Frequently Asked Questions


The Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) Environmental Stewardship (ES) program area enables FARM Participants to evaluate and communicate a dairy farm’s environmental achievements in a secure, confidential platform. The online tool combined with the program’s resources assist with setting a path for continuous improvement in ways that make business sense. Today, FARM ES focuses on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, energy use, and Nutrient Management Plans.

FARM ES estimates farm-level greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and energy intensity. It uses a scientific, peer-reviewed model based on IPCC Tier 2 methods and life cycle assessment (LCA) research. Input data includes milk production records, herd data, rations, manure management, and energy use. The results are pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent per pound of fat and protein corrected milk (FPCM). FPCM normalizes milk to the same scale, so that farms can track their results consistently even if milk output changes year to year. With each FARM ES evaluation, farmers and cooperatives can assess change over time, identify areas of operational improvement, and report best practices to corporate customers.

No. FARM Program Participants can voluntary elect to enroll in FARM ES. It is separate from FARM Animal Care.

FARM ES is open to any FARM Program Participant. Email to request a Participation Form and additional instructions.

Individual dairy farms, whether associated with a FARM Program Participant or not, can conduct self-evaluations using the FARM ES tool. Email for more information.

FARM ES Evaluations are conducted by second party Evaluators. These individuals are employees or contractors of FARM Participants (dairy cooperatives and processors). Some FARM ES evaluators are 100% focused on FARM ES; others wear multiple hats, such as field technician or FARM Animal Care evaluator.

Yes. FARM ES Evaluators must successfully complete an online training.

FARM Participants may conduct FARM ES Evaluations at any frequency best suited to their organization and their B2B relationships. FARM recommends that Participants conduct evaluations at least as frequently as the FARM ES Version Cycle (i.e. every 3 years). In practice, if a FARM Participant is using the FARM ES sampling protocol to select a random sample of farms, FARM recommends they complete evaluations on those farms over the course of 3 years.

Ups and downs in GHG emissions and other sustainability measures are normal because of annual variability in herd productivity, weather, feed availability, economics, and more. Our focus is on long-term trends.

FARM ES is free for FARM Program Participants and dairy farms. The only cost comes in the form of staff time to conduct the FARM ES evaluation.

A company’s GHG emissions are divided into Scopes 1, 2, and 3. In a nutshell, they are as follows:

  • Scope 1: Emissions that occur on-site. For example, if you burn natural gas for energy, the GHG emissions are directly released during that process on-site.
  • Scope 2: Emissions that occur elsewhere, but for which the company has operational control. The best example is electricity. The company has operational control over whether the lights are on or off, but the emissions occur off-site where the electricity is generated.
  • Scope 3: All other indirect emissions not covered in Scope 2. This includes all of the upstream emissions that occurred before the company had operational control over a process or product (e.g. for a cheese manufacturer, this would include GHG emissions to create the milk that the company purchased). It also includes downstream emissions (e.g. emissions that occur after the cheesemaker’s products leave the plant, like those at the grocery store or when consumers dispose of packaging.

GHG emissions are categorized into each Scope based on the company’s perspective. So for a cheese manufacturer, on-farm emissions are considered Scope 3. But for the farmer, those emissions are Scope 1 and 2.

You can find out additional details in the Innovation Center for US Dairy’s Scope 1 & 2 GHG Inventory Guidance and Scope 3 GHG Inventory Guidance for dairy cooperatives and processors.

Yes. FARM Participants can aggregate FARM ES data for Scope 3 reporting, either for their own organization’s Scope 3 reporting purposes or for reporting to dairy buyers. In fact, the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy has created Scope 3 GHG Inventory Guidance for dairy cooperatives and processors, which recommends the use of FARM ES.

The Scope 3 GHG Inventory Guidance has been reviewed by the GHG Protocol and is in conformance with the requirements set forth in the Corporate Value Chain (Scope 3) Accounting and Reporting Standard. The GHG Protocol maintains frameworks for measuring and managing GHG emissions. It is widely used for reporting to CDP.

Conducting FARM ES evaluations on all of a Participant’s farms may be impractical or cost prohibitive. Random sampling is a recognized approach by the GHG Protocol for addressing the challenges of Scope 3 data gathering (See the GHG Protocol: Technical Guidance for Scope 3 Reporting for more information: The GHG Protocol maintains frameworks for measuring and managing GHG emissions. It is widely used for reporting to CDP.

FARM recommends using stratified random sampling to overcome that barrier while still getting an accurate estimate of Participant-wide GHG emissions intensity. The FARM ES Sampling Protocol stratifies farms based on milk volume and geography.

No. While it is ideal to conduct the FARM ES evaluation on-site, remote evaluations are acceptable when conducted using best practices for data collection and review.

Unlike other sustainability tools, FARM ES is made by and for the dairy community. The farm’s personal information is private because that is our commitment to our dairy community. The FARM Program and the Innovation Center only use aggregated, anonymous results in public reports. Additionally, anonymized data may be used by the Innovation Center for industry-wide sustainability research.

As with the rest of the FARM Program, FARM ES is on a 3-year version cycle. Version 2.0 was released in 2020.

FARM collaborates with the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy on updates to FARM ES. The Innovation Center leads development, maintenance, and updates to the GHG and energy footprint model that powers FARM ES. FARM ES and the Innovation Center regularly review and incorporate new science to (1) ensure robust and reliable results; and, (2) meet expanding interests and needs of farmers and FARM Participants.

Additionally, new metrics are added to FARM ES that are not part of the GHG / energy footprint model, but important for dairy farm sustainability. For example, Version 2.0 added questions about written Nutrient Management Plans.