Members of the Wisconsin dairy community from suppliers to processors are coming together in a newly formed statewide sustainability alliance.
While the Dairy Strong Sustainability Alliance (DSSA) was publicly launched today at Endres Berryridge Farms in Waunakee, its roots go back to the Dairy Strong conference, which was held last January in Madison. After hearing Yahara Pride Farms participants share their successes on sustainability initiatives, members of the dairy supply chain from producers to manufacturers began talking about taking those learnings and sharing them statewide. The Dairy Business Association then stepped forward to help get the organization off the ground.
“At Dairy Strong, there was a meeting where you had all these people involved in the dairy industry talking about how you could replicate the Yahara Pride across the state,” said Maria Woldt, the DSSA’s sustainability lead and director of industry relations for the DBA. “This is truly an alliance and we are all collaborators in this initiative.”
DSSA participants include producers of all sizes, processors, vendors, transporters, conservation groups, consumer packaged goods companies, retailers, government agencies, universities and dairy and trade non-profit organizations. Woldt said it was vital to have all players in the milk supply chain involved.
“Everyone, whether it’s producers, manufacturers or vendors, has sustainability and improvement programs in place and it will be great to share that information and let everyone learn from each other,” she said.
“This is all about engaging supply chains and creating well thought out metrics on soil health, water and more,” he said. “At the conservatory, we’re excited to be working with agriculture to create projects that advance or improve conservatory.”
Richter added the Nature Conservatory has worked with other players in agriculture on similar projects.
The heart of DSSA’s mission is to drive innovation and collaboration in sustainability initiatives across Wisconsin’s dairy industry. Woldt said the DSSA is looking to show tangible continuous improvements in the areas of land use, soil conservation, nutrient management, water quality and use, energy use, animal welfare, food safety, greenhouse emissions, economic health and social responsibility.
The DSSA will attempt to achieve its goals by taking existing sustainability tools and applying them to early and mid-stage grassroots efforts led by farmers – individually or as part of a watershed, Woldt said. Data from each group will be compiled annually.
“Collecting data will be a vital part of the DSSA,” she said since it help show improvements being made.
Rather than reinventing the wheel, DSSA is adopting sustainability measures from the Field to Market, the Innovation Center for US Dairy and other dairy community partners, Woldt said.
The DSSA organization is divided into three work areas: milkshed projects, farm enterprise and the Dairy Strong Sustainability Incubator (DSSI).
Woldt said the term “milkshed” describes all aspects of the dairy supply chain within a watershed or given area. Milkshed participants from a given area include farms, logistics, service providers, processors and transportation providers.
Two milksheds are already in development, Wold said. Yahara Pride Farms in Dane County has an established soil and water program in the Yahara River watershed and is looking for a local processor to join the organization. In northeast Wisconsin, the newly launched, farmer-led Peninsula Pride Farms will focus on creating a milkshed in Kewaunee and Southern Door counties.
“There are other farmers in the state who are looking at coming together in a similar type of organization,” said Woldt, adding that any member of the dairy supply chain is welcome to join the DSSA. Membership is free.
“We’re looking for other dairy and ag groups to collaborate with so we can leverage the approach and eliminate duplication,” she said. “We will also do customer research to compliment and guide our work.”
The DSSI is designed to provide management and administrative resources for start-up resources and provide third-party oversight and accountability essential to bringing integrity to the efforts.
“The DSSA is all about helping farmers and other members of the supply chain be more sustainable, whether that is soil conservation, energy use or nutrient management,” Richter said.
As the program gets off the ground, Woldt said DSSA has several goals, including:
- Enroll 15 percent of state dairy farms in a sustainability program, whether as an individual or part of a milkshed.
- Get 15 percent of dairy farms working with a certified crop advisor, shared service provider or other resource manager.
- Have 100 percent of Wisconsin dairy farms be Farm Animal Reform Management (FARM) compliant.
- Expose 25 percent of dairy farms to the Merck DairyCare365 program.
“Eventually, we want to see sustainability and efficiency initiatives that go from farm to table,” Woldt said. “Talking with farmers, they are excited to make a difference in these areas.”