While food availability is paramount, there is also no doubt that the dairy sector will continue to shrink its climate footprint. Vilsack recognizes that American dairy farmers have already made tremendous achievements—reducing the carbon footprint of a gallon of milk by 19 percent since 2007 (63 percent since 1944). “I think it’s important to set the stage by indicating that the dairy industry has always been committed to sustainability,” Vilsack said during a panel discussion at the virtual California Dairy Sustainability Summit this past November. He then described the national dairy industry’s ambitious net zero initiative, an industry-wide goal to achieve carbon neutral or better (net zero climate impact) by 2050. Vilsack noted that resources, including research and incentives, will be needed to make it affordable for dairy farms of all sizes to implement climate-smart practices and technologies.
“The federal government can be a strong partner in this [national dairy industry’s net zero initiative] by providing resources, providing incentives, and providing research dollars,” Vilsack said.