Earl Butz lives, family farms die...
While reading up on cow poop over breakfast (and how's your morning so far?), I learned that South Dakota was first in the nation during Q3 2009 in percentage increase in number of cows and milk production. Last quarter we had 95,000 milk cows, which gets us back up to where we were in 2000, up from a low of 79,000 in 2004. We're still 19th nationally in volume of milk production and 13th in per-cow production.
Too bad more South Dakota dairies aren't able to share in this rebound. According to the USDA National Agriculture Statistics Service, South Dakota had 20,500 dairy operations in 1965. That's over 300 per county. One family running each operation—that's easily double the current population of Brookings, able to make some portion of their living milking cows.
Since then, the number of dairy operations has decreased at an annual rate of about 8%. In 2007, the number of dairy operations in South Dakota was 660.
Part of this is ugly market reality, but part is also the big-ag mindset in Pierre, where our state government continues to hand out favors to the tiny minority of big operators and lets small family farms die.
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