THE Idaho dairy industry has experienced significant growth in the past three decades, going from an average milk production state to the third-largest milk production state in the nation, according to a recently completed analysis the University of Idaho's College of Agriculture & Life Sciences performed for the Idaho Dairymen's Assn. (IDA).
California has been the leading state in milk production since it overtook Wisconsin in 1992, producing 41.8 billion lb. of milk in 2012. Since then, Wisconsin has been the second-largest milk production state and produced 27.2 billion lb. in 2012. New York traditionally had been the third-largest milk-producing state until Idaho, which had been growing strong and steadily since the early 1990s, surpassed New York in 2012, producing 13.6 billion lb. (Figure 1).
The study, which revealed the economic impact in the state of Idaho and throughout the world, attributed the state's production gains to both an increase in the number of dairy cows in the state and an increase in the productivity of Idaho's dairies over the past three decades.
"We use these economic impact studies to quantify our industries' financial contributions to rural communities and the state," IDA president Tony VanderHulst explained. "The study clearly shows we have a thriving and healthy dairy industry in Idaho. With the current robust dairy economy, it can only be anticipated that the economic contributions for 2014 will increase significantly."
In terms of the number of milk cows, the study found that Wisconsin was the leader in the early 1990s until California pulled ahead in 1998 with 1.4 million milk cows (Figure 2). California continued to have rising numbers of milk cows until 2010, when the numbers decreased slightly, whereas Wisconsin's milk cows continued to decrease in number steadily until 2004, when its numbers leveled off to around 1.3 million milk cows.
New York traditionally had the third-largest number of milk cows, although it has held steady at around 610,000 milk cows since 2010.
Idaho's milk cow numbers, however, increased 280% from 1980 to 2012, surpassing Minnesota in 2006 and Pennsylvania in 2009. So, while cow numbers in the top three states declined or leveled off, Idaho's cow numbers continued to increase.
Data also showed that annual milk production in 1980 was 12,641 lb. per cow, and that rose to 23,376 lb. per cow in 2012 — an 85% increase in 32 years.
However, because the dairy industry is not comprised of just milk producers, the analysis also included the growing milk processing sector, which transforms fluid milk into dairy products, as well as the wholesale and logistics businesses that support dairy production.
"When taking all of the dairy industry players into account, the dairy industry becomes a major contributor to the Idaho economy," the authors noted.
A social accounting matrix model, which helps determine how industries are linked together to measure the effects of each industry on every other industry, was used to measure the industry's contributions.
The study found that dairy producers and milk processors purchase a variety of inputs from other businesses within the state, thus creating additional jobs across Idaho's economy.
To provide a conservative estimate of the new jobs the combined dairy industry contributes to the state, the investigators employed an economic base impact analysis that served to net out any double counting.
After doing so, they found that, in 2012, the dairy industry contributed 23,000 jobs (down slightly from 25,000 in 2011), $6.6 billion in gross sales and $72 million in tax revenue to the state's economy. These data translate into $2.2 billion (3.4%) of Idaho's gross domestic product (GDP), about one-third of the broader agriculture sector and a significant portion of the state's total economy.
"Everyone understood the positive financial influence that the dairy industry had in rural Idaho. What the study clearly shows is that Idaho's dairy industry is responsible for generating a significant portion of the state's total jobs, wages and GDP," said Dr. Phil Watson, author of the study.
The State University of New York College of Agriculture & Technology at Cobleskill (SUNY Cobleskill) has received a $1 million commitment from New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo toward the development of a dairy processing center.
"SUNY Cobleskill is immensely proud to be a leader in workforce development for the dairy industry," Dr. Debra H. Thatcher, acting president of SUNY Cobleskill, said. "This generous investment by Gov. Cuomo and New York state, coupled with federal and private funds, will significantly bolster our ability to effectively meet the multiple needs of dairy-related businesses throughout the state."
According to Dr. Jason Evans, associate professor of agricultural business at SUNY Cobleskill, "The dairy processing center at SUNY Cobleskill will further the college's mission of providing real-world, experiential education for its students and will prove a valuable asset to the region's food economy."
Within the new facility, students will work alongside faculty and industry experts in the cheese, yogurt, fluid milk and ice cream manufacturing processes.
In addition, the center will provide processing space for the region's dairy producers and a venue for technical assistance and education for New York dairy producers and processors in areas such as quality control, solid manufacturing practices, regulatory compliance and food safety and sanitation.
A yearlong dairy promotion campaign that targets students' attitudes and behaviors surrounding dairy and calcium intake recently re-launched at The Ohio State University.
With educational messaging rooted in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's MyPlate guidelines for college students, the campaign, called #SpotTheCow, is using social media, posters, flyers, interactive activities and other ways to help undergraduate students — especially incoming first-year students — recognize the importance of including dairy and other calcium-rich foods and beverages in their diets.
"In the transition from home to campus, college students, particularly freshmen, are vulnerable to experiencing a decrease in diet quality, including dairy and calcium intake," said principal investigator Carolyn Gunther, nutrition specialist with Ohio State University Extension's Family & Consumer Sciences program and an assistant professor in the department of human sciences.
The campaign is funded by a grant from the American Dairy Association Mideast.