Dairy farmers, processors and retailers have set out a “pioneering” plan to reduce the environmental impact of milk production.

The Milk Road Map, launched by junior DEFRA minister Jeff Rooker today (2 May), sets out the environmental targets the dairy industry hopes to reach by 2020.

For dairy farmers, this will include cutting greenhouse gasses by 20-30%, recycling more waste and increasing the amount of renewable energy used.

Other steps for the industry include recycling milk bottles and cutting water and energy use.

The Road Map was drawn up by the Dairy Supply Chain Forums Sustainable Consumption Task Force, which included members from DEFRA, Dairy UK and the NFU, as well as retailers and processors.Lord Rooker said the Road Map provided a major new tool to allow the dairy industry to continue to cut its environmental impact.

“Delivering on the targets contained in the document will be a significant achievement,” he said. “I welcome the UK dairy industry’s approach in developing this plan of action.”

Pioneering collaboration

Jim Begg, Dairy UK director general, said document was a “pioneering collaboration” between all links in the supply chain.

“The dairy sector is leading the food industry with this initiative and we are laying down a benchmark for other products to emulate,” he added.

Hayley Campbell-Gibbons, NFU chief dairy adviser, said many farmers were already doing the things suggested in the Road Map, but there was more the industry could do.

“Everyone has a part to play across the supply chain,” she said. “This is the first time we can say to consumers that we recognise there are challenges to face, but the industry is taking it seriously and this is what we are doing.”

Sustainable prices

However Ms Campbell-Gore warned that farmers needed to be paid a sustainable milk price if they are to implement better environmental practices.

“There are targets in the Road Map for every farmer, and each of them makes economic sense, such as improving yields and reducing energy costs,” she said.

“But if farmers aren’t profitable then environmental standards will inevitably slip.”

Targets for the farming sector include:

By 2010

  • 30 dairy farms piloting on-farm anaerobic digestion
  • 65% dairy farmers actively nutrient planning
  • 5- 15% reduction in water usage per litre of milk

By 2015

  • 65% of dairy managed farmland entered into environmental stewardship Schemes
  • 90% of producers have nutrient management plans in place
  • 20-30% of producers trialling new technologies to reduce emissions from cattle

By 2020

  • 20 – 30% reduction in the GHG balance from dairy farms between 1990 and 2020
  • 70% of non-natural waste recycled or recovered as standard practice
  • 40% of energy used on dairy farms from renewable sources