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Saturday, October 30, 2010

South Dakota Dairy Industry Continues to "Grow"

I guess you can call it growth: South Dakota has more dairy cows producing more milk than it did five years ago. However...

The state’s dairy herd currently stands at 94,000 head, up significantly from its low point of 80,000 head in 2005. The state currently has approximately 400 dairy operations. Ten years ago, South Dakota had about 1,200 dairy operations and a dairy herd of nearly 100,000 [Jerry Nelson, "South Dakota's Dairy Industry Continues to Grow," Dairy Star, 2010.10.25].

Even all the fancy equipment and hormone treatment isn't putting out that much more milk: the Nelson article includes a graph that shows South Dakota's annual milk production is just barely higher than it was in 1983. We may be getting more milk per cow, but those cows are also concentrated into much larger facilities, posing more environmental risk than cows given room to roam.

South Dakota's dairy operations are an example of the real redistribution of wealth that should worry us. In just ten years, the wealth of South Dakota's dairy industry has been redistributed from 1200 independent operators to just 400. That's money and power concentrated in fewer hands... and that's not healthy for the economy or for democracy.

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