The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy this week announced it will be accepting nominations for four dairy sustainability and stewardship awards, which they say help foster connections between consumers and producers.
The awards recognize outstanding dairy farms, businesses and collaborative partnerships for implementing management practices that benefit communities and the environment.
The four awards are: Outstanding Dairy Farm Sustainability, Outstanding Dairy Processing and Manufacturing Sustainability, Outstanding Achievement in Renewable Energy and Outstanding Achievement in Energy Efficiency.
Nominations are open through Nov. 15, 2013, to all segments of the U.S. dairy value chain. An independent panel of judges will evaluate all nominations based on results of the project or initiative as measured by triple-bottom-line success — economic, environmental and social. Judges also will assess: the potential for other dairy farms and businesses to adopt the practices; demonstrated learning, innovation and improvement; and scalability.
The Center says the awards encourage dairy farms and businesses to think about the steps they have taken that add up to better use of natural resources, increased profitability and positive community contributions.
"Sustainability is a journey that the dairy industry has been on for generations so that we can continue to contribute to a safe, affordable and nutritious food supply," Barbara O'Brien, president of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy.
The Center said success stories like those of past award winners also resonate with consumers and help bring them closer to producers. That's why the Center has chosen to partner with the World Wildlife Foundation to release short videos featuring 2013 sustainability award winners on their respective operations, showcasing their story.
According to research conducted by the Natural Marketing Institute, consumers increasingly want to know that the products they buy are produced responsibly, and that is especially true for consumers who drink a lot of milk.
"Caring for the land, animals, air and water is essential to producing wholesome, nutritious milk," said Paul Rovey, chairman of Dairy Management Inc. "Through the dairy farms and businesses can share with consumers how their sustainability practices demonstrate their commitment and care for our environment."
Research shows that today 9.2 million dairy cows produce more milk than the 25.6 million dairy cows the country relied on in 1944. Through improvements in cow health, nutrition and housing, among other factors, dairy farms today use 90% less cropland and 65% less water, and produce 76% less manure and 63% less carbon emissions. The industry is responsible for approximately 2% of the country's greenhouse gas emissions and is committed to reduce this further through a voluntary goal to reduce GHG emissions by 25% by 2020.
The Center said past award winners demonstrate these changes by using various management practices that are good for the environment, the community and their farm businesses.
On Petersen Dairy Farm in Appleton Wis., for example, Mark Petersen and his family purchase newspaper from local nonprofit schools and churches to use as bedding for their cows, and then recycle it with cow manure into compost for their neighbors.
Next year's winners of the U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards will be announced in Washington, D.C., in April 2014.
Gold-level sponsors include: the Center for Advanced Energy Studies; DeLaval; DVO Anaerobic Digesters; Elanco Animal Health; HDR; InSinkErator; Tetra Pak Inc.; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; World Wildlife Fund and Zoetis. Silver-level sponsors include Organic Solution Management; Skip Shapiro Enterprises, LLC and Syngenta.
There is no fee to enter. For more information, go to USDairy.com/Sustainability/Awards.