While Idaho’s dairy industry remains healthy, dynamic, and growing, hard-charging Texas is growing so fast that it may soon overtake Idaho as the nation’s third-largest dairy state based on annual milk production. In fact, it could happen as soon as this year.
How has this come about?
If national dairy championships were awarded based on growth in milk production, the “National Championship Game” would have featured just two champions since 2015 — the “Aggies” of Texas and the “Badgers” of Wisconsin. During that eight-year span, Texas took home five “Golden Milk Pitchers” and the Badgers placed the other three awards in their trophy case.
At the beginning of the eight-year run in 2015, Texas stood in a distant sixth place for national milk production behind the likes of California, Wisconsin, New York, Idaho — the new dairy kid on the block — and Pennsylvania.
In those days, Gem State dairy farmers were just beginning to jostle with the Empire State for third place. These days, Idaho has moved past New York, and at the close of 2022, Idaho could clearly see the hard-charging Texas Aggies in its rearview mirror as a mere 104,000 pounds of milk separate the two states. That’s nearly the amount of new milk Texas added in the past year.
A fast charge
Going back to 2015, the Lone Star State’s milk production totaled 10.3 billion pounds while Idaho netted 14.1 billion pounds. Fast-forward to the present: Texas added 6.2 billion pounds of new milk for a growth rate of 60.5% to reach 16.5 billion pounds.
That new milk growth in the past eight years would be the equivalent of adding the entire output of No. 10 Washington. To be fair, Idaho was not standing still during that eight-year span as it grew milk production by 18.8% to reach 16.6 billion pounds.
These dynamics helped propel milk produced per person in Texas from 426 pounds to 550 pounds in a six-year window. Even though the state’s milk production climbed by 124 pounds per person in recent times, Texas retailers must still purchase dairy products from other states to meet its consumers’ needs. That’s because 9% of all U.S. citizens live in the second-most populous state in the nation.
However, if Texas keeps up these rapid growth rates in milk production, it could become a net dairy product exporter in very short order. Meanwhile, aforementioned Idaho and Wisconsin rank first and second for milk per person at 8,575 and 5,411 pounds, respectively.
A long road to No. 2
People may be asking, could Texas soon catch the No. 2 dairy state, Wisconsin?
The short answer — no.
Texas would nearly have to double its current milk production and move from 16.5 billion pounds to 31.8 billion pounds of annual milk production to catch Wisconsin’s output. Keep in mind, Wisconsin has been growing as fast as Texas for many of the past years.
As mentioned earlier, Wisconsin and its dairy farmers have achieved tremendous growth in milk production. Recall that the Badger state ranked either No. 1 or No. 2 in new milk from 2018 to 2022. While Wisconsin dropped to No. 5 for new milk in 2017, it stood at No.1 for new milk during a four-year run from 2012 to 2016. It also added a second-place finish in 2011.
If those trendlines continue, Wisconsin will keep a strong hold on its second-place position for U.S. milk production at 31.8 billion pounds, with California continuing its command of the No. 1 position with 41.8 billion pounds of milk.