Our planet is on track to reach a population of 9 billion people by 2050, which experts suggest could increase the demand for food by an estimated 60%. This is an opportunity for the U.S. dairy industry, and dairy farmers are in an incredible position to lead the path forward. Buoyed by the science and research dairy checkoff has been developing for generations, the dairy community is a leader in addressing the long-term viability of agriculture throughout the world. As Midwest Dairy farmer leaders, this month fellow dairy farmer deb Vander Kooi and I had the honor of representing Midwest Dairy farmers at the highest level, ensuring farmer voices were part of the global conversation at the United Nations Food Systems Summit.
Over the past 18 months, the Summit has brought together UN member states and constituencies for discussions about the future of food and agriculture – including thousands of youth, food producers, Indigenous people, researchers and more. The culmination event, held virtually this year, united over 51,000 stakeholders from 193 countries to workshop solutions for creating sustainable and nourishing food systems across the globe. deb and I were honored to represent our Midwest Dairy region as two of the five dairy farmers from the United States to participate in this worldwide event.
Because dairy is a sustainable, nutritious product with a considerable economic impact potential for new markets, global participants are recognizing the viability of our ideas and asking questions about how we can help expand dairy production throughout the planet. Why? Because dairy has the power to provide nourishment to underdeveloped populations while driving economic impact in these same communities – a combination that is hard to match with any other food source.
Economic development on the other side of the globe may seem like a big lift as we focus on running our own farms. But it is all about perspective. The average dairy herd in the United States is around 300 cows. The average dairy herd for the world? Two cows. Ninety-nine percent of the herds on Earth have fewer than 100 cows. Most average farms around the world will not need robotic milkers, but we can share all we have learned about genetics, animal care, sustainability and more. And while there is no one-size-fits-all solution, it is important we continue strengthening the dairy community throughout the globe by sharing our knowledge, research and innovation others can apply to become successful dairy farmers – to help create thriving communities in other countries and to help people embrace dairy as a primary source of sustainable nutrition.
To do this, leading up to the Summit, participants were tasked with bringing game-changing ideas to the table to help solve the challenge of feeding the growing population. And though it may not seem game-changing to us because we have been following the science for years, dairy’s Net Zero Initiative is being recognized internationally by participants as a key component. This commitment ensures innovation and production improvements will allow dairy products to continue being one of the most sustainably produced, nourishing foods. We were proud to showcase these goals to help others understand how small changes add up to big outcomes.
As a result of the Summit, over 300 commitments were made by leaders at all levels – from young students to international leaders – to accelerate our shared goals to transform food systems. What we each do as farmers makes a difference. We are part of the solution to a more sustainable food future for the world. And as a sixth-generation dairy farmer, it has been inspiring to see what can be done together.
Translating our research and knowledge starts with a conversation, which is why we can be so proud of the seat we had at the table at this Summit, ensuring that Midwest Dairy farmers and U.S. farmers nationwide had a strong voice in the discussion. Our dairy community has always been a leader in sustainable nutrition, and it is important we continue to be represented and participate in conversations that will help our industry thrive and drive demand for dairy products globally by sharing best practices so that others with limited resources can learn and grow.