By Acting Agriculture Deputy Secretary Michael Scuse
Whether it’s cheese, milk, or yogurt, dairy products are a staple in the diets of Americans and people all over the world. June is National Dairy Month, a time when we honor our nation’s dairy producers and processors for making sure that we can enjoy quality dairy products.
Always true stewards of the land, the industry has made tremendous strides when it comes to sustainability. In the past 63 years, the industry reduced its carbon footprint by 63 percent. This amazing statistic is a testament to the integrity of the nation’s dairies, most of which are family-owned and well-connected to the communities around them.
Looking to enhance their sustainability models, dairy businesses often find tips from the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. This resource highlights the impressive accomplishments of businesses like Skyridge Farms., located in Sunnyside, Washington. This 3,200 cow operation’s improved energy management system yielded a 20% energy savings in five of its free-stall barns, while its aggressive composting program eliminated 600 truckloads that used to haul off manure. Businesses can also check out their energy efficiency by looking at an energy saver checklist or requesting an energy audit.
Innovative approaches such as aggressive sustainability models are now a necessity for the dairy industry, which is facing a number of challenges. Record high feed costs make it expensive to run operations. The milk-to-feed price ratio is near an all-time low, shrinking profit margins. Despite these factors, the resilient industry was able to produce more than 200 billion pounds of milk in 2012 – a record amount.
One of the ways that USDA is helping our dairy farmers and businesses overcome their challenges is by helping these businesses reach new markets. One of these paths that continue to be a bright spot in the dairy industry is exports. Last year dairy exports brought in more than $5.2 billion, an 8% increase from the previous year. Services like the USDA’s electronic trade document exchange system (eTDE) will help continue this trend, as our nation’s dairy farmers and businesses will be able to send health and transit certificates through a new streamlined process. USDA will continue to use programs like this to help make sure that American dairy businesses can increase their profit margins.
Outside of running their businesses, the dairy industry makes tremendous contributions to the health and well-being of people all over the world. Through programs like the popular Fuel Up to Play 60, the National Dairy Council provides cutting-edge nutrition information that can be used by people of all ages. Whether it’s showing the importance of milk to children’s development or how dairy products can help you maintain healthy bones, the council has done a great job educating others about the benefits of dairy products. You can learn more about the innovative research and promotion activities by visiting the Agricultural Marketing Service website.
As we celebrate National Dairy Month, USDA remains committed to supporting our nation’s dairy producers and businesses. We would like everyone to thank our nation’s dairy farmers and businesses for all that they do. We encourage you to celebrate the month by trying new recipes featuring your favorite dairy products.