. If your co off or whatever pathway the Nestle’s of the world have to you are not aware of it, we would have a lot more underway already. This year. If our suppliers, the ones we’ve traditionally communicated, I need this many million pounds of powder. Now we say we want to invest in the production level in sustainability. Those are questions they sort of came out of the blue but no fault of their own. They weren’t ready to answer that we can send people out to these 10 farms and have serious discussions about investments step forward. Make yourself heard. You’ll be much further ahead. If you try to tap the resources that are available right now.

Alex Peterson  38:12 

What a great call to action. Dan,

Joanna Shipp  38:13 

thank you to both of you for this discussion today. You’re very welcome. Thank you. Thank you, Heather and Dan, it’s been interesting to hear about sustainability across our dairy community. In closing, this is Joanna and Alex hosting your Dairy Checkoff podcast. Thanks for joining us today. If you want to hear more about various issues affecting the dairy community, subscribe to this podcast on your favorite podcast platforms, including Stitcher, Spotify and iTunes. Or you can check out our website Dairy Checkoff. podcast.com for future episodes. Until next time, have a great day.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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