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Idaho's dairy farm families bring a lot to the table

| June 9, 2010 9:00 PM

It's a fact - Idaho's dairy industry is the No. 1 agriculture crop in Idaho. June Dairy Month is the perfect time to reflect on how the dairy industry impacts Idaho's economy. Idaho's dairy industry is more than just milk. Dairy farmers bring jobs and economic activity to communities across the nation. In fact, each dollar a dairy farmer receives in milk sales generates more money for the local economy.

"We know we are producing a quality product that is valued by people all over this country and really the world," said Art Lee, Co-Chair for United Dairymen of Idaho. "There will always be a need for good, beneficial food and that's what we as an industry focus on - providing a wholesome product now and for generations to come."

The dairy industry continues to be a significant factor in Idaho's overall economic health. In 2009, on-farm cash receipts from milk produced on Idaho farms amounted to approximately $1.4 billion dollars (based on an average price of $11.80 per hundred pounds produced, down from $17.11 in 2008). In 1970, Idaho's dairy industry generated $1.4 billion dollars in on-farm cash receipts.

Idaho is home to a mixture of large and small dairy farms, both of which contribute to the local economy by supporting local businesses and the community tax base. All but one of Idaho's dairies is family owned and operated. More than half of Idaho's dairies have fewer than 500 cows. When a dairy farm spends money locally, it creates a multiplier effect of more than two-and-a-half times the original dollar spent. Direct employment on dairies and in milk and cheese processing plants accounted for 9,260 jobs in southern Idaho.

Idaho's dairy industry supports local businesses. When dairy farmers purchase machinery, trucks, fuel, and more from local companies, they help generate jobs and income for others. In addition, dairies create jobs for people who grow and ship feed for cows, as well as jobs for veterinarians, insurance agents, accountants, bankers, and others. Truckers, packaging manufacturers and food marketers complete the cycle by transporting and marketing dairy products. This means additional jobs in the transportation, distribution and retail industries.

With so many people involved in the dairy industry, it only makes sense that Idaho is the second largest milk producing state in the 12 western U.S. states and ranks third in the total United States. As of Dec. 31, 2009, the state had 585 dairy farm operations; producing 12.122 billion pounds of milk (1.410 billion gallons).

In terms of milk production: In 1970, Idaho's dairy farmers produced 1.4 billion pounds; but in 2009 produced 12.122 billion pounds. The state average for annual milk per cow is 22,900 pounds (2,633 gallons) in 2009, while the state average in 1970 was 9,793 pounds (1,138 gallons).

The dairy industry provides significant resources to support the research and promotion needed to stabilize and sustain Idaho's dairy industry to drive demand for Idaho produced dairy products, which contributes to the financial stability of rural communities and benefits the state's and region's economies.

At the end of the day, Idaho's dairy producers are proud of their industry and its contribution to Idaho's economic health.

Source: The Economic and Fiscal Impacts of the Dairy farming and dairy Product Manufacturing Industries in South Central Idaho; Dr. Don Holley & John Church, Boise State University, Department of Business and Economics; Sept. 2006.

United Dairymen of Idaho (UDI) is the local planning and management organization responsible for increasing demand for U.S. produced dairy products on behalf of Idaho's dairy farm families.

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