The next time you eat a cheese sandwich, drink a glass of cold milk, have an ice cream cone or a cup of yogurt on a walk through the park, thank the dairy farmers who made it all possible. Now is a great time to do that because June is Dairy Month.
The dairy industry is an important economic engine in America. The farm value of milk production is second only to beef among livestock industries and is equal to corn. Milk is produced in all 50 states, with the major producing states in the West and North. Dairy farms, overwhelmingly family-owned and managed, are generally members of producer cooperatives.
USDA’s Economic Research Service finds that major trends in U.S. milk production include a fairly slow and steady increase in production as gains in milk output per cow outweigh declines in the number of cows, and a consistent decline in the number of dairy operations, matched by a continual rise in the number of cows per operation. The USDA Census of Agriculture, released earlier this year shows four of the top five “milk cow counties” are in California with Tulare County leading the way with a reported 490,000. (The other top county is Gooding, County, Idaho).
According to the International Dairy Foods Association, National Dairy Month started out as National Milk Month in 1937 as a way to promote drinking milk. It was initially created to stabilize the dairy demand when production was at a surplus, but has now developed into an annual tradition that celebrates the contributions the dairy industry has made to the world. After the National Dairy Council stepped in to promote the dairy industry June effort, the name changed to "Dairy Month." Now, many states including California, Vermont and Wisconsin have special events and observances in honor of dairy farmers and the industry.
Dairy is important to health. Through programs like Fuel Up to Play 60, the National Dairy Council provides cutting-edge nutrition information that can be used by people of all ages. You can learn more about the innovative research and promotion activities by visiting the Agricultural Marketing Service website. So no matter where your dairy comes from, thank a farmer. Dairy farming is a labor of love, but it is hard labor, and we thank everyone involved in producing the milk you drink.