Organic Valley launches new climate-friendly dairy program

The project aims to lower emissions, sequester carbon
calendar icon 11 September 2023
clock icon 3 minute read

Organic Valley and its small organic family farms has started working with over 15 technical partners on an ambitious project to help sequester carbon, lower on-farm emissions and turn organic dairy farms into a part of the solution for combatting climate change, according to a company-issued press release.

With the support of Stonyfield and Nancy's Probiotic Foods, the Organic Valley Carbon Insetting Program (OVCIP) is doubling in size with the aid of a US Department of Agriculture Climate-Smart Commodities grant and is already winning awards, like three placings in Fast Company's World Changing Ideas program.

"Stonyfield has a long history of working to reduce agriculture's climate impact that dates to our founding as a nonprofit organic farming school back in 1983," said Britt Lundgren, Stonyfield senior director of sustainability and government affairs. "We've always believed that business should be a force for good and that we can make more of a positive impact on climate when businesses join forces."

"We've chosen to source milk from Organic Valley for over 25 years because of their shared commitment to family farms and sustainability, so we were eager to help support them in securing the USDA Climate-Smart Commodities grant for their industry-leading program," Lundgren continued. "We look forward to further supporting their carbon insetting program with funding to be used across the program in the near future. We see supply chain partnerships like this one with Organic Valley as critical to meeting Stonyfield's science-based target for emission reduction."

One of the primary practices in the OVCIP focuses on helping farmers expand grazing areas. A recent lifecycle analysis of Organic Valley dairy farms by University of Wisconsin-Madison indicates that grazing methods can lower carbon emissions. Other studies in the news also show positive results of grazing, including making farming environmentally friendlier. While the farms in the Organic Valley co-op already graze cows on pasture, the OVCIP will increase the carbon sequestering capability of those grazing practices.

In addition to enhanced grazing practices, OVCIP will incentivize many farmers to sequester even more carbon by planting new trees within their farm boundaries. Referred to as agroforestry, these practices will include silvopasture, riparian forest buffers, windbreaks, hedgerows and alley cropping. OVCIP will also focus heavily on methane reduction opportunities including enteric feed supplements and changes to manure management like dry storage and composting.

"As one of the pioneers in organic farming, our commitment to sustainability is at the heart of everything our team works on here at Organic Valley. The Carbon Insetting Program is not just about adapting to climate change; it's about leading the way for the rest of the industry and showing that dairy can be part of the solution," said Nicole Rakobitsch, Organic Valley director of sustainability. "With the support of our partners and the USDA, we're bringing groundbreaking innovation to our organic farming model that has already proven to be successful in reducing our carbon footprint."

Organic Valley is also featuring its insetting program and carbon capture technology through Climate Week NYC. Organic Valley is the exclusive food program partner of Climate Week NYC, giving the farmer-owned cooperative a voice in the climate discussions. Farmers can be at the forefront of climate action when using practices like grazing and tree plantings on their well-managed acres.

"As a farmer, my family and I have been stewards of the land for generations," said Organic Valley farmer Chris Wilson, Wisconsin. "With the Organic Valley Carbon Insetting Program, we're able to take our commitment to sustainable farming to the next level."

"We're not just milking cows and growing crops — we're working to build a healthier planet," he added. "We've seen it firsthand, the bees, butterflies and birds calling our farm home. It's a healthy place."

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