The board of directors of the National Milk Producers Federation voted Monday to require that each dairy marketing organization participating in the organization's National Dairy FARM (Farmers Assuring Responsible Management) program must enroll all its farmer-suppliers to ensure full participation in the program.
The board met during the NMPF annual meeting held this week in Grapevine, Texas.
Now in its fifth year, the FARM dairy animal care program features a set of on-farm practices demonstrating farmers' commitment to responsible animal care. In addition to dairy cooperatives, the program is open to milk processors and individual farmers.
Cooperatives and processors handling 75% of the nation's milk supply are implementing the FARM program, although not all farms involved in those organizations have reviewed and adopted the program's practices. Under the new policy, cooperatives and processors must require that every farmer supplying them must enroll in the program.
NMPF Board Chairman Randy Mooney said the vote sends a clear message that the program must not be implemented selectively.
"The FARM program has become the dairy industry animal care standard because of its integrity, rigor and authenticity," Mooney said. "This decision means each farm in a participating cooperative will be held to the same high standards, with no exceptions.
"It demonstrates that the nation's dairy farms, regardless of size, are committed to high-quality animal care across the supply chain," he said.
The NMPF board also this week reviewed new provisions in the FARM program that establish a clear process to investigate allegations of animal mistreatment on farms enrolled in the program. Any such farm will be subject to an independent review and may be temporarily suspended from the program if the allegations are substantiated. A corrective action plan will be developed to address any issues. Once any needed remedial actions are taken, the dairy operation can be reinstated in the FARM program.
NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern said this new policy will further strengthen the consistency of the program, and help such farms improve their animal care practices.
"The goal of the FARM program is to assure a high level of quality animal care on our farms," Mulhern said. "We want the program to be inclusive and adaptive. And where we find problems, we want to address and improve the situation rather than find ways to exclude individual farms from the program."
Also at the meeting, it was confirmed that Emily Metz Meredith, vice president of communications and membership for the Animal Agriculture Alliance, will join the National Milk Producers Federation next month as vice president of animal care.
Meredith will have primary responsibility for the FARM program, NMPF said.