USDA and the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy have entered into a memorandum of understanding to jointly promote and enhance environmental sustainability in the dairy industry.
The pact extends and builds upon an MOU originally signed in 2009, according to a joint press release from USDA and Dairy Management Inc. — which manages checkoff funding along with state and national promotion groups and founded the Innovation Center.
USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue signed the MOU with Arizona dairy farmer Paul Rovey, chairman of Dairy Management Inc. and an Innovation Center board member, at DeGroot Dairies in Hanford, Calif., on Wednesday
“USDA and the Innovation Center will continue to work together to accelerate the adoption of innovative technologies and increase energy efficiency improvements on U.S. dairy farms,” Perdue said in the press release.
USDA has resources that can help the dairy industry be successful, but in many cases they are difficult to find because they are spread out through various agencies, he said.
“This MOU hopefully will be a potential navigator to the Innovation Center and give a ‘green light’ to interact with our agencies and centralize our various research and voluntary conservation efforts to reach their goals,” he said.
USDA will continue to work on enhancing the application and approval process for Natural Resource Conservation Service programs to make the process more efficient and tailored for producer convenience.
The agency will also continue to examine ways to expand the award of conservation grants for sustainability initiatives by producers, cooperatives, non-governmental organizations and state and local governments.
The Innovation Center, in turn, will work with its member companies to partner with USDA in communicating and educating producers on the value of sustainable practices while encouraging them to take advantage of conservation program opportunities.
“Over the years, we have pursued creative and common-sense ways to work together that have allowed us to develop research, technologies and on-the-ground practices that move us closer to our collective goals,” Barb O’Brien, president of the Innovation Center, said in the press release.
The synergy that has resulted from the collaboration with USDA works in the best interest of farmers, the dairy community and consumers of dairy, she said.
“This MOU allows the dairy industry to continue to build on all of the good work we have done for years with USDA,” Rovey said in the press release.
“It allows our industry to have a voice and work within a structure where we can continue making progress toward our shared goals and priorities,” he said.
Previous and current collaborations have resulted in research, resources and a variety of programs that have advanced sustainability within the dairy community, including anaerobic digesters on farms, food waste reduction and the development of nutrient recovery technologies.
It has also led to the Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) Environmental Stewardship module, a voluntary tool used by farmers representing 98 percent of U.S. milk production to identify opportunities for sustainability improvements on their farm.