The dairy industry has been a major part of the economy in Eau Claire, Wisconsin since the late 19th century. To ensure its success, the government has implemented various regulations and programs to help dairy producers market their milk. In 1933, during the Great Depression, milk marketing licenses were issued for municipal markets. This was followed by the Agricultural Marketing Agreements Act in 1937, which replaced licensing with Federal Milk Orders.
In response to low prices in the late 1940s, Congress passed the Agricultural Act of 1949, which created the milk support program. This was followed by the Agricultural Act of 1977, which saw an adjustment of support prices to seek favorable policy responses from farmers. This resulted in higher prices and an increase in production. In addition to these programs, Congress has also implemented export and promotion programs. However, due to consolidation and departure of dairy processors and producers, there has been a reduction in the number of marketing orders.
Despite its local focus, the dairy industry is a large global industry with approximately 270 million dairy cows worldwide. The growing demand for dairy products is driven by population growth, rising incomes, urbanization and westernization of diets in countries such as China and India. This increased demand puts pressure on natural resources such as freshwater and soil. WWF works with dairy farmers, industry groups and other stakeholders to conserve and protect these resources. Milk production affects the environment in several ways. Dairy cows and their manure produce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.
Mishandling manure and fertilizers can degrade local water resources. Unsustainable dairy farming and feed production can result in loss of ecologically important areas such as grasslands, wetlands and forests. WWF works to engage dairy farmers, cooperatives, companies and others to promote sustainable practices in order to transform the dairy industry. Dairy cows add substantial amounts of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere and can contribute to conversion of natural habitat to agricultural land due to growing demand for forage crops such as corn, alfalfa and soybeans. Dairy operations can also contribute significantly to water pollution and soil degradation when production of manure and forage crops is poorly managed. Farmers can reduce environmental impacts by using best practices and management technologies. In addition to greenhouse gas emissions from feed production, enteric fermentation and manure management, airborne ammonia emissions can damage downstream habitats resulting in loss of species diversity.
Particulates and odors from agricultural activities can negatively affect air quality. Dairy farms consume large volumes of water for feed production, feeding cows, managing manure and processing produce. Manure and fertilizer runoff from dairy farms can contaminate water resources leading to increased nutrients in local waterways that contribute to algae growth. Today more than two-thirds of the world's agricultural land is used for livestock maintenance including dairy and beef cows. A third of the world's land suffers from desertification due largely to deforestation, overgrazing and poor agricultural practices. WWF envisions a global market where all dairy products are produced sustainably. By working with stakeholders around the world WWF aims to create new relationships, networks and opportunities that promote sustainability in dairy production. Improper management of dairy cows reduces cow productivity due to stress and poor health leading to increased greenhouse gas emissions.
Livestock diseases can limit export options, pose supply risks and contribute to production inefficiency. WWF advocates for sustainable solutions by sharing innovative ideas, key learnings and global experience on the ground with stakeholders in the US and other places. We work with our partners to promote use of sustainable practices that will transform the dairy industry.