After phenomenal growth since the mid-1980s, Idaho’s dairy industry is slowing down and facing a turning point that could determine the industry’s destiny.
According to the Capital Press, the nation’s third-largest milk-producing state increased milk production by 12 billion pounds between 1985 and 2012. Cheese production grew to 900 million pounds in 2012, up 500 percent from 1987.
But the growth has slowed to modest levels. In 2011, the state produced 3.7 percent more milk than in 2010, and in 2012 it produced 2.3 percent more milk than 2011, according to the USDA.
Idaho is now in danger of losing its third-place ranking to New York state which has experienced a renaissance in recent years -- thanks to a burgeoning yogurt industry.
The last several years have been tough on producers in Idaho. Dave Thomas, CEO of American Dairy Products Institute, explains that cheese-yield pricing can no longer cover the cost of production
It’s now up to the industry to decide which direction it’s willing to go.
Thomas says it all starts with the milk price.
"For the right milk price, we'll see more dairies and more cows," he said, "but what is that right price?"