SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

At DFA, every decision we make is guided by these six values. We call this living our values, and it is not only encouraged, but expected — from our members’ nearly 8,500 family farms to our network of plants and offices throughout the country.

RESPONSIBLE FARMING

Our members, almost all of whom are multi-generational family farms, are a microcosm of the U.S. dairy industry. Large and small, traditional and progressive, seasoned and young — they all work with their families, employees, animals and land to produce quality products in a responsible manner.

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OUR GOALS

  • Promote best practices and continued evaluation of member farms
  • Provide resources and training to members and support staff
  • Provide services to members to improve their businesses and promote longevity

HOW WE DELIVER OUR GOALS

gold standard dairy program

In 2007, DFA created the Gold Standard Dairy Program — the first on-farm evaluation program of its kind — that is focused on employing best practices in the areas of animal care and wellness, environmental stewardship, employee training and milk safety and quality.

Environmental Stewardship

Taking care of the land by operating in a sustainable manner is important in order for our members to continue their way of life for generations to come.

The Gold Standard program assesses:

  • Producers’ manure management systems
  • Water and energy conservation measures
  • Pesticide and fertilizer usage and handling
  • Soil and water sampling programs and more

Milk Safety and Quality

Through the Gold Standard program, producers are assessed on on-farm practices that affect milk safety and quality, such as:

  • Cow comfort and cleanliness
  • Milking procedures
  • Cow nutrition and health, and more

Employee Training

During the Gold Standard evaluation, producers are asked about their employee training procedures, including how employees are trained on:

  • Animal care and handling
  • Milking
  • Employee safety, and more

Animal Care and Wellness

Our members’ animals are their top priority. Healthy, comfortable cows produce the highest-quality milk, and producers work hard to ensure their herds are well cared for. Utilizing the National Dairy Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) Program as the animal care component of the Gold Standard Dairy Program, DFA field staff evaluate producers on:

  • Animals’ feed, nutrition and housing
  • Calf care
  • Veterinarians, nutritionists and other herd health professionals’ role on the operation
  • Care for sick animals and more

Standard operating procedures and protocols and herd health records also are reviewed and updated if necessary. In addition, evaluated farms agree to participate in third-party verification, which ensures evaluations are conducted with integrity.

Stewardship of land and natural resources

To ensure the health of their animals, land and communities, dairy producers employ several practices designed to protect the air, water and soil. Some of these practices include:

  • Nutrient management plans, which allow producers to responsibly manage and apply nutrients while fertilizing their crops and protecting the soil
  • Recycling water by utilizing water used to cool milk in bulk tanks to flush manure from barns
  • Composting manure to produce nutrient-rich fertilizer that can be used on the farm as bedding or sold to neighboring gardeners and farmers as fertilizers
  • Utilizing no-till farming practices, which allow farmers to grow crops from year to year without disturbing the soil through tillage

Farm services support

Today’s farmers are continually expected to produce more with less, so technology and advanced agricultural practices are becoming increasingly important. As a Cooperative, DFA is committed to helping our members navigate the increasingly complicated farming landscape with services ranging from advice and consultation to access to tools, resources, supplies and equipment.

Through DFA’s Farm Services, members are able to work with experts in the areas of price risk management, finance, insurance, farm supplies, renewable energy, pasture-based dairying, herd monitoring technology and livestock marketing.

INNOVATIVE SOLUTIONS

We are constantly focused on finding new, innovative ways to conserve resources, reduce waste and work efficiently — on farms, in plants and on the road. We are committed to developing solutions and sharing them with others so everyone can benefit.

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OUR GOALS

  • Promote efficiency and waste reduction across our member farms and DFA operations
  • Promote cross-functional sharing of successes and lessons learned
  • Nurture a culture of continuous improvement and promote initiatives to achieve best practices

HOW WE DELIVER ON OUR GOALS

On farms

On farms, the key to ensuring longevity and continuous improvement and growth lies in practicing sustainable efforts, and constantly researching and re-evaluating best practices that will benefit the environment and the world. One example of these practices is the use of renewable energy methods such as methane digesters that convert animal manure to energy, wind turbines and solar power.

On the road

DFA is responsible for the transportation of more than 3,000 truckloads of milk daily. In an effort to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, haulers in Texas have begun using compressed natural gas, which reduces fuel costs and emits fewer emissions into the environment. In Colorado, DFA is investing in liquid natural gas (LNG) hauling trucks, which are more beneficial for higher weight payloads.

In plants

In our plants, efforts are underway to cut down on the amount of resources consumed during the manufacturing process. Some examples include:

  • DFA’s Fallon, Nev., plant, which can manufacture up to 250,000 pounds of whole milk powder a day, is focused on strict energy and water conservation efforts throughout the manufacturing process.
  • Craigs Station Creamery is a joint venture of eight family-run farms and DFA, that is built on a dairy and powered by energy generated through the farm’s methane digester.
  • In October 2015, construction began for the creation of a new state-of-the-art dairy processing plant in Garden City, Kan. A development agreement created by DFA and the city notes that for the plant’s first
    20 years of operation, the city will pre-purchase treated wastewater that will be used to irrigate city parks and other areas, which will help the city’s own water conservation efforts.
  • DFA’s facility in Middlebury Center, Pa., received a $75,000 Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority grant for energy-saving upgrades, and installed a new burner and heat exchanger on its boiler, which has the ability to capture latent heat from the exhaust stack, reclaiming and recycling the wasted energy by redirecting it to heat water used to create steam.

Continuous improvement

In DFA facilities, a mindset of continuous improvement is standard. Through ongoing training, conferences and webinars, and plant-specific programs, employees are constantly looking at ways to improve the processes and procedures used to manufacture dairy products.

This mindset is also encouraged on members’ farms through ongoing Gold Standard Dairy assessments and communication from the Cooperative.

In our processing facilities, a focus on teamwork and collaborative sharing has led to a culture of success that sustains momentum and inspires new ideas. Management and maintenance teams within each plant meet regularly to discuss and share investigations related to improvements that could help operate more efficiently. Those results and discussions are then communicated out to other plants that may be able to implement similar processes.

Sustainable manufacturing

Our brands are committed to being environmentally conscious, from the trucks used to get raw ingredients to the plant to the packaging used to deliver the final product. Just a few examples of these practices include:

Biofuels

In 2006, Oakhurst Dairy in Portland, Maine, became the first dairy in the industry to convert its delivery fleet to biodiesel fuel.

Water and energy conservation

Throughout our network of plants across the country, conservation programs are saving millions of gallons of water and conserving energy through equipment upgrades and improved efficiency.

Renewable energy

Oakhurst Dairy’s headquarters in Portland, Maine, is home to the largest commercial solar thermal system in New England, and DFA’s Craigs Station Creamery in Pavilion, N.Y., is powered utilizing energy generated by a methane digester located on one of the DFA member farms who partners with DFA in the facility.

FOOD SAFETY

Producing safe, quality dairy for families around the world is a responsibility we take seriously. Food safety is our top priority in our food processing facilities and on our members’ farms. To ensure we are meeting the highest safety standards, we conduct ongoing employee training in our plants, perform regular testing on finished products as well as ingredients throughout our supply chain, and offer continuing education and resources to our members about milk quality and safety.

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OUR GOALS

  • Comply with, and exceed, all internal and external food safety, regulatory and quality requirements
  • Ensure all ingredients, starting with raw materials, through processing to final retail products, are produced with integrity
  • Never compromise on providing products that meet or exceed customer and consumer expectations

HOW WE DELIVER ON OUR GOALS

At the farm:

Milk samples are collected from the bulk tank by haulers before unloading the tank. These samples are used to check for antibiotics and bacteria levels, as well as milk components such as butterfat, protein and more. In addition, haulers check the temperature of milk in the tank to ensure it has been stored properly and visually inspect milk for proper color and odor before transporting the milk to plants.

At the plant:

Additional milk samples are taken before the milk is unloaded at plants. These tests are to check for the presence of antibiotics, as well as milk components and quality. If tests come back positive for antibiotics or do not meet quality and safety standards, it is rejected.

Before shipped:

Finished products are tested before they are shipped to retail shelves for quality, safety and taste.

Safe Quality Foods

In 2009, DFA implemented the Safe Quality Foods (SQF) initiative in all of its plants in the United States. Developed and executed by the Safe Quality Food Institute, the program certifies that a supplier’s food is created, prepared and handled according to the highest possible standards throughout the supply chain.

Plants that undergo the SQF certification process have documented proof that food safety protocols are in place within their facilities. SQF audits include an evaluation of a plant’s facilities, checking for potential food safety issues, and the plant’s policies and procedures, all the way down to employee compliance.

Employee training

Plant employees regularly undergo ongoing training and participate in industry and Cooperative drills and conferences. For example, DFA’s annual Maintenance for Food Safety Conference brings together maintenance, safety and food quality personnel from all DFA plants to undergo training and share the latest best practices
in safety. In addition, regular crisis drills involving several DFA-produced brands allow staff to run through crisis
and recall protocols in close to real-time.

DFA plants upgrade or replace equipment on an ongoing basis, and refine existing policies as well as develop new policies and procedures to ensure ongoing product safety.

COMMUNITY

With membership, employee and manufacturing footprints that span the country, we are committed to serving, leading and educating in the communities in which we live and work. We strive to be good neighbors, not only in areas where we and our members operate, but also in the greater agriculture community. We created the DFA Cares Foundation, which gives back to our communities through service and volunteer opportunities, education support and disaster relief. Members of DFA, in addition to leading their businesses, are active in their communities. In their towns, schools, and churches, they are serving and leading.

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OUR GOALS

  • Support local initiatives and give back to the communities in which we live and work
  • Provide leadership and assistance to young people pursuing education and careers in agriculture
  • Assist farmer and other victims of disaster to recover and rebuild

HOW WE DELIVER ON OUR GOALS

Combating hunger

Packed with essential vitamins and nutrients, dairy products play a crucial role in feeding the hungry around the world. As a cooperative, DFA is focused on doing our part to help find solutions to the global hunger crisis.

Our efforts are year-round and ongoing. Each year during June Dairy Month, DFA members and employees ramp up our volunteer efforts with special initiatives designed to fight hunger. From volunteering at food banks to hosting canned food drives and pledging monetary support, June Dairy Month serves as a launching pad for our year-round giving initiatives.

As a Cooperative, we work closely with other dairy organizations such as the Global Dairy Platform to develop global solutions to the world’s hunger crisis. In addition to these broad, large-scale efforts, we are also committed to feeding those in need in our own backyards.

Education

We are dedicated to investing in the next generation of dairy leaders by providing scholarships and internships and supporting organizations that foster the skills needed to lead our industry into the future.

Through the DFA Cares Scholarship Program, students pursuing careers in the dairy industry are provided essential funding to finish their education. Since its inception, the scholarship program, which is funded by individual and corporate donations, has awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars to high school, undergraduate and graduate students.

DFA also has a competitive college-credit internship program that employs students in offices, manufacturing plants and labs throughout the United States. The paid program gives undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to immerse themselves in programs of every type within the dairy industry, from marketing to accounting to farm safety.

DFA is also an avid supporter of FFA and the Agriculture Future of America, an organization that provides scholarships and career development training for college students studying in an agriculture-related program. Our support includes participating in the organizations’ scholarship programs, as well as hosting students during conferences and meetings.

Disaster relief

During times of natural disaster, it can be daunting to think of the effort, time and money needed to recover and rebuild. Through DFA Cares, created during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Cooperative works to help those in the agriculture community through monetary support, product donations and access to resources that can help.

Individuals who have lost operations to fire, flood, tornadoes and other natural disasters, are eligible to receive funds from the DFA Cares Foundation. In addition, DFA established its Member Assistance Program for its members, which provides access to resources such as legal and financial consultation, personal counseling and more.

DFA also has a history of pitching in during times of widespread disaster such as earthquakes, hurricanes and wildfires. During these times, we work with local agencies to get donated products to victims who need them, as well as work to provide our affected members with generators, feed and other assistance that can be hard to find when disaster strikes.

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