It’s finally June, which means it’s Dairy Month! During Dairy Month, we tend to think about ice cream, cheese, milk, and all of the other marvelous dairy products we enjoy, but there’s more to the industry than many people realize; a lot more.
Information from the National Farmers Union states the dairy industry is a significant part of the U.S. economy, accounting for about 1 percent of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP), generating an economic impact of $628 billion. The dairy industry also creates about 3 million jobs in the U.S., generating about $159 billion in wages annually. Not bad for an industry where 98 percent of the farms are family-owned operations.
The dairy industry, while important to the nation’s economy, is struggling. Milk prices are tanking, no pun intended, and production costs continue to increase with each passing day.
The Base Class I Price was $18.29 per hundredweight for June 2021, according to the USDA. When it costs producers more than $21 per hundredweight to produce that milk, it’s easy to see milking cows isn’t a money-making proposition these days.
Growing up, it seemed like there were countless dairy farms within just a few miles of where we lived. Only a handful remain today. Back then, a family could make a decent living milking 50 or 60 cows, but those days are long gone. It simply costs too much to be a dairy farmer.
Then there are the animal rights groups. These organizations allege the dairy industry is inhuman. Their uneducated advocates claim dairy animals, are mistreated from birth, tortured throughout their lifetimes and even “raped.” I expect a PETA “undercover investigation” to break any day focusing on the dairy industry; it is Dairy Month, after all.
Propaganda from animal-rights organizations, in my opinion, has contributed to the decline in milk consumption. According to the USDA, per capita, fluid milk consumption has dropped 40 percent since 1975. That year, Americans drank 247 pounds of milk per person. It dropped to 146 in 2018.
The rise of plant-based “milk” promoted as healthier products and veganism continues to impact the dairy industry. Some can’t digest cow or goat milk, including a couple of my family members, so having other sources of “milk” is terrific. Still, it baffles me when something with ingredients like calcium carbonate (a derivative of limestone) and gellan gum (a derivative of fermented starch) is considered healthier than something with one natural ingredient, an ingredient that is easy to spell – MILK.
What can we do to help our nation’s dairy farmers? Keep buying and consuming dairy products.
This summer, have some sour cream on a baked potato, butter an ear of corn, throw a slice of cheese on that burger, and wash it all down with a big glass of milk. And for dessert, a big bowl of ice cream. You can also add a piece of your favorite cake with buttercream or cream cheese icing – even if it isn’t someone’s birthday. Better yet, have cheesecake. Your local dairy farmer will thank you for it.
Julie Turner-Crawford is a native of Dallas County, Mo., where she grew up on her family’s farm. She is a graduate of Missouri State University. To contact Julie, call 1-866-532-1960 or by email at [email protected]