The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Hershey Company announced on Tuesday they are committing $2 million to help Land O'Lakes dairy farms in Pennsylvania transition to more sustainable practices.
Each party has agreed to allocate $1 million to support the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay’s work in promoting the adoption and implementation of agricultural conservation practices on Land O’Lakes’ eastern region milk shed.
The funds will provide farmers with the technical expertise to improve water and soil quality, as well as reduce the environmental impacts of their dairy operations, according to the release. It is part of a larger effort to support a more sustainable, climate-friendly dairy supply chain for Hershey’s milk chocolate.
The collaboration seeks to address some of the high costs that come along with transitioning to more sustainable farming practices, which remains one of the biggest hurdles for farmers looking to go green.
“This effort is helping to create a paradigm shift in which an entire supply chain works together to support work on the ground rather than farmers being expected to carry the load alone,” Jenna Mitchell Beckett, agriculture program director at the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, said in a statement.
The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, Hershey and Land O’Lakes have worked together since 2021 on their initiative called “Sustainable Dairy PA,” to support the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and help improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
The collective initially worked with 119 farms in central Pennsylvania that ship more than 50% or more of their milk supply to Hershey. The initiative has the potential to reach more than 400 farms as funding and support grows.
“We are proud to support the work of Sustainable Dairy PA and the farmers participating as they drive meaningful impact on clean water and conservation efforts to protect the Chesapeake Bay,” Leigh Horner, chief sustainability officer at Hershey, said in a statement.
Through its collaboration with Land O’Lakes, Hershey began piloting last year a methane-reducing feed additive to reduce greenhouse emissions, according to a 2022 ESG report. The chocolate maker also planted more than 3,000 trees as a riparian buffer to prevent thousands of pounds of sediment, nitrogen and phosphorus from entering the streams of Chesapeake Bay.
Efforts to restore the waterways have been “more challenging than expected,” however, due in part to massive nutrient imbalances stemming from intensive agriculture operations that raise poultry, pork and dairy cows, according to a May report from a Chesapeake Bay advisory group.