ROSEMONT, ILL. – Expanding a pact first signed in 2009, the US Department of Agriculture and the Innovation Center for US Dairy signed a Memorandum of Understanding, signaling a commitment to not only keep working toward the dairy industry’s sustainability commitments for 2050, but also factor in consumer demand for food production that benefits the planet.

The Innovation Center announced the newly signed MOU will leverage USDA programs that help US dairy farmers address environmental needs and prompt the adoption of technologies and practices that have a positive impact on sustainability.

Environmental stewardship goals for the dairy industry by 2050 include achieving greenhouse gas emissions neutrality, optimizing water use while maximizing recycling and improving water quality by optimizing the utilization of manure and nutrients.

While working with the USDA on this front, The Innovation Center plans to boost communications and outreach to dairy farmers to get more farms participating in sustainability programs, while also providing support for farmers who are looking for ways to reduce GHG emissions.

“This collective work will move us closer to realizing our goals and our vision of dairy as an environmental solution,” said Barbara O’Brien, president and chief executive officer of the Innovation Center and Dairy Management Inc., which manages the national dairy checkoff. “Most important, we’ll be able to provide farmers with more support and tools so they can continue building on their generations-long commitment to being good stewards of their natural resources.”

With the MOU, The Innovation Center can access the USDA’s scientific and conservation expertise while working with farmers to find impactful climate practices that also create sources of income. USDA programs such as the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Rural Development programs will be part of the updated approach to reaching environmental goals.

“In renewing this agreement with the Innovation Center for US Dairy, USDA is recommitting to our vital work with dairy farmers to reduce methane emissions and improve the sustainability of their operations,” said Jewel Bronaugh, US deputy secretary of agriculture. “We’ve seen tremendous interest in the production of climate-smart commodities and the dairy industry is on the leading edge of that effort. Today’s MOU will help build on and advance the industry’s important leadership in this arena.”

As part of this revamped strategy, The Innovation Center also aims to establish partnerships that enhance the conservation programs for participating dairies through investments. The Innovation Center shared that possible strategies could include highlighting dairy’s sustainability practices to wider audiences and co-hosting a nationwide workshop that would bring together researchers and experts who could bolster dairy sustainability.

In the past, the USDA has worked with The Innovation Center in a number of areas to advance dairy sustainability, including on the Farm Smart Project, which led to the Farmers Assuring Responsible Management Environmental Stewardship module.

“The renewal of our MOU again clearly demonstrates how the commitment to a sustainable dairy industry doesn’t fall on the shoulders of farmers alone,” said Marilyn Hershey, chair of DMI. “Having USDA’s expertise and resources at our side is an invaluable benefit to dairy farmers across the country.”