New United Nations Report: California, U.S. Dairies Models for Reducing Carbon Footprint

It’s no secret that California dairy farmers are leaders on a number of sustainability issues. From implementing improved management practices that protect air, land and water resources to providing responsible care of animals, our state’s dairy farmers continue to make tremendous progress on issues important to their consumers and neighbors.

Dairy's carbon footprintOn the issue of global climate change, California and U.S. dairy farmers are indeed a rare and major success story. Most notably, they have reduced the overall carbon footprint of a glass of milk by 63 percent in the past 65 years.

Although dairy’s share of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions remains relatively small – less than 2 percent of the nation’s GHG emissions – in 2009, the U.S. dairy community voluntarily committed to reducing these emissions an additional 25 percent by the year 2020.

A recent report from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations further points to the fact that California and U.S. dairy farmers are leading the way on this critical global issue. In “Tackling climate change through livestock: A global assessment of emission and mitigation opportunities,” the FAO states that the greatest potential for additional global cuts in GHG emissions from livestock farming lie in low productivity ruminant livestock systems in developing countries.

CA greenhouse gasesAmerican dairy farms emit about 45 percent fewer GHG emissions per unit of milk produced compared to the global average. While this is good news for consumers of California dairy products, it also serves as a sustainable model for dairy farmers in developing countries. Through wider adoption of existing best practices, such as those used here in California and the United States, these farmers can begin achieving the greater production efficiencies that our dairy families have successfully developed over generations of farming.

Through innovation and new technologies, our state’s dairy farmers are well-poised to remain leaders on greenhouse gas reductions. Some dairy farmers have installed projects such as solar panels and biogas digesters on their farms, reducing their reliance on fossil fuels, and in some cases, creating new energy for others in their communities.

Through their actions – big and small – dairy families have demonstrated that they are in it for the long term, working toward a more sustainable future for California. With continued progress toward a smaller carbon footprint, consumers can have confidence in the safe, affordable and nutritious dairy products they have come to expect from California dairy farmers.

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Dairy Cares is a statewide coalition supporting economic and environmental sustainability and responsible animal care. Our members include the Bank of the West, Bar 20 Dairy Farms, California Dairies Inc.,California Dairy Campaign, California Farm Bureau Federation, Conestoga-Rovers and Associates, Dairy Farmers of America-Western Area Council, Dairy Institute of California, Hilmar Cheese Co., HP Hood, Joseph Gallo Farms, Land O’Lakes, Milk Producers Council, Ruan Transport Corp., Western United Dairymen, California Cattlemen’s Association and others. For information, visit our web site or call 916-441-3318.