Commitment of Excellence: The FARM Program

Dairy farming is hard work, speaking from experience. From my early days around my grandfather and father on our dairy farm to today’s producers, I’ve never met a dairy farmer that lacked passion about and commitment to the care of their cows and the quality of the milk produced. Today, the commitment to care across the dairy industry extends beyond a verbal exchange or a personal contact. It’s about setting national standards that reflect science-based best practices. The program, known as FARM, documents the dairy industry’s longstanding commitment to producing high-quality and safe dairy products.

What is FARM?

The FARM Program was established in 2009 by the National Milk Producers Federation in partnership with Dairy Management, Inc to engage all partners in the dairy industry from farmers to processors and cooperatives. What is the goal? Continuous improvement in every facet of dairy care from the cows (the prime asset) to environmental standards and the workforce.

The four FARM program silos or pillars are Animal Care, Environmental Stewardship, Antibiotic Stewardship, and Workforce Development. The guidelines within each of these areas have been established in collaboration with veterinarians and other scientific experts to ensure the best care standards for dairy cows are in place. Currently, the FARM Animal Care program represents more than 99% of the U.S. milk supply.

How does FARM work?

Farmers and processors can participate in one or more of the nationwide programs. Once participants complete the agreement of participation, trained second-party evaluators work with farmers throughout the year to verify that established standards are met. Additionally, every year, there is third-party verification by qualified dairy experts on a representative percentage of farms to ensure that FARM is achieving the intended goals. Kim Jones, dairy farmer and ADA of Kentucky president, confirms the value of FARM, stating “Our dairy family embraces the FARM Program, raising the bar for animal and environmental care on the farm. The third-party inspections demonstrate our commitment to providing the food our customers expect and desire”. It is these types of programs that bring consistent and standardized on-farm animal care and production standards, resulting in safe and high-quality dairy products.

Commitment to Quality

Reflecting on my late father’s fifty-one years of dairy farming to those in the business today, I can confirm cows come first and the commitment to animal care remains at the forefront! It’s a continuous commitment that is verified by the FARM program today and reflected in every bite of ice cream and sip of milk we enjoy.

Marianne Smith Edge, MS, RDN, LD, FADA, FAND is Founder and Principal of The AgriNutrition Edge, a consultancy committed to bridging the gap of understanding food and sustainability across the food value chain through strategic counsel and communications. She is a dairy farmer’s daughter, 6th generation Kentucky farm owner, speaker, and produces the Meet Me at the Table blog and The AgriNutrition Edge Report newsletter. Marianne serves on the Board of Advisors for Curious Plot and is an assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Human Nutrition & Dietetics, at the University of Kentucky. She is a former president of The Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics and is current Chair, Foundation for Healthy Kentucky.

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