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Dairy industry on the rise

June is national dairy month

SIOUX CITY - Northwestern Iowa and throughout the area known as the I-29 corridor has witnessed expansion within the dairy industry.    

As Scott Schroeder with the Western Iowa Dairy Alliance says, several dairy processors within the region have attracted additional dairy herds.

"Yes, there has been a really hard push about the last ten to 15 years.  A lot of new dairies have come in over that time. A lot of them have relocated to northwest Iowa, just because we have the capacity to be able to grow all of their food for the farm.  And we have Well's Blue Bunny, Deans Foods, AgriPur, and AMPI all within the northwest Iowa corridor, so its easy access to a market," says Shroeder.

Schroeder says although it is generally thought of as good news for an industry to expand, he says the rapid growth of local dairy farms has created some challenges.

"Because of the expansion, at least in western Iowa, and I'm pretty  sure it is that way across the country as well, the expansion of dairies...so a lot of our processors are at maximum capacity for liquid milk, so that brings up some challenges. It all affects whether or not dairies can add additional cows, and in some cases, processors will stop buying milk from certain producers in order to allow another dairy to expand," says Schroeder.

The dairy official says better access to feed, water, and reduced regulations have prompted some dairy farmers to leave other parts of the country, such as California, for the greener pastures of Iowa and South Dakota.  Schroeder says another challenge for dairy farms is the immigration issue and locating a constant labor work force.

"Currently, the Western Iowa Dairy Alliance is working with the American Dairy Coalition to try to get a visa program put in place to allow year-round workers.  Right now, the agriculture industry has seasonal workers visa programs, but there's nothing for long-term.  So, the dairy industry really struggles to keep Hispanics and minorities that are willing to work on the dairy farm for the long term.  So that's probably one of largest issues is labor," says Schroeder.

On June 28th, the Western Iowa Dairy Alliance will host an open house inviting the general public to a dairy farm near Lester, Iowa, giving people the opportunity to see up-close the daily activities of a working dairy farm. 

Schroeder says the consumer demand for dairy products have held steady for the last few years.

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