By Dean Letter, MMPA Member Services Director
The focus of the member services team continues to evolve to meet the needs of the marketplace. Historically, the member services team focused on improving milk quality on member farms and helping them maintain compliance with the Grade A dairy law. For the last several years, MMPA has been well represented among the National Dairy Quality Award program awardees and we’re known in the marketplace for producing high quality milk. While these two areas continue to be important for milk marketing, the focus has broadened to include sustainability or regenerative agriculture.
Our focus began to expand over ten years ago with the adoption of the Farmers Assuring Responsible Management Animal Care (FARM AC) program. FARM AC was a voluntary program initially but transitioned into a mandatory program in response to food company requirements. Videos posted on social media highlighted the need for a very robust animal care program.
MMPA animal care evaluators work with members and their veterinarians to develop and maintain herd health plans and write animal care standard operating procedures. The animal care program stresses continuous training for the employee and continuing education for the farm owner. To aid in this animal care requirement, MMPA staff began providing Dairy Care Academy trainings hosted across the region every spring. The training was a day-long, interactive workshop where participants learned about calf care, best milking practices and dairy herdsmanship.
In 2020, the member services team developed an online Dairy Care Academy that provides the same quality training, but available year-round. By scanning a QR code, members and their employees can access training videos for various animal care tasks. After viewing the videos and passing a post-video test, you can receive a certificate indicating satisfactory completion of the training module.
Today, the focus for most companies, and probably all publicly traded companies, is greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction. MMPA member services have been tracking GHG emissions from member farms for the last several years using the FARM Environmental Stewardship (ES) tool. Currently, MMPA can estimate farm GHG emissions using a stratified random sampling protocol which means that a good estimate could be made without needing to visit every member farm. The aggregated GHG intensity of our member farms (pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent gas (GHG) released per pound of milk produced) can be shared with interested customers.
This expansion of the member services team provides opportunities for farmer-led sustainability initiatives through arrangements with MMPA customers. The Farmer Sustainability Advisory Council is regularly reviewing customer projects that aim to further reduce GHG emissions, improve soil health and resiliency, reduce water use and/or increase its reuse, and demonstrate that workers work in a safe work environment while making a reasonable wage.
MMPA member services will continue to partner and engage with members and MMPA customers to assure that we can continue to market MMPA members’ milk to the greatest advantage possible.
This article was originally published in the July/August 2022 issue of the Milk Messenger. Subscribe »