Small Town News


Idaho dairy farm families bring plenty to the table

The Aberdeen Times of Aberdeen, Idaho

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Businesses across the dairy industry, along with their employees, are active in the communities in which they operate. They contribute at the local, national and international levels through donations of time, resources and funds to promote education and rural economic development, support charity events and raise awareness of healthy lifestyle choices that help to combat issues such as malnutrition and obesity.

"We know we are producing a quality product that is valued by people all over this country and really the world," says Tom Dorsey, 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."

Whether with 200 or 2,000 cows, near a city or in remote country, almost all dairy farms share one thing in common: they are family-owned and operated. Ninety-eight percent of U.S. dairy farms are family operations. Living in the community in which they do business means they help keep their community vital. 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.

Just like in other families, the parents may serve on the PTA or school board, and the kids might enjoy scouting or sports. Farm families often participate in service clubs, church groups and local poli-tics-because like their neighbors, they take pride in being good citizens of the community.

These families support the economic well-being of their community, too. Every dollar spent locally by a dairy farm creates a multiplier effect of more than two and a half times the original dollar spent. For example, 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. In fact, more than 22,730 jobs across southern Idaho are attributed to the state's dairy industry.

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 U.S. As of Dec. 31, 2011, the state had 577 dairy farm operations; producing 13.223 billion pounds of milk (1.537 billion gallons) from the 554,139 cows milking.

In terms of milk production: In 1970, Idaho's dairy farmers produced 1.4 billion pounds; but in 2011 produced 13.223 billion pounds. The state average for annual milk per cow is 23,863 pounds (2,775 gallons) in 2011, while the state average in 1970 was 9,793 pounds (1,138 gallons).

And today's dairy industry is committed to doing more with less, seeking sustainable ways to optimize resources and developing innovative models for growth. These improvements in productivity have more than economic benefits Over the past decades, increases in efficiency and productivity have led to fewer cows and farms and increased milk production. The U.S. dairy industry now produces a gallon of milk with 90% less land, 65% less water, 75% less manure, and a 63% smaller carbon footprint.

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

Copyright 2012 The Aberdeen Times, Aberdeen, Idaho. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: June 20, 2012

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