Dairy does a nation good

Since 1937, June has been designated as “Dairy Month.” Initially promoted to jumpstart summer milk sales during pasture season, its legacy lives on in celebration of dairy products’ nutritional benefits and the dairy industry’s contribution to the national economy.

According to the American Dairy Association, dairy is the No. 1 agricultural business in California, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Wisconsin, greatly supplementing their state wealth.

Consider this case in point (State Sen. Darrel Albertine-NY):

“New York’s dairy industry is the foundation of the state’s agriculture industry, supporting the infrastructure necessary for farmers in all sectors, whether they produce fruits and vegetables or meat and poultry. Every job on a dairy farm creates another 1.24 jobs in the community and almost two dollars enter into the economy for every dollar generated by the sale of milk. Dairy processing creates nearly five jobs for every job in the plant and generates another $1.26 for every dollar of product sold. According to a 2002 study, each dairy cow has an economic impact of $13,737, meaning that two cows have the economic impact of creating a $27,500-valued job.”

Not only does the industry help consumers economically, but dairy farmers will also invest more than $250 million to help fight childhood obesity in schools by supporting access to naturally nutrient-rich foods, providing nutrition education and encouraging physical fitness, according to the National Dairy Council (NDC).

The nutritional benefits of milk, dairy’s most revered product, cannot be denied. In fact, it’s the most nutritious, natural drink available, containing protein, calcium, riboflavin, phosphorous, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and pantothenic acid.

In addition to dairy farmers playing roles in the health and wealth of society, they play an environmental role, as well.

A Cornell University study showed that in the past 60 years, dairy farmers have reduced their carbon emissions by 63 percent and the industry is committed to further reducing carbon emissions 25 percent by 2020, according to the NDC. Dairy farmers utilize advanced energy-saving technology and practice conservation methods to safeguard land, water and air.

Dairy Facts
  • 99 percent of all U.S. dairy farms are family owned
  • Most milk is transported 100 miles or less from farm to grocery store
  • There are about 60,000 U.S. dairy farms
  • There are dairy farms in all 50 U.S. states and Puerto Rico
  • U.S. dairy farms produce roughly 21 billion gallons of milk annually
Like all industries, the dairy industry invests in its future. The American dairy industry is represented by the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), which represents most of the U.S.’ dairy marketing cooperatives. It has created a new roadmap for U.S. dairy policy called Foundation for the Future (FFTF).

FFTF proposes, “…much-needed change to many aspects of current dairy programs, some of which have existed for decades.” The group notes that today’s dairy market is influenced to a much greater degree by global demand, using the record dairy prices of 2008 and dramatic dairy-price decreases of 2009 as an example of this instability.

FFTF Recommendations

1) Revise existing Federal Support (Safety Net) Programs; 2) create a new Dairy Producer Margin Protection Program to protect against both severe and unsustainable loss of margin; 3) reform the Federal Milk Marketing Order system; and 4) establish a Dairy Market Stabilization Program to help address imbalances in dairy supply and demand.

The dairy industry is hopeful that legislators seriously consider these regulation changes to protect the agricultural sector.

Though dairy farms are valuable assets, recent media coverage has addressed dairy farm animal cruelty. Images of abused cows have been publicized to damage the reputation of livestock farmers nationwide, also tarnishing the dairy industry’s image. However, it’s important to note that these questionable images are not reflective of the majority of dairy farms throughout the country. Most dairy farmers understand the responsibility that accompanies their job and take pride in the proper care of their cows.

“Healthy cows produce high-quality products, so it doesn’t make sense for a farmer to give his or her cows anything less than the best treatment,” states DairyFarmingToday.

Consumers should be grateful for the dairy industry not only in June, but each month of the year. Dairy farms provide the cheese, yogurt, ice cream and other dairy products that make every day taste better.

Southern States writer Matt Mullen says it best in a recent story, “Dairy farming is a challenging business, and the people who provide milk and milk products deserve our support for their work on behalf of our health, environment and economy.”

*Photo obtained from: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20100601/DC13435

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