The overall economic impact of Wisconsin's dairy industry is bigger than ever, according to new research conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Dairy continues to lead Wisconsin agriculture, the new report shows, generating nearly half of Wisconsin's annual industrial agricultural revenue and representing 16.4% of the state's total revenue, according to an announcement from Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin. Despite recent milk price challenges, the report shows that dairy continues to make a significant impact on local Wisconsin communities.
The report, "The Contribution of Agriculture to the Wisconsin Economy," is based on 2017 data (the most recent available) and updates research that is conducted every five years by the University of Wisconsin-Madison under the direction of professor Steven Deller in the department of agricultural and applied economics and extension's Center for Community Economic Development. The state's total agricultural economic impact grew from $88.3 billion to $104.8 billion, with dairy's impact growing to $45.6 billion, the announcement said.
"It is clear that agriculture — and particularly dairy — plays a critical role in Wisconsin's economy," Deller said. "To put this in perspective, dairy's economic impact is twice that of another key growing industry: Wisconsin tourism. It also shows dairy is Wisconsin's signature industry and is central to our state's identity."
The report points out that 154,000 Wisconsin jobs are created and $1.26 billion in state and local taxes are generated from farmers' milk, the announcement said. Every dollar generated by Wisconsin's dairy industry generates another $1.73 in additional revenue for the state, according to the report.
"This report reflects the importance of cheese and dairy in our state and is why we are America's dairyland," Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin chief executive officer Chad Vincent said. "To me, the deeper importance is the impact dairy farming and processing has on maintaining and growing our rural areas. The economic impact derived from agriculture in our state cannot be underestimated. Statewide, dairy helps support a strong future for Wisconsin, with job creation and tax revenue that goes toward better roads, new schools and a variety of other public services."
Additionally, the report identifies foreign export markets as a primary source of new growth for Wisconsin agriculture. As a state, Wisconsin exported more than $2.5 billion in agriculture products last year, and dairy products were the second-largest contributor, at $451 million.
"Consumers from around the world need and want protein in their diet. With Wisconsin's abundance of protein-rich dairy products, it's easy to see why we are an international leader in the dairy industry," secretary-designee Brad Pfaff of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection said. "It's clear from these findings that growing the demand for our high-quality, nutritious dairy beyond our borders is key to the future of our state's dairy industry."
Additional key findings from the report include:
- Dairy generates 43.5% of the state's total agricultural activity.
- Combining both on-farm and dairy processing, dairy contributes $45.6 billion to industrial revenues (7.1% of the state total), 157,100 jobs (4.2%), $9.0 billion to labor income (4.5%) and $15.1 billion to total income (4.7%).
- Dairy processing accounts for roughly two-thirds of the dairy industry's total contribution.
- 90% of Wisconsin milk is devoted to cheese making, while the remaining is deployed to butter, ice cream and cultured products such as yogurt, cottage cheese and kefir.
Wisconsin crafts more varieties, types and styles of cheese than anywhere else on Earth and holds a 48% share of the nation's specialty cheese category.